Jan 202018

As I plan out my SHOT Show schedule, I stumbled onto a new riflescope company called “Zero Compromise Optics”:

The webpage shows a couple of seemingly well thought out design and the rumor is that this is a new venture for Jeff Huber who ran Nightforce for many years and made an impact when ran Kahles USA later on.

Jeff knows what he is doing, so this got my interest peaked.

I will go chat with Jeff at SHOT and let you know what I think.


 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Jan 192018

Just saw this:

In a nutshell: the CEO of Scottevest clothing company is an arrogant jackass who just pissed off a significant portion of his customer base.  While I do not watch Fox news, this arrogance should not go unpunished.

I do not care much what he believes in his private life, but this is a bit much.  I have a few pieces of Scottevest clothing and they are going into the trash.

I’l be spending my money where it is appreciated.  Scott Jordan can go screw himself.

 Posted by at 9:59 pm
Jan 172018

This was prompted by a question I received on the Hide in this thread.

Here is the actual question: “Ilya, just curious, what could be the optical or opto-mechanical compromises associated with super short scopes like this, if any?”

I figured that it may take a little effort to write down, so instead, I talked into the camera for a few minutes.  I forgot to fix the focus distance, so the focus is hunting all the time.  My apologies.

I will try to re-record this at some point.



 Posted by at 3:11 pm
Jan 162018

written on January 16, 2018

I do not usually post much about new product introductions, but this one addresses something I was just discussing, so I figured I should.

I wrote a little bit about Shield red dot sights lately and I just so an announcement that they are introducing an even smaller version of their diminutive RMS reflex sight.

This one is called RMS-C and it is basically a narrower version of the RMS (all pictures are from the press release, not something I took):

I liked the RMS so much that I cut my Glock 43 for it.  It does overhang a little, but my options were limited and it does work well.  Now, as soon as it is available, I will get the RMS-C for my Glock 43.  Anything cut for the RMS will work with RMS-C (same screw locations), so this should be a painless transition.

Kudos to Shield, for quickly reacting to the market.

Now, I need to decide what gun I should put the regular RMS onto…  Don’t tell my wife, but I think I need a new gun.

It is already available for sale directly from Shield in the UK:

RMSc – Reflex Mini Sight Compact 8MOA

As soon as I see it for sale by a US-based distributor, I’ll add some links.

 Posted by at 11:51 am
Jan 132018

Elcan Spectre TR is a very unique riflescope. Elcan generally seems to march to the beat of their own drum and it seems to work out pretty well for them. I generally like Elcan products and have a lot of mileage with them. Some people like them. Some hate them. Few are ambivalent. I am generally in the former category since all the Elcans I have seen to date really agreed well with my eyes.

Elcan Spectre TR on a California-legal AR (yes, this state stinks so so much)

Elcan Spectre TR on a California-legal AR (yes, this state stinks so so much)

Interestingly, a lot of the complaints I have seen about Elcan center around their use or ARMS mounts.  While I  have not had any problems with the ones on my Elcan Spectre OS, but I still upgraded them to the new adjustable levers.  Spectre TR, however, eschew ARMS hardware entirely and instead utilize two simple nuts (that look like they are around 1/2″ or similar metric size; I didn’t bother to measure exactly).   The windage and elevations adjustments are external as is the case on most Elcans and were exceedingly robust in  my practice.

Generally, I really liked this scope and it is a strong contender for my “if I could only have one” crown. I spent a few minutes talking to the camera and here is the video. Let me know if there is something you are interested in, that I havn’t touched on.

Three magnification levels really extend the flexibility of this site beyond what you get with a single or dual power option. Generally, for a regular 5.56 carbine, my go to set-up is Elcan Spectre OS 4x with an add-on miniature red dot sight. Spectre TR functions basically as a red dot at 1x, offers optically excellent 3x for general purpose use and allows you to flip up to 9x for extended range.

I would have preferred a mrad-based reticle, to the BDC Elcan uses, but that is my complaint with many riflescopes. It appears that the military insists on the BDC set-up and companies who really focus on military sales simply go with what their customers ask for. Personally, I think that is a mistake, but to each his own. If you use something long enough you can get used to almost anything.

