• Bushnell Elite 6500 2.5-16x42mm Rifle Scope

    Unless you've been hiding under a rock the past six to eight years, you're probably aware that a new breed of rifle scopes has emerged that features a 6-power zoom lens. While for decades the standard zoom lenses used in rifle scopes has been either a 3-power or 4-power, this new breed allows manufacturers to offer variable power scopes with a much broader range of magnification.

    If you are unfamiliar with how the variable magnification function of a rifle scope works, it basically involves one stationary lens and one lens that moves closer to or further away from the stationary lens on a helical cam. This variance in distance between the two lenses is what accounts for the different magnifications levels. Where the 3-power (3-9x, 4-12x, 5-15x, etc) and 4-power (2.5-10x, 3-12x, 4-16x, 6-24x, etc) have been the standard, these new 6-power scopes have proven to be a hit with hunters due to their greater versatility.

    Bushnell Outdoors jumped into the 6-power zoom game back in 2008 with the launch of it's Elite 6500 series. However, Bushnell went a step beyond the competition in that they opted to use a 6.5-power zoom lens. As a result, instead of having to choose between a 2.5-10x and a 4-16x magnification Elite 4200 you can now purchase an Elite 6500 2.5-16x scope that gives you the best of both. And that's exactly what we are reviewing here today, the Bushnell Elite 6500 2.5-16x42mm with DOA 600 reticle (SKU# 652164B).

    While this line of scopes has been available since 2008, this is actually the first time I've had the opportunity to look through one outside of a retail environment, and more importantly - the first I've had the chance to shoot with one. I have been a fan of the Bushnell Elite series scopes since I purchased my first one back in the fall of 2001, an Elite 3200 3-9x40mm which I still have and it's still as clear and precise as the day I bought it. That's not to say that the Elite 6500 is going to get an automatic pass - it's going to have to prove itself just as all the others have if it hopes to find a permanent home atop one of my rifles.

    Like all Elite series scopes, the 6500 models host the best of Bushnell's features and options. The exterior lens surfaces (those exposed to air) are fully multi-coated to provide the highest contrast and least amount of eye strain, and they also receive Bushnell's patented RainGuard HD coating which causes any moisture the bead and roll off the lens. The interior lens surfaces (those sealed inside the scope) receive Bushnell's Ultra Wide-Band Coating to provide the brightest image and the truest color spectrum from the front lens all the way to the eyepiece in the rear. The interior of the scope is fully o-ring sealed and both nitrogen and argon purged to ensure it will remain 100% waterproof and fog-proof for years to come. Additional features include a 30mm main tube, 1/4 MOA finger-adjustable turret dials with tactile/resettable windage and elevation adjustments, 10 yards to Infinity side focus parallax adjustment, magnum recoil-proof construction, and Bushnell's Elite Bulletproof Warranty. Overall length is 13.5-inches with a mounting length of 5-inches, and the weight is listed as being 17.3-ounces. Eye relief is 3.9-inches and the exit pupil measures 16.8mm @ 2.5x and 2.6mm @ 16x respectively. MSRP is $1,186.00.

    Designed to be used with today's most popular centerfire rifle cartridges, the DOA 600 reticle is a ballistic-type reticle that is intended to be sighted in at 100 yards and provides aiming points at every 100 yard increment out to 600 yards. You can sight in at 100 yards at any magnification setting, but for the ballistic reticle to function properly the scope's magnification must be set to 16x. The reticle is made up of a standard duplex-style crosshair with longer heavy posts on the right, left and upper branches, four additional stadia lines, and then a short heavy post at the bottom which serves as the 600 yard aiming point. Each of the four horizontal stadia lines feature a 1/2 MOA dot where they intersect the vertical crosshair. Bushnell includes a short list of loads in the included DOA Reticle manual, but a more comprehensive list featuring hundreds can be found in the expanded manual on their website.

    The secondary and less obvious feature of the reticle is it's Rack Bracket. Each of the four horizontal stadia lines mentioned above is approximately 24-inches long at it's given range (200, 300, 400 and 500 yards respectively). There are also two vertical hash marks on each line that measure 17-inches between them. While those may sound like odd numbers, there's a reason for it. After extensive research the folks at Bushnell determined that 24-inches represents the average width of a mule deer's ears and that 17-inches is the average width of a whitetail deer's ears. Given proper time to judge an animal, a hunter can now get an estimate of rack width and possibly even tine length using the DOA 600 reticle.

    For testing purposes I mounted the Elite 6500 atop my Savage 93R17-GLV chambered in .17 HMR using Weaver #45 bases and Burris Signature Zee 30mm medium height rings.

    Optically I was immediately impressed with the Elite 6500. The brightness and clarity leaves nothing to be desired, and the contrast and sharpness of the image are superb as well. This quality extends clear out to the edge of the lens where often times the image quality will be degraded on lesser quality scopes. I can't say the Elite 6500 is by far the brightest scope I've looked through under low-light conditions, I can say that it offers more than enough brightness to make a clean, safe shot during any legal hunting light which is really all the brighter it needs to be.

