• Bushnell Prime 3-9x40mm Rifle Scope Review

    For nearly two decades now I have been a fan of Bushnell's Elite Series of rifle scopes. In the early days they were sold under the Bausch & Lomb brand in the 3000 and 4000 series, later replaced by the 3200 and 4200 series' under the Bushnell marquee. In the late 2000's both product lines were again upgraded resulting in the 3500 and 4500 series, and a new 6x zoom 6500 series was added as well.

    In 2018 Bushnell once again updated their premium lines of hunting scopes, but this time around they chose to abandon the familiar Elite branding and associated four-digit series numbers and replaced them with three new series names. The Prime series features a 3x zoom lens and replaces the old Elite 3500 series. The Nitro series features a 4x zoom lens and replaces the old Elite 4500 series. The Forge series features a 6x zoom lens and replaces the old Elite 6500 series.

    As the title of this article indicates, the rifle scope we will be focusing on today is the Prime 3-9x40mm with Multi-X SFP reticle (SKU#RP3940BS3). I requested this specific scope for a couple of reasons. First, the 3-9x magnification range is by far the most popular with hunters - as is a duplex-style reticle such as the Multi-X this one features. Secondly, the price of this scope falls into what I feel is the sweet spot for most budget conscious shoppers with an MSRP of $189.99.

    The new Prime series maintains many of the same features that made the old Elite 3000/3200/3500 series scopes extremely popular. All of the lenses in the optic are fully multi-coated for improved light transmission and image brightness. Additionally, an Ultra-Wide Band coating further enhances light transmission across all colors of visible light. The exterior lens surfaces exposed to the elements are then also coated with Bushnell's pattented EXO Barrier. This protective coating molecularly bonds to the lens to prevent scratches while also allowing it to repel water, oil, dust and debris. Basically it's the new and improved version of Rain Guard with some additional benefits.

    One big upgrade for the new Prime series is that it carries an IPX7 waterproof rating due to its improved o-ring construction. This new construction ensures the interals will stay nice and dry, even if submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The Prime scopes are also Nitrogen Purged for fog-proofing.

    Like the old Elite Series models, the new Prime still carries Bushnell's Ironclad Lifetime Warranty. This warranty covers the lifetime of the product against defects in materials and workmanship and that it will meet all represented performance standards for the lifetime of the product.

    Physically the new Prime 3-9x40 features a 1" main tube, weights in at 16.6 ounces, and measures 12.8 inches in overall length. Eye relief is listed as 3.3 inches, and the field of view at 100 yards is 31-feet and 11-feet at minimum and maximum magnifications. Each click is equal to 1/4 MOA @ 100 yards and Bushnell claims 60 minutes of total travel for both windage and elevation. One full revolution of the turret equates to 15 MOA of travel and the parallax is pre-set at 100 yards from the factory.

    With all the features and spec's out of the way, lets get down to some personal observations and opinions.

    Out of the box the new Prime scope is pretty much what you would expect to find for a scope of this magnification and price. It's a no-frills hunting optic with basic turrets, no parallax adjustment, and no illumination. The only nicety this particular scope affords the user is a fast-focus eyepiece which is pretty much standard fare these days.

    Under the turret caps are basic finger-adjustable turret dials that are very well market and easy to manipulate - even with gloves on. This is definitely an upgrade over the previous generation of dials that frankly are what kept me from buying more than one Elite X500 series scope. The dials can also be reset to zero by removing the retaining cap with a coin. While turrets of this type aren't intended to be regularly dialed up and down when shooting different distances, it is nice that you can reset them so you do have a proper zero reference.

    Like most low to mid priced Asian-made scopes, the grease used makes the magnification ring very stiff and difficult to turn - especially when the temp's drop to around freezing. The fast-focus bezel at the rear is nicely knurled and adjusts in and out with much less effort.

    Optically the new Prime is a little disappointing when compared to my old Elite 3200 3-9x40 and the recently reviewed Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40 that is a direct competitor to the Prime. Overall the Prime's glass is very good and offers up a bright, clear and sharp image, but it does exhibit some significant curvature once you get to the outer edge of the view. The curvature is consistent around the whole circumference, but is only apparent when the angle of light is just right and only accounts for one-eighth of the full field of view when it rears it's ugly head. Not a deal breaker as it doesn't affect the central 7/8ths of the view, but worth noting.

    In comparison, my old Elite 3200 (circa 2002) displays just the slightest hint of fuzziness around the outer edge of the field of view. Likewise, the VX-Freedom from Leupold also only exhibits the slightest bit of fuzziness around the outer edge of the FOV.

    In terms of the mechanicals and tracking the Prime didn't give me any surprises. As this is a "set it and forget it" type of arrangement designed for hunting I didn't bother doing an extensive tracking test, but I did adjust it up and down 2 MOA several times during my range sessions when transitioning back and forth between 100 and 200 yards with no issues and click value proved to be spot-on while sighting in on a grid target.

    Fit and finish on the new Prime is very good as I have come to expect from Bushnell's more premium lines. The finish is somewhat chalky in nature and seems to scuff rather easily, but it doesn't penetrate the finish and most scuffs are easily removed with a damp cloth.

    Overall I would have to say that the new Bushnell prime 3-9x40, like it's Elite series predecessors, is still a good option for the budget minded hunter looking for a quality no-frills rifle scope. As noted it's not perfect, but for the money it's in the hunt with the other premium brands. Most of the basic 3-9x40 rifle scopes in this price range will serve the average hunter just fine so don't let the small details dissuade you from one or the other as each will have it's pros and cons.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. celltech's Avatar
      celltech -
      Thanks for the review Jim. Would you pick the Prime or a Nikon Prostaff 3-9?
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      Can't really say, it's been years since I've looked through a ProStaff.