March 4.5-28×52 Wide Angle Review and Comparison to Tangent Theta 5-25×56 – Bill Meyer (USA)
Below is the reprinted review on March 4.5-28×52 WideAngle vs Tangent Theta 5-25×56 by Bill Meyer who is an independent optics critic. This is originally published on Sniper’s Hide and with Bill’s permission we posted his article based on his impression and evaluation results.
A scope with a larger objective lens will have a better resolution and it takes in more light. It is the nature of optics. We are very proud that our 4.5-28×52 with smaller objective lens was compared and got very close to Tangent Theta 5-25×56 in Bill’s review.
If I told you that you could have the benefits of a 4-20 and a 5-25 scope all in one scope would you be interested? Of course, companies like Hensoldt, Schmidt and March have been trying to solve this issue with various designs, but all seem to have had their shortcomings. The Hensoldt 3.5-26×56 is a beast at almost 3lbs and its reticle offerings are lacking compared to the competition. The Schmidt 3-27×56 also has some heft at 40 ounces and is fairly long at 15.5”. Both these scopes represent the upper echelon of Alpha class optics with regard to price as they are some of the most expensive scopes on the market today. Years ago, March used their popularity with F-Class and 10x erector designs to inspire a new offering for FFP shooters creating the FFP 3-24×42 which ultimately expanded into the 3-24×52 design. Unlike the Schmidt and Hensoldt the March came in at just under 25 ounces and just over 13 inches, it was both shorter and lighter than the competition, in fact, it is shorter and lighter than almost any FFP optic on the market while offering a class leading 8x erector for scopes of this size. But one of the drawbacks of a short body design with such a high erector is that eyebox and DOF tend to become less forgiving (vs. longer body designs) and the parallax control requires more fine tuning to get focus/parallax just right.
With the rapid rise of PRS and NRL style sports in the USA, many scope manufacturers have been looking for the magic recipe that will gain acceptance of their newly released model within the marketplace. You have the typical manufacturers whose offerings usually turn to gold regardless of how good (or bad) their model might be; you have the upper echelon manufacturers within the “alpha class” and then you have some of the up-and-coming manufacturers who are trying to gain entry into this class, many who OEM out to LOW with very similar designs to other brands. March is arguably the best Japanese riflescope manufacturer today with glass that gives the European alpha class market a run for their money, but with their desire to always push the limits of optical design and limited promotional opportunities in the USA, they have made some headway into the market but not quite the impact that others have. As previously mentioned, March has made quite a bit of headway in the British, Australian and F-Class market here in the US, but the requirements for F-Class and benchrest type sports do not often translate to ideal designs for dynamic sports like PRS and NRL competitions. For one, trying to find a SFP scope in any of the PRS/NRL championship matches is akin to finding the proverbial “needle in a haystack”, you just can’t find them as most of the serious shooters quickly realize the benefits of utilizing the magnification range, dialing down when mirage gets nasty but still having a reticle that works just as well throughout the magnification range and having a reticle that allows you to hold wind and in some circumstances hold elevation but also have turrets that are distinct and accurate enough to spin your solution quickly. One of the most popular scopes since the inception of dynamic shooting sports has been the 5-25×56 design introduced by Schmidt & Bender, which many have copied but few have equaled and far fewer surpassed. One of the reasons for the popularity outside of the alpha class glass with extraordinary resolution and edge to edge clarity is the Depth Of Field (DOF) and forgiving parallax and eyebox. The scope is what I call a “traditional” design which means it has a very long tube and this design lends to forgiving DOF and parallax. Having forgiving eyebox also lends to be able to take shots when you’re not able to get your eye in perfect alignment behind the scope which is something PRS course designers tend to prefer by making rifle/scope position awkward during certain stages.
