I put a Nikon Buckmaster on my 243 and have only one complaint. The crosswires are awful! They are duplex and the wider part is to close to the center and the center crosswires are just to thick. Otherwise it's a nice scope. But when I look thru my old Redfields at the crosswires, WOW! What a difference. As far as clarity and quality, I doubt there's $100 worth of real difference. Not all but most of the worlds best lenses are made in Japan. And the biggest difference in the lenses is not in the glass but the coating's. Nikon, by the way, does not make their own lenses anymore.
I would say Zeiss, but if you go to the "I Like Leica" discussion here on page 2 of this optics thread you'll find a post I ranted about describing my displeasure with Zeiss's ability to answer me a simple question about my binoculars without them trying to cover their own behind first. I won't repeat my rant here, but will only say that Zeiss are very excellent optics, just don't expect the company customer service to be so helpfull once they gotten your hard earned money from you. My opinion in rifle scopes is to go with Leupold.
Zeiss are supposed to be one of the top scopes. That being said Nikon is known for giving the best value for the dollar in the mid range market.
Frankly you would probably do very well with either one of those scopes. I have the Monarch 3x9x40 and love it. It gave me the best benefits with the best price. I am assuming you will get slightly more for the dollar out of the Nikon but as I don't know much about that specific Zeiss scope I can't say that for certain. However I will just say that I enjoyed my 3x9x40 so much that I have also recently purchased a Monarch 6.5x20x44 to replace it, and the 3x9 is getting moved down to my Ruger 10/22.
You could be very happy with either one of those scopes. If you simply want the Zeiss name then go for it, otherwise I would probably pick up the Nikon and save yourself the $100.
IMO, Zeiss optics will be superior to the Nikon optics. As far as Zeiss customer service goes, and I mean no disrespect to anyone.... You should never have to go directly to the mfg for an item that you purchased from a retailer. That is what the retailer is for. Yes, the mfg should be able to assist you when you have questions, however, that is why they sell to the retailer that sells to you.
Customer service begins the moment that you discuss the purchase of an item and should never end. Just my $.02
I have not seen it mentioned yet, but be aware there are TWO types of Zeiss. There is the Conquest line which are the cheaper version put together over here, and there is the Victory from Germany that are way more expensive. They are not the same by a long shot.............the Victory series cost way more than Conquest series. Two to three times more. The Conquest line was designed to to be cheaper and appeal to the North American market.
I have the upper end Zeiss, Nikon, Leupold (some I, II and III) and a few others. IMHO there is no doubt the Zeiss Victory scopes are superior to the Nikon. Problem is most hunters do not want to spend several thousand on a scope. I have had ZERO problems with Nikons.
I had the same choice to make last year. I chose the 3X9X40 Conquest based partly on the fact that I wanted a German #4 reticle which I couldn't get in the Nikon and that the Conquest had the reticle etched on the glass and not wires mounted inside the tube( can never break). I've had wire reticles break before on a Leupold. By the way, I do not regret my choice. This Zeiss is great.
I got a 4-12 Bushnell Banner for my 6.5x06. Got it because there Is a 3-9x Banner on my 25-06 thats been there a long long time. well the 4-12 didn't cut it. Wouldn't hold a zero. So I took it back and got a 4.5-14 Nikon. This is a very nice scope. Let you know down the road how it holds up. The 3-9 on my 243 is also mice other than I hate the crosswires. Nice thing about these Nikons, they have a full lifetime warenty. Say's on the warenty that it follows the scope, doesn't matter who owns it! Hope I never find out if it's any good.
Elk have been killed close to roads where they could be loaded whole into the bed of a pickup. But it doesn't happen often and I'm not sure that is the experience that I long for. The type of elk hunting that I prefer requires rigorous physical exertion that can cripple someone who is not in shape. Being a college hockey player I have to be in at least fair physical condition most of the year but when one of my buddies got back from the Navy Seals he changed the way I think about physical...