While the reticle in the Spectre TR is available in 5.56 and 7.62 versions, I really think the 7.62 version is a bit fit for this scope. It is a bit on a heavy side and makes a better match to a DMR style rifle than to a lightweight carbine. I had it on a lightweight carbine and took a class with it. While it worked well, it had a significant effect on the balance. There, my Spectre OS 4x is a much better fit.

On the 18″ Grendel that I shoot a lot and on the AR-10, it was a much better fit in terms of balance and the reticle worked reasonably well with both 123gr Hornady Grendel load, and with precision 308 ammo in the AR10.

 Posted by at 10:58 am
Jan 092018

My name is ILya and I am addicted to takedown rifles.  If there were a “Takedown Rifle Addicts Anonymous”, I would probably be a charter member.  The only thing that is stopping me from owning them all is the inadequacy of my wallet and the entirely indecent behavior of rifle manufacturers (how dare they expect me to pay them!).

Still, I own a few here and there and my favourite one is easily Ruger’s 10/22TD.  Or at least that’s the one I shoot the most.

Naturally, since I can’t leave things well enough alone, I made a couple of changes to mine.

First of all, while it is capable of excellent accuracy, I few it as a general purpose plinker, so I have not replaced the factory barrel (yet).  However, as soon as I get out of California, I will do two things: I will by a suppressor and get Tactical Solutions SB-X barrel.  It is not cheap, but it is a very nice quality barrel that allows me to avoid registering my rifle as a SBR.

As it is, the two main things I did was replacing the stock and the trigger.  Since this is not intended to be a match rifle, both upgrades were meant to make an improvement without breaking the bank.

With triggers, I went with Ruger’s own BX trigger group.  It is not as nice as some fancy triggers out there, but it is inexpensive and surprisingly good for the money.

With stocks,  I tried both the X-22 and X-22 Backpacker from Magpul and decided that for my purposes the X-22 Backpacker is a better design.  The length of pull is sorta midpack which is fine for me, but I really like the storage compartment in the stock and the ability to latch the barrel to the stock when disassembled.  That makes it perfect for shoving into a backpack when I am so inclined.

With optics, I should probably do a separate piece on rimfire scopes, but I will offer a couple of options.  Since I plan to mostly plink with it, I am not really looking for anything with adjustable parallax.  I am also not necessarily set on a scope with 50 yard parallax setting although that is handy.

What I do find important is to have magnification below 2x on the low end.  It really helps shooting quickly and shooting off-hand.  The scope on my 10/22 is an old Burris Fullfield II 1.75-5×20 with a very bold #4 reticle.  I might replace with something more modern at some point, but it is veyr compact, so it fits the rifle well.

Generally, tweener scopes make a really good match for a plinker and the two I have tried on this rifle are Vortex Razor HD LH 1.5-8×32 and Burris Droptine 22LR 2-7×35.  Both are lightweight and very good for the money.  The Razor is not cheap, but excellent.  The Burris is more of a budget option, but you’ll be amazed with how nice it is for the money.

To be continued….

 Posted by at 5:17 pm
Jan 082018

I’ll do a little whining here, so bear with me.  I do not do that a whole lot.

For those who visit this website regularly, you like noticed that I’ve got a lot more advertising in recent posts.

Basically, it has dawned on me that I should really keep this hobby of mine revenue neutral.  Another problem that I am facing is that there are some brands out there that will have nothing to do with me (that is sort of a side effect of being honest), so to look at those products I have to buy them on the open market, rather than borrow them from the manufacturer.

Well, since it is important for me to keep this hobby separate from the family budget, I have to look at different sources of revenue.   I really do not want to switch this to a subscription model, so I am looking into putting in some generic advertising and at having affiliate accounts.  To that extent, I signed up with a third party that does affiliate referrals with a bunch of companies, including Brownells and EuroOptic.   That is why you are beginning to see links to these two companies.  I will probably add a few more as I go along.  Unfortunately, some of my favourite vendors do not do affiliate marketing, so I will have to figure something else out.

