Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56 PM II SFP Review

Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56 PM II SFP Review

For Police and Military use, the Schmidt & Bender PM II Police Marksman is considered the gold standard of extreme use rifle optics.  The majority of high end scopes you’ll encounter today aspire to reach its level of durability, optical clarity, repeatability and performance.

The Schmidt & Bender PM II line started with the 3-12×50 in 2003.  Since then, PM II models have been adopted by the U.S. Border Patrol; DEA; FBI; DOE; Tucson SWAT; Washington D.C. Police, and many others. In 2005, the 3-12×50 PM II was awarded the US Marine Corps contract for the USMC M8541 SSDS. In 2011, the 5-25×56 PM II model was awarded the PSR Day Scope contract for US Special Forces.  The 3-27×56 PM II High Power was designed for, and subsequently used by, US SOCOM.  The 3-20×50 PM II Ultra Short was recently selected as the day scope of choice for the weapon package for the US Army CSASS program in 2016.

While Schmidt & Bender has been available to the US commercial market for 20 years, it has recently decided to place a hard focus on its growth and product availability.  To learn more about this I reached out to Kyle Brown, Schmidt & Bender ‘s Director of Sales and Marketing.  According to Brown, this increased attention is “because of S&B’s recent aggressive investments made to increase production while maintaining and improving quality control standards.  In other words, now that S&B can produce and ship in greater quantities, S&B is concentrating much more on the US market”.

In addition to increased production and availability, Schmidt and Bender has reduced retail pricing on PMII models 14-19% depending on the model.  Brown commented, “S&B improved their warranty in the USA for 2017, and now offers a USA 20 Year Transferable Limited Warranty.  We have reduced our pricing to be competitive; and have greatly increased our on-hand inventory levels to supply our customers with complete and on-time deliveries.  While we are not yet perfect in this area, we have greatly improved, and continue to improve in this critically important area.  We are continuously working on new reticle designs, elevation and windage turret designs, and rifle scope models to satisfy and reach more customers, and to increase our overall business”.

Schmidt & Bender has made an effort to support the Precision Rifle Series (PRS).  Brown said, “for 2017 we have made a very hard push to become more active in PRS with our brand and with our products.  We are the PRS 2017 Heavy Tactical Gas Gun sponsor.  We are the 2017 PRS Club Series Title Sponsor.  We are the title sponsor of the 2017 Heatstroke Open, as well as other matches pending.  Also, we are sponsoring three relevant PRS teams for 2017.  On top of this, we are supporting many PRS matches with products and/or $1,000.00 discount certificates”.

Schmidt & Bender loaned me a Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56 PM II SFP for testing and evaluation.  SB scopes, like this one, have a wide array of available options.  To help clear up any confusion, take a look at this list below:

  • DT: Double Turn elevation turret – with 2nd rotation visual indicator
  • ST: Single Turn windage turret
  • DT-MTC-L: Double Turn elevation turret, with More Tactile Clicks, and with Locking feature – with visual and tactile 2nd rotation indicator
  • ST-MTC-L: Single Turn elevation turret, with More Tactile Clicks, and with Locking feature
  • Reticles SFP: Three unique Second Focal Plane reticles (Promoted for 2017)
    1. P3L: Illuminated Mil-Dot reticle – Mil- Based
    2. P4FL: Illuminated Graduated Fine Line reticle – Mil-Based
    3. P4FL2-MOA: Illuminated Intelligent Graduated Fine Line Reticle – MOA-Based
  • Reticle FFP: Six unique First Focal Plane reticles: (Promoted for 2017)
    1. H2CMR: Illuminated Hybrid Reticle – Mil-Based
    2. P3L: Illuminated Mil-Dot reticle – Mil- Based
    3. P4FL: Illuminated Graduated Fine Line reticle – Mil-Based
    4. MSR: Illuminated Hybrid Graduated reticle – with ranging and measuring tables – Mil-Based
    5. H59: Horus specialty reticle
    6. TReMoR3: Horus specialty reticle
  • LRR-MIL: Pending New – Illuminated center dot – Intelligent Graduated Fine Line Reticle – Mil-Based with .1, .2, .5, and whole Mil indicators

To help you understand the options for a PM II, check out the video below from Schmidt & Bender:

Why Second Focal Plane (SFP) and not First Focal Plane (FFP)?

