Zeiss Conquest V4 Riflescope Field Test and Review:
4-16x44 ZBR MOA & 6-24x50 Illuminated ZMOA
By Tim King
I have been accused of being an addict, and to a degree I must admit that I have a problem. I love shooting and perhaps even more than shooting I love high-end shooting gear. A friend and I laugh when we recount his mother’s estimation of our common plight: “champagne taste on a beer budget.” I think this is a common mentality among those enamored with long range hunting and shooting. This problem is only exacerbated by the overwhelming variety of amazing available products by world class manufacturers. As I write, this “Shot Show” is being set up in Las Vegas to display even more amazing and innovative shooting products. It is a good thing I have never been able to attend because I’d have to take out a second mortgage on my house to pay for all the stuff I would have to buy.
This leads me to address an exciting trend in high end optics manufacturers - the concept of building optics with high-end “champagne” performance wearing a price tag within reach of those on a “beer budget.” Last year I wrote a review of the New Nightforce SHV 5-20x56 with exposed elevation turret. This scope is a prime example of the trend, having everything you need in a long-range scope and nothing you don’t need. Other optics are being produced to fit this niche within the shooting world by manufacturers like Leupold, Vortex and Sightron to name a few. Now Zeiss has entered the budget long range shooting world with their all new Zeiss Conquest V4 line of scopes. There are 4 scopes in this line, with expected pricing around the $1000 mark.
I was pleased to receive two pre-production model Zeiss Conquest V4 scopes to review: a 4-16x44 and a 6-24x50. The 4-16x44 MAP price is $999 and the 6-24 MAP price is $1,199 which make them fit within the SHV price point. Upon opening the first scope, I immediately knew that these scopes were designed to be direct competition for the Nightforce SHV line of scopes. I could not have been more excited to be one of the first to put these news scopes through their paces.
These scopes are well made and a pleasure to behold. Zeiss has outdone themselves with these fine optics. If optical clarity, budget and weight are important to you as a long range shooter these scopes should be on your short list.
I am very pleased that Zeiss is now offering a 30mm main tube on their entry level optics. I had previously owned a Zeiss Conquest HD5 and really enjoyed the clarity and accurate adjustments, but the 1” tube was too much of a handicap for the kind of shooting that I enjoy. I am not a benchrest shooter and have no interest in putting repetitive holes through paper at 100yds. I do, however, love waiting after the trigger pull to hear the report of a speeding bullet impacting steel at extended distances. There is simply not enough elevation travel available in a 1” scope tube to dial corrections for long distance shots. This feature has kept Zeiss scopes out of my gun safe until now.
I was instantly curious to see how many minutes of elevation travel were available in these new 30mm scopes. I counted six and one-half revolutions from top to bottom of the adjustment range. That equates to 130 minutes of elevation adjustment! To put that into perspective, if I zero my 6.5x47 Lapua at 100yds with a 0 MOA picatinny rail and it landed square in the center of the adjustment range I will still be able to dial all the way to 1500yds! Add a 20 MOA rail and it will dial all the way to a mile. With my much flatter shooting 7mm Practical and a 20 MOA rail, this much adjustment range will take you all the way to 2100yds! I’d call that more than an acceptable adjustment range for a long-range optic.
Editor's Note: Zeiss's stated elevation travel for the Conquest V4 4-16x44 and 6-24x50 models is 80 MOA.
To make things even better Zeiss has made the elevation turret with 20 MOA per revolution! This is fantastic and twice the 10moa per revolution of the Nightforce SHV. This means I can shoot all the way to 1000yds with the 7mm practical on the first revolution of the turret; well done Zeiss! This turret is also nicely sized and easy to grip while wearing gloves, which is good for the hunter. The clicks are very positive and audible as well as tactile. If you are confident enough to dial elevation corrections without looking at the turret you will be able to count clicks by touch or ear. A small touch and pet peeve of mine is that the line on the turret cap should line up with the line on the scope body; seems simple but some manufacturers can’t seem to make this happen. The set screw arrangement on the V4’s turret cap makes it easy to line up both marks perfectly after being zeroed.
