Zeiss ZO 4x30i Combat Gunsight: A First Impression

[ Written by gun optics guru Timothy Yan ]

Carl Zeiss Optronics introduced their new ZO 4x30i combat gunsight at the 2012 Shot Show and I did a preview of the prototype for TFB. For the past three months, I had a preproduction ZO 4x30i on T&E for my upcoming G&A Special Interest Publication article.

I took the ZO 4x30i to the Combat Carbine 2 course by Stoic Venture and let two former Marine Captains to tried it out. One of them is Mike Lamb, the lead instructor, formerly Marine Force Recon and Magpul Dynamics. Both of them were impressed by the optical performance of Zeiss sight.

Let’s cut to the chase: How is the Zeiss ZO 4x30i comparing to the Trijicon ACOG 4×32 models?

Optical Quality: Zeiss

The Zeiss is definitely better in term of optical performance. Not by a whole lot, that’s because the ACOG is actually quite good optically. What contributes to the main difference is that the Zeiss has a huge 36mm ocular lens to the ACOG’s much smaller ocular size.

Field of View: Zeiss

The Zeiss covers 41.7 ft. at 100 yards vs. ACOG’s 36.8 ft. at the same distance.

Reticle Design: Tie w/ some conditions

The Zeiss’ modified G36 reticle looks odd in the beginning but the more I using it the more I like it. It’s simple without numbers or other clutters, yet it’s very functional for precision and sufficiently fast in CQB. The Zeiss’ reticle ties with the ACOG’s chevron or horseshoe reticles but it’s superior to the crosshair reticle of the ACOG LED and the rest.

Illumination & Power: ACOG

The ZO 4x30i’s reticle illumination is useful only in lowlight. Both the ACOG LED and dual-illuminated ACOG have daylight visible reticle illumination. The ACOG LED offers 12,000-hour battery life to the Zeiss’ 800-1200 hours.

Eye Relief: Zeiss

The Zeiss offers 2.56 inch of eye relief to ACOG’s short 1.5 inch. Furthermore the Zeiss’s ocular lens is recessed into the housing, which is covered by rubber armor, both of those features helps to prevent eye injury if the sight does hit the user on recoil. The longer eye relief of the ZO 4x30i would make it a good choice for an AR-10 or other carbine that’s in the .308 caliber.

Size & Weight: ACOG

While the Zeiss is shorter than the ACOG by half inch, it’s bigger everywhere else. Its 20.1 weight is 2 oz. heavier than the ACOG LED and 4 oz more than the dual-illuminated ACOGs.

Price & Value:

The release price of the Zeiss ZO 4x30i will be $1300, much higher than the original projected $1000 price. The new price is slightly more than the ACOGs with standard TA51 mount with dual thumbscrews. However, the Zeiss includes a nice German-made QD level mount. Which makes it comparable to the ACOG with upgraded BoBro or LaRue QD mounts and the Zeiss is $100 cheaper than either. Call for dealer, military and LE volume discount.


The Zeiss ZO 4x30i is currently available only from Carl Zeiss Optronics USA, inc directly. It’s a sister company of Carl Zeiss Sport Optics USA but the Carl Zeiss Optonics focus on military, law enforcement and tactical markets, instead of hunting and sporting optics. Also noted that the two companies don’t share the same dealer network.

Contact: Carl Zeiss Optronics USA, inc. Phone #: 205-690-8472

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • I tried this scope on the range during SHOT Show. It is an amazing scope. If you are willing to forgo the daytime illumination of the ACOG, then this scope is the one to get. I was blown away by the optics quality.

  • David

    Am I mistaken or was there also a 6x model in the works as well? Can anyone confirm/deny?


  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    I’d like some info on the mount and magwell accessory on that AK in the last picture.

  • charles222

    The reticle illuminated at all?

    • Nicks87

      The article stated that the illumination was only visible in lowlight. Ziess makes quality gear but the reticle looks somewhat difficult to see without illumination.

      The main point behind reflex style optics is quick aquisition of the reticle. When the reticle is difficlut to see it kind of defeats the purpose.

      • charles222

        Thanks. The beauty of the ACOG chevron is that it’s both perfectly fine for quick-and-dirty and ALSO capable of being really precise. This looks more weighted towards precision.

      • charles222

        Just read the illumination/power section. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • AnoSymun

    Trigger discipline… Ouch.

    • D

      People always think the worst!

      Maybe she was demonstrating the scope is So Good, that you don’t even actually need to look through it to shoot with tremendous accuracy, and is about to take a shot on a target she’s drawn a bead on using this method?

  • Jason

    The Home Depot locknut on the mount is a nice touch.

  • Alvin

    How does the Zeiss compare to the Elcan Specter DR.

    • Mike

      It doesn’t? The DR has both 1x and 4x magnification. This one is a fixed 4x.

  • Lance

    Too BIG like a ALCAN sight prefer the ACOG.

    • Mike Knox


      • JMD

        Don’t feed the trolls.

    • Lance


      JD shut up

  • Alex-mac

    Why the rail on top? If it’s 1x what’s the point of mounting another 1x optic on top? Or is it for some other purpose?

    • AnoSymun

      That’s because it’s a 4x, not a 1x

    • Mike

      Way to read the article…

  • W

    I remember a post about this some time ago. While stalking their website, I was always eagerly waiting for Carl Zeiss to release this.

    I would like to obtain one to compare it to a Elcan Spectre and leupold’s own HAMR.

  • John Doe

    I love the rubber-coated ELCAN-esque look. If they can put out a 1x/4x model, I would definitely give it a look.

  • Nicks87

    I like Zeiss scopes but because of the poorly illuminated reticle, weight and bulkyness of the design I think would still prefer the ACOG.

  • Where was the landscape-view sight picture taken? My bet on Fremont, CA in the hills.

    • Mike

      Looks about right. You definitely got the state right; if you look close at the pics of the rifle, there’s a Bullet Button on it.

  • Seamus

    That woman is ugly !

    • charles222

      Well, um, your mom thinks she’s hot!

      • Who makes the scope mounting system for the AK featured in the last photo?

      • DeeB

        Midwest Industries

      • JohnnyM

        a poorly thought out mom joke will not make that woman any prettier! i have to agree with Seamus that woman is hideous

  • Mike

    The thing that excites me about this scope is that someone finally got smart and started using a Russian style range finder. It might, in theory, be less precise than something like Mil dots, but it takes basically no training to use, and no matter what is going to be faster to use.

    • Mike Knox

      Actually, the rangefinding graph looks more of the H&K Proprietary scope reticule like on the G36, except up side down..

      • Mike

        The Soviets were using that style rangefinder before the G36…

      • Mike Knox

        Before the russians did that, at the western front of the great war, the Germans came up with that graphic calling it the ‘Battalion Commander’s Rangefinding Scope Graph’ (more or less, it was in german)..

    • Timothy Yan

      Russian style? want to guess who the Russian copy that from?

      Hensoldt scopes have that stadiametric style range finding mark in their reticle for decades.

      • Mike

        I wouldn’t doubt they copied it from somewhere. But at least the Soviets actually fielded the stuff widely, while we’ve been screwing around with slower, harder to use systems.

        The only Hensholdt rangefinding reticle I have experience with is the old Panzerfaust sights that people were using as EOTech magnifiers, and those used the width of the tank for ranging.

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