It had been the better half of a decade since I’d experienced the kind of thick ground fog that greeted us in Frankfurt, Germany. A quiet whiteout hanging eerily all the way down to the freshly turned fields and lush, green winter groundcover obscured any view more distant than the shoulder of the road or a few car lengths ahead or behind as we whisked down the A5 at Autobahn speed.
Our destination was the small village of Laubach to see and experience a new product important to SCI Members and it didn’t take long to get out of the city. Fifteen minutes out of Frankfurt, the fog thins a little, giving way to a striking verdancy for December and I’m already seeing high houses and vineyards as a prelude of what’s to come.
SCI was part of a special international media entourage visiting Germany last December for a first look at the new line of Zeiss V8 riflescopes launched earlier this year. More than 23 media professionals from nine different countries participated. The agenda called for a few days in Laubach for scope orientation, extensive range time using the new V8 on Blaser R8 Professional rifles and a morning of driven game shooting to experience the benefits of the new optics. From there, the four Americans in the group made their way to the city of Wetzlar to tour Zeiss’ headquarters and see how modern precision manufacturing combines with Old World craftsmanship to create Zeiss optics.
While you may have seen and even handled the V8 scopes at Convention, ours was the first opportunity to actually use one under real-world circumstances and give SCI Members an early in-depth impression of a very different scope that seems immanently practical for the many and diverse types of hunting SCI Members do. And while I say this is a “different” kind of scope, there’s really nothing that’s so off-the-charts unusual that it gives me pause to question reliability or performance.
These scopes are still made as one-piece tubes—just larger; they still have conventional variable power—but more of it; they still have an industry-leading illuminated reticle—though this one has a new twist; they offer a proven turret-based bullet drop compensation system—but with more options and at the same time load customization; and they still offer the same Zeiss quality SCI Members have come to expect. Zeiss is so confident in the V8’s combination of technology, construction and performance that they even refer to it as the “best riflescope in the history of Zeiss”—indeed a confident if not lofty claim.
There are many significant features in the V8, but the most significant is its huge magnification range—an impressive power of eight—hence the scope’s V8 moniker. Models include 1-8x30mm, 1.8-14x50mm, 2.8-20x56mm and 4.8-35x60mm, which cover a really broad range considering the 1-8x30mm is equally suitable on a dangerous game gun as it is a plains game rifle and the 4.8-35x60mm is up to the longest reasonable shot that even a Coues deer or sheep hunter would take.
All are based on 36mm tubes, which sounds like they should be positively massive compared to the skinny one-inch tubes most of us grew up on. But instead of looking like you’re sporting the Hubble Telescope on top of your rifle, you hardly notice the greater diameter until you look through a V8 and a world of brightness is revealed.
“One-inch diameter scope tubes were the standard forever,” Joel Harris, Zeiss’ Head of Global Public Relations, tells me over lunch at the shooting range, “but now we’re seeing 30mm as the new standard and view 36mm as the next logical size. Two of the biggest reasons we went with 36mm are for light transmission and reticle adjustment.”
When asked why Zeiss went with a power of eight magnification, Harris explained that the first attempt to launch larger zoom factors was back in the 1920s when Zeiss introduced the 1-6x Zielmultar. “It wasn’t successful. The market wasn’t ready for such a product then,” he said, “and hunters have been satisfied with a power of four zoom systems for decades.”
That has changed. Today, everyday consumer products such as video and still cameras—even cell phone cameras—all have mega zoom systems making the high magnification factor more of an expectation than an exception. “Hunters strive for more versatile riflescopes,” says Harris, “and the Zeiss Victory V8 is our answer to those requests.”
Another interesting feature is the intelligent motion sensor that activates the illuminated reticle. When the rifle is held vertically (pointing up or down) or rotated on its side, the reticle illumination powers off, but the instant the rifle is moved, it powers up. And even if you choose to not use the illumination, the V8 has an extremely practical duplex-type second focal plane reticle with minimal subtention so it does not obscure the target even when cranked up to the higher powers.
