Some time ago I reviewed a Burris XTR II and was impressed enough with that scope that I bought it from Burris to use on my personal rifles. When I learned that Burris was coming out with an even better scope I made a beeline for the Burris booth at SHOT Show 2019 to check out the new XTR III line. I loved everything about the optic, from the form factor to the features and resolved to get one to review. I had to be patient though. I put in a T&E request in March 2019 and received this scope in late December of 2019. I’m very excited to discuss this scope with you now that I’ve been using it for a while so let’s check it out.
XTR III Overview
First and foremost I think a lot of shooters are going to like knowing that the XTR III is designed, machined, and assembled in Greeley, Colorado at the Burris factory. During development Burris also used input from some of the best precision rifle competitors in the nation to flesh out the design to help provide the best bang for the buck.
The version that I received for testing is their 5.5-30X56mm model, the perfect optic for precision rifle matches and long-range shooting. The 34mm main tube provides up to 26 mils of internal elevation adjustment while the 56mm objective and large ocular allow for a generous and forgiving eye box when behind the gun.
The elevation and wind adjustments come in mil and MOA with a side focus parallax knob that provides crystal clear focus from 20 yards to infinity. All of that comes in a package that is just 15.4 inches long and weighs right at 2 lbs.
If you take a closer look at the optic you begin to notice certain details that make the scope more user friendly and functional in austere environments. Let’s start with the knurling, if you have dainty hands, you may find the knurling on the knobs and magnification ring a little harsh. That aggressive knurling ensures that you have a good grasp on the turrets no matter what conditions you might find yourself in. There are also subtle things like keeping the set screws for the turrets oriented more towards the shooter to make them more accessible and indicator lines on the top of the knobs to help guide you to their location.
The elevation knob has a zero stop system that automatically engages when you reset the knob to zero once the rifle is sighted in. This is a pretty foolproof system since there are no small internal set screws or clutch plates to potentially damage or accidentally get misaligned. In the event that you have to dial down below the zero stop point, it’s a pretty easy system to defeat. All you need to do is loosen the set screws, lift the knob about 1/16″ and you can dial below the zero stop to hit center.
It’s become the dominant trend in precision rifle shooting to dial your elevation adjustment and hold your wind so manufacturers have followed suit by covering the windage knob. The concept is that once you zero the rifle you reset the windage knob, cover it up so that it can’t be accidentally turned and use the reticle for wind holds. The scope ships with the cover installed that blends in well with the rest of the scope but replacement knob is provided that you can leave exposed if you like to dial all of your corrections.
This 5.5-30 that I reviewed came with the Burris SCR2 mil reticle, a Christmas tree-type reticle that has a majority of the reticle broken down into .2 mil increments, allowing for accurate holds and reticle break downs to the 1/10th mil for ranging.
The center of the reticle is mostly open with a small crosshair in the very center so it’s very easy to precisely center your point of aim on a target. Going out from the center, the reticle is numbered every two mils but what’s going on between the 4th and 5th hashmarks is pretty interesting. The hashmarks are spaced every 0.1 mils and the numbers indicate the height of that hashmark in 10th mils. Therefore, the line just below the “3” is 0.3 mils tall, the one just above the “5” is 0.5 mils tall, etc… This is what provides the ability to break the reticle down to a very fine degree for ranging since you practically read it like a ruler. On the Christmas tree thankfully Burris put the numbers on the outboard part of the tree so they won’t obscure a target. If a Christmas tree-type reticle isn’t your cup of tea, the XTR III line also has the SCR reticle as well as an MOA reticle for anyone that so chooses. If there’s one thing that I could fault this scope for it’s that lack of reticle illumination so in low light or against certain backgrounds the reticle will be tough to pick up.
Optically, the Burris XTR III exhibited excellent image quality characteristics that I dare say had it hitting above its pay grade by a fair bit. Overall I felt that the lens coatings did a great job of providing a true to life image through the optic with good contrast and resolution. This helped make it easy for me to stay on the optic for long periods of time without any undue eyestrain or fatigue. When I say that this optic has good resolution, I mean it was very close in performance to my Nightforce 5-25X ATACR F1. Observing the same objects at the same power setting I felt like the Burris XTR III was giving up hardly anything to a scope costing $1,000 more.
There was some chromatic aberration (CA), a purple or yellow fringing around objects with a high contrast, but it wasn’t that bad and truth be told I’ve seen worse in optics costing much more. The CA was more pronounced at maximum magnification as is typical but it became much less noticeable as you dialed down the magnification. One thing that I did notice when comparing this optic to the Nightforce was that the eye box seemed to be much more forgiving, as it felt like it was easier to get behind the scope and have a clear, full field of view. The edge to edge clarity was also excellent with hardly any distortion around the edges all the way up to 30X.
The XTR III also demonstrated an excellent depth of field that didn’t require me to constantly readjust the parallax as I was going from target to target at longer distances. If I set the parallax to a mid-range distance then I was generally good to go with all of the targets generally being in focus.
This very usable depth of field can be a useful trait in a scope used for competition where a course of fire may not give you a lot of time to constantly refocus for a new target.
Chief among the characteristics that I value in a scope is mechanical accuracy because if it doesn’t have that then it’s no good to me as a long-range optic. At the bench, I run a basic tracking test with a Leupold boresighter so that I have an idea early on if there’s an issue that may require the manufacturer’s attention. It’s nothing complicated and unsurprisingly the XTR III tracked perfectly through 16 mils of travel before going right back to zero again. At the range, I ran the scope through two more tracking tests using two very accurate .22 rifles at 50 yards. I used the .22’s because they can be very accurate and at that distance, I can easily run the turrets to 10 mils on a standard IPSC target stapled to the target backer. At first, I ran an offset tracking test where I dialed over 2.4 mils and then dialed up 2.5, 5, and then 7 mils from there using the start point as my aiming point. It passed this test with flying colors and I then ran a more conventional tracking test dialing the turrets up to 10 mils and back four times. Tracking was spot on and while the group with 10 mils dialed on may have been a little off I think that was more me than anything.
The other benefit to using a .22LR is that I can give the knobs a more thorough workout shooting to 300 yards than I ever would with a centerfire rifle. Depending on the ammunition I may have to dial anywhere from 12-15 mils of elevation to get out that far and trust me, if there was a tracking issue, it would be readily apparent. The high magnification and excellent resolution also allowed me to act as my own spotter by seeing my impacts in the dirt at 300 and catching the hits on steel from the little .22 bullet.
The Race Dial
An interesting accessory for the XTR III is the Race Dial, a replacement elevation knob designed for PRS-type competition. What’s unique about this knob is that it’s sized specifically for scotch tape so you can put a wrap on the turret and write your data on it. For me, this knob would almost completely replace an auxiliary dope holder since I could write my dope on the tape, rip it off at the end of the stage, and replace it for the next stage. The knob is engraved just like a standard elevation knob so it’s still completely functional as an elevation knob. Prices for the Race Dial vary online but the average cost seems to be about $100 + shipping. That seems high but it’s pretty fair when considering the cost of a quality dope holder like the Hawk Hill Custom and MK Machining rifle mounted options.
If the XTR III was to be the evolution of the XTR II then it has certainly succeeded at that. I’m comfortable in saying that this scope is hitting well above its pay grade and competing quite well with scopes costing $1,000 more. It has great glass, great turrets, perfect tracking, and checks all the right boxes for a long-range precision riflescope. On the street, this XTR III 5.5-30X56 will set you back about $1,850.