Review of the Bushnell Tactical 3.5-21×50 DMR Riflescope

Bushnelll Review 001A perfect storm of laziness and forgetfulness kept this review on my computer for longer than normal but, at last, it is ready for your perusal.  While it is my preference to only review items I actually own, this is one of those occasions where I’m reviewing a borrowed product – in this case the Bushnell Elite Tactical ERS 3.5-21×50 which was kindly supplied courtesy of Plain Sight Solutions out of Quesnel BC.

Some years ago I purchased a scope from Plain Sight but it wasn’t until I moved into the Quesnel area that I made the in-person acquaintance of Omer the man who owns and operates the company. Omer is a keen shooter who enjoys talking about all kinds of shooting stuff and it was during a discussion of scopes that I made it known that I am first and foremost a S+B fan with NF as a second choice. Without disagreeing with my scope preferences, Omer suggested I borrow one of the new(ish) Bushnell Tacticals to see what I thought.

Now over the years I have had a few Bushnell scopes and I’ve been a particular fan of two of them – the old Elite 3200 fixed 10x and the old Elite 4200 6-24×50 Tactical and I think the only complaint I ever had with those two was that they had an overly thick reticule. However I have not been a fan of the Elite 6500 and when I owned one of them I thought, quite honestly, that the 4200 was the better scope. I also held a view that Bushnell scopes really were not high end but more middle of the road so when Omer mentioned the list price of the scope I was to review I really was surprised as it was right in the NF NXS ballpark.

OK, so what did I walk away with to look at and comment upon ? I was given a choice and so I figured that I may as well pick the top of the line and chose the Bushnell Tactical ERS 3.5-21×50 with Front Focal Plane, a 34mm tube and .1 mil click values.


A word about FFP vs SFP – I am a die-hard SFP guy; now one could be charitable and say it is because over 90% of my shooting, and 100% of my matches, is at known distance or one could be less kind and say that I am too old and stupid to learn something new – either way, it don’t matter as I am just disclosing my preference at the opening of a review.

In the past a certain CGN member was dismissive of my reviews as being written for ‘enthusiasts’ – guilty as charged: I am a hobbist and competitive shooter I am not an ‘operator’, I shoot my guns I don’t ‘run’ them and certainly don’t ‘torture test’ stuff I worked hard to own. So if you are a JTF2 sniper or, as is more likely, simply think you are one then this post really isn’t for you.

Optics experts can argue all day long about light transmission and such things and how each is best measured but for the purpose of this review (just like all my others ) the Human Eyeball Ver 1.0 as issued to me for my exclusive use well over 50 years ago was the only tool used to assess light transmission, colour, brightness etc. What my eye saw gets reported.

For the shooting part of the review I mounted the Bushnell on my PGW Coyote and, after zeroing, all shots were taken on my property at an exact distance of 400 yards. I shot during the middle of the day and later, as light was fading.


To made side-side observations I brought along the S+B as well as a NF NXS and a Leupold Mk4 8.5-25×50


While Plain Sight kindly lent me the scope there were no strings attached about what I could say and there was no payment in cash or kind received – when I finished my assessment of the scope I put it back in the box and returned it.

So what did I think ?

Price: Those readers who think Bushnell only make scopes sold in blister packaging at WalMart may need to sit down at this point as, while price will vary a bit, once all the tax is paid don’t expect much change out of $2K if you want one of these – now that is squarely in NF NXS territory but, just to keep it in perspective, that is still some $1500 less than a S+B PMii or a March! Fact of the matter is that today good glass isn’t especially expensive, but great glass really is pricey. I say that when glass exceeds somewhere around the $1K point it better start moving into the great category otherwise it rapidly becomes just overpriced good glass – and, yes, there really is a difference.

Packaging/Instructions: To some it doesn’t matter, but for me I appreciate good packaging and this scope was nicely packaged in a sturdy box and came with well-written instructions in the real English language. No sunshade or accessories were provided however and no nice lens cloth was to be found either.


