Mention the name Zeiss and one of the first things people think of is “quality” or “excellent glass”. The Zeiss name has been around for a very long time in the optics industry and it has always been associated with high quality optics. Of course, they have always been expensive as well. The Zeiss Conquest line of sport optics was designed many years ago to be a more affordable line of optics tailored to the USA market and yet still utilized the same excellent optics that is associated with the Zeiss name. There have always been a few models in the lineup that have been suitable for tactical use and we finally got around to evaluating one of them here. We selected the Conquest 4.5-14x50mm version because it had the nice external knobs combined with an acceptable amount of vertical adjustments for long range shooting. The 6.5-20x50mm is another solid choice, but its limited amount of vertical adjustments, only 45 inches at 100 yards, ruled it out for serious long range shooting. The 3-12x56mm was also considered but it has even less vertical adjustments.
The Conquest scopes are actually assembled in the USA using parts and glass that are sourced from Zeiss in Germany. The scopes are wrapped in cardboard and packaged in a basic Zeiss box, but they do come with bikini style scope caps, a manual and documentation and everything that is needed. The packaging is not anything fancy, but the idea is to keep the overall price of the scope down while keeping the quality up and the packaging is a good way to help with this endeavor.
The scope body is a 1″ diameter tuber that is made of one piece aluminum and is long enough to provide an okay amount of space in which to mount the scope. The tube does have a step up to a wider diameter near the shoulder area and this does limit the mounting area in front, but the back of the scope has more room and it should be fine for most rifle arrangements. The finish is a matte black anodizing that is fairly non-reflective and appears to be durable. There is a decent amount of bright white wording and markings on the eye piece, but there is not any on the bell, though there is a blue Zeiss logo on the focus knob. The step on the tube leading to the shoulder area is a bit different than most other scopes, but beyond that it is a good looking scope.
The eyepiece is a fast focus style eyepiece that has a rubber protective ring on it to both help protect the shooters eye should there be an unfortunate encounter with the scope during recoil, and also to help with grabbing the eyepiece when adjusting it. The entire diopter range can be covered in about 1.3 rotations and the eye piece itself rotates smooth and with a moderate amount of required force. There is a dot on the interior eye piece mechanism that can be used as a reference point but it is not visible in the last third of the adjustment range as the eye piece is twisted “into” the tube. I was able to get a good crisp reticle image with both my glasses on and with them off (uncorrected) which indicated a good amount of adjustment range. The rubber ring around the adjustable eye piece does provide a good gripping surface as well, though it is a bit thicker than the eye piece itself. The fixed eye piece does look a bit large when on the 1″ tube, but it is not too bad, and works well.
At the front of the fixed eye piece housing is the power selector ring which is the same diameter as the eye piece housing itself. There are serrations on the power selector ring as well as one larger protrusion, both of which are to aide with getting a grip on the ring to adjust it. These work well and the selector ring is easy to grip and it is smooth through the entire adjustment range. The ring does require moderate amount of force to move but this does allow for it to stay right where the operator leaves it once adjusted. The power selector ring moves independent of the eyepiece housing which allows for the use of flip up style scope caps without a problem. There is a dot that is used for an indicator mark to show which power the scope is set on, though the number markings are flat and it does require the operator to lift their head slightly in order to see the power number while they are behind the scope.
The adjustment knobs on this Conquest model are their “target” knobs and they are an exposed turret design without any caps that fit over them. The elevation turret is fairly tall and does have a wider knurled top to it which is designed to help the operator get a good grip on the adjustment knob. The numbers are clearly marked with numbers on every other whole mark, such as 2, 4, 6, etc and there is a vertical hash for each ‘click’ and a taller hash for each whole value. One interesting thing about the adjustment knobs on the conquest scopes is that each click represents .25 inches at 100 yards, not .25 MOA (which equates to .26175″ at 100 yards). Yes, it is close, but no, an operator cannot interchange those values, especially if he or she is shooting at long range. This does not hinder the capability of the scope at all, but it does become important when the operator is computing ballistic charts or entering data into a PDA ballistics computing program.
The clicks on the elevation knob have a positive tactile, or felt, click with a muted audible click. It perhaps is just slightly mushier than we prefer here, but is still one of the better arrangements on the market. There is a full 18″ of adjustment at 100 yards (17.19 MOA) per revolution which will take a 308 Winchester 175gr rifle from 100 to 600 yards in just one revolution and out past 900 yards in just two revolutions. The factory lists the total elevation adjustment range of the scope at 68″ at 100 yards and our sample scope, purchased at random, had exactly 68″ (64.95 MOA) of adjustment, which when combined with a 20 MOA base will provide a enough adjustment range to get the 308 well past 1000 yards, or other calibers even further.
