Mar 192018

General disclaimer: I am more of a shooter than a hunter,  As I get older, hunting appeals to me ever more and I do hunt, just not as much as I would like.  Perhaps, my reticle ideas on the subect will morph as they go along, but I do spend a lot of time peering through optics in varying lighting conditions.  I have been fairly consistent with what I like with reticles.

The key is to figure out what reticle features you need and what reticle features you don’t. Of the ones you do not need, you have to figure out which ones are unobtrusive and which ones get in the way.

For example, I once complained to Vortex that I was not happy with the state of basic hunting reticles out there and drew on a back of a napkin, what I would like. They surprised me by taking my basic sketch and making a reticle out of it, albeit with some modifications (they made it MOA based and changed a couple of dimensions; I am a mrad guy).

The reticle in question is G4-BDC that they use in the Razor HD LH scopes. Here is a snapshot through the 2-10×40 scope at about 5x:

I’ll walk you through my thought process to explain why I like this design.

First of all, when it comes to shooting at game, I am unlikely to take a long shot any time soon.  I practice shooting from field positions a fair bit, but even with a good shooting platform, I am not sure I have the guts to take a 400 yard shot, but 300 is reasonable when conditions are decent.  From less steady positions, this distance is lower, but I do a lot of offhand practice at 100 yards, so a 75 yard shot off hand unsupported is something I am adequately confident in even accounting for adrenaline and fatigue.

That having been said, I like to practice with my hunting rifle(s) and I think it is a good idea to practice at considerably longer distances than you are willing to tackle in the field.  With that in mind, whatever addition features the reticle has to range use, must be something that does not interfere with field use.

There are many traditional hunting reticle designs out there with two most common ones being duplex and German #4 reticles.  Here is a collage of reticle sketches I shamelessly pirated from Meopta website, hoping that they do not mind:

Middle is German #4.  On the right is a duplex and on the left is their BDC reticle.  You can clearly see how this BDC reticle started out as a wide duplex reticle that they added some additional features to.  These are very stylized sketches.  Even with simple duplex and G#4 designs there is a lot of variation in terms of line thicknesses and the length of the thin stadia in the center.

Now that most makers have been transitioning to glass etched reticle designs, there are comparatively few limitations in terms of feature sizes and spacings.

Between the two classic designs, personally, I prefer the #4 since I like that largely unobstructed half of the image on the top and I am not seeing any difference in terms of visibility or speed between #4 and duplex given same line thicknesses and spacings.

In general, the current trend on the market is for people to use reticles that are more complicated than they should and thinner than they should because so many only shoot in broad daylight at the range.  In good light, when you are trying to shoot tiny groups off the bench, it all works great.  Once the light changes and your shooting position gets a little wobbly that ultra thin reticle may not be optimal.

With all of that in mind, when I started thinking about a hunting reticle, I started out with the #4.  Since I do spend a lot of time on the range, I wanted some means to shoot out to 600 yards or so without messing with the turrets and I wanted the aiming point to be reasonably fine.  However, overall, the reticle had to be easily visible in any lighting conditions.

I shoot a lot of different calibers, but my primary hunting rifle is a Tikka M695 chambered for 280Rem.  For when I do not anticipate longish shots, I also have an AR chambered for 458 SOCOM (the AR happens to have a Vortex Razor HD LH 1.5-8×32 on it with the G4 BDC reticle).

I also have a hunting weight rifles chambered for 308Win, 7.62x54R and 6.5Grendel which are all similar in terms of external ballistics.  280Rem is the flattest shooting of this bunch until I get a 300WSM barrel for my Fix rifle.

My go to bullet for the 280Rem is a 145 gr Bulldozer design by Badlands Precision which gives me a maximum 5 inch MPBR of a bit over 350 yards.  Since I usually sight in my hunting rifles right around 200 yards, my practical MPBR is right around 300 yards which works just fine for me.

To reach to 600 yards, I need almost exactly 3 mrad with 200 yard zero, so my original vision for this reticle was to simply have two hash marks 1 mrad and 2 mrad below the primary aiming point and have the thick bar terminate 3 mrad below the primary aiming point.  The thin bar would terminate half mrad below the primary aiming point, but I did not want a horizontal hashmark there to keep the eye naturally drawn to the aiming dot.  That would give me some rudimentary range estimation at top magnification and simple to remember holdovers that can accomodate multiple calibers adequately well.  Since most scopes of this type are FFP, my basic assumption is that all the shooting beyond MPBR is done at top magnification.