A big win for the Conquest V4 is that these scopes are equipped with a solid zero stop that Zeiss calls the “Zeiss Ballistic Stop”. In my opinion, this feature should be standard on all long range scopes. This zero stop, of all that I’ve used, is one of the easiest to adjust and is very intuitive, not requiring you to consult the manual every time you zero your scope. All you have to do is loosen the two set screws (with the included “Torx” wrench) in the turret cap and remove the cap. Once inside loosen the two set screws on the Ballistic Stop collar. This will allow the collar to be removed or to drop to the bottom. Once bottomed out simply turn the collar till it stops against the stop pin and retighten the set screws. Replace the turret cap, align the zero with the index mark on the scope tube and tighten the set screws. This zero stop is very positive and reliable. It returns to zero with a dead stop, not a mushy half click or so past zero. It stops on zero PERIOD!
If you so desire, you could remove the turret cap and ballistic stop collar all together for the zeroing procedure. The scope has an internal column with a coin slot in the top that you can use to initially zero the rifle, then set the zero stop and replace the turret cap. I didn’t do things this way. I just zeroed the rifle using the turret as usual and took things apart to set the zero stop.
The Windage turret itself is rather small and reminiscent of the Conquest HD5 capped turrets. It is marked off in readable ¼ moa increments, and can be reset to zero easily after being adjusted by simply pulling the turret out and rotating back to zero. The clicks were solid and accurate, making the sight-in and zeroing procedure simple. Once a hard 100yd zero is obtained, reorient the turret to zero, replace the cap and forget about it. No need to uncap the windage turret after zeroing, just use the excellent reticle to compensate for windage.
The only negative I came across with these scopes was the windage turret cap. I like the capped windage, exposed elevation setup, but Zeiss elected to make the windage cap out of plastic. Why did they do this? I know they have been making these out of plastic forever, but all my other scopes have aluminum caps. The first time I used the scope, after zeroing at 100yds, I put the cap back over the windage turret and the plastic cap tried to cross-thread on me. I would gladly pay a little extra to have an aluminum cap.
The two scopes I received both had MOA based reticles, which made me happy. I have tried using MILs, and though I understand how the computations differ, I just cannot get used to thinking in MILs. The Conquest V4 4-16x44 came equipped with the ZBR-2 Reticle, which looks like a Christmas tree, with ever widening markings that descend from the center crosshair. It is marked off in 2 MOA markings and has larger marks at 10 MOA. I like the idea of these reticles for target shooting and competition, where spotting a miss and making quick corrections is necessary. However, for the shooter dialing elevation correction and holding windage correction with the reticle, there is not much use for all the markings under the center line.
The Conquest V4 6-24x50 scope came equipped with the ZMOAi-1 reticle, which looks very much like the Leupold illuminated TMR reticle only this one has 1 MOA markings. I like this reticle. It is simple but very useful for the long range shooter. The vertical 1 MOA markers are useful for measuring needed elevation adjustments that can then be quickly transferred to the turret. The 1 MOA windage markings are fine enough for holding wind values that are smaller than 1 MOA if needed. For example my 6.5x47 at 800yds needs 2.3 MOA of windage for a 10 mph cross wind. It is difficult to find .3 MOA in a reticle marked with 2 MOA subtentions, but the 1 MOA markings do well to help account for smaller adjustments.
After mounting and bore sighting both scopes I headed outside to zero the scopes at 100yds. The first shot hit paper and I used the reticle to measure the needed adjustments. I fired a group after adjusting the turrets that was within ¼ moa of my aiming point both in elevation and windage. That is about as good as it gets. It is nice to have a scope zeroed in five minutes. This also revealed that both the reticle sustentions and adjustment values of the turrets were true to their advertising. Knowing the quality of Zeiss optics and the reputation for precision, I did not feel the need to shoot a box test. I decided to pack things up at the short range and head out to the longer range testing grounds.
Long Range Performance
In my opinion, there are three things that make or break a scope in the realm of long range hunting and shooting. The first two things go hand in hand, and are tracking and ability to hold zero. If you pack a rifle up a mountain and it gets bumped around on a sling or in a scabbard over the hills and through the woods, it needs to be dead on zero when you dial adjustments for a shot. Also, the scope must be able to dial corrections precisely if you are to have any hope of placing an accurate shot at distance. The third requirement is clear crisp glass. If you can’t see your target you can’t hit it. It is common knowledge that prime time for big game hunters is first and last light. Therefore, a scope’s ability to gather light and provide a crisp clear image is paramount, especially for long range hunters. I have been frustrated many times looking at deer with optics of insufficient quality, trying to guess the antler size and count points.
Test of ability to hold zero
After the initial range session to zero the rifles and set the zero stops, I tossed the scoped rifles into my truck and let them ride around with me for two weeks. They were jostled back and forth as other stuff went in and out, and they saw no special treatment. I tossed them and dropped them and neglected them, trying to be somewhat careless just to see if normal wear and abuse would affect the scope’s ability to hold zero.
