Long range precision shooting has exploded in popularity over the last ten years. Tactical rifle competitions, precision shooting schools, and new long range clubs are popping up all over the country at record pace. With 3-gun competition being the fastest growing sport in the country, precision rifle shooting is likely the 2nd fastest growing. It's tough to tell, because no one really tracks such things, but suffice it to say there are more new long range shooters than ever before. Every one of these new shooters is faced with the same set of problems, which invariably leads to some of the same questions. One of those questions is: What optic should I buy for my rifle? Today we are going to answer that question for some of you, by introducing you to Premier Reticles.
Premier Reticles currently has two main lines of optics. The Tactical and Light Tactical. In recent years they have been developing several other lines, but they have not made it to heavy production yet. Lets dig right into them and see what they are all about.
Rather than bore you with specifications all throughout the review, I'll just ask that you refer to the table above for any of the specifications you are after. As you can plainly see, both the light tactical and tactical line boast some impressive specs. Each model has features that set it apart from the competition. The 3-15 tactical and 5-25 tactical both have very similar specifications and aesthetics, so we will pick the 3-15 in this review and take a close look at it.
The Premier Reticles 3-15x50 Tactical like the one pictured above was selected by the U.S.M.C as their SSDS (scout sniper day scope) in 2008. Weighing in at just over 35 ounces, the 3-15 Tactical is a bit heavy for an optic of its magnification range. This is not uncommon with high end optics, as they carry much thicker glass and more rugged components than your typical hunting scope. The overall feel of the optic is very good. The balance is very near center, and nothing seems out of place or cheap.
We will begin at the ocular housing, where you can see the Tenebraex scope covers which are included with all Premier optics. These are a bit different than the Butler Creek covers you may be used to. They flip open, but then also have a retention mechanism that allows you to push them flat. This is quite nice if you wear a hat as I do. I'm sure you've all had butler creek covers knock your hat off, or perhaps even had your hat break the butler creek cap. The cover can be rotated 360 degrees to any position around the ocular bell, and has a bit of a "click" when doing so. While the Tenebraex covers do not form a water-tight seal, neither do the butler creek covers despite what most people think! Yet in my experience, the Tenebraex work very well at keeping debris and liquid off of your ocular lens and don't get in your way while doing it.
In the lower right-hand quadrant of the above image, you can see the ocular housing with the cover removed. To the very rear you will see the notched ring where the Tenabraex cover snaps on and rotates. Those notches are what provide the "clicking" sensation while rotation the cover. This is also where you adjust your diopter setting. The Premier Tactical line of scopes have a locking diopter adjustment. The notched ring just forward of the rear is the lock ring. To adjust the diopter, you loosen that lock ring, adjust the rear-most ocular housing until reticle focus has been achieved, and then you tighten the lock ring. This is an outstanding feature. Most other high end optics have gone to the european-style quick-adjust diopter ring. They are very easy to move, mainly because your scope cover is mounted to them with very little contact on the ocular housing itself. Vortex, USO, S&B and the like all have them. This is plain ridiculous to me since I only adjust my diopter once when I get a new scope, and then expect it to stay put! There has never been an instance where I wanted to quickly change my diopter setting. If someone else is using my rifle, and their eyes are that far out of whack... too bad for them! It's my rifle and I want it to stay how I have it set. With the Premier Tactical, you have no worry of accidentally adjusting your diopter. This is a great design.
Next we have the magnification ring and the model information. You'll notice the markings are very defined and precise. This doesn't much matter in the grand scheme of things, but sure does look nice! The magnification ring is made of aluminum just as the scope body, and is notched to improve your grip. It looks pretty, but I'd rather have some stippling that grabbed a hold a bit more. The ring itself is pretty small and fairly tough to rotate. As they break in over time, it gets easier, but the new ones are a bit of a pain. You certainly aren't going to move it by accident! My all time favorite magnification control are those found on U.S. Optics scopes. If you will need to adjust power quickly, I'd recommend adding a Switchview or some other lever to this ring. The power adjustment itself is very solid. There is no play or wiggle in this ring at all. When you move it, the internals move. When it stops, the internals stop. It doesn't matter where you stop and start going back the other direction, this ring is tightly mated to the internals so that there is no wiggle or play in the adjustment.
