August 30th, 2018

Zeiss Victory RF RangeFinder Binoculars Field Test

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangefinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton Reid

Field Test and Review by Colton Reid
For years my “go-to” optic for hunting mule deer has been a high-quality set of Swarovski porro prism binoculars. They offer a sharp image, good low light performance, and were about half the price of a comparable roof prism design. I also carry a small, handheld laser rangefinder in my pocket while hiking. This setup has been “good enough” for a long time despite the inconvenience of separate optics and having to scramble for the rangefinder every time I spotted a buck.

But as I get older this setup becomes less favorable and my reasons for upgrading to binoculars with rangefinding capability are outweighing my reasons against. Accordingly, I decided to test if rangefinder (RF) binoculars could really deliver an improvement over separate binoculars and LRF. Fortunately, AccurateShooter.com acquired a new Zeiss Victory 10×42 RF and let me field test it. This is a premium unit, with a premium price tag. The 10×42 Victory RF currently sells for $3399.99.

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangefinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton Reid

First impressions were good. The Victory RF employs an Abbe-Koenig roof prism with a comfortable-to-hold black body that has a padded soft-touch surface. The Victory RF is marginally heavier than my older porro prism binocs. The central focus wheel is large, easy to turn, and is positioned to allow index and middle fingers to simultaneously work the focus wheel and rangefinder.

Great Glass with Excellent Low-Light Performance
Diopter adjustment was a bit more complicated due to the built-in rangefinder display, but once set didn’t require further adjustment. When all knobs were adjusted, optical performance was excellent. Compared with my tried and true Swarovski Habicht 10×40 porro prism binoculars, the Zeiss Victory RF exhibited an equally sharp image that was also brighter in the fading daylight. Additionally, the Victory RF had a narrower depth of field than the old Swaro porro. This produced a noticeable “3D” effect that helped the target pop out of its surroundings. The optics alone make the Victory RF an excellent product, but the Victory RF’s built-in rangefinder made these binoculars truly exceptional.

Testing the Victory RF Laser Rangefinder Capability
Having rangefinder functionality inside quality optics was remarkably convenient. This allowed spotting and ranging targets without having to re-acquire an image using separate optics. It also ensured that the image for ranging was the same magnification and quality as the binoculars. Beyond just convenience, the Victory’s ranging capability was superb.

During one testing session at dusk, distances out to an astonishing 2600 yards could be repeatedly measured. To dispel my skepticism I verified all ranges with Google Earth (Google earth image + range image). Ranging game-sized objects beyond 800 yards required a stable surface (or tripod) to hold the red dot on target. However, the rangefinder had no problem ranging trees or large boulders at longer distances by hand. Measurement to measurement variation was within about 5 yards, which is likely due to movement from the user, especially at long distances.

In most outdoor environments I’ve hunted, ranging nearby vegetation or rocks gives enough accuracy in distance to obtain a satisfactory ballistic solution. In my experience, the vast majority of hunters are taking their shots inside 300 yards. At that distance or closer, hand-holding the Victory RF works well. For shots that exceed 300 yards, where bullet drop is a concern for hunters, the rangefinder is able to incorporate ballistics profiles from the Zeiss Hunting App running on a smart-phone, and deliver a precise ballistic solution visible IN the binoculars.

[Editor: Press a button and right in the glass you can see the calculated elevation correction in inches or cm, with clicks in MILS or MOA. A Long-Range Only video review confirmed how well this works: “The sync was almost immediate. Gives you custom drop right in your binoculars, with one push of a button.” The Zeiss RF also calculates true horizontal distance for angled shots.]

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangfinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton Reid

The Victory RF was able to range larger objects at 2000 yards and beyond with the unit placed on tripod or solid support. In the example above, the Victory RF was targeted on a specific object on a ridge over one mile away. The Victory RF’s 1928-yard read-out was confirmed with a Google Earth GPS trace.

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangefinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton Reid

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangfinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton ReidSmart RF Binoculars with Built-in Ballistics Solver
Customized ballistics data can be transferred to the Victory HF’s display via a Bluetooth connection with the Zeiss Hunting Application*.

The Zeiss Hunting App deserves its own full review. But I can say the interface is clean, minimal, and FREE. There is much to be desired from the notes section, but the Ballistics Calculator makes it one of the better hunting apps I’ve used. Because ballistics data can be transferred to the rangefinder display, the App is a “must-have” accessory for the Victory RF.

GET iOS Hunting App (iTunes) | GET Android Hunting App (Google)

KEY FEATURES: Ballistics Solver, GPS Tagging, Weather Forecast, Field Notes with Photos

Comments on Zeiss Victory RF
Despite the Victory RF’s excellent optics and impressive ranging performance, there is some room for improvement in this product. The red rangefinder display proved difficult to see against a tan/brown backdrop during bright daylight hours. Also I noted that, if you look away from the center of the field of view, the read-out seems to dim. At full LED brightness the red dot target was always visible but still showed a tendency to blend in with a tan backdrop. [Editor: The Zeiss RF does offer 11 brightness curves, and the manufacturer notes the unit features an automatic brightness control.]

Setting the dual eyepiece diopters was also a bit more complex than a single diopter system. The “trick” was to first focus the rangefinder display using the right diopter wheel. After that the central wheel and left diopter could be focused as needed. The accompanying neck strap and binocular case were well made and may work well for birding or nature hikes, but would not be preferred for hunting. When performing extreme physical activity, a shoulder harness or chest pack carrying case such the Badlands Bino X (shown below) is needed for support and fast extraction.

