Zeiss Victory Varipoint T* 1.1-4x24mm Riflescope
By Chuck Hawks
It is always a pleasure to review a fine riflescope and the subject of this review, a Zeiss Victory Varipoint 1.1-4x24mm variable, is no exception. The Carl Zeiss Company of Germany traces its beginnings back to founder Carl Zeiss' 1846 efforts to design and build a better microscope. Today, Carl Zeiss is an acknowledged world leader in optics and perhaps the best known and most respected of all European riflescope manufacturers. Zeiss riflescopes benefit from the excellent reputation of Zeiss scientific instruments, microscopes, photographic lenses, telescope oculars and binoculars. Like those famous Zeiss products, their riflescopes are precision made from high quality materials and the Victory line is top drawer Zeiss.
The excellence of Zeiss products is often credited to superior optical glass. However, the fact is that the same types of raw optical glass are available to all riflescope manufacturers, whether it is sourced from Japan, Germany or the USA. It is what the manufacturer does with the glass, the quality of the other components, precision manufacture and quality control that makes the difference between great riflescopes and merely adequate models. Excellent scopes are made in Europe, Japan, the USA and possibly other places.
The Victory Varipoint line boasts the most advanced optics, components and features. Among these are LotuTec protection on the exposed front and rear lens elements to reduce contamination from dust and moisture (the Zeiss answer to Bushnell's RainGuard), T* multi-coatings on all air to glass lens surfaces and an illuminated reticle (IR). The latter is powered by a CR 2032 battery. Naturally, Varipoint scopes are purged, nitrogen filled and sealed to make them waterproof and fog proof. These scopes are built on 30mm diameter, one-piece aluminum main tubes and are designed to handle the recoil of even the most powerful rifle cartridges. Lens caps are included. The 1.1-4x24 features Euro-style fast eyepiece focusing with a rubber ring to protect eyeglasses and a large, easy to grip zoom ring with a raised tactile bump at the 2x setting. The wear-resistant fingertip windage and elevation adjustments click in 1/3 MOA increments and are resettable after adjustment (just lift the knob and turn).
The external finish of the test scope is a hard-anodized matte black with large, engraved white numbers on the zoom ring to indicate magnification. The plastic windage and elevation caps are decorated with an embossed, stylized "Z" and the reticle illumination knob, located directly opposite the windage adjustment knob on the turret, is decorated by a blue and white Zeiss logo. "Victory" is printed on both sides of the ocular bell and "Varipoint / 1.1-4x24 / T*" are printed on the upper side of the ocular bell in large letters. "Made in Germany" is printed in smaller letters. Small "+ 0 -" figures indicate which way to turn the fast focus ring at the back of the ocular bell. All of these markings are white letters and numerals.
This is entirely too much product identification for my taste and it cheapens the appearance of this expensive, five-star riflescope. Simply engraving "Victory Varipoint 1.1-4x24" around the objective end of the tube, as most other riflescope manufacturers do, would have been a classier way to go. Aluminum adjustment caps would also be an improvement; plastic caps just do not seem appropriate on a $2200 (Optics Planet discount price) scope. Following are the specifications for the Zeiss Victory 1.1-4x24mm riflescope.
Zeiss promotional literature calls this scope "extremely lightweight, ultra-compact," but the dimensions and weight given above belie such claims. At almost a foot long and weighing about a pound, it is actually rather big and heavy for its magnification range. (For comparison, a Leupold VX3 1.5-5x20mm IR scope built on a 30mm main tube is 9.6" long and weighs 14.3 ounces, while a 2-7x28mm Ultralight weighs only 8.2 ounces.)
The same literature states that the 1.1-4x24's wide field of view allows fast target acquisition, making it appropriate for hunting driven game and dangerous game, an assertion with which I totally agree. The field of view at 1.1x is huge, making quick shots at large animals faster than with iron sights, while the maximum magnification of 4x is adequate for 300 yard shots at medium game. This is a versatile magnification range for rifles in calibers from .25-35 to .375 Magnum, far more versatile that the giant 4-12x (and larger) scopes being sold to inexperienced hunters these days.
Victory scopes come with the standard Carl Zeiss 10 year guarantee of material and manufacturing with free repair or replacement. A business card packaged with the scope bears its serial number and the signatures of the persons who checked and packaged the scope. The instructions say to enclose this card with the scope should it need to be returned for service under the guarantee. Apparently, Zeiss employees are expected to be responsible for their actions! In addition, scopes properly imported into the USA come with a Limited Lifetime Transferable Warranty, which is activated by returning the enclosed Product Registration Card. This additional warrantee applies only to U.S. customers.
