January 08, 2010
Redfield Scopes: Welcome Back
By David E. Petzal
If your hams are weak, you have a scant supply of wits, and your eyes purge thick amber and plum tree gum, the title of this post will mean a great deal to you, because Redfield scopes were once at the top of the heap, and its decline and fall were a sorry thing to see. Redfield got into the scope business in 1959 by acquiring Kollmorgen Optical, and retained the three knurled rings on the ocular-lens housing that were the trademark of Kollmorgen’s Bear Cub scopes. To shooters of my generation, those three rings were as meaningful as the Cadillac logo.
From the get-go, the Redfield was a top-line scope. Redfield was also an important innovator. In 1962 it introduced the first-ever constantly-centered non-magnifying reticle. In 1966 came the Accu-Range rangefinder system (You think these things are new?) and the Marine Corps selected a special green-finish Redfield 3X-9X for use on its new M-40 sniper rifle. In 1968, Redfield introduced the Model 3200 target scope, which was the first high-magnification scope sight (16X, 20X, and 24X) with internal adjustments, which saved lots of weight and mechanical complications and allowed the scopes to be mounted low. This prompted me, and fools like me, to give up our wonderful Unertl scopes with external adjustments and return-to-battery springs.
But over the years the rot set in. As Redfield’s quality declined, Leupold’s quality rose, and by the late 1970s the number-one scope wore a gold ring instead of three knurled rings. The decline through the 80s and 90s was steady, and Redfield was owned in succession by Blount, ATK, and Meade, none of which could bring back the brand successfully.
By now Redfield was damaged goods. There were a lot of perfectly sound scopes out there, but there were also a lot of dogs. So when the torch passed to Leupold, people asked themselves “WTF?” Well, it just may be that Leuopld can bring its erstwhile competitor back from the dead.
The re-born Redfields are made in Oregon, which is part of the United States. There are four models: a 2X-7X, 3X-9X, 3X-9X x 50mm, and 4X-12X. They come with a choice of 4-Plex or Accu-Range reticles. All are plain-vanilla, no-frills scopes. And, oh yes, they start at $129 and go up to $219.
For the past several months I’ve used two 3X-9Xs, one with Accu-Range and one with 4-Plex. They are good, sound scopes with accurate adjustments and nice optics. I can find no fault with either of them. They are as good an economy-priced scope as I know of, and maybe a bit better. I think Leupold has been very smart about this; it’s the right scope at the right time.
I don’t think the new Redfields are in the pipeline just yet, but you can read their full story on the Redfield website. It’s good to have those three rings back.