I am fortunate in that my audience is usually fairly sophisticated and aware of all the different retailers they can get best prices from.  The unfortunate part, is that I worry that all these affiliate links will not get me anywhere since you guys come to this website to do some research and probably already have a particular vendor in mind.

Technically, I also have generic Google and Amazon ads for any sort of shopping optics of otherwise, but for those to be significant, I need a lot more website traffic.

I am not sure how to really resolve this, since this was never intended to be an advertising machine or even a mass market information source.  When I got started with sporting optics, I could not find an unbiased information source that had technical expertise, so I decided to become one.  In the world we live in, anything with the words “technical expertise” is unlikely to ever become “mass market” anything.

In other words, if you want to support my work, click on the Amazon and Google links.  If you will be buying anything from Amazon, start on this website.  It costs you nothing extra.  If you are looking for a specific product that I have reviewed, consider purchasing it via one of the affiliate links I put in.

I’ll give it a go for a few months.  If a desired effect is not achieved, I’ll have to come with something else that generates revenue without compromising the integrity of my reviews.


 Posted by at 2:48 pm
Dec 302017

written by ILya Koshkin, December 2017

One of the goals I had for 2017 was to take a break from the stratospherically priced precision scopes I have been spending so much time on and take a closer look at products people can actually afford.  Also, since I have been shooting my various ARs a lot, I decided to look a little more closely at red dot sights and low range variable power (LRVP) scopes.

Looking at the changes that have been happening in the LRVP market, I can make a pretty good case that development-wise it is the most active segment in the riflescope world at the moment and has been for a little while.  First, decent 1-4x designs became available for not too much money. Now, you can get a very respectable 1-6x scope for under $500 (see my Burris RT-6 impressions here).  Next step is a proliferation of rather capable 1-8x designs.  Now, when I say “capable” 1-8x designs I am not referring to the inexpensive Chinese OEM design that a bunch of people use, retailing in the $300-$400 range.  It is apparently quite popular and I am sure I am not making any friends when I say this, but it is barely serviceable at best.

As a general aside, if you want to see a super positive review on everything, buy any gun magazine.  Every once in a while, I ruffle through a few pages and my blood pressure goes up every time I get to an article on optics.  I could swear that half the time they do not even use the scopes they claim to test.  They mount them on a gun, take a couple of nice pictures and proceed to rehash whatever is in the marketing literature.  As riflescopes get more sophisticated, the basic technical illiteracy of an average gunwriter becomes more and more apparent.  Some time, I should do some audio recordings from the press room at SHOT show; you hear all sorts of interesting things there…

Going back to the matter at hand… another factor to consider is that once we get into a rather broad magnification range designs, fairly long shots are very viable and reticle plane needs to be considered.  With 1-4x and 1-6x scopes, I am perfectly comfortable with either FFP or SFP, as long as it is done well.  However, once we get to 8x at the top end, I really start leaning toward FFP.

However, FFP makes it difficult to have a day bright reticle illumination, which can be important on 1x.  One way to offset that is with a sophisticated reticle design, but there has also been a lot of improvement in reticle illumination technology.

To me, the king of the hill with 1-8×24 scopes in the last couple of years has been Minox’ ZP8 1-8×24 (with the new Nightforce ATACR being the most recent challenger), but it is expensive and out of reach for most people.  With that in mind I decided to restrict myself to the sub-$2k range and gradually look at whatever is available as time allows.

That’s how we get to the Burris XTR II 1-8×24.  It runs for right around $1100-$1200 and seems to be a very well built scope.  Another reason I was curious was that I tested the 2-10×42 version of the XTR II and liked it immensely.  However, while all the other XTR II scopes are made in the Phillipines, the 1-8×24 is made in Japan by LOW.  That was an interesting enough development for me to get my hands on one.

I ran out of one piece mounts, so the XTRII ended up in a set of Kelbly's 34mm rings. It worked surprisingly well.

I ran out of one piece mounts, so the XTR II ended up in a set of Kelbly’s 34mm rings. It worked surprisingly well.

