by B.B. Pelletier
AirForce 4-16×50 scope is a really good hunting scope. This photo shows the new target turrets mentioned in this post.
A reader asked for this review last week, and I was surprised to learn I had never done one. I don’t talk about this scope a lot, but when it comes to my AirForce rifles, this is the scope I usually use.
How does it rank?
I talk about Leapers scopes a lot, because they have been the best scope values for many years. Nearly all scopes are made in China today, so the origin of a particular brand is no way to tell if it’s good or bad; but there’s a huge range in the quality of scopes!
The Chinese have the best commercial lens grinding machines in the world. The Swiss and Germans set them up in the 1970s so they could use the cheaper labor to make their optics. That’s why almost all of the best optics are now made there. The few brands that are still made in Europe and the U.S. stand out because of their higher prices.
What differentiates scopes is the quality of materials put into them and the time spent in certain operations. Leapers scopes are very good because they put good materials into their scopes. Their emerald lens coating on all lens surfaces transmits more light than multi-coated lenses, making Leapers scopes brighter than most. But, AirForce went a step farther.
The AirForce differences
AirForce specified optical glass of higher quality than most scopes. I cannot say they are higher quality than Leapers, but I can say they beat BSA, Simmons and many brand-name scopes. Some scope manufacturers, such as Bushnell, have different grades of quality in the lines that carry their name. The top lines from these manufacturers probably use optical glass of the same quality as AirForce, but these scopes sell for two and three times the price of the AirForce 4-16×50.
Then, there are the lens coatings to consider. Low-priced scopes often use multi-coated lenses, which means they have several different coatings on the lenses. Each does a different function, and together them make a well-rounded scope. However, these lens coatings absorb some of the light that passes through them. The more lenses in the optical package, the more light is lost this way, which is why some mid-priced scopes are either a bit dark or muddy-looking. They are fine when the light is bright, but they degrade when the light is marginal. AirForce specified a single coating of fluoride for their lenses. That makes their scopes very bright compared to average scopes.
Also, AirForce uses a 50mm objective lens that lets a lot of light enter the scope. Though they specified a 1″ scope tube, which passes less light than a 30mm tube, they managed to produce a really bright scope of decent power for hunters. You’ll get extra minutes on both ends of the day where you can still see the target clearly enough to take the shot.
The reticle is a duplex with thin center lines for more precise aiming. The thick reticle lines at the extremities help you locate the thinner lines when you’re looking at sun-dappled vegetation.
New target turret knobs
The turret knobs are target type, and AirForce upgraded them last year to a sharper profile. The new knobs look different than those pictured on this site, and they no longer have caps. You simply turn the knobs themselves for adjustments. They’re still 1/4 MOA adjustments, but the detents have been made even crisper than before. There is no “stacking” of pressure at the ends of knob travel until the final few clicks.
I own both a Talon SS and a Condor, so I transfer this scope between the two. I have used both a B-Square-single mount base and an AirForce TriRail for this, and both work equally well. The scope stays tight in the rings and just the base is loosened for the move. AirForce’s 11mm scope mount rail makes it easy to make this switch. The scope re-sights quickly as both rifles shoot very nearly to the same place.
This scope is more expensive than a comparable Leapers, but I do feel it’s worth the extra money. For hunting, especially, this is a hard scope to beat, plus it’s a perfect match for the entire AirForce line.