They are somewhat unpopular these days: most of the attention goes either to
Hubble sized scopes used for low light and long range shooting and to low range
variables of 1-4x24 configuration which are both "tacti-cool" and
have the aura of being DGR (Dangerous Game Rifle) scopes.
or thereabouts) scopes get some attention from
hunters, but that is largely it.
? Honestly, I am not sure who came up with the
term "tweener". I have been using it for a few years, but I am
pretty sure I saw it somewhere.
are, loosely, scopes that have objective diameters below the
common 40mm diameter, but are not straight tubed. Most common
range for a tweener scope is something along the lines of 2-8x, and the most
common objective diameter is around 32mm.
For the sake of the discussion, I will define "tweener" scopes the
I am intentionally not mentioning weight or overall length, since they vary
greatly. I do, however, want to weed out some ultra compact scopes since
their usefullness is limited to only certain applications and their design has
some limitations imposed to by trying to make them extra short (Burris
Timberline/Short Mag scopes, for example). While tweener scopes are
fairly compact, the best ones of the breed (IMO) are not overly short allowing
their mounting on long actions.
By specifying the magnification range, I am also weeding out a few very capable
scopes like Burris Signature Safari 1.75-5x32 and Weaver Grand Slam
1.75-5x32. While these are excellent and much more versatile than most
people give them credit for, I think they are aimed at different audiences and
should be considered low range variables instead (another class of scopes I take
a lot of interest in).
Why do I like tweener scopes? There are several reasons. These scopes
bridge the gap between low-range/DGR variables and full-size hunting
scopes. They offer enough magnification to shoot quite far out.
They offer sufficiently low magnification and wide field of view for fast
shooting if need be. While not optimal for low light, they have enough
exit pupil for good low light performance at 4-5x.
From an optical standpoint, these scopes are not too difficult to build, so you
can expect nice performance even at a moderate price point. One caveat is
that this "ease of design" can be easily countered by trying to make
the scope too short. One feature that is not talked about much is that
the combination of a fairly long optical system and small objective lens yields
greater depth of field. That is one of the reasons why I added a
requirement that they should be mountable on long-action scopes. In
practical terms, that implies mounting length of at least 5" or so.
The overall length usually works out to be something between 11" and
13". If you look up the specs of the scopes I list below, you will
see that most of them have overall length between 11" and
11.5". Additionally, "tweener" configuration typically
allows for generous and flexible eyerelief. As far as reticles go, I
prefer highly visible reticles that work well in low light (like the #4).
I will go over the reticle selection in available scopes a bit further below,
but I am generally disappointed in most of the choices.
Until recently, the best (once again, in my opinion) tweener scope has been
Kahles CL 2-7x36. It is small and light while still having very good low
light performance. Mine has a very visible #4 reticle. The catch is
that Kahles does not currently have a US distributor and I have no idea about
what is going to happen to Kahles in North America. I hope they will
partner with a new distributor soon. UPDATE: in 2010 Kahles announced that
their new US distributor is Gamo USA.
Of the currently available tweener scope, here are the better ones that I can
think of that are made by reputable manufacturers:
Bushnell Elite 6500 1.25-8x32
Zeiss Conquest 2.5-8x32
Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x36
Nikon Monarch 2-8x32
Vortex Viper 2-7x32
Sightron SII 2.5-10x32
Here are a few more by the same manufacturers that are a bit cheaper (and lower
Leupold VX-II 2-7x33
Vortex Diamondback 2-7x35
Burris Fulfield II 2-7x35
Bushnell Elite 3200 2-7x32
Weaver Classic 2.5-7x32
There are some others I left out either because I have not run into them a
whole lot or because I do not consider them to be worth the money.
Additionally, there are a few that are quite a bit more expensive and are
targeted at somewhat different markets: for example there are a couple of very
nice IOR scopes that are aimed at the tactical market (2-12x32 and 2-12x36),
and a well regarded Nightforce 2.5-10x32.
For the time being I will stick to the scopes in the first group and discuss
their comparative merits. To forewarn the inevitable question of
"which one is tougher", I would expect all of these scopes to be
equally durable. Either way, I do not have the means to conduct a statistically
meaningful study needed to determine a particular design's durability.
