ILya

Nov 102019
 

When I originally started this website one of the things I wanted to do was put together a series of brand overviews. I wrote a few, but then sorta gave up since the brands were changing their product lines quickly enough to make my overviews rapidly obsolete. The ones I wrote several years ago are here. Written 8-9 years ago, they are not terribly relevant today. However, it was interesting to re-read them and see what happened since. For example, Nikon managed to get rid of all the better scopes they had and decided to stick to strictly second tier (and I am being generous) stuff. SWFA stuck with what worked and gradually expanded their SS scope line-up. Burris has largely cleaned up their act and their product line makes sense to me. Leupold has definitely made significant strides in the other direction. While my original musings are not strictly speaking relevant, I kinda enjoyed going over them to see if the trends I saw back then panned out. With that in mind, I decided to add a few overviews of other brands as time allows, starting with March optics.

The reason I chose to start with March, is two fold:

  1. There has been a fair amount of confusion about the company in recent months stemming from them parting ways with their US distributor.
  2. I am revisiting a few of their scopes, so I am up to speed on what they have been up to.

March’s world wide website is www.MarchScopes.com and that will have the most up to date information on the company and their product line. The company that manufactures March scopes is called Deon Optical Design Corporation and that’s their website. The website www.marchoptics.com is owned by March’s former US distributor and, presumably, they are keeping it up as they sell off what little inventory they’ve got remaining. Unfortunately, when people search for March products they often end up on the wrong website and assume that March is going out of business. Nothing could be further from the truth. March seems to be doing just fine and they are working on several new and interesting designs. I am somewhat friendly with the folks at Deon, so I have insight into what’s coming. As is always the case, I can’t divulge too many details, but it seems they are listening to the market and making steps in the right direction. In the US, their scopes are available via SWFA, Europtics and Longrange Shooting Supply. Since I live in the US, I am not up to speed on who distributes them in other countries, but all of that information is on their website.

Here is the links to where they all are on SWFA website:

https://www.swfa.com/optics/riflescopes.html#brand=March

March makes a ton of different configurations and I am not going to go into detail on all of them all. Instead, I will point out a few highlights and if you have questions about anything specific, please ask me in the comments below.

I had looked at a good number of March scopes years ago, but then largely ignored them since the then new (now former) US distributor and I did not make a good connection. However, I always liked the products, and to a significant degree because of how well they were packaged. March scopes were usually shorter and lighter than the competition, while offering high erector ratios. Now, there are compromises involved with that, but I know what they are, so I can work around them quite comfortably. This makes several March scopes really interesting candidates for what I call “crossover” applications where I can do everything from hunting to precision shooting with the same scope. That’s one of the reasons I ended up looking at them again: I wanted a proper crossover scope for my hunting rifle. I like to practice at distance and a regular hunting scope left me wanting at 1000 yards. I would never take that shot at game, but I shooting at plates is a different ballgame. Besides, my 280Rem is freakishly accurate and stays supersonic well beyond 1k. At around 24 ounces, March’s 3-24×52 is easily one of the better crossover scopes out there, hence my interest.

Generally, March’s product offerings can be loosely divided into four types:

  1. High magnification target scopes
  2. FFP and SFP tactical and precision scopes
  3. FFP and SFP low power variables for general purpose use
  4. ELR scopes

I am not much of a target shooter, but I will say that March’s target scopes have absolutely spectacular resolution and some interesting tricks up their sleeve. For example, they have a scope with eyepiece zoom that is effectively a neat trick of adding a little bit of variable magnification to what is effectively a fixed power scope. Their current offerings are 48×52 and 40-60×53 High Master scopes. They have a new optical system they called High Master and it is not restricted to target scopes. I am not crazy about the name, but image quality is absolutely spectacular even for an optics snob like me. The new optical system is also more stable with temperature changes. Apparently, that makes a big difference for F/T airgun shooters who calibrate their parallax for range finding.

The other two categories are closer to what I normally look at, so I have a LOT of mileage with those. The previously mentioned 3-24×52 FFP scope is their light-ish precision and crossover scope. It was preceded by the 3-24×42 that they still make. It was a good scope (I used to own one), but I like the 52mm version more. They also have a 5-40×56 scope and a new 5-42×56 precision scope coming out that looks very promising. With SFP, their range is 2.5-25×42, 2.5-25×52, 5-50×56, 8-80×56, 5-32×52, 10-60×52 and 10-60×56 High Master. There is a lot of overlap there and, honestly, the two that stand out to me are the 2.5-25×52 and 10-60×56 High Master. The 2.5-25×42 is a very nice compact design, but the 52mm version is not that much bigger. These two, aside from the precision applications, also make for very decent hunting scopes. March reticles are on the thin side, so illumination is a good thing to have. With the high magnification scopes, I think the new optical system is worth the extra money. The magnification range does not look as impressive on paper as 8-80x, but there is a tangible improvement to the already good image quality with the High Master optics.

