Relatively recent advances in optical design and construction have significantly improved the variable-power scopes of today compared to those of 15 or 20 years ago. This, in turn, has spurred interest in these highly popular designs.
While there is a wide selection of non-magnified red-dot sights and fixed-power scopes to choose from, a good variable power design has certain advantages. With the magnification set at 1X, they can be utilized similarly to a non-magnified red-dot sight at close range on moving targets.
Increasing the magnification allows the rifleman to both identify and engage a distant target, something not possible with a non-magnified optic. Many times, the question isn’t if you should pick a variable, but rather which one you should select.
German Precision Optics
The handsome 1-8x24mm rifle scope seen here is one of the new breed of designs with a very wide magnification range. Most, though, will not recognize the brand, GPO or German Precision Optics. I first learned of this relatively new company this past January, when I was contacted by Michael Jensen, the CEO of GPO, USA.
From him I learned GPO, USA will be working in tandem with GPO, GmbH of Germany, led by Richard Schmidt. This is where things become interesting; Michael Jensen was previously the president of Zeiss Sports Optics, LLC, while Richard Schmidt was the CEO of global Zeiss Sports Optics GmbH of Germany. Both are very familiar with manufacturing and selling high-quality precision optics.
I knew Jensen during the five years he was at Zeiss, and before that he was with Swarovski. He’s a very business-savvy industry professional, so I knew Firearms News readers would be interested to know what he had planned for this new optics company. I arranged to meet him in Las Vegas to find out just what his plans are for GPO, USA and what he plans to offer in this very crowded market.
At our first meeting, my close friend and colleague Timothy Yan and I listened intently while Jensen filled us in on this German-based international optics company. GPO, USA was introduced to the American sportsman, hunter and shooter in January of 2017.
The company plans to offer a full spectrum of premium-quality binoculars and riflescopes. Jensen commented that what really sets GPO apart from the optics crowd is their knowledge and experience with research and development, quality control and a comprehensive understanding of the international supply chain.
They have a deep understanding of the U.S. market and what American riflemen and hunters demand out of a riflescope and binocular.
Does this mean GPO optics are manufactured entirely in Germany? Good question with a simple answer: no, they are not. Rather, GPO designs and specs an optic out specifically to meet the desires of the U.S. customer at a price many can afford.
The components are sourced globally to meet their strict specifications and, in this case of the 1-8x24mm 8Xi scope seen here, assembled in Japan. So, final production and assembly, using some German internal parts, of this model takes place in Japan. After assembly, the entire—meaning 100%—production run is Quality Control tested in Germany. Only after passing quality control in Germany are the optics shipped to the U.S. for distribution.
“We are not and will not be another ‘me too’ optics line. What we bring is experience and high-feature optics to a very demanding market,” Jensen stated as he told us about the initial offerings. GPO, USA will offer a range of 1 inch, 30mm and 34mm hunting and tactical riflescopes. The line-up will feature models with four-times, six-times and eight-times magnification increase, with standard and
The binocular line will include models with 25mm, 32mm, 42mm, 50mm and 56mm objectives in three price classes.
One thing many worry about is what happens if something goes wrong with my expensive optic? There is some peace of mind with a well-known brand with a history of good customer support. But what about a new face on the block?
Jensen answered this question by telling us about GPO’s “Spectacular Lifetime Warranty.” “If a riflescope or binocular is not functioning, GPO will repair or replace that product at no charge to the customer forever,” is how he described it. Yes, the warranty is transferable and GPO, USA will authorize a retailer to make the replacement on the spot.
Basically, the retailer takes care of the customer and GPO, USA takes care of the retailer. Currently, GPO, USA is setting up a broad retailer-based distribution network across the country.
What about the scope itself? Many rifle scopes today look cheap and most are unremarkable, while a distinct few have a certain flair and pedigree that turn heads. The scope before me fell into the latter category, and exuded both class and style.
