Spend enough time reading about optics on the internet and you might get the feeling that the perfect optic scales from a true 1X up to X, weighs less than a feather, and can give you a clear, crisp picture in the dark. It should also cost less than $100, be able to withstand a free fall from space, and have a reticle that reads the wind. Okay, that last part might be a bit much, but I don’t think I’m far off the mark. In the world of running and gunning — 2-gunning, 3-gunning, or otherwise — there are always sacrifices to be made. Sometimes, quality means added weight. Other times, shedding ounces means shedding features. The SMRS from Bushnell certainly provides amazing optical clarity and the ability to jump from a nearly perfect 1X to 8.5X. But it does all that by sacrificing light weight on the altar of compromise . . .
The Bushnell SMRS is a first focal plane 1-8.5X scope wrapped in a 34mm tube with an illuminated reticle. It features 1/10 mil lockable turrets, an illumination selection that goes to 11, and fine-focus capabilities. All of these are features that I’d expect from a scope in this price range (~$2000 street price). In my testing, I was unable to break the scope using it on a variety of 5.56 and .300 BLK uppers. All of the controls are crisp, provide excellent tactile feedback, and I never got it to lose zero on any of the rifles with which I tested it.
The SMRS boasts some of the best glass I’ve ever used, a point I’ll beat to death in the next few paragraphs, but not before I mention how goshdarn heavy it is. Bushnell claims 23 oz (1.44 lbs.) which sure feels like a lot. Until you put it on your scale and it measures 25.95 oz (1.62 lbs.). Holy moly it’s heavy. Enough so that on a lightweight AR 15, it makes the whole rig a little top-heavy.
Bushnell doesn’t mention it anywhere on their site, but I think this scope is firmly geared towards those shooting the heavy class guns chambered primarily in .308. Slapped atop a SIG 716 or any of the AR-10 platform rifles, I think the extra weight would sort of blend in with the rest of the whole “running a heavy gun” thing.
I don’t know a ton about how to make a rifle scope, but everything I’ve read says that a variable power scope with a true 1X setting is nearly impossible to produce. No matter what you do, there’s always going to be a touch of distortion at the lowest setting. The SMRS is not immune to this, and even though it has a very good low power field of view, it is still a bit disorienting to shoot with both eyes open as there’s a slightly higher magnification coming through to the dominant eye. That said, it is one of the finest “nearly 1X” scopes I’ve ever tested. While I continue to belabor the quality of the glass, let’s turn our attention to the reticle and general view provided the shooter.
At the 1X setting, the reticle is all but invisible and you are presented with a very clean piece of glass. I found it easiest in bright daylight to crank up the illumination to 11 to get a good view of the circular reticle. In the pictures above, the top picture does not have the reticle illuminated. The bottom pic shows it at the highest setting. The closest fence posts you see are at about 15 yards, the further are at ~60 yards, and the reticle is actually resting on a target at 100 yards.
At close range, this uncluttered view provides a very good, albeit small aiming point perfect for close up work. As you can also see, there is no noticeable darkness, hazing, or blurring. The glass is absolutely spectacular in this regard.
Cranked up to 8.5 X, you can see the full reticle develop. Again, the glass is very clear, and free of any sort of distortion. Full illumination at night has very little to no bleed out near the reticle. Seeing such bleed is a surefire way to spot a cheap scope, but the SMRS has no evidence of this. I had no problem using this scope at the highest power in low light, though it does not collect as much light as a scope with say a 50 mm objective. It is still very good, a factor that should be assumed when the customer is looking at paying nearly $2000. Below is a screenshot from Bushnell’s manual on the SMRS that shows the BTR-2 reticle in a bit more detail.
The Bushnell manual is a bit vague on the actual subtensions used in this reticle other than to give an overview of what each vertical hash mark on the horizontal line equates to using a 10 inch target at various distances measured in meters. I’d MUCH prefer a better explanation of how this reticle is set up and using the same system (metric or freedom units) would also be greatly appreciated if Bushnell is doing it. I finally broke down and measured off 100 yards exactly, and set up a piece of cardboard with a crosshair and hash marks every 3.6 inches (1 mil @ 100 yards). What I found was that the vertical line fits EXACTLY as advertised. Each number corresponds to the number of mils in elevation if you prefer to hold for elevation. However, the horizontal markings don’t seem to line up at all with a mil based system. When I moved the reticle over to a brightly painted 10″ x 10″ steel plate at the aforementioned 100 yards, it fit neatly between the white space on either side of aiming dot leading me to believe that the horizontal axis is graduated in MOA.
