Bushnell AR Optics AR/223 1-4x24mm Throw Down
PCL Scope Review
Earlier this year I reviewed the Bushnell AR Optics AR/22 2-7x22mm Rimfire Riflescope and loved it. The quality and value delivered with this rimfire scope was enough to make me want to take a close look at some of Bushnell's other AR Optics riflescopes. At the time of this review, Bushnell currently makes six scopes as part of their AR Optics line and deciding on which scope to review next was a little difficult. In the end, I decided on two scopes which were the 1-4x24mm Throw Down PCL and the 4.5-18x40mm rifle scopes. I figured these two scopes would give me a good look at both ends of the spectrum when it comes to the AR Optics Scopes. This review is of the 1-4x24mm Throw Down PCL and you should be able to see my review of the 4.5-18x40mm some time in early 2014.
Bushnell actually makes two 1-4x24mm scopes. The first scope is what I would call a traditional second focal plane scope with a traditional cross reticle and it has no illumination of the reticle. The second scope is the one shown in this review and has a first focal plane reticle which has a reticle style similar to that of some holographic sights. This scope also features a Power Change Lever (PCL) which allows for fast changes in magnification power in the event you are shifting from close quarters action to that requiring longer distance shots. I tried to show the key differences between these two scopes in the table below. Clearly you will pay more for a first focal plane scope with an illuminated reticle, but the overall street price on this scope seems to indicate that it has the potential to deliver a significant value.
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 Bushnell website on 11/1/13 and gives the Key Features and Specifications for the Bushnell AR Optics AR/223 1-4x24mm Throw Down PCL Riflescope. The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.
The Bushnell 1-4x24mm Throw Down PCL Riflescope comes boxed as shown below.
The end of the box has a summary of the basic features of the scope.
After removing the top of the box, you can see the scope was packaged as shown below.
Inside the box were the following items:
The lens caps have a very snug fit over the scope objective and ocular ends and easily stay in place even without the bungee cord. With the bungee cord, these caps are sure to stay in place on the scope.
The scope has a nicely applied matte black anodized finish on the aluminum body. The scope comes with target style elevation and windage turret caps that are configured to 0.1 MIL per click. The scope also includes an illumination knob on the left and the Power Change Lever (PCL) attached to the power adjustment ring.
With the fast focus eyepiece screwed all the way inside the ocular housing, the scope measured about 9.4" in length.
It has taken me years to become comfortable with the looks of the 1-4x power scopes because the lack of the larger objective lens always makes me think I'm only getting half a scope. After finally getting over that issue, I can now appreciate the functionality of this style scope along with the reduction in weight. For the Bushnell AR Optics line of scopes, I think the sculpting on the turret caps, power adjustment ring and fast focus eyepiece give the scope attractive styling while at the same time some gripping texture when making adjustments.
From the front of the scope to the location where the ocular housing starts to flare out measured 5.75" and I believe this is what Bushnell refers to as the Mounting Length.
The scope with battery weighed in at 18.05 ounces which is slightly higher than the 17.3 advertised.
The ocular or eyepiece end of the scope measures 42mm on the housing and 42.3mm on the fast focus eyepiece ridges. The edge of the fast focus eyepiece has a stiff rubber ring to provide a little cushion in the event of an eye socket strike. The Power Change Lever (PCL) is hinged so that it will ride close to the body of the scope when not in use. There is also a rubber O-ring around the lever to prevent the lever from scratching the scope.
When you flip the PCL out, it is very easy to grip for shifting power settings. The photo below shows the power ring set at 1x.
There is about a 185 degree throw of the PCL to switch from 1x to 4x power. Initially, I thought this lever may seem awkward sticking out like it does, but after a couple of minutes doing drill switching from 1x to 4x using my free hand, I can see that the lever is a big benefit when swapping from 1x close quarters to 4x longer distances.
The power adjustment ring has markings at 1, 2, 3 and 4 power as shown below. The body of the ocular housing has a white dot for reference so you know where to turn the power ring if you want a mid power setting.
The fast focus eyepiece has 1.25 turns from fully in to fully out and has firm resistance while rotating the eyepiece.
The slight tint on the lens is evidence that the lenses are coated. Bushnell states the lenses are "Fully multi-coated optics: All air-to-glass surfaces feature multiple layers of anti-reflective coating. Fully multi-coated optical systems deliver the brightest, highest-contrast images with the least amount of eye strain because only a very small percentage of light is lost before it reaches the viewer's eye." I found the scope to be clear and bright with vivid colors. Considering the price and other features, the optical quality seems to be a good value.
