ILya

Jan 122020
 

I have a confession to make. I have quite a few AR-pattern rifles and my interests in them have always leaned heavily toward the latest and greatest. I have another confession to make. For the most part I still do. I am a techy guy and I like techy stuff.

However, when I was working on a couple of optics articles for Guns and Ammo’s Retro magazine, I took a closer look at Vietnam-era M-16s and there is definitely some nostalgic appeal there. Now, the articles I did were on the Occluded Gun Sight (OEG) like the ones made by Armson and on the first night vision scope. The original night vision is out of my reach, but Armson OEG is in production, so I started conceiving a retro build.

At around the same time, I decided to review Brownells’ new 3-18×50 MPO scope, which is really growing on me. That is when I discovered that Brownells really put some time an effort into supporting the retro replica market. They have a bunch of AR variants that seem to be rather faithful reproductions of many originals including some prototypes that I have barely heard of. To people who are into retro builds none of this is news, I am sure, but it was news for me.

Also, it turned out that Brownells sells a re-incarnation of the original Colt 4x scope made by the original manufacturer. Me, being a nerdy optics guy, I kick off gun reviews based on what optics I want to look at, so between Briwnells’ Retro and Armson OEG, that was enough for me to start making detailed plans.

Brownells Retro 4×20 (Butler Creek’s tini bikini scope cover did not come with it, but fits perfectly)

Originally, I was going to procure the pieces and build one up from scratch, but now I am sorta questioning that plan. As much as I like working on guns, I am not convinced I can do better than Brownells has done and if I procure good quality components, I am not at all convinced it will be cheaper.

To be entirely honest, the variant I am really curious about the the BRN-PROTO Rifle with its vertical charging handle, but that will not work with carry handle mounted optics, so I will file this one away into the “some day” folder. For a bit there, I was just going to buy one of Brownells’ retro builds and be done with it, but then I stumbled onto something that changed my mind.

The original M16 had a 1-14″ barrel twist. Most of Brownells’ retro models utilize a 1-12″ twist to make the bullet a little more stable at distance. All of the complete 5.56 rifles they have are bult with that barrel twist.

However, as it turned out, one of the complete uppers they have utilizes a 1-7″ twist. While it is not historically accurate, it is imminently more practical for me since I have quite a lot of 5.56 ammo of all manner of bullet weights and I would like to be able to shoot whatever ammo happens to be on hand with this retro build.

With all that in mind, my plan is as follows:

  1. Get a complete upper assembly from Brownells with 1-7″ twist when it is back in stock.
  2. Get retro appropriate grip and stock
  3. The rest I can procure locally. I’ve built enough lowers over the years that I probably have enough pieces in the spare parts bin to complete a couple of lower assemblies. All I need is a mil-spec stripped lower receiver.

I think that will be retro enough for my purposes.

Lastly, Brownells is not the only game in town for this kind of stuff, but they seem to have the most extensive assortment of relevant pieces. JSE Surplus seems to be another good source and, of course, a few minutes of searching the web will yield a ton of information on different retro builds.

Generally, there is so much information out there on AR-15s and how to select the right components that it is sometimes difficult to filter through the BS. If you are new-ish to ARs, I strongly recommend checking out the AR-15 article series on Everyday Marksman website. Matt knows his stuff. Except for those time when he disagrees with me. Then, he is just plain wrong.

 Posted by at 2:15 pm
Jan 052020
 

One of these scopes is about to go onto my list of recommendations. Somewhat unusually, it is about to land there before I fully finish with my review, so I figured I should qualify that a little.

Here is the qualification: I really like this scope.

MPO stands for Match Precision Optic and that is Brownells’ house optics brand. They are starting out with two models aimed at general purpose precision shooting for people who are not inclined to drop upwards of $3k on a really fancy scope. The two models they have are 3-18×50 and 5-25×56, both built in Japan on 34mm tubes.They had sort of a soft introduction earlier on, but now both models are available.

Before I move on, apparently Brownells also sells a retro 4×21 scope that fits onto an AR handle. I never quite paid attention to that, but I have a retro AR project that I am conceiving. I think that will be a perfect opportunity to test Brownells’ Retro scope.