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangefinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton Reid

CONCLUSION — Superb Binoculars with Outstanding Rangefinding Capability
All together the Victory 10×42 RF is one of the finest binoculars I have had the pleasure of using. The crisp image coupled with a reliable long-distance rangefinder gave me the confidence to spot and stalk game over a mile away. As a hunter who spends 70% of his time behind optics I am convinced that with the Victory RF my ability to observe and plan in the field has dramatically improved. And with a little bit of care, these binoculars will be a reliable field favorite for years to come.

Zeiss Victory 2018 RF rangfinder range-finding binos binocs bincoculars field review Colton ReidZeiss Victory RF Binoculars Features:

– Laser Ranging capability from 16 to 2,500 yards
– On-board B.I.S. II ballistic calculator with integrated sensors
– Custom ballistics input via smartphone or tablet
– Bluetooth connectivity
– Holds custom ballistic profiles
– Measures angle, temperature, and air pressure
– Calculates equivalent horizontal distance
– Displays holdover in inches/cm, MOA, MIL and clicks
– Features Scan and Target modes
– Automatic LED brightness adjustment (11 brightness curves)
– User-Programmable ontrol buttons and display
– One-touch ranging (right or left hand)
– Syncs personal settings and ballistic profiles to and from the RF
– Large focusing wheel for minimal rotation
– FL glass, ZEISS T and LotuTec® coatings

About the Author, Colton Reid, Ph.D.
Colton Reid is a hunter and outdoorsman, who is also an optics expert. A Ph.D. engineer in the high-tech industry, Colton works with high-resolution electro-optical measuring devices for microchips. Raised in Colorado, Colton’s favorite activity is a backcountry hunting adventure. AccurateShooter.com is fortunate to have Colton review optics products.

* The Zeiss Hunting App integrates many useful features — ballistics solver, compass, GPS tagging, hunt history. The “Field Notes” function can record a wide variety of info — save photos, record shots and hits, log animal sightings, and even plot game locations on a map. Shots can be tagged via GPS through the shooter’s and the target’s position, and then displayed on a map. The Field Notes hunt diary shows all entries in chronological order.

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August 30th, 2018

Tuning Tips — Pressure, Powder Fouling, and Temperature

Pressure Temperature Fouling Tech Tips Tommy Todd Sierra Bullets

by Tommy Todd, Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician for Sierra Bullets Blog
I have shot several disciplines of shooting competitions over the years and have learned a few things regarding ammunition and bullet function during this time. Frequently the matches I shoot require 40 to 100 shots before a person gets a chance to clean his rifle. Just as frequently, a good shooting match rifle will still shoot very good scores and groups with that many rounds fired through them. However, those guns do not deliver the same accuracy as when they were clean, but the drop-off in accuracy is not a huge change unless a set of accumulative issues arise.

In one situation, very dirty powder created more serious problems…

Pressure Issues — Extraction Problems Caused by Bad Fouling

Problem: Pressures Increased as Powder Fouled Barrel and Carbon Ring Formed
Solution: Clean Barrel Every Ten Rounds.

I witnessed a set of problems that occurred with a fellow competitor’s rifle at a recent F-Class match. He was using a large case capacity cartridge for the bore diameter and he was shooting a powder that was burning extremely dirty. As the match progressed, the carbon buildup caused most likely a carbon ring in the throat of the rifle and pressures kept increasing to the point that the cases were hard to extract, bolt lift was excessive, and eventually he quit shooting the rifle due to these issues. Accuracy also suffered as could be evidenced by the gun’s performance on target. This load looked fine when he was developing it, none of the excessive pressure signs appeared when he worked the load up, but he was cleaning the gun every ten shots.

When he was shooting multiple, 20-shot strings during the match is when the issues appeared. He was able to give the gun a thorough cleaning and the issues went away, for several rounds and then the pressures started appearing again. These pressure signs were not due to ambient temperatures as it was a cool spring morning and the temperature was in the low 40° range.

Accuracy Issues — Tune Lost with Higher Ambient Temps

Problem: Accuracy Lost When Outside Temp Much Hotter than When Load Developed
Solution: Pull Bullets, Reload Ammo with Lighter Charge

A couple of years ago, I attended a match early in the shooting season and it was unusually hot for that time period. I heard a competitor worrying before the match about his gun “blowing up”. At first I was concerned, but after thinking about what he had said I realized that he meant his “accuracy” blowing up, meaning he knowingly had loaded his ammunition at the top end of an accuracy tune that he established via a ladder test. The next day I asked him how his scores were and he said the gun was not shooting very well initially, but he had found enough equipment from friends that were at the match and had pulled the bullets, reduced the powder charge by a few tenths of a grain and re-seated the bullets and his gun was now shooting normally. The temperature difference between his home range the weekend before when he established his load and the match conditions was about 30 degrees and that was enough to cause an accuracy change at 1000 yards.

Ammo cool storage

Bosch Insulated tool caseTo learn more about how ambient temperature (and primer choice) affect pressures (and hence velocities) you should read the article Pressure Factors: How Temperature, Powder, and Primer Affect Pressure by Denton Bramwell. In that article, the author uses a pressure trace instrument to analyze how temperature affects ammo performance. Bramwell’s tests yielded some fascinating results.

For example, barrel temperature was a key factor: “Both barrel temperature and powder temperature are important variables, and they are not the same variable. If you fail to take barrel temperature into account while doing pressure testing, your test results will be very significantly affected. The effect of barrel temperature is around 204 PSI per F° for the Varget load. If you’re not controlling barrel temperature, you about as well might not bother controlling powder temperature, either. In the cases investigated, barrel temperature is a much stronger variable than powder temperature.”

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