Athlon Ares ETR 3-18×50 Riflescope Review | Extreme Temperature & Long Range Tested

For this review of the Athlon Ares ETR UHD 3-18×50 riflescope, I had the chance to put it through a year of hard use, both in the field on hunting trips and at the range. I received this scope from Athlon late in October 2022 after my general deer hunt was over, but I still had one limited entry tag left to fill and was eager to get this scope on my rifle and get everything zeroed for the hunt.

This Athlon Ares ETR scope lived most of its life on my 20” 6.5 PRC and saw an extremely high number of range trips along with being dragged along on multiple hunts. The scope stayed on the PRC throughout the full life of a barrel on that gun, so I was able to get an extremely good feel for its performance, durability, reliability, and repeatability.

The Testing – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

By no means is the 6.5 PRC a heavy hitter in the recoil department, so in order to thoroughly test the scope’s ability to handle heavy recoil rifles, I took the scope off the 6.5 PRC and put it on one of my 300 WSM builds for a couple range trips. Once I was satisfied with that test, back on the 6.5 PRC it went.

Conservatively estimating, this Athlon Ares ETR 3-18×50 scope went through over 1,200 rounds of magnum (6.5 PRC and 300 WSM) fire.

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Additionally, I put this scope to use on a mid-November deer hunt as well as winter predator hunts in the snow. The Athlon Ares ETR 3-18×50 went on range trips from sub-freezing temperatures to nearly 100 degrees. The scope/rifle got bounced around in a pickup without a case and on ATVs/UTVs on rough dirt roads. The turrets on the scope constantly got twisted and turned up and down during each range trip and I performed a tall target and a box test on the scope. I wanted to find out just how good this scope would be through a myriad of conditions.

What Is In The Box – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

I must start this one off with an apology. In my rush to get the scope on the 6.5 PRC and get it zeroed for the hunt, I failed to take photos of how I received it in the box. With that being said, just like every other optic I have received from Athlon, the packaging was top notch. The scope was nicely wrapped in plastic and was secured in the box with foam. There was no damage to the scope or the box.

In the box with the scope was a user manual, 2032 battery (for the illuminated reticle), and a microfiber cleaning cloth. Also in the box was an Allen wrench and extra set screws for the zero stop. Overall, pretty basic stuff included with the scope. I expect nothing less than that when I get a scope and more is always nice. It would have been great to have a set of flip up covers, a sunshade, and throw lever, but those are just “wants” not “needs”. 

The Specs – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

I chose this scope because it had what I was looking for as far as specs and features. The scope checked a lot of boxes for me but also missed a couple that some people might want. You can get this scope in MIL or MOA but I opted for the MIL as that is what most of my scopes are. It can be a tough decision which route to go, but either way, it is usually best to stay with what you are most comfortable with and what both you and your hunting partner use so there is not confusion in the heat of the moment when making windage or elevation calls.

While I intended to put this scope on a match rifle after hunting season, I ended up just keeping it on the 6.5 PRC (except when I switched it to the 300 WSM) because I just loved it on that rifle. This scope gives you 32 MILs (110 MOA) of vertical turret travel and 25 MILs (80 MOA) of horizontal travel. I used this scope in conjunction with a 20 MOA base and after zeroing the rifle, I still had 20.5 MILs of travel.

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

To put that in perspective, this Athlon Ares ETR scope on my 6.5 PRC (with the load I was shooting) could dial out to over 1,700 yards without needing to use the reticle. Even without the 20 MOA base, this scope has plenty of elevation travel for most shooters in most conditions.

You will find that for a traditional “hunting scope” this Athlon Ares ETR is a touch on the heavy side at 31.4 oz, but I am not one to be as concerned with a heavier optic on my rifle so that did not bother me. 

One of the notable specs for me was the magnification range. Being a hunting/competition scope for me, I wanted a good low-end power but also a reasonable high end. I personally think the 3-18 power range is a perfect spot for a scope. The 34mm tube helped a ton with the light transmission and field of view.

