Bushnell Banner Riflescopes
By Chuck Hawks
Dave Bushnell founded the Bushnell Company in 1947. For over 50 years Bushnell has been one of the leaders in the riflescope field. At one time Bushnell was the lower, imported line of the American manufacturer Bausch & Lomb, but the child (Bushnell) has eaten its parent (B&L).
Today Bushnell markets a wide range of riflescopes, plus shotgun and pistol scopes and other optical products. Their riflescope lines include the high priced Elite 4200, the medium priced (3-star) Elite 3200, the low priced (2-star) Banner and Trophy, and the economy priced Sportsman models.
Bushnell riflescopes have had varying warrantee periods over the years, but today they are covered by a Limited Lifetime Warrantee. This warrantee is good for the life of the original purchaser.
Banner scopes have been part of the Bushnell line literally for decades. They have generally been one of the best scopes in their price class, giving good service for the money. All Banner riflescopes are built on one-piece aluminum alloy main tubes for durability. They come with a matte black external finish. They feature Bushnell's Dusk & Dawn Brightness lens coatings for clarity in both low and bright light (whatever that means!). Other good features include fast focusing eyepieces, an easy-grip zoom ring on variable power models, and 1/4 MOA fingertip resettable windage and elevation adjustments. Banner scopes are fogproof, waterproof, and shockproof.
The Banner line incorporates centerfire riflescopes (the models of primary interest here), rimfire rifle scopes, and shotgun scopes. Models with an adjustable objective, which allows the shooter to correct for parallax at any range between 10 yards and infinity, are touted as combination long range riflescopes and airgun scopes! Bushnell centerfire rifle scopes of less than 11x magnification are adjusted to be parallax free at 100 yards. Shotgun and .22 rimfire scopes are adjusted to be parallax free at 50 yards. High power scopes with adjustable objectives are user adjustable for parallax correction from 10 yards to infinity.
Banner model #71-4228 is described as a compact 4x20mm fixed power .22 scope with rings. (Presumably for tip-off mounts, although this is not specified.) This would indicate that this scope is parallax corrected for 50 yards. The field of view is 26.5' at 100 yards and the eye relief is 3.5". The 4x20mm rimfire scope is intended for hunting small game and varmints and comes with Bushnell's Multi-X reticle.
Banner model #71-0432 is a full size 4x32mm fixed power scope. This scope is 11.3" long and weighs 11.1 ounces. The 100 yard field of view is 31.5'. Eye relief is 3.3". The adjustment range is 50 MOA. It comes with the Circle-X reticle. Strangely, this is also described as a .22/shotgun scope, "Ideal for .22's & shotguns" to quote the Bushnell description. Unfortunately, I can't tell by looking, but if the parallax correction is for the usual 100 yards this would seem to be a good all-around centerfire rifle scope. If not, clearly either this model or #71-4228 (above) is redundant.
Banner model #71-1432 is a 1-4x32mm variable power rimfire and shotgun scope that is parallax corrected for 50 yards. It has a normal eye relief of 4.3", unlike many rimfire scopes that tend toward very short (1.5") eye relief. The 1-4x32 is supplied with the Circle-X reticle.
Model # 71-1545 is a 1.5-4.5x32mm variable power scope. It is also described as "ideal for shotgun and black powder." But no special parallax correction distance is specified, so I am inclined to suspect it is a normal 100 yards. If so, this would be a good scope for woods rifles chambered for such cartridges as the .30-30, .300 Savage, and .308 Winchester. The Banner 1.5-4.5x32 is 10.5" long and weighs 10.5 ounces. The field of view at 100 yards is 67' at 1.5x and 23' at 4.5x. The eye relief is 4" and the adjustment range is 60 MOA. It is supplied with a Multi-X reticle.
Banner model #71-3944 is a 3-9x40mm variable power scope specifically described as a black powder rifle and shotgun scope. Again, this is presumably due to its short range (50 yard) parallax correction. But, as in the case with 371-4228 (above), no specific mention of parallax correction is made in the Bushnell literature or specification sheet. That specification sheet refers to this model as an "extended eye relief" scope, yet it quotes the actual eye relief as 3.0"! This scope comes with a Circle-X reticle.
Model #71-3948 is another 3-9x40mm variable power scope; this time (at last!) the catalog allows as how it might make a general purpose riflescope, "Ideal for multi-purpose guns." Gee, I couldn't have written it better myself. This scope is 12.305" long and weighs 13 ounces. Its 100 yard field of view is 40" at 3x and 14' at 9x. Eye relief is 3.3" and the adjustment range is 60 MOA. It is supplied with a Multi-X reticle.
