Burris Signature Select 3-10x40mm Riflescope

By Randy Wakeman

Burris Signature Select 3-10x40mm
Illustration courtesy of Burris

I first became aware of Burris Scopes many years ago, primarily due to their reputation as being one of the toughest handgun scopes you could buy. That reputation continues to this day. As for the rest of the Burris line, I'm afraid I have to confess to a great deal of ignorance. I've shot through Burris Optics product from time to time, but I have never thoroughly reviewed one their scopes. Hopefully, I can rectify that in some small measure right now.

American consumers are a funny lot. Sometimes we do not purchase what we claim we want. We tend to make some peculiar choices when it comes to visual products. Everyone wants better, sharper, higher-resolution images, or so many of us say. Yet, it wasn't all that long ago when the markedly superior BetaMax format failed to VHS. 8mm, Hi-8, Super-VHS, and LaserDisc (twice) both promised and delivered better image and audio quality than good old VHS, and they all failed as the home entertainment medium of choice.

Sometimes, good enough is wonderfully adequate and wonderfully successful as well. So it is with some of the features and benefits of the Burris scope line.

With a background in mechanical power transmission, I can certainly say it is well known that "Quad Rings" are superior seals to "O-Rings." Quad Rings have a four-lobe design that offers twice the sealing surface of an O-Ring, requiring less compression to maintain an effective seal.

Molded products such as O-rings rings have "parting lines." With a Quad Ring, the parting lines are away from the sealing surfaces, normally not the case in the more leakage prone O-ring. That would seem like a very basic improvement to any scope. Apparently, we don't care about things like that, though Burris offers it in even their lowest priced line, the Fullfield II. The list of features and benefits present in Burris product goes on, but due to a lack of understanding or mis-marketing (the same thing?) some of these innovative features have become more of a liability for Burris than a success story.

One example is the patented Burris "Posi-Lock." Nobody wants reticle movement; everybody wants their scope adjustments to stay put regardless of conditions. Posi-Lock offers that, but again it is a case of us not really wanting what we say we want.

Posi-Lock prohibits reticle float, but it will be a bit more time-consuming to sight in your tube. A Posi-Lock scope cannot be adjusted without loosening the Posi-Lock, and should not be used without it properly tightened down. Too many folks have ignored this, trying to adjust Posi-Locked scopes and damaging their optics in the process.

It remains an ideal system for high recoil handgun and dangerous game rifles, where reticle movement is just not an option. However, the standard Burris scopes already feature double-leaf springs that have proved more reliable and longer-lasting than the conventional single leaf spring arrays on most scopes. How many of us bother with technical details in our scope selection process is another matter.

A related matter is the Burris "Pos-Align" offset insert kits, acclaimed by all that have needed them. Perhaps "Pos-Align" seems related to the Burris "Posi-Lock" system in name, so more than a few folks are under the impression that "Pos-Align" inserts can only be used with "Posi-Lock" scopes. In actuality, all Burris Signature rings (Redfield or Weaver style) can use the Pos-Align inserts, allowing you to practically sight in your rifle while keeping your scope adjustments at optical center. These inserts have made tapered bases and the shimming of bases obsolete.

The original Burris Fullfield was characterized by a forward adjustment turret that Burris felt offered technical advantage but was not embraced by most consumers, who preferred something more aesthetically balanced. The older cosmetics and that fact that Burris offers no dime-store level optics might help to explain a bit why their name is not the first name that usually comes to mind when thinking of quality optics. Perhaps it should be; a lot has changed in the last few years.

The reviewed scope is the Burris Signature Select 3X-10X-40mm Matte Ballistic Plex, part number 200560. This scope features 3-1/2 to 4 inches of eye relief, is 13.1 inches long, weighs 17 ounces, and has 50 inches of internal adjustment @ 100 yards.

It has all the standard Burris features: fully multi-coated lenses, quad seals, double leaf springs, steel on steel adjustments, quick focus, a one piece main tube, and a one piece ocular / power ring tube. In addition, the Signature Select has what is best called "30 mm internals in a 1 inch tube," meaning internal lens elements that Burris states are some 65% larger than other 1 inch scopes, and larger than many 30mm scopes as well.