Yes – Made in Japan ( just like Nightforce )


Dimensions: The best way to describe this scope is ‘stubby’ because its overall length is only 13″ but it still weighs 2.2 lbs and it has a fat 34mm main tube. Honestly, and while recognising that scopes are tools not fashion accessories, I didn’t like the look of this scope and wouldn’t be drawn to it in a display case. It has 3.7″ of eye relief and a mounting length of 6″ – the other important dimensions and data can be found here: http://www.bushnell.com/all-products…s-3-5-21x-50mm

Pictured next to a S+B Pmii


Controls/Ergonomics: In my opinion there are two things that are critically important about controls – they have to be repeatable (any scope that fails this test simply cannot be relied upon) and they have to have a good ‘feel’. Perhaps the only criticism of my S+B scopes is that sometimes, and especially with gloves on, it easy to put on a few clicks to much in making a windage adjustment but not so with this Bushnell – the controls were easy and precise to use with good tactile feedback and, yes of course, it passed the box test. I also am pleased to say that the numbers on the turrets were easy for me to see as were the numbers on the magnification dial – these kind of things are important to me especially on a scope this pricey. What was more difficult for me to tell what revolution of the turret I was on when the turret was locked – sure, I could work it out but it wasn’t as clear to me as the DT Turret on the S+B (which turns bright yellow on the second revolution) or the turrets on my NF NXS. I know this sounds like I am being ‘picky’ but my at this price point it is fair to be demanding. Big plus for the 10 mils per revolution on this model as also for the zero stop feature.


Magnification Range/Max Magnification: Well, as far as range of magnification one would give this scope full marks as 3.5-21 is pretty good but I felt this scope was missing something off the top end – of course, let me be clear, I am a paper puncher and therefore all else being equal the more magnification the better. Tactical users have different needs and for them the max of 21x may make a lots of sense but my needs are different and so I found the max magnification to be a little wanting. At this point it may be appropriate to mention something for newer shooters : over the years I have seen a lot of people buy into the idea that if something is used by military/law enforcement it must be what they want only to find that it doesn’t really work for them. Whether it is a 10″ barreled AR that doesn’t print well at 300, or an expensive S+B 3-12 scope like the US Marines use that does not allow the user to see bullet holes out past 100 isn’t the point – the point is buy what is best for your needs rather than what looks ‘just like they use’.

Glass Clarity: Honestly I’ve always thought Bushnell put good glass into their scopes and with this top end product they really have made a statement – the glass is excellent and provided a crisp, clear image with no distortion. I did find the S+B to be a bit better during mid-day when mirage was high and as light faded at days end but we are talking marginal stuff here and from a much pricier offering. As mentioned above, I had a NF and Leupold Mk4 out as well and the Bushnell was every bit as good as those proven scopes and holding its own is such good company is no small feat.

Conclusion: I liked this scope a lot – I can see how someone who had a tactical application in mind would easily shortlist this scope. Excellent glass and overall very good controls would make this scope a real contender. The G2 reticule was easy to use and certainly appealed to me – in fact it may be the best I have used but I’d need more time with it to be sure. It really is that good. Lastly, as much as I hate to say it, the FFP really grew on me – so much so that I am not sure I can continue to say that I am a dyed in the wool SFP guy.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Review of the Bushnell Tactical 3.5-21×50 DMR Riflescope

  1. The Bushnell DMR/ERS/XRS scopes are shipped with sunshades. Maybe it was removed before you were loaned the scope.
    The compartment visible in the upper right corner of the picture of the scope in the box is where they are packed, which is why there’s a cutout to for a finger to open the compartment.

    I’m a big fan of the Bushnell ET scopes for mid-range, good value optics. I can’t afford to mount top shelf optics on every rifle.

    I can’t imagine anyone paying list price for this scope, either. Street pricing is more like $1600.

    Joe

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    • Hi Joe – yes, I do believe you are right as later on I bought a lower model of the same 3.5-21×50 Elite Tactical and there was a sunshade. The list price is, of course, here in Canada ( not sure where you are writing from ) and I do appreciate that street pricing is lower. Thanks for commenting Joe – I really enjoy the feedback from readers.
      Cheers,
      Bob

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