In a cruel twist of fate, important scope features like multi-coated lenses now appear on low-tier as well as top-end optics. The cheaper scopes sell because, at a glance, the images look fine. What you can’t see is what hikes the price. Scope prices must also cover costs of factories, machinery, taxes, salaries, pensions, materials, utilities, insurance, shipping and mistakes. Even a “blem” customers wouldn’t find triggers rejection of that scope.

Zeiss Terra Reticle 1(B)

It’s a wonder Zeiss lists its new Terra 3X line at $389 to $500 (street prices are even lower). Zeiss would be foolish to risk its reputation on dime-store scopes, So Terra 3Xs are not. The 2-7x32mm, 3-9x42mm and 4-12x42mm boast bright, optically superb glass with MC (proprietary Zeiss) coatings that deliver brilliant, razor-sharp images. Nitrogen-purged to prevent fogging, Terra 3Xs are waterproofed to 400 millibars (5.8 p.s.i., or about 12 feet of depth in water). They function in temperatures from -13 to 122 degrees F. Rear-plane reticles and fast-focus eyepieces complement tubes that span long rifle actions. Crisp, repeatable, 1/4 MOA clicks bring you to zero.

How does Zeiss control costs? These are “three times” scopes (top magnification three times the bottom, not five- or six-times), with 1-inch tubes (not 30mm). Built to Zeiss specs, they don’t hail from Germany. While I can’t see a difference in ordinary light, Terra 3Xs lack the HD glass of the firm’s costlier scopes. You won’t get LotuTec lens coatings (to bead water) or a parallax correction dial. The warranty—limited, transferable, lifetime—is spartan by Zeiss standards.

A 14.8-ounce 3-9x42mm Terra 3X ($444) on a Howa .338 nudged point of impact obediently as I “shot around the square” to test windage and elevation dials. In 20-click moves, elevation shift averaged 5.1 inches, windage 5.1. My final Remington softpoint, after 80 clicks, struck within 1.1 inch of the starting group’s center. Neat, under-stated graphics on satin-black finish give this Terra 3X a classy look. More importantly, it’s a versatile, high-quality optic. The Terra 3X 3-9x42mm Zeiss is also a delightful way to save money! See it at your outdoor retailer, or contact Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, Dept. OT; Tel.: (800) 441-3005; Web: www.zeiss.com