Frank Galli of Snipers Hide put together a favorable video review of the 3-24×52 soon after it first came to market when Kelbly’s was the only distributor in the US. Distributorship soon went to bullets.com but Shiraz (a renowned F-Class competitor) decided to get out of the shooting sports supply business back in 2019 and March had some decisions to make with what to do with the US market. They had just announced a new scope design in the 5-42×56 High Master at SHOT Show 2019, but the announcement came with a lot of scrutiny towards the reticle design that still did not seem to quite make the mark with the FFP crowd. March has always opted for short designs with their FFP scopes but short designs have their challenges to overcome, especially when using high magnification erectors that seem to affect eyebox, DOF and parallax and for this reason (IMO) March has struggled to gain much recognition within PRS/NRL style competitions. Not willing to allow the competition to get the upper hand, March decided to create a brand new scope in the 4.5-28×52 High Master and while it is still an ultra short design, they have opted for a 6.2x erector to help tame the aforementioned challenges inherent to these design parameters. For reticles, March is using the very competent design from Snipers Hide’s own Ilya Koshkin who was responsible for the FML-TR1 reticle first introduced in the 5-42×56 HM, and certain F-class and PRS shooters provided the feedback necessary for the FML-PDK reticle. The illuminated TR1 design is, IMO, one of the best crossover style reticles for long range and hunting while the non-illuminated PDK offers a very thin (non-illuminated) competition oriented reticle. Put together, all these features help make the 4.5-28×52 HM a very compelling scope that should pique the interest of numerous PRS/NRL shooters as well as hunters and long range enthusiasts interested in alpha class optics.
March 4.5-28×52 Wide Angle (High Master) and Tangent Theta 5-25×56
If March represents innovation, then Tangent Theta (TT) represents the best you can get in optical/mechanical performance today, true – scopes like the Minox ZP5 and ZCO may come close in optical quality, but there is really no argument to be made with regard to turrets – Tangent is the best (though I would say that the March 5-42 locking turrets and the Schmidt DT II+ come close in quality and feel). After running with my ZCO 4-20×50 for about a year I decided to try out the Tangent Theta, even though I already had a stellar copy of the ZP5, which I could not find any difference optically when compared side by side with the TT. Because I have an AI the toolless zero was a handy feature when I switch barrels, but I am only running two calibers right now and they both zero with less than .5 mrad difference. While I perform these reviews for the benefit of the community, I do have another motive and that is – to benefit me. Yes, it is selfish but let us be honest, I spend my own money on these scopes and can’t be buying a bunch of scopes I don’t plan on using. So, the question is, can the March dethrone the Tangent and earn it’s position on my AI? I should also clarify, I do not expect the March to “outperform” the Tangent Theta; however, I do expect it to perform at a level that where it should fall short will not cause too much angst – meaning it better be pretty darn good.
In the images above you can quickly see that the Tangent Theta dwarfs the March 4.5-28 by a considerable margin, this is where that Japanese innovation comes into play, in fact, the March is .2 inches shorter than the ZCO 4-20 which is the champion from the ultra short battle I did back in 2019 –
Keep in mind this evaluation is based on my own personal observations based on what my eyes “see” when looking through the scope. I pay meticulous attention when setting up my diopters for each scope making sure to fine tune them to my eye. My eyes are very sensitive to CA while some people cannot or have difficulty seeing CA when looking through the same scope. Everyone’s eyes are different, and my observations will undoubtedly be different from others. That being said, I try to be as objective as possible but, like all of us, do have my bias’ though I try my best to keep my reviews as unbiased as I can. It should also be noted that I am not paid by anyone to do these reviews, this started years ago on Snipers Hide when I was trying to choose a light weight tactical scope that performed well in low light situations, recommendations covered high and low and ultimately I decided the only way to know for sure was to get all the scopes that fell within my criteria and see for myself (personal observation), sure I lost some money in it, but had decided that was worth the cost vs. getting a scope that ultimately would not satisfy my requirements.
The below specs are provided by the manufacturers which provides a good baseline for what these scopes offer. March is highlighted in yellow as it is new for 2021. Highlighted in red is a potential drawback and in green is a potential benefit. (*Manufacturer’s comment: The model name of March 4.5-28×52 is FX High Master not F1.)
As mentioned previously, one of the most notable differences comes in size, the Tangent represents the traditional “long” scope design while the March represents the newer trend of “short” scope designs and is over 4 inches shorter than the Tangent. But other areas of note are:
- Weight: The Tangent is over 10oz heavier
- Field of view (FOV): March uses a 25° wide angle eyepiece offering greater FOV throughout the magnification range
- Close focus distance: Tangent has a typical 50m while March offers down to 10 yards
This review does not cover the accuracy of each scope but covers the functionality – since any manufacturer is capable of producing a lemon it’s always a good idea to test your scope to ensure its mechanical accuracy.
I have never considered myself a turret purest, having had many other scopes by numerous manufacturers over the years I could never quite understand what the “fuss” was all about with regard to turret feel. My general rule is – can it get me where I want to go quickly? If the turret can do that and is repeatable then it is a win in my book. That being said, I have experienced some somewhat lackluster turrets that leave much to be desired, so I assume we all have a threshold we are willing to accept. All that being said, if turret feel is your game, then Tangent Theta owns it – very distinct, no play whatsoever and a nice clunk between each .1 mrad gives you a sense of confidence anytime you spin the elevation or windage. Keep in mind these are 15 mrad per rev, and sometimes the spacing can be too tight, but TT decided to give you something more akin to a Ferrari stick shift to grab onto – it is meaty and with a diameter that allows for refined spacing throughout the 15 mrad of travel for each rev. Another unique feature is the toolless zero, something else that is unmatched in the industry. Have you ever found yourself at the range and forgot that tiny little hex wrench? What usually follows is #@&^%#$. With the Tangent you simply use your fingers to loosen the top plate of either elevation or windage and then you pull up slightly and spin to wherever zero is, push back down and tighten the top plate, that’s it, no hex wrenches needed. The Zero stop is always .5 mrad under 0 so this is automatically set wherever you set zero. Something I wish every manufacturer would introduce and if you don’t have that feature then do what Kahles did and stick a magnetic hex wrench inside the illumination battery cover so you have easy access in the field. My one and only complaint is that for such a massive turret housing, TT opted to put little tiny numbers, for young eyes this may not be a big deal, but ZCO got this one right with their large numbers and bold lines, something I wish TT and others would offer.
March 4.5-28×52 High Master turrets
Having reviewed the March 5-42×56 HM last year I fell in love with those turrets, not just for their unique locking mechanism but for the superb feel that is one of the closest to Tangent Theta I have felt to date. I was really hoping that March was going to offer the same locking turrets on the new 4.5-28×52 but unfortunately that is not the case (currently). That being said, these are still nice turrets with very little play and nice clicks. One unique thing March has done is offer a cleverly designed turret shroud that has a larger diameter and larger numbering than the turret on the scope itself, not only are the numbers easier to read, but the larger diameter is almost TT size giving a better feel to the turret in general. Another clever feature that March has had for a number of years is the 0-Set (or Zero Stop) which is “almost” toolless – if you have a coin or a key in your pocket you should be able to turn the 0-Set to define your zero stop after you have reset zero which does take a 1.5mm hex key. While it’s not toolless, and it’s not like Kahles with the key hidden in the illumination cover, March does give you a little key chain sized hex tool that doesn’t take up too much room on the key chain. The windage does come capped; however, it does have a nice feel so those who prefer to dial for wind can simply remove the cover to have a nice exposed windage turret that is still big enough to grab and spin even if gloved.
Below shows the optional large elevation shroud with larger numbers.
Turret Mechanical Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):
Turret Click Spacing – Advantage March: March – 10 | Tangent Theta – 9
This is more or less a personal preference, but my hand feels better with wider spacing. Tangent Theta is the best I have felt from a 15 mil per rev turret while the Nightforce has one of the best 12 mil turrets in the ATACR series and the Schmidt DT II+ aligns with the ATACR as some of the best 120 click per rev turrets, but the March with it’s 10 mrad per rev spacing is still very good indeed.
Turret Click Feel – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 10
This can be very subjective, but I am drawn to more distinct click sounds with very little play between marks, the Tangent has very distinct clicks with no play, the March is less distinct but also has no discernible play.
Turret Alignment – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 7 | Tangent Theta – 10
Both Tangent Theta and March turrets aligned perfectly through my testing running the turret out to the extreme and back. Because of March’s translatable design, it does rise pretty high above the center mark which gives a slight perception you are off mark if your eye is not perfectly centered, but with the larger turret shroud may be even more difficult for some to verify alignment. I much prefer the non-translatable design of the Tangent Theta.
Turret Reset Zero and Zero Stop – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 7 | Tangent Theta – 10
In order to reset zero on the March you have to loosen the side hex bolts on the turret housing, then spin the turret to align zero and re-tighten, this is typical of most long range scopes today and is only bested by the toolless design of the Tangent Theta turrets. March offers the coin/key adjustable zero stop mechanism; however, some may find an issue as this feature does not always stop below zero at the same spot – depending on how much effort you give it you may stop short or overtravel from where you intended to set the actual stop. Tangent is always fixed at .5 mrad below zero and that is something you can count on every single time which has its advantages for night shooters and those who prefer to count up after hitting the stop vs. visual recognition.
Turret Locking Mechanism – Tie: March – NA | Tangent Theta – NA
Neither of these scopes offer a locking mechanism so I am not going to rank them for that. The March does offer a capped windage which some shooters prefer. No one who owns a Tangent has ever said it has been bumped out of position in competition, YMMV.
