Burris XTR III Long Range Riflescope

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 XTR III 5.5-30X56 had a phenomenal level of fit and finish normally seen on much more expensive scopes.

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.

Only the magnification ring rotates so that the ocular cover stays exactly where you put it. In addition, the ocular has a locking ring so that it can’t move if you do need to adjust the ocular cover.

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.

The clicks on both knobs were very audible and tactile, a definite improvement over the sometimes mushy XTR II turrets. The elevation knob will raise up as you rotate it to reveal revolution indicator lines.

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 lines on the elevation and windage knob are a nice touch for those times when you’re hunched over a rifle trying to find the set screws with a tiny Allen wrench.

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.

The XTR III ships with some additional extras like Burris branded flip-up caps and a sunshade. The caps are different from the ones that came with the XTR II, they appear to be rebranded Butler Creek caps, take that as you will.

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.

Although optimized for use on higher magnification, the SCR2 was still useable down to about 10X before it essentially became a duplex reticle at 5.5X.

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.

Optical Performance

The XTR III was at home on a rimfire trainer as it was a long-range centerfire rifle.

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.

An example of chromatic aberration through the XTR III, it’s a little exaggerated because it is zoomed in.

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.

A visual to demonstrate the XTR III’s depth of field. The parallax is set to about 300 yards and the tree is in focus at 450 yards, as are the signs at about 150. Even a target just beyond the tree would be in focus enough to take a shot.

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.

The parallax knob has about 270° of total rotation with the settings for 300 yards to infinity only taking up the last 90°. Surprisingly the numbers on the knob were very close to matching up to the actual distances when the image was set up to be parallax free.

Mechanical Accuracy

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 blue dots represent bullet impacts and correspond with zero, 2.5 mils, 5 mils, 7.5 mils, and 10 mils of elevation.

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.

Race Dial from SHOT Show 2019.

Conclusion

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.

For more information visit Burris website.

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About the author: Ian Kenney Ian is a lifelong firearms enthusiast and veteran of the Global War on Terror. For over a decade, he has been actively competing in precision rifle and action shooting competitions. Ian has also contributed to multiple online publications, covering general firearms topics, precision rifles, and helping to improve the skills of shooters.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Kent Dorfman April 21, 2020, 6:02 am

    I’m starting with a $265 Athlon 6-24×50. Good enough so far. I looked for a US scope but couldn’t see paying 8 times that.

  • MICHAEL CANTOR April 20, 2020, 9:01 pm

    Hi, I thought that was a good article. I Test and evaluate products also and I thought that was well written and to the point. It let the average reader know exactly what the features and benefits were/are.

    Now I am gonna get on my soap box!!!
    I do disagree slightly with one reader who said you need a $2000 scope. There are very good scopes in the $500 – $750 range … $850 .. The Burris Veracity is awesome. and at $1000 +- The Zeiss Conquest is phenomenal IMO. I have my snobby Swaro EL 42 Binos and you can absolutely see the difference especially in ease of viewing and comfort. With scopes, I have a few Alpen APEX 6-24’s with Varmint Reticles that I got into and I have shot plenty of tiny Arizona Prairie dogs at over 700 yards. I had my Leupold LRT 6-24 and Zeiss Conquests set up alongside them and there is a bit better clarity….Maybe, but not 3 times worth. And when the sun is up and blazing and the heat waves are coming up it is difficult to see anything and virtually no usable difference,, especially if you go above 16 or 18 X. And just a few minutes in the dry air, with a breeze in a prairie environment, your expensive lens coatings get a nice layer of dirt on them so you need to clean everything, all the time. I don’t care what scope you are using. It is very difficult to compare when your lenses are dirty, which is the reality of shooting outdoors. Also, everybody is getting crazy with huge objective lenses. Even 50 mm is barely manageable. Most factory stocks do not have a high enough comb to accommodate more than a 50 mm OBJ. and that is mounted just high enough to clear a butler creek scope cap on the objective bell. I have to usually use a sunshade just to extend the OBJ far enough down the taper of the barrel for clearance. The larger OBJ is used for higher power scopes to compensate for the diminishing exit pupil and for people who want more light gathering for 5 minutes of dawn and sunset. A 40 mm Objective is plenty for a good scope up to 20 or 24 power. Your shooting in daylight! We put sunshades on to cut down on the sun glare. It’s crazy already. Admittedly, most of my scopes have 50mm Objectives because the other features are more important and that is what the manufacturers are making. We can keep duct taping foam pads to our thousand dollar rifles. (I said sarcastically) !!! I have a $1000 Vixen scope I happened upon. It has a 58 mm OBJ. I can’t even mount it on anything reasonable. I have to build up the comb n mmy intended rifle. The glass is phenomenal….as it sits in it’s box. I know that you top shooters have adjustable combs, and that’s great, but that’s not the average or even very good, factory rifle. That is on an $800+ Mcmillan or Manners stock and some others. I want to see somebody zoom in at 30X on a prairie dog or even a BARN DOOR at 800 yards between 11 am and 3 pm (in the lower 48 states) and actually be able to focus in on the target. Nightforce, Schmidt Bender, U.S. Optics, bring em all on! I defy it. I wanna see a photo! :).

