The trend in riflescopes today is toward larger, more-capable scopes with a wide magnification range. These optics provide a great versatility when it comes to hitting targets or game at a wide range of distances and they often possess image quality that we could have only dreamed about in years-past. Steiner, an optics brand that is synonymous with quality, innovation and durability, has a scope that fits perfectly into this niche of powerful variable optics with its GS3 4-20x50mm.
Progressions in technology, particularly the aforementioned optics, have allowed hunters and shooters to make ethical hits at increasingly-greater distances. To make these shots beyond our maximum point-blank range, we need a scope that has several key attributes: it must hold its zero, it must allow us to clearly see our target, it must be adjustable for parallax, and it must provide a value system to account for our bullet's trajectory. This means it must possess a ballistic reticle, the ability to dial-in elevation changes, or both. Here are five reasons why Steiner's GS3 4-20x50mm may be the ultimate riflescope for hunters.
The durability of optics is a touchy subject for me: I have seen more riflescopes than I can remember (with price tags all over the map), break. When a hunter draws the tag of a lifetime or needs to make a crucial shot to put food in the freezer for the winter, his or her scope must not fail. Period.
One of the reasons Steiner has credibility when it comes to durability is the company's history of building products for the military. Since 1991, Steiner has provided 72,000 M22 binoculars to the United States Armed Forces. Given the manner in which many soldiers treat their equipment, we can call this the "ultimate" durability standard. If something does go wrong with your scope, Steiner's Heritage Warranty is a no-nonsense policy that covers repair or replacement for the life of the product, regardless of whether you are the original purchaser.
Clear Target Imaging
We cannot hit an animal that we cannot see. Not only does this mean that we need clear optics that transmit available light and provide good contrast, it also means that we must be able to distinguish game animals from their surrounding vegetation. To accomplish this, Steiner incorporates a unique technology it calls CAT (Color Adjusted Transmission). This means that the scope's lenses are designed to amplify contrast, specifically in the color ranges common in game animals. The result is that animals are effectively separated from brush, leaves or shadows so that they "pop" into the hunter's eye. This feature, combined with the 5x zoom range that varies from 4-20 power, means that the hunter has every advantage possible when it comes to spotting their targets in real-world conditions.
Parallax is a difficult concept to explain but it can be extremely important when it comes to putting a bullet where it needs to go. At a basic level, parallax is the relationship between the plane of the reticle and the plane of the target. Many scopes, particularly those with magnification of 10x or under, used a fixed parallax system. This means that the scope is set up so that the reticle will be on the same plane as the target at a given distance (often 150-200 yards). For longer shots, excessive parallax can be a disaster, which is why many powerful variable scopes allow the shooter to adjust the optic to meet the situation.
The GS3's parallax adjustment sits near the windage and elevation knobs, at the 9:30 position. This location allows a right-handed shooter to adjust the scope's parallax without losing sight of the target and while maintaining a proper cheek weld. The GS3 adjusts from 50 yards to infinity and has graduations at the 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500-yard positions.
Bullet Drop Compensation
When it comes to shooting at extended ranges, we simply must have a system that allows us to compensate for bullet drop and wind drift. A good ballistic reticle is generally superior to "dialing" for several reasons — it's faster, less prone to human error and mechanical failure unless the reticle physically breaks, and it allows for faster corrections on follow-up shots.
The GS3 comes with a choice of three reticles: the S7, S1, and 4A. Our test scope came equipped with the S1, which allows for bullet drop and wind holds out to 700 yards. Click-adjustable ¼ MOA adjustment turrets are also standard features on the GS3, if they are your cup of tea.
Ease of Use
Some ballistic reticles can be overwhelming, especially for hunters, but the S1 strikes a good balance between capability and simplicity. The S1 is a Christmas Tree-style reticle that provides distance holds down the center of the reticle at 200, 300, 400, 500, 600 and 700 yards. Flanking each aiming point are wind holds that correspond with the drift of a 5- or 10-MPH full-value wind at each distance.
This reticle is designed to fit the average of common hunting rifle cartridges and will, of course, vary from rifle to rifle and load to load. As with any such system, it is incumbent upon the shooter to spend the time on the range to ensure that they calibrate the system to work with the particular rifle and load that they are shooting. Anyone trying to sell you otherwise on any ballistic product is selling snake oil.
Optics have come a long way in a short period of time. Today's variable-power optics such as the Steiner GS3 are packed with features that allow hunters and shooters to spot game at greater distances, in more challenging light conditions and to accurately put rounds on target. The GS3 4-20x50mm's powerful zoom, crystal-clear glass, adjustable parallax and effective S1 reticle make it a very attractive optic for hunting and shooting at a variety of distances.