November 02, 2010
By David Fortier
Hensoldt's 4-16x56 is one of the best tactical riflescopes in the world.
By David M. Fortier
Hensoldt's 4-16x56 is built on a beefy 34mm tube to military specifications and boasts Zeiss's renowned T* coating on the aspherical lenses.
Although many optical manufacturers build riflescopes, there are but a few that craft truly high-end tactical scopes. Most of the top manufacturers are familiar names here in the U.S. One of the best, though--Hensoldt--has not been available to U.S. shooters for a number of years.
Today Hensoldt is a military brand of Zeiss Gruppe's Carl Zeiss Optronics division. The Optronics division builds a wide variety of devices specifically for domestic and foreign military markets. It does not not produce sporting optics. The Hensoldt line is now imported into the U.S. through Hunt Distribution Company (HuDisCo). Founded by a disabled U.S. Special Operations veteran, HuDisCo is well able to cater to the needs of its military/LE and civilian customers.
Hensoldt's line consists of tactical scopes, reflex sights, spotting scopes and night vision devices. While its offers a wide range of scopes, its 4-16x56 FF Tactical is by far the most popular.
While many tactical scopes are built on 30mm tubes, Hensoldt uses a robust 34mm tube. Yes, the larger tube adds weight, but it also provides a wider range of movement for the erector system and thus a wider adjustment range.
A large 56mm objective lens is fitted on one end and a fast-focus eyepiece on the other. What surprised me is the distance between the two is only 13.1 inches. So this model is surprisingly short, which is a good thing in my book.
Unlike most tactical scopes currently on the market, the Hensoldt's mil-dot reticle is mounted in the front focal plane. I feel this is a very important and advantageous feature. By placing the reticle in the front focal plane, targets may be ranged and the reticle utilized for ballistic compensation at any magnification setting. So you are not forced to set it at 10X or 12X if you want to range a target with the reticle or if you want to use it for elevation/windage corrections.
In addition, a choke rangefinder is included that allows ranging a one-meter-tall target from 200 to 1,000 meters. This system is fast and simple to use.
Elevation and windage adjustments are made via large, well-marked target turrets. These feature precise, tactile and audible clicks in 0.1 mil (one centimeter) increments.
The 0.1 mil adjustments are another great feature of this scope because to me it only makes sense to have your reticle and adjustment delineations match. This allows a rifleman to use his come-up data on either the turret or reticle. In addition, if he fires a shot and misses but sees the impact, he can quickly use his reticle to measure his correction and apply it directly to his turrets.
The elevation and windage turrets are well designed and sport precise, audible and tactile 0.1 mil adjustments. The parallax knob is adjustable from 50m to infinity.
The turrets are nicely contoured and large enough to get the job done without being excessively large. One full turret rotation provides 12 mils (120 centimeters or 47.2 inches) of adjustment. Markings are simple and easy to read. The elevation turret provides approximately 1.5 rotations of usable elevation, so it's impossible to get one rotation off and botch a shot.
Parallax is easily adjusted, and mounted to the parallax knob is a smaller rheostat. This controls reticle intensity, which is compatible with night vision. The unit itself is powered by a common CR2032 three-volt battery and controlled by a microprocessor. Incorporated in the design is a three-hour auto shut-off to prevent it from being accidentally left on and draining the battery.
Hensoldt fully multicoats its lenses with Carl Zeiss's well-respected T* anti-reflective coatings. These are applied to apochromatic fluorite glass lenses. This type of lens is superior at correcting chromatic and spherical aberrations. It aligns the three main color spectrums and eliminates multiple light focal points. This greatly limits color fringing. The result is not only a superior image but also lighter weight compared to traditional lenses ground from lead glass.
I was impressed enough with the Hensoldt that I decided to test it on my favorite stick, a well-worn Sako TRG-22. Warne manufactures an excellent one-piece steel 20 m.o.a. base for the TRG, so I popped one on. Rings for 34mm tubes can be a bit hard to find and very expensive. Luckily Warne offers these as well, and at a good price.
I zeroed at 100 yards using Black Hills 175-grain match and then got 0.4-inch five-shot groups firing prone off the bipod. Better still, thanks to the Warne 20 m.o.a. base, I had 17 mils of usable elevation left--well beyond the useful range of even a heavy .308 Winchester handload.
The scope passed a couple box tests perfectly. Adjustments were dead on and repeatable. Moving to my shoot tower, I engaged LaRues from 200 to 600 yards, in the head. During this portion of testing, the Hensoldt performed extremely well. The magnification ring adjusted smoothly, the parallax knob was easy to adjust, and the turrets provided crisp corrections.
The Hensoldt's optical performance proved just as good as its mechanical reliability. In bright light I thought the color rendition was accurate but perhaps slightly on the warm side. I noticed no barrel, pin cushion or rolling distortion. Resolution was excellent at 100 yards all the way through the magnification range.
Next I checked resolution at 1,300 meters. Image quality of the Hensoldt is simply fantastic. I finished testing by using the Hensoldt in low light. Here that fat 56mm objective lens and the quality of the glass and coatings allowed targets to be successfully engaged long after they were no longer visible with the naked eye.
My thoughts? This is an impressive scope built like a brick. Optically it possesses a bright image with excellent color rendition and fantastic resolution. The turrets are well-designed, and I love the 0.1 mil adjustments. Negatives? I'd like to see more reticle options, and the price is a jaw-dropping $3,499.
Hensoldt is the scope of choice for the German army and ranks among the best in the world. It's a serious tool for serious users.