Scot’s Product Review: Burris Handgun Scope 2x20mm

This review is a bit overdue. Burris Optics was kind enough to let me borrow their Burris Handgun Scope 2x20mm to try on several projects, but somehow I kept writing about the projects and never got around to saying much about the scope. The short and sweet rating is I liked it well enough to buy it, but I should tell you more.

The first thing I like about the scope is the Burris Forever Warranty, which covers everything other than loss, theft, or deliberate damage. In other words, if I don’t smack it with a hammer after missing a shot, leave it in a train station, or get robbed, Burris will take care of the problem with no questions asked, no need to have registered it, and no need for a warranty card or receipt. Further, and this shocked me, it isn’t just for the original purchaser; it transfers to the next owner. I find this a pretty delightful warranty and wish some other things I’ve owned were covered this well. You do have to pay for the shipping back to Burris, but they cover the return to you. I did do some searches for complaints by customers, and everything I found indicates they live up to the promises.

This is a very compact scope, as one would expect of a 2x scope with a 20mm objective. It only weighs seven ounces and is just less than nine inches long. At the eyepiece, its largest diameter, it is only 1.4 inches wide and just a smidge larger than one inch at the objective. Compared to what we often see these days, this scope is diminutive.

Regardless of size, the scope passes more light through than the average human eye can use. Twilight factor– the amount of light that we get through a scope– is determined by dividing the objective by the magnification, and in this case we get a factor of 10. A young human eye can use up to seven or so, which diminishes as we grow older. This scope gives us more than any of us, save Superman, can use. It could actually be thought of as making the scene brighter than it really is, so we can see more looking through it than we can with our naked eye. Not bad, eh?

I tested the version with the matte black finish that goes for $219, but you can get it in silver for $229. I’m not sure why one would want it in silver, but you can have it that way if you want. What I would like to see would be a version in olive drab or camouflage.

Performance is not on a small scale. It has held up to all of three of the rifles I’ve tried it on– a Mauser in 7x57mm, a Mosin Nagant in7.62x54R, and a Garand in .30-06. It provides a crisp, bright view.

You probably noticed that this is a handgun scope, and you might be wondering why I hung it on rifles. The reason is eye relief. All three of these rifles benefit in mounting the scope further forward than scopes are typically mounted, especially in my hands. The Mauser and Mosin Nagant are bolt rifles, and I am left-handed. A scope mounted over the receiver makes it hard for me to reach over and run the bolt. It also precludes the use of stripper clips for rapid loading. The Garand is a semi-auto, and while it doesn’t need to have the bolt run, it won’t work, other than as a single shot, without its enbloc clips, which must be inserted from directly above the receiver. Mounting the scope forward of the receiver avoids all of the issues I have with scoping these three rifles.

The forward mounted scope, while used on German Army Mauser 98’s in WW II, didn’t get much notice in this country until Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper, a Marine and the founder of the Gunsite Training Center in Arizona, started writing about what he called the Scout rifle. I’ve written about this before, but the basic concept was a light, responsive rifle for general purpose work. It should use a cartridge of medium power; the Colonel suggested .308 Winchester, be about 6.6 pounds in weight with sights and sling, less than 39 inches long, and have a low powered, forward mounted optic.

To me, the forward mounted optic was the most important feature, because it allows the shooter to maintain peripheral vision and situational awareness. That said, there are drawbacks to the Scout mount. Most of us can’t use more than about 3 power magnification with a Scout scope and maintain peripheral vision. These days, most people want a lot more magnification, despite that fact that most of us aren’t steady enough to use more, unless we have a solid rest.

Another drawback is, if the light is directly behind us, there might be glare on the rear objective. I also find it harder to use at night or twilight, but it helps to close one eye and concentrate on looking through the scope. This does give up situational awareness under those conditions. I know others who do not have these problems, so it may just be personal. My wife has noted that many of my problems are, indeed, personal.

I have also had issues with semi-autos flinging combustion dirt onto the rear objective, if the scope is too close to the ejection port. Drawbacks aside, I really like the forward mounted scope, especially when there is enough eye relief available to move it far enough forward to avoid dirt getting on the rear objective with a semi-auto. That’s where the handgun scope comes in handy.

Scout scopes are usually intermediate eye relief, which gives us 7-8 inches of eye relief, and that puts the rear objective somewhere close to the ejection port on most rifles. A handgun scope will usually have more like 10 to 20 or even more inches of eye relief, which gives us more options about where to mount the thing, and options are good.

The disadvantage of handgun scopes is that handguns are usually used at shorter ranges than rifles, so their parallax is generally adjusted to 50 yards rather than the 100 yards rifle scopes are set to. Parallax is the difference between the focus of the reticle and the target. If the target and reticle are focused at different distances, parallax error can throw us off, if the eye is not aligned with the scope. Thankfully, this matters more when range decreases. A scope set for 100 yards used at 25 yards will give us more problems than a scope set at 50 yards used at 150 yards. I personally don’t think most of us should even think about taking shots beyond 250-300 yards on medium game, and parallax error probably won’t cause too many problems for that scenario. I am a huge fan of scopes with parallax adjustment, but I haven’t run into any long eye relief scopes that feature it.

This scope offers 80 inches of adjustment for elevation and windage at 100 yards, which should allow more than enough for a good zero, unless one is going for extreme long range shooting. If that’s the case, it probably isn’t the right scope to be using, so there you have that. It provides ½ inch of adjustment for each click, according to the specs, and that’s what I got when I zeroed it on each of the rifles I used it on. It also returned to zero when adjusted to other points on the target and then reset back to the zero, so the adjustments are reliable. You can reset the scale on the knobs to zero by prodding them with a small screwdriver. This is helpful in case you ever need to make an adjustment in the field and then wish to return to the original zero.

The reticle is the duplex style that has become pretty typical in scopes today. The cross hairs are thicker on the outside and thin on the center. This helps you quickly center the target for a fast shot up close, while allowing you to use the finer center cross hairs for more precision when there is time or when at distance. I personally thought the center portion of the reticle was slightly on the fine side, but it worked well on close in drills as well as on targets out to 100 yards.

I did wonder about having an illuminated dot in the center. I think that would enhance speed up close as well as improve it in low light or against dark targets. We have lots of pig hunting in my area, and they tend to be dark and black so reticles that don’t show up well on our hogs. An illuminated reticle would, of course, add to the price, but it might be a dandy option for Burris to add to the line.

The one thing I wish I could do is try it on a handgun, but I don’t have any with scope mounts. I should fix that one of these days. I used to scoff at scopes on handguns, but that was when I was younger and my eyes worked better. As the front sight gets blurrier, I am beginning to think that optical sights might be a good idea, even on handguns.

– SurvivalBlog’s Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie