Leica Magnus 1.5-10x42 –

A scope for all seasons...

Famous for their binocular range, Leica has enjoyed mixed success in the riflescope market since the launch of the ER range back in the 1990s, which is strange as I found them to be a solid, well presented hunting optic. However, although the new Magnus riflescope arrived in the same silver box as the ER, my first impressions were very different. This is a totally new scope and I started getting excited as I studied the Magnus’s new features.

For testing Don mounted the new Leica onto his well-used Weatherby Vanguard .223, a rifle of known accuracy.

Leica produces binos with exceptional quality and workmanship, the result of a 100-year background in glass technology, that provide outstanding lens clarity. It has taken some time for Leica to extend into the scope market, but with such an emphasis on quality from the company it will be aiming high, and I doubt it will settle for second best with this product.

Although most of Leica’s sport optics products are assembled in Portugal these days, the Magnus range is manufactured by a small team in Germany. This team prides itself on the number of tests and checks that each scope undergoes on its way through the manufacturing process.

From the moment you pull the Magnus from the packaging you notice some striking features. The first of these is how compact the scope is with an overall length of 317mm and weight of 620 grams, but with an extremely high zoom factor of 6.7.

This gives the appearance (at full power) of the target being 6.7 times closer/bigger than at the lowest magnification; great for close quarters hunting yet very useable at longer ranges.

A sturdy, relatively compact scope with a wide magnification range makes sense for the majority of New Zealand hunting conditions.

Settling on a 10x maximum is a smart move by Leica for this hunting scope. By staying under the super high magnification ranges, problems such as parallax are avoided and mirage issues are lessened. The second striking feature is the Magnus’ illumination dial. This is a simple, three-stage switch (off/night/day) that illuminates a single fine dot at the centre of the cross hair. The daylight setting also illuminates the five stadia bars (if you include the top of the bottom post) allowing for a good holdover reference from these fine lines.

Reticles can easily be reset to zero once the scope is sighted-in.

The reticle supplied also has a set of elevation Mil-type dots, so all up there are nine points of elevation reference spread along the fine vertical reticle line. The illumination control also has an automatic off switch that turns the lighting off after three minutes, or if the rifle is lowered below 60° – a useful feature that prevents you running the battery down unnecessarily. The illumination will reactivate itself if you reposition and/or elevate your rifle. The illumination is also fully adjustable with 60 incremental brightness settings allowing you to customise your viewing.

Metric reticle adjustments may test the skills of shooters used to the Imperial minute of angle system, but it didn’t take Don long to get it sorted.

For testing Don mounted the new Leica onto his well-used Weatherby Vanguard .223, a rifle of known accuracy.

The body of the scope is a typical European 30mm alloy tube that some manufacturers claim to be a brightness advantage, but I feel that it more than likely allows for a slightly better wall thickness, providing improved rigidity and structural strength. Light starts its journey through the optic via a 42mm diameter objective lens with a claimed 91% light transmission, and the front housing is threaded to allow a filter or sunshade to be fitted.

The elevation and windage turrets are in a metric configuration of 1 click per cm at 100 metres, zero resettable, and hidden by alloy caps with a ribbed rubber grip around the circumference. This rubber grip matches the one on the 1.5 – 10x magnification ring on the front of the ocular (rear) bell. The large bell housing terminates with a fast focus ring with plenty of dioptre compensation from –4 to +3. This bell is extremely nice to use, gives a full field and provides an exit pupil of 12.4 to 4.2mm depending on the magnification setting (exit pupil = the diameter of the column of light that leaves the eyepiece – the larger the exit pupil, the brighter the image – scopes are brighter when they’re on a lower power setting).

The Magnus is finished with a low sheen exterior surface, comes complete with snug-fitting lens caps, manual, cleaning cloth and a final inspection certificate. Four other reticle configurations are available, along with two other magnifications, 1-6.3x24 and 2.4-16x56.