I’m barely a fan of having MOA graduated reticles and mil turrets, so having the two systems mixed in the reticle was far too much for my lizard brain. I question the decision to use a mixed reticle when the turrets and vertical crosshair is graduated in mils, but I’m not on the design team for Bushnell. About those turrets though…
There’s this constant battle that rages in my head about capped or uncapped turrets. In a high quality scope that tracks well, the ability to quickly dial elevation and wind (if it is steady) means much more precision in your aiming. The downside to having uncapped turrets has one stark example from last year’s hunting season. I watched Nick miss a deer because he’d bumped his windage turret walking around and the gun shot about five inches from point of aim because of it. Bushnell seems to have found a worthy compromise in the SMRS by using uncapped turrets that pop up for adjustment and are smashed back down to lock them in place. It takes a fair amount of force to pull the turret cap up, but once up, the adjustments are very crisp. Shooting in the unlocked or locked position seemed to not make a difference whatsoever in point of impact.
A tracking test showed that the measurements on the scope are repeatable and calibrated to accepted measurements. Dial this scope up 5 mils, and your shot will impact 5 mils high. Screw it back down 5 mils and your shot will be back to your original zero. If you unscrew the slotted screw on top, you can remove the turret, and reset it to a zero mark so that you have a handy reference point. Again, this is helpful stuff for those looking to stretch the legs of their battle rifle a bit, something that crisp 8X glass definitely allows for.
Specifications: Bushnell SMRS 1-8.5x 24mm
- Power/Obj Lens:1-8.5x 24mm
- Reticle:Illuminated BTR-2
- Lens Coating:Fully Multi-Coated & Ultra Wide Band Coating
- Tube Diameter:34mm
- Field of View: ft @ 100 yds
- 105 @ 1x
- [email protected]
- Field of View: m @ 100 m
- Advertised Weight: 23 oz
- Measured Weight: 25.95 oz
- Length: in/mm – 10.2/265
- Eye Relief: in/mm – 3.5/8.9
- Exit Pupil: mm
- 13.2 @ 1x
- 3.2 @ 8.5x
- Click Value:
- Adj Range:
- Mounting Length: in/mm – 7.4/188
- Focal Plane: First
- Price: $2149 @ Midway $1781.75 @ Amazon
*A note on fitment and ring selection. I found that due to the shape of the SMRS, I was unable to utilize a Leupold Mark 8 IMS Mount and instead ended up using the Warne R.A.M.P mount for the duration of my testing. If you elect to use the SMRS, I’d recommend that mount as it works very well for this application.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
As you’d expect from a ~$2000 optic from a reputable company like Bushnell, the overall fit and finish is impeccable. The controls are crisp, well-marked, and functional. There are no defects in the finish of the scope body, likewise in the glass. Changes using the turrets reward the user with solid clicks. Additionally, the heft adds to the feeling of overall quality.
Optical Quality * * * * *
This is really good glass. No matter whether you have it on 1X or 8.5X, you’ll be rewarded with a crisp view of the world. This is especially evident in lower light situations where the the larger 34 mm body and subsequently larger diameter glass allows more light in vs. a smaller scope. Again, the penalty is weight, but if supreme optical quality is your bag, the SMRS does not disappoint.
Reticle * * *
I have two major gripes with the Bushnell reticle. The first is that unless it is illuminated, it’s impossible to pick up at 1X. I was unable to exhaust the battery on the SMRS, but having the illumination cranked to 11 to pick up the reticle on the lowest power setting sort of defeats the purpose of even having a 1X setting. The second gripe is that the vertical crosshair is marked in mils while the horizontal appears to be graduated in MOA. I’m sure there’s a reason for this, but it isn’t immediately apparent to me. I would have preferred that Bushnell had used the same system of measurement throughout.
Overall Rating * * * *
The SMRS is above a 3-star rating for sure, but it just squeaks into 4-star territory by a hair. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with it as it is a very good scope provided you don’t mind the weight or the reticle which I believe are the two weak points of this scope. The weight is unavoidable in my mind. A large objective 1X – 8.5X scope just has to be hefty to accommodate all those big lenses. But the reticle is the glaring mark against the SMRS. It doesn’t use the same measurement system for graduation and it is impossible to pick up at 1X. Fix the reticle and this is a standout optic. Otherwise, it’s a good scope with really crisp optics and controls that befit the ~$2000 price tag.