August 26, 2016
Meopta is the best-kept secret in the optics industry. Headquartered in the Czech Republic, the company began making military optics in 1935 and has been at it ever since. While the name isn't well known here in the United States, many of the optic products we see from the popular big-box outdoor stores and premium European manufacturers are actually made by Meopta.
The first time I had any real experience with the Meopta name came when I was on a hunt with several other gunwriters, one of whom had carved himself a niche as an optics guru and had been writing for a few decades. Sitting around the dinner table on a hunt is always a good time to throw out questions and conduct informal surveys, so I asked who made the best binoculars and noted the replies. The old hand asked in return, "One-thousand- or $2,000 models?" As soon as I said, "One-," he answered, "Meopta."
Here at Guns & Ammo, we've run a few optics comparisons, and Meopta consistently performs right alongside all the premium optic brands. In our informal spotting-scope study, the Meopta came in second (right behind a Swarovski spotter that cost nearly twice as much). It's not every day you find a company that can consistently fight up a couple of weight classes and win.
Part of Meopta's success lies in its long history in the Czech Republic, a country known for turning out quality firearms and accessories. Labor rates are lower there than in other European countries, so those savings seem to get passed on to the consumer.
In fact, some of the big-name European manufacturers still find it economical to have their products built by Meopta and sold under their name. Here in the States, if you buy the big-box retailers' premium-branded optical products, those are also likely made by Meopta. Needles s to say, Meopta's competitors think highly of its products.
The 4-16x44mm MeoStar R1 that I evaluated has excellent light transmission and clarity. It has a 30mm maintube that gives the internal volume necessary for a good erector-tube assembly, but, unlike many 30mm main tube scopes that retail for around $1,000, this one hides a full-size erector-tube assembly inside. Big main tubes and big lenses in erector assemblies are two critical components necessary for strong optical performance, and this Meopta checks both of those boxes.
This MeoStar also avoids a common pitfall associated with robust marketing departments: oversize objective lenses. The ideal objective lens size (in millimeters) for a 4-16X scope is somewhere in the high 30s to low 40s. A bigger objective would only degrade resolution while offering a next-to-meaningless size increase in exit pupil.
With the quality glass, sizeable erector and maintube offered by the MeoStar, the 44mm objective lens is its complement. Thank you, Meopta, for not slapping a mongosso objective lens on this scope and claiming that "it gathers more light." Marketing departments have repeated this lie so often that it's almost accepted as truth.
The MeoStar R1's front focus adjustment and diamond-shaped Mil-Dot reticle give it a distinctive and functional European flavor. Windage and elevation adjust in quarter-MOA clicks, which means there's going to be some math to do if you want to mil and dial targets. Both turrets are capped, so there is no chance of inadvertently moving them off zero.
If you've never tried a Meopta, perhaps now is a good time.
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