When I told my friends I was going to test a PM II in SFP, they wanted to know why.  The short answer is law enforcement, long range and F-Class shooters tend to prefer SFP over FFP. For a  more detailed response, let’s review First and Second Focal Plane reticles.

Second Focal Plane (SFP) Reticles

The Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticle design works well for long-range target shooters, bench rest shooters, hunters, and law enforcement.  Often, SFP reticles are associated with Minute of Angle/MOA-based reticles.  For target shooters that like to dial-in the elevation corrections, frequently SFP is the preferred reticle type. Also, these reticles are offered with thinner lines and markings to aid in target shooting, by not covering up as much of the target area, which is absolutely necessary in such cases as F-Class and Benchrest shooting.

SFP reticles are the most popular in the USA, and are considered non-distracting and easy to use.  When used as a smart/intelligent reticle, the math associated with these SFP reticle designs is accurate at a single selected and stated power zoom range.  Example: 5-25×56 PM II model, with a P4FL2-MOA SFP reticle would subtend properly at 25x power setting; and if zoomed down to 12.5x power setting, the mathematical values would double. This “doubling” of the math allows the shooter to greatly extend their range and holds, and makes the SFP design a favorite with Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting and competitions, such as “The King of 2 Miles” match.

SFP reticles are popular, friendly, and non-distracting while zooming up and down in power settings.  If you like to dial-in your elevation and windage adjustments, SFP reticles are likely the preferred choice.

First Focal Plane (FFP) Reticles

The First Focal Plane (FFP) reticle design is beneficial for more dynamic settings, like true tactical long-range shooting, specific hunting applications, and Precision Rifle Series (PRS) competition.  Consider FFP ideal for situations where the power zoom range is constantly being adjusted, the target distances vary greatly in short periods of time, and where targets are moving.  Typically, FFP reticles are associated with Milliradian/Mil/MRAD-based reticles; however, sometimes these also apply to MOA-based reticles as well.  

When used as a smart reticle, the math associated with these FFP reticle designs is accurate/relevant at any given or selected power range.   Example: 5-25×56 PM II model, with P4FL FFP reticle, would subtend properly at any power zoom range setting between 5x and 25x power; and the MRAD mathematical hold values would be true and accurate at any of these power/magnification settings.  

FFP reticles can be a bit distracting at first, as the shooter zooms up and down in power settings.  The most common complaint is the issue where, when zoomed down to the rifle scope’s lowest power setting, the intelligent reticle can quickly looked cluttered and undefined.  This is where reticle illumination becomes very important in regards to intelligent FFP reticle designs.   It is often the case that FFP reticle lines and markings are much thicker than their SFP counterparts; but this is improving with newer FFP reticle design technology.

FFP reticles are becoming more and more popular in various applications, and are the absolute preferred reticle types in today’s Special Forces branches of the military and in Precision Rifle Series (PRS) competition shooting.  If you like to use the reticle to compensate for elevation corrections and windage holds, regardless of power settings, for various shooting distances and conditions, FFP reticles are fast, accurate, and are indeed the preferred choice.

I copied the image below from the Schmidt & Bender catalog to show the reticle options for the 5-25×56 PM II.

5-25 PM II Police Marksman Review

Our test scope is a 5-25×56 PM II (SKU: 677-911-995-A8-A2) with a second focal plane P4FL2-MOA reticle; double turn elevation with rotation indicator, single turn windage .250 MOA clicks values, an illuminated reticle and side adjustable parallax from 10 meters to infinity.  It’s a big, sturdy, well made optic.

A drawing of the reticle can be found below:


On the right side of the optic, you’ll notice a .250 MOA single turn windage adjustment knob.  On the top you’ll note the .250 MOA elevation adjustments.  The tactile feel of each “click” is impressive, crisp and precise; it gives the shooter positive feedback.

A large parallax knob is located on the left side of the turret.   Note it is adjustable from 10 meters to infinity for a crystal clear picture.  The smaller knob located closer to the eyepiece is the adjustment knob for the illuminated reticle.

Here the view from behind the scope.  Note the DT (double turn) elevation turret.  At its current setting in the photo above, it is still on the first revolution (.250 MOA below 0) and as adjustments within the first revolution are made, you’d read the white numbers.

