Browse through the catalog of any optic manufacturer and you would be hard pressed not to notice that a lot of attention is being directed at AR/MSR specific optics these days. Whether you’re looking for a reflex or red-dot sight for CQB-type work, something that will take you out to 1,000 yards and beyond, or anything in between, the market is literally flooded with new and improved AR/MSR optics to fill that need. That attention should come as no surprise though given the significant growth in the AR/MSR market over the past decade or so.
The scope we are looking at today falls into this category, and it’s the Bushnell Elite Tactical SMRS 1-6.5x24mm with BTR-2 reticle. The SMRS in the name spells out it’s intended roll: Short to Mid-range Rifle Scope. The Elite Tactical SMRS was designed with input from 3-Gun competitors as well as military and law enforcement experts to provide ease of use and unfailing reliability at short to moderate ranges, and as you’ll read below the design is solid and works extremely well.
The SMRS features a 30mm forged aluminum alloy main tube with a 24mm objective lens diameter. The saddle and turrets are the large diameter design as found on the previously reviewed Elite Tactical DMR IIi 3.5-21x50mm and feature Bushnell’s T-Lok locking mechanism which can be easily lifted for quick adjustments and instantly locked into place by depressing the turret to its standard position. The turrets are graduated in 0.1 mils per click with both turrets providing 8 mils of adjustment per revolution. Each click provides a solid feel with a positive detent for accurate adjustments.
The lenses of the SMRS are fully multi-coated and feature Bushnell’s patented Rainguard HD. The lenses also receive an Ultra Wide Band coating to ensure they deliver optimal brightness and true color across the light spectrum. The scope is also Argon purged making it both fog-proof and water-proof.
The Elite Tactical SMRS features Bushnell’s BTR-2 reticle which is situated on the second focal plane. The reticle is setup in mils with the lower vertical post featuring a short hash mark at each half mil increment and a long hash at each full mil out to 10 mils. On the horizontal posts there are vertical lines representing 10″ in height at various distances to assist in range estimating. A 0.3 mil center dot is the primary aiming point located within a 5.25 mil diameter horseshoe. Both the center dot and horseshoe illuminate.
Some might question why not put the reticle in the first focal plane and the answer is simple – usability. When the reticle is on the first focal-plane it grows and shrinks as the magnification is increased or decreased. The reticle is typically designed to be of optimal size within the visible area of the optic at maximum magnification, so when dialed down to the lowest magnification level the reticle will often times be so small that it’s all but useless to the shooter. Placing the reticle on the second focal plane ensures that it will be at its optimal size at any magnification setting, though at the cost of imprecise hash mark spacing when not at the calibrated magnification. Given the relatively small magnification range of the SMRS (1-6.5x) the latter isn’t as much of an issue as it would be on a scope with a wider range such as 5-25x or 4.5-30x.
The illumination dial can be found on the left-side of the saddle and provides eleven different brightness settings, two of which are specific for use with night vision equipment. The illumination dial also features an off position between each brightness setting to eliminate the need to rotate the dial more than one click in either direction to turn the illumination on or off. A standard CR3032 battery provides ample battery life so long as you remember to turn it off when not in use.
The magnification ring features what Bushnell calls their ThrowDown PCL (power change lever), which is just fancy marketing jargon for a quick throw lever. The fact that the unit folds down is a nice touch though as it helps streamline the optic and prevent it from snagging on things when it’s in the folded position, yet can be quickly and easily deployed as needed for rapid magnification changes.
At the rear of the scope we find a fast-focus eye-piece to ensure a clean, crisp reticle when looking through the scope.
Overall length of the SMRS 1-6.5×24 measures 10.5 inches in length and weighs in at 23 ounces. Main tube mounting length on either side of the saddle is 2 inches. Bushnell doesn’t list their MSRP pricing on their website, but the SMRS can be purchased online for right around $1,000 USD as of this writing.
Taking to the field I was quite impressed with the optical quality of the Elite Tactical SMRS. Comparing it side-by-side to a couple of less expensive low power variables I had on hand, the difference in contrast and resolution was night and day. Not only did the SMRS provide a much clearer and more detailed image, it was also much easier to identify and focus in on small details which greatly helps in minimizing eye strain and fatigue.
Breaking out my test charts the SMRS made quick work of leaving my other low-power scopes in it’s dust. Many like to claim that the lower priced optics are just as good as the more expensive options out there, but until you put them side-by-side in the exact same conditions looking at the exact same objects you’ll never be able to see the often significant difference in optical quality. The Elite Tactical 1-6.5×24 SMRS doesn’t disappoint in this area, not in the least.
One thing that particularly impressed me with the SMRS was how accurate and true the color was. Often times the various lens coatings used on optics tints the color of the image transferred to the shooter, but Bushnell has done an excellent job of minimizing any color deviation with their Ultra-Wide Band Coating. This combined with the inherent brightness of a low power scope make for quite an impressive image.
Another thing that impressed me with this scope was how forgiving it was in terms of eye-relief and eye alignment. Low power scopes are always more forgiving when it comes to eye-relief, but some can be down right fickle when it comes to proper eye-alignment. That isn’t the case with the SMRS. The lack of a parallax adjustment however does mean one will need to be mindful when shooting beyond 100 yards.
The BTR-2 reticle proved to be accurate and functional, and it’s not overly cluttered or busy like many reticles seem to be nowadays. Given this is a second focal-plane optic, one has to remember that the BTR-2’s graduated MIL scale is only accurate when the magnification is set to 6.5 power. Aside from that limitation I found the reticle easy and intuitive to use, and having the horseshoe illuminate with the center dot makes for very fast target acquisition in a quick point and shoot environment such as CQB or a 3-gun match.
Tracking was spot-on as it should be with an optic in this price range so no complaints there. The T-Lok turrets work well and do an excellent job of preventing unintended adjustments to the scope. Zeroing out the turrets once the rifle has been sighted in requires nothing more than the edge of a nickel so no having to carry around a special tool or having to worry about accidentally pulling the turret up while making an adjustment and having it spin freely like with some other designs.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to personally evaluate all of the newer options on the market in this magnification and price range, I have used a fair number of them and feel confident in saying that I would be quite surprised if the Elite Tactical SMRS from Bushnell isn’t one of the top options in it’s class. The slight penalty of the added heft and bulk of this scope are easily offset by the performance it provides, and in certain roles (3-gun, short-medium range marksman, etc) I think you would be hard pressed to find something that fits the bill better. The only exception I would make to that statement would be for an optic that offers a little more magnification on the top end while still maintaining a true 1x on the bottom, but Bushnell has you covered there as well with their SMRS 1-8.5x24mm which offers the same level of quality and most of the same features as the 1-6.5x24mm version shown here.
Bushnell Outdoor Products
Overland Park, KS 66214