Here is my customary table of all the 1-8×24 FFP scopes I could think of in the sub-$2k price range:

Burris XTR II 1-8×24

Trijicon 1-8×28 HiLux CMR8 1-8×26 Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 (new) GPO TAC 1-8×24 1-8×24


PA Platinum 1-8 X 24 Bushnell SMRS 1-8.5x 24

Length, in

10.75 10.8 10 8.75 10.7 10.8 10.5
Weight, oz 24.3 25 22 17 27 26.45


Main Tube Diameter

34mm 34mm 34mm 30mm 34mm 34mm 34mm
Eye Relief, in

4 – 3.5

4 – 3.9 4 3.75 3.54 3.98 – 3.83 3.5
FOV, ft@1000yards

105 – 12.5

109 – 13.1 114.8 – 14.5 106 – 13 107 – 13 105.8 – 13.25

105 – 14

Exit Pupil 12 – 3 11.8 – 3.5 16.6 – 3.2 7.9 – 3 24 – 3(???) 11.7 – 3

13.2 – 3.2 (???)

Click Value 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.2 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

Adjustment per turn

10 mrad

10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad
Adjustment range 30 mrad 29.6 mrad 30 mrad 29 mrad

17.5 mrad

Zero Stop

Yes Yes Yes


Reticle Location



Price $1100 $1400 $800 $1800 $1000 $1300


Two of the scopes I list are not yet out in the wild: Nightforce NX8 and GPO TAC, so all I know about them is limited to the published specifications.   The exit pupil spec for the GPO TAC has got to be a typo.  NX8 seems to be impressively compact and light for this category.  Both GPO and Nightforce are supposed to have truly day bright reticle illumination.  I’ll be sure to test both designs.  The exit pupil specification for the Bushnell SMRS is definitely a typo.  You can’t get a 3.2mm exit pupil with a 24mm objective and 8.5x magnification.  I’ll need to look at this scope a bit more carefully we well.

Best I can tell all of these designs other than the Hi-Lux are either entirely or partially OEM’ed by LOW in Japan.  I will talk about Hi-Lux’ CMR8 in another article, since that is a different story.  Between Burris, Trijicon, PA and Bushnell, there is a lot of similarity in specifications and I suspect they are related, though not identical designs.  None of these offer fully dayr bight reticles, so I expect that to be compensated by reticle features.  Burris reticle has a large(ish) circle that serves that purpose.  Here is what it looks like on 1x with and without illumination:

1x, illumination OFF

1x, illumination OFF

I probably would have preferred a somewhat thicker circle for visibility, but it worked quite well as is.  The circle and the bars really draw the eye to the center and at closer distances.  Here are a few pictures at different magnifications:









The photos are taken with a handheld cellphone and are not intended as a measure of image quality.  The are only meant to give you an idea of what the reticle looks like.  The circle inside diameter is 10 mrad and the thickness is 1 mrad, which is a little on the thin side for my purposes.  It works though.  10 mrad is very easy to use for some rudimentary rangefinding.  The beauty of the mrad system is that at any distance 1 mrad subtends exactly one thousandth of that distance. Well, that means 10 mrad subtends exactly one hundredth of the distance.  In practical terms, if you are looking at a target that is 100 yards away, the circle subtends 1 yard.  At 100 feet, it is 1 foot.  At 50 yards, it is 0.5 yards (or 18 inches). And so on.  For me, it is pretty intuitive and I can make quick range estimation using the circle at moderate distances.  Here is a drawing with the rest of the subtensions that I grabbed from Burris’ website.  Unless specifically noted, they are all in mrad.

Holdover points work well for typical AR cartridges and the horizontal hashmarks subtend 18″ at 300, 400 and 500 yards.  I am not a huge fan of BDC reticles and of this type of rangefinding, but it works in a pinch and Burris keeps things consistent between different models.  I am reasonably well used to it, but I would have preferred a mil-scale on the vertical axis.  Perhaps, I will talk Burris into putting one in (it is unlikely, but I keep trying).

Before I wrap up with the reticle discussion, it is worth mentioning that this is a very streamlined reticle design that is very quick to deploy.  Most of my complaints about the reticle are really a matter of personal preference, so YMMV.  I held back this review for a bit in order to spend some time with the reticle and do some more shooting in different lighting conditions.  I can honestly report that the reticle did not hold me back in the slightest.  For use on ARs of all sorts where you want to cover everything from CQB to 600 yards or so, it worked great.

