Burris 4x20mm Compact / Short Mag / Timberline Riflescopes

By Rick Ryals

Burris Timberline 4x20mm
4x20mm Timberline scope. Illustration courtesy of the Burris Company.

The subject of this review is the Burris Compact / Short Mag /Timberline 4x20 fixed power riflescope. This scope was originally sold as a member of the Compact line. In 2005, the name of this model line was changed to Short Mag. For 2008, these scopes are being sold under the Timberline name.

These scopes are marketed for use on short, lightweight rifles. The catalog specifications have remained consistent through all these model name changes (with the exception of the exit pupil as discussed below). The scope used for this review is a Compact.

Burris has acquired a good reputation for reliability. Burris scopes are often mentioned in articles about riflescopes when ruggedness and reliability are being discussed. Since I do not have a selection of hard kicking rifles of my own to test this feature, I have to take their word.

Burris scopes are also highly regarded for their optical quality. This feature is more easily noticed by the average person than ruggedness or reliability. I have found the Burris Short Mag 4x20 to be optically clear and crisp. Its optical performance is more than sufficient for hunting during legal daylight hours.


  • Overall length - 8.4 inches
  • Weight - 8 ounces
  • Eye relief - 3.75 to 5.0 inches
  • Objective diameter - 20 mm
  • Exit pupil - 5 mm
  • Field of view - 24 feet at 100 yards
  • Adjustment value - 1/2 minute of angle clicks
  • Overall adjustment range - 90 moa for both windage and elevation

The scope used for this review is gloss black. The Burris logo is in white on the left side of the windage/elevation adjustment housing. Near the end of the eyepiece in white letters is printed, “4X Burris Made in USA.”

Lenses are fully multi-coated. The model reviewed has a standard plex reticle, but ballistic plex is also available. Windage and elevation is accomplished by click adjustments. The scope comes with good lens covers to protect it during storage. The eyepiece has a rubber eye protector attached to the end. The objective end is straight except for a small bulb-out at the very end.

The Compact and Short Mag versions were available in either gloss or matte finish. The Timberline is offered only with a matte finish. The Short Mag has a white “Short Mag” logo on the side of the eyepiece, and the Timberline has a similar “Timberline” logo in the same location. The Compact had no model logo. Except for the logos, these scopes appear to be identical.

The Burris 4x20 scope represents a good value for the cost. It is priced around $150 to $170 from several mail order suppliers. This is considerably less than many other scopes of similar optical quality.

This is a very trim, compact and lightweight scope. Even so, unlike other Burris Short Mag scopes, it is easy to mount on a variety of rifles. Due to the small objective bell, the mounting area fore and aft of the adjustment housing is long enough to fit in standard rings. In addition, the eyepiece is only 3.1 inches long, allowing the user to take advantage of the generous eye relief.

The eye relief for this model line deserves some mention. 3.75 to 5.0 inches is very generous, even for hard kicking rifles or slug guns. In addition, it is non-critical, giving you over an inch of flexibility in the distance your eye is placed behind the scope to obtain the full field of view.

A possible drawback also needs to be noted. Lateral eye position behind the scope is more critical than with most scopes. If your rifle fits you reasonably well this should not be a problem. However, you should make sure of this before you try to line up on a nice buck and find you have a blacked-out field of view.

I noticed that the exit pupil diameter shown in the Compact and Short Mag specifications was 5.6 mm while that shown in the Timberline specifications is 5 mm even. I don't know if this is an actual change in the scope or simply rounding the number downward. I measured the objective right at 20mm with a caliper, so if the exit pupil is 5.6 mm then the actual magnification would be 3.6x. I suspect that the exit pupil number was changed to 5mm so that the stated objective diameter divided by the stated exit pupil would equal four power exactly.

The main drawback of the Short Mag 4x20mm, if you want to call it that, is that it is a fixed power scope. Fixed power scopes are not very fashionable these days. So why would anyone want this scope when you have such a wide selection of variable power models?

The primary advantages of a fixed power riflescope over a variable are simplicity, superior optical quality, a bit more reliability, lower cost and generally lighter weight. Since you cannot fiddle with a power setting, you will not have your scope set at nine power when you come across a deer at 20 yards.

Along with simplicity comes greater reliability. This is not to say that today's variables are unreliable. However, fixed power scopes have fewer moving parts, so there is less that can go wrong. Since fixed power scopes are simpler to build, they also cost a little less than a comparable quality variable. Since there are fewer pieces inside they weigh a few ounces less.

I think the greatest advantage of the Burris 4x20mm is its size and weight. It is a perfect match for the carbine style rifles I so love. Its 8.4 inch length does not overpower a short rifle and its 8 ounces do not unbalance a light rifle. It is well suited to rifles like the Kimber 84M, the Ruger M77 RSI, the Remington Model Seven and the Browning BLR.

I own many variable power scopes. They provide flexibility on all-around or multi-purpose rifles. However, fixed power scopes of mid-range power such as 2.5x and 4x are suitable for many of these same uses and types of rifles. For a rifle you intend to use for certain types of hunting or in certain types of terrain, a fixed power scope is a sensible choice.

As I get older, I find myself gravitating toward simpler things. The Burris Short Mag 4x20mm is a simple scope that is a great value in a compact, lightweight package. I don't plan to put one on all my rifles, but I am thinking that it will go great on my Ruger M77 RSI.

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Copyright 2008, 2012 by Rick Ryals and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.