Chris Parkin checks out the latest in customisable scope options with the Schmidt & Bender 3-21x50 Exos Riflescope, complete with STII-B turrets.
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Schmidt & Bender’s new 3-21x50 Exos scope has now been allied with another new turret option designed to complement the scope’s long-range hunting design. The STII-B shows individual distance markers that can be slackened, repositioned, and nipped back up without making any changes to the underlying base zero.
I am always wary of turret designs that need too much stripping and component removal before repositioning, especially when the locking cap can allow multiple elements to slacken off. It only takes a minor slip to alter other elements dramatically. S&B’s approach might be criticised as a little more bulky but given the hard technical edge the company have always applied to their optics, I love their no-compromise approach, function over form being the order of the day!
The Exos is intended to be a long-range hunting scope, prioritising mechanics ahead of ultimate light transmission, in this case over 90%. The tube is a 34mm unit and is available in rail format or on conventional rings. The 50mm objective and short 430mm overall length make for a compact package.
I used low Sportsmatch rings on my .223 Wylde rifle to make use of the dialling capabilities for both long-range target and vermin control. The D7 reticle shows an illuminating centre dot in the second focal plane. The illumination was particularly appreciated through daylight hours in broken cover and provided a fine reticle for precise aiming.
The saddle’s left side shows a large parallax dial for precisely sharpening your image from 25m to infinity. This scope has a CCW rotating mRad turret with 1cm @ 100m (0.1 mRad) clicks.
The elevation turret, which is 40mm in diameter and stands 27mm tall, offers hand-filling rather than fingertip grip. I get a little gushy because the mechanical feel of the clicks is magnificent: fast movement, firm detents, no mush and minimal chance of overrun, with visual hash marks being perfectly aligned to all detents.
There is a locking lever on the front left of the turret, and an opposing green/red window on the rear right to show you if dialling is enabled, with 14.5 mRad (145 clicks) extra elevation in a single turn.
The windage dial is capped with silky smooth threads marked 6 mRad (60 clicks) left and right of centre. The illumination dial has 11 settings, an integral CR2032 battery and an off position between each ‘click’, allowing you to quickly return to previous intensity level for the bleed and glare-free central dot. There’s also a time and positional auto-off function.
Zoom from 3x to 21x magnification is controlled with a deeply knurled aluminium collar with a -3/+2 dioptre at the eyepiece for sharp reticle focus. High-quality Tenebraex caps are supplied for both objective and ocular lenses, with a rubberised texture that, as well as remaining firmly closed until needed, fold flat and resist damage from bumps and bangs due to their tough polymer construction.
Field of view of 13-1.9m at 100m throughout the mag range shows no visual disturbance at any point. The ocular lens at 40mm looks distinctly larger within its smoothly anodised body, providing a large exit pupil with a generous eye box and around 90mm of eye relief. At full magnification, I would estimate I still had 10-12mm of linear movement within the eye relief, maintaining full field of view and without any intruding vignettes.
Overall elevation adjustment is 43 mRad or 430 1cm clicks internally, with the initial zero set up on either turret by loosening the grub screws on its perimeter with a supplied Allen key and turning to set both a visual marker and zero stop.
Do remember they will still audibly click as you turn, so don’t panic, this isn’t losing your precious zero – although personally, I like to look through the optic as I turn it to be sure I have slackened them all satisfactorily. There is a third screw in the turret, one of which was sealed with a blob of silicone that needed removing, so be aware you might have to do all three.
Setting up the six distance markers was the next step. A tiny Allen key is supplied and, without altering the underlying turret mechanics, each of the six markers is slackened and tightened back in place. 1-6 is unlikely to be fine enough for precision Varmint or extended shots, but the concept can be tailored as you want it; each is adjustable individually, rather than just an ‘average’ engraved dial that might not match your ballistics – or by custom engraving, which obviously adds expense.
The pointers themselves are very neat but still tactile and they don’t snag on clothing, foliage or gun cases, so the size/shape compromise has been well designed.
The colour balance of the scope was richer, if slightly less bright, than the high 96% transmission S&B Polar series, yet I found the diminishing light capability of the Exos to be linear with a gradual fade corresponding to conditions.
Many scopes seem to demonstrate a sudden drop in performance with a distinct limit to chosen magnification rather than gradual fade. Exos remained pleasing to use at any setting and although I can’t deny that lower magnification and larger exit pupil will always win out with any scope, that lack of colour shift towards the top end of the scale in low light was appreciably superior.
My test period has included some very bright daylight conditions, and when these occur, targets or quarry are often hidden in a shadowy gloom. Here, the great optics really show their value and with excellent levels of colour contrast still present in those shadows, the Exos, now with the extended STII-B capability, is not just a mechanical masterpiece, it’s a serious optical contender.
I have a fair amount of night vision kit, but it was great to sit out for a fox until 10pm (in May) with a simple daylight optic for a change. I don’t often feel free to relax with test kit, but as both range and light limits are handled so confidently by the Exos, it was a real pleasure to do exactly that for a change.
Separating distance markers from mechanical zero is a comforting principle; One of the finest turret designs I have ever used; The tactile feel of the clicks is superb; Optical capability is very well-balanced, compromising ultimate transmission with colour rendition alongside the mechanics
Illumination control dial position will not suit all rifle’s mounting dimensions
No scope is the perfect all-rounder and yes, price is a huge factor but the Exos, and especially now in STII-B format has extended its likely career even further
Contact: Schmidt & Bender (UK) Ltd. 07719 567916
Also used: Sportsmatch 34mm Scope rings, 01525 381638
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