Getting back to the MPO…

The model I have been testing is the 3-18×50 with the N-OMR reticle. Honestly, for a general purpose scope under $1k, this is probably the one to beat. By going directly to the OEM and being the only retailer, Brownells is able to keep the price lower that similarly configured competition. I started talking about these a little since the MPO is part of a 50mm Precision Scope article I am working on.

In a nutshell, the MPO 3-18×50 I have here, is as good as or better than any similarly configured and similarly priced FFP scope I have seen to date. To be clear: I have probably seen all of them, so do not take this statement lightly. It is not the shortest, nor the lightest. Size-wise, it is decidedly midpack and given the moderate price, I am very comfortable with that. I am leery of excessively ambitious designs on a budget. Everything in this scope just works. Image quality is very good. Turrets track as they should with a zero stop integrated into the elevation turret and windage turret covered. The reticle, while looking somewhat unusual with its double lines, works very well across the entire magnification range. Illumination is well calibrated to keep the reticle visible even in low light. In other words, the MPO 3-18×50 is both intelligently configured and well executed.

To be clear, it is not going to outperform most $3k+ scopes. As much as I like the MPO, it is not going to make me give up my Tangent Theta 3-15×50 or March-F 3-24×52. These are better than the MPO, but at triple the price, they better be. When people ask me whether the ultra high end scopes are worth it, the answer is usually “Yes, No and Maybe”. When I am about to drop $3k on a scope, I typically have a specific application in mind where something less expensive will probably not do. The March 3-24×52 is the lightest FFP crossover scope on the market with the broadest magnification range while maintaining excellent image quality. That’s why I have it. Tangent Theta is the best optimized 3-15x scope I have seen to date and it is lighter than everything similar other than March. TT315M is the perfect scope for a precision gas gun and that’s how I use it.

However, if someone comes to me without a very specific application in mind, I will usually steer them toward something less expensive that works well overall. Brownells MPO is exactly that and I can buy three of these for $3k. If, for example, I was getting into PRS-type shooting, for $3k I can equip three platforms: 5-25×56 for the bolt gun, 3-18×50 for a precision semi-auto and either one for an accurate rimfire. Add some appropriate rings and you are good to go. Most importantly, the sight picture you get is exactly the same on all three platforms and you are likely to manage it without mortgaging your kidneys to finance the whole thing.

The MPO punches above its weight class. Looking at what is out there, I am not sure what I would take in the under $2k market over the MPO. I think MPO 3-18×50, Tract Toric UHD 4-20×50 and SWFA SSHD 5-20×50 are the 50mm objective precison scopes under $2k, with an honorable mention going to the EOTech Vudu 5-25×50 that I am also impressed with due to how compact it is.

Here are a couple of videos from my Youtube Channel that touch on the MPO among other designs:

Here are some through the scope videos as well. I will probably redo some of these to get better focus, but for now they will do.

 Posted by at 11:26 am
Jan 052020
 

This is a topic I keep on coming back to since I like accurate rimfires, especially when it is cold outside and I am strongly inclined to shoot indoors.

If money were no object, I’d pick a fancy Anchutz and be done with it. My buddy Brian, on the other hand, swears that when the Lord created rimfires he meant the Vudoo. Based on the accuracy Brian is getting, he may be onto something, but that is still more money than I want to spend. FOr the longest time, I have been aiming at Volquartsen Summit with its straight pull biathlon-like action. That is still in the $1300-$1500 range. While cheaper than the Vudoo, I am having a hard time dropping that much cash all at once on a rimfire rifle. Money is always an object not just for me, but also for people who have been peppering me with questions lately on what is the best rimfire rifle on a budget.

Historically, I would send the tinkerers into the 10/22 land which provides for ample opportunities to rebuild your rifle multiple times. Many people enjoy the tinkering process (and I do have a 10/22 just for such occasions).

For people who just want to shoot tiny groups, my sorta standard recommendation was always CZ. I have a lot of mileage with a CZ452 that is more accurate than any inexpensive gun has any right to be.

However, apparently gun companies noticed that there is a market for accurate rimfire rifles and options abound. CZ is easily one of the bigger players there with the new-ish CZ457 line. Ruger has introduced their Precision Rimfire RPR. It is styled right, since it kinda looks like a chassis gun and seems to be adequately accurate. However, it feels a little too plasticky to me and the accuracy results, while good are not as consistently good as from some of the competition. Honestly, when trying to line-up behind it, there is something about the RPR that feels off to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is there. Maybe it is the grip or something else, because the stock is very adjustable.