Total Travel Adjustment – Advantage March: March – 9 | Tangent Theta – 8
March offers a total of 30 mrad of elevation travel while Tangent has 28mrad. On the windage side the March offers over double that of the TT with 20 mrad of travel vs. Tangent’s 6 mrad.
Overall Turret Mechanical Assessment – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 41 | Tangent Theta – 47 (50 points possible)
No surprise here, the Tangent Theta is simply the best of the best with regard to feel and function. March has a slight advantage with a bit more travel and the larger numbers on the dial. Does the March provide a Theta like experience, no it does not, but take Tangent Theta out of the picture and the March turrets are well equipped against the rest of the competition.
MECHANICAL ASSESSMENT OF MOVING PARTS
Besides the turrets you have other moving parts on a scope: the magnification ring, the parallax adjustment and an illumination module, which all require some type of adjustment. Sometimes manufacturers make the resistance too tough or too light. These parts are evaluated based on “resistance” which allows them to turn freely with two fingers, but not so loose that they could get bumped out of position accidentally.
Mag Ring, Parallax, Diopter and Illumination Mechanical Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):
Magnification Ring Movement – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 7 | Tangent Theta – 8
The Tangent Theta has had a history of fairly tight magnification resistance and for which some prefer to use a throw lever, the mag ring on my copy (manufactured in 2020) is not nearly that bad and I do not feel it necessitates a throw lever, yes, the resistance is a bit more than I’d like but does not require a pipe wrench to operate. The March has slightly more resistance than the Tangent and the March provides a throw lever right from the factory should you decide you need one, the throw lever is a plastic attachment but looks like it will hold up to some abuse so no complaints there. Of note is that the Tangent Theta increases magnification in a CCW direction while the March is the opposite in the CW direction.
Parallax knob Movement – Advantage March: March – 9 | Tangent Theta – 8
The parallax on the Tangent has more resistance than the magnification and takes some force to turn, I would not say the force is too much, but rather more than I would prefer. The resistance on the March is softer than the magnification and more in line with what I would like for both – sufficient resistance to avoid accidental bumps but allows for easy setting with two fingers.
Parallax Adjustment – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 10
Neither Tangent Theta nor March has distance numbers marked, both have a symbol indicating smaller to larger. Tangent Theta has more forgiving parallax when transitioning between objects both far and near while the March held its own throughout the range but not quite as forgiving as Tangent. One must be aware that parallax correction does not always equate to an in-focus image so time was taken to ensure parallax was correctly adjusted for.
Diopter Adjustment – Tie: March – 9 | Tangent Theta – 9
Both the March and Tangent Theta offer a “fast focus” diopter allowing for quicker adjustments, both also offer a threaded locking ring to help keep the adjustment from moving after being set. The knurling on TT’s lock lever is thin and aggressive which cut into my fingers a bit more. Resistance on both was ideal.
Illumination Dial – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 10
March is using a rubber cover over a push button for on/off functionality with numbers 1-6 on the side of the dial, due to being on the side it can be difficult to turn especially if wearing gloves. March also has an automatic shutoff after one hour from being turned on which will help save battery (I have often left illumination on and forgot to turn off only to find my next outing there is a dead battery). Tangent Theta uses a dial with on/off positions as you rotate from lowest to highest power settings, there is definitely more real estate to grab and turn on the TT which gives it an advantage.
Overall Mag Ring, Parallax, Diopter and Illumination Mechanical Assessment – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 41 | Tangent Theta – 45 (50 points possible)
Both the Tangent Theta and March have very good design with slightly different functionality, each have areas of improvement while being more than capable in the field. In the end Tangent Theta has the edge.
One of the most difficult areas to ascertain with any manufacturer is the quality of glass they use in a given scope model, or rather, how the image looks to the shooters eye when viewing the sight picture through the scope. Traditionally when it comes to optics one generally “gets what they pay for” and hence the higher end optics tend to have the higher end prices; however, with new design technologies we have seen some scopes punch above their weight class. It is impossible to take images through the scope to show the quality of the image to the naked eye, this is because any image capturing device (e.g. camera) also has its own lens system which introduces its own optical aberrations and if the system is better aligned on one scope verses another it may throw off values; therefore, you will not see any through the scope images because I do not want to skew opinion based on IQ of one image over another. So, for this evaluation I took meticulous notes based on my naked eye observations under as best controlled conditions I could get outdoors. Scopes were tested at multiple magnification points: 5x, 10x, 15x, 20x and 25x and a weighted average was obtained for the ratings below.