LPVOs are kind of an interesting thing with March. They march (pun intended) to the beat of their own drum, which often produces interesting products that unlike most things out there. They started out with a SFP 1-10×24 scope quite a few years ago that is probably still the best 1-10x on the market today. Unusually for a low power scope, it has parallax adjustment, so it can do just about anything in a pinch from 10 yards on out. The FFP counterpart of this scopes is the 1-8×24 that also has adjustable parallax making it an interesting alround choice. Their newest 1-8x24FFP is the “Shorty” that is barely longer than eight inches and weighs 17 ounces. That’s the scope I am looking at as well, since I want to explore how it might do in a DMR role with a clip-on. March’s FFP scopes have reticle illumination that is not terribly bright, so it does not do much for visibility in bright daylight, but works well otherwise. With SFP scopes, they now have a couple of models with very bright fiber optic illuminated dot (reticles called FD-1 and FD-2 have that). It started out in their 1-4×24 scope (with very large exit pupil on 1x for speed), but it is also available in the 1-10x and, I think, 2.5-25x. They also make a 1-4.5×24 variable for CMP competition, but I have never looked at it, so I do not have much to say on the subject.

Lastly, March has come up with a dedicated riflescope line for ELR shooting, called Genesis. A lot has been written about these, so I am not going to re-hash it too much. Fundamentally, it is a new take on a scope with external adjustments. It really helps with optics, since you are always looking right down the optical axis and it full decouple the adjustment range from any manner of optical considerations. That allows them to get some a really huge adjustment range in a FFP scope with 10x erector ration: 6-60×56. I have seen this scope, but I have not tested it. I have some reservations about the need of 6x for ELR, but it is a really interesting design that is unlike anything else out there.

They have new things coming next year both in terms of scopes and in terms of improved turrets. Honestly, I always thought their turrets were very good, but it looks like they plan to make some improvements to how the zero stop is set up among other things. I’ll do a separate post on that as details become available. I suspect they will have a full announcement at SHOT.

 Posted by at 9:08 pm
Nov 092019
 

Fielding a bunch of questions on riflescope selection sorta comes with the job and, frankly, I kinda like doing that.

A little while back I got a nicely detailed question that I thought would make a good blog post. Here is what the question was:

Looking to upgrade from my strike eagle 1-8. I would like a little more magnification (at least 10x) and preferably FFP instead of SFP. However, I could be enticed to stick with SFP for weight savings I would also like to keep illumination for low light coyote shots. Like the focal plane, I could be swayed to non-illuminated for weight savings.   The scope will be used on my SPR/Recce/Varmint hunting build. Some of the shooting is done from a stand/rest and others is off hand walking through the mountains (hence the weight concern). It has a 16″ 223 wylde hanson profile barrel and an aero ultralight 30 mm mount.  

A few different optics I’m looking at:  

1. SWFA 3-15x FFP

2. SWFA ultralight 2.5-10 SFP with BDC reticle

2. Vortex Viper Gen II 2.5-10x or 3-15x

3. Bushnell LRTS 3-12x

4. Burris XTR 2-10x

5. Weaver tactical 3-15x FFP

6. Weaver Grand Slam or super slam 3-12x

7. Swampfox 2-12x (hesistant on this one since it is brand new with chinese glass)  

Any other suggestions or thoughts?

As is always the case, it is nice to have boundary conditions. Here, there are some, but it sounds like most things are negotiable. As is usually the case with riflescopes, you can’t easily get everything you want. If you want FFP, more than 10x of magnification and an illuminated reticle, there will have to be some sort of a compromise with weight.

Also, the original question did not specify price range, but based on the scope he was asking about, I will assume that he wants to stay below $700 or so.

As a first order of business, there are two Weaver scopes in the list. Weaver optics have been discontinued and with the brand no longer existing (although probably still supported by its parent company, Vista Outdoors), I would not risk it. Besides, there are better options anyway. I never liked Weaver reticles and turrets.

Swampfox 2-12×44 looks like an interesting design, but I have not seen it, so I can’t comment. I will be testing it at some point, but until then there isn’t much I can say.

