Over the years, I’ve had a fair amount of experience with the Bushnell line of scopes. But, honestly, I was never super impressed. I always thought it was a good solid line of scopes, but they never really had any models that really dazzled me (until now, that is).
My introduction to the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD series came when I was squirrel hunting with a friend. He had recently purchased one of the Ultra HD models in the 4.5-15X44 configuration with the mil-dot reticles. During the hunt, he mentioned the new scope and how impressed he was with the glass and performance, especially given that he only paid about $250 for it. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t really smitten with Bushnell, but I figured I’d have a closer look at it as he continued to sing its praises.
On that particular day, I was hunting with a rifle that was glassed with a Weaver Grand Slam 4.5-14X40 with a standard reticle. Given that these scopes were very close in power, I thought they would make for a good impromptu side-by-side comparison after the hunt. I have to say that the glass on the Ultra HD actually looked more clear and bright than my Grand Slam, which was a $450 scope brand new. Well, I was so impressed with the glass and features at the $300 price point, I went out and purchased one (and later two more) for myself.
Here’s a quick review of that scope based on the more common features:
All the Bushnell Ultra HD scope models are built on a 1-inch tube, so they work fine with standard 1-inch rings. However, the larger 30mm tubes are becoming more and more popular in the U.S., and those certainly have their place.
However, while a 30mm tube technically lets more light into the scope, it also means more expensive rings, a heavier scope, and the possibility that you’ll have to look at higher rings (which moves the scope higher off the rifle bore).
My favorite model in the Ultra HD series is the 4.5-14X44, as my aging eyes simply prefer a scope with the option of having a higher power for longer shots or more precise shots. Although I typically prefer a power over 14 (I like the 20 power range), I can certainly make do with the top-end 14 power on this scope.
The 4.5 to 14 range offers the option to shoot one the lower 4.5 to 6 range for up-close work, while the option to move up to 14 is nice for longer shots. On the Mil-dot version of this scope series, the mil-dots are “true” at the 14 power mark, and so you will know that Bushnell has made the 14 power marker red, while all the other power markers are white. The “True” aspect of the 14 power is important if you plan to utilize the mil-dot reticles for longer-range shooting. This means that if you happen to use a sighting app on your phone (or prefer to do the range/bullet drop calculations by hand), you’ll need to shoot at the 14 power.
My buddy uses the Strelock app on his phone, and it’s pretty darn accurate at indicating which mil-dot to use as long as you know factors like distance, bullet caliber and weight, and muzzle velocity. Also, the power ring adjustments are very smooth and easy to adjust with one hand. Unfortunately, some brands make the power ring adjustment so tight it nearly takes two hands to move it.
The 4.5-14X44SF model is currently only available in 2 reticle options:
|Multi-X reticle (Bushnell part number 854144)
|Mil-Dot reticle (Bushnell part number 854144MD)
While I like and can shoot either of these reticles, I prefer the longer-range capabilities of the mil-dot reticle between the two. Don’t let the fancy “Multi-X” name fool you, as the Mult-X is just a basic duplex with crosshairs that step down to a finer point. Compared to some mil-dot reticles I’ve seen from other brands, I will say that the mil-dots on the Bushnell Ultra HD are smaller than most, which is a good thing, in my opinion.
One common complaint with mil-dot reticles is, sometimes, the larger-sized mil-dots are larger than the target at longer distances and basically completely cover the entire target. However, this scope rides on a 22 rifle that I use specifically for squirrel hunting, and the smaller-sized mil-dots are a perfect size for me as they don’t block out the squirrel’s body or head at longer distances.
Optical Quality (Glass)
Like all the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD series, the glass is multi-coated and features Bushnell’s patented Rainguard HD, making the scope glass waterproof and clear even when wet. Like I mentioned before, the glass on this scope is surprisingly clear and bright, all through the entire power range.
In many cases with sub-$300 glass, the scope is clear on the lower power ranges, but optical clarity begins to suffer as the magnification power increases. That is not the case with this model, as the glass was very clear and bright all the way up to the 14 power setting. Unfortunately, it’s always difficult to define and quantify the quality of rifle scope glass as there really isn’t a universal approach to evaluating the clarity and brightness of glass. So I’ve found the better way is to compare the glass from one scope brand or model up against glass from another model, specifically focusing on cost.
So to better put the glass quality in perspective, let’s compare on price. The going street price on this scope model seems to be in the $230 to $250 range. The glass on the Legend Ultra HD in 4.5-14, in my humble opinion, is as good as or better than the glass on my $450 Weaver Grand Slam in the same power range. Now that’s not a knock on Weaver as they make good glass, and I’m a big fan of the Grand Slam series, but it does provide a comparison point for the glass quality on the Legend Ultra HD. Now just to be clear, I haven’t had any experience with any of the other scope models in the Legend Ultra HD line, so I can’t comment on their glass quality. My experience and the focus on this review is the 4.5-14X44SF model.
Now, near as I can tell, almost all of the Legend Ultra HD scopes are equipped with a side focus adjustment versus a front focus (also called Adjustable Objective) where the parallax (also called focus) is adjusted on the objective. Now is your prior scope experience is with adjustable objective scopes, then using a side focus model will take some getting used to. The big advantage in side focus over objective focus is the fact that the shooter can adjust the focus with one hand without looking at the focus knob or taking their eyes off the target. You basically adjust the side focus knob until the target comes into focus.
Another thing I really like about this scope is the fact that the side focus (parallax) focuses all the way down to 20 yards. Many high-quality rifle scope brands (such as Nikon, Burris) only focus down to the 50-yard mark, and that can be an issue on a hunting scope. If you only shoot targets, it won’t really be an issue for you, but if you hunt, it’s a pain.
To me, there’s nothing worse than having a scope with a parallax that only focuses down to 50 yards and having a deer or coyote come in range under the magical 50-yard mark. In that scenario, since you can’t focus down any further, you have no choice but to take a shot with the target being blurry and out of focus. Call me a stickler, but that drives me crazy.
Fast Focus Eyepiece
This scope model comes with a fast-focus eyepiece which basically lets you easily adjust the focus to your individual preferences based on the scope position for you, and then lock that position down with the turn of the fast focus locking ring. On some older scope models, you use to have to undo a screw (or maybe even two screws), set the focus to your eye, and then tighten the screws down. The fast-focus eyepiece with locking ring is much quicker and easier.
Eye relief is a fancy term describing how close or far away your eye has to be positioned behind the scope to clearly see the entire field of view. Now sometimes, you’ll see scope brands who offer really nice glass but have very short and very critical eye relief, meaning that either you have to be right up on the scope to see a full field of view, or any slight shift of your head position causes the scope to go out of focus or show a black ring around the edges.
As much as I hate to say it, I’m very picky about eye relief as models with critical or short eye relief are a turn-off for me. A scope can have the greatest glass in the world but terrible eye relief, and I won’t mount it on a rifle cause that’s a deal-breaker for me. Bushnell lists the eye relief on this model as a very generous 3.6 inches. That might be a little bit of a stretch in my opinion, but the eye relief is very forgiving on this model and the field of view stays clear with slight shifts of the head.
So if it sounds like I’m gushing over this particular scope model, it’s because I am. IMHO, it’s a fantastic deal for the money and the glass quality in regards to price is off the charts. Down below, I’ve tried to find the best deals and prices on this scope model so here they are:
UPDATE – Although this scope was a tremendous value for the money, Bushnell opted to discontinue the entire Elite Ultra HD series of scopes at the end of 2017. Because of this, these scopes are extremely hard to find now. Any that I was able to find for sale are located below: