Bushnell Elite 6500 1.25-8x32mm Riflescope
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The Elite 6500's are Bushnell's new top of the line riflescopes, competing in price and quality with four-star-plus riflescope luminaries such as the Leupold VX-3, Sightron SIII and Swarovski AV series. They offer a very wide 6.5x magnification range and are advertised as "the world's most versatile riflescopes." Naturally, they are also Bushnell's most advanced scopes in terms of optical design, lens coatings (including Rainguard HD) and mechanical construction. These new 6500's are very fine scopes and you can see the entire line at Bushnell's web site: www.bushnell.com
Bushnell lists the following features for the Elite 6500 line:
Bushnell's Rainguard HD deserves special mention. Bushnell describes it as a permanent, water-repellant lens coating that prevents fogging by causing condensation from rain, sleet, snow, or even your own breath to bead-up into much smaller droplets than on standard coatings. Smaller droplets scatter less light, which results in a clearer, brighter view. We have used Rainguard extensively in the field and it works as advertised.
Most of the features listed above are useful. However, as a practical matter, we must admit that we consider the 6.5x zoom range to be more of a talking point than a necessity. In reality, a 4x zoom range is plenty for almost any riflescope. The Elite 6500 reviewed here is the 1.25-8x32mm model big game hunting scope and it is hard to see what it can do that a 2-8x big game hunting scope (a 4:1 zoom range) could not do equally well. In a varmint scope, the same situation applies. A 4-16x varmint scope (4:1 zoom range) on a heavy barrel varmint rifle is just as useful in the field as a 2.5-16x varmint scope (6.5:1 zoom range). Just how often will a varmint hunter want to use the 2.5x low magnification capability of a 6.5:1 zoom scope? Does a 2.5x minimum magnification have any practical advantage over 4x for varmint shooting?
Consider also that the wider the zoom range, the more compromises must be made in the optical design. Given the same level of technology, at any given price point a wider zoom range inevitably results in lower image quality. A 3:1 magnification range (3-9x, for example) has long been considered about optimum in terms of image quality, if not marketing sizzle.
Because the Elite 6500 line is built to a higher price point than previous Bushnell scopes, our 1.25-8x32mm test scope delivers very good optical quality despite its wide magnification range. The view through the scope is sharp and clear with good contrast. Optical aberrations are well corrected and coma is minimized. The multi-coatings do a good job of reducing flare and internal reflections. Eye relief is about 6" at low power, which is exceptional and makes this scope a fine choice for the hardest kicking rifles. The Bushnell Multi-X reticle, a Duplex type, works fine. Here are some specifications for the Elite 6500 1.25-8x32mm riflescope.
Worth noting is the test scope's substantial weight, despite a modest diameter objective lens. With a mount base and rings, you will be adding about 1.5 pounds on top of your rifle. This weight is due to the 30mm main tube, as well as the extra elements required by the 6.5:1 zoom range.
We used Leupold STD bases and rings to mount the 6500 on a brand new Winchester Model 70 Super Grade .30-06 rifle that arrived for review shortly after the Bushnell scope. The Model 70 Super Grade is Winchester's best rifle and the Elite 6500 is Bushnell's best scope, so they seemed a natural match.
We have always felt that a scope should complement its rifle and this pair is a good example of that philosophy in action. The Elite 6500 1.25-8x32 is an extremely versatile big game hunting scope, the .30-06 is an extremely versatile big game hunting cartridge and the Model 70 is one of the world's best and most reliable hunting rifles. You could take this combination anywhere in the world on a CXP2/CXP3 mixed bag hunt and never feel out of place or be left wanting.
This scope offers a lot of mounting latitude and mounting it on the long action Model 70 easy. Its modest 32mm objective lens allows the use of low rings, which is always an advantage. We found the fingertip windage and elevation adjustments accurate and easy to use. The pull-up resettable knobs worked properly and are much more convenient than the old type of knob that requires removal and reattachment by Allan wrench. In short, we could find no serious faults with this scope.
As Bushnell has extended their Elite riflescope lines upward, they have made improvements commensurate with the increased retail prices and the Elite 6500 line is no exception. We compared our test 6500 at the range to a Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x36mm scope and found little to choose between the two scopes. Both are high quality scopes with excellent optics and are sufficient for virtually all big game hunting. Both are easy to mount and easy to adjust. Reputable firms stand behind both scopes. Both scopes are 11 inches long, but the Leupold is considerably lighter at 11.4 ounces. The Bushnell has a wider zoom range, but we doubt that few hunters will ever use less than 2.5x, so that advantage is more theoretical than practical. The Leupold has sufficient eye relief for the hardest kicking rifles and the Bushnell's eye relief is even better. The Bushnell is also more expensive, a by product of its 6.5:1 zoom range. Basically, it is a "pick 'em" situation.
We think that it is fair to say that Bushnell's entry into the rarefied atmosphere of the four-star-plus riflescope class has been successful. The 6500 line is competitive with the best premium priced brands and Bushnell's Elite 6500's will be a force to be reckoned with in scopeland from now on.
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