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TFB Review: Schmidt & Bender 1.5-8x42mm STRATOS Hunting Rifle Scope

I would never really have considered the Schmidt & Bender 1.5-8×40 STRATOS, but as I was reviewing the Pulsar Krypton FXG50 thermal front attachment I was in need of a rifle scope with low-to-medium magnification, at least 42 mm exit pupil (for the Pulsar adapters to fit) and a reticle suitable for hunting.

Picture: Schmidt & Bender

Schmidt & Bender were kind to help me and sent me the sample you see in these pictures. I have used low power variable optics (LPVO) for over 10 years, mostly in competition, and have quite a lot of experience both from the cheapest to the top-of-the-line models. For instance, the 1-8×24 PM II ShortDot Dual CC we tested last year. The Stratos isn’t really an LPVO as the base magnification is 1.5x, and not a true 1 power, but it’s close. It is a riflescope designed with hunters in mind.

I have to say that when I first looked into the 1.5-8x42mm STRATOS I was pleasantly surprised about the optics, and the sensation stayed. I’m happy S&B sent me this one, because it would not have been on my usual list, and I would have been missing out on something. The plan wasn’t to review it, but it would be a shame not to as it certainly deserves a mentioning.

Below: Cerakoted Spuhr SP-3006 ISMS mount, “battle-worn”. All mounts don’t have to be black, do they? The inspiration came from an unexpected place: the Swiss watch industry and the Breitling Avenger 45 Night Mission. I don’t expect everyone (anyone?) to love it, but you’ll remember it, won’t you? You can find the background about the mount here.

Focus: Universal riflescope for hunting

Stratos: Its focus is to be a universal riflescope for hunting, to be used for almost every conceivable hunting situation – except really long range. The 42 mm exit pupil gives you a lot of light and information, and the more light you have and can use, the later you can stay in the hunt and be successful. In many countries you can only hunt until about an hour after the sunset, so making the most of those photons is essential. Of course, with a thermal clip-on you can stay a little longer…but usually you’re only allowed to hunt for wild boar then.

The illumination of the reticle is called FlashDot which can be hidden, “soft” or really powerful. By “soft” I mean that it feels like you can see through it, depending on the ambient light and background of course. I’ve had similar sensations with the latest Aimpoint red dots, the larger the dot size the better. The reticle is a classic hunting reticle in the first focal plane.

Preconceptions Broken

I replaced my Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24 and mounted the S&B Stratos on my Browning BAR Match and took it out on the coldest day of 2021 (so far at least). We had -16C in the morning (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit), blue skies and a lot of sunshine. I really like the Swarovski Z6i, but this Stratos is a really sweet solution for the driven hunt. It’s also excellent in being able to spot more distant targets at 6 to 8 power. In fact, I would prefer the Stratos which kind of surprised me and my preconception.

Ergonomics

This riflescope will certainly fit and look at home on any high-quality hunting rifle, which I think is very important for the supposed customer. You don’t buy a luxury hunting rifle and at the same time ignore the looks of your scope and your mount. Now I own exactly zero of those rifles, so my solution here is with a Spuhr SP-3006 mount which I had Cerakoted. I’m more of a Picatinny-railer. Again, the focus for me was to build a platform for testing thermal clip-ons, but as the testing developed, a love for the Stratos developed too.

Below: The S&B Stratos with the Pulsar PSP42 adapter, holding their thermal front attachment.

The body is all in metal, there is no rubber on the magnification ring as with some S&B scopes. It would be nice to be able to mount a throw lever for faster manipulation of the magnification ring.

Unfortunately, the weather has been really poor for several months. Overcast, rain, snow, fog, darkness – you name it. On the other hand, when the going gets tough the tough get going. It’s a statement that is very true for thermal optics, but also for a traditional glass like the Stratos. In full sunshine, almost every optic looks good. The pictures of the reticles below are taken in January, about an hour before sundown.

These images are taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max. It was difficult to get a good focus on both the target and the reticle at the same time, it happens with some scopes. It didn’t help that it was very windy and freezing, so don’t blame the scope. The illumination is always tricky to capture, as it either bleeds out or isn’t visible at all to the camera.

The target is about 1250 meters away. The reticle is really fine in the center and is in the first focal plane.

Around 3x magnification. You can see one of the drawbacks of the design here. It is designed to last, but you also get a tube effect.

Here you can see the FD7 (FFP) FlashDot Reticle. There is only one reticle to chose from. The eye box is generous.

Here’s how it works:

Technical Data (from S&B):

Exit pupil 12,0mm - 4,6mm
Twilight factor 5,20 - 18,33
Field  of  view  at 100 m 23,9m - 4,6m
Eye  relief  distance 90mm
Basic click system
Total adjustment range
1cm / 100m
1m / 100m
FlashDot Reticle FD7 (FFP)

A few words about the Spuhr SP-3006 mount. As the rifles on which the Stratos was to be mounted all had Picatinny rails, the ISMS worked well. Spuhr’s hunting line would perhaps be a less tactical choice on a hunting rifle if you want it to blend in better. In total, I think Spuhr produce over 100 different mounts, and over 40 different accessories. The Spuhr mounts are really versatile and added a small piece of Picatinny rail on the top position to demonstrate this. I think there are 7 or 8 other positions I could have mounted that rail if I wanted, to be able to attach a flashlight or a secondary sight like a red dot. The price for the mount is €309 + VAT. Note that the Cerakoting is custom and not supplied by Spuhr.

After what felt like months of poor weather, to finish 2020 off, we had one wonderful day in January. -16C in the picture below and the 8x magnification of the Stratos was really useful to be able to scout in the forest opposite this tower where some wild boar were hiding.

The Stratos is Made in Germany and comes with a 10-year warranty. The Stratos line also includes the 1.1-5×24 and the 2.5-13×56, should your focus be something that requires less or more magnification. There’s also the 1-8×24 Exos which a few of my friends use.

The MSRP for the 1.5-8x Stratos is €1,815 net ($2,500).

Conclusion

The S&B Stratos works really well both as it comes out of the box, but also with the Pulsar Thermal clip-ons I’ve tried. Around the corner to review is the new Leica Calonox thermal, and from what I can see, it’s going to work really well also. It means that you have an excellent, future-proof potential for both day and night in the Stratos.

Zeroing at 100 meters took just a few shots, and the clicks were distinct. There’s no parallax to adjust and the eye box is generous, which is important if you’re in a hurry to take a shot or if you’re in a difficult shooting position. I didn’t test the tracking, but I doubt that would be an issue. Mechanically everything is to the highest standards – high precision “Made in Germany” and built to last. Optically we’ve tried it from dark winter nights to a fully lit winter landscape in a real hunting situation. You get a crisp, clear image with very little distortion and the illumination is very good.

The warranty is really generous, but so is the price. I imagine this is the kind of optic that you invest in and then pass on to the next generation.

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You can find a direct link to the 1.5-8×42 Stratos here.

During the spring we will review another hunting rifle scope from Schmidt & Benderthe 3-21×50 EXOS with their new LRH-MOA reticle and turret. Stay tuned.

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