    Mechanically the Bushnell Elite 6500 is overall very good, but I did find one or two things that could be improved upon. The turret adjustments are excellent with very positive, tactile detents so you can easily identify each and every click. However, the means to reset the turret dials after zeroing would benefit from a firmer detent (when pulling up on the dial) as on three separate occasions I managed to inadvertently pop it up into free movement mode while I was attempting to make windage/elevation changes. Definitely something you will have to keep tabs on when adjusting for different distances.

    The fast-focus eye piece operates as it should and without being overly stiff and ensures a crisp, clear view of the reticle. The magnification ring was similarly easy to manipulate with a very glove friendly design that provides plenty of grip. Likewise the side focus worked as it should - and if you know me you know I generally hate side-focus as most I've tried in the past consistently failed to hold a consistent setting and would need readjusted after most every shot. This isn't the case with the side-focus on the Bushnell Elite 6500 and it was a most pleasant surprise. Maybe, just maybe, the 6500 will be the beginning of the end of my hatred for all side-focus rifle scopes.

    One thing I did find that I really didn't like about this particular scope was the DOA 600 reticle. For all intensive purposes I really liked the design on paper as I'm a big fan of ballistic type reticles. However, once in the field I found the DOA 600 reticle to be flawed as the design actually draws your eye away from the true crosshair. This is because the main crosshair in the center of the scope is simply two wires with no dot, but the additional stadia lines for 200, 300, 400, etc. yardages also have a 1/2 MOA dot at their point of intersect. These dots - being so large and dominant in the reticle, naturally draw the eye to them. As a result I frequently found myself inadvertently centering the 200 yard dot on my target even though the scope was zeroed to use the 100 yard crosshair at the distance I was shooting. The dots are so prominent that they almost make the 100 yard crosshair disappear into the periphery. The solution I feel would be to 1) reduce the size of the existing dots to 1/4 MOA so they aren't as prominent, and 2) add a dot of the same size to the 100 yard crosshair. The other option would be to simply eliminate the dots all together and just have the crosshair and additional stadia lines.

    Fit, finish and build quality are all superb as I've come to expect from the Bushnell Elite series of optics. Over the past 12 years I've owned several 3200 and 4200 models, and I think it's safe to say that a few 6500's will likely find their way onto my rifles as well. The Bushnell Elite line of optics has always offered exceptional quality and value for the money, and that still holds true today as the 6500 series cost significantly less than all other comparable brands/models featuring a 6x zoom lens.

    Additional Photos:

    Contact Information
    Bushnell Outdoor Products
    9200 Cody
    Overland Park, KS

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. davemuzz's Avatar
      davemuzz -
      I took a quick read at your review. Nice review!! But, I'm short on time right now so I saved in in my shortcuts for a further read at a later time. Thanks for your time spent on the review!!

    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      You trying to tell my I'm long winded Dave? LOL
    1. davemuzz's Avatar
      davemuzz -
      No....It was 6:00am and i was trying to get out the door to bow hunt. Had some time....but not that much time!! Not hunting today so it's still on "my list."

      You ......long winded? Who would say such a thing???

    1. 223 4 me's Avatar
      223 4 me -
      Great review....I have a silly question, is it pretty much industry standard that the magnification needs to be at full power for the drop compinsater to be accurate?
    1. davemuzz's Avatar
      davemuzz -
      Nice review! Fair and balanced. I also did a quick google price search and found these scopes....for a mid level product....to be reasonably priced. (You know.....not $3,000!! I think the big one, a 4.5-30X 50mm was $850 plus shipping.
    1. foxx's Avatar
      foxx -
      Quote Originally Posted by 223 4 me View Post
      Great review....I have a silly question, is it pretty much industry standard that the magnification needs to be at full power for the drop compinsater to be accurate?
      I believe so, assuming it is a second focal plane scope. (reticle does not change size as magnification changes).

      First Focal Plane scopes have reticles that change as the magnification changes. (Its size, relative to the target image remains the same. Bigger image of target, bigger image of reticle)

      Both have their particular advantages, but for the sake of consistency, when using BDC-type reticles, 2nd plane types only work (for BDC purposes) when they are used at a designated level of magnification.

      That being said, one could design a BDC that is accurate at a different power setting, but what's the point in that? I think they all choose (maybe arbitrarily) to set them at whatever the scope's highest setting is for sake of uniformity and simplicity. Made sense once I thought about it.

      Of course, these BDC reticles are meant to serve as rough, approximate indicators of proper "hold-over" at various ranges. They cannot possibly be right for all calibers and loads. Might it work on your rifle? Maybe. Is it better than making a wild guess? Most probably. You'd have to test it to see what the different marks actually mean in terms of range. Also, one might find it works well on a .308 at 9X, but needs to be at 7.5 or 8X for a 45-70.
    1. davemuzz's Avatar
      davemuzz -
      What your talking about is the Second Focal Plane (SFP) which most hunting type scopes are, vs a First Focal Plane (FFP) which the reticle actually changes size as you change the zoom setting of the scope.

      Vortex has a good explanation of this at http://www.vortexoptics.com/video/fi...nd_focal_plane

    1. Axtell3's Avatar
      Axtell3 -
      NIkon has that all worked out with their spot on software. And so far for me it has been exactly that. Now with a build getting started I'm looking at this 6500...

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