To infinity . . . and beyond!
With a degree of ‘secrecy’ surrounding their new release, I must admit I hadn’t heard of optics brand ZeroTech before, but was intrigued by the claim they’d made stating their new riflescopes were designed and built to suit severe Australian conditions.
On being invited to road test their Trace 3-18x50 R3 I accepted the challenge to put it through its paces and assess those bold claims. Designing a product to handle our climatic extremes appears to be an important engineering consideration and marketing factor these days. Australia is after all, one of the harshest, most arid countries on earth - just ask the people trying to make a living from it. If a riflescope can cope with our environment it should be able to deal with almost anything.
ZeroTech: A brief outline
TSA Outdoors (Tasco Sales Australia) have more than 50 years’ experience in the optics industry partnered with various other manufacturers and gave birth to ZeroTech, a subsidiary company using their own engineers and researchers to develop riflescopes by Australians to suit Australian shooters. The Trace 3-18x50 R3 model on review is one of many available in ZeroTech’s stable of new scopes.
Out of the box
At first glance I was impressed by the presentation of ZeroTech’s packaging of the Trace. Some would say you should never judge a book by its cover but it’s hard to argue that a well-presented product goes a long way to forging first impressions. Contained and supported by foam blocks in the box, the Trace 3-18x50 came supplied with instruction manual, reticle ballistics chart, Allen key with three spare grub screws, lens protector tightening tool, cleaning cloth and, attached to the scope, heavy duty alloy flip-up lens protectors.
In the hand the first thing that struck me was the weight - the Trace does not at all feel like a flimsy scope - it looks solid and robust and weighing in at 817g is not a compact item. By all appearances it’s a well-balanced and symmetrically designed affair, the Trace 3-18x50 R3 being a target/hunting scope with all the features required for long-range shooting.
The dioptre adjustment dial is a knurled alloy ring, gripped easily and rotated for a clear view and reticle image, the Trace offering a generous 91-100mm of eye relief. Forward of the ocular lens housing is the magnification dial with all numerical adjustments highlighted in white, the dial having large, machined lugs which promote a firm and easy grip for selecting your chosen magnification.
Occupying the standard six and three o’clock positions on the centre of the scope is ZeroTech’s Precision Turret System (PTS), large elevation and windage target-style turrets with clearly embossed, full circumference .25 MOA adjustment markings. Both have a flexible 70 MOA of adjustment while the elevation only has a zero-stop feature. It’s important to note both turret caps have a lock feature and can only be adjusted when pulled out. On the opposite side of the windage is the parallax adjustment dial which can be set from 25m to infinity.
The 30mm one-piece main tube is made from aircraft grade aluminium and has the ever-popular matte black finish, O-ring sealed and purged with Argon gas making it completely waterproof and fogproof. Perched at the business end of the scope is the 50mm objective lens boasting a clear 92 per cent light transmission with 11.2m field of view at 100m on low power and up to 1.9m on 18x magnification. The fully multi-coated 50mm lens is protected by ZeroTech’s weather shield coating.
R3 (SFP) reticle
The R3 reticle is glass etched and sits in the second focal plane (SFP), an advantage of this being the reticle size will not alter with varying magnification. ZeroTech claims their R3 reticle allows the shooter to enjoy all aspects of a second focal plane without losing the ability to hold over with extreme precision for long-range shots.
The R3 reticle features a floating centre dot and sub-tensions of 1 MOA marked by dots with a hash mark every 4 MOA. Heavy bars on the reticle at the 12, three, six and nine o’clock positions make target acquisition a breeze. Apart from my experience using military scopes with graticules and sub-tension indicators, I’d had little exposure to a target reticle of this nature and was keen to put it to use and explore its advantages on the range and in the field.
Using the Warne rings supplied by TSA Outdoors, I mounted the Trace on my most target-orientated and favourite hunting rifle in .284 Win. I didn’t waste any time sighting-in and on removing the caps to zero the scope, those claims of strong build qualities were apparent on seeing turret shafts made of brass. It’s unusual these days to see too many external parts made of metal and the brass component would help explain some of that solid feel when I picked up the scope.
After a brief sighting-in session I made the necessary zeroing adjustments and applied the important zero stop to the elevation turret. Caps back on and I was in business. Initially I was a little concerned at how busy the R3 reticle appeared for close-range target acquisition as I’m not used to target-style reticles of this nature and must admit it took some getting used to.
Once zeroed at 100m, my .284 Win would rarely throw any howlers. Confidence gained from shooting repeated sub-MOA three-shot groups out of the cabinet from the .284 Win makes this calibre choice perfect for putting the ZeroTech Trace to the test. No point wasting any more time at 100m, I was ready to test the Trace 3-18x50 at extended distances as well as the R3 reticle’s long-range capabilities.
The opportunity arose for a Saturday shoot at my local SSAA range and I jumped at the chance to test the Trace at 900m. By my own admission I have limited long-range shooting credentials but, amazingly, my first sighter round had me on paper and with a few elevation adjustments I began scoring.
Using a ballistics chart (courtesy of the internet) gave me enough information to indicate I needed at least 20 MOA of height adjustment to have my .284 diameter 150gr Nosler AccuBond (LR) hunting bullets close to the mark. With the Trace zeroed for 100m, a total of 24 MOA height adjustment was required to keep my elevation at the correct aiming mark.
The day was blustery and I battled easterly and westerly crosswinds, the windage sub-tension markings of the R3 reticle keeping me honest in fighting the wind while still scoring. After recording a total of 38 points using what is essentially a hunting platform, I was satisfied with the result. All concerns I had of the busy R3 reticle at 100m were gone after testing at 900m as the R3 comes into its own at long range and I loved using it for this purpose. The awful heat mirage during the shoot only added to the challenge.
The clarity of the Trace 50mm lens, wound out to 18x power magnification and parallax adjusted for infinity, made light work of clear target attainment. The floating centre dot of the R3 reticle worked well on the lighter background target and with this kind of performance mounted to a hunting rifle, it would give me the confidence required for long-range varminting and hunting.
For an optics manufacturer entering a riflescope market already flooded with numerous brands to choose from, it is vitally important to hit the ground running and ZeroTech have achieved just that with the Trace 3-18x50 R3, offering a quality product packed with loads of features at an attractive price tag of $899.
After review and extensive testing I reached the conclusion I probably wouldn’t use this one for mounting to a lightweight mountain rifle as I believe it’s more suitable for the target shooter or hunter who prefers to lie prone, picking off ferals and varmints from a distance.
The Trace 3-18x50 R3 design is attractive and would look right at home mounted to a long-range tactical-style rifle or something similar to that platform and anyway, ZeroTech have other scopes in their range more suited to the mountain hunter.
Confident of their build quality, ZeroTech’s optics - including the Trace 3-18x50 R3 - are backed by an ‘Any Owner, Any problem, Always Covered’ lifetime warranty and with a flying start in the Australian optics market I firmly believe ZeroTech have a bright future. More on the ZeroTech stable at tsaoutdoors.com.au