HomeGunsZeiss LRP S3 4-25x50mm and 6-36x56mm Riflescopes: Full Review

Zeiss LRP S3 4-25x50mm and 6-36x56mm Riflescopes: Full Review

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Any optics sage recognizes the Zeiss brand. Zeiss has been making optics for more than 175 years, and created the world’s first variable-­power riflescope. The amount of time Zeiss invests in making optics means infrastructure and know-­how that no one else has. When making optics, we all have learned that there is no substitute for experience and we all know that Germans are really good at it.

The LRP S3 riflescopes are new for 2022. These scopes were cooperatively designed by Zeiss and their partners in Japan, and engineered in Germany — but they are made in Japan. Guns & Ammo received samples in 4-­25x50mm and 6-­36x56mm. They’re unique because they represent the top-­tier cutting edge of optical performance, but priced in the middle of the competition. Of course, the $2,000-­ish price point is not for everyone, but the competition’s version cost as much as $3,000 (and in a few cases more). Do they stack up?

The LRP S3 features incredible elevation travel: 160 MOA/46.5 MRAD for 4-25X models or 110 MOA/32 MRAD for the 6-36X. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

That question was first on my mind. To compare, I selected two of my favorite scopes that best represented Zeiss’ competition: Nightforce’s 5-­25x56mm ATACR first focal plane (FFP), which retails for around $3,000; and Vortex’s Razor HD Gen III FFP in 6-­36x56mm, which sells for around $3,200. Each of these goes for about $1,000 more than the Zeiss LRP S3 the counter. We’re looking at these premium optics because Zeiss claims that its L3 is equally a premium scope. (I still didn’t think it would be a fair fight.)

I started the scope competition by zeroing each to the same rifle. Any time you read optics reviews that don’t state the scopes were either optically zeroed (the internal erector assembly points at the center of the objective lens) or zeroed on the same rifle — what I refer to as “field-optic zero” — the test is invalid. Comparing scopes that haven’t had the erector assemblies oriented to the same point on the objective lens means one scope could be pointing at the edge of the objective lens and another could be pointing at the center. Since the best image quality comes at the center of a lens, one scope could have a huge advantage versus another, yet there would be no external indicators of the injustice. Sadly, just about every optics review I see skips this important consideration.

Marks are precisely and more tightly spaced as magnification increases, unlike cheap scopes where marks may not be accurate. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Another concept to bear in mind is that this type of testing is anecdotal; there is no data to compare. I spent a few hours pitting these scopes head to head and took notes about what I saw in the conditions around me. I stand by my conclusions, but I also understand that different lighting on a different day could change the results.

Once the scopes were zeroed to the rifle, I set up looking into a tree line at more than 1,000 yards from my shooting position. In my field of view, I saw white steel targets, orange safety cones, and lots of shadow in the tree line. I kept each scope mount loose on the rifle so I could swap from one to the next without much disruption of my shooting position. I would look through the Zeiss scope and then swap to one of the others, which felt a lot like getting examined for corrective eye glasses. Back and forth I went between the scopes while checking for resolution in shadow, color, contrast, as well as for other attributes.

The first surprise I had was how close the Zeiss scopes were, optically, to the ATACR and the Razor HD Gen III models. Despite a significant difference in price, there was almost no difference in image quality. 

Zeiss LRP S3 riflescopes feature the brand’s Ballistic Stop, which provided an accurate and reliable return to zero. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The second surprise I had was that the Zeiss LRP S3 would sometimes edge out its competitors in the image quality evaluations. There were times when I gave the nod to Zeiss, and other times when I gave the nod to either Nightforce or Vortex. (I changed my mind at least a half-­dozen times.) The aspects that I assessed were resolution in shadow — the most demanding and useful category — vivid color representation, and resolution in daylight.

Resolution in shadow is an important quality because the things we want to shoot frequently hide in shadows. Targets hidden in shadow can be almost impossible to find, depending on the size and color of the target. A good scope has to be able to distinguish between different shades of black in order to provide detail of what’s hiding. Most scopes struggle with this test, so this is a fast way to separate the “exceptional” from everything else. These scopes were exceptional.