SWFA 3-15×42 is always a solid option with a ton of track record behind it. It is getting a little long in the tooth, so some of the recent competitors are better featured, but the 3-15×42 SS is definitely a viable option.

Bushnell LRTS 3-12×44 is a very good scope and it can be had at really reasonable prices right now. It is a very viable option. My one reservation is that since Bushnell is blowing these out I can’t quite figure if that means there is a new one coming or if they discontinuing the whole line.

Then there is a matter of the Aero ultralight mount. I have several of these and they work OK with some scopes, but every single one I have seen has tings that are out of round. They are designed to flex a little bit as you tighten them, but that means the scope is squeezed in a weird and asymmetrical way. Some scopes tolerate it OK and some do not. For precision-ish applications, I would look elsewhere. Of the reasonably inexpensive mounts, I have had perfectly decent luck with GG&G FLT, but there are other options as well. One piece of advice I will give is to avoid the temptation of going for a QD mount (levers). They are largely unnecessary and most do not work well. A regular mount with a couple of half inch nuts or a few T25 bolts will return to zero better.

Now, let’s consider other available options from the list above. If you are really looking for something light, go for the SWFA 2.5-10×32 Ultralight. It is an excellent scope and I have two of them, one with a Plex reticle and another with BDC. Both work great, seem durable and are freakishly light. These are SFP and not illuminated, but as far as hunting AR scopes go, they are hard to beat. I use the BDC one with an offset red dot sight for a general purpose AR set up and it works really well.

If you really would rather go with FFP reticle with an eye toward some more precision oriented shooting, I think Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15×44 is difficult to beat right now. It is a little more weight, but it checks every button on your list. The 2-10×32 Gen 2 weighs almost the same, so I would rather go for the 3-15×44.

If you would really prefer to have 2x on the low end in an FFP scope, I’d go with Burris XTR II over the PST Gen 2 (with the 3-15x scopes, it goes the other way with the Vortex being the better option). Reticle options with the Burris are a little weak, but G2B works well enough.

To summarize, out of the options above, personally, I would go either with SWFA SS Ultralight 2.5-10×32 is weight is critical or with Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15x44FFP if weight can be compromised a little. I have both of those scopes and use them both.

Another scope I would consider is SWFA SS 3-9×42. To me, it has enough magnification and it is a really proven design. Turrets are good. FOV is good. Contrast is better than on the 3-15×42 SS. Weight is very reasonable. I think it is one of the better FFP hunting scopes out there.

Lastly, if you are looking for something with a larger objective, Meopta’s Optika6 scope seem to be holding up nicely and their 3-18×50 FFP looks very promising. I helped them design a couple of reticles including the MRAD1 in the 3-18×50 that I am testing.

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Oct 292019
 

I am now in a full blast AK research mode, so if you have suggestions, please comment.

I think I am going to pimp my WASR AK out in plum furniture just because I can. There is a metric ton of accessories for the AK, but Magpul’s Zhukov Stock looks pretty comfortable and I like folding stocks (I could not have a folding stock on a semi-auto in California, so I am probably compensating). I do not like the name very much: Marshal Zhukov was the asshole-in-chief for the Soviet Army during WWII. He was an absolute butcher, best I can tell, but pretyt much everyone looks good next to Stalin, so he enjoys good PR. To be fair, he was likely a competent general and after Stalin killed every general worth noting in the 1930s, Zhukov was probably the best of the bunch.

I know many people like to out fit their AKs with AR-style buffer tubes and AR stocks and from comfort standpoint, they might be right. However, I already have a bunch of ARs, so I am not itching to make my AK look like one of those. I could always stay with the original wooden stock, but that would be very out of character for me.

With handguards, the number of options is significant and it is really not obvious for me which way I should go. I have spent a lot of time with AR handguards just to figure out that all I need from it is to not cut my hand and to have some means of attaching a sling swivel and a flashlight. What worries me a little is that there is so much variance in available AKs that I keep on hearing people talk about filing this or filing that. I am hoping to avoid making too many permanent modifications. Honestly, I am very tempted to just get Magpul’s MOE handguard, especially since I can get it in matching plum color. Magpul does make the longer Zhukov handguard, but I do not hold my support hand that far out, so I am not convinced it makes sense for me. I remember from my Saiga-owning days how hot the area round the gas block gets and how quickly, so I tend to keep my hand away from there. That is not the muscle memory I am itching to develop (if you’ve ever burned your hand after a couple of magazine dumps you’ll understand). Another important factor to consider is that AKs are a little front heavy, in my opinion, so I do not want to add weight if I can avoid. This becomes even more of a factor if I ever attach a suppressor to it. Magpul’s MOE handguard seems to be about the lightest I can get while still being able to attach a couple of things to it. If I wanted to hang a ton of accessories, I’d probably go for one of MI’s offerings.

