by Paul Panella
Better known in Europe than the U.S., Meopta has been producing world class optical lenses for cameras, binoculars, riflescopes, and scientific equipment since 1933. Their worldwide market includes aerospace, military, medical, and consumer applications. But these days they’re expanding their reputation this side of the Atlantic as a top-notch maker of spotters and riflescopes that perform well above their mid-level pricing. Based in the Czech Republic, Meopta not only produces its own glass, but is also one of the few companies to grind, polish, and develop lens coatings for its products in-house using state-of-the art technology.
As if that wasn’t enough, they also make high end mechanical parts using CNC technology including heat treatments. So they’re highly capable on the mechanical end of optics production (scope tubes and internals) as well. You might expect that having such broad operational control over the entire manufacturing life cycle of optical products, riflescopes in particular, would lead to an outstanding finished product. The ZD 4-16X44 RD lives up to that expectation.
Long known for their popular lines of MeoStar and MeoPro hunting scopes, the ZD 4-16X44 RD is Meopta’s recent entry in the tactical category for riflescopes. It is designed for precision long range shooting under rugged conditions.
In addition, the ZD 4-16X44 RD also offers low light capability with the addition of an illuminated reticle.
The overall look and feel is of quality. Adjustment rings and turret caps are snug, but extremely smooth. The matte finish is uniform. Seams and machining are excellent.
Meopta claims to make their scopes very robust and the weight, at almost 29 oz., is closer to Zeiss Divari and Nightforce than, say, a Conquest. While it’s comparable in size to other scopes in it’s magnification range at around 15 in., the ZD 4-16X44 RD looks a bit different from many illuminated reticle scopes that I’ve handled. It sports the familiar three turrets on the main housing. But, instead of using a separate adjustment knob near the eyepiece, Meopta chose to use the left-hand side turret as the brightness control. It’s also where the battery sits. They’ve retained the parallax adjustment near the front of the optical bell.
The turrets come with caps. Both elevation and windage are in mRads with positive
clicks and clear hash marks. Precision shooters will appreciate that Meopta has calibrated click adjustments in .05 mRad increments rather than the more conventional .1 mRad unit. There’s a good adjustment range at around 13 Mils with 5 Mils per complete turn.
I had a chance to put the scope through its paces at the range and although there wasn’t time to do a complete box test, the scope zeroed easily and click adjustments were on spec.
As of this review, the ZD 4-16X44 RD comes with what’s termed a Mil Dot Special reticle. Set in the second focal plane, it’s a typical mil scaled reticle that uses skeletal, or hollow, posts and mil dots. This adds minimal obstruction to light transmission and makes for an unusually uncluttered field of view.
Ordinarily you might expect this to be an impediment to target acquisition and I was initially skeptical. However, the etchings, while very fine, are also very precise. They appear uniformly dark with sharp edges that allow the eye to center on the crosshairs as rapidly as using thicker posts. This proved to be the case at the range where it was easy to see the crosshairs over all targets and there was no washout through conditions that ranged from very bright to overcast. Once you’re used to it, this minimalist reticle really opens up the edge-to-edge visual periphery.
That’s something that might come in handy during a situation for which this optic is designed – a tactical engagement. Which brings us to the illuminated reticle feature. The ZD 4-16X44 RD uses a left side turret, normally reserved for parallax adjustment, to set the intensity of illumination. There are seven levels of brightness using fourteen clicks, e.g. 1-off-2-off-3-off etc. Every other click is an “off” position so you can shut down the illumination in one click from any setting without having to return all the way to zero. Because the etching is so precise, I found the lighted crosshair at the center of the optic to be virtually flare free, even at the highest setting.
While very effective in low light environments from dusk to room interiors, the reticle isn’t bright enough for normal daylight use. Maybe that’s asking too much, but it’s a shame, because with a sight picture as uncluttered as the Mil Dot Special, set at 4X, the ZD 4-16X44 could almost double as a reflex sight. And I suppose it can in any low light situation. The illumination module is run using a small CR 2354 battery that fits under the turret cap and can be replaced in seconds.
Meopta claims their proprietary lens coatings, precision grinds, and polishing enable 99.8% light transmission. While that can subjective in the eyes of the user, I can say that the ZD 4-16X44 RD is, without question, a very bright scope.
This was evident through the complete range of magnification when it was tested at my range. I usually arrive early and my range faces east. So I’ve experienced many mornings shooting almost directly into the rising sun. This causes some transient contrast washout even with a lens shade. The Meopta surprised me by retaining better performance than any scope I’ve used under those conditions including my Swarovski Z5. This makes me think that Meopta has done a good job minimizing off-axis ambient light down the tube.
Image clarity is excellent. It’s compares favorably to my Z5 Swarovski. I had several shooters at the range have a look to get their impressions. All commented on the edge-to-edge sharpness the Meopta delivered. Chromatic aberration, or color fringing, can also be subjective. Focusing on a backlit hilltop ridgeline stand of trees produced nothing noticeable. Eyebox is forgiving at all magnifications and I never found myself hunting for an image.
The great edge-to-edge sharpness also allowed for some eye relief forgivness. In addition, the ZD 4-16X44 RD has a generous +/- 3 diopters on the eyepiece that gives shooters a broad range of adjustment that’s especially helpful to corrective lens wearers or older eyes. Parallax adjustment is straightforward and Meopta has settings that start all the way down at 3 meters. The only thing I’d prefer is swapping out the parallax adjustment ring on the front bell housing for the more conventional (on tactical scopes) left turrent.
Meopta has produced a very fine scope that has many features in common with much higher priced optics. At a street price of around $1000, it’s worth a hard look if you’re longing for high end European offerings, but don’t want to pony up the nearly 2K entry level fee. My only criticism is the placement of the parallax adjustment ring on the front lens housing. It seems out of place on a tactical scope, although focusing is still precise and easy. That’s a small item, though, when compared to the whole package.
The bottom line is that the ZD 4-16X44 RD delivers like a top-tier European optic at a mid-level price (around $990) on Amazon.
Photos courtesy of Paul Panella.