By Kip Staton
kipstaton.com

I like technical scopes. Optics with intricate elevation knobs, long instruction manuals, and complex reticles are some of my favorite things to write about. I just enjoy learning about them, using them in the field, and always looking at what’s new.

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So when the Steiner H4Xi 3-13×56 came across my workbench, the first thing that jumped out was… well, nothing. The format is dead-simple, even traditional. It’s not built with any drastically new technology that can fill a review with buzzwords and excitement.

While it doesn’t offer anything really fun or new, it does have some nuanced “under the hood” features that make it an excellent choice for the serious hunter. It’s just a simple, well-executed hunting scope, through-and-through.

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Steiner H4Xi Series Overview

As optics designed for the field, the German-designed and made H4Xi series from Steiner are meant to be general-purpose game-killing tools. Lightweight for their size, the H4Xi scopes feature large objective lenses designed to provide 90% light transmission (according to Steiner). Capped turrets and illuminated reticles are standard features, and you can choose from two configurations:

  • H4Xi 3-12×56
  • H4Xi 4-16×56

The series is touted by Steiner to be hunt-proof, whether you’re talking about the weather or harsh lighting conditions. While their feature sets may appear to be rather slim, the simplicity in the no-nonsense layout is a definite strength.

Unboxing and Physical Description

Externally, the H4Xi is an attractive optic. There are no sharp transitions or corners anywhere on the scope. Everything blends together at the turret housing and objective bell with gentle radiuses. The only external controls are the reticle focus, power knob, and illumination settings. All are extremely low-profile and snag-free, and the optic itself is finished with a smooth, matte coating.

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  • Magnification: 3x-12x
  • Objective Diameter: 56mm
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Eye Relief: 3.8”
  • Exit pupil: .47” to .18”
  • Weight: 25 Ounces
  • Overall Length: 13.2”
  • Click Values: .25 MOA
  • Elevation Range: 33 MOA

Steiner includes a lens cloth, warranty information, manual, reticle booklet, Steiner decal, and clear lens covers with the H4Xi. It ships in a very nice box with closely-cut closed cell foam protecting the scope.

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The H4Xi is completely nitrogen purged, and totally waterproof down to six and a half feet. This waterproofing depth may seem rather shallow, but it fits right in line with the hunting-oriented mission of the H4Xi series.

Comparative Optical Evaluation

Steiner advertises 90% light transmission with the H4Xi series. I’ve gone over this at length before, but I really have no actual way of testing that claim. My go-to “optical quality” test as of late has been to see if I can engage a 10” round steel plate at 200 yards, 30 minutes before the sun rises and after it sets.

I think this is a realistic test of optical performance, all things considered. It places the optic squarely where glass is going to be strained the most: in low lighting conditions. And 30 minutes on either side of the sun is within legal shooting limits for most practical hunting purposes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the H4Xi easily passed this check with flying colors. The gray plate was very easy to see and define against my dark-brown berm, right down to the edges. Quality here is fantastic.

Turrets and Tracking Testing

Since the H4Xi is first and foremost a hunting scope, it comes with capped turrets. Unscrewing the metal caps reveals simple, yet robust, finger-adjustable knobs with .25 MOA clicks. Again, not really my preferred type, but they are functional and do their intended job.

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After zeroing the H4Xi, resetting the turrets is as simple as grabbing the numbered ring beneath the gripping surface and turning it to the zero mark. It’s held in place by friction alone, and spins rather freely.

Initially, I was not impressed at all with this feature. Unless you are careful with how you grab the turret, you can easily bump the witness marked ring off of zero. But then I remembered the purpose of this optic: 99% of the time, the turrets will be capped.

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This method for resetting the rings to zero uses no small parts, is quick to use, and quite frankly gets the job done. Why bother putting a complex system in place when it won’t ever be used? This isn’t a long-range tactical scope. It includes an excellent drop reticle for shooting past point-blank range, not external turrets.

It’s possible to make long-distance adjustments with the turrets, but you just have to pay attention to where you put your fingers. I didn’t do any sort of tall target tracking test with the H4Xi, because it really isn’t a realistic application for the turrets to begin with. However, it zeroed quickly and easily with just a few shots, and retained zero over my time with the scope.

Steiner H4Xi 3-12×56 Plex S1 Reticle

Like most scopes destined for the hunting field, the H4Xi reticle is in the second focal plane. This keeps the reticle the same size to the viewer’s eye, no matter what setting the zoom ring is set to. Similar to nearly all optics these days, the reticle focus is adjusted by turning the rear rubber ring on the ocular lens housing.

