Dropzone 22 scope rolls back the years

Thomas Tabor

Back in the early 1970s and even before that, many manufacturers carried a fairly complete line of riflescopes specifically dedicated and designed for the 22LR. At that time Weaver was one of those, offering a great little 4x model built on a ⅞” diameter main tube which carried a price of less than US$11, a 6x model for just $2 more and even a 3-9x version with a sticker price of about $15. And all of those even came equipped with a set of Weaver scope rings.

I still have one of those 4x scopes mounted on a Winchester Model 69A rifle and after a half a century of use it continues to work perfectly. Redfield also had a great little ¾” tube 22 scope they called the Sportster which was sized perfectly to match the smaller-framed 22 rifles and I still have one atop my Browning 22.

Browning was also in on the act with a superb little 4x⅞” model and my brother has one mounted on his Browning T-Bolt 22 rifle. Unfortunately all those scopes have long since disappeared from the market and along with them went much of the interest in rimfire manufacturing – that is until our love affair with rimfire shooting simply couldn’t be ignored any longer. Even as the cost of rimfire ammunition continues to soar, the 22LR remains the most popular cartridge ever developed and that popularity has led to a resurgence in this line of optics.

New 22 scopes from Bushnell

Today Bushnell has a great line of rimfire scopes to choose from including two brand new models. Both of these are 3-9x40mm built on a 1” main tube and come equipped with the company’s newest Dropzone 22 (DZ22) reticle. Unlike the scopes of decades ago which almost always came with a simple cross-hair reticle, the DZ22 is of a duplex design with finer cross-hairs at its centre.

In addition there are three trajectory compensating aiming points in the form of small dots in descending order below the cross-hair centre. When shooting at longer range this simple design gives the option of using these dots in lieu of the cross-hair to compensate for the trajectory drop of the bullet. Within these two models there’s a choice of an illuminated reticle or non-illuminated and for review I opted for the lower priced, non-illuminated model, believing sometimes simple is simply better.

While my DZ22 came with a set of clear plastic scope covers with the eyepiece containing a slight yellow tint, no scope rings were supplied. Being a fan of quick detachable mounts I chose to install the scope using a set of Leupold’s newest quick release-style rings ‑ the QRW2. With the scope mounted and bore-sighted I headed to my shooting range.

On the range

I began by shooting Federal Premium cartridges which came loaded with 40-grain match hollow-point bullets, ammo said to produce what many consider standard 22LR muzzle velocity of 1200fps. With the scope adjusted to impact perfectly dead centre at 50 yards I checked at 75 yards and, using only the cross-hairs for sighting, found the bullets were about 51mm (2”) low at that range but switching to the first dot they began printing dead centre of the target bull. Moving to 100 yards and using the second dot for sighting I found the bullets landing 25mm (1”) low at that range and switching to the third dot they printed 76mm (3”) high.

I also shot some of Federal’s hyper-velocity 22LR ammunition which came loaded with 38-grain copper-plated hollow-point bullets. The factory indicated these would produce a velocity of 1260fps at the muzzle, 1000fps at 100 yards and have a bullet drop of 142mm (5.6”) at that same 100yd distance. After switching to this ammo it became necessary to readjust the point of impact at 50 yards due to bullets landing 32mm (1¼”) high at 50 yards.

After readjusting then using the first dot at 75 yards for aiming, the bullets struck the centre of that target and at 100 yards using the second dot I was pleased to find those bullets also found the centre at that range. Obviously even at these relatively short ranges, velocity as well as bullet design and weight have a great bearing on the trajectory and, that being the case, no-one should assume all 22 ammunition is equal when it comes to using the DZ22’s trajectory compensating aiming points.

In order to achieve the highest degree of long-range accuracy, I suggest each shooter conduct their own testing in order to precisely determine how the DZ22 aiming points coincide with the chosen ammunition. In some cases you may have to accept your bullet impacting a little low or high at a given distance in order for it to strike more precisely at a different range. But even if your shot might be off dead centre by 5 or 10mm, a minor deviation like this would seldom have any consequences.

What about the DZ22 on a 17 HMR?

Based on the popularity of the 17 HMR, I thought some readers might be interested to know how the new DZ22 reticle scopes would work on that calibre, so I mounted the new Bushnell on one of my 17 HMR rifles and returned to the range. The process of removing then remounting the scope to the new rifle was easy with the Leupold QRW2 mounts already on the scope. By simply lifting the two locking levers on the rings, the scope was off the 22 and soon locked in place on the 17 HMR after which I re-zeroed the rifle on the 50-yard range.

In this case I chose to shoot Hornady 17 HMR ammo loaded with 17-grain V-Max bullets, those cartridges reportedly producing 2550fps velocity at the muzzle and 1901fps at 100 yards. With the HMR ammo tallying more than twice the velocity and a bullet weighing less than half that of the 22, I found a considerable difference in trajectory.

When zeroed for the centre of the target at 50 yards I found little trajectory drop out to 100 yards and even at 150 yards bullets were only down about 25mm (1”). When the first dot was used for aiming at that same 150yd target the impact point was a full 89mm (3½”) high. I suppose if a shooter was routinely using a 17 HMR for distances above 200 yards/metres there could be a slight advantage in using a DZ22 scope, though I don’t believe that’s the best use of either a 17 HMR or this scope.

A few specifics

  • Both DZ22 reticle scopes can be used with the Bushnell Ballistic App which you can download for free from Google Play or App Store.
  • A complete instruction manual didn’t come with this scope but can be downloaded at www.bushnell.com.
  • Both turret adjustments are protected from being accidentally changed by screw-on caps.
  • Once the reticle has been tweaked you can realign the adjustment scale rings to the zero point by using a jeweller’s screwdriver to loosen the Phillips-headed screws which secure the dial in place, then simply lift the adjustment scale ring up and turn it to the zero position before replacing the screws.

The way I see it

As the years start to accumulate almost everyone’s eyesight begins to wane and, that being the case, I sometimes found the small aiming dots in the DZ22 reticle a bit hard to see. That’s not to say there’s anything lacking in the quality of the reticle, it’s the quality of my eyes that’s lacking. Aside from that minor issue I found this design to be a simple and great way to compensate for a 22’s trajectory bullet drop.

Manufacturer: Bushnell
Model: Dropzone 22 (DZ22) non-illuminated
Magnification: 3-9x40mm
Reticle: DZ22
Reticle adjustment: (¼MOA or ¼” per click at 100 yards)
Weight: 411g (14.5oz)
Length: 309mm (12.2”)
Field of view: 13m/4.3m (39ft/12ft)
Eye relief: 92mm (3.6”)
Parallax: 50yds (non-adjustable set at factory)
Tube diameter: 1”
Colour: Matte black
Lens coatings: Multi-coated/ultra-wide band
Country of manufacture: China
Approximate RRP: Non-illuminated $206, illuminated $247


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