Optical Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):
Resolution (Center) – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 9.4 | Tangent Theta – 10
Looking through both scopes at distance (1000 yards) you are often dealing with atmospherics that can wreak havoc for any optical system, both these scopes performed very well out to 1000 yards, so well that I had to throw up my resolution chart and evaluate line resolution at close range so atmospherics had minimal effect, when testing in these conditions the center resolution victor became clear, the TT was able to resolve about 5% better than the March throughout much of the magnification range with 10-15x March matching the performance of the Tangent.
Resolution (Edge) – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 7.7 | Tangent Theta – 9.4
The Tangent Theta had the clear advantage in edge to edge sharpness throughout the magnification range. The sweet spot for the Tangent Theta appeared to be in the 15-20x magnification range while the sweet spot for the March was between 10-25x albeit having less definition than Tangent. March is utilizing a brand new 25° wide angle eyepiece that offers an HD viewing experience with thin outer edges while looking through the scope, but as a result of this wide angle design, one of the side effects is the slight edge distortion which is apparent throughout the magnification range – one of the drawbacks to such enormous FOV and a tradeoff the shooter will have to decide. Keep in mind throughout my testing I found the edges to be perfectly acceptable and was not distracted by the level of distortion.
Color – Tie: March – 8.8 | Tangent Theta – 8.8
If you’ve ever heard the term “it’s all in the eye of the beholder” that in large part describes the experience of color for each of us. It seems our eyes have different sensitivity to different parts of the spectrum and while I tend to prefer “warmer” images and am somewhat put off by “cooler” ones, others see colors differently. For some reason, most Japanese manufactured optics tend to be on the cooler side while many European optics tend to be more neutral to warm. For this reason I have always gravitated towards European optics; however, I am happy to say that March optics in general (not just this scope) have a color contrast that is much more in alignment with their European counterparts. In my test target testing both the March and Tangent were able to reproduce colors very accurately.
Contrast (High) – Advantage March: March – 9 | Tangent Theta – 8.7
My high contrast target has very bright white paper with very black lines, the numbers represent the smallest value I was able to discern. Surprisingly, even though the Tangent Theta was able to resolve better, I was actually able to discern more contrast with the March on the high contrast target.
Contrast (Low) – Advantage March: March – 8.4 | Tangent Theta – 8.3
My low contrast target has a gray background with darker gray lines, the numbers represent the smallest value I was able to discern. This test proved to be almost a tie as both performed very closely to one another.
Clarity – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 9.3 | Tangent Theta – 9.4
Sometimes known as “pop”, the ability for the image to really stand out and come alive. The Tangent began to fall off close to 20x while the March began to falloff at 15x; however, falloff was very slight and both scopes performed extremely well in this area.
Chromatic Aberrations (CA) – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 9 | Tangent Theta – 9.6
A hotly debated topic – CA, which is typically seen at the edges between high and low contrast objects in what is termed as fringing and usually comes in a band of color along the green/yellow and magenta/purple spectrum, some are greatly annoyed by this optical anomaly while others insist they cannot see it, one thing to know is it has nothing to do with your ability to hit a target, but can affect the clarity of the target. I tested for both center CA and edge CA. One other area is CA sensitivity with lateral movement off the center of the scope, you can quickly induce CA in these situations which are often rectified by proper cheekweld/eye placement behind the center of the scope. The Tangent Theta is known to be one of the best scopes at managing CA; however, I did notice slight falloff at 20x where it exhibited slightly more CA than at other magnifications. One of the drawbacks to short scope designs is this typically induces more CA, March decided to use their High Master lens system in the 4.5-28 to help control CA and I must say they did an admirable job as I was expecting to see more CA than I was able to observe. Yes, the Tangent still had the edge but the March was not as far behind as I thought it would be given its ultra short design.
Depth of Field (DOF) – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8.8 | Tangent Theta – 9.4
The Tangent Theta has extraordinary DOF, objects outside of the plane of focus maintain sharpness and detail for quite a distance, the March is not as forgiving as the full sized Tangent but better than many ultra short scopes.
