Crimson Trace Hardline: A Great Budget Rifle Scope?
It was not too long ago that imported and economically priced scopes were looked down upon by the American shooting public. I remember seeing quite a few of these less expensive brands get raked over the coals as junk. Some of it was warranted, while some of it was simply a perception of inferiority.
Don’t take this the wrong way. There is nothing better in my eyes than a quality-built riflescope made by the best companies here in the U.S. or our good friends from central Europe. But there are great optical options available nowadays that are built elsewhere, and they are being made by American companies that should be quite familiar.
Today, we are going to discuss a riflescope from Crimson Trace. To be completely transparent here, I didn’t even know they made riflescopes. That was until I picked this one out of a lineup.
Meet the Hardline
The Crimson Trace Hardline Series is marketed towards tactical and sport shooters. The scope in hand today is the Hardline 3-12x42. It features a 30mm tube, MRAD turrets, and the MR1 MIL reticle. As you might imagine, they come with other standard features like multi-coated lenses and are nitrogen purged and waterproof.
They also feature a warranty that is fast becoming the standard, and that is a no-nonsense lifetime warranty that won’t ask for receipts, registrations, or money. Yes, that is a great kind of warranty to have, and you don’t even have to be the original owner.
When the Hardline arrived, I knew this was something I would like. The optical clarity of this little scope was striking. The image was very clean and very bright. The scope body seems to disappear to a degree when you look through it, almost as though you are looking through a magnification bubble floating in the air over your rifle. I rushed home to get the scope mounted on a rifle with plans to confirm a matching quality range performance.
The rifle I chose to first mount the scope to was a custom gun I had built a couple of years ago. It is a 25 Creedmoor built on a Tikka T3 with a 22-inch X-Caliber barrel mounted in a KRG Bravo chassis. It has been an extremely accurate and long-range performer.
The rifle had previously been mounted with a Riton Optics 6-24 scope, which worked well since day one. But it was time to change things up. I mounted the Hardline in a one-piece scope ring set and put it atop the Tikka in just a few minutes.
The process of sighting in the scope got me quite familiar with its turrets, which I really liked at first. But they do have a common feature that I do not like much. To zero the turret, you pull up and rotate it back to zero, this raises the knob away from its seat and the detents. It is not a big deal really. I just prefer turrets that are mechanically seated and locked down with a screw.
Other than that, I really like the turrets. The clicks are firm, audible, and strong enough that I believe they won’t rotate when hiking through brush. The MRAD turrets on my scope have eight Mils per rotation. That’s better than the five Mils more common among less-expensive scopes. I prefer 10 to 15 MRAD per rotation, which I’ll admit is a fairly meticulous gripe since most of my rifles don’t need that much elevation to shoot to the extreme end of their typical range.
Turret values appeared to be accurate. This rifle has very consistent drop values, which means I could anticipate the hits at 600 and 1,050 yards. This came effortlessly after confirming a hard zero at 100 yards. I dialed up and down for many different ranges between 300 and 1,100 yards. The Hardline kept up just fine, and the hits kept coming.
After running the Hardline on my 25 Creedmoor for a few days, I decided to swap it over to another rifle. I mounted the scope into a cantilever mount and stuck it atop my Desert Tech MDRX, a multi-caliber semi-auto rifle that happened to have the .223 barrel in it at the time. I hiked back into the mountains with my MDRX slung over my shoulder.
When I pulled the rifle around to shoot the first time, I noticed that the scope was noticeably unclear, which shocked me. I then noticed that the ocular focus ring had turned while rubbing against either my pack or my shoulder as I hiked. Not a good thing, but it also could have been the way I carried it. It was easily refocused, and I was in the groove. In no time at all, I found myself zeroed and smashing everything I aimed at. Despite not caring for the pull-up turrets, it sure made it nice and fast to re-zero with no tools.
The MR1 reticle is simple and effective. At 12x, it was easy to see bullet impacts at 1,000 yards and make any needed corrections. I am more of a first focal plane kind of guy. But for lower power scopes like this, I can make an exception. It does not hurt that it also lowers the price significantly, though I think this scope would be even more awesome if it was first focal plane.
The eye box on the scope is not difficult to center on, and the magnification ring is not too hard – or too easy – to turn. Handsome knurling on all adjustment surfaces made gripping in the cold easy. All in all, I think the Crimson Trace Hardline is a great buy at the MSRP of $459.99.
Comparing the scope to others in its price range, I think you’ll find it a strong performer with both an optical performance above its peers and a mechanical performance that breaks the norms set by offshore-made scopes of the past. Despite the few things I did not like about this scope, I still quite like it. I think I will keep it around as my switch-around scope due to its easily re-zeroed turrets and clean picture.
Excellent work Crimson Trace, bringing a great scope in at a very modest price point.