September 01, 2023
Long-range target shooting is very popular right now, and that popularity has created new demand for specialized target optics. It isn’t uncommon for dedicated long-range riflescopes to weigh well over 2 pounds, which isn’t an issue on guns that are designed for stationary shooting and oftentimes weigh more than ten pounds themselves. That added weight, however, is a burden for hunters who need to carry their rifle into the backcountry where the air is thin and with every step each ounce feels more like a pound.
Steiner Optics may have found the ideal solution in their hunt/target hybrid scope, the new H6Xi. As the name indicates, the H6Xi (Hunting, 6X magnification range, illuminated) is similar in many ways to the recently announced tactical-centric T6Xi. While the American-made H6Xi shares many of the same features as its cousin, Steiner’s newest offering is suitable for even the most dedicated high mountain hunter while still providing many of the advantages of a tactical scope.
Trimming Down the T6Xi
The T6Xi is a robust scope that offers lots of advantages for Law Enforcement and long-range shooting, but it isn’t light. The 5-30x56 version weighs 34.5 ounces, which is right in the sweet spot for target and competition rifles. Steiner understands this, but they also appreciate the fact that hunters want a scope that offers less weight with a similar feature set.
That’s where the H6Xi comes into play. Like the T6Xi, it offers a 6:1 zoom ratio and is available in 2-12x42, 3-18x50 and 5-30x50 versions, all of which come with 30mm maintubes. A 6X zoom ratio is valuable on a field rifle because it offers a wide range of magnification levels for different hunting applications. The 2-12X that I tested weighed in at just 24.5 ounces, which is considerably lighter than most tactical scopes. It’s also short (just 11.5 inches for the 2-12x42) which offers practical advantages such as weight savings, reduced risk of hang-ups in brush, and more room for accessories like clip-on thermals and night vision. From a purely aesthetic perspective, a shorter scope looks better on some short-action rifles and lever guns.
With most hunting scopes reduced weight and length means far fewer features, but Steiner has done a very good job of incorporating the most important elements of a dedicated target optic. The H6Xi comes with a first focal plane (FFP) reticle, a relative rarity on hunting scopes. At low power, the 2-12x42 model’s reticle looks like a simple duplex crosshair. If you concentrate, you can just see the holdover stadia lines in the center. At about 3X magnification the hashmarks in the reticle are easier to discern. Move up to 10X or 12X, the range where you’ll likely be taking long shots, and the reticle is very clear, offering 4 short stadia lines on the horizontal arms in both directions for rapid wind holds and a total of seven holdover points on the lower horizontal arm of the reticle. There are also cascading crosses along the lower vertical crosshair to help compensate for wind. Because of its FFP design, the reticle’s relative windage and holdover points remain consistent on any magnification. It’s a clean, uncluttered reticle that offers plenty of feedback for the shooter without interfering with the sight picture.
The reticle is also illuminated and runs on a single CR2032 battery. There are 11 brightness settings with OFF positions between each, a setup I much prefer. If I know I’m shooting in very bright light (early season pronghorn hunt in arid country comes to mind) I can set the brightness level to the highest setting and then simply move back one click to shoot off the reticle and prevent wasting battery. Illuminated reticles are particularly valuable on hunts for animals like black bear over bait where a dark animal and a dim background can make seeing non-illuminated reticles a challenge.
The control layout on the scope is easy to use and intuitive. The exposed elevation knob offers 30 MOA of vertical travel in ¼ MOA click increments. There is a zero-stop feature, and loosening the two front screws allows for rapid zero resets. The windage turret is capped and also offers 30 MOA of travel (15 left, 15 right) with the same ¼ MOA clicks. Clicks are audible and precise. On the left side of the scope is a parallax adjustment from 25 yards to infinity, and incorporated into that dial is the illumination control. Simply run the illumination dial to its highest setting and continue applying pressure to loosen the battery cap.
The H6Xi’s maintube is machined from a solid bar of aircraft-grade aluminum and finished in a MIL-spec, matte black, hard anodize finish. The lenses are precisely ground extra low dispersion (ED) glass. The advantage of ED glass is that it reduces the color distortion (known as chromatic aberration) which is a problem with traditional lenses. Multi-coated lenses further enhance the quality of the image and improve low-light function. Low light test results were very good with the H6Xi, and it beat some high-end European rivals. This scope offers a decided advantage over competing models while hunting at first light or late in the evening when game is most likely to be on the move.
The price for the Steiner 2-12x42 is set at $2,183.99 while the 3-18x50 model has an MSRP of $2,298.99. The 5-30x50’s MSRP is set at $2,528.99. That’s on par with premium scopes from brands like Leica, Swarovski, and Zeiss, but the American-made Steiner holds its own against these big-name competitors.
At the Range
I tested the Steiner H6Xi on my Weatherby Vanguard High Country 6.5 Creedmoor rifle and was impressed by its performance. Light transmission and image quality were very good, which befits a scope of this caliber. Click adjustments were precise and clean, too. Box testing revealed that the scope was indeed tracking as advertised. Point of impact (POI) changes were so close that any variations were within the parameters of the rifle/load’s accuracy capabilities. In other words, when you adjust this scope, the POI moves accordingly. Hunters expect that from all optics, but that’s not always the case. It’s only through box test (or similar) verification that you know if your optic adjusts POI as expected. The H6Xi does just that.
A generous eye box and plenty of eye relief reduce strain while shooting, and the side parallax adjustment is quite simple. The illumination setting is easy to operate and, unlike the windage and elevation adjustments, brightness adjustments are silent — a critical consideration on a hunting scope. The short overall length and low weight make this scope handy on short carbines and lever guns.
To my mind, Steiner got things right with the 2-12x42. Sure, some hunters will want higher magnification, and Steiner has obliged them with their other H6Xi models. But the 2-12’s 42mm objective can be mounted low along the bore axis of the rifle and the magnification range is suitable for everything from fast shots on hogs or running game up close to real long-range work. Twelve-power magnification is suitable for any big game hunt at reasonable distances.
The H6Xi is built with quality components in the USA and offers a long list of features that hunters want. It was clearly designed by engineers who have spent time in the woods, not just on the shooting range. But the H6Xi borrows some of the best features from dedicated target scopes and incorporates them into an optic that is suitable for hunters. The robust build quality makes it unlikely you’ll ever need to have a warranty repair on these scopes, but if you do, they are backed by a lifetime guarantee. This is quite possibly the best new optic for hunters in several years.
For more information visit: steiner-optics.com
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