September 30, 2019
By Tom Beckstrand
I always enjoy playing with really nice scopes. I can’t afford every scope I want, but in this job I get to check most of them out, and for that I’m thankful. It makes me remember my youth; How many times did I wrestle with a cheap scope that did OK as long as I didn’t touch the turrets after having them zeroed? While the most affordable scopes are rarely ideal, as long as money is a finite resource, they are what most of us will be shooting.
However, we live in a day and age when riflescopes have never been better. Performance across all metrics continues to improve while the relative cost for that same good performance declines. Ten years ago, $1,500 bought a pretty good scope, and $3,000 bought the best. The good news is that the kind of scope that used to cost $1,500 now costs about $500, and the scope that used to cost $3,000 can be bought for around $1,500. This isn’t a bad place to be for us optics users.
Burris’ new XTR III 3.3-18x50mm and 5.5-30x56mm front-focal-plane (FFP) scopes are prime examples of why I love capitalism. Advances in manufacturing and the fiercely competitive field of riflescopes have forced manufacturers to work harder at product improvement, while offering more relevant and affordable features.
The Burris XTR III 3.3-18X I tested retails for $2,039. I expect that it’ll sell over-the-counter for right around $1,800. While that is far from inexpensive, the XTR III has all the features and optical performance you’d expect to find for right around $2,000. Ten years ago, the XTR III would have fit in the $3,000 category of scopes. (The soon-to-be- released 5.5-30X model will retail for $2,160.)
The optical performance of the XTR III is exceptional, and a noticeable improvement from the XTR II. Where the XTR II offered good performance, the XTR III offers excellent performance. This is possible because the glass and coatings in riflescopes today continually improve, and become less expensive as the scope market grows.
Really good scope glass is tough to manufacture. It’s often sticky and difficult to machine. Up until about five years ago, the best glass was available in very limited quantities and was obscenely expensive. I knew one manufacturer that paid $800 for a single lens use in their flagship scope. Thankfully, improved manufacturing techniques and increased demand have made truly exceptional glass much more common and affordable. These are the reasons why the glass in the XTR III has better image quality than anything Burris has ever produced.
One reason the XTR III image quality looks so good is because it is designed and manufactured in Greeley, Colorado. A statement like this usually brings out trolls who want to know exactly what is made in Colorado. They’ll ask, “Is the glass made there, too?” Nope; And it doesn’t matter. The glass certainly matters; In my opinion, where it is made does not. As long as the lenses that show up in Colorado are what Burris’ engineers asked for, the scope will be awesome.
Checking the glass to make sure it meets specifications is a relatively simple task. One of the trickiest steps in the build process was creating the XTR III that Burris engineers designed. If the lenses were slightly tilted or didn’t line up exactly (i.e., collimated), image quality would be horrible. Supervised skilled labor was the only way to ensure these scopes are manufactured correctly.
Manufacturing an optic’s glass only occurs in a handful of places around the world, but the quality of the labor force varies by location. The Burris facility in Greeley happens to have a very qualified labor pool that not only understands manufacturing, but also quality control. This is another key reason why the XTR III is so good; The people in Colorado know how to build what their engineers designed. They can hold those tight scope tolerances to guarantee that it meets Burris’ performance parameters.
Burris designed the XTR III to include lens composition, shape and coatings. They also wanted the XTR III to perform well under the most adverse conditions. Adverse conditions take a lot of different forms, but the most common are lighting; Dark objects hidden in shadows and low light is one example.
While even the cheapest scope looks decent in bright daylight, it is much more difficult to pick a target out of shadow on an overcast day. Hunters are familiar with shooting at last light, but just about everybody has been to the range when it’s overcast. I once shot a match where the last target of the stage was hidden in the back tree line. It was overcast and raining, and the scope I was using was incapable of seeing the steel plate hidden 20 yards back in the trees. The competitor shooting after me had a better scope and no problem seeing or hitting the target. I’ve judged scopes differently ever since.
The XTR III had no problem picking details out of the shadows during my testing. Likewise, it exhibited no measurable tracking error across 16 mils of elevation testing.
One point Burris likes to emphasize with the XTR III is the large field of view. I tested it alongside a couple of competitively priced scopes, and the XTR III beat them both. There is a noticeably larger field of view with the XTR III.
Another feature that was useful is the ability to focus the XTR III down to 25 yards. This detail opens this scope up for the fast-growing world of precision rimfire.
Every user interface on the XTR III is well executed. The scope has a zero-stop that’s easy to set and use. All the shooter has to do is remove the elevation-turret cap and use a coin to adjust elevation while zeroing. Once zeroed, the shooter reinstalls the turret cap with the zero lined up with the turret housing’s witness mark, and the zero stop is automatically set. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
Focusing the reticle by adjusting the diopter ring is also simple. There is a locking ring the shooter must loosen, but once done, the fast-focus diopter adjusts freely. Once focused, tightening the locking ring holds everything in place. There’s no need to worry about a lens cap inadvertently adjusting the diopter.
The windage turret is capped and has a revolution limiter. Once the cap is removed, the shooter can adjust the windage by just over 4 mils in either direction. It is impossible to accidentally spin the windage turret a complete revolution and inadvertently be 10 mils off.
Burris’ XTR III lineup will initially include the 3.3-18x50mm and the 5.5-30x56mm. The reticles offered will be the SCR MOA, SCR MIL and a new SCR 2 MIL. The SCR 2 MIL is a holdover reticle that’s creating quite a buzz. Between the reticle selection, comprehensive feature set and relatively low price, the XTR III 3.3-18x50mm promises to set a new standard in the sub-$2,000 optics category.
Burris XTR III 3.3- 18x50mmPower
: 50mmTube Diameter
: 34mmElevation Adjustment
: 35 mils, .1 mil/click or120 MOA, .25 MOA/clickWindage
: 16 mils, .1 mil/click or 55 MOA, .25 MOA/clickReticle
: SCR MOA, SCR MIL, SCR 2 MILLength
: 13.3 in.Weight
: 1 lb., 14 oz.Eye Relief
: 3.5 in. to 4 in.MSRP
: Burris, 888-440-0244, burrisoptics.com
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