Another option is one of many Savage B22 variants. I looked at a few and for the money they have a lot to recommend themselves, but the ones I have seen did not have the slickest feel. Accuracy-wise, they seem to be broadly comparable to Ruger American (which is the basis for the RPR).

Then, more recently, I discovered that Tikka has a T1X rimfire in 22LR and 17HMR. Tikka makes some tremendously accurate and reasonably inexpensive barrels, so that got my attention. Naturally, I did what all nerdy people do in situations like this and read every shred of published information available on the internet.

These seem to have remarkably consistent barrels, so if you really want world-class accuracy on a budget, it seem to come down to Tikka T1X and CZ457. CZ has an edge with user swappable barrels, but honestly, I just want an accurate 22LR. If I want an accurate 22WMR or 17HMR, I’ll just buy another gun. Tikka is available in 22LR and 17HMR, but the barrel are not user replaceable.

If you like traditional wooden stocks, there is a CZ out there with your name on it. CZ457 Varmint runs a bit under $500. If you prefer synthetic stocks, T1X standard stock fits my six foot tall frame exceedingly well. T1X in either 22LR or 17HMR is also right under $500 like the CZ.

If you want a chassis or a fancier stock, there are good options out there for both CZ and Tikka. CZ can be had from the factory in a Manners stock, but then you are right at $1k. MDT, Oryx and KRG all make chassis systems for both CZ and Tikka, with the most affordable being the KRG Bravo for Tikka T1X which costs right around $350.

Another weird thing I found is that most CZ 457 models are not threaded for suppressor use. Several models are, but to get one of those you are looking at extra $150 or so. Both T1X models have threaded muzzles.

Ultimately, it is kind of a coin toss, but I think I will pick up Tikka T1X in 22LR, slap a picatinny rail on it and a nice FFP precision scope, and head over to the range. I’ve been kinda itching to try some sort of a precision rimfire competition, so perhaps I will eventually add a KRG Bravo chassis to it as well.

 Posted by at 1:09 am
Dec 092019
 

A while back I wrote a little bit about two articles I did for the Guns and Ammo Retro magazine: http://opticsthoughts.com/?p=2577

I just stumbled onto one of them available online.

If you havn’t had a chance to see it in the magazine, here is the link: https://www.gunsandammo.com/editorial/single-point-dot-sight/368936

I am now thinking about doing a retro AR-15 build with an Armson OEG on top. I think Brownells has a several models of retro ARs, so I could probably just pick up one of theirs.

I’ve built a ton of ARs for myself and they are all fairly modern in appearance and design: free floated handguards, nice triggers, updated stocks, etc. The one variety I do not have is a classic Vietnam era configurations with fixed sights, fixed stock and plastic handguards. Maybe it is time I pick one up, put an ArmsonOEG on it and be an entirely different kind of a poseur…

 Posted by at 2:07 am
Nov 272019
 

Nice optics are really nice to play with. My review choices lean toward the high end simply because I like nice scopes and because I have the opportunity to use them. However, sometimes it is nice to come back to earth and consider scopes that normal people can afford (or are simply willing to pay for).

Earlier today I got a message from a friend of mine asking for my take on Sig Whiskey3 scopes. I was a little surprised because Ted, like me, likes and appreciates high end optics. Most importantly, since he is an avid shooter and hunter, I know that he is willing and able to spend money on high end stuff. I told him that Whiskey3 is a very serviceable scope, but not as good as the more expensive stuff he normally uses. It turned out that there was a little bit of a backstory there.

Apparently, a son of his friend won an inexpensive 243Win Howa 1500 boltgun in a raffle. The gun came with some sort of an el cheapo Nikko-Stirling scope. Since the rifle was going to get shot at most 3-4 times per year, they figured the scope will be good enough. Well, it was shooting 7 inch groups at 100 yards and the zero was moving around. Now, if it was a Remington, I could certainly see this kind of performance as not abnormal, but Howas are very decent rifles and I have never seen one shoot that badly. Still, they did not want to invest money into a rifle shot so seldom, so they stuck with it, and the kid kept on missing his deer during hunting season.