From the large elevation turret to the execution of the markings and logo, it carried an aristocratic air about it. Revving from 1X all the way to 8X set it apart from lesser optics, which are commonly produced in the 1X-4X range of magnification, intended for the masses. Here was a scope designed for the serious rifleman who not only knows what he wants, but can afford to make his dream a reality.
I found GPO’s 8Xi to be a pretty beefy piece, built on a fat 34mm tube. At the front, you’ll find a compact 24mm objective, which helps to reduce the optic’s footprint and weight.
Handling it, you’ll note GPO’s 8Xi to be compact, considering its magnification range. It measures just 10.7 inches in length. While its short overall length is a definite plus, its biggest negative is its hefty weight.
In the hand, it feels “substantial,” which is a polite way of saying it weighs so much it will help dampen recoil. When I placed it on my digital scale, it flashed 27.1 ounces followed by “I can’t breathe.”
Keep in mind, a typical one-piece QD mount will add 7+ ounces, putting the total package at about 2 pounds. So, if your rifle weighs 8 pounds with sling, loaded magazine and accessories, GPO’s 8Xi will put it at about 10 pounds. This is something to consider for field use and one drawback of many scopes with 34mm tubes and
super-wide magnification ranges.
Other than the weight, though, there is not much else to complain about. The mechanism block has two very large uncapped adjustment turrets. These feature .1 mil adjustments and the clicks are distinct, audible and tactile. The multi-rotation elevation turret provides 10 mils of adjustment per full turret rotation, but does not feature a zero stop. Total adjustment range is 29.1 mils for both windage and elevation.
The turrets are large, easy to grasp and clearly marked. To prevent accidental turret rotation, you can push them straight down into a locked position. Pulling up slightly unlocks them. My only negative comment here is there is no way to keep track of full turret rotations, although for some, the lack of a zero stop will be a deal breaker.
On the left side of the mechanism block is the rheostat, which controls the intensity of the reticle illumination. This features GPO’s IControl system with its Continuous Illumination IControl fiber optic illumination.
This has a power-off setting and eight power markings on the turret. However, there are no clicks between settings. You simply dial in more or less intensity with coarse or fine adjustments, and if you want the illumination off, you must go all the way back to OFF.
Power is provided by a common 3 volt CR2032 Lithium button battery. To lengthen battery life, the system incorporates an auto-shutoff feature after three hours of inactivity. In use, I noted the battery cover to be easily removed and installed without the need for tools.
The reticle is in the front focal plane, which is what I think most riflemen will prefer. Placing the reticle in the front focal plane allows you to shoot across the entire magnification range while having the ability to use the BDC reticle at any setting. On a traditional 1-4X reticle, placement really isn’t that important in my opinion. I’m fine with a rear focal plane, as I will spend most of my time on 1X or 4X. However, a 1-8x is a different animal. That’s a wide magnification range and you might find yourself wanting to shoot at 5X or 6X while using the reticle for ballistic compensation.
On a scope with a magnification range of 1-8X, I think the front focal plane reticle is the way to go. The exception would be if you plan on spending all your time at either 1X or 8X.
Reticle design becomes extremely important on a front focal plane design of this type. You want to be able to shoot very fast at 1X while making precision shots at higher magnification. The design needs to offer a blend of speed and precision while remaining highly visible.
GPO currently offers just one reticle design in the 8Xi, which they call the Horseshoe Tactical. A little-known U.S. Army Special Forces vet named Ed Verdugo designed the first “horseshoe” style reticle, and the concept has since gone on to become extremely popular.
GPO’s take on it features an illuminated “horseshoe” with illuminated center dot. The center dot is 2.5 cm (.98″) in diameter. The non-illuminated portion of the reticle features mil and 1/2 mil marks for ballistic compensation on the lower vertical stadia and for windage/lead corrections on the horizontal stadia. The lower vertical stadia provide 10 mils of compensation. However, these are not numbered and there are no quick points of reference.
