Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review
April 7, 2015

Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review

Recently I got a new Ruger 22 Charger Takedown Pistol for review and since the 22 Charger doesn't come with any sights or optics, my first order of business was to decide on what scope to use for the accuracy portion of my range tests.  Clearly, the scope needed to be a handgun scope with long eye relief and one with optical magnification always helps to shoot tighter groups.  After considering several good handgun scopes on the market, I finally decided on the Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope for several reasons.  The first was that Burris makes quality optics and it is hard to pass up a "Forever" warranty, the second was that Burris is one of the few manufacturers that offers a parallax adjustment feature in a handgun scope, and the third was that I wanted to put a quality and versatile handgun scope in my inventory for other future reviews.

I want to emphasize that I'm a big fan of parallax adjustment on scopes and especially those utilized on rimfire firearms because I find that many times I'm shooting much closer than 50 yards and depending on the size of the target I may be zoomed in at a higher magnification.  The parallax adjustment feature gives me a crisp clear image and minimizes any potential error that might occur from improper sighting through the scope at higher powers.  The benefits of the parallax adjustment feature are not limited to just rimfire and can be applied to centerfire handguns as well.

At the time of this review, Burris Optics makes the three different handguns scopes listed below.  MSRP on the 3-12x32mm handgun scope shown in this review is $539, but you can find it online for $449 with free shipping at several places such as Midway or Optics Planet.

  • 2x20mm - MSRP $275
  • 2-7x32mm - MSRP $419 to $455 depending on finish
  • 3-12x32mm - MSRP $539

 

During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Burris website on 3/22/15 and gives the Key Features and Specifications for the3-12x32mm Handgun Scope.  The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.

Key Features

  • Designed for handgun hunters who need a robust scope to handle the harshest recoil
  • Compact
  • Long eye relief, ideal when hunting with a powerful handgun
  • High-grade optical glass for excellent brightness and clarity and lasting durability
  • Quality, precision-ground lenses are larger than comparable scopes for better light transmission
  • Index-matched, Hi-Lume® multicoating aids in low-light performance and glare elimination, increasing your success
    rate
  • Double internal spring-tension system allows the scope to hold zero through shock, recoil, and vibrations
  • Positive steel-on-steel adjustments ensure repeatable accuracy
  • Waterproof
  • Nitrogen-filled scope tubes prevent internal fogging even in cold and rain
  • Durable, stress-free, solid 1-piece outer tube withstands shock and vibrations of even the heaviest-recoiling calibers
  • 1-in. body tube
  • Guaranteed by the Burris Forever Warranty

Specifications

  • Item Number: 200309
  • Magnification: 3-12x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44 mm review scope measured 45.6 mm
  • Clear Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Ocular Lens Diameter: 38 mm
  • Reticles: Ballistic Plex™
  • Finish: Matte
  • Focal Plane: RFP
  • Main Tube Size: 1 in.
  • Field of View: 14 low - 4 high (ft. @ 100 yds.)
  • Eye Relief: 10 - 19 in. at low, 10-12.5 in. at high
  • Exit Pupil: 11 low - 2.7 high (mm) basically power divided by objective diameter which is 10.7 and 2.7
  • Click Value: 1/8 in. @ 100 yds.
  • Elevation Adjustment, Total Capability: 28 in. @ 100 yds. Example: 50 MOA is roughly 25 MOA from center. 48" of adjustment based on rotating from one stop to the other.
  • Windage Adjustment: 28 in. @ 100 yds. Example: 50 MOA is roughly 25 MOA in any direction from center.  47" of adjustment based on rotating from one stop to the other.
  • Parallax/Focus: Objective PA
  • Adjustable Parallax: 7 yds. - infinity scope was marked with adjustments from 25 yards to infinity and over rotating past 25 yards would only get to about 21 to 22 yards
  • Length: 10.8 in. review scope measured 11.0"
  • Weight: 16.0 oz. review scope weighed in at 14.3 oz.

The Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope came boxed as shown below.  The end of the box identified the magnification range, objective diameter, item number, reticle type, finish and parallax adjustment feature.

Figure 1                                                            Figure 2
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Box  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Label

The scope came packaged as shown below.  This is nothing fancy, but it is good enough to protect the scope.

