Best Low Light Hunting Scope

Blueknight99

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Sep 23, 2019
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Not to open a Pandora's box but just want to get some opinions based on real life hunting experiences of fellow members. What is the best low light (especially Dawn - about 30 minutes or so before sunlight) hunting scope in your personal experiences.

I had high expectations from Swarovski based on their reputation and several reviews and subsequently decided to get one. Got in touch with Doug@Cameraland and bought a Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15x56 BRHi before my hunting trip last month. The real life experience with the scope was underwhelming to me for the price it retails for. I could not find the low light clarity I was looking for. In fact, in one instance, I could see a buck clearly with naked eye at about 100 yards and when scoped, the image was not too clear. Now, before we get into the adjusting of parallax etc, that was all adjusted.

That incident (and a few other low light viewings) left me dissapointed and I decided to test it futher. In fact, my friends cheap Vortex 4-12x40 Diamonback seemed to have better clarity. And even my Vortex Viper Binos would display more detail at the same magnification level. I am starting to wonder if I got a defective one? There is no way a Swaro is not clear and crisp as hell.

Anyways coming back ....what are some of the best ones, you have or are using personally?
 
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gr8fuldoug

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Not to open a Pandora's box but just want to get some opinions based on real life hunting experiences of fellow members. What is the best low light (especially Dawn - about 30 minutes or so before sunlight) hunting scope in your personal experiences.

I had high expectations from Swarovski based on their reputation and several reviews and subsequently decided to get one. Got in touch with Doug@Cameraland and bought a Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15x56 BRHi before my hunting trip last month. The real life experience with the scope was underwhelming to me for the price it retails for. I could not find the low light clarity I was looking for. In fact, in one instance, I could see a buck clearly with naked eye at about 100 yards and when scoped, the image was not too clear. Now, before we get into the adjusting of parallax etc, that was all adjusted.

That incident (and a few other low light viewings) left me dissapointed and I decided to test it futher. In fact, my friends cheap Vortex 4-12x40 Diamonback seemed to have better clarity. And even by Vortex Viper Binos would display more detail at the same magnification level. I am starting to wonder if I got a defective one? There is no way a Swaro is not clear and crisp as hell.
It seems to me there is an issue with the Swaro as this does not make sense. Please give me a call so we can address this
 

drglock

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I know they’re not true hunting scopes but I’ve owned four different scopes that I use for hunting that have awed me as far as low light capabilities. Not in any particular order. Schmidt & Bender pm II 5-25, Schmidt & Bender 5-20 US, Vortex gen II Razor 3-18 and Razor AMG 6-24.
 

Blueknight99

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Sep 23, 2019
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It seems to me there is an issue with the Swaro as this does not make sense. Please give me a call so we can address this
Sure Doug. Let me know your availability and I will give you a call. You can also PM me. And thanks once again.
 

Ankeny

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Are you talking 30 minutes before day light or 30 minutes before official sunrise? Your Swaro should be bright and crisp at 30 minutes before sunrise.
 
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Blueknight99

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Are you talking 30 minutes before day light or 30 minutes before official sunrise? Your Swaro should be bright and crisp at 30 minutes before sunrise.
I am talking 30 minutes before sunrise and not the actual day light. Regardless the Swaro is not as sharp even in broad daylight. So, seems like there is some issue very specific to mine.
 

DetroitRearView

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SB Zenith 2.5-10x56 is a fantastic low light scope.

That being said, I have taken two deer and an Elk this year at last light with my ZCO 420 and found nothing wanting.
 

CBDR

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If Swaro is not giving you what you want IRT light gathering ability. You may want to consider NV or Thermal.
My Z6 & Z3 out preform my other optics for this S/S & S/R window hands down.
TT 3x15
S&B 5x20 ultra short
Kahles 3x18 & 624
Vortex AMG 6X24
As a matter of fact IMO the Swaro Z3 for right at a thousand dollars holds its own with re-guards to light gathering ability. Give it some more time and I think you may want to reconsider. The environmental conditions ie humidity, overcast, azimuth, eye fatigue all can play a role in your decision. Hang in there. Finish the season with it and if after that shoot me a PM.
 

TRG65

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My swaro z3 is in a close run for the best low light scope I have. The only competition is my s&b pm ii. I think you got a bad one. I can usually see with either one past the 30 minutes of legal time.
 
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Reload10

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I just used a vx6hd 3-18 for the full 30minutes post sunset while hunting a swamp. I could have easily discerned deer for another 15 minutes I bet. Extremely happy with it.
 

