Jun 042017

written by ILya Koshkin

I have been waiting for the 1.5-8×32 ER5 to hit the stores for a little while now, but since it is not quite here and I wanted to take a look at the ER5, I asked Leica if I could borrow whichever model is available.

The available model turned out to be the 2-10×50 with the Magnum Ballistic reticle.  While I was at it, I sorta inquired if the Magnus scopes are already here and it turned out that they were.  I was extremely impressed with the Magnus when I saw it at SHOT and while it is a very expensive scope, it is easily one of the best optical systems I have a seen in a riflescope to date.  Since the opportunity was there, I got my hands onto the 1.8-12×50 Leica Magnus as well.

As has been my custom lately, I sat down in front of the camera and recorded some initial thoughts on the two designs as soon as I had received them:

It is not entirely clear to me what would be appropriate comparison items for these scopes, but I have a few that roughly compete in this category and I will procure some others as applicable.  The scopes that I have on hand that are probably most relevant are Kahles KXi 3.5-10×50 and Docter V6 2-12×50 (this scope has been living on my Tikka in 280Rem and I like it a lot).  The Magnus is, of course, in a very different price range and I should probably try to compare it to some of the upper end Swarovski and Zeiss hunting scopes.  While I try to get my hands on them, I can do an image quality comparison against some of the better tactical scopes I have here, like the 3-15×50 Tangent Theta.













1.8 – 12×50


MeoStar R2


Length, in


12.6 14 13.4


Weight, oz


16.6 22 24.7


Main Tube Diameter


1” 30mm 30mm


Eye Relief, in


3.54 3.8 >3.5


FOV, ft@100yards

56 – 9


33.6 – 12 54.25 – 10.75 67.5 – 11

13.2 @ 10x

55.8 – 9.6


Exit Pupil, mm 11.1 – 4.3 14 – 4.7 16 – 5 12.4 – 4.2

11.2 – 4.3

Click Value

0.1 mrad

0.25 MOA 0.25 MOA 0.1 mrad


Adjustment range

E: 26 mrad

W: 16 mrad

48 MOA 100 MOA ~ 51 MOA




100m 50yds – inf 100m


Reticle Illumination


Yes No Yes




$1400 $990 $2550


Simply looking at the specs, nothing jumps out all that much except that the FOV of the Magnus is substantially wider that all the other scopes I have on hand, and, pending a more thorough check is probably the widest FOV I have seen to date.

I will talk a bit more about my impressions of the performance of these scope once I spend some time with them.  In ‘first look” type articles I generally focus on specs and features, so I will largely stick with that.

Magnus that I have here is equipped with an exposed elevation turret and covered windage turret, which is an arrangement I like.  The exposed elevation turret has a zero-stop and covers 12 mrad in one turn.  When I first saw that, I had some reservations about click quality, since it is not a very large diameter turret and I do not like it when the clicks are too close together.  Those reservations turned out to be unfounded: the feel of the clicks is calibrated very well.  I will spend some time on checking the tracking, of course.

The Magnus I received  is equipped with the Ballistic reticle.  I am sorta on the record as being not a huge fan of ballistic reticles in SFP scopes, but, just like the Kahles KXi, this one works well for me because at top magnification, it basically becomes a mrad scale.  Interestingly, the space from the center of the crosshair to the first has is 1 mrad, but after that, you get hashmarks every 0.5 mrad.  Horizontal hashmarks run 1 mrad and 2 mrad wide.  All in all, it is a prtyt straightforward, but unobtrusive reticle that gives me reasonable ranging and holdover capability without looking messy.

The fact that the space between the center crosshair and the firs hash is a little larger than the rest of the mrad scale, weirdly helps draw the eye to the center crosshair for quick shooting.  That is something which was not apparent to me when I first saw the scope, but mounting it on a rifle helped.  Once you look through the scope and turn reticle illumination on, that reasonably clean center crosshair really helps with speed.  Illumination, while we are at, is done very nicely.  The control turret is low and wide.  It is mounted on top of the eyepiece and is equally easy to use for right and left handed shooters.  There are two preset positions for day and night use (you can tune the presets) and the day setting can be very bright, easily visible in the brightest of light levels.  The low level is very low and does not seem to have any apparent effect on my night vision.  In this regard, I think, all the top end scopes use a similar scheme and it works well.

