Kahles Helia CL "Multi-Zero" 3-9x42mm Riflescope

By Randy Wakeman

Kahles Helia CL 3-9x42mm
Illustration courtesy of Kahles North America

Kahles may not yet be a household world in high-end scopes in the United States; in many parts of Europe they define it. Hardly new to the quality optics arena, they have been around since 1898. That is a lot longer than most of us have, to be sure. Kahles is the world's oldest hunting optics manufacturer.

Of note is the fact that Kahles introduced the first "waterproof" scopes back in 1960. (In 1949 Leupold was the first manufacturer to "weatherproof" scopes by evacuating the scope interior of air and filling it with pure nitrogen to eliminate any chance of fogging. -Ed.) Kahles was the first manufacturer to offer "fully multi-coated optics"--multi-coatings on all air to glass surfaces--in 1972. Back in the day, as they say, Kahles scopes bested the rest of the industry's finest by an astonishing 10-14% better light transmission. This is part of the reason that Kahles has been such a revered name among those in the know about hunting optics for over the last three decades.

Austrian optics have long been accoladed in many circles; spending some time with them makes the reasons easy to see. Both Kahles and Swarovski share the same parent corporate umbrella at this juncture; more a matter of paperwork than relating to Kahles' own development team. They operate beneath that umbrella as independent entities. Kahles does its own engineering, develops it own proprietary coatings, designs and manufacturing methods. In-house Kahles designs are not shared with other companies including Swarovski. In many parts of Europe Kahles is considered the premium scope to have while Swarovski is rated as more of the working man's optic.

Folks buy scopes for all kinds of reasons, including status. Kahles is, regardless, one of the very few scopes built to uncompromising standards of quality, not price. The difference is not industry standards, which are hard to find, but Kahles standards.

A lengthy discussion with the folks at Kahles revealed why this is so. You won't find a $200 or $300 Kahles scope today, and you never will. Kahles could not possibly build a scope to their standards at this price, and they don't intend to. One of the salient points affecting scope performance, after you have specified the best raw materials for your design, is the accuracy of the grind of the lens and the level of polish in the final lens elements themselves. This finished quality of the lens assembly is rated inside the industry by the number of "picks and gouges" in the final glass surface.

This is an area of where scope making becomes an art more than a science. There are limitations to man-made creations, regardless of the utilization of the most costly raw materials and the best scope finishing equipment that can be made. You can hone in on the best of the best, but still things do not automatically result in perfection.

The stakes are high in a high-end riflescope. You might, for example, be dealing with six precisely machined, finished and polished lens elements incorporating a total of twelve glass lenses. A lot of things can go awry. One substandard lens surface or assembly may severely degrade the performance of the scope.

The only way to insure the highest end product is increasing the level of quality control and quality control standards, which results in increasing the reject and scrap rates, a costly but requisite path. That is the path that Kahles has adhered to.

A scope may be good, perhaps better than good compared to other premium brands. Good, though, is not good enough for Kahles. Directly put, a Kahles finished scope meets Kahles' own standards or it is destroyed before it ever gets to the consumer. It is hard to appreciate standards and reject criteria on this level until you compare a Kahles to other very good scopes in the field and discover that the difference is not just hype. You can simply see better through Kahles scopes than other scopes that are considered very good.

Here some specifications for the Kahles CL 3-9x42mm riflescope reviewed here:

  • Overall length - 12.1"
  • Objective bell diameter - 1.89"
  • Ocular bell diameter - 1.69"
  • Weight - 14.1 ounces
  • Objective lens diameter - 42mm
  • Field of view - 39-13.5' at 100 yards
  • Eye relief - 3.6"
  • Diopter compensation - +2/-3.5
  • Windage and elevation adjustments - 0.36"/click at 100 yards
  • Main tube diameter - 1"
  • 2007 retail price - $1159.99 (Cabela's), $1116.99 (Midway USA)

After evaluating this scope over period of months against other very good scopes using eye charts and densely thicketed areas at dawn, at dusk and after sunset, that's what I discovered. For a scope of like magnification and objective diameter, nothing beat this Kahles. Compared to some brands the difference was astonishing. This line designated as "Helia" may not ring as particularly trendy to the ear, but realize that it was named after Helia, the Greek goddess of the sun, and it makes all the sense in the world.

You won't find side focus on 3-9 scopes as a matter of course, but Kahles includes it. It gives you the option of perfect focus regardless of power and distance and makes a great scope even better. The reticle is etched on glass. Better is better, and that is what Kahles does regardless of cost-based considerations.

The tested scope includes the optional Kahles "Multi-Zero" system, a surprisingly compact and practical method of giving you five distinct elevation points while holding your crosshairs directly on the target. It is reliable, repeatable and easy to employ. You can set the elevations points for your own distances, different loads, or even different rifles as you deem gives you the most utility.

We all have our own views on what a "good scope" is, like most everything else. I can tell you that while Kahles is not the most expensive scope available, I have never used or tested any scope that approaches this level of clarity, resolution, and brilliance in the field, and that is saying quite a lot.

More Kahles info can be found on their web site at www.kahlesoptik.com. Now, we can finally see what we have been missing. I sure did. This is fabulous product, a line of hunting scopes that has not been approached, much less bettered. Let your eyes make you a believer, as mine did me.

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Copyright 2007 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.