The weekend began as a scope test—as well as a time to get better at long-range precision marksmanship—but ended up a test of multiple pieces of gear and people. As for the scope, it turned out to be a key element to unexpected long-range success, but not without challenging moments. The Bushnell Elite Tactical long range tactical scope (LRTS) series is just what the name implies. In this case, my optical partner was the LRTSi 3-12x44mm scope for a 3-day long-range shooting class requiring a milliradian reticle.
Not everyone goes to a precision rifle class with a 5.56 NATO gas gun. But the class announcement said they were welcome, and I knew my Battle Rifle Company-made Cutlass is a sub-MOA shooter. It seemed like the thing to do. My partner helped mount the scope using Weaver high rings—a second choice since a 20 MOA base was out of stock, and I was in a hurry. The rings worked fine.
Prior to the class, we zeroed the scope at 100 yards. It’s a confidence-building feature to be able to use a zero stop on any long-range scope, and this one has it. Bushnell’s trademarked RevLimiter ensures that the -0- mark on the windage and elevation dials is true zero—assuming the user hasn’t turned a knob to double-digit adjustments. Then, you add or subtract 10 mils for each full revolution, of course.
The reticle on this scope rests on the first focal plane, so it appears to grow in size as the operator increases magnification. This seems to be a growing industry trend away from more traditional second focal plane scopes. Having used a few first focal plane scopes in the last three years, I have come to prefer them for the increased clarity of hash marks when shooting at distances beyond 600 yards or so.
My vision has always been a challenge when it comes to shooting, so your results may be different. Early on in class, we worked on adjusting the diopter using the fine focus knob at the ocular lens. I opted not to tape the knob down, as what looks clear to me on one day, may change at the next. Suffice to say, the first focal plane reticle on this scope appeared crystal clear throughout the class, including when I made slight adjustments.
On the left side turret is a parallax adjustment. This, I found best to set at the infinity symbol regardless of whether we were shooting 100 or 1,000 yards, or anywhere in between. The dial is marked for specific distances to give shooters an approximation of their own setting. On several occasions, I tested whether I was experiencing parallax by moving my head slightly, as I attempted to maintain the crosshairs on the target. Each time, the reticle stayed on target—indicating parallax was not playing a factor.
The illuminator switch for the G3i reticle is on the left side. It’s really handy as the shooter can set a brightness level of 1-10, with each brightness level occupying its own, labeled place on the dial. Turning it off is accomplished with one tiny click. On either side of the click value—where say brightness level 8 lives—there’s a shut-off click value. On one rather overcast day in class, I set the reticle at a brightness level of 10. The illumination wasn’t detectable on sunny days, but it was helpful on a dreary one. Illumination on this scope equates to the reticle glowing red.
I discovered that this reticle is relatively new, though it’s based on the familiar Horus design. It wasn’t in the free version of the Strelok app I’d installed on my phone. A hasty trip to the Federal Ammunition online ballistic calculator, and some trial and error based on its outputs, negated the app problem.
Based on previous experiences with Bushnell optics, all had gone well thus far, and I expected no additional problems. However, I did run into one. When checking the 100-yard zero at the class, it was determined I should make an adjustment of two-something mils. It was a short trip on the dial, after all, one revolution is 10 mils on this scope’s turret.
A problem cropped up when I tried making that elevation adjustment. The dial was bottomed out. It didn’t seem right, and this had never happened with previous scopes I’ve tried from Bushnell.
A few small screws had to be removed, kept track of in our cactus-strewn cow pasture/range, and the adjustment of a few turns of the dial underneath the normal turret adjustment to rectify the problem. There are some parts of an optic that weren’t meant for handling in austere environs, and the diminutive screws that hold the elevation adjustment knob onto the turret are among them. We managed not to lose any pieces while the turret was reset to a more central location—without affecting the reticle—so I could have a zero with more room to increase elevation throughout the weekend.
With that wrinkle behind us, the rest of the weekend was pure shooting pleasure. Using the scope’s handy ThrowHammer lever, I was able to locate targets on a lower power and quickly go back to full magnification for firing, without ever taking my eye off the target once acquired. I’m a fan of simplicity and mobility where rifles are concerned, so I didn’t think I’d like the ThrowHammer. Long-range firing is a slower, more methodical game than what I normally do with my AR. However, as it turns out, that little knob is very useful when firing long distances and having to quickly move from one long-distance target to the next.
The climax of the weekend was firing upon a 12×18-inch steel plate, traveling on a moving target device at 3.5 miles per hour. At 600 yards, I was thrilled to hit the plate without much effort, thanks in no small part to the instructor’s assistance with calculating and calling leads.
At 800 yards, more effort was required to keep the rifle, supported by a TacShield bipod, perfectly level to ring the plate again. However, after just a couple tries, a hit was scored. I was stoked.
At 1,000 yards, the instructor said he’d be pleased if I could hit the stationary plate parked next to the traveling one. After a couple wind-related adjustments, he called a hit. At that distance with 12x magnification, I couldn’t tell. It had happened quickly and easily enough, so the instructor directed me to focus on the mover. Wow! The target was moving across the numbers on the windage axis fast!
I broke a few shots too soon, hoping not to miss that fraction of a second when the lead would be perfect. I was looking for 2.8 mils, but at that distance, and with the target looking so small, the margin for error was almost non-existent. A couple shots later, the instructor called a square hit. The sound of a .223 hitting steel at 1,000 yards is undetectable, especially with ear pro on, so it’s quite necessary to have a spotter with powerful binoculars.
That moment turned out to be a peak experience of my shooting life. I felt pride welling up inside that I’d accomplished the hit with about the same number of rounds the much bigger caliber rifles around me were firing. It was a feeling I didn’t need to talk about because my instructor gloated to the rest of the group on my behalf back at the lodge that evening.
This experience wouldn’t have happened without a precision optic such as the LRTSi 4-12x 44mm. Despite the little problem early on, the scope pulled through the weekend like a champ, never requiring a new zero each morning after taking some serious adjustments the day before, then returning to zero before tucking the rifle in for the night.
Is it the biggest, badest, most magnified scope out there? No. But it did prove that if I do my homework, the scope would be on the mark. At around $1,325 retail, it’ll put you in the big leagues for hunting, competition, or just challenging yourself to be the best distance shooter you can be.