Upon taking the rifles back out to shoot they both were right where I left them on zero. I didn’t expect anything different, though it does give peace of mind knowing that your scope will be on zero when you need it.
Test of tracking
I placed several targets in ranges from 100yds to just over 1,000yds from my shooting position. I decided to dial and engage a target at each distance and then dial back to take a shot at 100 yards. I assumed that if there is a problem with tracking or backlash in the elevation screw that it would show up as I ran the turrets up and down to engage targets from near to far.
Each scope performed flawlessly in the tracking department. All shots were on target within a reasonable amount of shooter and wind doping error. Each miss was easy to correct for with quick elevation turret adjustments, and the follow up shot was always right where it should have been. Each miss was measured with the reticle and any elevation errors were easily and accurately adjusted for with the turret. Any windage estimation errors were slightly quicker to correct by holding more or less wind correction with the reticle.
I do need to note that in this type of environment the ZMOAi-1 reticle was more useful than the ZBR-2 reticle. I found estimating needed changes in elevation or windage easier with the 1 MOA subtentions on the ZMOAi-1 than with the 2 MOA subtentions of the ZBR-2 reticle. At extended range 2 minutes between marks gives lots of room for estimating error. Both reticles were true to their markings and much more useful than a simple duplex or a non-mil or moa standardized ballistic drop compensating reticle.
Test of low light image clarity
I decided to take several comparable scopes out at dusk and view the rocks and trees adorning the hillside across the road, approximately 800-1500 yards away depending on what part of the hill you look at. Because optical clarity is subjective when not scientifically evaluated and not easily measured by the layman, I decided that a comparison would be the easiest way to evaluate the Zeiss V4 optics. I took a Leupold MK4 6.5-20x50, Vx3i 4.5-14x50, VXIII 6.5-20x50, Sightron sIIISS 6-24x50 and the Zeiss V4 4-16x44 and 6-24x50 scopes.
To test each scope I picked a spot on the hillside and viewed it through each scope, switching back to the Zeiss in between each to use as a benchmark. While viewing the hillside I ran each scope through its power range and noted at what level brightness began to degrade. I began the test at technical sunset and concluded the test when legal shooting time had passed, 30 minutes after sunset.
I was not sure what to expect with these scopes, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Zeiss boasts of 90% light transmission with the Conquest V4 scopes via a proprietary T* and LoTuTec coatings. I’m not sure what these coatings are, but they seemed to make a difference. The Zeiss scopes both had a brighter image than the all Leupold scopes on every power level. The Sightron scope at its lowest magnification range was close enough to the Zeiss scopes that there was not much of a discernable difference. However, as I turned up the power of the scopes the difference became very evident. The Sightron sIIISS was about as bright at 12 power as the Zeiss v4 was at 24 power. It was not hard to conclude that these Zeiss scopes literally outshined the others.
I decided to evaluate them on their own. I was pleasantly surprised to note that I did not detect any image darkening as I zoomed the scopes in until I reached 12 power on the 4-16x44 scope and 16 power on the 6-24x50 scope. Both scopes held their own with a clear and crisp image until the last minutes of shooting light. I can say with confidence that the optics in these scopes are fantastic and would be an upgrade over any of the scopes I used for comparison.
Summary and Conclusion
Zeiss has entered the budget long range shooting market with a very strong offering for the long range shooter and hunter. These scopes are lightweight, have beautiful image clarity and light transmission, the exposed elevation turrets are sized well and they have precise repeatable tracking. The 30mm tube is long overdue and well done, with loads of elevation travel. The scopes also seem rugged and well-made, and the fit and finish is well above par for scopes in this price range. The reticle choices are perfect for the long range shooter or hunter and are easy to see not being too thin nor too thick. The Ballistic Stop, or zero stop as it is commonly referred to, is what really sets these scopes above the rest. It is simple robust and it works flawlessly! The scopes come with a limited lifetime warranty and a 5 year no fault warranty which should take care of anything tragic that might happen to the scope. Overall, I’d say these scopes, coming in around the $1000 - $1200 price range, provide a great value and a quality addition to a long range hunter or shooter’s kit.
About The Author:
Tim King is a minister at a church in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He spends his free time hunting, shooting, reloading and machining his own rifles. Tim has been enamored with the shooting sports since his childhood and has had an affinity for long range shooting for the past decade, having spent much time in research and experimentation with long range rifles, optics and ammunition.