Burris Timberline 3-9x32mm Riflescope

By Chuck Hawks

Burris Timberline 3-9x32mm Riflescope
Timberline 3-9x32mm Riflescope. Illustration courtesy of the Burris Company.

Timberline is Burris' least expensive riflescope line and the "Timberline" name has replaced the previous "Short Magnum" and "Compact" lines. As far as I can figure, Timberline is intended to compete with the Leupold Rifleman and Nikon Prostaff scope lines in the marketplace. Timberline scopes are produced in the Philippines to Burris' design and specifications. There is a lot of good glass coming out of the Philippines these days.

The Burris Timberline 3-9x32mm riflescope features Hi-Lume, multi-coated, index-matched lenses. Burris Timberline scopes are touted as particularly appropriate for powerful, lightweight, short action rifles. They have magnum rifle eye relief and are "magnum poof." The 3-9x32mm can be mounted in low scope rings on most rifles because of its compact objective bell.

Our test scope came with the Burris Ballistic Plex reticle, a Duplex type that features three hash marks below the crosshair that indicate holdover points for long range shooting. (More about this reticle later.) The elevation and windage adjustments are what Burris calls "Hunter Knobs," which are low and sport coin slots as well as knurled edges that allow fingertip adjustment, a very nice touch.

The windage and elevation adjustments are steel on steel with double spring force. They click in MOA increments and the total adjustment range is a rather limited 50 MOA. Eye relief is a very generous 3.75 to 5 inches. The external field of view is about 25% less than most 3-9x scopes.

Focusing the reticle to the shooter's eye is done by multiple rotations of the ocular bell, which is then secured with a heavily knurled lock ring. The zoom ring sports the same heavy knurling. There is a tactile bump on the zoom ring at the 6x position, which is midway through its rotation range. The little white numbers on the zoom ring are angled toward the shooter's eye. (They cannot be read from the shooting position, however, because they are too close to the eye to be in focus and, in any case, are blocked by the swell of the ocular bell.

Like all Burris scopes, the internals are purged and dry nitrogen filled, then sealed using Burris "quad seals" (a special ring gasket with four lobes). Every scope is individually recoil, water and fog proof tested. Overall length is a compact 10.3", but the scope is rather heavy at 13 ounces.

The buyer is protected by Burris' Forever Warranty. This essentially says that if the scope is ever found to have defects in materials or workmanship, Burris will repair or replace it at no charge (at their option), even if you are not the original owner.

Here are the features and specifications of the Burris Timberline 3-9x3200 riflescope:

  • Item number - 201334
  • Main tube diameter - 1" (25.4mm)
  • Objective bell diameter - 39mm
  • Ocular bell diameter - 35 mm
  • Objective clear aperture - 32mm
  • Magnification range - 3-9x
  • Exit pupil diameter - 11mm (at 3x), 3.6mm (at 9x)
  • Lens coatings - Hi-Lume, index matched, fully multi-coated
  • Reticle - Ballistic Plex (standard Plex reticle also available)
  • Adjustments - MOA, steel on steel with double internal spring force
  • Adjustment range - 50 MOA
  • Eye relief - 3.75" to 5"
  • Field of view at 100 yards - 25 feet at 3x, 9 feet at 9x
  • Finish - Hard anodized, matte black
  • Length - 10.3"
  • Weight - 13 ounces
  • 2008 Online retail price - $249.99 (Graf & Sons)

The Ballistic Plex reticle deserves some explanation. The "ballistic" part of the reticle is three horizontal hash marks on the vertical cross wire below the intersection of the horizontal crosswire. Zero a high velocity rifle, such as a .30-06 shooting a 150 grain factory load, to hit dead on at 100 yards with the main crosshair and the first hash mark represents the 200 yard aiming point, the second hash mark the 300 yard aiming point and the third hash mark the 400 yard aiming point. The top of the lower post represents the 500 yard aiming point. With this particular load, the error of these aiming points is only +/- 1", plenty good enough for big game hunting purposes.

Unfortunately, the system does not work so conveniently for some other calibers and loads. For example, I found it to be of limited use for a .308 Winchester rifle shooting 150 grain factory loads. With that combination the top of the post, the 500 yard aiming point, is off by 9". Furthermore, it is very inefficient to zero the .308/150 grain factory load at only 100 yards. Zero that bullet to hit about 2.7" high at 100 yards and it will strike 1.7" high at 200 yards and doesn't fall more than 3" below the line of sight until it reaches 275 yards. No need to range-find, compensate or memorize errors at various ranges (hash marks); just hold the main crosshair where you want to hit a big game animal and shoot. Nobody should be shooting a .308 at an animal 500 yards away, anyhow.

