Carl Zeiss Rifle Scope Reviews: Prepare for Scope Envy

Stay on this page if you’re wanting the most comprehensive review on some of the best rifle scopes for hunters in the world.

You won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for maximum brightness, exceptional glass, and unrivaled low light performance for your long range sniping or twilight hunting.

With a manifold of rifle scopes in the optics industry it can be more than difficult to filter out what’s going to work for you and what’s going to be a dud. One thing I can promise you with this Carl Zeiss rifle scope review, you won’t be disappointed with what I have to offer.

Who are Carl Zeiss?

Carl Zeiss. If you’re a gun enthusiast or optics geek, those two short words should mean something to you. You should also know that those two little words are self explanatory.

But, just in case you’re not aware of Zeiss optics, let me enlighten you. Zeiss optics has inserted themselves as the authority in the optotelescopic industry for well over 150 years.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another optics manufacturer that has a well-established track record producing numerous telescopic products such as binoculars, cameras, NASA imaging lenses, microchip lens technology, medical microscopes, surgical telescopic cameras, and of course, rifle scopes.

Since there’s almost no optics offshoot that Zeiss hasn’t been apart of, you can expect leading technology and state of the art quality when you buy Zeiss scopes. That’s a mighty large and heavy reputation that’s carried in just those two little words.

Carl Zeiss Rifle Scope Reviews

Whether you’re on a tight budget and you’re researching Zeiss’ entry level rifle scope line or you’ve got some serious dough to spend on Zeiss Victory scopes, you can always expect outstanding quality from this German manufacturer.

Their glass is unequaled and they are the champion in providing the most crystal clear images in any hunting situation. Even the dark can’t compete with their lens.

Are you ready for a lifetime commitment to the best of the best? Well, let’s hope you are because there’s typically never any intention to turn back once you’ve had a taste of Zeiss.

Zeiss Terra 3X 3-9X42 Review

zeiss-terra-3x-riflescope-with-hunting-turrets-plex-reticle-3-9-x-42mmFor less than $300, you’re getting Zeiss’ entry level, no-fuss Terra 3-9X42 rifle scope that’s arguably better than many other brands higher end scopes. And, that’s no exaggeration. Since it came out in 2013 it has kept a near perfect rating online.

At first I only wanted to feature the Zeiss Victory HT model that’s mentioned next in this article, but I couldn’t deny the high praises for Zeiss’ most affordable and popular rifle scope. It’s earned its own well-established standing in the hunting community and it scored enough points to make it into here.

If you’re curious about how this Terra rifle scope has gone this long and kept its outstanding reputation, look to the Q&A to get intimate with every curve this scope sports.

Terra 3-9X42 Rifle Scope Q&A:

Q. What does the 3X mean?

A. If you’re researching the rifle scope market, you’re probably going to get really confused with all the terminology of the optics world. While Zeiss uses the 3X in the name for the new Terra rifle scope series, the 3X is a pretty common term you’ll see here and there. It means 3 times zoom.

Each of the scopes in the Terra line will have at least three times the zoom power of its lowest setting. This specific model has the lowest power setting of 3X. Since this is a 3X series rifle scope, the highest zoom range is going to be 9X (lowest zoom multiplied by 3X).

The Conquest HD5 series rifle scopes have 5X power – but they’re a bit pricier than the popular Terras.

Q. What is the main strong point of the 3X Terra scope?

A. This is a fine, entry level rifle scope for the all-round hunter. No frills, just quality. The one recurring strong point of the X3 Terra scope that’s repeated over and over again by Zeiss fans is the glass quality.

While you can only expect so much performance out of glass at around $300, Zeiss doesn’t disappoint. The clarity, color resolution, brightness, and contrast is outstanding for its price range.

While it doesn’t have the LotuTec coating or HD optics, it does have MC anti-reflective coatings to ensure the sharpest image quality with true color resolution. For the price, this glass is almost too good to be true.

Q. What type of reticle does this scope have?

A. The Terra 3-9X42 is available with three different reticles. They’re marketed by Zeiss as 2nd IP reticles that just means the reticle is in the second or rear focal plane. The first reticle is the non-illuminated Reticle Z-Plex that has your usual duplex style cross hairs.

The following two are the hunting reticles for this model that supply a basic bullet drop compensator. The first is the Terra RZ6 which has four stadia lines along the elevation cross hair. The RZ6 reticle is designed for standard, non-magnum cartridges. The second is the Terra RZ8 which has more stadia lines since it’s designed for heavier and bigger magnum cartridges.

