Bushnell Forge Rifle Scope – New Standard in $1000 Scopes

With tracking test standard, Tikka T3 and Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

Bushnell has been at the forefront of rifle scopes for many years now, largely after a successful move into the tactical market. Considering the name Bushnell had a decade in the past, that was no small feat. I laughed the first time it was suggested that my Counter Terrorism force try the then-new HDMR. But I wasn’t laughing at the end of the training day. Bushnell did the impossible, they transitioned from a cheap hunting scope to a world-class sniper option.

A complete package, everything you need but rings.

A lot of that transition was premised on durability, which cannot be overstated. The original Bushnell Tactical Elite line might give up some clarity against its German competitors, but it surpassed them in toughness. And for a military sniper, durability wins that coin toss every time. But it also had to do with Bushnell’s willingness to use a “Christmas Tree” style reticle, patented and licensed by Horus Vision at the time. Just last year, the critical patent finally expired. I have been waiting ever since to see who would be the first to exploit the gap in the market. January 1st, 2018, you could not find a single scope with a good “Christmas Tree” style reticle for less than $2000. January 1st, 2019, you can now have one for less than $1000. Bushnell has once again stepped up to the plate and cranked one out of the park.

New Deploy Mil reticle.

Bushnell has recently re-organized their optics line with the goal of having an in-class winner across the spectrum of buyers. As mentioned above, the highest grade is Elite Tactical, which we have reviewed at length earlier this year. New is the Forge line, a mid-priced category with high-end features. Bushnell bills it as the Expert grade and I would be hard-pressed to disagree. The 4.5-27 x 50mm model was in for testing this week and I found a value that is going to be hard to beat.

First, the reticle. As I mentioned, a holdover reticle is huge. That is the greatest change to rifle shooting I have seen in my lifetime. Once you learn how to use one, you will never want anything else. The way the “ Christmas Tree” works is very simple. You zero at the normal center crosshair. Using the subtensions etched below the center, you use precision holds for elevation and windage for everything else. Once you have a good zero, you never have to touch the dials again as long as you still have reticle to work with. The reticle extends to about 15 mils normally, meaning you can shoot from 100 yards to over 1000 with holds.

Accu-Tac 30mm rings, my favorite mounting option

Not only is this fast for engaging at multiple ranges, but it also cannot be beaten for follow up shots. Despite what you might think from Tom Berenger movies or Bob Lee Swagger mythos, snipers do miss on occasion. Shocking I know, but even for the best trained, wind plays hell with bullets. With the grid style reticle, your first shot might miss, but your second won’t. After learning to spot your own impacts, the grid gives you an instant correction if you miss in most environments. Faster than a spotter can open his mouth, you have an instant new firing solution that will hit.

Nice packaging; sure to get your scope to you safe and sound.

For the Forge, Bushnell built a new grid or Christmas Tree reticle called the Deploy Mil, in the front focal plane scopes at least. (This style of reticle would be silly in a second focal plane scope since your measurements would only be true at max power.) While the reticle lacks some of the refinement of a true Horus such as the H-59 or Tremor 3, it is completely adequate for most shooters. The main crosshair has mil and half mil markings, good enough for range estimation. Extending down the vertical stadia line, the Deploy has 15 mils of depth, once again marked at mil and half mil graduations. Off the side at every full mil line are dots, set at mil and half mil points. One to four mils have three mils of windage, extending out to a full ten mils of windage at fifteen of holdover.

Locking turrets windage and elevation, 1/10th mil adjustments.

Is it perfect? No. The H-59 reticle has markings every .2 mils, making measurement and corrections that much more precise. But the Deploy mil does carry some weight. The reticle is a bit more clean, considering the larger gaps between etchings. For most shooting situations, half mil is good enough for corrections. When I started running a bolt gun, we only had full mil markings. A few years later, half mil was considered cutting edge. Plenty of bad guys have been put in the ground with just mil or half mil scopes, so they are nothing to be taken lightly. And finally, as an entry level grid style reticle, this one is perfect. If you have been wanting to try a hold over scope, but not willing to plunk down the $2k + for an HDMR, this one is excellent. Let’s call it a gateway drug to professional grade scopes.

Well designed scope tool included standard.

Now that I have blabbered on about the reticle for most of my allotted space, we need to turn our attention to other nice to have features. Windage and elevation are both locking turrets and adjustable in 1/10th mil increments. That is basically unheard of at this price and critical for extended range shooting. A sloppy zero will hold together at medium range. Past 1000, best of luck. The 1/10th mil is as good as it gets in the current year, at any price range. The clarity is hard to judge without lab equipment, but by the naked eye, I can’t find any fault. The parallax adjustment and focus ring work fine, with plenty of range. A quick throw lever is built into the power ring, and is also detachable should you prefer to remove it. The Rev Limiter Zero stop is the same as used in the flagship Bushnell XRS.

Removable throw lever.

Most important, this scope tracks true. All the way to the top of its range, the Forge shot within the margin of error for the gun, bullet, and shooter. While that actually matters less in a hold over reticle, it is still nice to have. If you do push past the 15 mils built into the reticle, you can crank on another ten without concern.

Also available in FDE.

As a mid-priced scope, I don’t think I have seen one that compares. At an MSRP of $1139, and a real world price of under $950, you are going to be hard pressed to match it. If you have been waiting to try a holdover reticle, this is the one. The Bushnell Forge 4.5-27 is a fantastic value for the dollar.

Visit Bushnell for more information by clicking HERE.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • ike9 March 17, 2019, 11:30 pm

    This is the first note I have seen in the media on the Horus patent expiration. This will hopefully open the door to more manufactures using grid reticles in their products. Grid reticles add functionality to scopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, monoculars and rangefinders, including fixed magnification products.

    Would be better if the number graduations on the Bushnell Deploy reticle were moved to each left/right edge of the wind hold graduations.

    If one intends to ‘hold’ corrections another test (besides the tracking test) would be to place a tape, surveyors rod etc. at known range and calibrate the reticle, no shots required. Especially important to check SFP variable magnification optics and note the zoom ring index where the reticle reads correct values.

    Some have thought grid reticles looked too ‘busy’ on paper, gave them a try in the field and became believers. Why not get a scope with a lot more functionality for the same money?

  • Phantom30 January 21, 2019, 1:27 pm

    Well Bushnell consortium stopped production of the Millett LRS-1 which sells for less than half the price of this one, so this one might find a better market. What is the MOA or MIL capability?

    • Boz January 23, 2019, 12:16 pm

      Agreed. I have two LRS-1 scopes and they are great. I was trying to find a third about 9 months ago. All gone.

  • Wild Bill January 21, 2019, 1:07 pm

    What is with optics manufacturers? Does everything have to use these tree reticles? You know something simple like the Nightforce Mil-r or MOA-r for example work really well and don’t clutter.

  • wrangler5 January 21, 2019, 10:21 am

    Several years ago I went to an F Class match (600 yard, prone, scope, bipod-only for rest) and before things got going wandered down the line looking through the spotting scopes that were all focucsed on the 600 yard targets. Kowa and Vortex and Zeiss and Leitz scopes were well represented, but the one that I remember being most gorgeous to look through was a Bushnell.

    They’ve been ABLE to make top notch optics for a long time, they just weren’t known for it.

  • mtman2 January 21, 2019, 4:45 am

    Sounds like a winner- esp having seen Bushnell up thru 40+yrs + step up in innovation the last decade to compete with the “bigger” names with 1/3 to 1/2 of the out of bounds cost for normal folks.

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