Now within 300 yards, I like to be able to hold for wind or for a slowly moving target, for which useful holds are 0.5 mrad, 1 mrad and 2 mrad.

Vortex has its own BDC reticle, so the G4 BDC design they came up with used the MOA-based dimensions that kept it roughly in line with BDC values they have been using on other designs:

I understand why they did it in MOA and the dimensions are consistent and make sense.  I think using varying line thicknesses on the horizontal axis is a very nice touch and it naturally draw the eye to the primary aiming dot.  I wish that dot was a touch bigger or illuminated, but as is, the reticle works quite well and I have used it in all sorts of lighting conditions.

Now, when drawing up a reticle, it is very hard to resist the temptation to start adding features: extra wind holds, ever more granular hashmarks, etc.  For some shooting disciplines those are important, but for typical hunting applications, I think they an unnecessary distraction.

With this design, all I wanted to do was to add a couple of basic hold points to compensate for wind and drop.  However, for hunting applications, I have very limited interest in compensating for wind or lead at distances beyond MPBR and the primary aiming point must be the one your eye is drawn to when you have to shoot fast.  I am not a long range hunter (yet).

In the interest of full disclosure, I have talked to a bunch of people over the years about what I want out of a reticle of this type and I do not know if some other similar designs out there were influenced by that.  A few similar designs came out in the years since I started getting vocal about that.  However, the guys at Vortex were honest enough to admit that they were, so I can openly talk about that.

In all fairness, all of this is rather evolutionary in nature and I am sure other people have been thinking through similar things at the same time.

 Posted by at 2:05 pm
Mar 192018

Another post prompted by what I saw on the Hide.  That place is just a gold mine of discussion topics.

Let’s define, somewhat arbitrarily, what an Ultra Short riflescope is.

The phrase “Ultra Short” was originally coined by S&B and they have been trying to do this the longest.  Naturally, there is a whole slew of cheap crappy optics out there that are very short.  I am going to ignore those.

In principle, how short you can make a scope is a function of how large the objective and ocular lenses are.  The larger they are, the harder it is to make scope short.  Also, keep in ind that short does not have to mean light.

With that in mind, let’s make some educated guesses on what overall scope length qualifies it to be called UltraShort for different objective lens sizes:

Greater than 50 mm Objective: Under 15″

40 to 50 mm Objective:  Under 13″

30 to 39 mm Objective:  Under 11″

Under 30mm Objective: Under 9″  (March 1-8×24 Shorty, Nightforce NX8)


I reserve the right to make changes once I do some more research on the subject…

 Posted by at 9:36 am
Mar 152018

I just saw the EuroOptic marked down the 3-15×50 TT315P scope. That does not happen very much, so if you are int he market, this a really good opportunity:

 Posted by at 12:13 pm
Mar 132018

This was inspired by a few more discussions on SnipersHide.

Let me know if any of this makes sense or if you want me to go into more details on anything.

And I am still trying to get a grip on the whole video/audio thing.  The first video is from Z-cam E1 camera with an external X-Y microphone.

The second video is taken with my cellphone and with audio coming from a lapel microphone. Let me know which sounds better to you.  Next time I will try the lapel microphone with the Z-Cam E1, I suppose.


 Posted by at 3:41 pm
Mar 132018

I just saw a question on ARF about scout riflescopes.

I have a lot of mileage with the concept and kinda like the way it works although it was created in an era before modern high quality low range variable riflescopes.  Still, even in the modern world it has its uses and picking up a modern scout rifle (Steyr if I can ever afford it) is on my list of projects.

As is, I have some milsurp guns that I have used with scout scope since it allows me to mess with optics without permanent modifications.

Scout scopes are intermediate eye relief (IER) design with right around 10″ of eye relief.  Some pistol scopes can be used, but they usually have longer eye relief, so you need to be wary of that.

There are a few inexpensive models out there from Vortex and Hi-Lux, but I wasn’t too impressed with them.

However, both Burris and Leupold offer a couple of models that are quite decent.

Burris offers two: 2.75×20 fixed power and 2-7×32 variable.

Leupold offers three: FX-2 2.5×28, VX-2 1.5-4×20 and VX-R 1.5-5×33

The VX-R is the only one of the bunch that is illuminated and if you are comfortable spending the money, it is hands done the best scout scope made.