Next, we move onto triggers. It seems like there are quite a few out there and the consensus is that ALG is the way to go in terms of bang for the buck. There are much more expensive ones out there as well (from CMC and others). My one problem with all of this is that I really prefer two stage trigger and all of the nice aftermarket ones are single stage. Besides, my WASR kinda has a weirdly adequate trigger as is. I am sure I will end up with an ALG one eventually, but not quite yet.

Lastly, we come to optics and mounts. I have written a ton about optics and mounts for ARs, so I will be digging into this quite thoroughly in a future post. Best sidemounts available seem to be from RS Regulate and MI, but there are other options out there that I might investigate as well.

For the actual optics recommendations: stay tuned.

 Posted by at 4:05 pm
Oct 242019
 

One reason I have not been as active as I like being on the website is that I finally hightailed it out of California in August of this year. Moving across state lines is an interesting endeavor and it has kept me very busy. We are now finally settling in properly and I am adjusting to New Mexico’s somewhat less idiotic gun laws. I am a little concerned that New Mexico politicians are slowly pursuing California-style gun control madness, but for now it is quite tolerable.

Once you get out of California, you learn that some terminology changes. For example, what was called “high capacity” magazine in California, destined to make a mass murderer out of anyone who as much as touches one, is just a normal magazine out here. Naturally, I went and purchased a few and I am happy to report that, contrary to what our communist brethren in California believe, they did not make me appreciably more violent or likely to commit a crime than I was before.

Now that I confirmed that it is indeed safe (insert major sarcasm and much cursing in three languages), I figured I’ll share a few links that I am about to use myself. I am heading to Frontsight in November for a rifle class and my plan is to have enough magazines on hand to not have to top anything off during class. Well that and, after 28 years in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia, purchasing a whole case of 30, 40 or 60 round magazines is a cathartic experience that frequently makes you want to lay back and have a cigar afterwards.

After some digging, I ended up going to Palmetto Armory for my magazine needs. They seem to run fairly frequent sales and offer a good variety of different mags. Here are the links to what I am about to pull the trigger (figuratively speaking) on. I want to try a few brands to see if there are any reliability issues in my ARs.

  1. 60 round Schmeisser mag. I do not know if it is any good, but I see no situation where, having just moved from Cali, I am not going to get one.
  2. D&H 30 round mags are $7.99 each until the end of the day tomorrow.
  3. Magpul 30 round PMAGs are $12.30 each until the end of the day tomorrow. I already have a few of these purchased locally, so I do not know if I will jump on this one yet
  4. 20 round Lancer magazines. For shooting prone, I prefer slightly shorter 20 rounds mags, since I can get a little lower that way.
  5. 20 round PMAGs. Not sure if they work better or worse than Lancer, but I will test both. These are a little cheaper.

Once I do my AR magazine research, next project will be getting an AK and do series of articles on AK applicable optics.

 Posted by at 6:17 pm
Aug 092019
 

A few months ago I got a list of assignment from Guns and Ammo SIP (Special Interest Publications) folks, which are not all completed and as they release the magazines I post an update or two.

As I had mentioned before, writing for these guy turned out to be unexpectedly trouble free. The editing was extremely unobtrusive and was mostly restricted to grammar corrections and changes related to the pictures used. Sometimes they used my pictures and sometimes those taken by their professional photographers (it is pretty easy to tell the difference). Since I like putting references to pictures into the text of the articles as all nerdy people do, they had to remove those if they used different pictures. Aside from that, they changed almost nothing and that is the way I want it. In other words, I hope they’ll have some more stuff for me to write since this was a very enjoyable experience.

That having been said, until they come up with something else, I’ve got a couple of scope tests to finish and a few other things that are in the works.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a long list of assignments, but when we originally talked, I wasn’t planning to do anything for their Retro magazine. I had plenty of things to do, and older riflescopes is not something I know a ton about. I have some mileage with them, but not too much.

Well, I get a call from one of the editors just before the 4th of July while I am in Nevada for the Night Carbine class at Frontsight with a somewhat unusual request. It went something like this: “We need a couple of short pieces for the Retro magazine. We’ve got this picture of an old Sniperscope IR, what can you do based on that? oh, and how about the Singlepoint sight that was used in the Son Tay raid?”

