The Engage series: Bushnell’s new scopes for field and range

The Bushnell name has been part of the optics landscape since 1948, the year company founder Dave Bushnell first imported and sold Japanese-made binoculars to US outdoorsmen and women. The first Bushnell scopes were marketed in 1953 and since then the brand has become something of a fixture, offering good quality optics at prices affordable for budget-conscious hunters and shooters.

Since 1971 Bushnell has gone through a plethora of commercial sales and changes involving numerous other companies and brand tags. In 2015 they became part of Vista Outdoors, a spin-off from the ATK Group whose products are marketed in Australia by Nioa.

Late last year Australian Shooter received two scopes from the Bushnell Engage series for review ‑ a 3-9x40 and 4-16x44. Though different in construction both have common features, some of which are fresh to the Bushnell collection.

All scopes are O-ring-sealed and nitrogen-purged for water and fogproof operation. Accordingly they will withstand complete immersion in 900mm of water for up to 30 minutes while remaining dry internally and interior glass surfaces will not fog when subjected to rapid changes in temperature or humidity.

All lenses have anti-reflective multi-coatings that deliver optimum light transmission, brightness and colour definition across the whole light spectrum. Both scopes arrived with slip-on/slip-off flip-up covers fitted. New to the Bushnell camp is the EXO barrier which the makers  regard as the best protective lens coating they’ve ever developed. This is the last layer applied during the coating process, molecularly bonding to and filling the pores in the glass to repel water, oil, fog, dust, debris and smudges as well as being scratch resistant. The technology has been patented and is used exclusively on Bushnell optics.

Also new is the Deploy MOA reticle. Designed to be useful across a wide array of shooting applications, the reticle is located in the second focal plane and remains the same size across the full magnification range of each scope. The cross-hairs are .018 MOA thick and while that’s much finer than many other scopes, the view through the reticle remains relatively unobstructed making it easier for the shooter to pick up the target.

Both the vertical and horizontal bars of the reticle have hash marks spaced at 1 MOA intervals with a heavier bar every 5 MOA. On the vertical bar each small hash mark is 2 MOA wide and the heavier marks 4 MOA wide, the specific width designed to provide a reference point for windage hold off. The small marks on the horizontal bar have a height of 1.5 MOA while the heavier ones are 3 MOA to afford hold under or over reference points. None of the hash marks are calibre specific.

To make the most of the reticle the owner’s manual specifies the scope must be sighted in at 91.44m (100 yards) on the highest magnification available. Additionally, the distance to the target must be known so the use of an accurate rangefinder is recommended. To take advantage of the horizontal hash marks an estimate of wind velocity must also be made to ensure the right amount of hold off is deployed. In real terms that means the user still has to calculate which hash mark(s) to use to make a shot or shots connect. The reticle can help in that respect but cannot guarantee a result.

For those who would capitalise on the Deploy reticle ‑ and the other reticle types used by Bushnell ‑ a ballistics calculator app is available that’s compatible with Apple and Android phones and iPads. All the user needs do is select the model of scope, magnification, the reticle it uses and relevant ammunition data and the app will deliver all the relevant information about hold over and off points for the scope and load.

The Engage 3-9x40

Apart from the Deploy MOA reticle and new-age coatings on the lenses, this scope is relatively old-fashioned in design and appearance. Bushnell refers to it as a classic mid-range configuration and that’s pretty close to the mark (specifications are listed in the accompanying table).

The lenses are corrected for 20/20 vision and parallax is fixed at 91.44m (100 yards). The power ring is firm to grip and turn with the aid of a substantial thumb lug on one side to grant extra leverage and make changes easy, the ring going from 3-9x in half a turn. The fast focus ocular ring has a range of almost two full turns so finding the correct eye relief isn’t a problem so long as some care is taken in positioning the scope in the first place.

The elevation and windage turrets have a nominal click value of 6.35mm at 91.44m, clicks both audible and tangible. A full turn of the dial gives 15 MOA of adjustment for a maximum range of 60 MOA and a bar inside the top of each turret offers thumb and finger grip to make setting changes.