Mbaysinger89

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As a coyote hunter this it is fairly common for me to hunt in those circumstances, I have great luck with Leica Magnus scopes. Reticles are a bit thin so illumination is necessary for shooting but not so much just for observing. I have tried Premier LH (still use it also very good low light), Swaros, Vx6s, Doctor, Nightforce, High end bushnells. My next scope was going to be an S and B Polar, but after their stunt I think Ill stick to Leica.
 
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Langford

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I’ve tried a lot of scopes looking for “the best” low light hunting scope...

I’m currently using a S&B Polar T96 4-16x56 ffp on one rifle, and a Swaro Z8i 2.3-18x56...both are very good. I’m starting to gather parts for a new build which will get topped with a Leica Magnus 1.8-12.


I’ve previously owned a Zeiss Victory HT 3-12, and it was also top notch. Before that, I had a Meopta Meostar R1 3-12x56, and it was excellent.

I would definitely send your Swaro back to be checked out, the last thing I would call Swaro is underwhelming in low light conditions. I put my z8i basically on par with the Polar, both being extremely good at dusk & dawn. I watched a deer this evening through the scope for probably close to a half hour after I couldn’t see it with the naked eye.
 

Scotch_egg

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One thing I would say to all the leica fans. In the U.K. leica have been strict with 2 year warranty on electronics. If illumination goes down you will be left with a hefty bill.
 

stintedAIR

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If you can afford it, a Schmidt and Bender Super Bright. Claim is 99% light transmission. If it's as quality as my S&B, I imagine that statement is accurate.
 
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Genin

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Leupold has the best low light gathering capabilities in my experience and to my eyes. They've been in the hunting scope game for a long time, so I think they've gotten pretty good at light gathering.
 

Blueknight99

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Sep 23, 2019
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If Swaro is not giving you what you want IRT light gathering ability. You may want to consider NV or Thermal.
My Z6 & Z3 out preform my other optics for this S/S & S/R window hands down.
TT 3x15
S&B 5x20 ultra short
Kahles 3x18 & 624
Vortex AMG 6X24
As a matter of fact IMO the Swaro Z3 for right at a thousand dollars holds its own with re-guards to light gathering ability. Give it some more time and I think you may want to reconsider. The environmental conditions ie humidity, overcast, azimuth, eye fatigue all can play a role in your decision. Hang in there. Finish the season with it and if after that shoot me a PM.

@CBDR and TRG65 - Both of you are right. Problem (if any) seems to be my specific scope and not the Swaros in particular. I was with another friend last evening who is also the FFL I used and he too looked through it and remarked it does not have the sharpness. The reticle is clear but the view from the glass is not very clear. i don't know how to put it ...but lets say, that the detail is simply not there when looking through the scope. You could see more detail through the naked eye and other cheap scopes than the Swaro.

Will talk to Doug tomorrow and see what can be done to get the Swaro Z6i checked out.
 

Maxduty

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So the issue may not be the scope. You have to understand exit pupil in order to make it work. Exit pupil is found by taking the objective diameter and dividing it by the power of the scope. I'll give you a quick rundown. Your scope is a 2.5-15x56. At 2.5 power it has a 22.4mm exit pupil. at 15 power, it's a 3.7. Neither of these is conducive to optimal performance. The human eye can only use about 6 to 7 mm of exit pupil under low light conditions. If too much light is transmitted, it washes out the image, if too little, no image is found as it's too dark. Your scope needs to be about 8 to 9 power under those circumstances to afford you the best image. Try it again at 8-9 power and see if your results are the same. That glass should be about the best you'll ever see. And remember, it makes it easier to see, but doesn't cut the darkness, especially if in a wooded area. This is why cameras used in hunting shows usually drop about 30 minutes of good hunting time.
 

StihlTech

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Feb 16, 2019
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Following to see the outcome. I have a Leica magnus (which I love but wish I had sprung for the illuminated variant). Also have a couple VX5s which hold their own for the price. Anyone know if Swaro makes a Z3 or Z5 illuminated reticle? My quick google-fu didn’t yield anything. Anyone have experience with a Leica Magnus and a z3 or z5 to compare?
 

Darayavaus

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Not to open a Pandora's box but just want to get some opinions based on real life hunting experiences of fellow members. What is the best low light (especially Dawn - about 30 minutes or so before sunlight) hunting scope in your personal experiences.