Well, it so happens that I know a little bit about night vision and thermal imaging products since I work with these things for a living. Most of the stuff I have worked on will never be available to the civilian world (most of it is either in orbit or airborne a little closer to the ground), but I have worked on some small arms stuff. It was unexpectedly a lot of fun to look into the very first night vision scope which is sorta how it all started:

I have been involved with this kind of stuff 50 years later and never really gave much thought to how it all started.

Same with the Single Point Sight used in the Son Tay raid. Today, nobody cares much about these since inexpensive and decent red dot sights are everywhere. I have seen the Armson OEG and I often use regular scopes with illuminated reticles as OEG (Occluded Eye Gunsight) at close ranges, but Son Tay was really how this started.

I know how all this stuff works pretty well, but doing some light research on the history of these was a lot of fun and I should probably pick up one of Armson’s products just for the history of it.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm
Jul 182019
 

I get a lot of ideas on what to address in future videos and articles from the questions I get here and on different forums where I participate. I am on a bit of a hiatus right now as I relocate my family to a different state (and my dayjob to a different, different state), so I figured I should start making a list of questions that are worth addressing when my life is a bit more settled down again. Here are a few that I recently ran into on SnipersHide:

  1. Tube diameter. What does it really give you?
  2. Exit pupil. How come the math does not work on low power? what changed with new high erector ration riflescopes?
  3. More on exit pupil. Are we really wasting light with larger exit pupil? Compromises between eye fatigue, field of view and magnification.

Please comment or send me an e-mail with other ideas and I’ll add them to this post to keep a running tally. I am sure I have touched on some of these in earlier videos, but I’ll be happy to go into more detail if there is interest.

 Posted by at 8:59 am
Jun 142019
 

Lately, I seem to make a habit out of taking on scopes that do not have any sort of direct competition to compare them to.  That was the case with the somewhat unusually configured Steiner P4Xi 4-16×56. With the Diamondback, I never thought I would run into that same issue.  After all, there is no shortage of 4-16×44 or similar scopes. However, once you add FFP and a sophisticated tree reticle, the options dwindle considerably.  Add a $350 price tag, and Diamondback Tactical pretty much stands alone. There is a Falcon scope that is somewhat similarly configured, but since I have had dismal luck with Falcons, I am not quite ready to re-visit that.  Athlon makes a good range of FFP scopes, but the Argos line does not have anything with appropriate magnification range for this comparison and, to be blunt, I really like Athlon scopes starting with Midas TAC and up. All of those are significantly more expensive than the Diamondback Tactical.

In practical terms, I really have nothing that competes against the Diamondback Tactical head to head. The only other worthwhile precision oriented scopes in the $300 range are fixed power scopes from SWFA. They are very well proven designs with excellent reputaiton for durability and tracking, but aside from being fixed power, they also do not come with a tree reticle.

Since I have mentioned reticles, I might as well explore that in a little more detail: the reticle is what really makes this scope interesting.  EBR-2C reticle is the same exact design as Vortex uses in their PST Gen 2 scopes and used to use in the Razor Gen 2 (they have just switched the Razor to a related EBR-7C design, but there are plenty of Razors with EBR-2C floating around).  That offers some interesting options in terms of having very similar looking sight picture on a variety of guns. While it would be nice to get a Razor Gen 2 on everything, that is a pretty significant impact on your wallet. Besides, Razor is kinda on the heavy side, so for some guns it is not a great fit balance-wise.  On the other hand, I can easily imagine someone having a 4.5-27×56 Razor Gen 2 on a competition bolt gun, PST Gen 2 3-15×44 on an accurate semi-auto and Diamondback Tactical 4-16×44 on a rimfire trainer. That saves you a ton of money and you are developing familiarity with the same reticle all along.

Given the apparent lack of directly comparable design, I put together a spec table of a few FFP scopes in a similar configuration range, but they are all appreciably more expensive than the Diamondback Tactical.