With fixed power scopes, Leupold FX-2 is a touch easier to get behind, but I prefer Burris’ bolder reticle.

The VX-2 is jsut flat diminutive, so if you want variable power in the smallest size, it is a decent option.  Personally, I would be looking at either Burris 2.75×20 or Leupold VX-R 1.5-5×33.

Here are some links to all the options I could quickly find:


 Posted by at 2:42 pm
Mar 062018

I am somewhat active on several forums, one of them being SnipersHide.  The gentleman who runs it is a very accomplished military trained long range/precision shooter, so a big part of the forum leans toward the precision side of the shooting world.

While my personal interests span most of the shooting disciplines, I really lean toward the precision world, so that suits me really well.

Almost every day, I see incessant arguments about which scope is better than others and why.  One thing that I do not see differentiated enough is whether the argument is about fundamental quality vs personal preferences and design decisions.

For example, holding zero, returning to zero, adjustment accuracy and adjustment consistency are all fundamental qualities.

Click feel is somewhere in between since for people who use the reticle exclusively it is not terribly important.  Also, it is easier to get good click feel with turrets that have fewer clicks per revolution, so this one spans a little bit of everything: fundamental quality, design compromise and personal preference.

Reticle selection is almost entirely personal preference with a little bit of a design compromise mixed in.

Magnification range is both a personal preference and a design compromise.

Durability is a fundamental quality, but it is very difficult to measure without statistical data.  For example, you will hear about a lot more failures from companies that sell the most scopes.  Let’s say a company sells 100 scopes per year with a 1% failure rate.  That means there is one broken scope out there from this company and unless that one scope is mentioned on the forums we never hear about it.  With another company that sold 1000 scopes in the same period of time, with the same failure rate, there are ten broken scopes out there, so we are almost bound to run into someone complaining about it on the web.  The failure rate is the same, but a larger brand will take a bigger hit to their reputation.

On the other hand, a smaller brand who only sells a 100 scope per year suffers from a small sample size.  Let’s say they have no failures for four years and five failures in one year.  Overall failure rate is still 1%, but their reputation is taking a serious hit from that one bad year.

Ultimately, I watch this kind of stuff carefully, but do not draw too many conclusions from it, partially because people who are pissed about an expensive scope taking a dive are usually a lot more vocal than satisfied customers.

We live in a time where precision shooters have an impressive array of options from quality manufacturers.  It used to be just one or two makers serving this market segment, but now there is a bunch.  On top of that, there is an increasing number of quality designs popping up at half the price of the alpha stuff.

I will ignore price considerations for now and give some thought to what would be an ideal precision riflescope for me based on the features I like from different makers out there.  Keep in mind that I do not do ELR a whole lot, so extremely large adjustment range or very high magnification are not critical for me, especially since I can always get a Tacom prism.

There is no one scope right now that does exactly what I want, but Tangent Theta gets close on the strength of excellent optomechanical quality and the best turrets I have seen to date in terms of feel (there are several options with excellent reputability and return to zero, Tangent Theta being among them).

I use Tangent Theta TT315M as my general purpose precision scope and it is just superb.  However, since we are talking about a wishlist here, for a dedicated precision gun, I could use a little more magnification.  I do not need a whole lot more but I prefer 20x or more for this role.

The TT315M has 6 mrad per turn turrets with spectacular feel.  However, the larger TT315P and TT525P have near perfect turrets with even better feel and 15 mrad per turn; however, these scopes are significantly heavier and the turrets are taller than I like.   Still, if I were to choose one precision scope from what is on the market right now, TT525P would be it.

As far as form factor goes, the turrets on Vortex AMG 6-24×50 are just about perfect.  They are a bit more compact, with 10 mrad per turn, zero stop and locking feature.  The feel is not Tangent Theta though.

The weight of the AMG is about right (near same as TT315M), but it is on the long side at 15 inches (TT315M is around 13.5″).

Overall length is not that critical, unless you plan to use a clip-on in front of the scope.  Still, given a choice, I would prefer to keep it in the 12 to 13 inch range if possible (or shorter).  Of the designs on the market now, only S&B 5-20×50 Ultra Short is there, but the upcoming EOTech Vudu 5-25×50 and Kahles K318i are in that same size range.  I think EOTech turrets are too tall for a scope of this size, but Kahles K318i turrets are a good compromise.  In terms of factor factor, low and wide turrets on S&B Ultra Short, are good size, but I do not like the feel as much.  ZCO 4-20×50 is also promising, ditto for Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44.