Q. Will the Zeiss scope hold up to recoil?

A. The 3X Terra is going to to hold up to as much shock as you can give it. That’s why there’s a variety of reticles available for you to appropriately choose which one is best for your hunting needs. The RZ6 reticle is going to hold up just fine on the commonly used .30-06, .308 Win, and .270 Win etc.

The RZ8 reticle is going to outlast all the hunting you can do with a .300 Win Mag, .270 Wby Mag, .270 WSM, .300 Ultra Mag, .338 Win Mag, or the .338 Ultra Mag etc.

Q. Why are the Zeiss 3X Terras so affordable?

A. If you’re wondering why Zeiss has an entry level line at all, you wouldn’t be the first to think that. With a preceding reputation in high end and high performing optics, they’ve extended their workmanship to include rifle scopes that can cater to the realistic budget of average, working hunters.

Manufacturing is outsourced to Asia to keep costs down without compromising on Zeiss quality. If you’re skeptical about quality control, don’t be. Zeiss can’t afford to have their name tarnished for “inferior” scopes, so they’re not going to skimp on glass.

Q. Why isn’t there a 3-9X40 model?

A. The new Terra 3X series all feature a slightly larger objective lens to give an increased edge to low light hunting. The other models in the 3X series are also the 2-7X32, and the 4-12X42. For even better low light hunting light transmission, the two 50 mm lens models in the 3X line is the 3-9X50 and the 4-12X50.

Q. Are the turrets re-settable to the original zero?

A. Unfortunately they’re not. While this feature is currently trending to be the norm for many rifle scopes today, the Terra doesn’t come marked with yardage numbers on the turret for easy marking of your original zero.

This can be a deal breaker for you. However, you could always see it as a chance to improve your own skills and distance estimating abilities…

Study the ballistics chart for your holdovers at various distances and practice, practice, practice. This system and math worked for many, many years before zero-reset turrets were ever a thing.

Are you going to hide behind a different rifle scope to try to disguise that you’re not as good as a hunter as you think? Or, are you going to suck it up and teach yourself some old school skills and put to shame whiners like yourself?

Carl Zeiss Terra 3X 3-9X42 Specs:

  • Magnification: 3-9X
  • Power Variability: Variable
  • Objective Diameter: 42 mm
  • Length/Weight/Tube Diameter: 12.4 inches/14.8 ounces/1 inch
  • Field of View: 35.9 – 12.3 feet/100 yards
  • Eye Relief/Exit Pupil: 90 mm/13.8 – 4.6 mm
  • Reticle: Reticle Z-Plex, Reticle RZ6, Reticle RZ8
  • Adjustment Info: 1/4 MOA/Click
  • Optics Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated
  • Finish: Black Matte
  • Waterproof/Shockproof: Yes/Yes
  • Parallax Setting: 109 yards
  • Airgun rated: No
  • Illuminated Reticle: No
  • Mounting Rings Included: No

Noteworthy Features:

  • 42 mm objective lens for added strength in low light conditions
  • MC anti-reflective coatings for ultimate clarity, sharpness, and true color resolution
  • Terra RZ6 and RZ8 hunting reticles for everything that you need BDC
  • 3X zoom with every Terra model for a versatile hunting experience in any terrain
  • Second Focal Plane reticle for subtensions relative to target acquisition
  • Available in ASV+ Elevation model for the ballistic turret technology
  • Backed by Zeiss’ Limited Lifetime warranty


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Zeiss Victory HT 3-12X56 Review

carl-zeiss-optical-victory-ht-3-12x56-20-plex-reticle-rifle-scope-with-asv-elevation-and-windage-turretThe Carl Zeiss Victory HT 3-12X56 is the largest rifle scope in the Victory HT flagship line for the German company. It’s also the brightest rifle scope they have to keep you out in the field long after the stars have greeted the night sky. This long range rifle scope is unmatched among its siblings and cousins of the Zeiss family. You can’t get better than this.

While it’s still yet to get more written reviews about it online, it’s seen an unbeatable 5 star rating on every forum that has had a dedicated hunter pitch his two cents. When you pay for the best, you get the best.

But, I hear you ask “why pick this model for review?”. I ask you back, “why not?”. When you’re reviewing the best optics brand in the world, why not review the best that they have to offer from their flagship line?

There was no question that this rifle scope was ever not going to be reviewed. In fact, it’s a shame that there aren’t more detailed and thorough Zeiss scope reviews on this particular model.