To make this a thorough test, I decided to compare this scope heads-up in image quality against a Leupold Vari-X III 3.5-10 x 40mm Mil-Dot, a Sightron SII 3-12 x 42mm Mil-Dot, a Bushnell Elite 3200 3-10 x 40mm, and a Bushnell Elite 4200 2.5-10 x 40mm. The results may surprise you, as they did me.

Snellen eye charts, the ISO 12233 resolution chart, and Joel Schneider's block letter eye charts were all used to test image quality. Additionally, the scopes were all viewed in blind comparison tests before sunrise and after sunset in the field grading contrast of various hues of brown grasses, shoreline, and cattails before, at, and after the water's edge at 100-150 yards.

All of the scopes compared were found to be competent for big game hunting during legal North American hunting hours. When it came to image clarity, a subjective blend of brightness, contrast, resolution, and the ability to distinguish detail, the Burris finished at the top in a virtual tie with the Bushnell 4200. I found the Burris Signature Select 3-10 x 40mm to have at least equal image quality to the Elite 4200, if not marginally higher contrast.

The eye relief to be both generous and tightly controlled at 3-3/4" plus or minus just one-quarter inch throughout the entire zoom range. The adjustments are precise, repeatable, and are both finger and coin adjustable.

The Burris Signature Select has extremely forgiving eye position as well. It is more tolerant of head movement without blinking out than any of the other scopes tested.

Where the other companies are happy to soak you for $75 or more for a ballistic reticle, Burris gives you the option of a standard plex or their ballistic plex at no extra charge. And there are other niceties that came with the Burris Signature Select: superior scope covers and the equivalent of a form fitting "Scope Coat" to keep your scope abrasion and dirt free.

There is one feature of the Burris Signature Select, while perhaps technically superior, that I have mixed emotions about. That is the one-piece power ring / ocular assembly. I can certainly see the less potential leak paths. However, it also inhibits the use of flip-out scope covers. With Burris' utilization of quad rings, the leak path reduction seems a bit more theoretical than an actual advantage.

In my case, the Burris Signature Select 3-10 was mounted to a Savage 10ML-II muzzleloader for testing. The load was 57.1 grains of Vihtavouri N120 pushing a Barnes Original 300 grain .458 Spitzer Soft Point bullet inside an MMP Orange .50/.458 sabot. Though some hunters are admittedly supremely skilled with good old "Kentucky" for holdover, I am not one of them. Though the 10ML-II is one of the flattest shooting frontloaders out there, no .45 caliber bullet flies particularly flat. Here is how we used Burris Ballistic Plex Reticle at 10X, starting with a 3 inch high @ 100 yard zero.

Out to 220 yards, it is hold though the body on the crosshair. The first ballistic line gets us to 240 yards, the second to 290 yards, and the third ballistic line gets us to 340 yards. This type of trajectory compensation is not an easy task at all by just guessing at extended ranges; the Burris Ballistic Plex makes it a far more precise and manageable accomplishment. Familiarity with your load's wind drift and compensation for it remains a requisite.

Naturally, use of this scope (or any range-compensating reticle) becomes easier with flatter trajectories. Burris includes field labels with the proper ranges already worked out for you for thirty popular factory cartridge combinations.

For most whitetail hunting east of the Mississippi, you may not need a ballistic reticle. However, if you do your homework with one, you will certainly be glad it is there when you can benefit from it, as I discovered on a recent pronghorn hunt.

Since Burris charges no premium for this reticle versus their standard Plex reticle, I can think of no reason not to get it (unless you prefer a simpler reticle). If you use it just once in a hunting lifetime, I believe you'll be glad you have it.

I know of no finer scope that can be had for under $400, though I'm incapable of commenting on the rest of the Burris line. All I can say is congratulations to Burris on their new Signature Select Series.

It has been a long time since I've been so totally impressed with a scope as I am with their Signature Select 3-10 x 40mm Ballistic Plex. If you have overlooked them, as I have, all I can say is that you are missing something. I sure was, but thankfully no more. If you seek the benefits of a trajectory-compensating reticle, this scope is as close to a slam-dunk choice as can be had for a big game hunting rifle.

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Copyright 2005, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.