As far as control configuration goes, I really like what Kahles is doing with the center parallax.  I shoot both right handed and left handed and that parallax location is very convenient.  Other ambidextrous parallax options are on the objective bell and that is more of a reach than I like.

As far as magnification range goes, low mags are not that critical for precision use, but I shoot quite a bit off hand and from poorly supported positions, so I like to have 4x or so on the low end.

Reticles are a really personal preference.  There is not single reticle design out there that is perfect for me, but most Christmas tree style reticles work well enough.  I use both reticle and turrets, so Horus designs are not my thing.  I will do a separate piece on which reticle would be perfect for my needs.  In the meantime, I am quite comfortable with Gen 2 XR, Vortex EBR-2C and a few others.

To summarize all of this meandering, my ultimate precision scope would be a 4-24×50 with Tangent Theta’s optomechanical quality and turret feel, Vortex AMG weight, S&B Ultra Short overall length and turret size and Kahles’ general control configuration.  Not to mention that it would have to have a reticle that does not yet exist and would probably be something that only I would like.

I do not think I will get that any time soon, so I will continue to use whatever is on the market and every time I miss a shot I will claim that I missed because the scope is not perfect…


 Posted by at 10:27 am
Feb 262018

I answer quite a few questions via PM on different forums where I participate and every once in a while, I take one and make a blog post out of it.  A little while back, I received something I though was worth exploring:

Most comparisons don’t compare across price lines, except for your fun “if I could only have one” thread. Looking mostly at FFP 5-25 and I am trying to decide how much better a scope I am getting if I go with something in the Athlon Ares/PST GENII $725-$900 range versus jumping up to an Athlon Cronus/Sig Tango 6/Vortex Razor range at $1425-$1800, Athlons being new at the bottom of both those ranges. With several good deals popping up on here for Sigs and the dealers offering good pricing on Athlon, I am a little torn.

There is a reason why it is difficult to compare across price lines simply because quantifying what is worth the money is kinda complicated.

A basic rifle scope that you put on a hunting rifle really has two jobs:

  1. Stay zeroed
  2. Show the target and the reticle well enough to pull the trigger

If your scope of choice does not acomplish those two goals, you start going higher up in price until you stumble onto a product that does.  In this case, value for the money is obvious.  However, once you go higher up in price range in order to get additional features and performance, justifying that is not always straight forward.  Still, there is a reason I’ve got Leica Magnus on my 280Rem.

With precision scopes, there are additional baseline requirements, largely pertaining to the reticle and the adjustments.  However, once those are satisfied, how do you justify spending more?

Everyone does so in a different way and a lot depends on what you do with it.  For example, if you are putting your ass on the line, spend some money on reliability and track record.  The best warranty in the world is of no help if your scope craps out on you in the middle of nowhere.  Or in the middle of a competition if you are a serious competitor (that is far less traumatic than getting shot at in one of the “stans”, but still very disappointing).

However, outside of really challenging conditions and high risk situations, there is a lot to be said about mid-range scopes.  They are getting really good right now.

The stuff made in the Phillipines is maturing.  When Vortex made Gen 1 PST, it had issues, but a lot of those were resolved.  Gen 2 is much better.  Burris XTR II proved that you can have a very feature rich scope with dead nuts reliable mechanics coming out of the Phillipines.  PST Gen 2 is better optically, but not better mechanically.  It is newer though.  I am sure that Vortex is stabilizing PST Gen 2 mechanics (and the two I am looking at are very good), while I am similarly sure that Burris is plotting to improve the glass on XTR III or whatever the next one is (among other things).  Still, there is now some track record for mid-range stuff coming out of Phillipines and it is beginning to push Japanese products quite a bit.

For example, if you are in the market for a very full featured 3-15x scope for a fair price, I have a very hard time recommending anything other than PST Gen 2 3-15×44 right now.  To do noticeably better than that scope you really need to be stepping up to TT315M or something along those lines.

