I split my hunting year between two countries where shooting culture is significantly different. There are differences in seasons, available species, hunting techniques and it also means different hunting equipment. When I look at the optics I use in Poland, they are either good low light fixed 6×42, 8×56 or 56mm objective variable scopes and my favorite 8×56 binoculars. Whereas in Scotland I mainly use higher magnification 42mm and 50mm scopes and 8×42 or 10×42 binoculars. I also use smaller caliber rifles in the UK in comparison to 7mm or .30 cal in Poland where wild boar can be shot all year round, but I wanted concentrate on optics at the moment.
Why such difference in these optical parameters? Because hunting in two countries are completely different! In Poland night shooting of wild boar and vermin is legal, but without use of lamps or night vision, so low light scopes with thick #1, #4 or illuminated reticules dominate. Also legal shooting range is limited to 200m and there is no need for high magnification scopes, so 2.5-10 or 3-12 variables or x6..x8 fixed scopes make a sensible choice. In the UK on the other hand, longer range shots are quite common and there is no legal maximum range like in Poland. Also deer stalking is limited to 1h before/after sunrise/sunset (same as Poland) but vermin night shooting is commonly done with the use of lamps or night vision equipment. There is no need for thick #1 reticules and 50mm objective scopes are more common with thinner Plex or ballistic type reticules. Also deer stalkers more often prefer lighter 42mm objective binoculars, which are not the best in low light.
Low light and longer range?
So is it possible to get a riflescope that would be good in low light, but also offer higher magnification to allow for longer range shots? In theory yes, there are some higher magnification 56mm objective riflescopes, but mainly targeting long range paper punching crowd. I was looking for something I could use in both countries: good low light 56mm objective scope for shooting boar under moon that could also be used to shoot foxes or roebucks at longer ranges, without target turrets and fancy reticules, that would not also weight a ton. I found a scope that I believe is matching most of my criteria and does not cost a fortune either. I have been using it for about 6 months now and enjoyed it a lot.
New Minox ZE5i range
I somehow missed launching of the new illuminated range of riflescopes by Minox. I know the company quite well and they very quickly became a key player on American market with their binoculars and later on with ZA3 and ZA5 scopes. Despite being German company they were not that well known in the UK at the time to the extend I had to import my 8.5×42 binoculars, as they were not available in the UK. I also imported 2-10×40 ZA5 scopes from the states couple of years ago as I could not find any in the UK… or they were twice the US price even after import charges… 🙄
However, I noticed situation recently changed and Minox GB must be going a good job as more and more Minox products can now be handled in many local gunshops. Minox binoculars are very well known and popular, but riflescopes are still not widely recognized in the UK. I think it is so mainly because Minox is still quite new brand and also other established European optic companies, traditionally concentrating on high end market spectrum, recently started targeting mid-range priced riflescopes market, e.g. Zeiss with their Duralyt range of scopes.
Minox ZE 5i 3-15×56
There are four different Minox ZE5i models available: 1-5×24, 2-10×50, 3-15×56 and 5-25×56 and three different illuminated reticules German #4, BCD and DOT. I selected 3-15×56 model with German #4 illuminated reticule. I was considering the top magnification model, but I already have x20 magnification riflescope and hardly use it above x15. Reticule and the red dot is in second focal plane and there are 11 levels of brightness the red dot can be adjusted. Two batteries can be held in the illumination knob and the battery holder can simply be turned around if one of the batteries dies. I think illumination also is switching off itself after a while as I already left it turned on and it was still working after a couple of days… 🙄
The reticule is generally quite thin, but the dot obscures the target a little bit and could have been smaller, but is good for hunting. I don’t know why many manufacturers still do that, but there really is no reason (at least I can’t think of any) for the dot to be a part of the reticule! And even more important, there is no reason to have gaps between the thin sections of the cross and the dot! In my view ideal illuminated #4 reticule should be a standard #4 reticule ,with an option of turning on a dot or a small cross that illuminates over the etched cross in the middle. As simple as that! No need for a black dot or gaps in the middle section! If the illumination is not turned on it really serves no purpose. It is not a problem at 100m and always magnification can be turned up to to x15, and being in the second focal plane, the dot is not too big, but at 200m or 300m it covers a good bit of the target. However, for hunting purposes it is not a problem. My Schmidt and Bender is exactly the same, so it is not just Minox that do that, but it is not very good reticule design.
Magnification ring is nice and smooth and the image is crisp at both ends of the magnification. In some older scopes – even from well known manufacturers – one can have an impression if looking through a tube ( like looking through a loo roll 😆 ) at lower magnification end, and not very sharp at the edges at the higher magnification range. Not in the case of ZE5i, picture is sharp at the whole magnification range and crystal clear even at the edges. Parallax adjustment knob that is integrated into the illumination knob helps a lot and works very well. After using it for a while I would not buy another scope without a parallax adjustment, it is a very useful feature. Horizontal and vertical adjustment knobs are very nice as well. Clearly marked and resetable, so could be used for longer range shooting if required with the caps removed. I put the scope on top of my Blaser R93 rifle in .243 Win. I zeroed it using just a couple of shots and shot several good groups.
I used the scope for several months and the scope never moved and I never had to re-zero it. I shot several deer and some of them at very last light and had no problems seeing the reticule and it proved to be very good low light scope! I noticed I generally leave it set at x7..8, but it is convenient to be able to set it up to x14..15 for the longer shots. It is very good quality item from the moment I took the box in my hand and I think Minox really managed to produce high end scope that is affordable in comparison to the “top three”. It does all what I wanted it to do. My only complaints are #4 illuminated reticule design and the lack of scope covers in the box.
Please have a look at the videos below and visit Minox website for more details about the scope.