Here we have the parallax knob, illumination control, and battery compartment. All Premier optics use a CR2032 battery, which is installed by removing the cap on the left side of the parallax knob. Pretty straight forward. The parallax knob itself functions from 50yds to infinity, and is marked with a graduating scale. For objects that are close, you dial the top of the knob toward you (clockwise) and to focus farther away you turn the top of the knob away from you (counter-clockwise.) This is very intuitive and easy to instinctively learn because of the physics of objects in our world. If you were to want to roll something away from you, you would move it in the same way as this turret functions. Many optics work backwards from this, and it irritates me every time I grab onto one. I would like to see yardage printed on the parallax knob instead of the gradual line. Even if the yardage numbers were not dead on, it would let me easily see where the turret was set in relation to the approximate distance to my target. This would let me get close very fast, and then verify to be parallax free with my eye before engaging the target. The current setup with no yardage is a bit slower as a result.
The illumination control is exposed by pulling out on the knurled ring on the edge of the parallax knob. This exposes a series of numbers that represent different illumination intensity settings. There are eleven different power settings and they are very useful in low light shooting situations. Once you turn the ring to one of the power settings, you cannot push the illumination ring back in. It must be set on zero to push the ring in. This is to help keep you from forgetting that the illumination is on.
Until this point, the features that we've covered, while clever in their own right, have not been anything truly earth shattering. That changes right now. Here we have the elevation turret. This is where the rubber meets the road. Of all of the other controls, the elevation turret on a scope is one of the most used controls of all. It is here that the Premier Tactical scopes have left their lasting mark on the industry. The turret itself is nearly 1 3/4" in diameter with notches similar to those found on the magnification ring. It is large, and easy to get a solid grip on from virtually any position. Gloves, no gloves, it is very easy to grab. The turrets are double-turn with 15 mils per revolution. They have an externally-adjustable zero stop, slip-scale readings, MTC clicks, and a 2nd-turn indicator. We'll get into each of those features in detail below. The Premier Tactical scopes have a CCW or Counter ClockWise turret configuration. This means that to come up, you would rotate the turret counter clockwise, and to dial down, you would rotate clockwise. Again, this is very intuitive and corresponds with most types of screws we use here in the USA. You usually only find clockwise turrets on european scopes. It seems they have a habit of doing things differently than we do over there. Big surprise!
The clicks on the Premier Tactical scopes are unlike anything else on the market. Each 1/10 mil click is tactile and audible in the extreme. No other optic I have used even comes close in this regard. To the point where it is virtually impossible to not know which 1/10 mil click you are on. Then, each full mil has a "More Tactile Click" or MTC. This technology was actually invented by U.S. Optics, and is licensed by Premier. USO calls this feature "milestone" in their EREK knob, and S&B simply calls it MTC as Premier does. I'm a huge fan of this as it allows you to dial in your desired adjustment without ever having to look at the turret. You could input your firing solution in pitch blackness if you needed to. If I wanted to quickly dial in a 6.5 mil adjustment, I would simply crank the turret, count out 6 heavy clicks, then count out 5 light clicks. To do the same adjustment without looking and using a non-MTC turret, I would have to count to 65. Which do you think is faster and easier? Obviously the situations where you won't be able to see your turret are quite limited. However, it still frees up your mind to concentrate on other things. It does shave quite a lot of time off how long it takes you to setup for a shot.
