PUBLISHED: 10:30 21 August 2012
For years I've been asking the major scope manufacturers to offer scopes of a slightly higher performance than the average models for those airgun hunters like me. We own ultra high performance rifles, loaded with the finest pellets available and want a scope to match. Think about it. If you own a £1250 Theoben, why would you fit a £150 scope? Would you fit Kwik Fit tyres to your BMW M3, would you? A high performance gun deserves a high performance scope, so I'm very happy to be reviewing the new Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 4.5-14 x 44 mil-dot. The Bushnell brand has been quietly popular with those in the know for years but has never achieved widespread popularity. This is, in my opinion, for two reasons. One is that it isn't very well known. The second is that despite the high performance of many of their models, the looks and features haven't always suited the tastes of British airgunners. To be fair to Bushnell, those models were never designed for airgun use so any mismatch is to be expected.
However the scope on test is absolutely suited to our needs and is one of my favourite specifications to boot. I always prefer a variable power scope for my hunting needs and although I’ve never taken a shot at a quarry animal at anything higher than 10x, I love having the additional mag for zeroing and long-range target shooting. For example, at my club we have a 55-yard range that has banks of knock-down, knock-up targets with tiny kill zones. From the bench rests it’s great fun to see if you can shoot every one straight, and with a scope of this quality and the right rifle/pellet combination it can be done. High mag also allows you to see .177 calibre pellet holes in paper cards at that distance, something lower mag’ or less capable optics could never hope to achieve. The Ultra-HD lenses and their fully multi-coated lenses offer optical performance that’s right up there with the best and remember that this is effectively a mid-price scope. On the range I was able to see individual flakes of paint chipping off targets at 55 yards, which is impressive I can tell you. I look through a lot of scopes with my job, and believe me this scope is good.
The outer lenses are treated with Bushnell’s proprietary RainGuard coating that repels water and reduces fogging. Having used this before during the winter I can tell you it works well. It’s not a miracle, creating perfect clarity in pouring rain, but it’s streets ahead of standard lenses. Where I found it helped most was in reducing fogging from your breath of body warmth and it really can make the difference between seeing your quarry and passing up a shot.
It not only the quality of the lenses that make for a great scope. The mechanical functions are just as important. There are two well-known tests for a variable power scope to see just how well the internal parts have been made. The first is to zero your rifle perfectly at 30 yards on a day when the wind isn’t too bad and then wind in 30 upwards clicks on the elevation turret, and then shoot three shots. Now wind in 30 clicks right on the windage adjuster, and fire three shots. Next 30 clicks down and shoot and finally 30 clicks left and shoot. If the scope is well made it will now be exactly back on zero. The centres of the groups should form an exact square, the size of which will depend of the click value of your scope. Many less well-built scopes fail this test. Poorly machined components, unwanted friction and bad lubrication all add up to inconsistency. I ran this test with the Legend and my final zero was spot-on.
The next test is, in my view, very important indeed and I’ll never hunt with a scope without performing it, and I’ll explain why. I believe in one-shot clean kills and a vital ingredient of this is having your scope correctly zeroed. It must also be consistent, shooting to that zero under any conditions. If I’m not confident it shoots where I’m aiming, I won’t shoot at a living creature simply because it’s just not humane, and that is why this test matters. Again, zero your rifle spot-on at 30 yards. Now wind the magnification down to the minimum, and fire three shots at a fresh 30-yard target. Now increase the mag’ by two times (say from 4x to 6x) and shoot another fresh target. Then add 2x and shoot again, all the way until you reach maximum magnification. I warn you, you might not like what you see. You should expect the group sizes from the lower mag’ setting’s to be larger, but look for the centre of the group. Poorly made scopes change the zero as the magnification assembly travels along the body and that for me is unacceptable. If you only ever shoot at one particular magnification this isn’t a problem, and long as you ensure that you set the scope from the same direction each time, i.e. if you hunt at 6x, always go down to 4x and up to 6. If you come down to 6x from 10x the position might be different.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the Legend didn’t shift it’s zero even a tiny bit, proof that you get what you pay for. Set this scope to any mag’ s you like, and you can have complete confidence your zero will be correct. The optical performance and the fact that it passed my tests with flying colours goes to prove why this scope is worth every penny.