Kahles CL 2-7x36
This scope is/was available with either plex or #4 reticle either with
Multizero or with a normal elevation knob. The one I have has the
Multizero knob which works well, but is ultimately unnecessary for a scope of
this type. As far as reticles go, the #4 is one of my favourite allround
choices and that is how my Kahles is configured. Optically, Kahles CL is
the best 1" tube scope I have ever seen. Mechanically, the
adjustments are spot on and the scope has not given me any trouble so
far. It sits on one of my favourite rifles: a Tikka chambered for
280Rem. From the low light performance stand point, this is the best of
the tweener scope and by a good margin. The eyepiece is of fairly large
diameter, but it has not given me any trouble. I think it matches well with
the 36mm objective.
Bushnel Elite 6500 1.25-8x32
I have only seen this scope at the SHOT show, although I hope to get my hands
on one some time this year (with the economy being what it is, I am obvously
not planning to spend too much money on optics this year, so we'll see).
Optically, this scope is very good as is the rest of the Elite 4200
line. Mechanical quality and durability should be very good as well, but
this is a new design and time will tell. For the time being, there is
only one reticle available: plex, which is really this scope's only let down in
my opinion. Still, it s versatilty is unmatched in this group due to a
large magnification range. Additionally, eye relief
is impressively long at
"5-6" or so. This scope seems to be designed for rifles with
kick: 5" of eye relief AND 5.9" of mounting length. This is the
only scope here with a 30mm tube, and it is the heaviest of the group.
The overall size is still pretty trim though. Since I have only seen this
scope once, I do not recall the exact dimensions of the reticle and the
eyepiece, but I recall that the eyepiece seemed of fairly normal size and the
reticle seemed quite thin.
Zeiss Conquest 2.5-8x32
This is one of the heavier and longer tweener scopes, but is still reasonably
small. Optically, it is a touch below the Kahles, but still excellent as
is the rest of the Conquest
line. Eye relief is long and generous and doe
snot chane with magnification. All adjustments are smooth and
reliable. Ultimately, I like this scope, but it has two
shortcomings. One is reticle selection. This scope is currently
only available with a fairly thin plex reticle, which is one of my pet
peeves. For a scope of this type, I think a thicker and more visible
reticle is a better way to go. On a good side, Zeiss's
version of the
plex reticle is very sharp and well defined. Still, this is not a target
scope that benefits from a thin reticle. Another complaint (of a sort) I
have is the fat eyepiece. One of the advantages of the 32mm objective is
the latitude in mounting height. With the Conquest, on some rifles, the
limiting factor in how low the scope can be mounted is the eypiece. On
rifles with reasonably short bolt lift, it makes no difference. On
balance, this is a wonderful scope that could really benefit from a thicker
To put it bluntly, I am not a big Leupold fan, but I like the new VX-3
scopes. As far as configurations go, my favourite Leupold scope for quite
some time has been the 2.5-8x36
(actual magnification range is 2.6-7.8x).
If you are looking for a tweener scope that performs as close as possible to
"full size" models, this is a good choice. Mechanically, it is
too early to tell how these hold up since VX-3 scopes
are pretty new.
However, VX-III line was well regarded and I expect the redesign to not
diminish that in any way. Optically, the new VX-3 is a little better than
its predecessor with a more contrasty image. 36mm objective allows for
very respectable low light performance. The two available reticles are
pretty thin: duplex and B&C are probably there because they were popular
with this scope's predecessors in the VX-III
line. That makes total sense
from a marketing standpoint, but makes little sense to me from performance
standpoint. Perhaps, I am alone on this one.
If you are looking for a scope with a thick and heavy reticle for a DGR rifle
or something similar, the 1.75-6x32
is an excellent choice. I did not
list it above since the actual magnification (1.9-5.5x) falls below my self-imposed
6x limit, but it is worth looking at. Unlike most scopes here it is
available with a heavy plex reticle that makes for very fast target acquisition
in low light (do keep in mind that the 1.75-6x32 has a touch less eye relief
than the 2.5-8x36).
