Looking to transform your high-quality AR-platform or bolt-action rifle from being reasonably accurate to a precision instrument? Then the ultra-compact Schmidt & Bender 5-20×50 PM II Ultra Short might be the answer. This review is also another important piece in the puzzle in TFB’s quest of reviewing all of the PM II series of riflescopes made by the German company.
The “five-twenty” only has a 4x ratio magnification gear, which by today’s standards isn’t much. I mean the S&B 3-27×56 PM II High Power Riflescope has a ratio of 9x. Can the 5-20 still be of interest? Let’s find out.
Below: Zeroing a brand new 5-20×50 PMII Ultra Short, privately owned, in heavy rain. Suppressed Blaser rifle. This is how we test and try things.
Size and performance
With a total length of only 29.9 centimeters (11.77″), this model is the most compact long-range riflescope in the premium segment. In fact, to my knowledge, in any segment. Just to give you an idea, the 1-8×24 PM II ShortDot Dual CC is more or less the same length, the Zero Compromise 4-20 is more than an inch longer and the big brother 5-25×56 PM II is over 4″ longer. It’s so compact (in length) that when it was released, there were almost no scope mounts that would fit.
Below: S&B 5-25, ZCO 527 and the 5-20 PMII. Notice the difference between the Spuhr mounts, with the cut out for illumination (bottom scope Spuhr SP-4036).
20x magnification is still plenty enough for most tasks, and it delivers this with phenomenal sharpness and resolution which is easy for the shooter to access. Remember that optical design is always going to be a matter of compromising. Less magnification gear, less compromise. Also, how short you can design a scope is a function of how large the ocular and objective lenses are. The larger you go the longer the scope has to become, and that’s not what we wanted here.
For most long-range shooting I use the 12-20x working area, around 15x is the sweet spot if you ask most PRS shooters. So for me, the fact that the minimum magnification only starts at 5x doesn’t matter too much.
For the record, I’ve reviewed my own riflescope, which I’ve owned for several years. I bought it from a friend who had it for about a year and failed to see its greatness: lucky me! In this review, there are a total of three different 5-20 Ultrashorts, and the experience from these owners has been woven into the conclusion.
When I bought my 5-20 it had the P4L reticle. The reticle mostly worked great, but during practice and some competitions in PRS we shoot at 10 cm round steel, and the horizontal line obscured it. The method of “shoot when you don’t see the target” doesn’t work well for me, and I lost a lot of points and positions. So when Schmidt & Bender announced last year that they had released the MSR2 reticle from Finnaccuracy, I and a friend sent our scopes to Germany for a reticle makeover. This cost around €500, which is a lot of money, but it also transformed the riflescope and made it much more useful. The MSR2 has a tiny dot in the center, and the crosshairs are free so you can see the target.
Below: The Coyote “tactical bag” is from S&B, and it can be found here. Two 5-20s and one 3-27 to give you an idea about proportions on 4x or 9x magnification factor. You win some, you lose some. As you can see, a protective lens cap also builds length.
Below: Schmidt & Bender 5-20×50 PMII Ultra Short mounted on a Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. There’s no need to use a cantilever mount on this rifle, but since it just came off an AR15 that’s why.
The Turret – Ultra Flat for the Ultra Short
There are various turrets to order for your S&B, but I just love this one. It’s so small, builds almost no height yet it has all the features. This is the Ultra flat Lockable Turret with More Tactile Clicks (MTC), Zero Click where every 10th click is more pronounced. There’s at least 270 cm/100m (27 Mils) of total travel. Once you reach the second turn, you get an indication by a gold-colored pin that appears out of the top of the turret. You unlock the turret by pulling the outer ring of the turret, and a red text indicates that you locked it once you’re done.
Side view. Note how flat the turret is. No issues to have a secondary red dot on top and still get 100% visibility. The turret measures only 20 mm in height from the upper main tube, but still offers 35 MIL/84 MOA of adjustment range.
Here’s another 5-20 PMII Ultra Short on a suppressed Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. This version is not illuminated, as you can see the Spuhr mount is a bit different from the others in this article and there’s no illumination knob on the left side. Note the bipod from Magpul, Ase Utra suppressor and carbon fiber barrel from Proof. I think the trigger is from Timney, which is a recommended upgrade as well. This rifle is very light, you can carry it one-handed from position to position. The Ultra Short is not only small, but it’s also fairly light.
A view from the right side. This is taken during a Precision Rifle Series competition last autumn. Skill stage with steel targets at 300 meters. The S&B 5-20 PMII Ultra Short has a generous eye box, so it’s easy to wobble a little and still keep your eyes on the targets. This owner also has the Kahles 624i, which is an excellent riflescope, but he prefers the S&B. You could say that it’s easy to extract the performance out of the Ultra Short.
Going Thermal – Showing some modern possibilities
Here are some unique pictures of two S&B 5-20×50 PMII scopes. The top one is in a Blaser mount and the one mounted on the Ruger has the Pulsar Krypton FXG50 Thermal attached with their PSP-56 adapter. There’s an Aimpoint Micro H2 on top, everything secured by a Spuhr mount. The velcro is from a homemade DOPE card holder prototype. If you like it get the Hawk Hill Custom “RMD” or Rifle Mounted Data-Holder. Your DOPE needs it! B&T Atlas V8 bipod on RAT ARCA Rail adapter and pistol grip from MDT.