If I want to push it further, I can use the turrets, which are well weighted and very repeatable.  The scope comes with Burris’ MAD system, which basically means that you can switch between an exposed turret with a zero stop and a simple covered turret.  It came from the factory with an exposed turret and the covered turret is in the box.  For scopes of this type I generally prefer covered or locking turrets, but a zero stop is very helpful as well.  Since I am planning to take this scope out to 1000 yards soon, I have not yet switched the turrets.   Windage turret is of the covered variety, which works great for me.

Exposed elevation turret and covered windage turret

Exposed elevation turret and covered windage turret

The illumination control knob is on the left of the turret box and offers a pretty good range of brightnesses from very low that is suitable from low light use to fairly bright conditions.  As I mentioned before, it is not quite bright enough for broad daylight, but close.

In terms of physical size, it is marginally bigger than some 1-6×24 designs, but the difference is small.  Here is a snapshot where you can see four scopes sorta next to each other: Hawke Frontier 1-6×24, Burris RT-6, Hi-Lux CMR8 1-8×26 and Burris XTR II 1-8×24.

The magnification ring is reasonably well weighted and is knurled so it is easy enough to grab.  Same for all the other controls.  The scope came with a couple of lens covers that do not seem to be Butler Creek.  I am not sure who makes them, but they appear to be holding up alright.  If they break, I’ll update this.  The eyepiece is of the fast focus variety.  It did not take long to set up and I did not see any obvious hysteresis in the adjustment.

Generally, setting up the eyepiece for scopes that go down to 1x is a little different than that for higher power scopes.  What I usually do is get it focused at the highest power first in the conventional manner, but then I do some finetuning at 1x to minimize distortion and match magnifications.  XTR optical designed is very solid and it did not take a whole lot of messing with.

Generally, I am pretty happy with the optics.  It is still a 24mm objective, so if you are looking for something optimized for low light, this is not it.  However, it is very respectable for what it is and since the image has good contrast and stray light control, overall optical performance is better than I expected.  At 8x, the exit pupil is only 3mm which works well for daylight, but as the light got lower, I found myself turning the magnification down.  I did not try it on a pitch black night, but with some sort of moon/stars/street lights/etc, I found myself settling somewhere right around 4.5x.  Optically, it seemed to be fairly similar to the Trijicon 1-8×28 and Bushnell SMRS that I have spent some time with and better than the less expensive Hilux CMR8.  I have not spent enough time with the PA Platinum to be sure where it stacks up, but I think it is also similar.

As far as eye relief flexibility goes, the scope was very easy to get behind across the magnification range.  It got a little tighter at 8x, as the exit pupil got smaller, but overall the eyepiece looks to be well designed.  I did not see any tunneling anywhere, which is important for LRVP scopes.  It seems to be a touch better than the previous generation of 1-6×24 LRVP scopes (1-6×24 models like SWFA SSHD 1-6×24 and GRSC 1-6×24), but not by much.  The biggest advantage it has over those is with broader magnification range and slightly wider FOV.  Outside of that, optically, CA seems to be slightly better controlled.  In other words, it looks like the 1-8×24 FFP design achieves slightly better optical performance than the earlier 1-6×24 FFP  across a wider range of magnifications.  To me, that sounds like a tangible improvement.  To sorta bracket how it performs, I think that the better 1-6×24 SFP scopes like Vortex Razor Gen 2 and Meopta Meostar R2 are a touch better, but SFP scopes are a little easier to build, and they are more expensive.

Overall, I am really impressed with what the XTR II offers for the money.  It seems to be offering comparable performance to to its competitors while costing less, by a non-trivial amount.  With that in mind, the XTR II easily lands on my list of recommendations.

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Dec 292017

written by ILya Koshkin, December 2017

I started talking about Shield Sights here.

Earlier I mostly focused on Shield’s RMS, which I primarily used on handguns.  Here, I will switch gears a bit and talk about Shield SIS, which is designed for use as a carbine optic.