There is one horizontal ring line that shows up when the elevation knob is raised high enough to see it, and it can be used to help track what number of revolutions have been adjusted, but it would be better to have dedicated indicator marks for each revolution which is common on most modern scopes with target knobs. The other thing about the Zeiss scopes, as well as some other European manufacturers, is that UP is in the opposite direction than a majority of the scopes on the market here in the USA. While there is a direction indicator on top of the elevation knob to help point this out, it is not visible from behind the scope. The operator can tell based on the direction that the numbers count up, but it would still be nice to have a reminder indicator somewhere on the knob that is visible while behind the scope.
The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevation knob and it does count up in both directions, with the overlap happening at 9″ at 100 yards. This provides enough adjustment to shoot out to 900+ yards with the 308 175gr in a 10 MPH direct crosswind before the overlapping of numbers happens. The clicks on the windage knob are the same nice click as the elevation knob. Again, the direction of right is opposite of most scopes and the direction marking is only on the top of the knob. Both the elevation and windage knobs are the type that sits down on top of a gear with just a single screw going down through the top and into a center post. These types of knobs require that the markings be accurately applied to the knob so that they line up with the indicator mark on the scope body, and in this case, they both lined up perfectly. One thing we would suggest to Zeiss is that they change the screw from a flat blade screw head to an Allen head, as we have already marred the existing screw head when we were setting the zero on the windage knob. An Allen head screw would prevent that.
This conquest 4.5-14 scope is a side focus scope and the focus knob is located opposite the windage knob on the left hand side of the scope. The knob itself is the same diameter and has the same knurled top to the knob, but it is not as tall as the windage and elevation knobs. The knob is marked from 30 yards to 800 and then with a final marking for infinity. The knob rotates nearly a complete 360 degrees which is not usually the case for a side focus knob and this allows for fine tune adjusting which is handy. The focus knob is a bit stiff, but still smooth, and this built in resistance helps hold the knob in place once it has been set. Beyond that, everything functioned as designed and without problem.
For our operational tests we mounted the scope onto a Steyr SSG69 PI using Steyr 1″ rings mounted directly to the grooved top of the receiver. For the shooting tests the weather was overcast with temps in the mid 40’s with a 5-7 mph wind. After the initial zero of the rifle we fired the scope through a 6″ box at 100 yards and it fired. The adjustments were precise and repeatability was right on the money. We then decided to check the accuracy of the adjustments by shooting a group, dialing in 20″ of left into the scope, firing another group and then bringing the adjustments back to where we started and then fire a final group. The first and third groups were right on top of each other, further confirming repeatability of adjustments. The second group was 19.9″ to the left of groups one and three. This is only 0.5% off of what it should be and falls within the accuracy of the rifle and groups. Anything under 1% is considered excellent.
Zeiss has always been known for their excellent optics and coatings and this does shine through on the Conquest scopes as well. Optically the scope picture looked excellent, was very bright and had great contrast and resolution from edge to edge. This held true for the mid to long range testing as well. The reticle is a traditional mildot reticle (#43 in the Zeiss catalog) and it is located in the second focal plane, meaning you need to insure the scope is set at 14x when performing your mil measurements for range estimation. There is no marking on the eyepiece to remind the operator what power the reticle is accurate for, but typically the highest power is where scopes are kept at, but it is something to be aware of. Performance wise the scope scored very high and we were pleased both optically and mechanically.
So how does the Zeiss Conquest stack up against modern competition? Well, it is obvious the scope was designed a few decades ago and has not been updated recently as there are some operational things that could easily be changed with minimal impact on production that would bring it more in line with other scopes today. Such as some horizontal hashes beneath the elevation knob to help indicate how many rotations the scope has been adjusted, or a simple mark on the power ring indicating what power the mildots are accurate for. Some other changes that could happen, but perhaps may not be worth it or necessary, would be changing the clicks from .25″ to .25 MOA, or reversing the direction of UP and RIGHT, and we are actually okay leaving those as is. But even with some of these minor issues, the scope itself performed very well and for the street price it still compares very well with modern scopes. Some may have issue with the 1″ tube instead of a 30mm tube, but functionally it is a non-issue as there are enough adjustments with over 65 MOA and the tube should be plenty durable. The 30mm tube does not offer any other advantage than these. The glass is good enough to hold its own against the competition and the mechanicals are solid. So while the scope is an older designed scope, it still holds its own with no problem against modern competition in a similar price range. If you or your team are in the market for a sub $1000 scope and are okay with the little issues the scope does have, it is certainly worth looking at.