Optics Testing 2019
Fall 2019 started out with a trip to Canada, chasing bugling elk and portly bears. Then it was on to Wyoming to chase those free-ranging speed demons—the pronghorn. I received a few optics for testing and wanted to take them cross country through both hunts to give them a fair assessment. My tests for each was rudimentary, but effective nonetheless.
Optic: Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18X44
Reticle: Front Focal TMR (MK)
Weight: 26 ounces
Length: 12 inches
Elevation/Windage Adjustment: (MIL)
Priced to Sell for $1,799 - SHOP HERE
This isn’t my first rodeo with this optic. I’ve shot with it on my hunting rifle a time or two before. I like this optic so much that it found a forever home on my 6.5 Creedmoor. The purpose of this gun is to be a lightweight, workhorse for hunts that require more effort than sitting in a blind.
The Mark 5HD is a perfect fit for hunters and shooters looking to lighten the load, even if it is only a few ounces. At the end of the day, ounces begin to take their toll on the body. Leupold offers the Mark 5HD optic in different reticle configurations, but the MK works better for the hunt. I find the FFP CCH and Horus H59 reticles too busy to make split-second decisions. Many times a quick sight picture is required, and if I have too much going on, I may miss my shot. That’s partly why I shoot a pendulum sight on each of my bows.
There is no questioning the glass Leupold utilizes in the Mark 5HD. The first morning of the elk hunt took off like it was shot out of a cannon. I trudged through a bog, found out my boots weren't waterproof and nestled in for a 200-yard shot on a bull. I'll typically treat my glass with a fog-proof coating before a hunt, but didn't have the time. The shot on the big bull wasn't necessarily difficult, but when you factor in cold temperature mixed with the heat of the air, I was generating from a tough stalk that glass should have been fogged over. I could see clearly, making a perfect shot on a bull that would have gotten away if it hadn't been for clear glass.
Leupold does a fantastic job, offering various options for rings, sun shades, and covers. The one problem I found was finding the right rings for the height of my comb. I found some on Warne, but I've had so much success with Leupold rings I knew they had to have some that would make shooting more comfortable. The Mark 5HD has a 35mm tube, which makes finding appropriate rings a bit more complicated. But, with a few phone calls, I was able to locate some high rings that worked beautifully instead of the purchased initially extra highs.
I've spent a one-year behind this optic and don't believe I've outrun the capabilities. It is the perfect blend of a long-range and huntable optic. If needed, I can shoot a PRS match and hunt the same weekend.
I was always taught that if you want great glass, you'll pay top dollar for it. After shooting the Mark 5HD for a year, I believe that statement. You get what you pay for. Even if you have to wait another year to purchase this optic, you'll be glad you did.
Optic: Maven B.5
Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
Weight: 45 ounces
Lens Coating: Scratch and Oil Resistant
MSRP: from $1,500
If we're in the circle of trust, I'll let you in on a little secret. I have zero experience with Maven optics and am unfamiliar with their products. I've always leaned heavily on brands that I know. To some extent, we are all the same when it comes to that. These optics were suggested to me by a good friend in the industry, so I had Maven send me a sample. Shame on me for not finding value in this brand sooner.
I loved the robust, balance of the B.5. Maven developed a powerhouse optic when it took the Abbe-Koenig prism from the B.2 bino and paired it with the same fluorite glass that’s featured in the S series Spotting Scopes. For me, this allowed quick, dynamic images captured from far away distances to be seemingly brought right into my lap.
Out west, the terrain requires a binocular that reaches out and pulls the game closer. You've got to decide whether or not a particular animal is worth pursuing. The Maven B.5 binos exceeded expectations in the open country.
The exterior ruggedness ensures a firm grip in the worst conditions. Western hunters demand a high-end optic that
is as rugged as the terrain they hunt. I am a Western hunter every other year. The Maven B.5 fits the niche for those guys, birders and a whole slew of folks looking to extend their range.
I will purchase a Maven optic, but it won’t be the B.5. I have my eyes set on the B.2 in the 11X45 configuration. Still the same great features as the B.5, but it is lighter for quick pursuits. I hunt in timber, grasslands, and everything in between. I run binos in my chest harness so the B.5 binos ran bigger than I’d like, which is another reason to switch to the B.2.
Maven is a perfect example of folks overlooking a brand because they aren’t familiar. Don’t make the same mistake I made. I recommend giving them a look next time you’re in the market for a high-end optic for a fraction of the cost.
Optic: Bushnell 1700 Prime
Range: 1760 Yards Reflective (Tree, 1000 yards) (Deer, 700 yards)
Weight: 5.9 ounces
Length: 4.27 inches
Height: 2.75 inches
Lens Coating: Exo Barrier
On Sale Now! - SHOP HERE
We all know Bushnell and how far they’ve pushed the envelope with optics. They continue with their new Prime 1700 rangefinder. Rangefinders are often overlooked in the age of high-priced scopes, spotting scopes and binoculars. However, when closing the distance and making the shot, the rangefinder is the most effective tool when all is said and done.
The Prime 1700 has an improved display and is brighter than any other rangefinder I’ve owned. This all goes back to a larger objective lens paired with an all-glass optical system. At first, I was skeptical about its ability in low-light conditions until I found myself switching to the Prime 1700 during the fading seconds of light.
While in Wyoming, I loved the fact that everyone began reaching for the Prime 1700 first. I hunted with two veteran hunters who understood excellent optics. I don't think the Prime 1700 ever saw the inside of the case. The slim-ergonomic design allowed for easy manipulation of the ranging button, and the scan mode feature of the Prime 1700 made it easy to range clusters of antelope in the same area.
This marks the third Bushnell rangefinder that I’ve purchased, and it may be the last one. Last year, I tested the Bushnell Nitro out and loved the features of it, but there was an audible click when ranging game. That moment when a hush falls over the woods, the last thing I want is the sound of my equipment engaging. That might not be a deal-breaker for most hunters, but it bothered me. Thankfully, the Prime 1700 didn’t have the audible click.
A few features that benefit everyone include the Brush and Bullseye modes plus the ability to select different reticles. Bushnell has been using the Exo Barrier coating. The weather conditions we encountered didn’t test the Exo Barrier, but I had an experience with freezing drizzle on a hog hunt that sold me on this coating. Even when beads of water would freeze on the lens, I maintained a clear sight picture.
Don’t underestimate the rangefinder, especially the Prime 1700 from Bushnell. It doesn't matter if I'm bow hunting or ranging a PRS match, it'll have a place in my kit for many years to come. Now, if Bushnell combines the Prime 1700 features in a binocular, I will be changing my tune.
There's nothing scientific about the test. I used the optics above in real-world situations without fail. That is what means most to me. Does the optic perform as advertised? Did it get the job done? Are the benefits transferrable to a wide range of users? These are the questions I want to be answered, and each of these optics fits the bill. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.