The reticle I got in the ER5 is called Magnum Ballistic, and it is a more conventional holdover design that I am generally not a huge fan of.  Also, the listed subtensions look a bit odd to me.  They sorta make sense for the high magnification models, but as they are listed for the 2-10×50 that I have here, the do not match any cartridge I can think of terribly well.  It is entirely possible there are some typos there, so I will reserve judgement until I get it on the gun and do some testing.  One thing that is interesting with the Magnum Ballistic reticle is that it is designed to zero at 300 yards or so and it provides both hold over and hold under features.

That is not a bad way to go, since for many typical centerfire hunting calibers, a 300 yard zero gives you a pretty good MPBR when you need to get a shot going quickly, while the additional reticle features aid with precision.

Before I wrap up, I also want to point out that both Magnus and ER5 are pretty easy to get behind with well designed eyepiece.  That really helps usability and as good as ER5 is in that regard, Magnus is one of the best I have seen to date.

 Posted by at 1:28 pm
Apr 272017

Written by ILya Koshkin, April 2017

I witnessed something interesting last night that is not related to guns or optics and wanted to offer some thoughts on the subject.

This is an interesting example of how real world throws in quirks here and there.  I am currently in Las Vegas for the NAB show.  I am not a huge fan of this place as I do not gamble, drink very little and do not cheat on my wife.  There aren’t all that many things this city can offer me, but I enjoy meeting friends who come to the same conventions and who I seldom see otherwise, eating good food, and seeing some of the less decadent attractions here.

Last night, my friend Jeff, his son and I were at Caesars at the Peter Lik photo gallery (for the record, while Lik is more famous, I prefer Andrei Duman’s work).  I stepped outside of the gallery and sat down by the fountain to check my e-mail.  I hear yelling and see one guy chasing another one.  Apparently, a guy who works in a store (we’ll call him “good guy”) is chasing another guy who stole a couple of fancy purses or something (perp).  He catches up to him right in front of me, takes him into a headlock and yells “security”.  Since security is somewhere out there taking a break, and the perp is squirming, the good guy transitions into back control and sinks in a reasonable rear naked choke.  There are a few people standing over them (and not blocking my view), so I choose to not interfere.  The perp says that he can’t breath and proceeds to pull a folding knife out of the pocket.  Before he can do anything with it, one of the people standing next to them kicks it out of his hand and away from him (the knife opens somewhere in the process).  There is more yelling, squirming and arguing and after a while security shows up.  As I look at that crack security team, I realize that a shoplifter in Vegas has to only worry about evading the shop employees.  The security forces are unlikely to be an issue.  However, between the three malnoursihed security guards and the “good guy”, and a few good samaritans, they finally manage to figure out how to work the handcuffs and get the perp’s wrists into them.  The perp immediately makes a point that while he took the knife out, he did not actually try to stab anyone with it.  At that point, I sorta lose interest.  Jeff and his son make their way out of the gallery and we walk off in search of an Uber to take us back to the hotel.

As some of you may know, I am sort of a martial artist.  My background is primarily with muay thai and kung fu, with a little judo (when I was a kid) and kali (last few years) thrown in.  I’ve done a few other things here and there as well.  Why “sort of a martial artist”? Because I do not practice as much as I should or used to.  However, I have been at it fairly continuously since 1985, and I pay attention.

I’ve gone over to many different martial arts schools sometimes to just watch a practice or two, sometimes to join in for a bit.  One fairly consistent thing I hear there, especially in BJJ schools, but others as well, is that with grappling skills you can restrain the bad guy without hurting him.  When they talk about restraining someone they always talk about holding someone down in a choke hold or a submission hold until police arrives.

That is all fine and dandy, when there are no weapons involved.  Had other people not been around, the good guy yesterday would have gotten stabbed or cut leading to serious injury or death.  If you are ever unlucky enough to find yourself in a situation like that, view “restrained” as: the perp is either unconscious or his various extremities are properly immobilized, or both (I vote for both).