The specifications state the eye relief to be about 3.6". I found it to be more like 3.26" at 1x power and 2.94" at 4x power. Some of the difference in my measurements versus the specifications is that I don't consider a good cheek weld to be one that puts the eye on the maximum edge of the eye relief zone. Hence, I consider the eye relief to be slightly shorter. There is also error in my methods since I'm scaling photos for my measurements. To keep the numbers simple, I think the eye relief is about 3.3" to 2.9".
The outside diameter of the objective end is the same as the tube diameter and measured 29.9mm which is basically a 30mm tube. Inside the front of the tube is a 24mm objective lens. At 4x power, the 24mm lens give you an exit pupil diameter of about 6mm which provides a good amount of light to your eye. There is a ring at the front of the scope with the blackened "Bushnell" name on the top and bottom.
This photo below just gives you a look at the scope from the front end.
The scope comes with target style turret caps that are marked with 0.1 mil increments for a total of 6 mils of adjustment per revolution. For those more familiar with MOA style scopes, 1 mil = 3.4377" of movement at 100 yards. This means there is an equivalent 20.63" of adjustment per revolution at 100 yards. The turret bodies are marked with the direction to turn the caps to produce a desired change in bullet impact. They are also marked with hash marks so you can keep up with full revolution turns.
The windage adjustment knob was able to turn a total of 64 mils of travel. This equates to about 220 inches of total potential travel at 100 yards. This doesn't mean that you will get this much total adjustment, it just means that knob can turn that much. The specifications state an adjustment travel of ±60 inches (120" total). The knobs turn with very distinctive clicks and seems to have a little backlash (looseness) when in position.
The elevation adjustment knob could turn a total of 65 mils of travel. Again, this equates to about 223 inches of total potential travel at 100 yards but the specs say only about 120". Each cap is marked with the amount of adjustment per click, 0.1 mil = 0.34". The caps are also marked with the direction to turn to produce a change in bullet impact.
The turret caps can be removed by loosening the three set screws on each cap. The turret housing has an O-ring between the housing and cap that provides a waterproof seal. The upper O-ring on the turret body is to eliminate water from coming through the set screw holes into the turret housing.
One feature worth noting is that there are no grooves inside the turret cap or on the turret body. Typically these grooves are used to index the cap on the body. For this scope, the three set screws provide clamping force so the cap and body rotate together. The advantage to this design is that the cap is infinitely adjustable so that when you re-zero your cap, the zero mark on the cap can line up perfectly with the reference mark on the housing. The down side is that if your set screws work loose, you could get your cap to rotate on the turret body and may lose your zero reference. With three set screws, the chances are low that this will happen, but make sure you tighten them properly.
The caps appear to be made from aluminum alloy.
On the left side of the scope is an illumination knob. There are 11 different illumination settings with 1 being the lowest and 11 being the brightest. As you shift the knob between illumination settings, the illumination feature is turned off at the mid point between settings. There is no click to hold the knob at this mid point, but this knob did have enough turning resistance so that it would stay in the mid position. The range of intensity of the illumination seemed to be good with the 1 setting being barely visible in low light and the 11 setting being too much in low light. In brighter light, the 11 setting was easily visible which is important because at 1x power I consider this scope to function more like a red dot scope.
Like most illuminated scopes, the illumination knob has an O-ring sealed cap that can be removed using a coin to allow you to replace the CR2032 battery.
The bottom of the scope is marked with the model number "AR91424I", power range and objective lens size "1-4X 24" and location of manufacturer "KOREA". You can also see the rubbery port cap under the illumination knob that is used for purging the scope.
When you look at the reticle at 1x power, you need to understand that using this scope on 1x will be similar to using a red dot scope. With normal human eyes, it is extremely difficult to use the bullet drop compensation features. Also, picking out the non-illuminated reticle with a highly contrasted or dark background can be difficult. With the illumination turned on, the reticle becomes immediately visible. The two photos below give you a pretty good idea on what I'm describing, but the photo with the reticle illuminated doesn't look nearly as bright in the photo as that when looking through the scope. Also, you need to get your eyes about 6" from the computer screen to get a better feel for the scale of the view that you would get by looking through the scope. I also want to point out that my basement wall (the background) is only about 4 feet from the scope and at 1x the image is very clear and in focus. Although it is not visible in these photos, I was able to figure out that the scope is not truly 1x when dialed to its lowest power setting. After taking some basic measurements, I believe the scope is actually about 1.15x at the lowest setting. As a note, it is typical for manufacturers to round up or down their advertised power settings.