Granted, most people aren’t willing to spend around $2700 on a rifle scope. But, for those who have experienced the “you get what you pay for” principle or hunters who want to see if all the hype about a Zeiss scope is true, they end up testifying that every penny spent was more than worth it.

Most of us hunters know what it feels like to be sick and tired of calling it a day just when the deer have come out to play and they look more like black blobs on your scope. The background resembles a muddy mess while the reticle amazingly disappears just when you need it most.

The edges of your field of view gets blurry because the sun’s going down and your scope decides to too. Been there, done that. Say goodbye to those problems and never end your hunt because the sun or your scope made you. Welcome to the Q&A of the Victory HT.

Victory HT 3-12X56 Rifle Scope Q&A:

Q. What are the benefits of this scope’s 56 mm lens?

A. This Victory HT has the largest objective lens of the flagship line with just over a 62 objective bell diameter size. While this means it will not be as low profile as you’d expect from a 32 mm lens, this 56 mm lens is supported by a solid and robust 30 mm tube body.

While some hunters think 56 mm is overkill, this Victory HT rifle scope was made for exceptional low light performance when you still need to see fine detail and muscle contours for the first-shot only-shot kill zone.

The larger lens is going to allow more light in when the lights are out, and that’s when you’re going to see its strengths revealed. This scope is going to be the brightest scope you’ll ever look through at night – period.

Zeiss says this 56 mm scope has a whopping 95 percent light transmission which means you’ll be out filling your tag and filling your freezer while everyone else is turning on home.

Q. What is Schott HT glass and LotuTec?

A. This rifle scope has the exclusive Schott High-Transmission glass with the new and improved T coatings that gives the 56 mm lens their 95 percent light gathering abilities while keeping light loss to the bare minimum.

LotuTec is Zeiss’ special glass coating that works on the same principles as lotus leaves that repels and resists water, fingerprints, dust, and dirt. Nothing is going to stick or scratch these lens whether you’re in the swamp, among brush, or low in the sticks.

Q. What is the #60 reticle?

A. The Victory HT 3-12X56 mm has the #60 reticle which combines nanotechnology and fiber optics to create the perfect reticle for this scope. The thicker posts of the cross hairs cover only half of the area allowing for more precision without obscuring vital sight of the target.

The reticle is in the second or rear focal plane and subtensions change relative to the target. And, just to be clear, this reticle is not a ballistic compensating reticle. We’ll get to ballistics later in the review. But first, there’s also a very important feature of this reticle that will be brought up in the next question.

Q. Does this HT scope have an illuminated reticle?

A. Yes! This illuminated dot is one of the sexiest illuminated reticles in the optics industry yet. During normal reticle use you don’t see any dot in the center of the cross hair at all. When you’re ready for precise aiming with illuminated control, it’ll appear perfectly in the center and will get brighter until you’ve found the perfect setting.

It has more in the power setting than any other illuminated dot. It also doesn’t get bigger as you change zoom. It’s the tiniest but purest illuminated dot that you’ll find out of all the scopes in the market today. You can see how it’s going to be the night and day difference during low light hours.

As an awesome design point, it works excellently for day time use too.

To use it couldn’t be easier. The knob on the left side of the scope, opposite the turrets, is the illumination control. Just pull the knob out to turn it on. Rotate the dial to find the brightness setting you want to use.

If after four hours the illuminated dot hasn’t been used, it’ll shut itself off to preserve battery life. No exaggerating, this illuminated dot is the best I’ve seen on a hunting rifle scope.

Q. Are there other models in the Victory HT line?

A. There is the 1.1-4X24, 1.5-6X42, and the 2.5-10X50 in the HT series. But, as far as the 3-12X56 mm rifle scope goes, there’s also the ASV+ version of this model. This is what brings the HT to a whole new level.

Remember how I said this scope doesn’t offer a ballistic reticle? Well, that’s because it doesn’t need one. The ASV+ elevation model of the 3-12X56 Victory HT is a ballistic turret that provides bullet drop compensation with the twist of a knob.

Q. What is ASV+ Elevation?

A. This is the name for a ballistic turret that provides for elevation adjustments for bullet drop compensation at preset known distances. By using the Zeiss Ballistics Calculator to set up your cartridge and scope with the right ASV/target turret ring, you’ll get your holdover values for several distances, the appropriate ASV+ ring suggestion, and even a photo display of bullet trajectory over several distances.