There is a persistent belief out there that in order to get a decent scope, you have to spend a significant amount of money. What is considered significant varies, but it can be anywhere between $800 and $2000 depending on who you talk to. That may have been true at some point, but the overall quality of available riflescopes has really gone up in recent years. Now, if you are looking for a long range precision scope with repeatable turrets, sophisticated FFP reticles, etc, it will still cost you some money (although there are several decent options now under $1k). If all you are looking for is “set and forget” type scope for general purpose hunting you can easily get something in the $200 range that will work quite well. It may not have all the latest features or the best optical quality, but it will be perfectly serviceable. To be clear, optical quality will be quite good, just not as good as the much more expensive stuff. Whiskey3 is one such design. Being in a time crunch (the kid had a hunt planned for a couple of days later), Ted headed over to a local gun store not far from his deer camp, picked up a 4-12×40 Whiskey3 for a bit over $200 and mounted it on a rifle. That is all he did. No bedding, accurizing or any other tricks. The results are in the picture below.


243 Win, 5 shots at 100 yards from bone stock Howa1500 with Sig Whiskey3 4-12×40 on it

Here is what the rifle looks like now:

I think he even used the same cheap rings that came with the rifle. Now I would recommend switching to something a little sturdier eventually, but the rifle clearly shoots fine as is.

I am going to add a bunch of affiliate links below for various scopes that are along the same basic lines: moderately priced, sturdy and reasonable optically. However, there are more of these out there than I can easily list and I have not tested all of them. I can only comfortably recommend the designs I do have personal familiarity with. Therefore, here are some general guidelines in terms of the configurations to look for if you shopping for a inexpensive hunting scope.

Stick with moderate magnifications: 2-7x, 3-9x, 2.5-10x, etc. Basically, you want something that does not require some sort of side focus or adjustable objective. Stick to moderate objective sizes. Something in the 40-44mm range is a good bet. Tube diameter does not matter for this. 1″ is fine. 30mm is fine. Larger tubes usually command a premium because public perception allows for it, but for this application it does not matter.

Burris Fullfield family of scopes is a good example of fairly simple and serviceable scopes as are Vortex Diamondback. I also like Sightron S2 and aforementioned Sig Whiskey3. Sometimes you can find Meopta MeoPro 3-9×40 in this price range. It is definitely a step above and a really nice design. If you want to do some turret twisting, SWFA SS Classic 6×42 is rock solid for around $300 (a lot less than that during Black Friday). There are, of course others and if you are looking at something I did not mention, add a question below.

 Posted by at 5:18 pm
Nov 222019
 

I was having lunch with a friend of mine earlier today and, as it often happens, the conversation turned to guns. We talked about politics prior to that and a fifteen minute conversation was all it took to solve the majority of world’s problems. We had a little time left, so we figured we should tackle something substantially more complicated: what gun he should buy next. He used to be a LEO, so he has had a lot of training with submachine guns. However, now that 300 Blackout is here, I do not see a ton of value in that. A 300 Blackout SBR would be kind of cool. In a perfect world, he would just get a HoneyBadger SBR from Q and be done with it. Except you have to deal with NFA and there is a six month backlog on the gun itself. Next best thing, I figured, would be a Honeybadger pistol. With that approach, you do not have to deal with NFA, but apparently the folks at Q are doing something right, since the backlog for that one, as of today, is around 15 months or so. I am a big fan of Q’s guns, so I checked to see the situation with the Sugar Weasel pistol. That is also backordered. Sugar Weasel uses the same barrel and gas system as Honey Badger, but the stock is a little less sophisticated and the receiver set is essentially mil-spec. It is very slightly heavier than the Honey Badger, but it kicks ass otherwise.

He knows that I’ve built a few AR style guns over the years, so he asked me for some recommendations on what components I would choose if I were building a 300 Blackout AR pistol, so here we are. Generally, I do have one of these that I built a while back and I learned quite a bit about working with a 300 Blackout cartridge in a short barrel from it. However, the one I built has a folding stock from LAW Tactical and Dolos takedown barrel system. Altogether, it is kinda heavy, so I figured it is worthwhile for me to go through the exercise of building another one that is a lot lighter. I think I can shave a couple of pounds off of the weight of the one I have. Ultimately, I am going to go through a set of considerations for a 300 Blackout build that is mostly designed to replicate Q’s Sugar Weasel, given that my chances of finding one are fairly slim with their crazy backlog and all. I will explain why I suggest using Q’s components where possible and why. The links to most of the components I mention are at the very end, although I will link to a few things in the body of the article as appropriate.