Until I ran into the Shield SIS, for me, with reflex sights, the choice has been really between Aimpoint Micro and Trijicon MRO.  Now, of course, there are a few other worthy competitors, like Leupold LCO and Steiner R1X (I have tested the LCO, but I am yet to look at the Steiner), but my interest for carbine use has been with sights roughly the size of the Aimpoint Micro.  For people on the budget, there is a bunch of different Chinese made reflex sights all made by the same OEM.  They are marketed under a bunch of brands: Holosun, Sig Romeo5, Hi-Lux MM-2, Vortex Sparc AR, etc.  There are some variations, but these are all fundamentally decent sights, with Hi-Lux MM-2 probably being my favourite at the moment. These retail in the $200 range.

However, higher priced sights like Aimpoint, Trijicon, Shield, Steiner, etc, do offer some advantages in ruggedness, color cast, parallax, distortion, etc.  For my personal use, I’ve got the Shield SIS on the carbine that I have designated for defensive purposes, while HiLux MM2 is on a a 10mm plinker.  Now, mind you, the MM2 has given me exactly zero problems, but the Shield is better, as it should be being twice more expensive.  Vortex Sparc AR performs very similarly to the MM2 and I had an opportunity to beat up three of them at the same time.  It performs very similarly to the MM2, but the mount is specific to ARs, while MM2 can be mounted low for non-AR applications.  With that out of the way, I am going to get back to Shield SIS.

Compared to most reflex sights, the SIS looks a little unvonventional, but not all that weird.  It looks a little blocky, but it is small and light at a bit under three ounces.  Mine came with a riser (for two heights) and Picatinny mount.  Most of the construction is from a combination of some sort of a heavy duty polymer and aluminum (I think) that is proving to be just about indestructible so far.  The top of the sight has a somewhat odd shape.  I do not know exactly the reason for the shape, but I have a suspicion it helps with shock absorption.  It is possible that the top of the housing can be used as a rudimentary sight alignment aid, but I have not messed with that.  The window, best I can tell is not glass, but rather some sort of a high density plastic, probably similar to what my very expensive eyeglass lenses are made out of.  I know a little bit about optical qualities of similar plastics, and the basic tradeoff with glass is that plastic is more shock resistant, but easier to scratch.  In terms of light transmission and color cast, glass is usually a little better, but for a reflex sight, I can’t easily tell the difference: not enough optical elements to really matter.  Scratch resistance is greatly improved with modern coatings and despite some rather pointed efforts the protective windows of the SIS I have are still in excellent shape.  I am not a mechanical engineer, so I will stay away from a discussion on frame stiffness and all.  Let’s just say that using plastic windows/optics is a pretty good way to prevent shattering.  With glass windows, people prevent shattering just fine as well, but it introduces more stringent requirements for the housing.  From what I understand British SAS switched to the similar looking Shield CQS/CQB to a significant degree because it proved more durable than the Aimpoints they used to use.  I think Shield products are also in use by some other countries’ militaries (Asutralia and a few others), but I do not know the quantities or the units.  Suffice to say that the reliability pedigree is pretty good.

Shield SIS is, I think, the latest development from Shield and SIS stands for “Switchable Interface Sight”.  In the picture above, you see two semi-circular buttons on the left of the housing.  All of the control functions are administered via those two buttons.  The options are as follows: auto or manual (12 levels) reticle brightness and reticle selection.

There are two different SIS models that offer different reticles.  Each model has four reticles you can switch between (picture shamelessly stolen from Shield website):

The version I have has the reticle selection in the bottom row.  For my purposes, I found that I really prefer the “2MOA drop and ring” reticle.   The center portion of the reticle has three dots: 2MOA primary aiming dot and two 1 MOA dots below it that are 5MOA and 9MOA down from the primary (center-to-center).  I do not typically use reflex sights to shoot far enough for these additional dots to be terribly useful, but they are handy when I need to make an accurate shot (think headbox shot) from close range.  It is more consistent than just holding above the target.  I typically sight in my reflex sights to be dead on at 50 yards, so this reticle arrangement is working out very well for me.  I have slight astigmatism, so the dots do not look perfectly round to me, but for the distances I intend these for that is inconsequential.  The furthest I shot with the Shield SIS was a metal plate at 400 yards, which I hit quite comfortably.  However, my primary interest with the SIS is use at closer ranges.