Mirage (effect) – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 9
If you hang around Snipers Hide forums long enough and read enough threads about the alpha class scopes, you see some common terms like “splitting hairs” between one scope and another because at the $3000+ level the margin between the scopes begins to become very thin; however, one thing that is often attributed to the Tangent Theta is its apparent ability to “cut through” mirage. For me, the verdict is still out on this claim and I think what most TT owners are talking about is the ability for the TT to define micro contrast regardless of the atmospheric conditions, so when there is heavy mirage, the ability of the scope to define detail helps the brain to perceive this as “seeing through” the mirage. For my testing I had both scopes side by side and my test subject was at 1000 yards during midday, with the scopes set between 10-20x, what I was looking for was how well I could define detail behind the mirage and how much the heat waves would distort that image. The Tangent did have a slight advantage over the March during these tests but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the March performed in comparison.
Field of View (FOV) – Advantage March: March – 10 | Tangent Theta – 8
The new March 4.5-28×52 High Master with its 25° eyepiece has enormous FOV for a long range scope. Many shooters often mistake low magnification for being able to “see” more; however, this is not always the case. For example, while the March has a low magnification of 4.5x, it actually has greater FOV (29.1’) than the ZCO 4-20×50 does at its lowest magnification of 4x (28’), so in reality, even though the March has a higher magnification at its lowest setting you can actually “see” more. For an older design, the Tangent Theta has very impressive FOV numbers and has been one of the best scopes in that category. Neither of these scopes showed any significant tunneling at low magnification. Outside of the specs which offer FOV numbers at the low and high magnification settings, keep in mind that FOV is not always a linear value so extrapolating actual values can be difficult. A couple years ago I began to measure the mrad value once I could detect it and for many long range scopes this is usually around 15x. The following numbers are from center so to get the full FOV value just multiply x2:
Eyebox – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8.2 | Tangent Theta – 9.2
I have seen varied definitions of eyebox in the community, so to be clear, here is my definition which will help you understand what I am looking for – put simply, eyebox is the ability to be able to quickly obtain a clear sight picture when getting behind a scope. Both the March and the Tangent Theta showed decent eyebox forgiveness throughout the magnification range with both getting more finicky at higher magnifications. Tangent Theta is known to be one of the very best with regard to eyebox forgiveness, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the March performed to just past 20x; however, the March did appear to get more finicky above 20x, still very usable but should be noted.
Twilight Transmission (low light performance) – advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 10
I set both scopes to 12x to allow for a larger exit pupil yet still give my eyes a challenge in the failing light. From about 20 minutes after sunset, I begin testing both scopes side by side as the evening became darker and darker. Throughout this time the Tangent with its larger 56mm objective maintained amazing brightness and pop, the March maintained excellent contrast but there was some brightness falloff, more than I hoped to see but low light performance was still very good.
Overall Optical Assessment – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 104.6 | Tangent Theta – 109.8 (120 points possible)
The Tangent Theta has a brilliant image from edge to edge with excellent color and contrast while the March has slight edge distortion but excellent contrast and brilliant color. The Tangent Theta manages CA slightly better while the March offers enormous FOV throughout the magnification range. The TT has very forgiving DOF while the March is not far behind. The Goldilocks zone (superb optical performance) for the Tangent Theta and March was between 5-15x with only slight falloff at 20x and above.
Special Note on Resolution: The center resolution between both scopes appeared very close during my normal range testing so I decided to throw up my resolution chart at close range (to minimize atmospheric interference) and see how many lines my eyes could differentiate before they blended together, as you can see in the chart below as you move from left to right the lines get closer together, with each scope I would place the optical center/crosshair where the lines began to blur together and I would note which section that occurred.
RETICLE & ILLUMINATION
One of the most important choices one can make in a long range scope today is the reticle, this is, after all, what you will see every single time you bring the scope to your eye so it’s important to make sure that it fits the needs or your shooting style. That being said, reticle selection or preference is extremely subjective and saying Brand X reticle is “the best” is like saying “Brand X vanilla ice cream is the best” – we all have different tastes, and the good news is that there are many options available to the long range community. With this in mind, my ratings below should be taken with a grain of salt because they are based on MY preference, but I will explain what I like and why, which should help you understand if it might be something you would like or not like even though I may have a differing opinion.