Because 300 Blackout was designed to work with both supersonic and subsonic loads, you are dealing with very different gas volumes and pressures. If you also use a suppressor (and you should), you add some additional concerns. Basically, you end up with four distinct possibilities:

  1. Subsonic unsuppressed: least amount of gas volume to work with, so the gas port needs to be the most open in this case
  2. Subsonic suppressed: suppressor adds back pressure, so the gun will cycle with a smaller gas port opening
  3. Supersonic unsuppressed: a little more gas volume, but basically this works at a fairly similar gas port opening as subsonic suppressed
  4. Supersonic suppressed: even more back pressure, so if you use one of the earlier settings you will be overgassed.

With short pistol barrels, tuning the gas system can get kinda tricky and getting it to run reliably with every load is not likely if you do not pay attention.

The sorta standard recommendation from many manufacturers is to pick one scenario and run with that. I appreciate why they suggest it, but I think there is a way to work around it.

In principle, most short barrel 300 Blackout pistols end up using an adjustable gas block. However, switching between gas block settings with most of these is not something you can do on the fly. They are really designed to be tuned once and left alone. The two exceptions to that I am aware of are Collar Adjustable gas block from Strike Industries and Select Gas Block from Seekins. Both of these can be adjusted with a simple tool through the opening in the handguard. I have not used either one of these myself, but I might. I do know people who have used them.

With conventional gas blocks, I like the idea of using them together with a Bootleg adjustable bolt carrier. The bolt carrier has four gas settings, so you can adjust the gas block for the most lowest gas pressure situation (subsonic unsuppressed) and then experiment with the bolt carrier gas settings to make sure everything works with other loads. Unlike the gas block, the bolt carrier adjustment is easily accessible without disassembling the rifle.

With barrels, if I manage to find one in stock, my preference would be to get the Honey Badger barrel assembly from Q. I know I talk about Q a lot, but they make good stuff and there are a couple of things about their barrels that are rather unique. The barrel assembly linked above comes with an adjustable gas block secured by a jam nut and faster than usual 1-in-5″ twist rate. Both are a good idea. Also, their barrel comes with a machined taper up front for mounting a suppressor. If you eventually add one of their direct mount suppressors to the mix, that tapered surface makes sure proper suppressor alignment.

Aside from that, most barrels in the 7″ to 10″ length will work fine, but it worth your time to check with the barrel manufacturer what the had in mind when selecting the gas port diameter. For example, Noveske’s barrel are designed to run with subsonic suppressed and supersonic unsuppressed. There is a good chance that subsonic unsuppressed will not cycle.

I have had good luck with Seekins barrels and I know they can be tuned for all four scenarios. There are, of course others that work well from Odin and Rainier.

Handguards are kinda in the eye of the beholder. There are a lot of them and they mostly work. Some people like long handguards that are virtually as long as the barrel, but with a short firearm like this, I am concerned about accidentally sliding my hand in front of the muzzle. I’d go with something in the 6″ to 8″ length range depending on which barrel you end up using. Q’s excellent 6″ handguard is, naturally, out of stock right now, but it is certainly a good option. Lately, I’ve used handguards from MI for a couple of builds and I think they offer a very good combination of performance and cost.

As far as receivers go, I kinda like somewhat lightened receiver sets like Palouse from 2A Armament. There are lighter ones out there, but they get really expensive. Something like Palouse is not bad, but a standard mil-spec receiver set from someone like Aero Precision is not a bad option either.

Charging handles are also kinda personal. I have had good luck with ambi charging handles from BCM and Raptor, so I would go with one of those.

Lastly, we get to the arm brace. There are quite a few out there now, but I think SBA3 is your best bet for flexibility of use.

Lastly, I want to touch onto the subject of triggers. There very many good AR triggers on the market. If you already have a preference, go with that. Personally, I’d probably just go with Geissele’s SSA or SSA-E and be done with it. It is a know quantity and I have yet to have a problem with one.

 Posted by at 10:12 pm
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