One of the things that I find disappointing with both of these scopes is the
variable eyerelief. I used not care about that too much, but recently
I've been finding the need to reposition my head for different magnification
Nikon Monarch 2-8x32
is another scope line that I am generally not very "hot" on
with the exception of the 2-8x32. Some of the complaints I have about
Leupold VX-3 and Zeis Conquest above, equally apply to the Monarch: reticle
selection and fat eyepiece (the eyepieces on the Monarch, VX-3 and Conquest are
of about the same diameter, but Leupold has a larger objective to make it look
a bit better balanced). Neither is a very big deal to most people.
Image quality is very good and eye relief is nice and long. Eye relief is
also consistent with respect to magnification: no need to readjust where your
head is. The two available reticles are plex and BDC. I am not a
big fan of either, but I will say that the BDC reticle
is bolder than most
other holdover reticles out there with those little circles making pretty quick
Vortex Viper 2-7x32
For the money, this is probably my favourite scope of the bunch.
Optically, it is quite good. Easily on par with Leupold and
Monarch. I do not know if it is better (perhaps I will try to arrange a
side-by-side), but it is certainly not worse. Eye relief is long and
flexible. Similarly to the Monarch, it also stays constant with
magnification. Eyepiece on this scope is fairly slim (smallest in
diameter here, I think), but it is still of the fast-focus type. As far
as reticle selection goes, I think Vortex
has gotten it almost right and has an
advantage over most of the competition. There are three reticles
available: plex, BDC and C3. Pex reticle is quite thin. BDC is a
fair bit thicker (thick lines are about twice thicker than plex), C3 is a
little thicker than BDC and has a circle surrounding the center
crosshair. Predictably, I like the C3 reticle the most out of them
all. It is still not an ideal low light reticle, but the circle is a big
help for fast target acquisition.
Sightron S2 2.5-10x32
I was not entirely sure whether this scope belongs in this group, but I figured
I'll add it in. If you want a scope of the tweener size that give you a
bit more magnificaiton, this is not a bad choice. On the flip side, the
eye relief is somewhat critical. Optically, I think the S2
is a touch
worse than other scopes in this group, but quite decent. This scope is
only available with one reticle: simple plex. It is not as thin as some
other plex reticles I have seen (such as the Vortex V-Plex), but it is by
no means a heavy reticle.
Now, which ones do I like? Quite frankly, I like all of the scopes I
listed here, although for different reasons.
If low light performace
is of particular importance and your budget allows it,
it is worth your while to look for the Kahles CL 2-7x36 with #4 reticle.
I am very happy with mine.
If Kahles is not in your budget, the new VX-3 is a good choice with a 36mm
objectiv elens giving you a slight edge over the 32mm offerings.
If you are on a budget, Vortex Viper 2-7x32 is probably your best option.
It has very good performance at a reasonable price. Monarch 2-8x32 is
priced about the same, but I slightly prefer the Vortex due to the reticle
selection and thinner eyepiece.
If you want a holdover reticle, it is available in the Leupold, Vortex and
Nikon. Just pick the one you like the most.
As far as mounting goes, I do not remember the specs for all of these scopes,
but I am pretty sure the diameter of the ocular goes like this (from low to
Vortex Viper < Sightron S2 < Nikon Monarch = Leupold VX-3 = Zeiss
Conquest < Kahles CL
I am not exactly sure where the Elite 6500 fits here.
As far as mounting length goes, I do not remember what it is for the Conquest
and Monarch, but the other scopes are ranked in the following order (from high
Elite 6500 > Kahles CL > Vortex Viper > Sightron S2 > Leupold VX-3
I think Monarch and Conquest have pretty long mounting lengths similar to
Kahles, but I can't recall the numbers. Leupold VX-3 1.75-6x32 scope has
about the same tube length as the Kahles.
(from high to low):
Kahles CL > Conquest >= Elite 6500 ~= VX-3 ~= Vortex Viper >= Monarch
> Sightron S2
Essentially, Kahles CL is better than the others, SIghtron S2 is a little
worse. The rest are very comparable.
Ultimately, if you rifle has a high bolt lift and you want your scope mounted
as low as possible, Viper is worth a look.
If you are trying to mount one of these scopes on a particularly long action, I
suggest you figure out the exact ring spacing you need before ordering one (or
order the Elite 6500 which should fit on just about everything and have enough
eye relief for just about anything).
If you expect to encounter very challenging lighting conditions, get the
Kahles. In that regard, it is still the king of the hill.