I am lucky enough to have a job which gives me access to some excellent shooting equipment. For the last couple of months I have been using Steiner M5Xi scopes exclusively on a number of weapon systems. I have also had the opportunity to visit Steiner in Germany and gain an understanding of their manufacturing process.
Steiner have a proud history in the world of high quality optics. They have been producing rugged military grade Binoculars for over 65 years. There world renowned M22 Binoculars have been used by the U.S. military since 1991 and many of the originals are still in service now.
There is often a lot of gossip and opinion about the glass used by optics manufacturers. Do they buy it in? Is it from China? Ect ect.. Well I can confirm that Steiner make all their own glass. I saw it being made myself and witnesed the stringent quality testing. They grind and polish the raw material and then add coatings which greatly enhance light transmission. This was all done in Germany using highly skilled workers and high end tooling. The production is just the beginning. The quality testing is intense at a component level right through to rigourous testing of the completed product. I was left extremely impressed with the professionalism and passion that Steiner have for their optics.
The M5Xi rifle scopes are designed for military use but would suit anyone looking for high end rugged optics. They come in three different magnification ranges. I use two of them – the 3-15×50 and the 5-25×56. I will also be evaluating the 1-5×24 in the near future.
The 3-15×50 and the 5-25×56 have identical features and benefits, they differ only in magnification range and the size of the objective lens. The first thing you notice about the scopes is the beefy construction. Both have 34mm tubes which are rapidly becoming the standard in tactical optics. Some people suggest this allows better light transmission. This may be the case. It certainly allows for plenty of elevation and windage. Many scopes I have used with smaller tubes quote large elevation values but fail to reliably deliver. Often the outer limits of elevation become inconsistent. This is because the mechanical parts can begin to ground out on the curvature of the tube when approaching max and min values. I have had reliable and consistent click values through the entire range using the Steiners which is no doubt partly because of the generous 34mn tubes. I have confirmed click values on several occasions by shooting tall target and box tests with the Steiners.
The turrets are large and easy to manipulate. Elevation is at the top and windage on the right side. The elevation turns clockwise to come up and windage is clockwise to dial right. The clicks are very tactile and responsive. Both turrets have a mechanical zero stop which can be set in the usual manner (undo allen head screws and slip to zero before tightening again). I find the mechanical stop to be a must have option on work rifles as they can always be returned to the 100m zero with ease and then dialled to your chosen distance. The turrets are in 0.1Mil increments.
The elevation offers 26Mils and the windage 6Mils. I run the scopes on Sphur mounts and 30moa rails which gives me pretty much the full 26mil to play with. As you wind through the halfway point (13mils) the second lot of numbers rises and covers the first making it simple to tell exactly what you are dialled in at when firing..
On the left hand side of the scope you have both parallax adjustment and illumination. The larger inner bezel dials parallax which is a nice smooth adjustment. The numbers on the parallax bezel actually correlate to the range your at when dialled in. Once your parralax is set properly there is no reticle movement when your cheek position shifts which can’t be avoided in some of the larger calibers.
The illumination offers an off setting at the beginning and end of the scale as well as in between each setting. This is useful if you have a preference for brightness and need to find it rapidly. The illumination is just right and does not bleed or wash out onto the rest of the visible area. I have had to do the occasional evening/night shoot and in this sceanrio the illuminated reticle is a must.
At the rear you will find the standard reticle focus ring which is suitably stiff. You do not want that to move during transportation. In front of the focus is the magnification bezel which is also quite stiff but smooth. It has a good feel to it and can be turned with one hand without a problem. The scopes come with flip up covers which unlike many I have used previously actually stay closed when you want them to. This saved me the hassle of trying to decipher which covers I needed from Butler Creek..
Glass and Reticle
So I saved the best feature until last.. The glass on the Steiners is amazing. I have used S&B, Kahles, March, NF and Leupold and this is as good or better. In low light I would say the Steiner has the edge. I can keep shooting beyond the usual limit which is going to mean alot to the hunting and tactical users. Steiner quote 94% and above light transmission thanks to the coatings they apply.
I also found the scope suffered with less glare than I usually have when the sun is coming in from the front. The image is crystal clear and I could not imagine that it gets much better than this.
I have the 1st focal plane versions which means that the reticles are always correct at any magnification. It also means the reticle enlarges as you increase magnification. I have used some FFP optics where the reticle becomes very thick at high mag. Steiner have been careful to select a nice middle ground giving a useful clear reticle at all magnifications. The Mil reticle is pretty standard stuff with the usual 0.5Mrad hashes. The MSR reticle is a little more complex and offers milling marks on the right for ranging. The left bottom quarter has a fine reticle in 0.1Mrad increments which offer precision for fine tuning. I have used the ranging marks for quick estimates and it works well. The reticle is not cluttered and offers an excellent view of targets.
The scopes have been used in very wet conditions and I have not made any attempt to protect them from the elements. Steiner ensure they are fully waterproofed and nitrogen filled to prevent fogging. So far there has been no fogging or water ingress. They have been bumped about in drag bags during transit with no noticeable cosmetic or functional detriment.
Tall target and box tests have all been passed with flying colours. All in all I am superbly happy with the M5Xi optics and hope to continue using them for the rest of my time as a Pro shooter. As mentioned previously I have a number of other brands available to me but I really like the rugged simplicity and excellent function of the Steiners. The companies pedigree and attention to detail regarding quality inspection enable them to stand out in what is a highly competitive market place.
As with most high end scopes the M5Xi optics are not cheap. There is no such thing as cheap high quality. You might kid yourself that there is but ultimately you will be let down. Price is on par with S&B and NF. After watching the manufacturing and testing processes I can see why. Skilled staff spending many hours over each step in the build which ensures you have a product that will endure and perform for a lifetime of use.