The only prominent thing on the right of the sight housing is the battery cover (see above), which has all sorts of ridges on it so you can spin it open with a screwdriver, back of the knife and a variety of other field expedient tools.  Windage and elevation adjustments are exposed.  The slots in them are kinda wide and shallow, so I am not sure what specific tool they were designed for, but they seem to be easy enough to engage with a bunch of things.  Most importantly, they stay put.  Once I got the SIS sighted in on my AR, it has not budged.

The SIS has really impressed more than I thought it would.  There is an interesting (to me) aspect of it that I hadn’t really thought about earlier.  Everyone is trying to make red dot sights with minimal visible housing, so that all you see is a bright red dot surrounded by as little as possible.  That is a good approach and it works well, especially considering how long the battery life of modern reflex sights is.  However, that is not the only approach.

Here is a picture I took through the SIS with my cell phone.  In this photo, the phone is comparatively closer to the sight than my eye would normally be, in order to emphasize what I am talking about.  WIth the more normal eye position, you do not see the inside of the housing much at all.

With the SIS, at first blush, the window is comparatively small, while the housing is pretty prominent.  However, it does not seem to have slowed me down in the slightest.  When I did some house clearing drills, I realized that at these close ranges, that housing is really helpful.  I do not have to worry about the red dot at all.  The moment I see something that needs to be shot through that window, I can pull the trigger and hit it.  Mind you, I messed with this at typical “across-the-room” distances.  Generally, the way the sight picture looks with the housing turned out to be quite natural to me and I vaguely recall that I heard people used EOTechs the same way (perhaps still do), although the EOTech window is considerably larger.  Since I like the dot-and-ring reticle, the way I set up the sight on my AR is so that the outer ring (the ring is made up of 1MOA dots) fits neatly inside the housing with just a little room to spare.  The way it works with reflex sights, the further you move it from your eye, the smaller the housing looks with respect to the reticle, i.e. the reticle subtends the same, but the housing looks smaller.  Since I want a fairly particular sight picture, I experiment a little with how I want to mount it.  Fortunately, the sight picture I like the most positions the SIS sufficiently far forward to easily use the magnifier if I am so inclined.

To summarize it all, I like the SIS immensely and it has taken the spot on my rifle that would have been otherwise occupied by Aimpoint Micro or Trijicon MRO.

In the US, Shield sights seem to be distributed by Brownells (I do not see them for sale by anyone else, so I assume it is exclusive).  I like Shield sights enough that I signed up for an affiliate account with Brownells just because of them.

If my recommendation impacts your purchasing decision, I would really appreciate it if you use the link below.  It costs you nothing and helps me maintain this website.


 Posted by at 1:41 am
Dec 232017

written by ILya Koshkin, December 2017

Fairly frequently, my blog posts here are a result of a question I receive in an e-mail or a private message on one of the forums I frequent.  This is one of those.

The gentleman asked what I would choose to use on a SCAR 17 out of the three options he has access to: Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 non-illuminated, Nightforce 4-16×42 ATACR F1 and NightForce NXS 2.5-10×42.  I am sure he can get a hold of other scopes, but these are the ones he owns.

He also mentioned that he views the SCAR 17 as more of a DMR rifle than anything else so a 6 ounce weight difference is not something he cares about too much.

His Mark 6 has Tremor 2 reticle, ATACR has Mil-R and I am not sure which reticle he has in the NXS.

Since weight has been mentioned, NXS 2.5-10×42 weighs in at 19 ozs, Mark 6 weighs in at 14 ozs and ATACR F1 at 30 ozs.

First, to do away with the obvious: any of these three scopes will work quite nicely.  These are fairly high end designs.  However, we all have our preferences and I have mine, so I will go through them the best I can.  While I do not own a SCAR, I do own an AR-10 with a Fulton 18″ 308Win barrel and I have tried many scopes on it as I do my tests.