With the magnification set on 8X, the reticle is bold, easy to see and easy to use. Simple in nature, it’s designed to provide holdover marks for rapid engagement of targets at various distances without having to touch the elevation knob.
Dial the magnification down to 1X, and the horseshoe becomes little more than a dot and the mil marks fade from view. This is intended to allow the rifleman to illuminate the reticle and use it like a red-dot sight on 1X.
GPO is currently working on additional reticle offerings, and say they will be introducing them in the future. They are also working to improve the reticle’s intensity (brightness) to make it truly daylight visible. The electronics are being changed and GPO will be releasing an updated version shortly.
With a magnification range running from 1X all the way up to 8X, this model can handle the vast majority of practical field shooting situations you might run into. Need to shoot as fast as possible—like your life depended on it—at red-dot distances? Set it on 1X and go to work. Crank it to 3-5X and you have enough magnification and a wide field of view for practical field work.
Zoom it all the way to 8X, and you have sufficient magnification to identify and engage distant targets out to 1000 yards or beyond. Keep in mind, Army and Marine snipers made do with 3-9X or fixed 10X sniper scopes during the war in Vietnam and the Cold War. You can accomplish a lot with proper use of 8X.
Make no mistake, this added magnification can be a very real asset. The ability to power to 8X compared to maxing out at 4X or 6X can be a real advantage at longer distances. It’s difficult to hit something you cannot see. The smaller or harder to see the target, the more useful magnification can be, up to a point.
With a magnification range this wide, you can zoom to whatever magnification best fits your needs. You can adjust your magnification to provide a wide field of view, or large exit pupil in low light. Or, you can zoom all the way in for a closer look at something. The magnification ring itself rotates smoothly with a nominal amount of force required.
A fast-focus European-style diopter is standard. This adjusted smoothly and ensured the reticle was crisply in focus. Eye relief is 3.54 inches, which is neither too long nor too short in my book. Finish is an attractive satin black. Overall, the scope is a handsome piece which exudes quality.
Performance-wise, I found the color rendition to be spot-on, while image quality was excellent. Resolution was tested on a variety of surfaces at various distances to detect small detail. Here the GPO 8Xi performed well with a nice bright and flat image.
I checked optical performance in a variety of light conditions ranging from very bright daylight to after sundown. Performance proved very good in relation to the magnification and objective lens diameter, with a sweet spot around 4X. GPO’s 8Xi appears to be a true 1X, and optical performance on this magnification setting was very good.
Mechanically, the scope zeroed without issue and the adjustments proved accurate. A box test revealed no problems and I did not see a shift in point of impact from changing magnification. All controls operated smoothly like they should.
Is the 8Xi model perfect? No, this early production sample I received for testing does have two glaring issues, the reticle design and illumination intensity. I don’t have a problem so much with the design of the reticle as with its size.
Keep in mind, this is a front focal plane design. When the magnification is set on 8X, the reticle is easy to see and use. As you turn the magnification down, it shrinks in apparent size and becomes difficult to see, especially below 3.5X.
At 1X, where you want a bold, easy-to-pick-up aiming point for speed shooting, it has almost disappeared.
The desired solution is to crank the illumination up to make the reticle stand out like a red dot in a reflex sight. Unfortunately, the intensity of the illumination was not bright enough to facilitate this. While useful in most lighting situations, the intensity was not bright enough to see in bright daylight.
My two gripes against GPO’s 8Xi were acknowledged by Mike Jensen before he even shipped me the review scope. He agreed with my comments and GPO will be releasing this model with a much brighter illumination system and more practical reticle designs. Even with the known weak points of this early model, I thought it would be interesting for readers to have a first look at GPO, USA, learn about who they are and see what they are building. If this model intrigues you, it has a MSRP of $1,999.99. We’ll be keeping an eye on GPO, USA to see what they come up with next.