These next two photos show the scope at 4x power and you can easily see that the bullet drop features of the BTR-1 reticle are now usable. As I zoomed into 4x power, the background being so close the the scope actually went out of focus and is blurred slightly. The minimum focal distance for my eyes at 4x power seems to be about 50 feet. Since there is no parallax adjustment (side focus) on this scope, parallax is probably adjusted to be minimum error at 100 yards which is typical for most centerfire riflescopes without adjustment capabilities.
Bushnell state the following about the reticle: Scopes with the BTR (Bushnell Tactical Reticle) are designed to be sighted-in at 100 yards, with aiming points every 100 yards, out to 500 yards. The reticle is calibrated for use with 223 Rem / 5.56 ammunition loaded with 55-62 grain bullets. Because the BTR reticle is located in the first focal plane (FFP) position within the scope, it will be accurate for all targets at any magnification setting.
I installed the Bushnell 1-4x24mm scope on one of my recent AR builds using a set of Warne Maxima Quick Detach Ultra-High 30mm Rings. This put the centerline of the scope at a height which is ideal for an AR style rifle.
This height also allowed me the ability to install a Magpul MBUS Rear Sight. Having backup sights already installed on this rifle matches the theme of the quick release mounts on the scope and will probably be the final configuration for this rifle.
The power ring is very close to the top of the rear sight, but there was enough clearance to allow the power ring to function without ever touching the sight.
If you are not planning to have backup sights on your rifle, your scope installation may look similar to that shown in the next two photos.
For range testing, I first bore-sighted the rifle to get the scope zero fairly close. I then shot at 25 yards to check and tweak a little more, and then finished zeroing the scope from a bench at 100 yards. I didn't go into great detail on determining the click adjustments versus actual change in bullet impact, but throughout my zeroing process, making the theoretical number of correction clicks seemed to be what was needed to bring the bullet impact to zero.
My son and I spent some time shooting various steel targets and the scope performed very well. The Power Change Lever is a feature that I now wish I had on some of my other scopes. It was so quick and easy to make the shift from 1x to 4x that I started to wonder why more scopes don't include this feature.
One of the last things I did during this range test was to get an idea on the repeatability of using the Warne Quick Detach Mounts and zero my iron sights. I setup some targets at 50 yards and shot a group, removed the scope, shot another group, removed the scope and shot a third group. With this quick test, I found the center point of impact for each group to all be within 1" of each other. Considering that I was using Wolf value ammunition, have never tested this build for overall accuracy and my targets were some paper plates with a red dot in the center, I feel that these quick release mounts are repeatable enough for this type of platform.
I then removed the scope again and sighted my iron sights. For my last magazine full ammunition, I reinstalled the Bushnell scope and dumped 20 rounds into the Grizzly Targets Trifecta Reactive Target and connected the poppers style steel plates on every shot. My overall thoughts on how the scope, mounts and rifle performed were very positive.
I didn't evaluate any of the bullet drop features of the BTR reticle. At some point in the future, I will try to get some data on how the bullet drop features work with torso style targets at 200 to 400 yards.
I think the Bushnell AR Optics AR/223 1-4x24 Throw Down PCL Riflescope provides a great value and has good features, quality and performance. After now owning a scope with a Power Change Lever (PCL), I find myself wanting one on some of my other scopes. The first focal plane reticle and illumination on this scope are clearly nice features, but the PCL is the one features I think I like best when comparing it against the traditional style Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24 scope. If I were to use the bullet drop compensation features in the reticle, I would be shooting at distances greater than 100 yards and would most likely be at 4x power anyway, so the first focal plane is not as great of an advantage for me. If you have great eyesight or truly need a wider field of view for your circumstances, you may use the bullet drop features at less than 4x and in this case the first focal plane reticle would be of a real advantage. If I were on a tight budget, I would lean towards the regular Bushnell 1-4x24 scope, but if I had a little extra cash available, I think I would consider getting the added features in the Bushnell 1-4x24 Throw Down PCL scope.