Many returning readers know that I often suggest a buy once, cry once approach to optics. After all, value priced scopes can leave a bit to be desired when comparing features and capabilities against their higher tier brethren. However, we live in an era where technology keeps advancing and manufacturing costs keep decreasing (as long as we ignore inflation) and that means that in today’s market there are plenty of value priced scopes that are feature rich and of good quality. The Vortex Optics Diamondback scopes fall into this category and this post will cover the Diamondback 3.5-10×50 variant specifically.
The Diamondback scopes are marketed by Vortex as a lot of scope for not a lot of money. In my book, that’s exactly what a value priced scope has to do. In the context of the 3.5-10×50 variant, we are talking around $320 MSRP or around $250 retail. For that price, we are looking at a one-piece aluminum construction scope that weighs in at 16.2 ounces. In the box, one will find removable lens covers, a lens cloth, a product manual, and a reticle manual. I’ll cover the other specifications of the scope as I proceed with the review.
Before diving in, I want to mention that I found the Diamondback 3.5-10×50 scope to be an interesting offering. It’s magnification range of 3.5x to 10x is very close to the popular 3-9x range that is often suggested and recommended for general hunting applications and is often what new hunters start with. However, most often those 3-9x general purpose scopes use a 40mm or 42mm objective lens whereas this Diamondback scope includes a 50mm objective lens. On one hand, a larger objective lens allows for more light gathering which results in a better target image in low light conditions such as just after dawn and right before dusk. On the other hand, a larger objective lens means using a taller scope mount or rings to attach the scope to a rifle and may require the use of a cheek riser to get a good interface between the rifle user and the scope. One other drawback to a larger diameter objective lens is increased weight by a couple of ounces. It’s an interesting trade off, but one that is worth considering depending on the intended use of the rifle this scope is being considered for.
Let’s explore the scope from front to back. However, I’ve already mentioned the 50mm objective lens so let’s move on to the main tube. The main tube has a 1″ diameter. This is a very common tube size used by many scopes which translates into being compatible with a large selection of mounting hardware while also keeping the overall weight and manufacturing cost down. One drawback of 1″ tubes is that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for the erector assembly and can limit the elevation and windage adjustment range. Both the elevation and windage adjustment range on this scope is 65 MOA, which is on the lower end of adjustment ranges that I’ve found. While that range is still sufficient for most general purpose hunting and target shooting applications, it is one of the limitations that I found on this value priced scope.
Both the elevation (located on the top) and windage (located on the right side) turrets are capped. This is not surprising as capped turrets are commonly found in value priced scopes and scopes marketed for hunting applications. Both turrets offer adjustments in 1/4 MOA increments which is as fine grained as it gets and will allow the scope to be sighted in precisely. Each 1/4 MOA adjustment is accompanied by a tactile and audible click. Personally, I found the turrets to feel like they had a little wiggle or play between adjustments. While this feeling does give me the impression of “costs were saved here”, the tracking is solid and the scope has held zero very well. It’s a good thing they are capped too, since it doesn’t take much effort to apply an adjustment.
Both of the adjustment turrets include a feature that allows one to re-index the zero indicator. This can be done by removing the outer dial of the turret which includes graduation marks. Once removed the zero graduation mark on the dial can be re-aligned with the index line and re-attached. Performing this re-indexing after the scope has been “sighted in” can allow for easier return to the sight in zero should turret adjustments be made in the field. Even though this is a nice feature, I still feel like the turrets are functional, but are missing a high end feel.
Continuing towards the back we find the second focal plane reticle. This scope is available with two reticles. The Dead-Hold BDC reticle and the V-Plex reticle. Neither of these reticles are illuminated. The scope I acquired (with my own money) and I’m reviewing came with the Dead-Hold BDC reticle which I will review in a future post. The V-Plex reticle is reminiscent of a simple crosshair without any other hash marks or dots that can be used to help with holdovers or ranging estimations.
Next up we find the magnification adjustment ring which allows the magnification to be adjusted from 3.5x to 10x. The ring works well. The movement is smooth. The ring has great texture to it and a nice elevated index. Both of those features make it easy to adjust the magnification in less than perfect weather conditions or while wearing gloves.
At the very end of the scope we find the ocular lens surrounded by the focus adjustment ring. While Vortex mentions in the manual and marketing material that the focus adjustment ring uses a fast focus eyepiece feature designed to quickly adjust the focus on the reticle, I didn’t find it to be anything special. It works and it works well.
A few final specifications worth mentioning. First is that the parallax on this scope is fixed at 100 yards. Adjustable parallax features are more commonly found in higher end scopes designed for long distance applications. As such, not finding an adjustable parallax on this scope is not surprising. Next it’s worth mentioning that this scope is argon purged. Purging is important to remove moisture and oxygen from the scope internals in order to prevent fogging and corrosion. Argon purging is generally considered to be more effective at keeping oxygen and moisture out of a scope than nitrogen is. Given the price point on this scope I expected it to have been purged with nitrogen, so learning it is purged with argon is a nice thing.
With the scope covered from end to end, it’s time to talk about how the scope functions. Overall, I found it works very well especially given the price point. The image clarity is excellent and better than I expected in dim light conditions which I think can be attributed to the large 50mm objective lens as I’ve mentioned. The eye relief on this scope is generous. Vortex lists the eye relief for this scope to be 3.3″. While I didn’t measure the distance between my eye and the ocular lens, I found it to be very forgiving during the scope mounting process. The 35.8′ field of view at 100 yards while the magnification is set to 3.5x is good and works well for target acquisition. The field of view is reduced to 13.5′ at 100 yards when the magnification is turned up 10x which is still plenty for most general hunting and target shooting applications while making full use of the Dead-Hold BDC reticle features.
While this scope is not perfect and leaves a little something to be desired when compared to higher tier scopes, it is a very functional scope and quite a bargain for the price. The features and specifications on this scope meet or exceed competitor scopes in this price range. For example, I mentioned the total elevation and windage adjustment range of 65 MOA is on the lower end that I’ve found for scopes using a 1″ tube. While that’s true, comparable scopes have adjustment ranges under 60 MOA. Another example would be my surprise to find the Vortex scope was purged with argon instead of nitrogen.
With all of this said, I think this scope is a great option for just about anyone looking for a value priced and quality scope to mount on a varmint or deer rifle that includes a larger objective lens for increased light transmission.