First, we have to think about the reticles: if you want to hold for both elevation and wind with the reticle, then some sort of a Christmas tree or similar design is the way to go.  Since both of the Nightforces do not come with such a reticle, I am going to assume that dialing elevation is either an acceptable or a preferred method.  The Mark 6 does have Tremor 2, which works, but I am not a huge fan of Horus reticles.

Mark 6 and ATACR F1 are FFP designs, while the NXS is SFP.  Generally, for shooting at unknown distances, I am firmly in the FFP camp.  However, on moderate magnification scopes where you would be mostly using the reticle subtensions at top magnification where they are accurate, SFP works fine.

Another thing to note is that the Mark 6 is a non-illuminated design.  To me, in this price range, that is a problem and really is the biggest issue I have with the Mark 6  (and I am really looking forward to testing the new Mark 5 3.6-18×42, which has illumination at a much more reasonable price).  Also, I really do not like how Tremor2 looks at lower magnifications, so to me that effectively disqualifies the Mark 6.

Between the two Nightforces, it becomes a  more difficult call.  There is an 11 ounce weight difference, which to me is noticeable on an eight pound rifle.  Both track well.  ATACR F1 is optically better, but the 2.5-10×42 NXS is no slouch either and is easily my favourite of the NXS line.

The final selection really depends on the engagement distances and that is something I did not ask.  If the plan is to shoot out to the practical limit of 308Win in a 16″ barrel (i.e, out to 900 yards or so), better optics and higher magnification and FFP reticle of the ATACR make it a better choice.  However, if the plan is to incorporate a lot of positional shooting, then the lighter and handier NXS acquits itself admirably.  Same for shooting inside 500 yards or so.  I am not a magnification hog, so to me 10x is perfectly is sufficient.

Ultimately, this being a 308Win and me being a precision guy at heart, I would recommend going with the Nightforce 4-16×42 ATACR F1.  I am willing to tolerate a little more weight with a bigger caliber, for a 5.56 DMR, I would likely lean toward recommending the NXS 2.5-10×42.

In the interest of full disclosure, the set-up I have on my LR-308 when I am not testing anything on it is SWFA SSHD 10×42 with a Meopta MeoRed set up in a 45 degree mount to make sort of a “poor man’s 1x/10x setup”.  While on a 6.5 Grendel that has similar exterior ballistics my default setup is Elcan Spectre TR 1x/3x/9x.

However, I also know that I tend to use less magnification than most people out there, and that plays into my recommendations.  Had the NXS been a FFP model, perhaps I would have leaned that way, given lighter weight.  For example, one of my favourite scopes currently on the market is Burris XTR II 2-10x 42.  Optically, the NXS is a little better, but the Burris is FFP and has been just about beyond reproach mechanically in my experience.

This is a bit of a side topic, but it is worth mentioning: mid-range scopes are getting quite good.  If I were starting from scratch today, that XTR II would be sitting on my LR-308, and I likely wouldn’t bother with the more expensive designs.  With higher magnifications, XTR II glass starts showing its limits, but the 2-10×42 is a peach.

If I wanted a little more magnification, I would likely go for the Vortex PST Gen II 3-15×44 FFP .  I generally like the Gen 2, but the 3-15×44 is the best of the line and really compares well even against more expensive designs.

My favourite general purpose precision scope out there is Tangent Theta TT315M 3-15×50, but at $3k you have to be wiling to spend some money to buy one (and I am in the process of setting one up on my lightweight bolt action Fix rifle from Q).  For everyone else, PST Gen 2 3-15×44 offers a lot of the functionality for one third of the price.   I can’t afford to put a Tangent Theta on everything, so I decided to look at the PST Gen 2 3-15×44 and XTR II 2-10×42.  The more I look at them, the more satisfied I am with the performance.  If I decide to spend some money, I can swap the Gen 2 for the Tangent Theta and clealry gain performance.  However, I am struggling figuring out what a clear upgrade to the XTR II 2-10×42 is.  There just aren’t a whole lot of high end scopes in this price/size/configuration range.





 Posted by at 2:35 pm