Seriously, why on earth would you pay 3k-4k for a scope when you can get the same quality for around $1200?
I mean you would have to have some serious brand loyalty to do that. And even then, you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of people willing to part with that extra 2 grand.
The problem with Rifle Scopes though is that until recently, there had been really no way of getting the features of a $3k optic for under $2k, let alone $1k.
Then Athlon came along, with their incredibly effective manufacturing process and took the industry by storm when they released the Ares BTR. This puppy has features usually seen on scopes for $2k+, and their price? $849.99.
Actually if you read this in time, you can get it for $599.99. March 2019 has the Ares BTR $250 off.
About 2 years after the BTR, Athlon released the Ares ETR. And this has proven to be just as popular as the BTR (if not more).
With this popularity comes an extra whopping $350 onto the price, bringing in the Ares ETR at $1199.99. Which begs the question:
Is the ETR really worth that extra change?
In short, yes, and if you haven’t seen the review on the Ares ETR, check it out here.
But still, it’s worth looking at what the differences are between the two. This way, you’ll know which one is right for you, and whether you want to spend the extra money on the ETR or not.
The Athlon Ares BTR – The Answer
We’ll start off with an overview of the Ares BTR.
The Ares was (and is) dubbed “The Answer” as in “The Answer to your request for an optic with a bunch of great features that doesn’t break the bank.”
And for that, it definitely does what is advertised to do. We did a full review on the Ares BTR, and if you missed it (or don’t want to take the time to go read it) basically here is a synopsis:
1) It has incredibly Valuable features like:
- ED/HD Glass
- Multi Coated lenses
- Etched glass reticle
- Illuminated reticle
- Precision Zero Stop system
- Argon purging
(this list is not extensive)
2) Turret tracking is great
The machine tracking test we did resulted in a B grade (83.47/100 points). This is a lot better than most scopes out there, and proves that whatever issues were around with the BTR turrets are now in the past.
Basically, the BTR originally had complaints about the turrets being a little mushy. All new BTR’s now ship with the new turret system, and this mushiness is a thing of the past.
3) Optical clarity is phenomenal
The tests we ran use a combination of a basic Snellen Eye Chart and the USAF 1951 Resolution Exam. Out of 335 total points possible to earn on tests conducted at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards (along with a maximum distance test), the BTR scored 313, giving it a solid A or 93%.
Basically, everyone in the optics world thought this kind of quality could only be done if it cost a lot of money. The features were great, and the reviews the BTR got made this easily one of the most popular (and highest quality) scopes on the market.
Athlon Ares ETR
Which brings us to last July (2018) when Athlon finally released the newest addition to it’s lineup: the Ares ETR.
They wanted to improve on the BTR more, and from what I can tell, the goal was to make a scope that lay somewhere in the middle between the BTR and the Cronus BTR.
The Cronus BTR is Athlon’s flagship product, and stands toe to toe with some of the highest quality (and priciest) scopes out there. However, it costs $1799.99.
The BTR was a bridge between something like the Argos BTR ($369.99) and the Cronus – i.e. something really high quality but not to pricey.
The ETR was the attempt to close that gap even further. Whatever they could do to improve on the BTR, they did.
Athlon brought out a whole new turret system (we’ll get into that even more in a bit) and upgraded the tube by moving it from a 30mm to a 34mm. Then boosted the Objective Lens from 50mm to 56mm to let in more light.
Other than that, on paper these scopes look pretty similar. So what exactly is the difference?
On paper, there are quite a few differences, primarily:
- The ETR has a 34mm Tube, BTR has a 30mm
- ETR has a 56mm Objective Lens, BTR has a 50mm
- ETR has ED Glass, the BTR has HD Glass (turns out this isn’t really much of a difference)
- The ETR has an extra 3x in magnification
- ETR has total elevation and Windage adjustment of 32 Mil (110 MOA), BTR has 24 Mil (80 MOA)
- The ETR is quite a bit bigger, weighing in at 36.5 oz (BTR is 27.3oz) and 15.3” long (BTR is 13.8”)
- The ETR also has a locking Windage Turret
However, when using the two and running them through the same basic tests for tracking, optical quality and features scoring, you start to see where the differences are.