Delta Titanium 4.5-14x44FFPSWFA SS 3-15×42Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-16×44Athlon Midas TAC 4-16×44Athlon Ares BTR 2.5-15×50
Length, in15.213.661414.613.8
Weight, oz21.72423.123.827.3
Main Tube Diameter1″30mm30mm30mm30mm
Eye Relief, in3 – 3.5
4.2 – 3.83.83.73.9”
FOV, ft@1000yards21.8 – 9.33
13 @ 10x
34.78 – 7.21
10.8 @ 10x
26.9 – 6.7
10.7 @ 10x
27.7 – 7
11.2 @ 10x
41.8 – 6.8
10.2 @ 10x
Click Value0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad
Adjustment range5 mrad36 mrad25 mradE: 30 mradW: 15 mrad29 mrad
Adjustment per turn5 mrad5 mrad6 mrad10 mrad10 mrad
ParallaxAO 10mSF  6mSF 20 yardsSF 20 yardsSF 10 yards
Zero StopNoNoNoYesYes
Reticle LocationFFPFFPFFPFFPFFP
Reticle IlluminationNoNoNoNoYes
Price$500$700$350$550$800

Looking at the specs, there is really nothing hugely unusual about Diamondback Tactical other than the price.  Specwise, the only scope that kinda stands out in this group is Delta Titanium with its 1” tube, wide FOV and very limited adjustment range.  It also happens to be quite good optically (better than other scopes in this group), but AO is less user friendly than side focus and it has the lowest erector ratio of the three.  It is a really interesting design otherwise. Still, it is significantly more expensive than the Diamondback Tactical.

Most of the testing of the Diamondback Tactical was done on an accurate large frame AR chambered for 243Win.  Honestly, it was really uneventful. I shoot with very fancy scopes and, obviously, Diamondback Tactical is not going to make me give up my Tangent Theta any time soon.  However, it did everything I asked of it and did it well. Most importantly, once zero’ed, it stayed zero’ed.

The reticle, obviously, is the standout feature of this scope and the bulk of the shooting I did was without messing with the turrets at all. The way the reticle is sized, I can use the tree portion fairly comfortable from 8x and up.  On 4x it looks like a thin German #4 reticle. Honestly, the only feedback I really gave to Vortex regarding this scope was to lock the turrets and add an illuminated dot. That would probably make it $400 instead of $350, but they would never be able to keep it in stock.  To be fair, I think the scope has exceeded their expectations as is. Here is what the reticle looks like on 16x, 12x, 8x and 4x.

View of the reticle: 16x, 12x, 8x and 4x

Speaking of the turrets: they are of a non-locking variety.  The turrets are exposed and there is no zero stop. Each click is 0.1 mrad and there are 6 mrad per turn.  Honestly, since I was mostly interested in the reticle I was planning to ignore the turrets altogether, but the gentleman I talk to at Vortex kinda suggested that the turrets will surprise me.  He is sort of an understated kind of a gentleman, and if he offers an opinion on something, I pay attention. I went ahead and tested the turrets under recoil and without it. I only tested them for one revolution ( 6 mrad ), but I spent some time on them and they were absolutely spot on for those 6 mrad.  Clicks have good feel. There is no hysteresis. Windage and Elevation turrets are reasonably decoupled from each other. I did not push them all the way to the edge of the adjustment, but the 6 mrad square after zeroing in a 20 MOA mount, there were no issues whatsoever.

They are reasonably tactile and somewhat low profile.  There is enough resistance in the clicks to not worry too much about inadvertently shifting them, but I would have preferred some sort of a locking feature.  They are resettable, however, which was useful. The way the turret cap latches onto the stem, there are fine teeth that have to engage. Once the turret is on there, it is not going to slip and there is no adjustment slop worth worrying about.

Optically, the scope was pretty solid for the price.  There was some flare, but it was not excessive. Sun shade really helps.  Resolution was perfectly respectable. Not great, but not bad either. You can tell the scope is built to hit a price target, but but it seemed competitive with other sub-$400 variable scopes I have seen. Contrast was a bit on the low side, but then again: show me a sub-$400 FFP scope that does better.  I am not aware of any. I think this one is better optically than Falcons I have seen and Athlon Argos. There is minimal tunneling on low power, so you can pretty much use the entire magnification range. On 4x, there is a good bit of distortion as you move your eye behind the eyepiece, but not enough to bother me. It is noticeable, but not bothersome.

I did not spend any sort of time exploring image quality deterioration toward the edges of adjsutment, since this is not the scope I would want to push too much in terms of adjustment range.  While it tracked fine, if you primary purpose is spinning the turrets, you should be giving SWFA SS 3-15×42 a close look. With Diamondback Tactical, in my opinion, you should really focus on using the reticle for distance and wind compensation.

