Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x40mm Riflescope
By Chuck Hawks
Guns and Shooting Online last reviewed a Bushnell Trophy riflescope in 2006. Needing a reasonably priced scope with a one inch diameter main tube appropriate for use on a Remington Model 700 XCR-II .30-06 rifle, I decided it was time to revisit the Bushnell Trophy line, which is a step up from the economy Bushnell Banner line and below the Legend and Elite lines.
The Bushnell Trophy XLT riflescope line includes 2-6x32mm, 2-7x36mm and 3-9x40mm models, any of which would be entirely suitable for a .30-06 big game rifle. The maximum magnification is sufficient to reach beyond the Maximum Point Blank Range (+/- 3") of any .30-06 hunting load and at minimum magnification the field of view is adequate for typical woods and brush country hunting.
Of these, it was the 3-9x40mm that was available at the best price from Amazon.com, for the princely sum of $105 (in January 2015) with free shipping. This is about $30 more than the most basic 3-9x40mm Banner model. What you gain with the Trophy XLT is longer eye relief (4 inches, rather than 3.3 inches) and a generous 80 inches windage and elevation adjustment range at 100 yards (instead of 60 inches). You also get spiffy Butler Creek flip-open lens caps and, overall, a more deluxe scope.
The next step up in Bushnell riflescopes is the Legend Ultra HD line. The 3-9x40mm Legend comes with Bushnell's excellent RainGuard HD water repellant coating on external lens surfaces, ED prime glass, 0.6 inch more mounting length and a side mounted parallax adjustment. Unfortunately, the latter is more of a drawback than an advantage on a big game hunting scope, as it is unnecessary; just something else to get out of adjustment.
Interestingly, the 3-9x40 Trophy XLT boasts 1/2 inch more eye relief than the Legend Ultra HD, greater total windage and elevation adjustment range and a wider field of view (10 feet wider at 3x), not to mention a $98 lower MSRP. Otherwise, the feature set is virtually identical. This, to my mind, makes the Trophy XLT a pretty good buy.
Bushnell claims the following features for their Trophy XLR riflescopes:
The Trophy XLT 3-9x40 that is the subject of this review came with a mil-dot reticle. (Also offered are Multi-X, Circle-X and DOA 250 reticles.) The mil-dots are useless for my purposes, since I zero all of my hunting rifles for the MPBR of the cartridge/load, never shoot beyond the maximum range and therefore never need to hold over or under a game animal. However, the reticle still provides an entirely adequate aiming point for hunting. The Bushnell version of this reticle is essentially a wide Duplex with the mil-dots strung along the thin portion of the crosshair.
The scope is built on a one-piece, aluminum main tube. The finish is a restrained matte black that is a good match for the matte black finish of the Model 700 XCR-II rifle. The scope is adjusted to be parallax free at 100 yards. The windage and elevation adjustments click in 1/4 MOA increments.
The eye relief is a useful four inches, which should keep the shooter's eyebrow away from even the hardest kicking .30-06 loads. There is a Euro-style fast focus ring at the end of the eyepiece to allow convenient focusing to the shooter's eye.
The easy to grasp, knurled zoom ring in front of the ocular bell turns with an appropriate amount of resistance. It is easy to adjust, yet unlikely to be moved accidentally. There is a tactile reference between the 5x and 6x positions. Numbers from three to nine are engraved around the zoom ring and filled with silver paint. This zoom ring has been improved since I last reviewed a Bushnell Trophy riflescope.
The reticle is in the second focal plane. This means the reticle remains the same size as the zoom ring is turned, in the American style, which is what I prefer. (In Euro-style scopes the reticle appears to get larger as the magnification is increased.)
I mounted the Trophy XLT on the test rifle without incident using Weaver bases and rings. The 5.5 inches of mounting length meant there was adequate mounting latitude between the scope's adjustment turret and the objective and ocular bells for the Model 700's standard length action, even using the rather wide Weaver steel rings.
It is something of a trade secret that the bore alignment and the precision of the scope mounting base holes drilled and tapped into the receivers of virtually all bolt action production rifles has become somewhat erratic as manufacturers strive to control unit cost, particularly in the area of quality control, which is expensive and time consuming. Some rifles shipped from the factory are fine, while others are not. My Remington test rifle was fine, but not all rifles are. (Note: this comment is not particularly directed at Remington, as the problem is industry wide.)
Indicative of this trend toward poor quality control from rifle manufacturers is the Bushnell Shim Guide, a pamphlet included with the Trophy XLT riflescope. As the booklet says, an off-axis optical alignment between the rifle's bore and the riflescope can degrade optical performance. In extreme cases, such mis-alignment can make it impossible to sight-in the rifle, exhausting the scope's windage or elevation adjustment range before bullets can be brought on target.
If you run out of adjustment when trying to sight-in your rifle it is probably the rifles's fault, not the scope's. This little booklet covers sighting distances of 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards and shim thicknesses from .001 inch to .005 inch, based on a 3.25 inch ring spacing, so you can align your new riflescope with your (marginally defective) rifle without the necessity of returning the latter to the manufacturer for adjustment.
Bore sighting was accomplished using a Bushnell optical boresighter. At the range, the rifle was initially zeroed at 25 yards, before moving to 100 yards and finalizing the zero for the MPBR of the Remington Premier Copper 150 grain (plastic tipped) factory load this rifle prefers.
The scope's low, fingertip windage and elevation adjustments click softly, but can be felt. They proved sufficiently accurate for a hunting scope. Sighting-in the rifle was not a problem and was achieved with a single box of cartridges. Incidentally, the adjustment caps are metal, a welcome change from the plastic caps provided on many economy riflescopes (and even some upscale models).
Overall, the optics are better than the low discount retail price of this scope might suggest, especially below about 6x magnification. Eye relief is a constant four inches, which is very good. Between 3x and 5x the eye box (eye position latitude) is good; eye position becomes noticeably more critical above 6x.
The view of the target in the center of the scope is sharp and clear with good contrast below 6x and remains acceptable at 9x. Edge sharpness is inferior to center sharpness, which is typical of virtually all riflescopes.
There is some field curvature, distortion and a decrease in resolution toward the edge of the field of view. Lateral color error, endemic to all achromatic telescopes, is present, but not a problem. These aberrations become more obvious as the magnification is increased, which is to be expected.
The interior of the scope is matte black and I noticed no internal reflections. Lens flare seemed to be well controlled by the multi-coatings.
The recoil of full power .30-06 factory loads was not a problem for the scope; nothing shook loose during my testing or seemed likely to do so in the future. Naturally, I did not subject my new scope to unnecessary hard knocks, but it appears to be well built and I intend to try-out this rifle/scope combination next deer season. I am not concerned about its durability.
The performance of the Bushnell 3-9x40mm Trophy XLT is generally good for a riflescope in this price class. Indeed, its optics are better than I expected. Bushnell (www.bushnell.com) riflescopes are known for providing good value at a reasonable price and the Trophy XLT 3-9x40mm is no exception.
Copyright 2015 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.