Scope Review: The Zeiss Conquest DL 2X-8X

I was recently asked if I could recommend a vintage scope with excellent optics and total weather resistance for a deer rifle whose owner either lusted after something funky and old fashioned, or had been hit very hard in the head. I said that if he was looking for a 50-year-old scope that had top-level glass and waterproofing by today’s standards, he was out of luck.

Scopes—and all glassware—have come so far in the last decade or so that there is no comparison with what went before. As a prime example, I give you the Conquest DL, the newest from Zeiss, which will cause you to suck in your breath and mutter “Ausgezeichnet!”

There are six Conquest DLs, but the one I’ve been peering through is the 2X-8X-42, which is just about the right power range for most big-game hunting. It’s a scope of modest dimensions, has a 30mm tube, but at 18.3 ounces, it is no lightweight. Since I’ve become a believer in illuminated reticles in my old age, I asked for one, and it’s worth the expense. The Conquest DL employs a German 4A reticle with an attractive red dot at the intersection of the crosshairs, which are, by the way, heavy enough to serve just fine even if the dot should crap out.

The optics are razor sharp, and the windage and elevation adjustments are, Gruss Gott, so sharp and distinct that you can use them easily when it’s 2 degrees above zero and your fingers have gloves on them but are frozen anyway. I’m speaking from experience. They are also very precise and very repeatable. That is, the adjustments are, not my fingers.

Zeiss, for whatever reason, chooses to put its reticle control and battery housing on the ocular-lens bell rather than the adjustment turret. It works perfectly fine, but its lines are inharmonious. If this bothers you deeply, take up drinking or run for what Senator John McCain calls “presidentunitedstates.” It’ll keep you occupied and you won’t have to think about it.

By any standard, the Conquest DL is about as good as scopes get these days. There’s no category in which it is not top-level. And, as you should expect, it is not cheap. The real-world cost is $1,349. Right now, the one on loan to me is mounted on a rifle that retails for $500, but will nonetheless shoot right along with most $5,000 rifles. Such is the state of the art. But I have yet to see a cheap- or medium-priced scope that will match up with something of the DL’s caliber. We ain’t there yet.