    • Big Al 45 April 21, 2020, 1:12 pm

      No one said you “need” a $2000 scope, it was simply a reference point to make a point.
      Apparently, that point was not made. And I have “zoomed in” at 24 x on MANY a prairie poodle at 800 yards PLUS at the times you specify, I just don’t see your point.
      Is heat shimmer an issue? yes, depending on the time of year. In the early months, going snow blind is a bigger issue. In summer, the dogs often aren’t out then, too damn hot for them too. Early morn is best.
      There are many people shooting at great ranges on dogs out here in the west, there’s even a club of sorts for recording those long shots.
      I haven’t seen many bargain scopes in these groups, although I’m sure there are some, after all, most of us loaders and shooters of dogs are frugal.
      I’ve spent a LOT of money on scopes, to date NONE of the ‘bargain’ brands have been up to muster, not for this kind of shooting.

  • Ian Kenney April 20, 2020, 2:58 pm

    Robert,

    I understand your position and certainly sympathize so you may be pleased to know that I’m working on obtaining one of the new long range scopes from the Burris RT line that fall in the sub-$1000 category with some great features. I don’t have a timeline for when I can expect to have the scope but hopefully I’ll have the review ready by this summer. Thank you.

  • Big Al 45 April 20, 2020, 11:49 am

    Interesting comments here. And some are WAY of target, which is where you’ll be IF you are shooting small targets at long range with a cheap scope.
    Sure, I have inexpensive (cheap to some) scopes, but ONLY for shorter distance firearms and for convenience, as my old eyes just don’t work like they used to.
    I have tried the bargain scopes for long range prairie poodle bustin’, and at ranges past 600 yds, MOST do NOT fill the bill due to MAJOR issues with clarity and parallax.
    But my Burris scopes do, and without a good scope my HB 6mm cannot shoot to it’s full potential, especially at 800 plus yards.
    I own two, and they are excellent units, well worth the money.
    Ya wanna put a cheap scope on a highly accurate rifle that you’ve spent countless hours at the loading bench and range developing a long range load for????
    Go ahead, waste your hard earned money and ammo on THAT pursuit.
    A $2000 scope on a well made rifle is a bargain, a $400 scope on such a rifle is pound foolish.

  • Max April 20, 2020, 11:26 am

    I personally would save my money to buy American that’s the only way we get back to made in America again!

  • TT April 20, 2020, 9:10 am

    I checked eBay, the best price was $1629. There is some pretty lofty competition at that price. There should be no excuses in that price range. There are a number of NIghtforce models cheaper. I suggest a Sightron at just over $900. The Sightron is a great scope.

  • Edward Allen April 20, 2020, 7:24 am

    IF this scope is going to set me back at $1850, then it better be able to compete with scopes that are $1000. Now if you said it outperformed scopes that are $4000. I would be impressed.

    • Chief April 20, 2020, 9:21 am

      Come on, Dude… What he said was, ” this scope is hitting well above its pay grade and competing quite well with scopes costing $1,000 MORE”. M O R E…being the key word.

      Maybe you should reconsider making online comments in the future, man. It will likely save you from looking like a dumbass…AGAIN.

    • Driscoll A. Otto III April 20, 2020, 9:33 am

      I think you misread his comment. I read it as it was as good as a scope costing $1000 more that the Burris, or a scope costing $2850.00

  • Robert April 20, 2020, 7:13 am

    Dammmmm brother……..I know you get to T&E a lot of this equipment, or it is loaned or given for testing, but $2000 for a scope is just out of range!! Most of your loyal fans/readers don’t have $2000 for baby’s new shoes much less for something to put on top of our $500 rifles!!

    If you can convince them to take out 500% profit I think we would ALL be buyers, not just 1% of us. It just amazes me how people will moan and complain about the cost of American made products and turn around and go buy Chinese. Even with the Wuhan virus it WILL NOT STOP MOST PEOPLE FROM GOING TO THE LOWEST COST PROVIDER. Burris and others don’t have to be the lowest cost provider, but how about COMING INTO RANGE THAT MOST OF US CAN AFFORD?! PLEASE!!??

    Before people will do without they WILL gravitate to the lowest cost provider. Manufacturers …. PLEASE. Everyone wants to buy American, they just cannot afford prices like this, especially in light of losing jobs, insurance, etc. It’s just not doable for most people.

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