By Chad LaChance
Several years back I was on an armed hike, hoping to spot and stalk a whitetail doe. Sure enough, I spotted three of them bedded in a coulee mid-morning and I put on a stalk that landed me 230 yards away on a solid rest. I peered into my rifle scope only to find that I could not see said deer. For whatever reason, my scope had fogged internally, yielding only a brown blob, not a deer, in my sight picture. On the venison-less hike back to my Tundra, I surmised that it was time to upgrade not only my scope, but my whole big game rifle. It was time to do some research.
The rifle was easy. I’m a life-long Browning shooter and the newish X-Bolt series was garnering great reviews. I settled on a .300 Win Mag with a muzzle brake and then I set out to find a great scope. All my research pointed to German glass and that’s when I discovered Steiner Optics.
Steiner has been around since Steiner Optik was started in Germany in 1947. The company is most known for its military spec optics, famed for their extreme durability and reliability along with fantastically clear and bright German glass, now sold in 65 countries. With over 70 years in the business, the company produces tactical, military and hunting scopes along with a range of binoculars and even night vision products.
It was the hunting scopes that caught my eye, specifically the GS3 series and I bought a 3-15X version with a 56mm objective lens. Since X-Bolts are named for their scope mounting system, I settled on a Tally one piece base/ring combo to secure it to my rifle. I immediately fell in love with this combo, so much so that a year later when I needed another .30 caliber big game gun for my wife, I bought an X-Bolt .300 WSM for its shorter overall length and lighter weight and topped it with another Steiner GS3 in 3-15X, but with a 50mm objective mounted in the same rings/bases. This combo yielded another extremely shootable rifle.
Flashing forward a couple of years, several deer, including a truly huge mule deer buck, have learned the hard way about showing themselves. Spot and stalk hunting on public ground is usually my game, though I often employ classic old-school “jump shooting” of bucks bedded in tight coulees and breaks mid-day. Jump shooting deer in open country requires a scope allowing very easy target acquisition, edge to edge clarity and a simple, uncluttered reticle and lots of shooting practice on moving targets. This is why I choose scopes with 3X at the bottom end of the magnification range. After hunting three seasons and harvesting three bucks and six does at ranges from 25 to 500 yards, I can honestly say the GS3 delivers and then some.
Now I’m in the process of another rifle build, this time in the hot .26 Nosler cartridge, with the goal of building a 0-500 yard nearly idiot proof western deer rifle. I say idiot proof because the trajectory is so flat with the Doubletap ammo I shoot that it yields a maximum “point blank” range of 400 yards on a deer-sized target. Not having to deal with scope “dialing” or hold-over at that range is a real-world bonus where stuff happens fast. Given the great success I’ve had with my previous Steiner GS3’s, I once again opted for the 3-15X, 50mm model.
The GS3 is available in four models, each with a 5X zoom range; 2-10X50, 3-15X50, 3-15X56 and 4-20X50. The fantastic glass is imported from Germany and features what Steiner calls “color adjusted transmission” lens coating which enhances target separation, especially in low or varied light. I personally compared a bunch of scopes side-by-side to evaluate the glass and found the GS3 to be on par with or better than anything I looked through at any price. The edge-to-edge clarity is perfect and the reticle is etched into the glass. Speaking of reticles, I choose the Plex S1, which is simple and clean yet offers marks for holdover and cascading dots for windage. A simple 4A reticle is also offered. The tube is 30mm and features a short mounting length, perfect for shorter actions. It goes without saying that they are water and fog proof.
A very major selling point is that the GS3 has an extremely forgiving “eye box”; the generous eye relief combines with the great clarity such that target acquisition is more forgiving than with any other scope I’ve ever shot. Quickly mounting the rifle in a hunting situation yields a full, clear sight picture at any power, immediately.
Steiner is most known for its glass and reliability and on a visit to the Steiner factory in Colorado, I got a first-hand lesson as one of the engineers mounted a GS3 in vise and showed me the zeroed sight picture. He then took it out, smacked it like a framing hammer a couple of times on a hard rubber anvil while holding it by the objective end, reversed his grip and did the same thing while holding the ocular end and then remounted it in the vise to demonstrate that the zero stayed the same. While I cringed in horror at such treatment, the zero point didn’t change. Amazing! The bodies are milled from solid aluminum, while all other pieces are made in house and each scope is hand assembled and human tested right here in the good ol’ USA, using the aforementioned German glass of course. In three years of travel and hunting, I have yet to have a GS3 change point of impact or do anything else evil.
If you value extremely high-quality glass and coatings, combined with proven bomb-proof reliability in a simple and clean design, give the Steiner GS3 a try. I promise there will be some game animals that wish you hadn’t!