The Athlon Ares ETR scope gives you excellent eye relief of 3.74”. That kind of eye relief allowed me to not have to run the scope as far back toward the rear of the rifle like I normally have to. The parallax being able to adjust to 10 yards was nice although I personally do not use a scope that close. For someone looking for a good .22 LR competition scope, that is one thing they look for. Here are the primary specs for the Athlon Ares ETR 3-18×50 scope that I tested.

Athlon Ares ETR 3-18×50 Specs
Magnification Range3-18
Objective Lens50 mm
Main Tube Size34 mm
Eye Relief3.74 in
FOV @100 yards39.2-6.65 ft
Click Value0.1 MIL or 0.25 MOA
Adjustment Per Rotation10 MIL or 25 MOA
Total Elevation Adjustment32 MIL or 110 MOA
Total Windage Adjustment25 MIL or 80 MOA
Parallax AdjustmentYes, 10 yards – Infinity
Purging MaterialArgon
Weight31.4 oz

In addition to those specs, the Athlon Ares ETR is loaded with practical, usable, and quality features that scream a much higher price point that where it sits:


Reticle/Magnification Ring – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

The reticle for me is one spot I can usually complain about with a scope. I am very picky when it comes to reticles. After testing for the Athlon Ares ETR (Enhanced Tactical Reticle) review, I can honestly say that the Athlon APRS6 reticle is one of my favorites. The center of the reticle is a floating 0.05 MIL dot which gives a very easy to acquire, precise aiming point that does not get drowned out by the rest of the reticle.

The subtensions start 0.2 MIL from the center of the reticle and the additional vertical and horizontal subtensions are in 0.2 MIL increments along the vertical and horizontal portions of the reticle. There are 8 MILs of vertical subtensions up from the center and 8 MILs each way horizontally from the center dot. 

There are 10 MILs going below the center dot with a “Christmas Tree” style lower reticle for holdovers. I did not need to use that portion of the reticle much, but it is nice to have for long distance shooting and spotting for a buddy. You can accurately give second shot corrections in the event of a miss. Unlike most scopes, the entire reticle is illuminated not just a portion. There are six illumination settings with an “Off” detent in between each brightness setting to help you know when the illumination is off or on.

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

The reticle is a First Focal Plane (FFP) reticle so the subtensions grow and shrink with magnification. This allows for a consistent value for the subtensions across the entire magnification range. I will say, as is the case with most FFP reticles on lower magnification, the reticle is so small it is not usable for wind holds. The reticle starts becoming usable for wind holds (for my eyes) at the 6-power range. A lot of FFP scopes tend to have massive reticles at the 18-20 power range and they can drown out the target pretty easily.

The magnification ring itself is knurled nicely and not too aggressive. There is a raised nub at about the 8-power spot on the ring. The nub has what appears to be a threaded hole in the middle. That is presumably for a threaded throw lever of some sort although one was not included.

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

The magnification ring on this Athlon Ares ETR scope is smooth with good tension but not too tight in colder weather. Even though it would have been nice for Athlon to include a throw lever in with the scope, I did not feel like at a disadvantage by not having one. The fast focus eye piece has similar tension to the magnification ring. Not too stiff but not too loose. It stays put and you do not think about it until you want to adjust. 

Turrets/Parallax/Illumination – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

Athlon Ares ETR Nightforce NX8

The turrets on the Athlon Ares ETR UHD were pleasantly surprising. The windage turret is a locking turret. It is not low profile but considerably smaller than some scopes I have used. A locking turret is the best thing next to a covered turret. I am not big on dialing for wind and prefer to hold, so once I zero the rifle, I do not touch the windage turret.

The tension for the locking detent is stiff enough to not accidentally get pulled out and allow rotation. The windage turret (like the elevation turret) can be reset to zero by removing a small screw in the middle of the turret. This can be done with a coin, keys, rim of a case, or a screwdriver. Once the screw is removed, you can just pull the turret up, turn it back to zero, push the turret back down, and tighten the screw.

