by John Zent - Thursday, March 7, 2013
On the heels of previous aborted attempts to produce a riflescope that could live up to the excellence of its other optics, Leica unveiled its German-made ER scope series in 2009. Two models, the relatively similar 2.5x-10x-42mm and 3.5x-14x-42mm, have been released to date, and are available with five reticle options. In addition to three familiar post and plex configurations, buyers can choose from two ballistic reticles. The Leica Ballistic Reticle (LBR) provides several holdover marks along the lower vertical crosswire, whereas the Integrated Ballistic System features correction marks for both windage and elevation, and is designed to work with custom-built adjustment turrets that correspond to the owner’s preferred load.
In profile, the ERs hew to the boxy appearance typical of today’s top-dollar, high-performance scopes. Built on a 30mm main tube, my 3.5x-14x test unit measured 13.6 inches long and weighed 18 ounces, average dimensions for scopes in this category. Look close, however, and distinguishing features do stand out, notably a short, 2.68-inch ocular bell and lengthy free-tube areas (3.5 inches fore and 2.7 inches aft of the turrets) that can benefit shooters in a couple of ways. More tube eases mounting this scope on virtually any rifle without extension rings and also helps to ensure owners can take full advantage of the ER’s above-average eye relief, which, for our test shooters, exceeded 4 inches throughout the power range and should therefore provide adequate separation when teamed with all but the hardest-kicking rifles.
At the range, 200 nearly nonstop rounds of .300 Win. Mag. confirmed that the loaner was both durable and worked as advertised. Groups from the bench equaled the best ever fired from the test rifle, thus affirming the scope’s ability to hold point of impact. Precision of the quarter-minute click adjustments also proved spot-on in “shooting the square,” wherein the 21st and final shot cut the bullet hole left by the first round.
With our scope zeroed at 200 yards, I experimented with its LBR to determine the proper holdover marks for 300 and 400 yards. Though the reticle provided a total of 20 alternating dots and hashmarks below the central crosshair, the exercise proved much easier than expected, as the first dot was dead-on at 300 yards and the short hashmark under it produced point of impact 2.5 inches low at 400. Granted, our Hornady Superformance 150-grain GMX test load has an extremely flat trajectory, but nevertheless, our results suggest that the scope’s built-in corrections will cover nearly every practical long-range scenario.
Shooters who prefer to dial-in adjustments as targets are encountered may find the clicks a bit soft, and that a steady hand is needed to avoid over-dialing during stressful moments. Once adjustments are made, the turret knobs can be freed by loosening with a small hex wrench, and then rotated to the “0” setting so your zero can be found quickly after dialing in.The ER’s matte black finish is extremely tough and resisted the mounting ring imprints so frequently seen elsewhere. The power-change control felt stiff but smooth and was well-marked. However, markings on the parallax-correction knob were limited to “50” and “infinity” and did not provide incremental references.
Notwithstanding its design advantages and infallible mechanics, the ER’s true hallmark was its optical performance. Light transmission and edge-to-edge sharpness proved to be unsurpassed in comparison to other hunting scopes I have tested in this class. There was zero discernible distortion or color-fringing, and I could easily see deer and other live-animal subjects well after legal shooting time. The field of view at 100 yards ranges from 32 feet at 3.5x to 8.24 feet at the maximum 14.5x. Again, this is among the best in class.
Given Leica’s track record, I took on this evaluation with extremely high expectations, and by all appearances the company is finally in the riflescope business to stay. In order to succeed within its high-echelon price category, Leica ERs must deliver superior performance and durability. In our testing, this scope met those expectations.
Type: variable-power riflescope
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
Eye Relief: 3.94"
Field of View @ 100 yds: 31.9' @ 3.5X, 8.24' @ 14X
Coatings: fully multi-coated; Leica Aqua Dura coating
Dimensions: length 13.6”; weight 18 ozs.
Construction: 30mm one-piece aluminum main tube; waterproof down to 13.12”; side-focus parallax knob; 5 reticles including LBR; matte black finish
Accessories: lens caps, cleaning cloth, test card
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