The Banner model #71-3950 is a 3-9x50mm variable. This model is 16" long and weighs 19 ounces, very large for a 3-9x scope. It is supplied with a Dual-X reticle. It appears to be built on the same tube as the 6-18x50mm Banner, which is taking economy through commonality of parts way too far. It offers greater light grasp than the 3-9x40mm due to its 50mm objective, but will require high mount rings on most rifles. Worse is its restricted 100 yard field of view, only 26' at 3x and 12' at 9x. The eye relief is 3.8" and the adjustment range is 50 MOA. Stick with the 3-9x40 Banner and avoid this turkey if at all possible.
Model #71-3951 is the same 3-9x50mm scope as #71-3950, but is supplied with a different reticle. That would be Bushnell's "3-2-1 Low Light Reticle." Quite a handle for a reticle, but this scope is big enough to support it.
Banner #71-4124 is a 4-12x40mm variable. It is 12" long and weighs 15 ounces. The eye relief is 3.3" and the adjustment range is 60 MOA. The 100 yard field of view is 29' at 4x and 11' at 12x. Note that this scope has a greater field of view at 4x than the Banner 3-9x50's do at 3x. This model also has an adjustable objective for parallax correction from 10 yards to infinity, and is supplied with a multi-X reticle. As with other 4-12x variables, this Banner would be most suitable for use with long range varmint cartridges such as the .22-250, and combination varmint/big game cartridges such as the .243 Winchester and 6mm Remington.
The biggest Banner (in magnification) is the 6-18x50mm variable power scope. It also boasts an adjustable objective. It is 16" long and weighs 18 ounces. The eye relief is 3.5" and the adjustment range is 40 MOA. Field of view is 17' at 6x and only 6' at 18x. The Multi-X reticle is standard. This is a big, heavy scope most suitable for use on big, heavy rifles. Specialized, long range varmint rifles chambered for such cartridges as the .223 WSSM, .220 Swift, .243 Winchester, and 6mm Remington would seem to be the most common application for such a scope.
I can't help but wonder if the people who wrote the Banner catalog descriptions and specifications knew what they were talking about. For sure they are not hunters or shooters themselves. Remember the 3-9x40mm black powder scope with the 3" eye relief being advertised as an "extended eye relief" scope?
It is a fact that every scope in the line is described, among other things, as being "Great for shotguns (Deer & Turkeys)." Can you imagine any knowledgeable shooter/hunter describing 4-12x40mm AO and 6-18x50mm AO scopes that way? Do you know any shotgun specialists using such scopes for deer and turkey hunting? Neither do I.
Both the compact 4x20mm ("includes rings") and 4x32mm fixed power scopes are described as .22/shotgun scopes, but the parallax correction distance is not specified for either. This seems passing strange to me and, as pointed out above, if these are both .22 scopes, then where is the Banner 4x big game scope I remember using a few years ago? The same question should be raised about the 1-4x20mm and 1.5-4.5x32mm variable power scopes. It a little hard to believe that every Banner scope smaller than a 3-9x40mm variable is a .22/shotgun/black powder scope with parallax correction set for 50 yards, rendering them unsuitable for centerfire rifles.
Perhaps sloppy and misleading catalog descriptions just go hand in hand with 2-star scopes, but I don't see why they should. Entry level shooters, who are most likely to be buying these scopes, need clear, informative, and unambiguous descriptions and recommendations to help them choose the right scope for their particular application. The descriptions written by the Bushnell staff should be clarified and contradictory or misleading claims eliminated.
I have no experience with the top (Elite 4200) or bottom (Sportsman) ends of the Bushnell line, but I have owned a couple of Banner scopes (three, in fact, if I am not mistaken) and I have found them to be surprisingly satisfactory, especially considering their modest cost. My impression is of better than average optics, good flare suppression, adequate finish, accurate adjustments, and quite satisfactory durability, even on rifles of considerable recoil.
The Banner line is still one of the best, perhaps the best, scope line in its price class. Banner scopes rarely have a problem, and if they do Bushnell will take care of it. One big retailer told me he estimated that Bushnell scopes have only about 1/5 the return rate of Tasco scopes. (For years Tasco was Bushnell's main competitor in the market place, at least until Tasco went belly-up and was acquired by Bushnell!)
Copyright 2003, 2010 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.