I gave the scope’s moving parts a good workout and all seemed free from binding or large amounts of backlash in the mechanisms. The elevation and windage clicks did have a gritty feel to them, giving the impression that they might not be as positive as some other brands, although these usually improve with use as the components wear in. The important thing with these components is that they are accurate. Running the reticle around a grid set at 100 metres several times showed that there was very little error in the adjustment and a live fire test for elevation showed an average deviation of no more than 5mm (less than a bullet width) at 100 metres.

The ladder (elevation) test proved that the Leica’s adjustment system is very precise.

The magnification ring is possibly a little crowded by the illumination switch in front of it, and it took me a little fumbling around before I found a comfortable position for my fingers that allowed me to use it with ease. The magnification ring is very precise and there was no noticeable reticle shift as the power was wound up and down. The 1.5x was a first for me and I found it interesting that under this magnification I could see my rifle barrel clearly in the bottom of the field of view. Whether this is a distraction or an asset is something hunters can argue about among themselves!

>As one of the major features of the Magnus is the illuminated reticle, I tested this in various conditions from bright light to total darkness, and also under spotlight and torchlight. The daylight test with the brightest of the two factory settings was very good, with the stadia bars well lit, making it easy to line up hold over shots at longer ranges. I was pleased also, that the cental dot was not as overwhelming as those in some illuminated reticles I’ve seen.

Spot on! The illumination of the central red dot, shown here against a grid–style test sheet, is adjustable. It does not cover too much of the target area and works fine in daylight as well as dark.

The reticle illumination switch is located in a housing on top of the scope, just in front of the power ring.

The night or low light setting was outstanding. The Magnus provided a fine, precise aiming point that was clear, even with the target under torchlight. On lowering the rifle the system switched off but was instantly available when I threw the rifle back to my shoulder.

Optical quality was never really going to be in question with the Leica, and the Magnus showed true-to-life colours. A five-point resolution test proved exceptional clarity and lens continuity. The test involved a chart depicting a pair of lines in the centre, upper and lower quadrants. With the scope correctly focused there was no noticeable eyestrain despite extended use, and the generous exit pupil did not give me a cramped or claustrophobic viewing experience. The objective lens is set back approx. 15mm inside the front bell housing and is relatively glare-free. Although one was not supplied, as mentioned, the scope is also sunshade compatible.

After a quick sighting in session I soon had the metric elevation and windage sorted at the 100 metre zero. At that point I shot some elevation groups up and down a target with the expected results from the Magnus; precision, +/ – my own shooting errors.

TOP & ABOVE: High in the South Canterbury hill country, Don lines the Leica Magnus up on a wallaby.

With a good number of wallabies present at the moment I took the Magnus for a trip to a place we call The Grassy Knoll. It is not uncommon to find 20 wallabies feeding away on this clearing, which is surrounded by large tussock faces. This gave me a chance to use the reticle to its full potential with the illumination on and off. The Magnus provided an exceptionally clear image of each animal, and the wide magnification range allowed precise placement of shots at various ranges. The illumination in no way obscured the animal and I would have been confident to shoot out at much longer ranges even with the 10x maximum power.

Overall I think the Magnus is a great riflescope with many desirable features for New Zealand hunting and shooting conditions. The scope is strong and compact, has a great magnification range, and I can’t say enough about that illuminated dot reticle. I do have my reservations about the metric elevation and windage turrets which may take time to learn and may be an arguing point. Most of us here in this part of the world are used to MOA and yardage configurations in our scopes.

The Leica Magnus is a big step up from the former ER range and I think that Leica has hit the mark in the upper level scope market. If I had to give this scope marks out of ten for three factors; optical quality, component quality/manufacture and style/useability, my marks would be 8.5, 9 and 8.5 which is nipping at the heels of the Swarovski Z6.

Lacklands Ltd are the proud champions of the Leica brand in New Zealand and I thank them for the loan of the Magnus 1.5-10x42 for this review.


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