Diamondback Tactical is, provisionally, added to my list of recommendations, primarily to be used as a 22LR or airgun trainer scope. The recommendation is provisional because the design is fairly new and I am going to track how well it stays zeroed. Vortex has had some trouble keeping up with demand for this scope, so there should be a good number of these out there, i.e. I expect to have reasonable reliability statistics fairly soon.

Jun 092019
 

Father’s day is almost upon us. A bunch of products are on sale and I am getting hit with questions on whether something is a good deal.

Then there is a whole slew of question along the lines of: “I want to give my dad a nice optic (riflescope, bunocular, etc) for under $100, what would you recommend?”

Well, I have some bad news for you. If you look at a list of recommendations I have, there really isn’t much in terms of optics that you can get around $100 that is actually worth it.

If that is all the budget you have, I can still come up with some recommendations, but they are not really going to have much of anything to do with optics. For that stuff I mostly draw on my quirkly lifestyle: I travel a lot, so I pay a lot of attention to thinks that make my travelling life easier.

If you have budget flexibility and you are set on getting some optics, peruse my list of recommendations and see if there is anything there that might work for you: riflescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes. If you see any of the products I mention there on sale for Father’s Day and within your budget, that’s your best bet.

For those on a $50-$100 or thereabouts budget, here are some ideas.

First of all, I know I talk a lot about riflescopes, but I will not list a whole lot of riflescopes here. If Dad wants a riflescope for a hunting/plinking rifle of some sorts, your viable options start in the $150-$170 range with Sightron S1 3-9×40 or 1.75-4×32 versions and Burris Fullfield II 2-7×35. These are simple, but fairly robust scopes.

With binoculars, interestingly, there are more options, but I do not like most of them. With budget options usually less is more, so I’d be taking a good look at Leupold Yosemite 6×30 and Kowa YF 6×30.

With spotting scopes… this is the wrong price range. Decent stuff starts a bit higher up (above $300) which is a bit outside of the scope of what I am looking to cover here.

Moving a bit away from things optical, there are some tricks of the trade I learned from all the travel I do. One is to have a very thin wallet. I switched to a front pocket wallet after travelling in Europe where they will brazenly steal anything you put in your back pocket. It is also worthwhile to not have anything in your pockets that will make your life even more uncomfortable than a 15 hour flight already does. However, most of the ultra slim wallets I have tried have flaws: no space for cash, no ID window, fragility. This one from All-ett is very slim (although not as slim as some really tiny ones I have seen), and it addressed the three issues I listed above. It is a good compromise.

And now for something way into the left field… I am a life long martial artists, which is simply a nicer way of saying “aging martial artist” who does not practice enough. As I got older I learned the value of working on the fitness of some parts of your body that you pay no attention to when you are younger. One of them is the whole foot and ankle structure. As you get older, this is one of the parts of your body that really takes a beating and starts getting injured. Once your ankle is beat up, everything else you do gets even more tricky and even as you heal, you can have balance issues that effect your other joints. There really isn’t a lot out there specific for foot and ankle strengthening, so after some research I stumbled onto the AFX. If you are worried that your Father’s Day gift is too passe and same thing as everyone else gets, this one is for you. I bet noone else will be getting one of these: http://www.afx-online.com/store/

Lastly, something I found on Kickstarter, but have not yet seen. It will not get there for Father’s Day, but since I am touching on subjects normally do not address, I figured I should mention it. Here is what my typical travel week looks like:

-five hours on the plane in an economy seat that is designed to be uncomfortable for people half my size and downright torturous for.. hmm, let’s just say full-size people (you do not want to be in a seat next to me; I take a lot of space).

-five nights in hotel beds that are engineered to closely replicate Soviet gulag experience

-many hours in a rental car going from place to place.

-another five hours on the same plane flying home

By the time that is all done, if you do not have back pain, you are tougher than I am. In principle, going to a massage therapist would help, but I do not like anyone other than my wife touching me and there is no chance she can work through any of muscle aches (I am close to 300lbs, she is 120lbs on roller blades; she can pretty much practice tap dancing on my back and not wake me up). Exercise helps, but I am always looking for something else and this weird back massager from a company called Backmate caught my interest. That will be interesting to try. Given my weight class, it will also be a good stress test for my door frame.

