August 22, 2018
Zeiss is the optics company that, in 1907, designed and made the first variable-power riflescope. From that first scope to present day, it has earned a reputation for making premium glass. What Zeiss has struggled with is to gain a strong presence in the American market. The majority of shooters here have never warmed up to European reticles, nor the higher cost for the scopes.
There's some good news with the introduction of Zeiss' newest scope line: the Conquest V4. Rifleshooters should take notice as this line will slide across a gun store's counter for $750 to $1,100. While not an inexpensive scope, it is nowhere near as expensive as other Zeiss product lines. Victory models can fetch more than $2,000, for example. Still, it's a serious commitment for any shooter forking over either amount of dough. It's important to know exactly what all that cash gets you.
In the case of the Conquest V4, shooters will get a German-designed and German-engineered scope that is made in Japan. Japan has been making excellent optics for decades, and I've had very good luck with them. Traditionally, scopes that cost around $1,000 with a similar list of features as the V4s come from the Philippines where the products are hit-and-miss.
What excites me about the Conquest V4 (besides the lower price) is the combination of performance, weight and new reticles. The fact that the scope has Zeiss' name on it certainly doesn't hurt either.
Performance of any riflescope can be categorized as either optical or mechanical. Optically, the scope is excellent for this price point. It won't keep up with scopes costing three times as much, but I have difficulty remembering any other scope at this range that looks and functions as well as the new Conquest V4.
The big news with the Conquest V4 is its mechanical performance. Zeiss uses a 30mm maintube on all the scopes, which affords them lots of internal volume to put to good use. Previous model scopes either used a 1-inch maintube or an elevation turret that was limited to a single revolution.
I found the larger maintube gives the V4 scopes 80 minutes of angle (MOA) of elevation adjustment and 60 MOA of windage adjustment. That's a large enough range that should get almost every rifle cartridge out well past 1,000 yards. The company was also thoughtful enough to include a multi-revolution elevation turret and a ballistic stop.
A ballistic stop - some manufacturers call it a "zero stop" - allows the shooter to zero their scope and then set the stop. Once set, all the shooter has to do is turn the turret until it won't turn anymore and he's back at zero.
Zeiss' ballistic stop is easy to set. Loosen two screws to remove the turret cover and another two screws to loosen the inner collar. This allows for adjustment and setting of the stop. The system also uses metal-on-metal contact. I found no plastic or shims anywhere. It is as durable as it is simple.
While the quality of the V4 is hard to miss with even relatively brief exposure, a more thorough and difficult evaluation is always in order. I did a tracking test on a 6-24x50mm where I traversed 50 MOA of elevation travel. My test involved shooting one round with the rifle zeroed, dial up 50 MOA elevation and firing another round, than back to zero for a second shot and repeat until there was a three-shot group at zero and another at the 50 MOA mark. It is an easy and accurate way to measure how true an optic tracks.
I conducted this test at 50 yards with a highly customized .223 Remington in an Accuracy International chassis. The rifle has a Jewel trigger set at just less than 1 pound. This combination generates oblong holes in every one of my targets. Finding the center of a group to within .1 inch is rarely a problem.
At 50 yards, 50 MOA is 26.175 inches. The two groups on my test target measured 26.22 inches apart. Some might interpret the discrepancy as the scope's mechanical error, but once you account for the sag in the paper when it's placed on the target board this is as close to perfect as I've ever had an optic perform (especially when you consider a 50 MOA elevation change).
Since turrets that don't track accurately are a percentage error, moving 10 to 15 MOA will reveal only the most egregious errors. A 50-MOA movement shows all the wrinkles. In my opinion, the V4 has none.
In addition to tracking as perfectly as I've ever seen, the 6-24x50mm had zero reticle cant. It is not uncommon for a reticle to be mounted crooked in the scope. Every optics manufacturer has a tolerance of what is and isn't allowed. The V4 I tested had absolutely none, even when I ran it all the way out to 50 MOA. I expected at least a .1-inch difference or maybe even .2 inch, but I saw none.
The way to check for reticle cant when testing a scope is to observe the location of the two, three-shot groups. The lower group sat off the left side of the target's vertical line and the group 50 MOA above sat off to the left side of the target's vertical line. The two will very rarely sit directly atop one another, so measure how far away from the vertical line each group sits. Scopes with serious cant will have inches of difference between the two groups. There was no difference in either of the Conquest V4s' groups.
Another impressive and telling mechanical feat the V4 is the degree to which it is waterproof. The V4 can be submerged to a depth of 12 feet and kept there for 2 hours with no risk of water infiltrating the scope. I asked Kyle Brown, Zeiss' director of Sports Optics, how the V4 was able to stay in such deep water for so long without failure. I voiced my suspicion that the objective lens group must be bedded inside the maintube. Brown's response was, "Zeiss prefers not to share details such as those publicly." So, it's a secret. I get it.
I bet that objective lens group is bedded in the maintube and here's why that matters. For one thing, the scope is waterproof to a level that anyone not swimming out of a submarine never needs to worry about it getting wet.
The other reason bedding the objective is a big deal, is that it makes it impossible for the lens group to move should the scope receive a hard, accidental impact. This frequently happens when rifles get dropped or fall over. If you've ever knocked your rifle over and had the zero shift .25 to .5 inch or so, it's often because a lens inside the scope shifted. It's usually the objective lens because it is big and heavy and hard to keep from moving.
The Zeiss Conquest V4 also comes with a couple of long-overdue reticles: the ZBR and the ZMOA. Both of these reticles are MOA-based and have turrets that correspondingly adjust in MOA. If you fancy one of the odd European reticles, those are still available.
All of this performance comes wrapped in a lightweight package. The 4-16x44mm weighed 22 ounces and the 6-24x50mm tipped the scales at a svelte 24 ounces. No doubt about it, the V4 fights up a couple of weight classes.
The V4s are all second-focal-plane (SFP) scopes. The most sensible reticles are MOA-based. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some corresponding mil-based reticles and first-focal-plane (FFP) options in the future, however. Currently, a new V4 in 1-4x24mm and 3-12x56mm are available, also. Of course, every Zeiss scope comes with a fully transferable lifetime warranty.
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