With my budget  AR-15 put together, it was time to put some optics on it and go shooting.  I’d spent a lot of time swapping and trading for parts to keep the cost down on this build, and ‘Budget’ was the operative phrase when it came time to optics.

I wanted a red dot reflex sight that was good enough to be trustworthy, so this eliminated the plethora of red dots selling for less than $100, in my mind.  I’ll admit that I still wanted it to look ‘cool’ when I had it out at the range. 

This combination of desires led me to think that the Bushnell Trophy 1x32 red dot scope was just what I needed, so I ordered one up from Webyshops.com. The price of $169 put this scope in a crowded bunch of competitors all vying for my hard earned dollar, but the looks of the scope and the recognizable brand name sold me on this particular model.

Here’s a link to the scope: Bushnell Trophy

I was excited to open the package, and found the scope was well padded and secured in a cut out foam cocoon in the box.  It was a nice surprise to discover that the scope came with scope covers, which is a big plus in the rainy northwest.

Bushnell Trophy

The styling of this scope is obviously derived from the ACOG, and it’s an attractive package.   The Matte Black finish fit well with my ‘Black Rifle’, and the integrated backup sights on the top of the scope added another degree of ‘Tacticool’ to this scope.

 A turn of the knob on the left of the scope revealed a nice, crisp ‘T-Dot’ reticle in various intensities of red or green.

Eye relief was infinite, and it was easy to acquire and hold targets with one eye closed, or with both open as intended with a reflex scope.

I hit the first snag when I went to mount the scope on my AR, which has the common combination of a flattop upper receiver and a fixed front sight.   My original intent was to use a fixed or flip up rear sight in conjunction with the scope.  However, because of the far forward rail mount, the rear of the scope came back too far to use either a fixed or flip up rear sight.  I scratched that plan, happy that the scope had backup sights on top.

Bushnell Trophy Mounted

Since I’m inherently frugal except when I’m spending money, I installed my .22LR conversion kit on the AR and headed to the range to test the scope out.

At the range, I noted that the field of view seemed smaller than my initial impressions, and the backups sights on top, the large knob for reticle adjustment on the left and the windage knob on the right took up a lot of my sight picture during target acquisition.  The very styling that I found sexy in the catalog was now blocking much of my view when using the scope as intended.

Bushnell Trophy Looking Through

I zeroed the scope in 7 shots, noting that the windage and elevation adjustments were set up for 1 MOA per click. The adjustments clicked positively and securely, and the caps were sealed with O-rings to keep out moisture.  No tools were needed for adjustments, as a penny fit in the adjustments slots just fine.

The honeymoon with this scope was over on the third shot of the sight in process, however, as the Reticle blinked out.  I fiddled with the reticle color/intensity knob, turning it to every possible position numerous times, to no avail.  I unscrewed the battery cover, removed the CR2032 battery, inspected everything inside, and reassembled it, and the illuminated reticle came back.

The reticle worked for about eight more shots, then blinked out again.  I repeated the same process, and the reticle came back on again.  I’d like to remind you that I wasn’t  shooting  .416 Rigby underneath the scope, but merely .22lr.   Recoil was a mere twitch.

I shot about 200 rounds of .22,   experiencing several more reticle blackouts.  The reticle disappearing trick seemed to go away after 150 rounds or so, but not before I became distrustful of the scope.

During one blackout period, I decided to test out the backup sights on top, since that’s what their intended purpose was.  My expectations weren’t great, as there is only about a 6” sight radius.  I shot a respectable 3” group at a short 50 feet, but that 3” group was 11” low and 8” right, which put them in the ‘worthless’ category for me.

Battery life is always an issue with any electronic scope, and I was curious if this model had an auto shutoff feature for the reticle.  Nothing is more frustrating than grabbing a weapon from the safe only to discover you left the scope on the last time you used it and the battery is dead.   The manual and box made no mention of an auto shutoff feature, but I wouldn’t know until I tested it.   I left the scope on and stuck it in the safe to test this feature. 

The next evening, I pulled the scope out, and found the reticle was still on, so there is no auto shutoff. As I clicked through the settings, I noticed that the reticle was no longer crisp and clear, but doubled up in an overlapping fashion that blurred the edges.  This blurriness existed in both the red and green reticle.  I was hopeful that this was a result of a weak battery, so I replaced the CR2032 with a new Energizer, and was rewarded only with a slightly brighter blurry reticle.

I perused the manual looking for tips or hints on fixing the reticle blink and blur issue.  I found the manual well written in English.  It is also written in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese.  I found no answer to my problem in any of these languages.    I found no phone number for technical assistance, but I did find that the scope had a lifetime warranty, if you cut Bushnell a check for $10 for return shipping and ship the scope with Proof of Purchase to their repair center in Kansas.

I still think the scope is a good looking package.  If I intended to keep my rifle on the wall and look at it, I think this would be a great scope.   Perhaps this particular scope was a very unique lemon, and all the rest of them are perfect.  I can’t speak to those…I can only say that I had great expectations for this scope, and my expectations were dashed when the fondling and discovery ended and the shooting started.   If I was in the market for a budget red dot scope, I’d pass on this one and look elsewhere.  See my other red dot reviews for some better options.

Mark Spreadborough writes from his family homestead in Kalama, Washington, where he lives with his wife, son, daughter, dog and cat. When not writing, shooting, hunting, fishing or working on his property, he goes to his day job as a HVAC repair mechanic.