For starters, the glass on the ETR did not blow the glass on the BTR out of the water. This was surprising, and yet not surprising simultaneously.
I mean there wasn’t much to improve on the BTR in terms of glass quality. If you remember, we gave it a 93% on the optical quality score through the review, so a solid A. The ETR ended up getting a 95%.
The difference between those two scores I consider to be within the margin of error, as our tests on optical quality are more for practical use and not to use machinery to test. i.e. we’re using Snellen Eye Charts and USAF 1951 Resolution Tests at various distances and measuring the resolution and our ability to see the letters.
So they’re both killer scopes in terms of optical quality, but this doesn’t justify an extra $350 onto the price in my humble opinion.
So what does, you ask?
The Turrets, that’s what!
The Difference That Makes A Differece
Okay, let’s start this section off by saying that I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Ares BTR turrets. Our tracking test returned a solid B on tracking.
When the scope originally came out, some of the reviews came back stating there was something wrong with the turrets. Some reviews stated them as being mushy and not enough definition between the clicks to notice the change.
The Ares ETR Turrets track as well as the $3k-$4k scopes.
Athlon fixed the problem and releases all new BTR’s today with the new turrets, so if you buy it new from a dealer you will be getting the newest version with solid tracking.
Anyways, a solid B on tracking, that puts the BTR in the top 10% of scopes out there (this is my estimation). And typically, scopes that track better than the BTR are going to cost 3-4 thousand dollars.
That is, until the ETR.
The ETR is, let’s just say it, by far one of the best tracking systems out there. With the manual adjustment test on a tall target we ran, it was rarely ever off. In fact it scored an A in a test that is, let’s face it, kind of like those Physics 222 tests I used to have to take in college:
Everyone studied their ass off for 4 weeks, showed up and failed. Class average was a D or a C.
Well, the ETR is sort of like that guy who wouldn’t show up for class, just do the homework and study the night before the test and show up and get an A-. Those damn curve setters, let me tell you.
And that’s honestly what the ETR is – a curve setter. The clicks on the turrets are extremely defined and firmed. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below:
I ran this through not only my regular use of the optic on my Ruger American, but also through the manual adjustment test and a group shot test at targets with 10 seconds in between shots to adjust and settle (hopefully simulating a competition like scenario).
Never did I have problem with knowing what Mil I was on, the reticle landed where it should have landed, and for the most part my shots landed within what’s normal for my shot groups on my Ruger.
So, the BTR turrets are great, but the ETR turrets are the curve setter especially for optics in this price range. I have no clue how they made it for that cheap, but I can’t wait to see if they can keep releasing systems like this.
Additional Important differences & Wrap Up
The total elevation and windage adjustment for the ETR gives you a whopping extra 8 Mil / 30 MOA of adjustment, which is nothing to sneeze at.
You can hit 1000+ yards with the BTR so don’t think you’re necessarily sacrificing anything if that ends up being your scope of choice. But the ETR is build for those of you who are ready to take your long range shooting to a completely different level.
Which I think is the most important part to understand about the difference between these two juggernauts: they both are incredibly high quality and very much worth the money. But the ETR just set a brand new standard for what we can (and soon should) expect out of optics for under $2k.
Scratch that, for optics under $1500.
Athlon obviously has something going on with their manufacturing process that’s letting them drop the price of building something of this quality. Some folks in the industry have ben skeptical as to whether they could keep it up.
I think both of these scopes show they can. I mean there wasn’t really much to improve on the BTR with how it was priced, and yet they did it any way.
To sums things up: which one you go with will be determined by whether you are wanting just a high quality scope, or if you think you’re ready to take your game up not just a notch, but to buy a new belt entirely. The choice is yours.
For those of you that have used both, leave us in the comments below:
What did you notice were the main differences between the two, and which one did you end up preferring and for what reason?