Figure 3
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Packing

Inside the box were the following items:

  • 3-12x32 Handgun Scope
  • Riflescope Users Guide
  • Ballistic Plex™ Reticle Instructions
  • Quick Reference Ballistic Plex™ Stickers
  • Warranty Card

Figure 4
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - What's Inside The Box

These next four photos document the "as-received" condition of the scope and give you views from each side.  Like most photos in my reviews, you can see the high resolution image by clicking on the photos.  The scope has a matte black finish and comes with a solid one piece 1" diameter tube.  The overall length of the scope measured 11.0" which was slightly over the 10.8" stated in the specifications.  This difference may be due to differences in position ocular housing.

Figure 5
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Top View

Figure 6
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Right Side View

The markings on the scope are a combination of white and gray lettering.

Figure 7
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Bottom View

Figure 8
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Left Side View

The scope weighed in at 14.3 ounces.

The objective end of the scope measured 45.6 mm which was slightly over the 44 mm stated for the objective lens.  The objective lens clear diameter is 32mm.  The front of the objective housing has a  rounded lip and a ridged textured area to allow for gripping when adjusting the parallax.

Figure 9
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Objective Housing

The parallax adjustment ring had firm resistance when making adjustments and the parallax adjustments are marked at 25, 50, 100, 150, 2 (200), 3 (300), 4 (400), 5 (500) and ∞ (infinity) yards.  When dialed to infinity, the parallax adjustment ring stopped rotating so that it was aligned with the mark on the tube body.  When dialed to the lowest parallax adjustment, the ring rotates past 25 yards and seemed to stop at about 21 to 22 yards.  At this lowest parallax setting when at 12x, target focus was really about 29 yards (more later in the review).  I was a little disappointed that the parallax was not adjustable down to 7 yards as identified in the specification, but realistically, there are few practical applications where you need a 12x power scope less than 25 yards.  The field of view is stated to be 14 feet at low power and 4 feet at high power at 100 yards, so at 25 yards, you only have a 1 foot field of view which is extremely small unless you are doing some bench shooting.

Figure 10                        Figure 11                        Figure 12                        Figure 13
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Parallax  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Parallax  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Parallax  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Parallax

The windage and elevation turrets are covered by a simple aluminum cover with textured areas for gripping.

Figure 14
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Turrets

Inside the cover was a sticker stating the 1/8" adjustment amount at 100 yards per click.

Figure 15
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Turret Caps

With the caps removed you can see that each turret is marked with the direction to turn the turret to shift the bullet point of impact.  The elevation turret is marked with an arrow and "UP" and the windage turret is marked with an arrow and "R".  The turret housing is marked with a reference point (white dot).  The elevation turret had a total of 48"of adjustment and the windage turret a total of 47" of adjustment based on rotation of the turrets.  The Burris specifications state that each turret has 28" of total capability which implies ±14" of adjustment which is a relatively small range of adjustment.  I'm not sure why there is such a big difference in physical adjustment capability and rated capability. If you are using Burris Signature Zee Rings, the small adjustment range is not an issue (more on this later in the review).

Figure 16
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Turrets

There is no intent of using these turrets as target style turrets for bullet drop compensation, but Burris did provide a zero mark along with hash marks.  The large marks represent 8 click intervals or 1" at 100 yards.  A medium size hash mark represents 4 click  intervals and the small hash marks 2 clicks.  The turret covers tighten down against a rubber ring at the base to prevent water intrusion into the cap area which is one of the features to ensure the scope is waterproof.

Figure 17
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Turret Markings

Looking at the bottom of the turret area reveals the port used for nitrogen purging the scope to ensure no moisture is inside and that it will not fog internally.  You also see that the scope was "Made in the Philippines", model name "3X-12X 32mm" and serial number.

Figure 18
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Bottom

This next video was produced by Burris and does a great job talking about nitrogen purging, sealing, testing and inspection of Burris scopes and is worth 2.5 minutes of your time if you want to understand these details.

Figure 19

The eyepiece measured about 37.7 mm in diameter and includes the "BURRIS®" name and logo along with the model description of the scope "3x-12x HANDGUN" on the top and bottom of the eyepiece.  The eyepiece comes with an eyepiece lock ring for locking reticle focus.  This is not a "fast focus" eyepiece.  To adjust focus, you must loosen the lock ring, then adjust the eyepiece until the reticle is in focus.  Then relock the eyepiece.  Hopefully you can make adjustment in 1/4 turn increments so that the lettering is either on the top/bottom or right/left sides.  No adjustment was required on this scope and the reticle was in focus for my corrected vision when wearing my glasses.  I did loosen the lock ring and made some adjustment to see how sensitive the focus was to rotational changes.  Since the lens position is changed by the tread pitch, it took a significant amount of rotation to see the reticle focus change.