Simply holding someone down works great in practice or as a team tactic, but might get you killed out there if you are all alone.

In the grand scheme of things this is part of an ever lasting argument between a striker and grapple.  Both sides have a good argument and in the world that has discovered MMA, exposure to both is important.  However, even if grappling is your passion and you are good at it, hitting the bad guy a few times until he is unresponsive and can do no immediate harm to you or anyone else is a pretty good start.

 Posted by at 1:45 pm
Apr 222017

Written by ILya Koshkin, April 2017

I have been continuing to look at miniature red dot sights.  I started a while back with the original Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor and continued on to a bunch of others, most recently DocterSight III and Meopta Meosight III.

Since then, DocterSight III has found a permanent place on my primary AR, mounted on top of the Elcan Spectre OS 4×32 as a close range/backup sight.  I took a rifle class with this combination at Frontsight and I am about to take another one in a week or so.

Spec table

Meopta MeoRed DocterSight III Meopta

MeoSight III


Deltapoint Pro

Length, in 1.87 1.8 1.9 1.82
Width, in 1.07 1 1 1.31
Height, in 1.02 0.96 1.2 1.3
Weight, oz 1.05 0.88 oz 1.29 1.95 oz
Window Size, mm 23×17 21×15 23×17 25.7×17.5
Dot Size, MOA 3 MOA 3.5 or 7 MOA dot 3 or 5 MOA dot 2.5 MOA dot or 7.5 MOA triangle
Brightness Control Manual, side button Auto, 3 modes Auto and Manual modes, front button Manual, button on top of battery tray, MST
Parallax setting 50 yards 40m (44 yards) 50 yards 50 yards
Battery Life 1000 hours  not listed 1000 hours  not listed
Battery Type CR2032 Side slot CR2032 Bottom mount CR2032

Side tray


Top mount

Price $500 $415 $400 $550

Looking at the specs, a couple of things stand out:

-Deltapoint Pro is notably larger than the others here and also sports the largest viewing window of the bunch

-DocterSight III is the only one without a manual adjustment mode

-They all use the same reasonably ubiquitous battery, but use different means of holding it

-They are all parallax free at more or less the same distance.

I have used all four rather extensively and all were with the smaller of the available dot sizes: 3MOA for the Meopta, 3.5 MOA for the Docter and 2.5MOA for the DeltaPoint Pro.  In principle, the triangle available in the Deltapoint is my preferred configuration.   I sight the top vertice in for more accurate shots at 100 yards or so (different for different bore to sightline offsets) and for speed I just use the whole triangle as if it was a dot.  It works great for center of mass hits.  That all worked wonderfully until I developed some astigmatism in my shooting eye.  As it always happens, when real life chimes in, principles fly out of the window.  A triangle works great when it looks like a triangle with clean lines and vertices.  When it no longer does, you go back to using a simple dot.  The dot does not look terribly round either, but you learn to deal with it.  A slightly distorted dot is easier for me to deal with than a slightly distorted triangle.  Generally, if you have astigmatism, a larger dot will usually look cleaner than a smaller dot.  I still lean toward smaller dot sizes, but my astigmatism is not very severe and I am a precision guy at heart.  With all that, when I am looking for a little more precision, I aim with the edge of the dot and that edge is cleaner looking with a larger dot.  I plan to experiment with that a little when an opportunity presents itself.

So far, all of the sights have spent time on both handguns (different Glocks) and rifles (AR15 and/or AR10).  All held zero admirably and did not give me any trouble whatsoever in terms of reliability.  I have not tried them on shotguns, but I suspect that the pounding they take mounted onto a slide of a semi-auto handgun is a more severe torture test of the sight than anything they get on a shotgun (and a much less severe torture test of my shoulder).

If I had to make a guess on which one seems most durable, I would lean toward the Leupold.  However, this is all conjecture since they have all worked fine for me.  The Deltapoint Pro does have a steel shield around the screen and is the beefiest of the three.  That beefiness does have a downside: it is heavier than the other three sights and getting it to co-witness on a handgun is not straightforward.

