An Overview of Burris Optics

By Randy Wakeman

Burris founder Don Burris formed Burris Optics in 1971, after Mr. Burris' twelve year tenure with Colorado-based Redfield ended. During those years Mr. Burris was focused on product design and management. Redfield's "Accu-Range" scopes and Redfield's first constantly centered non-magnifying reticle scopes are just a couple of his many personal accomplishments while at Redfield.

The original Fullfield was released in 1975; compact and handgun scopes were added in 1979. In 1980, Burris was among the first to offer scopes with multi-coated lenses. Don Burris passed on in 1987, but the company that bears his name continued to grow.

1991 saw the introduction of spotting scopes, 1992 brought in Burris binoculars and a National Benchrest win with a new Hunter-Class BR scope, with "Posi-Lock" scopes introduced in 1993. Perhaps the reticle currently most closely associated with Burris, the Burris "Ballistic Plex," was introduced in 2000. Some have mentioned that the Burris line is "too big" (I imagine Burris agrees to an extent), or that the line is a bit confusing, which is the impetus for this little article. It's not really all that complex.

Burris makes no chain store or "bubble pack" riflescopes. For years, the "code words" in the scope business for the old "good, better, best" system of quantifying scope lens coatings has been coated, multi-coated and fully multi-coated. Fully multi-coated lenses are accepted as the best and means that all the lens elements in a riflescope have multiple coats of magnesium fluoride (or proprietary lens coating variants) that increase light transmission through the lens by decreasing reflection and other light losses. No coating may mean a 7% light loss per air to glass surface, one layer of coating may equate to 1% light loss per air to glass surface, three or more layers of coatings (multicoatings) might mean 0.25% to perhaps a 0.1% light loss per air to glass surface.

The accepted maximum practical efficiency is 99.5% light transmission per lens element. You can forget about esoteric coating comments when considering Burris scopes. All of them are multi-chemical, multicoated. There is no lesser coating system available than what Burris refers to as their "HiLume" fully multi-coated index matched system. All of their riflescopes have it.

There are several fundamental, universally accepted features of riflescopes today that indicate a quality optic. Not just multi-coated lenses, but one-piece main tubes, steel on steel click adjustments, proper purging and filling with nitrogen or other inert gasses, proper adjustment springs (Burris uses dual springs) and quality seals (Burris uses quad rings, superior to standard O-rings). A lifetime warranty comes with every scope they make.

The most popular Burris scope series is the "Fullfield II." Not entirely coincidentally, it is the most economical as well. A couple of years ago, Burris management had a very painful decision to make. All their scopes had previously been made in the USA, yet many consumers would no longer pay for this distinction. Costs rose 40% over a decade in plant expenses, raw materials, labor and so forth. Yet, the street price of Burris Fullfield scopes did not.

None of the options were appealing; taking quality out of the scope by cheapening glass, coatings, or tubes would be one way, but Burris quickly discarded that. Another approach would be to abandon the $200 scope consumer altogether, focusing on their higher end (naturally lower volume) products. Shrinking a company is also not appetizing.

Burris finally elected to not cut quality, specifications, or quality control. They made duplicates of their tooling, clones of what resides in Greeley, Colorado, and began producing Fullfield II scopes with lower labor costs in the Philippines. This took some labor cost out of the equation without affecting the product. Packaging, final testing, final inspection and service remain in Colorado. Some Fullfield II scopes are still made in the USA, as duplicate machining centers allows complete manufacturing here and allows a shift back seamlessly if the business climate changes.

For some reason, Bushnell and Weaver scopes not being made in the U.S. has caused no great consternation. (All Leupold and Redfield scopes are still made in the USA. -Editor.) In any case, the Burris approach was and is to manage their own production with their own tooling rather than faxing off specifications and shopping OEMs along the Pacific rim, as has become common practice in scopeland. For this reason, brand new Burris Fullfield II's are still available to the consumer at the sub-$200 price point, instead of not being available at all.

The Burris line is simple to navigate. Fullfield II's are the most economical and they get you into Burris quality with the most cost-effective ticket. In the case of most big game hunting applications, selecting the least magnification you need is the smart approach. The new Fullfield II 2-7 x 35mm scope is a great example of that and is reviewed on the Scopes and Sport Optics page.

The Signature Select line offers a larger zoom range, larger internal lenses and improved image quality. The Signature Select 3-10 x 40 is also reviewed on the Scopes and Sport Optics page.

Beyond that, the more specialized lines are self-explanatory. Those seeking "Short Mag" type scopes (whatever that might mean) to compliment their new rifles are offered them, those who want "tactical" style riflescopes have them available and, of course, "handgun scope" speaks for itself.

The airgun / rimfire series of scope is not unique in the sense of managing spring gun recoil; all Burris scopes do that. What they offer is a close-focus capability that you might enjoy in a "other than big game" rifle.

I've not tested anything close to a sampling of the entire Burris line; I doubt I ever will. What I have seen of late has invariably impressed me, including their new Signature Select binoculars. It is good to see a company that remains competitive without cutting back on quality. Other than that, "the eyes have it"; your eyes are what counts. The current Burris line-up is worthy of anyone's short-list.

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Copyright 2006, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.