Athlon’s Ares is the highest end scope I have seen come out of China to date, so there is no track record to speak of.  If you buy an Ares riflescope you take a risk, but you also pay less than for the better Phillipine stuff.  The 4.5-27×50 Ares BTR I have been playing with is very good for the money, but not as good overall  as the PST Gen 2 (I have them side by side on my tripod fixture right now).  Is it worth the money? Yes, but until it has been out a little longer, I would be wary of putting it onto anything you plan to depend on.  Mind you, mine has been rock solid, but it is a sample of one.  Ares ETR that is coming out is an even more ambitious design, but if it holds up, the Phillipine-made scopes will have something to worry about.

Then there are the Japanese scopes, most of them made by LOW (except for a new Sightron that will be available mid year).  Most LOW scopes in the $1500 and up range are mechanically robust and the difference between them comes down to turrets, reticles and specific requirements from the customer.  Weirdly, the best I have seen so far from LOW in terms of optics is from a Polish company, called Delta Optical, but the rest of them are not far behind.  SigSauer’s LOW products are probably the most full-featured overall.  Vortex’ Razor Gen 2 have the best explored track record.  Athlon Cronus is probably the value leader among designs commonly available in the US.

Are these scope worth the price premium over the PST Gen 2?  Are PST Gen 2 and XTR II worth the price premium over Ares?  For that matter, are the alpha brands worth the price premium over the better Japanese scopes?

Then there are occasional products that really throw a monkey wrench into this by offering reliability and track record with fewer features (yes SWFA SS scopes, I am looking straight at you).

If I could afford it, I would have Tangent Theta or Leica Magnus on every rifle.  I can’t.

I have two rifles on which I refuse to compromise:  My primary hunting rifle (re-stocked Tikka M695 in 280Rem) has a Leica Magnus 1.8-12×50 and my general purpose boltgun (Q’s Fix) has Tangent Theta TT315M.  ZCO is coming up to compete with Tangent Theta and others, but they are not here yet, so they do not enter this discussion.

I am probably going to sell my Desert Tech when I am done testing the Vortex Razor AMG I currently have on it, but the primary scope on the SRS is SWFA SS 5-20×50.  It is as reliable as anything out there and I can not afford to put a $3k scope on everything.  And it hasn’t skipped a bit on 338LM for a couple of years now.

In sub-$2k world, if I am looking for a scope with 20x or higher magnification, I think I am still going to lean toward Japanese designs.  For now.  That means, SWFA SS 5-20×50 or Delta 4.5-30×56.  Or Cronus if that reticle rocks your boat, but Delta seems better optically despite being a clearly related design.  If you can find Razor Gen 2 for that money, go for it.

In the 3-15x range, it is PST Gen 2.  That is clearly the cherry of the PST line-up.  Here, I would have a hard time justifying the cost of anything until you get to $3k and scopes that offer minimal compromises.

In the 2-10x range, it is XTR II 2-10×42.  It needs more reticles, but Burris did an exceptional job with this design.

If you want to go lower in price, you get to pick between the track record of SWFA SS 3-15x42FFP and the featureset of Athlon Ares BTR, and I can’t make that choice for you.

 Posted by at 8:32 am
Feb 132018

I recently saw a question on the Hide that I thought was worth addressing.  The guy was asking whether dialing the side focus turret for the sharpest image will also result in a no parallax condition.

The answer is: not necessarily and here is my attempt to explain that:


 Posted by at 4:33 pm
Feb 102018

I do not talk about scope mounts and other accessories all that much, but I figured I should say a few words here and there about Aadland mounts that I use for my tests.  These are not the only ones I use, but I use them whenever they are available (sometimes I run out when there is too much stuff that needs to be set up at the same time).

Here are some thoughts on the mount and the Gen 2 scope caps.  I think these are the best scope caps on the market, bar none.

 Posted by at 5:39 pm
Feb 052018

I do not usually do this kind of stuff, but I was shopping for a trigger and noticed that Brownells has a crazy sale on the Hiperfire 24 3Gun trigger.  It is an amazing trigger that is 50% off right now.

They’ve got a couple of other triggers on sale, some from Hiperfire and some from Geissele  I normally use Geisselle triggers, but I have tried this Hipertouch 24 3Gun trigger one someone else’s rifle and thought it was very impressive even compared to my Geisselle DMR.  It is a different feel, of course, but the trigger is exceedingly crisp with excellent reset.

I think I will pick one up for myself since I still have one lower with a rather terrible GI trigger. This should be a nice upgrade for it.

 Posted by at 12:50 am