In the picture above, the Atom slide is equipped with pretty tall sights and they still do not co-witness.  On a handgun that I might use for defensive purposes, co-witnessing is a must.  After some research, I found that there is an even taller front sight out there.  Leupold offers a rear sight that attaches to the back of the Deltapoint (I did not test that), so you could set up cowitnessing, but options are limited.  Another thing, I did not like too much about the Deltapoint is the intensity control.

Dot brightness is controlled by a button integrated into the top of the battery cover.  In the picture above, you can see it marked by a large letter L.  It is right behind the lens.  To adjust dot brightness, you keep pressing the button.  Unfortunately, while you are pressing that button, you finger is blocking the lens and you can’t see the dot.  I found that awkward, at best.  The way I ended up using the DeltaPoint was to set the dot to a medium bright setting that worked adequately well across a range of lighting conditions and avoid messing with it.  However, that means it blooms and has a noticeable forward signature in low light (or if I adjust it too low, it is not easy to see in bright light).  That more or less wraps up with a negatives.  I liked everything else about the sight.  Honestly, if Leupold offered it with an optional auto-adjust mode, I would have purchased it.  One feature I really liked was the motion activated shut-off.  When the sight does not move for a while, the dot shuts off.  When it detects motion, it turns back on again.  In practical terms, what that meant was that I never bothered to turn it off.

When I set it up on my 10mm carbine, the DeltaPoint Pro was absolutely at home.  Of all of these compact sights, the Leupold transitions the best into a primary long arm sight.  A pistol caliber carbine is not exactly a long range weapon, but I was comfortably tagging steel plates at 200 yards with it and would be perfectly comfortable taking it hunting with me.  Leupold offers the DeltaPoint with a bunch of mounting options and with a riser that gets it up to perfect co-witness height on straight stock firearms (AR15s and the like).

Meopta MeoPro is a much smaller sight and is a further development of the MeoSight III I am well familiar with.  The MeoSight III had a control button on the housing, which I generally liked, although it made some mounting options complicated (on my Atom slide, the tall rear sight would have blocked that button).  However, the MeoSight III offered both manual dot intensity control and an auto-adjust mode.  Unfortunately, if you just turned the sight on, it defaulted to the manual adjust option which always seemed like a bad way of doing things.   I would have preferred a single press of the button to turn on the auto mode, with subsequent presses going into manual adjust.  The newer MeoRed does away with the auto mode entirely, which might be an indication that everyone except me prefers the manual adjustment.  The control button of the MeoRed is on the left side of the lens housing.  It sticks out a little and is very easy to engage.  What I do not know is how easy it is to engage accidentally.  It seems like it would be, but I have not done it.  I am having another 10mm slide machined to accomodate the MeoRed.  Once that is done, I’ll be able to do a better test of how well that button is positioned.

While on the outside the MeoRed looks to be about the same size as the earlier Meosight III, it has a slightly lower base, which make c0-witnessing easier.  The battery is inserted from the side, but there is no pull-out tray for the battery.  There is a covered slot.  The cover is held by two screws and seems to be a very secure way of holding a battery.

Up to now, I only tested the MeoRed on a picatinny bases, since I do not have a slide machined to accept it.  It has a similar footprint to Docter, but different screw locations.  I will set up a slide for it and continue testing.

As far as how these three sights compare to each other, that is not a simple answer.  The dot is slightly sharper on the Docter than on others, but since they are not of exactly the same size, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.  The lens does look a little clearer on the Docter.  Leupold is the fastest on target simply because it has a larger lens.  Between Docter and MeoRed, I can not see any speed difference.  The lens size is about the same between these two despite what the specifications say.  The biggest difference is in the control method, with the Meopta and Leupold having manual intensity control, while the Docter has three auto modes.  For the way I use these sights, I prefer the way DocterSight III works.  What I do not like about the DocterSight III is the bottom mounted battery.  Since the sight has to be removed from the base to change the battery, I have to check and adjust zero every time the battery is replaced.

