When it comes to spotting scopes with a mildot or other range finding reticle in it, the choices are fairly limited. The benefits of having the spotter with ranging capability as well as having the higher precision of ranging with more magnification are desired and any time a spotting scope comes onto the market with a reticle, we take note with anticipation. The leupold Mark4 has been out for a while now and US Optics also offers a spotting scope with reticle, these are both about $1000 and are good choices. Now Bushnell has entered the market place with their new Excursion FLP 15-45x60mm Tactical spotting scope with mildot reticle which comes in at a significantly lower price. The question is, will the low price diminish the quality too much and make it unsuitable for the tactical role?
The Excursion FLP scope comes in its own carrying case and also comes with a tripod. The case is padded and has the custom fit foam to hold the scope in place. It fits fairly nicely in the carrying case though it would probably not work as a deployment case as it is fairly large and the way the bipod straps onto the bottom of the case doesn’t give a good feeling it’ll stay there at all times. The spotting scope itself has a protective cover around it that is designed to stay there permanently much like the Leupold Mk4 spotting scope. With that cover, it allows the scope to be stored in a ruck or other field bag that might be more suitable than the carrying case, which could be used more for long term storage.
The Spotting scope itself is of a similar shape and design as the Leupold unit, utilizing what is called a folded lightpath design allowing the scope to be more compact and not as long as you might see with other spotting scopes. The external dimensions are fairly compact making for a decent sized unit for tactical use. The design is fairly tall though so for prone use where a sniper is going to use it most, it requires a short tripod, of which the one provided is not very short. A spotter using this spotting scope and tripod in the prone is going to provide a fairly tall profile even when at its lowest position. Of course, for the price of this package, money has to be saved somewhere and as such the tripod is not the highest quality. It does have a bubble level on it and it is made of aluminum and has a decent enough mounting system for the tripod including a quick attach base that is attached to the spotting scope. But the durability does not feel as if it will be up to everyday tactical use. That combined with how tall the tripod is causes me to recommend replacing the tripod when funds allow.
The controls on the spotting scope are located all together up on the eyepiece area. There is first a dioptre adjustment for correcting the eyepiece for your eyes allowing you to focus the eye piece to your vision. This does allow you to focus it to use without glasses if you wear corrective lenses. The eye relief on the spotting scope is fairly good at about 1″ which is right on the edge of being able to use the spotting scope while wearing glasses. But the dioptre does adjust without a problem and allows you that option.
The next adjustment forward is the focus ring. It has a rubber coating with some detents in it to aide in gripping and this focus ring adjusted smoothly without too much force. The minimum focus distance for this scope is quite short and the focus range from minimum to maximum is fairly large. The third, and last, adjustment up on that eye piece is the power ring. It is a bit larger diameter than the focus ring and quite a bit more stiff. In fact I found myself often times holding the scope steady with one hand while twisting the power ring with the other. The magnification numbers are printed in green and horizontal on the eye piece which means you need to lift your head a bit to see what power setting you are on.
With the three twisting controls located all next to each other on the eyepiece area it allows for minimal movement of your hands to get to each control, but it also means come confusion can happen, especially with the focus and magnification rings. But with the different size rings and especially with the different amount of force required to move the rings, it is easily learned and adapted to.
The scope itself appears to be fairly durable and rugged enough and has a bit of heft to it. The weight is about 11 ounces more than the Leupold unit but it is still perfectly manageable. The exterior cover has velcro to hold the flaps forward from around the eyepiece area as well as hold the objective cover flap back. It is not very tight fitting but appears to be a good enough fit to stay in place while in field use. There are two plastic D rings on the cover as well to allow attaching a provided strap to it to allow carrying it that way.
The overall fit and finish is fine and this particular unit appears to work and operate as one would expect for this price level. I did not notice any major workmanship flaws and it worked without any mechanical problems all the times we used it here.
The optical quality on the scope was not the greatest though. Compared to a Zeiss it was no comparison in brightness and clarity, but one would expect that from a scope that is about 1/5 the price of the Zeiss. But I also had it next to a Nikon Spotter XLII which is very similar in price and the Nikon was noticeably sharper and brighter. Don’t get me wrong, the scope is still perfectly usable, just do not expect extremely sharp and clear optics from the scope, remember the price point. The quality was especially noticeable at high magnifications and at the longer ranges. I was using it while spotting at one of our long range shooting classes at ranges up to about 900 yards and I was noticing the short comings in these conditions. Backing off on the power does help.
One of the big reasons we wanted to test this scope was to check out a more affordable spotting scope that has a mildot reticle in it and in those regards, the scope does work. The mildot reticle is in the first focal plane and grows and shrinks with the power ring so that it is always accurate no matter what power the scope is set at. I did a quick measure of the mildots and they appear to be accurately sized and the dots are the smaller .2 mil dots. The reticle is fairly thick but not too bad as to block out much of the site picture, but for spotting trace you will probably need to put the target offset to one side in the sight picture so the reticle does not block out the bullet trace. This is one of the negatives to having a reticle in a spotting scope but it can be overcome.
To conclude, while the optics are not what we would like, the scope does offer a usable entry level spotting scope with a mildot reticle. Does the added benefits of having the reticle in the spotting scope make up for the short comings of the optics? In my opinion, probably not, only because we have been getting by without mildot reticles in the spotting scopes for quite some time and I would prefer to have high quality optics for my spotter than the mil reticle. But if your budget is tight and you want to add that extra capability to your spotter, then this spotting scope could fit your needs.
Sniper Central (Originally posted in 2009)