A white dot at the back of each turret provides a reference for establishing a new zero once a rifle is sighted in. To reset the zero the two small screws that secure the bar to the turret are loosened half a turn with a small Phillips head jeweller’s screwdriver. The adjustment scale ring can then be turned until the 0 lines up with the reference point and the screws retightened.

For testing I mounted the 3-9x40 on a Ruger 77/17 in .17WSM I was reviewing, a good combination as the 9x setting on the Engage allowed me to maximise the accuracy of the rifle’s .17WSM cartridge.

At the range the settings were quick and straightforward to change and repeatable as required and in the field it meant I could easily take rabbits out to a bit over 100m with minimum fuss.

The Engage 4-16x44

This is probably more versatile than the 3-9x as it almost doubles the high-end magnification for those longer shots at extended distances. The 4-16x has a side mounted parallax adjustment turret on the left and also uses the Deploy MOA.

The windage and elevation turrets both have standard 6.35mm click adjustments and before they can be altered must be pulled away or up from the body of the scope to allow the dials to turn. Once the scope is sighted in, the turrets are pushed down again to secure the settings.

The dial on the windage turret is numbered left and right so there’s no doubt about which way the reticle is moving when being adjusted. With the turret locked, zero points can then be re-established by removing the top plate on the turret and turning it anti-clockwise, no tools required. The graduated scale ring can then be pulled off and the zero mark realigned with the reference point at the back of each turret. The ring is then replaced in the fully down position and the top cap screwed back into place. Overall it’s a simple process that can be completed in less than a minute.

For testing I fitted the scope to my LA101 Crossover in .223, primarily interested in finding out how well the turrets responded to changes. There were no surprises, the scope responding very accurately to alterations. With the rifle sighted in at 100 yards I did a simple square test ‑ 10 clicks up, across left, down and across right from the original settings. The last adjustment put the final two shots back into the centre of the original group. There was no hint of backlash and the changes were easy to hear and feel as they were made.

The side-mounted parallax adjustment was effortless to use and fine-tune at different ranges and to me is a much better proposition than an adjustable objective lens.

Overview

Both review scopes offer good quality optics at a reasonable price. Combined with the longevity and recognition the Bushnell name enjoys I expect that will make them attractive to many shooters and hunters.

Functionally and optically both were excellent. That said, I do have a minor gripe about the reticle. The thickness is fine and the hash marks useful. They don’t clutter up the field of view like some others and that’s obviously a plus, but the scope would be much more user-friendly if the main cross-hairs stood out a little more - in really bright sunlight they were washed out and hard to see. In the latter part of the day when ambient light levels were low they had a tendency to disappear against the background of the bush and making the cross-hairs darker would resolve both issues.

Overall I regard the Engage scopes as good value for money, both coming with Bushnell’s Iron Clad Warranty. More at bushnell.com

Specifications

 

3-9x40

4-16x44

Tube diameter

25.4mm

30mm

Reticle

Deploy

Deploy

Reticle type

MOA

MOA

Focal plane

2nd

2nd

Parallax adjustment

Fixed at 91.44m

Side adjustment

9m to infinity

Eye relief

101mm

91.4mm

Exit pupil

13.3mm (3x) - 4.4mm (9x)

11mm (4x) - 2.5mm (16x)

Length

30.6mm

35.6mm

Weight

340g

570g

Field of view at 91.44m

11.5m (3x) – 3.96m (9x)

8.5m (4x) - 2.1m (16x)

Click value

6.35mm

6.35mm

Elevation range

60 MOA

50 MOA

Windage range

60 MOA

50 MOA

Turret locking

No

Yes

Coatings

Fully multi-coated

Fully multi-coated

EXO barrier

Yes

Yes

Flip-up lens caps

Yes

Yes

Waterproof

Yes

Yes

Distributor

Nioa

Nioa

RRP

$299

$649

 

 

 

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