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The heavy lines surrounding the finer central crosshair on the Plex S1 reticle really help bracket close targets. It’s a BDC-style reticle, with graduated markings corresponding to roughly 300, 400, 500 and 600 yards when zeroed at 200 yards for most hunting cartridges.

Steiner does not provide any detailed subtension values for the S1 Plex reticle, which is rather annoying.

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What’s even worse is that the included reticle instruction booklet contains detailed information about the values subtended by all other Steiner reticles, except for the S1 Plex! I get that it’s their most generalized reticle, but it wouldn’t hurt to include the details for those of us that would appreciate it…

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The windage holds account for 10 MPH winds at their corresponding distances, and parallax on the H4Xi is fixed at 100 yards.

Reticle Illumination

The entire center portion of the Plex S1 reticle on the H4Xi is illuminated. Powered by a standard CR2032 battery, it offers 11 different brightness settings optimized for both day and low-light use. Illumination is definitely day bright, but it’s not going to bloom or wash out in full sun. It’s more of a dawn/dusk tool, as it should be.

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Illumination settings are controlled by a knob on the left-hand side of the scope, which also houses the battery. These settings also include an off position in between each one, a feature that’s becoming common on higher-end scopes.

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The battery casing has contacts that totally surround the battery and a cap that firmly mashes it in place. Reticle flickering due to recoil is not going to be an issue with the H4Xi.

Zoom Ring

There’s not much to say about the zoom ring on the H4Xi. It’s rubber coated, and features a raised ridge to aid in traction while switching power. A throw lever is not needed, yet it’s definitely not too loose. Power ranges from 3x to 12x on this model, with clearly seen numbers displayed on the top of the ring.

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Steiner H4Xi 3-12×56 Riflescope In Use

Mounting the H4Xi on my proven Ruger Predator rifle in 308 Winchester was fast and simple, using my trusty Wheeler FAT wrench and a set of high Vortex rings. I’ve used these rings on a few scopes now, and really like how low profile they are side-to-side.

I think I may be changing my mind on optics with large objective lenses. Usually, I find them unnecessary. Glass in general is so good today, I rarely find myself wishing for anything bigger than a 42mm or 40mm lens. But 56mm optics are coming in shorter overall lengths all the time, and I’m finding the extra width really isn’t a big deal out in the field. It certainly wasn’t on the H4Xi.

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On the range, shooting my preferred B-8 bullseye targets at 100 yards was pretty much a non-event. Short of loading up and going on a hunt, there’s really not a whole lot of “testing” that really can be done with the H4Xi, due to the simple format. Once you’re sighted in, you’re pretty much done. Shooting steel out to 200 yards was a point-and-click affair.

The exit pupil and eye relief are much more forgiving on the 3x setting, but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s not overly constrictive on 12x, but you do need to pay attention to your head positioning with the fixed 100 yard parallax.

Steiner Heritage Warranty

The warranty on the H4Xi is as good as it gets in the optics industry. If anything bad happens to the scope that causes performance to suffer, they will replace or repair it for free. Naturally, this doesn’t cover theft or deliberate damage from “torture testing,” so it should cover just about everybody. I do want to point out that electronics are only covered for three years, so take that into consideration.

There are no warranty cards or receipts needed, and the Heritage warranty is fully transferable to future owners. If it breaks, they fix it. It’s that simple.

Is the Steiner H4Xi 3-12×56 for You?

Do your plans include dialing up and down manually to engage long range targets? I would stay away from the H4Xi. The turrets are just not ideal for constant manual adjustment.

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The somewhat lackluster turret design is made up for with the excellent reticle. As reticle designs become more refined, this is becoming a trend: Put excellent glass and a well-designed reticle inside a more basic scope, and pass the savings on to the customer. It’s hard to believe, but (as much as I enjoy them) not everybody needs the latest and greatest first-focal plane designs and advanced turrets. Most of my objections to the H4Xi can be answered with “Well, it’s a hunting optic.”

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Does your mission require a lightweight, slim-profile hunting scope with great glass? Well, that’s exactly what the H4Xi provides. Pricing is definitely above-average for the general hunting scope market, but the overall quality is above-average as well.

Steiner H4Xi 3-12×56 Review Final Thoughts

With a well-defined end goal, sometimes you just need a no-nonsense scope that doesn’t have a lot of features. However, that doesn’t mean you need to settle for a lower-quality optic. The Steiner H4Xi retains an extremely high level of quality, executed simply.

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Not every high-end rifle needs an advanced, cutting edge scope. And for those cases, the Steiner is a near-perfect choice.