Tests & Reviews
The German-designed but American-made Minox ZA3 is powerful, rugged and affordable.
Half a century ago it was common to buy optics made entirely under one roof, but that’s rare in these days of specialization. Grinding lenses is very different than multi-coating lenses, and both are very different than making scope tubes or binocular bodies. So a common manufacturing strategy is to engineer optics in-house, then have the parts made to the company’s specifications in various factories. The parts are then shipped to an assembly plant, its location often depending not just on the price of labor but import duties and shipping costs.
Minox is making a big splash with American assembled, German-designed scopes featuring Schott Glass and generous eye relief. The ZA-3 series has a 3:1 ratio erector, while the ZA-5 is a 5:1 power range line. Tested is a ZA-5 example.
Minox has an interesting history, as the “Minox” was the spy camera invented back in 1936 by Walter Zapp. Minox still manufactures sub-miniature cameras. Minox was purchased by Leica, reportedly in 1996, and became an independent company again in 2001. My first experience was with a set of Minox binoculars during an informal optics comparison some years ago. The test set of Minox binoculars was and is outstandingly good. Now, Minox has launched a riflescope line, designed in Germany for the American market, meaning inclusion of one inch tubes. They are the ZA-3 and ZA-5 riflescopes, with 3x and 5x erector ratios respectively. Minox scopes feature Schott glass and are assembled in the United States, in Oregon. The scopes are all feature four inch plus so eye relief, argon purging, quick-focus ocular portions, and offer three basic reticle choices. They are a plex, the #4 German, and the BDC holdover reticle. I opted for the #4 German reticle in this ZA-5 test scope, a terrific hunting reticle as far as I'm concerned, and not as widely available as it should be. This is about a 14 oz. scope, lighter than most with 5X or greater power ranges.
When hunting, my bull's eye is at least eight inches and perhaps much more. Locating an animal is done with binoculars, my naked eyes, or perhaps a spotter, but not my riflescope.
This Minox ZA 5 has quick diopter focus, is argon purged, and shares the effortless to use extended rubber zoom ring common to the rest of the ZA 5 line. Low scope mounting that might be prohibited by oversize objective bells are not a problem with this optic, contingent on the specific rifle. On the high end, if you can hit what you are shooting at with open sights at just 50 yards, you get the same size image with this scope at 400 yards. On the low end, such as when hunting black bear from a tree deep in the timber, the 1.5 power setting is where this scope can stay, a field of view many scopes can never arrive at. Currently, this ZA 5 can be had for $480 or so street price. On a cloudy morning, forty-seven minutes before sunrise, the low-light performance at 6X was compared against several other scopes. This Minox not only did well, passing the dark green on dark green "make the shot test," it was noticeably brighter than the already excellent Minox ZA 5 2-10 x 40 at 6X.
The riflescope I tested featured Schott glass. Schott is well known as one of the premium suppliers of top-grade optical glass. Lenses are multicoated with up to 21 different layers of MINOX M coatings. Multicoating significantly improves brightness, color rendering, contrast and light transmission.
I like the European-style fast-focus eyepiece, which is cushioned with rubber to prevent "shooter's eyebrow."
As with the binoculars, Minox has decided not to do anything cute; in addition to a choice of models you have a choice of three reticles, and that’s about it. They are all of normal size, weight, and configuration, but there are two things about the line that sets it apart.
First, unless you’re already living in a refrigerator carton, they are affordable. The MSRPs are in the medium range, but the real-world prices put them down in low medium.
Second, the optics are sensational. I don’t mean good for the money, I mean sensational. My scope is clearly better than a comparable American scope of slightly higher price, and about equal to an imported scope that costs nearly three times as much.