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

The brass top of the turret internal is finely notched and matched with the inside of the external turret. It is not a free-moving turret but the notches line up perfectly.

The elevation turret does not lock but has a zero stop. The detents between the “clicks” are slightly stronger on the elevation turret. Both turrets are very tactile and audible and do not have any “mush” at all, giving you an extremely crisp feel.

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

The Athlon Ares ETR UHD also gives you a parallax knob that is incredibly smooth and goes from 10 yards to infinity. On the outside of the parallax adjustment knob there is an illumination ring. This ring detent is very strong and even borderline too stiff. It can be too hard to turn at times, especially in the cold. There are six illumination settings and in between the six settings there is an “off” detent. I do not use the illumination ring often, but I like to keep it between the 5 and 6 settings for quick access to bright illumination. 

Tracking Tests – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

Another key factor in determining the quality of a riflescope is to see how it tracks. For testing the Athlon Ares ETR UHD scope, I performed a tall target test as well as a box test. The results of those tests gave me the confidence that these turrets track as close to 100% as I can perceive with my equipment. The turrets are about perfect in size. You can get a great purchase on the turrets without them protruding too far for a hunting scope.

Zero Stop – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

Athlon Ares ETR scope review

One of the biggest gripes I have with this Athlon Ares ETR scope is the zero stop. It is not one that I would classify as user-friendly. Once you take the exterior turret cap off, the zero stop is exposed. The zero stop is brass and has three tiny set screws evenly spaced around the brass zero stop ring. There is a separate brass nub on the ring that runs into a nub on the body of the turret.

The zero stop can be adjusted to allow you to go beyond zero to whatever point you want. The biggest problem I have with these zero stops is the amount of time it takes to get to where you want it, particularly when contrasted with an Arken riflescope that I have. As picky as I am about these zero stops, you really should not have to adjust the zero stop much. It is a set it and forget it type of feature, but it would be nice if it was more user-friendly. 

I had one issue with the zero stop, and it was user error. After zeroing the scope, I did not tighten the three little set screws. While out hunting I heard something rattle in the scope turret area. I thought the scope was broken and you can probably imagine my displeasure.

I walked out of the hunting area and drove to a location to shoot at a rock off in the distance to confirm the rifle was still on. When I made a perfect impact, I dove into the scope to find what was rattling. I found the screws backed all the way out and they were floating around in the turret (and I almost lost the screws). I screwed them back tight and never had any issues after that.

Image Quality – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

I see too many people get super picky about the optical quality of a riflescope. If you really think about it, a riflescope is not an “observation optic” like a spotter or binos. In my opinion, if you do not have the budget to get top of the line optical performance in a riflescope, a good reticle and reliable turret tracking are far more important than optical quality.

With that being said, the optical quality of the Athlon Ares ETR scope is excellent. The edge-to-edge clarity is very good, color contrast is pleasing to the eye, and light transmission is plenty to get you well beyond shooting light. I used this scope alongside a Nightforce NX8 scope, and it is right there with Nightforce’s optical quality to my eye.

The Warranty – Athlon Optics

One thing that Athlon is known for is the way that they stand behind their products with their lifetime warranty. If the scope fails, you can rest assured that you will be taken care of with the Athlon Lifetime Warranty. You never want to have to use your warranty, but it is nice to know that your investment is protected in the event something happens to your Athlon Ares ETR.

Conclusion – Athlon Ares ETR Scope Review

After over a year of hard use, this Athlon Ares ETR scope has done me well. The scope was reliable from start to finish. For a “hunting” scope, it can be on the heavier side for most people, so if you are building an “ultralight” rifle, this scope is not for you. It is stout but I did not mind the scope weight because of the weight of the rifle setup I hunt with. 

The scope has good glass, quality turret systems, a great reticle, and a subpar but functional zero stop. If you get a chance to put one of these scopes in your hands, I have no doubts that you will be pleased with what you see and feel.

Buy Athlon Ares ETR 3-18×50

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