I had high expectations from Swarovski based on their reputation and several reviews and subsequently decided to get one. Got in touch with Doug@Cameraland and bought a Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15x56 BRHi before my hunting trip last month. The real life experience with the scope was underwhelming to me for the price it retails for. I could not find the low light clarity I was looking for. In fact, in one instance, I could see a buck clearly with naked eye at about 100 yards and when scoped, the image was not too clear. Now, before we get into the adjusting of parallax etc, that was all adjusted.

That incident (and a few other low light viewings) left me dissapointed and I decided to test it futher. In fact, my friends cheap Vortex 4-12x40 Diamonback seemed to have better clarity. And even my Vortex Viper Binos would display more detail at the same magnification level. I am starting to wonder if I got a defective one? There is no way a Swaro is not clear and crisp as hell.

Anyways coming back ....what are some of the best ones, you have or are using personally?
whenever you ask for opinions, you'll get a wide range of answers. When I started buying good glass years ago, I found out the hard way that often it's a case of "something I've never seen is slightly less bright than something I looked at in a store one day" So I've been through a lot of trial and error. Just make sure your scopes are correctly focused, or dim light will make the glass seem worse than its potential.

scopes tested:
1. Zeiss Diavari V 2.5-10x50
2. Zeiss Diavari V 3-12x56
3. Kahles helia C 2,5-10x50
4. Kahles helia C 3-12x56
5. Schmidt Bender 8x56 klassik
6. Meopta R2 meostar 2-12x50
7. Meopta Meopro 3-9x50
8. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50
9. leica ER5 2-10x50

testing was done on an overcast day. if it was bright and clear, the scopes would have lasted proportionately longer.

20min after sunset:
Leupold nearly too dark to see at any power.
Leica dim, turn down to 6x
zeiss both bright on max mag.
S&B bright
Kahles brightest at max power.
Meopta both best at 8

25 min after sunset
Leupold done.
leica dim, turn down to 4. not bright.
Zeiss (both) still good at max mag
Kahles (both) dimming a bit, still ok
Meopta Meopro surprisingly brighter than Meostar

30 min after sunset (numbers on scope cannot be easily seen)
leica very dim at any power, barely useable
Zeiss okay at 10 and 12. both very bright at 8x
Kahles noticeably dimming, but both bright at 6x . the 2.5-10x50 is surprisingly a little brighter than the x56
S&B still bright
Meostar done. Meopro still useable at low mag.

33 min after sunset
Leica done.
S&B dimming
kahles x56 dimming, x50 still ok at low end
Meoptas both done
Zeiss both good under 6x

38 min after sunset
zeiss still ok at low power. 2.5-10x50 brighter than 3-12x56. / Zeiss diavari Winner
kahles all but done / these three tied for second place
S&B all but done

I understand that the Zeiss Victory HT is a slightly improved scope with newer generation coatings which will give you a couple of extra minutes over the Diavari V T* which it replaced, and which I tested here.
 
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Blueknight99

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Sep 23, 2019
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whenever you ask for opinions, you'll get a wide range of answers. When I started buying good glass years ago, I found out the hard way that often it's a case of "something I've never seen is slightly less bright than something I looked at in a store one day" So I've been through a lot of trial and error. Just make sure your scopes are correctly focused, or dim light will make the glass seem worse than its potential.

scopes tested:
1. Zeiss Diavari V 2.5-10x50
2. Zeiss Diavari V 3-12x56
3. Kahles helia C 2,5-10x50
4. Kahles helia C 3-12x56
5. Schmidt Bender 8x56 klassik
6. Meopta R2 meostar 2-12x50
7. Meopta Meopro 3-9x50
8. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50
9. leica ER5 2-10x50

testing was done on an overcast day. if it was bright and clear, the scopes would have lasted proportionately longer.

20min after sunset:
Leupold nearly too dark to see at any power.
Leica dim, turn down to 6x
zeiss both bright on max mag.
S&B bright
Kahles brightest at max power.
Meopta both best at 8

25 min after sunset
Leupold done.
leica dim, turn down to 4. not bright.
Zeiss (both) still good at max mag
Kahles (both) dimming a bit, still ok
Meopta Meopro surprisingly brighter than Meostar

30 min after sunset (numbers on scope cannot be easily seen)
leica very dim at any power, barely useable
Zeiss okay at 10 and 12. both very bright at 8x
Kahles noticeably dimming, but both bright at 6x . the 2.5-10x50 is surprisingly a little brighter than the x56
S&B still bright
Meostar done. Meopro still useable at low mag.

