After 160 years, Zeiss remains one of the top optics makers in the world.

My first experience comparing Zeiss to other glass occurred at the end of my high-school career. My friend and I spent a lot of time taking wildlife pictures, probably dreaming of being great photographers some day. He had acquired a Zeiss camera, and its optical quality was far superior to anything a couple of high-schoolers could afford.

Although my hopes of becoming the next swimsuit photographer — as I got older, my priorities changed — vanished with time, my respect for the quality of Zeiss glass didn’t. I’ve checked out many types of scopes, binoculars and spotters, but every time I look through a Zeiss product, its clarity sticks out.

Quality Exemplified
The Zeiss Conquest series scopes feature the company’s quality at an affordable price. They offer more than 90 percent clarity through multi-coated lenses. When light passes through glass, some of it is lost, decreasing clarity to the shooter’s eye. The multi-coatings of magnesium fluoride reduce that loss to the bare minimum and transmit more light to your eye. The application and amount of layers improve the quality of the glass.

Recently, I mounted Zeiss’ 4.5-14×44 MC (with the Rapid-Z reticle) on my flat-top AR rifle. The scope’s 1-inch tube keeps plenty of light coming through during low-light operations. I was particularly interested in the Rapid-Z reticle for quick range estimation in the field. This reticle is a second-plane image, and the scope features 1/4 minute-of-angle adjustments and side-focus parallax adjustment. This side adjustment has become mandatory on any scope I use for important shots — and to me, all shots are important. I can get a cleaner sight picture more easily, as the side focus is more accessible when looking through the scope.

I used the Rapid-Z 600 reticle, which is marked to 600 yards with drop compensators. Zeiss also produces the 800, 1000 and Varmint. All have varying features for their intended purposes and provide hold-over points for the most popular rounds. The 600 and 800 are for standard hunting, with the 800 being more for magnum and ultra-magnum rounds. The 1000 is a tactical riflescope for the .308 Winchester. The Varmint is designed for just that.

Zeiss’ Web site has an extensive section on using the Rapid-Z reticle, and tips on ammo and other ballistic information pertinent to the reticle. You can download and print this info to have it nearby. The reticle is uncluttered and easy to use, and the holdover points are labeled for quick reference. The Web site also has full-screen images of each reticle. Check them out at

I figured the .223 AR varmint rifle I built would be a perfect match for the Conquest and its Rapid-Z 600 reticle. I mounted the scope on the flat-top upper and was surprised to find that it shot an inch high at 100 yards without any adjustment. That usually never happens to me.

I zeroed it to the specifications and found the reticle to be accurate to 300 yards for drop compensation. (The area where I shot only had a level 300-yard area.) I also liked the 4.5 magnification of the reticle because it focused at close range.

The clear, long eye relief let me use the scope around the vehicle in combat shooting positions. The versatility was welcome. The image remained crystal clear as magnification was increased — the true test of quality optics.

As the magnification and refraction increase, the ability to transmit light decreases, and this optic passes the test. It made my old eyes a little bit better.

Varmint Action
I wanted to check out the scope on some squirrels, so I headed to my favorite infestation and set up some sandbags for long-range action. Squirrel hunting is really the test of the long-range rifle setup. It lets you know if you need a scope that’s clearer or more powerful. It won’t take you long to determine if the rifle/scope combination is accurate or really accurate. Some guys shoot squirrels at really long ranges, but if you can consistently take them out to 200 yards, you have a more-than-adequate rifle.

The 14X Conquest had the magnification necessary to shoot squirrels that far. Using a 3-9X scope, there isn’t enough squirrel where cross-hairs meet to keep the sight on target past 100 yards. The extra magnification lets the hairs center on the critter.

The glass in the Conquest was exceptionally clear. With small targets, it’s difficult to get a clear picture at high magnifications. The Conquest passed the test, providing clear focus with the side-adjust parallax knob.

When I shot the first magazine, the squirrels were at about 100 yards. The rifle was sighted on zero at 100, and the flat .223 36-grain Barnes Varmint Grenade took out the targets a little closer and farther than that without compensation. Using the holdover lines, the rifle/scope combination nailed squirrels out to 200 yards. The reloaded 40-grain Barnes ballistics I computed must have been pretty precise, and even misses weren’t off by much. As the distance increased, the percent of hits decreased.Funny how that formula works, but I’m sure it wasn’t the equipment. I was really impressed with the scope.

I also tested the Barnes Varmint Grenade that day, and it’s really an accurate varmint bullet. I loaded it at around 3,600 fps to use in open hayfields, pivots and other farming equipment. Don’t forget about safety, of course, but these bullets fragment on impact and lessen the danger of a secondary impact from ricochet. Barnes has picture of one fragmenting as it passes through a grape. The powdery inner mass opens up as the copper jacket peels back. Its lead-free construction also gives enviro-weenies less to whine about.

My shop-built AR, the Zeiss Conquest and .223 ammo topped with the Barnes bullet turned out to be a great combination for long-range shooting. The rifle guided the bullet precisely, and the Conquest kept a clear, sharp image. That’s all you need.

— Dave Morelli is a retired policeman, having served as a patrolman, trainer, SWAT operator and a SAR tracker/trainer. He currently lives in Idaho and writes about various topics, including firearms, hunting, tactical gear and training.

Gun Digest is the national bi-weekly source for firearms news, pricing and guns for sale. Our in-depth editorial, exclusive price guide and new product features, brings valuable information to our high profile subscribers. Subscribe Now!