As Mark van den Boogaart discovered, the Steiner Predator 4 riflescope is worth a look
For the sake of transparency I’m a fan of Steiner optics as having reviewed their binoculars, thermal optics and scopes, I reckon they offer serious European performance for your hard-earned cash. With Steiner you also have products which offer something a little different, sometimes proprietary features like lens coatings while at other times it’s just smart thinking like clip points for binoculars rather than the old buckle and loop connectors which so many makers still prefer.
Yet Steiner have their detractors. Some think the gear is too heavy and, to be honest, their strong military connection means it can at times have a services look and feel. More recently things have changed though, for instance the HX series binoculars look much like hunting glass while several of their newer scopes also look right at home on a hunting rifle.
The thing is I’d never owned any Steiner until recently, my first purchase being a pair of HX binoculars in 10x42mm. Great glass, competitively priced, optically superior to a lot of competitors and tough as nails, which is just as well as I can be hard on equipment. But it’s my most recent buy that’s the focus on this review – the Steiner Predator 4 riflescope in 2.5-10x42mm with E3 illuminated reticle. Based on the highly regarded Ranger platform, after being lucky enough to lay my hands on one of the first in the country, I bought it soon after.
While described as compact, the Predator 4 reflects the mix of typical European design with a large rear eye piece and easily accessible focus ring combined with a more Australian orientated 42mm front objective. With a magnification range of 2.5-10 power, you can wind it down for use among heavy cover as well as stretch it out for shooting across open terrain or longer distances in hill country.
Sticking with optics, the Predator 4 makes use of HD glass that’s undergone a Steiner process known as Predator Diamond Coating to generate superior light transmission, high contrast and high-definition imaging. For me, during initial testing the standout was field of view which really is quite impressive and allows you to quickly obtain a clean sight picture with excellent clarity levels when shouldering the rifle.
In fine-tuning the scope the Predator 4 makes use of traditional low-level and capped windage and elevation dials. While larger magnification scopes in the Predator 4 bracket are equipped with turret-style dials, I prefer a capped dial in hunting scopes, in fact one of the reasons I bought it was to replace a scope fitted with a ballistic turret system. The old scope was no slouch but the turret became a hindrance when hunting, often snagging when I carried the rifle over my shoulder.
As mentioned the Predator 4 makes use of an illuminated reticle, the pattern designated an E3 which makes use of a small cross-hair rather than a dot. Illumination is controlled via a dial on the left of the scope body and with 11 selectable brightness levels (5 day/6 night) you can adjust illumination intensity to suit changing light conditions. On the test bench the illuminated cross provided a fine aiming point while the wedge-shaped trajectory and windage lines seem to draw your attention to the centre.
The reticle also provides 100-yard gradients to 400 yards and crosswind indicators for 10 and 25 miles per hour wind at each gradient and to extract the most out of all that detail, Steiner has a ballistic calculator to align calibre and projectile with the reticle.
I needed the rifle sighted in so hit the range early one morning. Now I’m not one of those guys who can zero a rifle in five shots – it usually takes me a box of ammo before I’m happy. With the Predator 4 it took 14 shots to have the small illuminated central cross-hair zeroed to 100 yards, three shots later (17) I had the windage right and on firing two more produced my first acceptable 3-shot group. I moved down to the 200 increment and initially the shots continued to group well though a little low but with a slight adjustment I had the beginnings of an acceptable 200-yard, 3-shot group.
Both 300 and 400-yard shots were on metal gongs and asking the Range Officer to sight the fall, I took aim using the corresponding 300-yard increment and heard a resounding ring when I hit the plate. Moving out to 400 yards I dropped the point of aim to the last increment and again heard the ring of the plate and was even able to see the mark from a 150-grain Sako Hammerhead on the newly-painted gong. General consensus was a six-inch drop from point of aim with an acceptable amount of windage.
While not match perfect, on that first outing to the range the E3 reticle proved itself to be a good aiming system to help the hunter be on target and further refine their accuracy with practice. Speaking of which, after a few more shots, one or two slight adjustments and finally resetting the elevation and windage dials to zero, it was time to go hunting.
I have access to a small hunting block in the Brisbane Valley frequented by red deer, pigs, wild dogs and all sorts of other game. From experience, if you want deer the wind needs to be in your favour and you must start early so, leaving home at 3.30am, I was in position about 30 minutes before sunrise. Sadly the weather wasn’t in my favour and the day was punctuated by a series of violent though thankfully short-lived storms. While optically the Steiner Predator 4 was excellent in those less than perfect conditions, I was unable to find any game.
Despite this, by bringing together new design thinking, top-notch build quality, optimised HD glass, 2.5-10 zoom, huge field of view and the E3 reticle (all backed by a lifetime warranty) Steiner have really hit the mark with their Predator 4 hunting riflescope. When you add into the equation the competitive retail price across the whole Predator range, the Steiner Predator 4 is a superb option for Australian hunters.