DeltaPoint is about to head back Leupold.  MeoRed is going to spend some time getting beat up by my 10mm Glock.  DocterSight remains on my AR15 as an accessory close range sight for my Elcan Spectre OS.  It has now survived two carbine classes and many months of practice without skipping a beat, so that is where it will stay.

 Posted by at 7:07 pm
Apr 022017

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been looking at a lot of red dot sight mounts lately.  I have already talked about the Unity Tactical slide and optics mounting system.

Now, it is time for a few words about the mount form

To re-iterate: I like this mount and it works well if you want to us many different reflex sights.  However, I would not use it for a carry/defense setup.  Like many people do, I insist on having co-witnessed iron sights with the reflex sight.

If the shooting position is slightly off (let’s call it improvised) and you do not see the dot, the sight does not give you much feedback in terms of which way to adjust your position.

However, for my purposes for this 10mm Glock, the mount works well and I will continue using it.

 Posted by at 11:54 am
Mar 282017

I have been looking at red dot sights quite a bit lately.   Originally, I mostly tested them on rifles, since I am more of a rifle guy.  However, since my interest with red dot sights leans heavily toward the more compact ones. I like the miniature red dot sights, I figured that the best way to test them is cover both rifles and handguns.

Now, I train with handguns a fair bit, simply from the standpoint of maintaining reasonable proficiency with whatever happens to be your home defense weapon.  For me, that happens to be a handgun (yes, I know that a long gun is a more effective weapon, but it is a less convenient one inside a house).  However, until recently, I did not experiment much with anything beyond irons sights on them.

Well, I could not let that stand, so I over time built myself two separate Glocks with different means of attaching a red dot on them.  One involved buying an Atom slide from an outfit called Unity Tactical.  I saw mention of it somewhere and looked into it.  The idea is very sound and I think the quality of their product is pretty good.  I had a few issues since the DocterSight III I was testing ended up not working with their mount, but if they have a mounting plate for your reflex sight of choice, Atom slide works well.

Overall, despite a couple of issues I had, I like the thinking behind the Atom slide and I will likely purchase and test some of their other products, the Clutch belt being first on the list.

 Posted by at 1:15 pm
Mar 272017

I have gone to a few FrontSight classes and I keep on meaning to write a proper review of them, but I never quite get around to it.  The reason for that is fairly simple: a lot of people visit FrontSight and quite a few of them write about it.

I do not think I have anything particularly new to offer, but if you want me to talk a little more about the curricullum and how they teach stuff, shoot me an e-mail or say something in the comments.  I’ll be happy to provide more information.

Still, there are a few things I thought I should say since a lot of what I see out there in FrontSight discussions has not matched my experience with the place.

I recorded a brief video clip a couple of days ago when I came back from the latest class:

Some of this may be repetitive with the video, so I will make it brief.

When you sign up, you get on their e-mail list and you start getting an immediate barrage of long and frequently idiotic e-mail from Ignatius Piazza (I am sure he does not send them himself).  Those e-mails were such a turn off that I did not go for many years.  When I finally made it over, my opinion changed.  Classes are well structured and well run.  Basic classes are aimed at being equalizers: they are really there to get rank beginners up to speed and for experienced shooters they are a refresher.  However, since there are several instructors who keep on roaming around and looking at what you are doing, the individual suggestions you get are geared at whatever you need help with.  I took a lot of advantage of that since I have gone a few times with friends or family to the same basic class.  I just wheel up to the instructor early on and ask a question.  Once they figure out that I generally know what I am doing, they are very helpful with whatever specific thing I am struggling with at any given time.

I took several rifle and handgun classes there and with handguns I started bringing in different guns and holsters to test them out in a rather repetitive environment where you work on the presentation  and general gun handling a lot.  It is generally a good idea to revisit the fundamentals every so often, and this way I get to keep it interesting.

Next time I do it, I will probably bring a revolver, or take the class left handed.  I shoot adequately well with both hands, but but I have not done any presentation drills with the the left hand.  That should be interesting.