Figure 20
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Ocular Housing

The power adjustment ring has an interesting look with it's staggered ridged pattern which matches that of the locking ring.  The ring was easy to grip and had firm resistance.  The ring is marked with magnification power levels 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.  I found it very interesting that they skipped marking the 7 power.

Figure 21                                   Figure 22                                   Figure 23
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Power Ring  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Power Ring  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Power Ring

This handgun scope comes with the Burris Ballistic Plex™ Reticle shown below.  The intent of the reticle is for you to zero your scope at 50 or 100 yards and then shoot various 100 yard distance at maximum power (12 for this scope) to determine the appropriate drop with a goal of producing a table similar to the stickers provided with the scope.  Since this is a rear (or 2nd) focal plane scope, the reticle does not change size when changing magnification power.  This means you will typically develop your bullet drop table for a single power which Burrs recommends as your highest magnification (i.e. 12x for this scope).  Although, you could develop a table for other magnifications levels as well.  For example, if you developed a table at 6x power instead of 12x power, the reticle would be superimposed over an image that would seem about half as big which makes the reticle seem larger which would imply your bullet drop compensation would be enhanced by a factor of 2 (theoretically).  Because there are some variations or rounding in how manufacturers rate scope powers and in this case the 7 power was omitted from the ring, don't use the concept of scaling without verifying your data at the range.  I took some measurements in the backyard comparing the change in vertical distance between the center crosshair and top of the bottom post and distance did not scale by 2 when comparing 12x and 6x.  Instead, I got something closer to 2.4 which confirms you will need to develop your own data.

Figure 24
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Reticle 

The image below is a scanned version of the stickers provided with the scope.  The bottom row of stickers are the ones intended to be used with this 3-12x scope.  This information is also found in the Ballistic Plex™ Reticle For Handguns guide.  This guide also talks about how you can develop your own ballistics table.  One thing to note when looking at the guide and stickers is that the data provided for this 3-12x scope is for popular long range cartridges.  Burris intended the pistol cartridge data for short to medium ranges to be used with their 2-7x power scope.

Figure 25
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Bullet Drop Stickers

If I'm interpreting the guide correctly, the "Correction @ 100 yds" shown below can be viewed as a holdover when your scope is set at 12x power.  Since I wanted this in terms of MOA which is more "ballistics calculator" friendly than inches at 100 yards, I divided these values by 1.047 to come up with an MOA equivalent.  For example, aiming at the portion of the reticle where it widens to a fat thick line is equivalent to making a 9.6 MOA adjustment or 10.1" at 100 yards.

Figure 26
 Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Reticle

As a check of their sticker data, I decided to match one of the sticker examples to the Hornady Ballistics Calculator.  In this case I used the .308 Win 150gr Ballistic Silver Tip.  The sticker states that the top of the thick line is for 450 yards and with this holdover you would still be shooting 3" low.  According to the figure above, this would be a hold over 9.6 MOA.  The ballistic calculator states 10.3 MOA is required at 450 yards.  Since 9.6 is less than 10.3, this means the 9.6 MOA holdover would be less than that actually needed so the bullet impact would be slightly lower.  The sticker estimates this to be about 3" low at 450 yards.  All of this makes sense and the math seems to work.  The math also works at the 200, 250 and 350 yard intervals.  Keep in mind that all of this type of data is just a starting point and you should spend time at the range building your own table for the caliber and load you will be shooting.

Figure 27                                                            Figure 28                                     
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Bullet Drop Example  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Bullet Drop Example

Eye relief on the scope decreased as you increased the magnification.  The specifications state "Eye Relief: 10 - 19 in. at low, 10-12.5 in. at high."  There is some subjectiveness when measuring eye relief and I found that at 3x that a good eye relief started around 11.7" and extended out to about 18.7".  This was close to the 10" to 19" stated. For my arm length, I might have preferred a little longer eye relief, but overall it was still good.

Figure 29 - At 3x Eye Relief Measured About 11.7" (shown below) to around 18.7"
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Eye Relief

At 12x, the eye relief becomes a much smaller range and I found it to start at about 10.6" and extend to about 12.6" which is close to the "10-12.5 in. at high" advertised.

Figure 30 - At 12x Eye Relief Measured About 10.6"
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Eye Relief

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea on the hardware you get when you purchase this handgun scope and how to use the Ballistic Plex™ reticle, but the most significant features of a scope are really judged when looking through the scope.  Unfortunately, this is when its hard for me to give true objective data and I have to rely on my subjective observations. 

