Premier Reticles has been around for a long time, since 1946 to be exact. Their history has primarily been focused on reticles and optical devices, hence the word “reticle” being in the name of the company. They provided OEM reticles to various scope manufacturers and even provided work directly to customers by offering a service of replacing or changing out a reticle on customer scopes that were sent in. While they no longer offer this service, they do the work on the S&B scopes that the USMC uses on their M40 sniper rifles, changing the reticle to the Gen 2 Mildot. It was in 2008 that Premier entered into the scope manufacturing business. Their web page states “Premier realigned its design resources by employing an entire team of opto-mechanical engineers from a prominent rifle scope company to help build the future of rifle scope design”. Their initial product offering is their Premier Heritage 5-25x56mm Tactical rifle scope. With the generous offer of a SC member, we were able to bring in one of these scopes to do a review and see how these scopes stack up against some of the other very high end tactical scopes.
These scopes are in the high end price range, going for about $2700 which puts them in the same league as Schmidt & Bender, Hensoldt, Zeiss Zavari, and other top of the line brands. This is some pretty elite company and it squarely states just exactly what Premier is trying to accomplish; putting its name in with the best of the world.
The first thing that we noticed when pulling the scope out of the box was the scopes physical size, it is very large. In fact, it is bordering on ‘comic book’ large. Just as a comparison we put it next to a Schmidt & Bender PMII 4-16x42mm with 34mm tube which itself was considerably larger than the Leupold Mk4 8.5-25x50mm which itself is a large scope. Putting all three of the scopes together you can get an idea of just how physically large the Premier scope is even when in the company of what are considered physically large scopes.
Going beyond the physical size of the scope itself and looking at the craftsmanship, you do notice that this is a high quality scope. The tube is well crafted and quite sturdy and should withstand just about any punishment. The finish on the scope is evenly applied over the entire scope and is very matte and dull to prevent any sort of reflection or glint. In fact, if it is not the most matte finish I have seen on a scope, it is right up there. The matte color is not achieved by heavy bead blasting which I have seen on other scopes, but is the actual anodized finish itself. The only downside I see is that very matte finishes may not be as durable as others. In fact, this scope arrived with a blemish up on the bell that looks like something rubbed on it at the factory or in transit and put a very light scratch mark on the finish. Beyond that, the finish is very good and will not reflect any light, even the markings are a subdued off white color, and very nicely done.
The eye piece rotates in the traditional way to adjust the dioptre, but the locking ring is a bit unique with some heavy serrations to help grip it. The threads of the rotating eye piece are actually concealed within an outer housing and the lock ring is the only part exposed. The lock ring does work well and the actual functionality is the same as normal.
Like most high end scopes, excluding Nightforce, the power ring rotates separate from the eye piece allowing the use of flip up scope caps and the power ring itself is metal with serrations that work nicely. The resistance force for the power ring is just about right requiring enough pressure to insure the ring stays put while also not requiring too much force that it becomes a problem to use from behind the scope in the prone position. It is very smooth through the entire range and the required force remains constant as well. One nice thing I like about the power ring is the slightly raised and tilted markings. You can see the numbers from behind the scope and the indicator dot is directly on top so you can tell what power you are on by simply checking which number is exactly on top of the scope.
The focus, elevation and windage knobs themselves are very large, not so much in height, but overall width and girth. The 34mm tube does give you the option of creating really large knobs and it looks like Premier took advantage of that. Having a very large knob does give you a lot of real-estate to provide good markings, which makes it odd that there are no markings at all on the focus knob. Admittedly you typically look through a scope at the target and then adjust the knob to get a sharp picture, but there are also times where you would like to know where the focus knob is set in the available range, especially if watching a large target area where target exposure could happen in a wide range of distances, being able to set your focus to a set marking could be helpful. The focus knob itself does have a wide focus range with nearly a full revolution of the knob available to fine tune your focus. I will note that the knob is stiff and does require a good amount of force to adjust it. The serrations on the knob help, as you will need a firm grip to make the adjustment. This is the same for the elevation and windage knobs as well, they take a good amount of force to adjust each click which ended up being more force than I typically like.
I do like how Premier integrated the illuminated reticle brightness control into the focus knob. It is located on the far end of the knob (‘top of the knob’) and is retracted into the focus knob when not in use. To use it, simply pull it out which will expose the numbers and then allows you to rotate it to turn on the reticle to one of 11 different brightness levels. You cannot push the control knob back in unless it is on zero (off) which provides a good visual indicator that the reticle has been left on, helping to prevent accidentally leaving the reticle lit and wearing down your battery. (Who here hasn’t done that!) As well as I like how the knob works, I do not like the fact that the adjustment does not have any detents and the reticle will only light up when exactly on a number, it goes dead in between the numbers. This makes it so you are fiddling with the brightness control much more than you should have to. The last thing I want in a high stress situation is to reach and turn on the reticle because a dark clad target appeared in diminishing light and then have to spend precious seconds fiddling with the knob because I rotated it between the 3 and the 4 and the reticle is dead. I would say that the easy solution is to just crank the setting all the way to the dead stop at 11, but that is nearly a full revolution and it takes several twists of the hand to get there. The solution is to either provide detents so it “clicks” between each number or to have it continually on until the next number is hit. A rheostat arrangement could work as well. The illuminated reticle itself very well done and I like how much of it lights up.