The ASV+ elevation model comes with nine new and improved quality metal distance scale rings (and one linear scale ring) that can be interchanged, depending on cartridge, bullet drop, and distance, on the elevation turret.

The distance scales have been improved to include a larger range of bullet curves. The fine division lines provide for even more precise clicks to get the right distance for the intended trajectories. After matching your caliber and ballistics with the appropriate ring, put the ring on the turret, mark your zero and put the cap back on.

If you’ve not heard of a ballistic turret before, don’t feel like an amateur. The advanced technology on these have only been in the making in the most recent decades. But, when you’re spending this kind of money for this scope, you probably shouldn’t be surprised to see ballistic turrets everywhere in this price range.

Swarovski, another world-class brand, also integrates ballistic turret technology into their high-end scopes. I’m glad to see that Zeiss has the confidence, science, and technology to compete.

Q. Can I use the turrets with hunting gloves on?

A. The Victory HT has been designed with the hunter in mind. The turrets all have decent sized grooves and enough knurling to be easily used with gloves on. Furthermore, the ergonomic design of the scope allows you to comfortably reach the turrets without having to even take your eyes off your sights – a feature that hunters appreciate.

The turrets also have a lockable feature to further help the scope keep its zero, and it can also be resettable to your original zero.

Q. Does it have a parallax adjustment feature?

A. You’d think with the astronomical cost that they’d throw in an adjustable objective or side focus at least, but no, there’s no external feature to adjust for parallax. Besides, it’ll mean more weight in extra glass and parts on the already 21 ounce heifer. Parallax isn’t a big deal with 3-12X anyway.

You’d want to see the AO or side focus on a 4-16X scope though. However, this scope is factory-set to be parallax-free at 109 yards. This exhaustive article on parallax adjustments is useful and a good read if you have the time.

Carl Zeiss Victory HT 3-12X56 Specs:

  • Magnification: 3-12X
  • Power Variability: Variable
  • Objective Diameter: 56 mm
  • Length/Weight/Tube Diameter: 13.66 inches/21.1 ounces/30 mm
  • Field of View: 37.5 – 10.5 feet/100 yards
  • Eye Relief/Exit Pupil: 3.54 inches/14.9 – 4.7 mm
  • Reticle: #60
  • Adjustment Info: 1/4 MOA/Click
  • Optics Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated
  • Finish: Black Matte
  • Waterproof/Shockproof: Yes/Yes
  • Parallax Setting: 109 yards
  • Airgun rated: No
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes
  • Mounting Rings Included: No

Noteworthy Features:

  • 56 mm objective diameter lens for maximum strength in low light conditions
  • Schott HT glass and LotuTec technology for 95% light transmission and resistant properties
  • #60 illuminated reticle in SFP for preciseness with adjustable brightness control at any power range
  • Fast focus eyepiece or fast target acquisition at any power range
  • Weatherproof and fully functional in -13 too 122 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Solid and robust 30 mm tube body
  • Available in ASV+ Elevation model for the ballistic turret technology
  • Ergonomic and rubberized construction with knurled turrets
  • Backed by Zeiss’ Limited Lifetime warranty and a 5 year No-Fault warranty
  • Made in Germany


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Which is the Best Carl Zeiss Rifle Scope for You?

If you’re in the market for either a Terra or some really nice Zeiss Victory scopes, then you’re in the right place to figure out which scope is for you.

While the Terra is an excellent entry level scope, it has superb glass for what it costs. Although it’s the economical line for Zeiss, they didn’t skimp on quality. If somewhere in the $300 range sounds like your kinda budget, you’ll be well-served by this no-nonsense, no frills, all quality rifle scope.

If you’re a little more daring and you think you could spend a few bucks more, the Zeiss Conquest HD5 series is great middle ground to shop if you don’t want to spend as much as the leading line.

But, the star of this article is deserving of every encouragement to buy. With a 56mm lens and the purest and smallest illuminated dot in the industry, you can’t go wrong with the Zeiss Victory HT 3-12X56. While it’s out of most people’s scope budget, you might be forced to look elsewhere. Well, I challenge you to find a scope of this quality, reputation, and actual field performance that can rival this one in the same price range.

That might help to narrow down the options a little.

Spoil Yourself with a Zeiss Scope

Zeiss is a world class optics brand that keeps its customers for life. Once you’ve been spoiled and have had the chance to look through a Zeiss, your eyes will never be able to adjust to anything less than the best again. For two short words, there’s sure a lot to say about them. Carl Zeiss. Self explanatory – period.