The reticle was very sharp and clear and the lines looked crisp and the color was deep black.  When looking through the scope my first impressions were that it was bright and clear and that impression never changed.  I spent hours looking through the scope when doing my range testing for the Ruger 22 Charger Review.  During that review, this Burris handgun scope helped me achieve some extremely tight 5-shot groups at 25 yards as shown below.

Figure 31 - ELEY Club (0.23")                        Figure 32 - CCI Mini-Mag 40gr (0.26")
Ruger 22 Charger and ELEY Club Ammo  Ruger 22 Charger and CCI Mini-Mag 40gr Ammo

Figure 33 - Aguila Subsonic (0.34")              Figure 34 - CCI Standard Velocity (0.22")
Ruger 22 Charger and Aguila Subsonic Ammo  Ruger 22 Charger and CCI Standard Velocity Ammo

The only thing I noted was that at 12x and 25 yards, with the parallax set at 25 yards, the target images were not as crisp as they should be.  After sighting various distance objects, I believe that 25 yard mark is more like 32 yards and fully rotated past the 25 yard mark is more like 29 yards.  During my range test of the 22 Charger pistol, I backed off the magnification to about 9 power and the target image appeared to be more crisp.  As you decrease power, the in-focus range did appear to become significantly shorter.

I made some attempts at getting photos when looking through the scope at both 3x and 12x magnification power and at 32 and 144 yards.  These photos never truly capture what you see when looking through a scope with your eye, but they at least give me something to comment about.  Also, ignore the edge transitions because they are a function of me trying to get my camera perfectly (or as close as I could) in line with axis of the scope.   Overall, the image was always bright and clear at lower powers.  At high powers, the image was still clear, but you lose some brightness because of the small 32mm objective diameter gives a smaller exit pupil diameter (2.7mm).

Figure 35 - 3x @ 32 Yards                                   Figure 36 - 12x @ 32 Yards
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - 3x at 32 yds  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - 12x at 32 yds

I felt that light transmission was very good.  I was able to see some slight curvature towards the outer edge of the images (see edge of house below), but I didn't notice this until I started cropping these photos.

Figure 37 - 3x @ 144 Yards                         Figure 38 - 12x @ 144 Yards
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - 3x at 144 yds  Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - 12x at 144 yds

Burris created a video back in 2010 that does a great job on explaining why Burris scopes are so bright and clear.  It is also a good educational video to help you understand how manufacturers rate theoretical light transmission.

 

I used this set of Burris Signature Zee Rings below to mount the scope on my Charger pistol.  I'm a big fan of these rings because the inserts allows you to bias the position of the scope so that you can get close to your point of impact without having to use the elevation and windage adjustment features.  Since the Burris 3-12x32mm handgun scope only comes with 28" of total travel of adjustment, the potential need for this type of biasing feature is high and for this pistol I had to shift the scope about 20 MOA.  This mount comes with a set of natural inserts and you must order the offset inserts to make the shift.

Figure 39
Burris Signature Zee Rings

These next photos show the Burris handgun scope installed on the Ruger 22 Charger and this scope / mount combination looked good, sturdy and very professional.

Figure 40
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review - Scope Installed

Overall I was very happy with how this shooting platform turned out.  Since the 22 Charger pistol is chambered in 22LR, I didn't get any data on ability to hold zero under high recoil conditions.  If you took the time to watch the Burris video on their quality testing and inspection, I think you would agree that this handgun scope would handle some significant calibers which I feel is its intended purpose.  Burris provides ballistic information implying you can use this scope with calibers as high as 30-06, so again, I feel it can handle recoil abuse.   Also, don't forget your Forever Warranty.  If you have an issue, don't hesitate to send it back to Burris for them to make it right.

Figure 41
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review

Figure 42
Burris 3-12x32mm Handgun Scope Review

 

Bottom Line:

I'm already looking forward to my next handgun review where I can continue appreciating this Burris scope.  The quality, clarity and brightness of this scope is what you would expect from Burris and from a $450 handgun scope.  I wish the low end of the parallax adjustment had been 7 yards as advertised, but realistically the low end range coming it at about 29 yards (when zoomed in at 12x) is not too bad for this high power handgun scope.  If you are wanting a premium handgun scope with parallax adjustment, this Burrs 3-12x32mm handgun scope may be the only game in town.  Also, if you are in the market for a premium handgun scope that comes with a Forever Warranty, make sure you checkout what Burris has to offer.


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