 Posted by at 9:47 am
Mar 242017

I started talking about this rather unique scope a little while back, and I have been using it rather intensively since then.  Here are some final thoughts:

To add to the video, here is some reticle information from the MTC website.  The reticle is called SCB2.  There is also another mrad-based reticle available, which is a little simpler.  I thought this one was simple enough for my purposes.

It is basically a thin mrad-based reticle design, accurate at 10x.  Helpfully, there is an indent at 10x setting og the magnification adjustment, so you know exactly where to set it if you want to use the reticle for ranging or holdover.

The specs of this scope are interesting (the 3-12×32 is identical except for the objective diameter). There isn’t really anything out there like the Viepr Connect, so I did not have much to put into the table.  However, I thought that eye relief and FOV numbers should be compared to some more conventional design, so I added two scopes to the table.  The SWFA SS 3-15x42SFP is my regular airgun scope that I find to be excellent for the money and just about bulletproof.  The very expensive and excellent March 1-10×24 is the highest magnification scope I could think of that has a 24mm objective and close focus.

MTC Viper Connect 3-12×24 SWFA SS 3-15×42 SFP March 1-10×24
Length, in 11.3 13.66 10.4
Weight, oz 21 23.7 19.75
Main Tube Diameter 30mm 30mm 30mm
Eye Relief, in 1.2 3.8 – 4.2 3.8
FOV, ft@100yards 60.9 – 17.1

20.5 @ 10x

34.78 – 7.21

10.8 @ 10x

105.8 -10.5
Exit Pupil 8 – 2


11.8 – 2.8


~9 – 2.4
Click Value 1/4 MOA 0.1 mrad ¼ MOA
Adjustment range 120 MOA 36 mrad

(125 MOA)

200 MOA
Close focus 10 yards 7 yards 10 yards
Zero Stop No No Yes
Reticle Location SFP SFP SFP
Reticle Illumination Yes No Yes
Price $400 $450 $2400

The FOV and corresponding short eyerelief of the Viper Connect really make it stand out.  Aside from that, there is nothing earth shattering in the specs, but it is very full featured for the money.  In terms of overall size and weight, it is about average for a scope with a 24mm objective.

The exit pupil is on the small side, so if you are looking for a scope to use for night hunting, this is not the best option.  However, if the distances are reasonable, dialing down to 4x or so really helps.  I did some shooting with it at night with all the lights off and had no issues even with a rather dark target.  There, the illuminated reticle really helped.  It can be set to very low light levels, so it does not mess with your dark adapted eyes.

To summarize all of above, I really liked the Viper Connect and I think it will find home on my airgun.  I would also use it on a rimfire if it had another half inch of eye relief, to avoid the eyepiece bumping into my shooting glasses.  Aside from that, I find very little in this scope to complain about, especially considering the price.  Well, now that I think about it, since the reticle is correct in mrad at 10x, I would have preferred 0.1 mrad clicks, rather than the 1/4 MOA ones that are there.  However, I do not think I touched the turrets since zeroing in, so I am not going to lose any sleep over it.  This scope is really designed for use with a reticle as a primarily tool for elevation and wind holds.

Lastly, big thanks to Jeff from MTC Optics USA (  I am sorta new to airguns, so I had (and still have) a barrage of questions to ask and Jeff has been handling them like a pro (I have been known to drive less stable people into despair with my OCD).  Take a look at his webpage.  The information on the Viper Connect is there, along with some other products from MTC.