Reticle & Illumination Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):
Reticle Usability – Tie: March – 10 | Tangent Theta – 10
The reticle in the March is their new FML-TR1, which is a superb design created by none other than the Dark Lord of Optics himself. The reticle provided in the Tangent Theta is their Gen 3XR design. Both are a newer .2 mil hash design with dots in the Christmas tree, which I prefer, because they do not obscure the image as much as the solid lines of some other tree designs. One of the interesting features of the FML-TR1 is that the Christmas tree dots virtually disappear when you’re not using them, they blend into the background. The Gen 3XR also does a decent job at this but not to the level of the TR1. A feature shared in both designs are the larger center dot, in a trend by many manufacturers to make the tiniest center dot possible, I find myself constantly searching for this dot, especially on dark backgrounds, but that does not happen with the FML-TR1 and Gen 3XR which both use a .075 mrad dot. The FML-TR1 adds a .075 mrad center cross to complement the dot, this cross is .2 mrad wide and is spaced .2 mrad from the center dot and main stadia making it very easy to measure without clutter, the Gen 3XR has large dots every full mrad mark in both horizontal and vertical stadia. When I first saw the specs for the reticle, I was worried the center would be too thick, but it is ideal in my book offering the perfect balance and allowing it to be usable even at low magnification.
Illumination Color and Brightness – Advantage March: March – 7 | Tangent Theta – 6
Both scopes offer red illumination as the only option. Tangent Theta has lackluster performance when it comes to brightness, but sufficient for low light engagements. March has improved on previous performance but still does not deliver a daylight bright illumination out of their 6-setting module, although it too is sufficient for low light situations. I would say the March is ever so slightly brighter than the TT illumination. March did not exhibit illumination bleed while the Tangent Theta’s illumination did show slight bleed on full power but not enough to be distracting.
Overall Reticle & Illumination Assessment – Advantage March: March – 17 | Tangent Theta – 16 (20 points possible)
Neither of these scopes’ illumination modules are going to wow the user for usability during daylight hours. Scopes like Kahles and ZCO both offer much brighter illumination so if you are a shooter who likes to have the little extra during the day you may be somewhat disappointed. That being said, illumination in long range scopes is typically relegated to lower light situations and that’s where the March and Tangent will perform adequately.
Overall Ergonomic Assessment – Tie: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 8 (10 points possible)
Tangent Theta excels with the traditional design in long range scopes, clearly, they are regarded as some of the best glass and mechanics with superb fit and finish that is virtually unmatched by any scope on the market. Tangent includes the excellent Tenebraex caps and ARD which is a very nice touch; however, I do wish the Tenebraex caps would lay flatter when opened. Tangent could use larger numbers on their turrets while the March could use a better illumination control module. March has the large elevation shroud and includes flip caps, throw lever and sunshade for those who desire those features, March turrets are also low profile while Tangent’s are some of the meatiest out there. March offers greater magnification and FOV while reducing size and weight considerably. The overall ergonomic winner is a tie, the March has an advantage with its short body and the Tangent has an advantage with the toolless turrets.
FIT & FINISH
Overall Fit & Finish Assessment – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 8 | Tangent Theta – 9 (10 points possible)
As good as the March is in overall craftsmanship, and it is superb… the best I have seen from Japan, earning it a spot in the ranks of alpha class scopes that are dominated by European craftsmanship, I do have to give the nod to Tangent Theta with overall fit and finish. Quality reeks from this scope everywhere you look, the precise fit of every single part abounds with the precision that Tangent Theta is known for. All that being said March has their own set of impeccable craftsmen (and women) who are hand assembling each and every scope, if Tangent Theta gets a 9 then March is not far behind with an 8, we are truly splitting hairs when it comes to the fit and finish of each of these scopes – as it should be with the alpha class.
Overall Price Assessment – Advantage March: March – 7 | Tangent Theta – 5 (10 points possible)
Most knowledgeable shooters are aware that the alpha class of sport optics is not cheap, you are guaranteed to pay in the thousands for these top-quality optics, but the March and Tangent Theta scopes really push the wallet to the limit. MSRP for the March comes in at a teeth grinding $3590 while the Tangent Theta is a “do I really need two kidneys’” – $4800! Street price you can expect to pay less but not much less.
Final Score – Advantage Tangent Theta: March – 226.6 | Tangent Theta – 239.8 (out of 270 possible points)
It should come as no surprise that Tangent Theta takes the blue ribbon in this competition, but the March has proven to be a confident runner up. This was kind of an “unfair” comparison to begin with as we are comparing one of the best scopes on the market today to a new comer that is designed to push the limits of what can be done in a short body design. The final results are very close and I could easily see any one shooter choosing one scope over the other. At the end of the day the March has so much going for it: less expensive, shorter, lighter, more ergonomic with very nice turrets, High Master glass with amazing color/contrast with an industry leading FOV (for its magnification range). The Tangent Theta bests the March in several areas including overall resolution, edge to edge sharpness, overall fit and finish, eyebox and DOF. If the features of the Tangent Theta suit your fancy more than March you won’t find an argument from me, but I highly recommend you give the March a chance especially if you’re looking for a scope that packs so much into a shorter/lighter design, I think you will be pleasantly surprised and at over $1200 less, your wallet will be thanking you as well.