The windage turret is external locking, meaning the shooter can make quick wind corrections and lock them down. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Color can be personal preference, but I remember my days in sniper school when doing sniper-­on-­sniper stalks. Half of the time, the reason one sniper spotted another was because his opponent had the wrong color of vegetation as camouflage, for example “light green” when “dark green” should have been used. I like to see colors as vivid as possible, and the LRP S3 delivered.

The final criteria is resolution in daylight. That means nothing more than how sharp the image is in the field of view. A thousand yards is a long way, so all of the humidity and every particulate in the air can cloud an image. Again, Zeiss’ LRP S3 scopes would sometimes win, and sometimes lose when compared to Nightforce and Vortex.

(Photo by Mark Fingar)

Where the Zeiss lost ground to the ATACR and the Razor HD Gen III was in setting the zero stops in the elevation turrets. In the case of the 4-­25x50mm model, it was the ease with which to maintain a full field of view when looking through the scope. The 4-­25x50mm had a disadvantage when competing against the 5-­25x56mm because of the ATACR’s larger objective lens and larger exit pupil. However, the 4-­25x50mm required more effort to see a full field of view when behind the scope. It didn’t prevent the LRP S3 4-­25x50mm from becoming my favorite scope of the two S3s because it is compact and has 461/2 mils of travel. Still, I wanted to make a note of its slightly tighter eye-relief threshold.

Setting the zero stop in the elevation turrets on the LRP S3 scopes was a simple affair — if you read the owner’s manual. Like some of you, I often do things the hard way. I had a small problem when zeroing the scope because I couldn’t dial down enough elevation to zero at 100 yards. Shots were high, even with the turret bottomed out.

Both models of the LRP S3 feature Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass and multi-coated lenses. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

There are three T8 Torx screws holding the turret cap to the scope, so I loosened those and removed the cap. The zero stop also had three T8 screws, so I loosened those and rotated the stop to give me plenty of room to zero (so I thought). The problem was that the elevation turret remained bottomed out. I had to lift the ballistic stop away from the maintube and attach it about a third of the way up of the elevation turret before I could dial down elevation enough to zero. That freed up more travel for the turret cap and allowed me to zero without further issue.

Where the Zeiss scopes beat the ATACR and Razor HD Gen III was in the following: Its ability to focus down to 10 meters; a locking and uncapped windage turret; and reticle illumination. When using the top half of its magnification, the Zeiss reticle was visible in bright, direct sunlight.

With FFP optics, the reticle grows in size and detail as magnification increases. Elevation and wind holds are true at any power. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Comparing the two new Zeiss LRP S3 scopes to a Nightforce ATACR 5-­25x56mm and a Vortex Razor HD Gen III in 6-­36x56mm was a case of “David versus Goliath.” There are features in both the Nightforce and Vortex scopes that I prefer than on the LRP S3 models, but there were also features in the Zeiss scopes that I liked more than the other two. Shocking to me was that the image quality was everything Zeiss claimed. Personal preferences will influence every decision, but once I considered the prices, the Zeiss offerings became difficult to beat. Do not confuse the LRP S3 with other scopes in this same price range. These definitely belong in the top tier of the premium category. Premium just got a lot less expensive. 

Zeiss LRP S3 4-25x50mm

  • Power: 4X-­25X
  • Objective: 50mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Elevation Adjustment: .1 mil per click
  • Windage: .1 mil per click
  • Reticle: ZF-­MOAi, ZF-­MRi
  • Length: 13.4 in.
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 4.7 oz.
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in.
  • MSRP: $2,199
  • Importer: Zeiss, 800-­441-­3005, zeiss.com

Zeiss LRP S3 6-36x56mm

  • Power: 6X-­36X
  • Objective: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 34mm
  • Elevation Adjustment: .1 mil per click
  • Windage: .1 mil per click
  • Reticle: ZF-­MOAi, ZF-­MRi
  • Length: 15.1 in.
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 7.1 oz.
  • Eye Relief: 3.5 in.
  • MSRP: $2,499
  • Importer: Zeiss, 800-­441-­3005, zeiss.com

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