During the second revolution, the windows in the top of the turret turn yellow. This indicates the scope is on the second revolution and the shooter should read the yellow numbers; in this case, 50.25 MOA.  This feature helps prevent the shooter from getting lost in the turret if he has a long range setting dialed in and forgets how far away from zero he was.

For testing and evaluation purposes I decided to mount the PM II on a custom made 300 Winchester Magnum.  A heavy duty scope like the PM II needs a proper set of rings to mount it to the rifle.  I’ve found the Spuhr ISMS to my scope mount of choice.

This is the test rifle I’ll be using.  It was built primarily with parts from Brownells, the rifle includes:

To learn more about how I built this rifle, please see Building a 300 Winchester Magnum Precision Rifle.

The barrel on this rifle is 24″ long, fairly short for a 300 Win Mag- especially for the heavier bullets.  To see how barrel length affects velocity in the 300 Win Mag, take a look at 300 Winchester Magnum: How Does Barrel Length Change Velocity- A 16″ 300 Win Mag? for an empirical data set we gathered on a match grade barrel.  While you are at it, if you want a good laugh, take a quick peek at Does size matter? Custom Remington 700 16.5″ 300 Winchester Magnum follow up– my fillings still hurt from that one.

This is my pet load for the 300 Win Mag, Sierra’s 195 gr. Tipped MatchKing over Norma brass and Hodgdon H4831SC.

Zeroing the PM II was a breeze.  The zero stop and turret settings are controlled by set screws.  There isn’t a lot of thought involved.  You don’t have to move caps, insert shims, move clutch mechanisms, etc…  Simply loosen the screws, swing the turret back to “0” and you are all set.

To establish a 100 yard zero, I hung a target at 50 yards, fired one round, dialed a correction, fired a confirmation shot and moved back to 100 yards.  I fired one round at 100, made a correction and was zeroed.  That’s it, 3 rounds, done.

To get an idea of how the PM II tracked I wanted to conduct a tall target and box test.  I set up a couple of ISPC targets at 100 yards (below).

The target on the left is for the tall ladder test, the target at the right is for the box test.

With the scope zeroed I set up a tall target test at 100 yards.  I placed a 1″ orange dot on a pair of targets (above, left).  I then used a four foot level to draw a plum line moving up from the dot and fired the three shot group below.  

I dialed 30 MOA of elevation on the scope and fired another group.  Measuring the distance between the two groups, would indicate how well the scope is tracking.

Since 1 MOA is 1.047″ at 100 yards.  30 MOA would be 31.41″ (30 x 1.047″= 31.41″), looking at my tape measure, everything checked out (above).

Next I conducted a quick box test and set up an IPSC target with a orange paster at 100 yards.  To do this I:

  1. Fired one round with the scope zeroed
  2. Dialed 6 MOA left, fired one round
  3. Dialed 15 MOA up, fired one round
  4. Dialed 6 MOA right, fired one round
  5. Dialed 6 MOA right, fired one round
  6. Dialed 15 MOA down, fired one round
  7. Dialed 6 MOA left and fired one round

After this, you want to see two holes close to each other on the first target, as well as the correct spacing dialed in between each hole, so how did the PM II do?

Well, it worked like a champ!

The rest of my time with the PM II has been equally impressive.

These are my thoughts on the PM II 5-25×56 SFP:

  • It’s a lot of scope.  The PM II is pretty much the best scope you’ll be able to buy anywhere in the world.  There is a reason they are in such widespread Military and Law Enforcement use, it has earned its reputation.
  • Great zero stop.  The PM II has the easiest to adjust turret and zero stop system I have ever used.  On the PM II, the zero stop feature is known as a Sub Zero Stop.  The Sub Zero Stop allows movement below zero.  On the test scope it was 1.75 MOA.  This is a great feature if you switch ammunition or elevation and need to bump your zero down.
  • Tracks well.  This was to be expected with it’s widespread use by military units throughout the world.
  • Crisp, precise adjustments.  The tactile feel of the knobs are exceptional.
  • Crystal clear glass.  Great light transmission and reticle.
  • SFP isn’t dead!  I have a mix of MIL and MOA optics, both FFP and SFP.  I use them all for different purposes.  The SFP scope is far from dead, especially for Law Enforcement, long range and F-Class use.

My credit card is smoldering….

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