Here you can check the S&B 5-20 PMII Ultra Short versus the Pulsar Thermion XP50, both in Blaser mounts. Pulsar Thermal scanners, XM30S and XQ38 for size. You can also see what the Schmidt & Bender 3-27×56 PMII with Pulsar Krypton FXG50 Thermal Clip-On looks like here.
Below: The 5-20 Ultra Short on a Tikka T3x, with an Aimpoint ACRO C-1 at the 12 o’clock position. Yes, it works on a bolt-action rifle as well. Note how compact it is, even with lens caps. No need for a cantilever mount here, yet you get a good eye box.
You don’t need an AR-platform for it to work. Blaser R8 below.
The MSR2 reticle
Below: Cold winter morning. Sun is rising from the left creating a yellow haze. Distance: 1 235 meters. There is some chromatic aberration in this picture taken by an iPhone, but when I look through the scope with my eye, it is not visible. This is why we keep on saying that you should use these pictures as a guide only – the reality is never worse! I have learned that the smoke exits this chimney at about 20 meters per second, yet it goes to the right immediately. It’s windy at 130+ meters above the ground.
Here are more examples, taken over several days trying to capture different light and conditions. The camera is a little bit offset here, taking these pictures is quite difficult. Keeping the camera in the right position requires a lot of coffee.
The center cross is a bit over exposed in this picture due to the camera. The “surgery” to change the reticle from P4L to MSR2 in Germany wasn’t cheap, but I don’t regret it.
You can find the reticle downloads here.
Below: You can use the MSR2 reticle to measure things. One benefit of the 4x ratio magnification gear is that the reticle works really well across the whole range. People rarely think about the challenges with moderns reticles that are supposed to work from 3x to almost 30x. Hint: they don’t.
MSR2 for the 5-20×50 PM II Ultra Short. Very useable at 5x and at 20x.
We don’t really have any images to demonstrate it, but the Schmidt 5-20 Ultra Short has a pretty good FOV (Field Of View), from 7.8 to 2.0 meters. The left chimney is said to be 5.3 meters in diameter, distance is 1235 meters. The magnification below is most likely 20x, but I don’t have a record.
Zoomed out, probably around the sweet spot around 15x. Same distance as above, but another day.
For more information on how to use Finnaccuracy’s Multipurpose Sniper Reticle II – MSR II check here. It’s a brilliant reticle, and it was finally made available to the S&B 5-20 PMII.
So what are the negatives?
Believe it or not, this little German wonder does have some negatives. The magnification ring for the zoom is hard. Not as hard and aggressive as the parallax ring we tested on the Leica PRS 5-30x56i Riflescope, but you still want gloves for it to move. I haven’t been able to find a dedicated throw lever for it, unfortunately.
Illumination. I don’t think I have ever tried a riflescope with the perfect illumination. This one rates somewhere above the middle. Certainly not bad, but not perfect.
The price is another, and probably what keeps most people from getting one. Whoever configured mine, went all-in and paid an absolute fortune, but I was lucky to pick it up as a bargain.
Below: Do you like yours illuminated or not? Do you spot the differences apart from the lens caps? Hint: turrets and the illumination.
Below: My friend was looking for a riflescope and a reticle that could be used both for advanced target shooting and hunting. This is the answer he came up with. MSR2 inside. You could easily add a Pulsar Krypton or a Leica Calonox for instance, and use it during the night for wild boar.
S&B Ultra Short family
Shortly after the 5-20×50 PM II Ultra Short was born, it was followed by the 3-20×50 PM II Ultra Short. It’s one of the few S&B PM II riflescopes I have no experience with, but very recently the Canadian Army chose it for their C20 sniper rifles. As you can imagine, we hope to have one to review soon, as well as the ZCO 420. In Coyote C17 Tan, what else?
The Schmidt & Bender 3-21×50 Exos is focused on hunting mainly, with the reticle in the second focal plane, but in many aspects, it is probably very similar to the 3-20×50 PM II.
It’s in the name: the 5-20×50 PM II Ultra Short is short, lightweight (830 g) and very compact. You would have expected a lot of trade-offs to get all this performance into such a short and compact package, but they are hard to find. There isn’t much of a compromise on the mechanical reliability or the optical performance at all. In fact, the generous eye box probably makes it easier for most to exploit the optical performance just like with the Schmidt & Bender 3-12×50 PMII riflescope.
If you own an AR15/10 with match barrel and trigger and use good quality ammunition this will transform your rifle from shooting Alpha-Charlies to shooting 50mm 5 shot groups over and over at 300 meters/yards. I’ve tried it on two AR15s, so this is based on experience. The improved accuracy was purely down to the optics and increased magnification.
Another conclusion is how important the choice of the reticle is. Chose wisely. Your needs may be different from mine, but the MSR2 is widely known and appreciated.
I evaluate and look into lots of good (and sometimes not so good) optics and the 5-20 PMII is a riflescope I really like to come back to. There may be better optics out there, in larger sizes, but I’m never selling this one as the WOW factor is still there. In fact, I would quite easily settle with this one on all of my long-range rifles. It doesn’t do everything, but it does a lot really well.
I started this review last summer, so thanks for reading. Feel free to type down any feedback and comments below and please share if you like.
You can find a direct link to Schmidt & Bender’s product page here: 5-20×50 PM II Ultra Short.
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