Areas of Improvement
The first item that comes to mind is for March to design non-translatable turrets, that is – turrets that do not rise and fall as you spin them up or down. I would also like to see a similar locking turret design with larger diameter turret as is on the 5-42×56 HM. Get an illumination module like so many other new scopes that have excellent low light quality with no bleed but also bright enough to be used when the sun is out, and a different design for easier manipulation of settings especially if wearing gloves.
Get a daytime bright illumination module. Larger and more bold numbering and dashes on the turrets, maybe even reduce the height of the turrets. Reduce spacing on turrets to 12 mrad per rev and increase the travel to 36 mrad total. This design which originates from Optronika could use an optical formula face lift, maybe something like a shorter bodied 5.5-33×56 with a wide angle eye piece – how many shooters would turn their heads if TT came out with a completely new scope and not something they essentially inherited from Premier Reticles? My final comment is for Tangent to invest in better multi-coating to help eliminate flare when the scope is pointed towards the sun, depending on position there can be significant flare and ghosting which shouldn’t be there at this price point, sure you can put on the ARD to help eliminate this, but many will not be using that part for most of their shooting.
How does the March compare to Brand X?
Often when I do these reviews, I get asked the question, “how does it compare to **insert favorite brand/model here**” and while I’ve gone through a number of alpha class scopes I simply do not have the money or time to try them all. What I can tell you is I did a brief comparison of the 4.5-28×52 HM with a ZCO 4-20×50 and with the updates that March has made to the final (production) version I can confidently say the March gives the ZCO a run for the money. At about the same price, the March offers a scope that is slightly smaller than ZCO’s ultra short but with magnification and FOV that bests both of ZCO’s offerings (the 4-20 and 5-27). If you told me that you want the absolute best in optical/mechanical performance then I would tell you to buy the ZCO, but if you want both scopes wrapped up in one body and with greater FOV and arguably better crossover style reticle then the March 4.5-28×52 should be on your radar. The March is a scope that will be as at home on a competition rifle, a short barreled rifle like a Desert Tech, an AR platform and a hunting rifle, it may well be the most well rounded crossover scope available today which says a lot given the competition that is out there. If there is another scope you’d like me to compare to the March then send me a PM and I’ll send you my address and you can ship it to me and I’ll do a side by side evaluation.
Finally, reiterating what I mention at the very beginning, I am biased (we all are) and I have my own preferences and this review and opinion has influence from that, hopefully I’ve done an adequate job throughout the review to share where my personal preference comes into play in order to help you better evaluate a particular feature. I might rank a reticle as a 10 but you would rank the same at a 7. Also, I am trying out this new “scoring” system based on something Frank brought up during 2020, I am not sure how I feel about it as so much of the ratings are subjective so I welcome your constructive feedback on how I can improve or simply get rid of it entirely.
Where can you find March scopes, the good news is that since 2020 more and more dealers have begun carrying them. Keep in mind March are handmade scopes and they do have a lead time.
Here are a few more images I would like to share.
Of interest is the fact that even with the sunshade attached the March is still shorter than the Tangent Theta.
The March is even at home on my extremely short DT MDRx
March does a surprisingly good job with flare when direct sunlight is hitting the front objective… TT, well not so good. NOTE: DO NOT USE THE BELOW IMAGES TO MAKE IQ EVALUATIONS, THIS IS ONLY TO SHOW HOW THE SCOPE HANDLED FLARE.
March also offers this clever aperture disk which they call a modifier disk. I did use it for some testing and found that it did seem to make DOF and parallax a bit more forgiving and brightness is not affected during well lit conditions.
Below is with the modifier attached on the front of the sunshade. (Yes, the cap can still fit over the disk)
March’s accessories are impressive compared to many manufacturer’s offerings
As much as I love the TT and toolless zero, the March is more usable for me with its huge FOV and I have an affinity for short scopes.
Thank you for the wonderful review Bill!
We have great news to share. Bill has decided to become a March Scopes dealer. If you have any questions regarding this review or March Scopes, you can contact Bill at the email address below.
Panhandle Sport Optics