And lastly, as far as I am concerned, you can’t have too many folding knives. One of the reasons I, specifically, can’t have too many folders is that I end up occasionally losing them, and I have (and had, unfortunately) some really nice ones. I tried to use cheaper knives for general purpose daily carry, but most of them were not particularly comfortable in the hand and used cheap blade steel that either dulled or rolled far too quickly. While I have used ESEE fixed blade knives quite a bit over the years and had nothing but good things to say about them, they are folders are new to me. They got my attention because they are inexpensive and some use D2 steel for the blade. D2 has been around forever and a day and is still one of the better general purpose steels (I have been collecting knives with different blade steels for solid 25 years, so I have tried them all). I just started carrying these, but my initial impressions are extremely good. ESEE Avispa is a little larger with a 3.5″ blade, while Esee Zancudo blade length is a hair under 3″. Both are under $50, while sporting intelligent geometries and durable materials. I bought both and will be using them as my EDC blades for the next few months.

 Posted by at 9:02 am
Jun 062019
 

This is not going to be a very long review.especially since I’ve got a video up where I talk about this scope. It is embedded a bit further down and there is also a link there for the same video on gunstreamer.com if you prefer that platform to YouTube.

LPVOs (Low Power Variable Optics) are getting increasingly more competent across the board. The original idea behind riflescopes of this type was to provide good performance on 1x, with performance on top magnification *first 4x, then 6x, 7x, 8x, etc) being almost an afterthought. However, recently I am seeing more and more riflescopes that are increasingly well optimized across the entire magnification range with the Blaser being, potentially, the best of the bunch in terms of optomechanical quality.

I do not think Blaser intends to market this for tactical/AR-15 use, especially since their sister brand Minox already has an excellent ZP8 1-8×24. However, they really should consider it. I think they can grab a nice slice of the market by simply adding a couple of reticles with holdover points and, maybe, some sort of an AR compatible mounting solution (although I will freely admit that the Zeiss rail on the bottom of the scope is a very flexible mounting options as is). I used Recknagel rail mounts on top of the 22MOA Badger riser and the optical axis was at just the right height.

The reason I tested the scope on my AR-15 is mostly that I wanted to spend some time shooting offhand on low power which burns a lot of ammo and 25.56×45 is comparatively more affordable.


Blaser 1-7×28Minox
ZP8
1-8×24
Nightforce ATACR
1-8×24
Leica
Magnus
1-6.3×24
GPO
TAC
1-8×24
Swaro
Z8i
1-8×24
Length, in12.511.61010.710.711.9
Weight, oz22.824.521191918.2
Main Tube Diameter34mm34mm34mm30mm34mm30mm
Eye Relief, in3.53.53.743.53.543.74
FOV, ft@1000yards123 – 18
21 @ 6x
112 – 14.4 19.2 @ 6x96 – 13.1
17.5 @ 6x
122 – 19.320.2 @ 6x107 – 13 17.4 @ 6x127.5 – 15.9
21.2 @ 6x
Exit Pupil10 – 410.3 – 311 – 312.4 – 3.811 – 38.1 – 3
Click Value0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad
Adjustment per turn10 mrad10 mrad10 mrad10 mrad10 mrad10 mrad
Adjustment range18mrad10 mrad30 mradE: 20 mradW: 14 mrad29 mrad20 mrad
Zero StopNoYesYesNoNoYes
Reticle LocationFFPFFPFFPSFPFFPSFP
Price$3095$3000$2800$2300$1800$2700

Looking at the spec table above, a few things jump out. One is that the Blaser is expensive. Another is that it easily the widest FOV of the available FFP low power scope. It almost matches the FOV of the second focal plane Swaro Z8i, except it does so with a larger exit pupil and front focal plane reticle. Rather importantly, when you are trying to go fast with the scope on 1x, the exit pupil on low power matters. I experimented with a bunch of different scope and it seem like for optimal performance I need an exit pupil of 10mm or more. If it gets smaller on 1x, that is not a huge deal, but I can feel the difference especially from suboptimal shooting positions.

Also, Blaser is the only 28mm objective in this group and, while I have not seen all of these side by side, I am pretty confident it will do better than any 24mm scope in low light. It is not a huge difference, but it is there.

Here is a brief video review:

Here is a short video shot through the scope using a Skoped Vision adapter. It is not nearly as good of the image as you get looking directly through the scope, but it is a good representation of what the reticle looks like.

Keep in mind that the physical reticle is sized so it does not stand out much on 1x. That is where the large illuminated dot is supposed to really stand out for a shooting experience close to that of a red dot sight.

Below 4.5x, the dot is 1 mrad in diameter (right around 3 MOA). Above 4.5x, it is 0.25 mrad in diameter for precise aiming.

Blaser calls the technology IVD: Intelligent Variable Dot. I really like how it works and I hope it extends to different products and applications.

 Posted by at 10:04 am