It’s hard to think of scopes more versatile than the 1-8x30mm or 1.8-14x50mm V8s with lighted reticles. For example, you can mount either on a .375 H&H and with the reticle turned on and the power turned all the way down, be ready for dangerous game at bad breath distances. At the same time, those scopes zoomed up to max are more than enough to take well-aimed shots at plains game at the longest practical range for an accurate shot using a .375.
It takes many lenses to achieve that range of magnification and while all scopes lose a little light transmission with each glass-to-air interface, it’s the exceptional low light performance of these super-zoom scopes that surprises hunters. “This is the result of using SCHOTT HT glass and applying our proprietary and legendary T* multi coatings on every glass-to-air surface,” says Harris.
At the risk of over simplifying things, when light hits or leaves a lens, it wants to reflect or scatter all over the place. Coatings help the light “ease” through the glass instead, and generally the more coatings you have, the better the light passes through with less loss. “Multi coating” indicates that at least some lenses have more than one coating, and “fully multi coated” indicates that there are coatings on all glass-to-air interfaces like on the V8. Each manufacturer has its own special coating formula and application method, which is one big difference between optic brands and is why some scopes seem brighter than others. Zeiss’ coatings and method result in 92 percent light transmission on the V8, which Zeiss claims makes it the brightest in the super-zoom market.
Equally versatile are the 2.8–20x56mm and 4.8-35x60mm V8s. They’re capable of close shots in deep timber at low power or really airing out a flat-shooting bullet when cranked up—especially when combined with Zeiss’ ASV bullet drop compensation system. This system uses a series of rings matched to different ballistic profiles that let you simply range, dial and shoot for long-range hits. Simply match the ring to your load and install it on the top turret. With it, you’re not leaving any trajectory on the table or trying to make sense of a reticle that looks like a Sudoku puzzle. Just range your game, dial the distance and take your shot while compensating for any wind or angle. If you have a wildcat cartridge or some exotic handload that doesn’t fit one of the ballistic profiles, Zeiss provides a Kenton Custom Ballistic Turret with some models that are specifically engraved with your unique ballistic data.
Back in Laubach following the traditional calling of the hunters on the morning of our hunt, we were given extremely detailed instructions on what animals we could or could not take. Driven game hunts are an important part of the science-based wildlife management plan for the property we were on, and our job was to help not only immediately bring some animal populations into balance, but by taking some females, slow their future population growth.
Riding through the moist forest reminded me of those dewy Virginia mornings of my youth when you could hunt on your own two feet, gliding silently through the woods, stopping often to look for any sign of movement or to make eye contact with an equally surprised deer. Today, however, we’d be hunting from high houses strategically located for safety for both the hunters and the drivers and for maximum coverage.
Much of the forest seemed planted in straight rows and I had to laugh at how very “German” that seemed to me because of how orderly the culture is. More likely though, the organized arrangement was a result of forest management or perhaps centuries of harvesting and replanting trees.
The drive was officially set run from 9:00 to 1:00, but we were told to take any allowed game once we got to our stands regardless whether the drive had officially started or not. As a matter of safety, though, any shots after 1:00 were strictly verboten because there were people in the woods collecting game.
My driver dropped me off at my stand and made it clear to not leave it until he came to collect me no matter what time it was, and then drove away to drop off the next hunter in our party. The forest soon came alive as I settled in my stand and a lone sow loped toward me, coming from the direction of the next stand.
Lone sows without piglets were on this list of animals to shoot so I raised the Blaser to my shoulder, activating the illuminated reticle. It lit up brightly and stood out clearly through the overcast, but bright morning. I settled the red dot on the nose of the running pig just as I had practiced so much before the hunt, and strummed the trigger, sending a 165-grain RWS HIT bullet into the boiler room, dropping the pig in its tracks.
I wish I could say I shot so deftly on another lone boar later that morning as it streaked through the woods at a hard right-to-left angle with a dachshund at its heels, but I missed. We could shoot roe deer does but not roe bucks, and since some bucks had already started shedding their antlers, I didn’t even raise the rifle as a roe deer of undetermined sex rocketed by.
By the end of the hunt, the 25 hunters in our group had taken 67 animals. All were recovered and all were exactly the animals we were instructed to take, making this the single most successful driven game hunt in modern history on that estate and a fitting launch to Zeiss’ new V8.–Scott Mayer