Toward the bottom of the turret you'll see a little diamond. This is the click indicator that corresponds to individual readings on the turret body. You'll notice how precisely it lines up with the corresponding lines above. This leads us to yet another outstanding feature on Premier Tactical scopes called the "Slip Scale" ring. On the very top circumference of the turret, you'll notice 3 holes. Inside those holes are tiny little hex screws. These can be loosened, to allow the movement of the ring which all the readings are engraved into. This will let you line up the indications on the ring precisely in the center of the diamond. A very useful and well thought out feature. I'm sure many of you have optics where the indicators never line up with your clicks, so it's impossible to tell at a glance which click you are in. You'll never have to worry about that with the Premier Tactical!
Next up is the 2nd-turn indicator. Both the 3-15 and 5-25 Tactical scopes have double-turn elevation turrets. This means that you can spin them around a maximum of two revolutions. You could still be easily lost in the turret if you didn't have some indicator to let you know what turn you are on. You'll notice at the lower right hand corner of the turret, you'll find a little circle. When you hit zero on the second revolution, there is a little post that comes out. It starts popping out at 15.1 mils and will fully protrude by the time you've reached 16 mils as pictured above. You can also see that there are two sets of numbers on the turret. One toward the top, and one a little lower. These indicate your mil reading based on which turn you are on. The second turn would use the top numbers obviously.
On Premier optics, the turret itself functions as the zero stop. This means that the turret will never go below its set zero-stop point, which is about 7 tenths below zero. Some go beneath by .6 and others by .7 or .8, but they all go a few clicks below zero. This is helpful, as you sometimes need a couple clicks down. It's not detrimental at all, because you simply go down until the turret stops, and then come up to zero which is made extremely easy due to the MTC turret. In the image above, you'll notice a strange paddle on the top of the turret. This is how you re-zero the turret. If you attach the scope to your rifle and have to come up to get zeroed, you simply flip the paddle up, loosen it a couple turns, zero the turret, then tighten the paddle and close it. While moving the turret, it will still click, but you aren't moving the reticle so long as the paddle is disengaged. To come down, you'll need to unlock the paddle, come up on the turret, lock the paddle back down, and then come down. This is necessary because as I mentioned earlier, you can't go below zero except for a few clicks. This is why this optic has "total internal adjustment" and "elevation adjustment range" as two separate settings. There's a bit of "feel" involved when adjusting the paddle. Watch the subsequent video for more detailed instructions on how to adjust the turret.
These above features which are packed into the turrets are what makes these optics so outstanding for long range shooting. I have not used another optic that allows firing solutions to be entered into a rifle scope so effortlessly. The fact I can adjust the turret zero and zero-stop without tools allows me to easily maintain multiple zeros. This is of great benefit for anyone that runs a Desert Tactical Arms rifle which allows you to easily swap out calibers, or anyone that runs multiple ammo types in the same rifle. For instance, in my 16" 308 DTA Covert, I run full speed 308 ammo as well as subsonic 308. I can easily manage those separate zeros by logging each one into my databook, and then adjusting the turret as necessary.
The windage turret is almost an exact replica of the elevation turret. It has all the same features, but instead of being a double turn, it allows for an adjustment of 6 mils left and 6 mils right. That's what the specs say anyway! You can actually run this turret out 7 mils in either direction, as shown in the bottom/right image.
A larger version of the Tenebraex covers are fitted onto the objective housing. They work the same way as the ocular. However, there are two things I don't like about them. The first is that the bottom of the front cover sticks out WAY too far. In order to have the cover flip up as you see in the above image, you would need to have the scope sit up above the barrel or monolithic rail on the DTA about a half an inch! So the only way to get them to function on a normal scope height is to spin them sideways. I can deal with it, but this is an extremely poor design. Two little tabs on the left and right would be all that is necessary to facilitate popping the cover open. There is no need for the entire bottom to be extended that far beyond the bottom of the objective bell. A little work with a dremel should fix it up, but it goes without saying that you shouldn't have to do it.
The second thing I don't like is what happens when you attach the Tenebraex ARD. That raise ring that the Tenebraex scope cover clips on, stays on the scope... and the ARD doesn't have a way to attach the scope cover. So now you've got to toss the scope cover and get a butler creek. Someone didn't have their thinking hat on for this one. I tried to remove the notched ring from the objective bell by hand, but it didn't budge. Both of these negatives are obviously greatly outweighed by the benefits that the scope offers, but it is however a black eye on an otherwise outstanding presentation.