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Feb 182017

Continuing where I left off in Part 1



I think Vortex is one of the more a forward looking companies in this business and the pace with which they have been growing is pretty impressive.  I think their product strategy for a bit looked somewhat like a shotgun blast: fire off  a bunch of new products at the market and see what sticks.  It worked adequately and they came up with a good product range, but thankfully, it looks like they are moving past.  Their product line-up looks reasonably coherent and logical to me, except for a few outliers.  I wonder if those will develop into separate product lines or remain single product experiments.   Vortex has converged on four discreet quality levels for their products: Razor (made in Japan and/or USA), Viper (made in Phillipines), Diamondback (made in Phillipines) and Crossfire (made in China).  For conventional riflescopes, this gradation stays consistent for both tactical and hunting products and for all four product levels, Vortex offers very compelling alternatives to other brands.  With riflescopes, the outliers are Golden Eagle target scope and Strike Eagle low range variable.  These are very different kinds of eagles with the Golden Eagle being more or less at the Razor-level of performance, while the Strike Eagle is a “me too” OEM product.  I am a little surprised they didn’t call the Golden Eagle “Razor F-Class” and be done with it, so I wonder if it will spawn another product family.  With red dots, the naming is sorta all over the place, but it almost seem like they are beginning to clean that up as well.  There is a pretty nice Razor reflex sight and a new Razor AMG UH-1 holographic sight that sit at the top of Vortex’s non-magnified sight line-up.  With the tube-style red dot sights, the original Strikefire is still there and somewhat more recent Sparc and Sparc AR.  All are pretty compelling products for their price ranges, although I will freeley admit to liking Sparc AR a lot more than the other two.  With compact reflex sights, in addition to the previously mentioned Razor, there are the Venom and Viper.  They cost about the same, but use different batteries,  Venom has a top loading battery and slightly larger lens.  Viper needs to be removed from its mount to change the battery, which may effect zero.  I do not fully understand why I would choose one over the other (in my case, why I would choose Viper over Venom), so I am curious to see how Vortex will work this out.  Lastly, there are the Spitfire prism sights.  I am not sure where they fit in the Razor-Viper-Diamondback-Crossfire continuum.

Razor AMG UH-1

Razor AMG UH-1

Generally, with Razor products, the only new offering is a very interesting looking holographic sight. I liked what I saw and I plan to test one.  This is an interesting time to take on EOtech and I think Vortex will do well with this one.  The optical design looks to be a little simpler from alignment standpoint than EOtech, so I do not expect it to have thermal stability issues.  Controls are pretty straightforward with two pushbuttons on the back of the sight.

UH-1 with VMX3 magnifier

UH-1 with VMX3 magnifier

I am a bit mixed on that since accessing them when used with a magnifier could be a bit difficult.  Generally, magnifier use is one of the advantages holographic sights have over reflex style red dots, so I spent some time trying to convince Vortex to make a high quality magnifier for the UH-1.  We’ll see if they do it.  They did have the UH-1 set up with the VMX3 magnifier (which I just tested with Sparc AR) and while it is a very respectable magnifier and good for the money, I do not think it is quite good enough for the UH-1.  However, in the picture to the left, you can see how accessing the controls could be a bit problematic.  Lastly, since all holographic sights have a significant battery life disadvantage compared to reflex sights, I was happy to see a rechargeable battery option.

The rest of the Razor line is unchanged for now and, honestly, that is a good thing.  These are excellent scopes.  Razor HD LH has become my go to recommendation for hunting scopes (I think they will adda model or two to it next year) and Razor AMG is still almost impossible to get due to all the backorders.  Razor Gen II in the meantime soldiers on as one of the more compelling general purpose precision scopes out there.  I think the decision to round out the Razor line-up with an American-made quick acquisition sight is a good one.  Aside from that, the Razor HD spotters are new(ish) and I am testing the 65mm model.  It is very good.

PST Gen 2 3-15x44 and 1-5x24

PST Gen 2 3-15×44 and 1-5×24

Viper product family probably had the biggest splash in the Vortex booth this year, since the PST riflescopes were redesigned.  They are still made in the Phillipines, but by a different maker.  The new models are 1-5×24, 2-10×32, 3-15×44 and 5-25×50.  They all sport a new larger eyepiece and they are a bit heavier than their predecessors.  1-5×24 is a SFP model only, while the others are available as both FFP and SFP.  The reticles are well conceived and are generally similar to those in the Razor scopes, so someone who uses a Razor on a primary rifle can put a new PST onto a trainer and feel right at home.  The three higher magnification scopes now sport a proper zero stop similar in operation to Gen 1 Razor.  They seemed like well designed scopes at SHOT and I suspect they will be a meaningful improvement over the original PST.  The big question, of course, is whether they will compete well against all the scopes that were designed to compete against he original PSTs.  That question I can not easily answer without doing a proper test.  The Gen 2 PSTs run between $700 and $1100 depending on the model, so they are a bit more expensive than the original ones and go head to head against Burris XTR II and a few others, most notably Athlon Ares and Midas (2.5-15×50 and 4.5-27×50), as well as Hi-Lux Phenom HD 6-30×56 and PentaLux 4-20×50.  There are others, of course, but one of the things I am really curious about is whether the better-made Chinese scopes from Athlon and Hi-Lux can compete adequately well (and consistently enough) against the better-made Phillipine scopes like the PST Gen II and XTR II.  Once I work that out, the next question will be how well they stack up against Japanese competition like Sightron S3 and some of the US competition like Leupold VX3i LRP.  Basically, I am going to have a lot of fun with this, since this is the price range I want to look at this year.