A number of reticle styles are available and the scope reviewed here was supplied with Zeiss reticle number 40, a German No. 4 type (three post and crosshair) with an illuminated red center dot. The center dot is switched-on by pulling out on the left side mounted rheostat; the battery chamber is in the top of the knob. The illuminated center dot is in the scope's second image plane and remains constant in size regardless of magnification, while the No. 4 reticle itself is in the first image plane and changes size as the magnification is changed. Placing the reticle in the first image plane is typical of European scopes, but unusual in American scopes. The reticle is finest at the lowest image magnification (1.1x) and coarsest at the highest magnification (4x), exactly the reverse of what I would prefer if I can't have a reticle of fixed size. My solution in the field is to set the scope for a reticle thickness that I am comfortable with, a little over 2x magnification in this case, and leave it alone.
Fine scopes usually find a home on fine rifles, so I mounted the Varipoint on a beautiful CZ 550 Safari Express rifle chambered for the versatile and powerful 9.3x62mm cartridge. (You will find a full review of this rifle on the Product Reviews page.) This is a good combination for hunting large game and dangerous predators, such as polar bear in the Arctic, brown bear, grizzly bear, elk and moose in North America, red stag and Scandinavian moose in Europe, lion and large hoofed game in Africa. Not having any of the above available for testing, I did my shooting with the Victory at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon.
Everyone on the Guns and Shooting Online staff was impressed by the bright, sharp and contrasty views seen through the 1.1-4x24 Varipoint. There is visible off axis distortion and some loss of sharpness at the edge of the field of view, but these are common to most riflescopes and did not affect my ability to aim at the target. Color rendition is excellent. Flare was very well controlled, even when aiming at strongly back lit targets. (Never point any riflescope directly at the sun!) The eye box is adequate, but not generous.
We seldom take only one rifle to the range during Guns and Shooting Online reviews and on this occasion I was able to compare the Victory Varipoint to Zeiss Conquest, Leupold VX-3 and Bushnell Elite 4200 riflescopes, all variables set at 3x magnification. These are good scopes and they all provide good views of the target. Subjectively, in terms of center sharpness (a combination of resolution and contrast), I rated the Varipoint best overall, with the VX-3 a close second and the other two scopes a close third. Interestingly, the Victory was more critical in terms of eye position than the VX-3 and displayed the most curvilinear distortion of any of the scopes. Eye relief is about average. This merely illustrates that optical design is always a compromise between conflicting requirements and different optical designers solve the problem in different ways.
The Varipoint's windage and elevation adjustments proved extremely accurate and repeatable, perhaps the best of any scope we have reviewed. The knobs require more force to turn than most, but the clicks are very positive. Each click represents approximately 1/3 MOA adjustment (1 centimeter at 100 meters or .36" at 100 yards). Turning one adjustment did not affect the other adjustment. Zeiss calls this "Square Reticle Adjustment" and claims that most other brands' adjustments tend to follow a curved path, complicating sighting-in.
The accuracy of the Victory's adjustments made it easy to sight-in the test rifle and this helps reduce ammunition expenditure. Here is how it went for me: my first shot at 100 yards (after preliminary bore sighting and then zeroing at 25 yards) hit the target 11cm high and 5cm to the left. Because I wanted the rifle to shoot about 2" high at 100 yards, I dialed-in 5 clicks of right windage and 6 clicks of down elevation. The very next group printed 2" over dead center and measured 7/8". Sighting-in was thus accomplished with one ranging shot and one three-shot group. Of course, I fired several more groups to become accustomed to the rifle and to verify the scope settings, but they were not, strictly speaking, necessary. Perhaps you can justify the purchase of a Varipoint by telling your spouse it will save money on ammunition!
Fast eyepiece focus is always appreciated, particularly if more than one shooter needs to shoot a rifle, which is usually the case during Guns and Shooting Online reviews. It is also handy if the owner normally shoots with, but sometimes without, prescription glasses. I wish that all scopes came with fast focus eyepiece adjustment.
In this instance, Guns and Shooting Online staff members Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and I spent range time with the CZ Safari Express rifle and the Varipoint 1.1-4x24 scope. It was daytime, but we played around with the illuminated dot reticle and varying the scope's magnification. Our consensus was that this is a great dangerous game scope, the standard of comparison. Its huge field of view at low power, attention getting reticle and excellent mechanical and optical quality make it a scope on which we'd be willing to bet our lives. There is no higher praise than that!
In summation, the Varipoint worked as advertised, delivering a very high level of overall performance. As expected, the considerable recoil of the 9.3x62mm cartridge had no effect on the scope, which is engineered to withstand far higher acceleration forces.
You can't hit what you cannot see and the Victory Varipoint provides dependably outstanding views of the target. Anyone considering the purchase of a five-star hunting scope should certainly include a Zeiss Victory Varipoint T* on their "short list."
Copyright 2010 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.