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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
IHMSA on the web at http://www.ihmsa.org
 
Simmons 80 MM Spotter
By Todd Spotti
 
     A while back, I and the IHMSA NEWS were probably one of the very first to reveal in print that Meade Corp, producer of the finest amateur astronomical telescopes made, had purchased the Simmons, Redfield, and Weaver brands. At the time I also outlined how they were now going to be pumping some of their vast technical knowledge into their newly acquired sport optics products.
 
     Simmons was the first to get the benefit of this technical infusion with their ďMaster SeriesĒ rifle scopes. Well now theyíve turned their attention to their spotting scopes. There are three new grades of spotters being offered by the new Simmons: the Master Series (their best), the Wilderness Series (middle grade), and the Pro Sport (economy). The Master Series is composed of two scopes i.e. a 60mm and an 80mm. The Wilderness Series has four scopes ranging in size from 65mm to a jumbo 90mm, and the economy ProSport has two i.e. a 50 and a 60mm. Surprisingly, all three lines come with a hard sided aluminum case, a bench tripod, and a fabric scope cover case with carrying strap. This has to be an industry first when even the economy level scopes come in a good looking foam lined aluminum case.
 

The new Simmons Master Series 80mm is a high quality scope that can easily compete with other well known brands

     Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on an early production model of one of the Master Series 80mmís, and I can tell you that this is a very different product from what weíve seen before from  this brand. The optical performance of his new scope is very, very good and can hold itís own against some very serious and more expensive competition. To illustrate, my good friend Mike Baggett is a high power rifle competition shooter and so requires a good spotting scope to glass paper targets at long distances. Heís currently using a Kowa TSN-182M. Well Mike happened to be practicing at the range at the same time I was, and so I loaned him the big Simmons for the morning and asked him to let me know what he thought of it. Bottom line - he said it was actually better than his Kowa. I have to admit I was a little surprised when he said so as the Kowa has the big dog reputation and Mike is very loyal to his equipment. I then asked him if he liked it well enough to buy one if he ever got into the market for a new scope. He said he definitely would.
 
     Like most 80mm scopes, the Simmons is a big guy, being some 18Ē long and being nearly four and a half inches wide at the objective lens. It also weighs in at 51.5 ounces. The tube is made out of polycarbonate which is a very tough material, and it helps to keep the weight down, which is highly desirable with these big scopes. Some of these 80ís seem to weigh a ton

     The surface is covered with a hard, very smooth, dense, black armor coating - very similar to an inner tube. Thereís also a sliding sunshade built in up front with a rubber lens cap permanently attached with a rubber strap so it wonít ever get lost. When the lens cap is removed, it also can be folded back out of the way and attached to a little stud on the sun shade to prevent it from dangling around and getting in the way. Overall, the exterior is a fairly good looking, straight forward design.

     Full immersion waterproofing and nitrogen purging is standard and the scope subsequently easily passed my one hour yellow bucket dunking test, and my overnight in the freezer test with no problems at all. The lenses are fully multicoated and Bak4 prisms (the best kind) are used, indicating that Simmons was serious about building a quality spotter. The field of view at 100 yards is a very nice 10 feet, and the eye relief is a little over 12mmís. The magnification range runs from 20 through 60X which gives you lots of options in viewing.
 
     So how do things look through the new Simmons? Actually, very, very nice. I was frankly impressed with the high degree of resolution that the scope could present to the eye. As usual, I put out my home made resolution chart which consists of several lines of ďOísĒ in decreasing size out at 50 yards. I then mounted the Simmons on the little plastic bench tripod provided in the kit. I quickly discovered that the tripod was too small and light for a big, heavy 80mm scope. Everything was wobbling all over the place making precise focusing difficult. The tripod was also very awkward and stiff to use. I then switched over to my Sinclair spotting scope mount which is made of steel and aluminum that clamps on to the side of the bench. Thanks to its heavy duty premium materials and first class workmanship, itís absolutely rock solid. The scope was now able to do its thing totally unimpeded.
 
     At 20X, the scope was able to resolve 12 point type at 50 yards with no problem. I consider resolving 14 point type at this distance to be excellent performance, so the fact it could resolve 12 point type was impressive. I then increased the magnification all the way up to 60X. As expected, the image darkened but the resolution hung in there. I could easily distinguish the smallest line on the chart i.e. 9 point type which is the smallest that can be produced by my computer and printer. I then took my target out to 100 yards as the mirage was almost nonexistent that day. 24 point type could be resolved at 20X, and 12 point type could be clearly seen at 60X. Again, I would have to characterize this as being excellent resolution.
 
     Another interesting optical characteristic was that I could see a very slight rosy bronze tint to the image. I donít believe that this was a quality issue in the lenses, but rather a characteristic of the coatings to increase contrast. Indeed, when I took the scope today to our local silhouette match at the Inland Fish & Game Club, conditions were overcast and a light fog/haze was in evidence over the course. However there were absolutely no problems seeing the animals in vivid detail. The black targets stood out boldly in spite of the conditions. I also showed the scope around to several of my fellow competitors and to a person they all said that they were very impressed with it. One person even said ďAre you sure itís a Simmons? Boy, this is nice.Ē
 
     All and all, like my fellow shooters, Iím very impressed with the Simmons 80mm Master Series spotter. It has all the features a discriminating buyer would want. Itís tough, and the resolution and contrast image will let you see everything you need or want to see during a silhouette match and much, much more. It comes in a very nice aluminum carrying case to boot.
 
     Make no mistake, this is a high quality scope. In fact itís good enough to have some of the big boys looking over their shoulder. Consequently, you can expect to pay a commensurate price for this level of performance. Suggested retail for the Master 80mm is approximately $600. However, as we all know sports optics products are significantly discounted, so shop around. Bottom line - if you canít afford the big name premium brands (you know who they are) but you want something more than just average, definitely look into a Simmons Master Series. I think youíll be pleased by what you see.
 
Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.