Anyone who intends to use the Ballistic Plex system will need to shoot his or her rifle at the ranges represented by the various hash marks and develop their own trajectory tables. Different rifles, different loads and different barrel lengths will all introduce errors into the system that can only be determined by actually shooting a series of groups and finding the average points of impact.

There is only 1.3 inches between the objective bell and the front of the adjustment turret, greatly restricting front mounting ring placement. (Note the proportions of the scope in the photo at the top of this page.) Be aware of this, especially if your rifle has built-in scope bases or requires two-piece scope bases that allow only one front ring position (the Winchester Model 94AE, for example).

The Guns and Shooting Online designated scope test rifle is a NEF Handi-Rifle in .223, which uses a one-piece Weaver mount base with multiple cross slots that allows great flexibility in positioning mounting rings. This is one of the reasons it was chosen as our scope test rifle. It was no problem to mount the Burris Timberline on this rifle and it would not be a problem on any other rifle that offers similar ring placement flexibility, including rimfire rifles with grooves for Tip-Off mounting rings. This scope would be a good choice for a .17 HMR or .22 WMR small game/varmint rifle.

In this case, it was my intention to mount the 3-9x32 Timberline on a Mannlicher-Schoenauer Carbine in Redfield MS-SR bases and Leupold STD low rings. The design of the Redfield rear scope base for a Mannlicher-Schoenauer brings the two scope rings relatively close together, which is what this scope needs. This is a short, powerful, compact rifle of the type for which Burris apparently designed the 3-9x32 Timberline scope, so it seemed like a good match. The compact Burris scope may have found a permanent home on this rifle.

At the rifle range, I noticed that the Timberline's eyebox is relatively restricted both horizontally and vertically, which means that your eye must be positioned directly behind the ocular or it will "wink" to black. The rim of the ocular bell (not to mention the shooter's forehead) is protected by a rubber ring, which because of the Timberline's excellent eye relief is unlikely to be necessary. Burris scopes have a good reputation when it comes to ruggedness and durability and our .308 Mannlicher Carbine caused no problems for this one.

Turning out the ocular bell to focus the eyepiece to my eye revealed an excessive amount of some heavy, greasy lubricant in the threads. It is generally not a good idea to use a lot of lubricant around optical systems, as almost inevitably time and exposure to heat from the sun will eventually cause the lubricant to flow and, ultimately, get on the lens surfaces. Also, with the focus locking ring backed-off, there was obvious play between the ocular bell and the main tube, evidence of excessive play in the threads. Apparently, the heavy grease was used to mask this problem.

The view of targets through our test scope is sharp and clear. Resolution and contrast are good. Optical aberrations are generally well corrected, although there is some visible curvilinear distortion at the edge of the field of view.

When comparing this scope side by side to a variable of similar magnification made by another manufacturer, with both scopes set at four power, the reduced field of view through the Timberline is very evident. I found that when set at 3x, the Timberline's field of view was about equivalent to typical 4x scopes. When hunting open or semi-wooded country this would not be a problem, but in thick cover it could be a disadvantage. A Burris Fullfield II would be a better choice for woods and brush country hunting.

The windage and elevation adjustments worked as advertised. Adjustments were positive and reasonably accurate. There were no sighting-in problems. The low fingertip knobs are an excellent compromise for a hunting scope. There is a lot of spring pressure on the adjustment knobs, so they are relatively hard to turn, but coin slots are also provided and, unlike a target scope, hunting scopes are not usually adjusted in the field. These knobs are designed to stay put when set.

The zoom ring did its job with just the right amount of friction. It is sufficiently easy to rotate, but stiff enough not change magnification on its own. The heavy knurling makes it relatively easy to zoom the scope with gloves on. The inner, fine portion of the Ballistic Plex reticle allowed precise aiming at 100 and 200 yard targets.

The Burris Timberline 3-9x32mm riflescope is a medium priced scope with some positive attributes. It is compact in length and diameter with good optics and plenty of eye relief. Potential drawbacks include a somewhat limited field of view, relatively restricted eyebox and possible mounting difficulties on some rifles. Given Burris' excellent warranty and reputation for durability, if the Timberline 3-9x32mm fits your particular needs, rifle and pocketbook, it should serve you well.

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Copyright 2008, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.