This particular scope has the elevation and windage adjustments set in Mils at .1 mil per click. The scope takes full advantage of the 34mm tube and provides a full 15 mils of adjustment per single revolution allowing for adjusting for a 308 from 100 – 1000 yards in less than a single revolution of the knob. With .1 mrad per click, that is impressive. If you are going out to extreme ranges, the scope can handle it with plenty of elevation adjustments and I like the way that the markings step up when rotating past a full revolution. There is also a clever little nipple that protrudes from the base the knob next to the indicator dot when you have gone onto the second rotation to provide a quick reference so you know what revolution you are on. The clicks themselves are not as nice as what is found on the S&B PMII scopes and they are fairly stiff. But the adjustments are accurate and repeatable. The clicks on each of the ‘whole’ mrad marks (1.0, 2.0, etc) are a more pronounced tactile click so you can tell when passing the full mrad mark without actually looking at the knob. As a test at the range I tried adjusting the clicks without looking at the knobs keeping my eye in the scope, and while wearing tactical gloves, I could feel the individual clicks on the elevation knob, but not on the windage. I tried, but could not count the individual .1 mil clicks based purely off of feel. I would prefer the clicks to be more pronounced to prevent me from having to take my eyes off the target when counting clicks.
The knobs have a locking lever on top that is unlocked by flipping the lever up with the rim of a shell casing. When unlock, the knobs will rotate and even click but will not adjust the internal mechanisms. This flip up lock system allows for “slipping” the rings easily, but I am not sure this was a problem that really needed fixing? Perhaps it does make it easier for field zero’s. I’m also not sure I like the continued clicking when the lever is up and in the unlocked position, if for what ever reason that lever is up, whether it worked loose (doubtful) or was left not all the way down, you would not know it when adjusting the knobs as you would still hear the clicks.
The windage knob is the same as the elevation knob and does count up in both directions and is clearly marked. The windage knob also has stops at 7.0 Mils in each direction without overlap and this provides ample adjustments for most all shooting conditions.
With a scope in this price range you expect to have excellent glass and the Premier scope shines here. Comparing it side by side with a Schmidt & Bender scope it looks just as bright and clear. It is fantastic glass and can go toe to toe with the best in the industry. I give the scope very high marks here.
The reticle is the Permier Reticle Gen 2 XR located in the first focal plane. This reticle has been around for a while now and many people really like it. For those that are not familiar with it, there are mildots on each of the whole mil marks and then hash marks on the half mil marks. The hashes are actually taller than the dots which can be a little confusing as you naturally think that the half marks should be smaller than the whole marks. There are numbers on the even mil dots on the lower stadia and that helps at higher magnification when you can actually read the numbers. Also on the lower vertical stadia there are some horizontal indicator marks, more of them as you drop further down. These are indeed helpful when doing hold offs at longer ranges combined with wind hold offs. These horizontal marks give you a Christmas tree look but do provide a lot of reference points. It is a bit cluttered for my personal liking especially with the hash and dots a bit too similar in size to easily distinguish, but you do get used to it the more you use it and it is an effective reticle.
To test the scope we mounted it on top of our Tactical Operations Alpha-66 in 300 Win Mag using a pair of TacOps 40 MOA bases and the provided Premier Reticle 34 mm rings. Everything mounted up very nicely and without any problems. At the range the scope performed as you would imagine a very high end scope would perform, excellent. There were no surprises and the knobs were very repeatable through the box and other adjustment exercises. The eye relief was good and the scope picture was great with fantastic clarity and contrast. Everything functioned very well in terms of optical quality and mechanical function. As I mentioned above, as part of the test I like to adjust the knobs without looking and this is the one area I did not find satisfactory for a high end scope, I would like to see more pronounced tactile clicks. I would gladly sacrifice some of those 15 full mils of adjustment per revolution for a more defined feel to the clicks. Premier does have a retrofit kit that addresses this issue and that kit is also a part of new product scopes, so that is a positive step forward.
Overall the scope is a large and expensive scope which some people like. I personally do not like the very large physical size of the scope and the scope itself seems to be a bit over engineered. There are some very cleverly designed parts on the scope that I really like that seemed well thought out like the hidden illumination control, but then other things are not quite executed as well as needed, like the illumination control having gaps between power settings. And then there are some things that seem to be engineered just to be engineered such as the locking levers on the knobs and then clicking when not adjusting with those locking levers up. I hope I am not sounding overly critical of the scope, it really is an excellent scope. Perhaps I feel it has been just a bit ‘too’ thought out and compared to the competition in the same price level, some features do not work as nice. In my mind, for a tactical scope, I like to keep things a bit more simple and make the important pieces as perfect as possible. But boy, is the optical glass very nice!