33 min after sunset
Leica done.
S&B dimming
kahles x56 dimming, x50 still ok at low end
Meoptas both done
Zeiss both good under 6x

38 min after sunset
zeiss still ok at low power. 2.5-10x50 brighter than 3-12x56. / Zeiss diavari Winner
kahles all but done / these three tied for second place
S&B all but done

I understand that the Zeiss Victory HT is a slightly improved scope with newer generation coatings which will give you a couple of extra minutes over the Diavari V T* which it replaced, and which I tested here.
Good test and good info. Unfortunately, most high-end scopes cannot be tested or tried outside of the store. Atleast for me. So, just have to go my reputation, experience of others, and word of mouth. How did you get to compare all these? Were all these owned by you or your friends.
 
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Blueknight99

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*UPDATE** - Went to a friends house who happened to own a Z6i 3-18x50 for a friends and family dinner. Not the same but similar. As we had already talked on phone about my issue, took my scope along. While testing out, found out that the diopter adjustment ring on his scope had much more travel and adjustment than mine. That prompted both of us to take a look at my scope's diopter adjustment (remember the image being not clear???). Turns out, there were a few small specks of dirt preventing the complete and smooth travel of the diopter adjustment ring. I had felt the diopter ring resist a bit when turning but I just thought it was a bit stiff being new. Anyways, a bit of blowing with a pressurized can and wiping seems have loosened it up and viola everything seems right atleast for now after adjusting the diopter. Seems like it was more on the +/plus (long sighted) side causing the slightly unclear image. Whew!! Who would have thought.
 

Darayavaus

Professor of Antiquities
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Good test and good info. Unfortunately, most high-end scopes cannot be tested or tried outside of the store. Atleast for me. So, just have to go my reputation, experience of others, and word of mouth. How did you get to compare all these? Were all these owned by you or your friends.
they are a few of mine. The best stuff ends up on hunting rifles and goes out with me and my kids, then we compare it in actual field conditions. The losers end up in the classifieds.
 

Bache Kermooni

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I have tested my Leupold VX-5 HD 2-10x and VX-6 HD 2-12x in MN, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming - at 30 min after sunset (end of legal shooting hours) and beyond. Very bright. In WY I was viewing Antelope out to 600 yards away. Have not looked through any of the aforementioned scopes so I have no comparison comments. I was unimpressed with Leupold until their VX HD's came out. Most impressed with consistent eye relief from low to high mag.
 
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Langford

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The Zeiss / Hensoldt scope with the 72mm objective.
I’ve always wanted to try one of those. I just can’t come up with a rifle/use where it would fit in.

My long range hunting rig wears an AMG, I wanted to keep it as light as I could for hiking in and hunting.
The Hubble would definitely need to be on a rifle I don’t plan on toting around too far...may give me an excuse to build a nice comfortable blind with a good bench to shoot off of close to the house ;), and a new heavy hunting rifle to go with it.
 

Lumbeejake

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*UPDATE** - Went to a friends house who happened to own a Z6i 3-18x50 for a friends and family dinner. Not the same but similar. As we had already talked on phone about my issue, took my scope along. While testing out, found out that the diopter adjustment ring on his scope had much more travel and adjustment than mine. That prompted both of us to take a look at my scope's diopter adjustment (remember the image being not clear???). Turns out, there were a few small specks of dirt preventing the complete and smooth travel of the diopter adjustment ring. I had felt the diopter ring resist a bit when turning but I just thought it was a bit stiff being new. Anyways, a bit of blowing with a pressurized can and wiping seems have loosened it up and viola everything seems right atleast for now after adjusting the diopter. Seems like it was more on the +/plus (long sighted) side causing the slightly unclear image. Whew!! Who would have thought.
Glad you got it worked out.
 

jbailey

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Has anyone run the Blaser 4-20x58 ???


My understanding is that this scope is designed by the crew that did the optical design for Premier, which has now become Minox and TT (clearly one of the best optical designs around). And this scope was designed especially for low light hunting.

I'm sure these things are expensive, but I would imagine that they are very strong performers. My Premiers are very good in low light situations.
 

Rancid Coolaid

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To clarify: I love my Henny, and often use a friend's (6-24x72 atop a DTA SRS recon in 300WM, a funny looking combo but an absolute hammer); but WOULD NOT recommend anyone buy Hensoldt.
The question was "he best" and the Hubble should indeed be on that short list, but don't go buy one thinking I said to. I didn't.
Not that anyone values my input that much anyway.