The Unusual Minox ZA 5 1.5-8 x 32 Riflescope

The unusual riflescope of 2011 was one of the most popular rifle scopes of the not too distant past. I'm referring to the “2-7 x32mm” variable power platform, once a standard of sorts, that has been soundly displaced by the now generic 3-9 x 40 platform.
One of my personally most hunted with scopes over years gone by is a model by the now defunct Colorado based Redfield Company, that now exists only as a brand name owned by Leupold. When I grew up, hunting with a Redfield was considered flying first class. It was the Redfield "Tracker" 2-7 x 32mm, an inexpensive friction adjustment model that was never cataloged by Redfield, but produced specifically for the chain store market.

Far from the brightest scope available back then, much less now, the 2X allows a wide field of view and resultant quick target acquisition. It allows me to shoot at moving game the way I normally shoot, keeping both eyes open. The diminutive Redfield looked good on many guns, where larger objective scopes appear garish by comparison. It has accounted for its fair share of big game animals over the years, including a long-range heart shot on a running bull moose taken while its power ring remained on "two."

In fact, I've rarely taken an animal with a scope cranked past 5X. More than a few people have questioned that, asking if I don't crank up the magnification when shooting at paper? The answer is, "Of course." Then, why not on big game animals? The answer is that when attempting to properly incapacitate paper, my bull's eye is about an inch. When hunting, my bull's eye is at least eight inches and perhaps much more. Locating an animal is done with binoculars, my naked eyes, or perhaps a spotter, but not my riflescope.

Many of the scope "issues" we like to obsess about become barely discernible at lower magnifications. Parallax, glare, field of view, eye relief, brightness all become less noticeable when the power ring is turned down. Parallax is not much of an issue until we get past 8X or so, and the lack of adjustable objectives on hunting scopes in the popular 3-9x area reflect that fact. Though few of us have measured our own eye pupils, the average adult eyeball can only dilate to a maximum of 7mm, and even that is in extreme low-light or nighttime conditions. As we age, our eyes loose their dilation ability. Though only your optician can tell you with exactitude, middle-aged eyes rarely can use more than 4.5 mm or so of exit pupil. The University of Houston College of Optometry research (William J. Donnelly III and Austin Roorda) showed that 4.3mm of pupil size is "the optimal pupil size for axial resolution."

Consider that a 7 x 42mm set of binoculars is considered both full size and of medium magnification; yet a 6mm exit pupil is all that is available. Exit pupil alone does not reveal all there is about image brightness, of course, as higher quality glass gives us an image that appears crisper and brighter even though the exit pupil of our scope is identical.

If I asked most shooters if they could hit something with their iron sights at 30 yards, they not only would answer "yes," they might take that as an insult. Yet, a 7X scope gives us that same apparent object distance at 210 yards, along with the very important advantage of a single sighting plane. That's why I happen to feel that many of us are really handicapping ourselves with scopes that are too powerful, offering us dimmer sight pictures and the correspondingly small fields of view. All of this is just to suggest that much more than 4mm of scope exit pupil is not of great benefit. When it comes to riflescope magnification, less can really mean more. The once very popular 2-7 x 32mm scope has fallen from favor, displaced by the 3-9 x 40mm as the nominal "standard," if there is such a thing anymore.

The 2-7 platform is too often considered a “slug gun” type scope only, even though 4X was the standard fixed power scope east of the Mississippi, with 6X the fixed scope magnification for “out West.” My favorite hunting scope from Leupold is the VX-3 2.5-8 x 36, with actual magnification of 2.6 – 7.8. It is about a $500 optic with the B & C reticle, not the brightest or clearest scope ever, but more than needed for most big game hunting. This VX-3 is an 11.4 oz. unit, 11.4 inches long. It's eye relief is inconsistent, ranging from 3.5 – 4.6 inches, perhaps the only real blemish on a fine hunting scope. This diminutive but excellent size is largely overlooked.

Enter the Minox ZA 5 1.5 x 8 x 32mm. Despite its high ratio erector assembly, it is still just over three-quarters of a pound and less than twelve inches long. The internal adjustment range is huge at 90 inches. Its field of view starts at 59.6 inches at 100 yards and it is available as a stock item with a German #4 reticle. It also has in excess of four inches of eye relief as well. A 4mm exit pupil is maintained cranked all the way up, and at 6X you have over 5.3mm of exit pupil, more than most sets of adult eyes can utilize. Low-light performance is assured by the #4 reticle along with the Minox “M-Coated” Schott glass and overall design of the scope. It is a sexy, lightweight scope that looks perfect on sexy, lightweight hunting rifles. In my case, it is topping off the approximately 5-1/2 pound Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter in 7mm-08. With the rifle slinged and the scope ringed, the whole rig is about 6-3/4 lbs., where many centerfire rifles begin sans scope.

This Minox ZA 5 has quick diopter focus, is argon purged, and shares the effortless to use extended rubber zoom ring common to the rest of the ZA 5 line. Low scope mounting that might be prohibited by oversize objective bells are not a problem with this optic, contingent on the specific rifle. On the high end, if you can hit what you are shooting at with open sights at just 50 yards, you get the same size image with this scope at 400 yards. On the low end, such as when hunting black bear from a tree deep in the timber, the 1.5 power setting is where this scope can stay, a field of view many scopes can never arrive at. Currently, this ZA 5 can be had for $480 or so street price. On a cloudy morning, forty-seven minutes before sunrise, the low-light performance at 6X was compared against several other scopes. This Minox not only did well, passing the dark green on dark green "make the shot test," it was noticeably brighter than the already excellent Minox ZA 5 2-10 x 40 at 6X.

This Minox ZA-5 is unusual and by that I mean unusually good. Minox is in a very good position with this hunting scope, as it has no peers I'm aware of in terms of practical versatility for the North American big game hunter.


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Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


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