We'll move right into the 3-15x50 Light Tactical now that we've got the 3-15x50 Tactical out of the way. The 5-25x56 Tactical is basically a mirror of the 3-15 Tactical with the exception of higher magnification and a larger size. As a result, we won't really spend much time on it until later when we look through the scopes. The Light Tactical is very different than its Tactical counterparts however.
The 3-15 Light Tactical has a 30mm tube instead of a 34mm. This reduces the weight a bit, but also reduces overall internal elevation adjustment. It's the same length as it's Tactical counterpart, but much smaller in stature. This is mainly due to the low-profile turrets and smaller turret housing. It's also quite light in comparison, coming in at a full ten ounces lighter. From an optical clarity and capability standpoint, it is virtually identical to the Tactical model.
The power ring is slightly different in that it has a rubber ring in the middle. The ring itself is still aluminum, but you can plainly see the line where it has rubber inlaid.
As you can see, the turrets themselves are very much smaller than that of the Tactical turrets. This is a non-illuminated model, so there is no battery compartment or illumination control. If there were, it would be on the left side of the parallax turret. Also you will see that instead of an externally adjustable tool-less zero stop, the turret has a more traditional hex screw adjustment via holes in the side of the upper portion of the turret. The zero stop is still a function of the turret. It is just adjusted the old fashion way, by loosening the screws in the turret cap. I only get two clicks below zero on this particular specimen before the turret stops.
The elevation turret allows for 12 mils of total travel, on two revolutions, with six mils per turn. There is a small window beneath the turret that shows you what revolution you are on. This is a very unique low-profile solution, however in low light you would have a hard time seeing it. There is no tactile indicator at all, so you would need to see it. Secondly, there are no MTC clicks in this turret. So you dial by individual 1/10th mil clicks and by sight alone. The turret lacks a slip-scale feature, but indicator lines up precisely with the readings.
The clicks on the Light Tactical are tactile, and spaced appropriately so they are very useable. They are nowhere near as loud or precise as the Tactical however. I would equate the way these turrets feel to that of a nightforce turret. They are not very audible, but they are solid, with more of a "clunk" than a "click." The windage turret is the same style, with a window that indicates the direction of adjustment.
Next we'll move on to some "through the scope" shots. This must be taken with a grain of salt. No camera can function as well as the human eye, and as a result, it is very difficult to get quality images through a rifle scope. These are meant to outline some key differences, and that is all.
Here you can see the different reticles on max magnification. Even with the poor images you'll immediately notice the Schmidt & Bender P4F reticle and it's lack of half-mil stadia next to the reticle center. This is a huge mistake made by many european and North American optics manufacturers. You'll use the stadia next to the reticle much more than the stadia further away from the center, so I have no clue why anyone would make a reticle in that way.
Here is a side-by-side comparison between the Premier 5-25 Tactical and the S&B 5-25. Take a look at the 5x images. That is what we call "tunneling" boys and girls. The magnification goes down, but you do not get any extra field of view. Instead, the image is simply "pushed away" in the eyebox. It is inexcusable for a $3500+ optic to do this. The Premier on the other hand has a full 5x magnification ratio with no tunneling on low power. It's difficult to draw any other conclusions from those photos due to the fact that lighting conditions changed drastically when I was swapping between scopes.
While I was trying to take pictures through the 3-15 Tactical, Primal Rights employee "Irish" happened to cross my path. I decided to make an example of him.
There are so many great things about these Premier rifle scopes that help the shooter place the bullet where he wants it, that it's difficult to describe them all and pack it into a single review. They are truly something that must be experienced in order to fully appreciate. If any of you are in the Huron, SD area and would like to get behind one, just give us a call. We'll gladly let you run one through the paces. For those of you abroad, feel free to ask any question you like on the forums, or via a phone call or email.
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