Among the PST Gen 2 scopes, the 3-15×44 and 1-5×24 seemed to be the best ones of the bunch based on a rather cursory look, so I will start with the 3-15×44.  Interestingly, with the original PSTs, the 2.5-10×32 was the best optimized model, followed by the 6-24×50, while the 2.5-10×44 was the runt of the litter.  We’ll see if my original impressions of the Gen 2 are correct.

Rounding out the Vortex news, they introduced a tactilized version of the Diamondback with a ranging reticle and exposed turrets.  I like Diamondback scopes, but unless there is a lot of interest I will likely skip this one over: it only comes with MOA turrets and I really prefer mrad.

Lastly, Vortex now has a rangefinding binocular called Fury HD.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with how it looked, but then again, at around $1200, it is about half the price of the LRF binos I like.  In other words, as far as LRF binoculars go, I am both spoiled and picky.  I will look at it if time allows, but I have a suspicion that these will be difficult to come by for a bit, so a test may have to wait.


Hi-Lux Precision Optics

I know these guys pretty well, since I have been talking to them on and off for some years.  The first of their product I looked at many years ago was not great and I was not kind to it.  Rather than getting all poochy-faced about, the guys at Hi-Lux took it as constructive criticism and got better.  The next scope of theirs I looked at was the original 7-30×50 Uni-Dial with an elevation turret that allows to set flags for different distances (they have a patent on this and I am moderately certain that some other people who use this approach pay them licensing fees).  That scope was not a world beater either, but it stayed zeroed and adjusted true.  Some things on it were a bit crude, but it was ultimately a very usable design and I said exactly that.  A bit more time passed and Hi-Lux introduced their CMR and CMR4 scopes, which are generally good and absolutely superb for the money.  These scopes easily landed on my list of recommendations and I spent a fair amount of time and effort beating them up.  They kept working and working well.  Most importantly, they did well for Hi-Lux so there are enough of these out there to give me confidence that Hi-Lux can build these consistently.  Unlike most other companies who make optics in China, Hi-Lux has their own factory, so they control the manufacturing process.  As they continue moving toward more sophisticated designs, I’ve been sorta keeping tabs on what they do and it sounds like this year they have a bunch of new stuff that is of interest to me:

-CMR8 1-8×26 FFP with 34mm tube

-new Uni-Dial 5-30×56 SFP with a 34mm tube (successor to the original Uni-Dial I tested so many years ago)

-Phenom HD 5-30×56 FFP with a 34mm tube

-PentaLux 4-20×50 FFP or SFP with a 30mm tube

-CMR4-based 1-4x34AO Competition scope since you can now use optics for servie rifle competition

-8×42 and 10×42 binoculars with field flattener lenses

All of these will be in the $500 to $900 range, which makes them fairly accessible.

Hi-Lux makes a lot of other stuff as well, but most of it has been around for a bit and I do not have enough time to look at everything.  I will, however, mention the MM2 (Micro-Max 2) red dot sight that I have failed to break for a number of months now.  It is probably my favourite of the sub-$300 tube-style red dot sights (and is one of the reasons I have not bought an MRO).

The new CMR8 is of particular interest to me since late last year, Hi-Lux asked for some ideas on a reticle for the CMR8.  They already had a very nicely executed internal design, but they wanted another option.  I am perpetually dissatisfied with most of the reticles out there, this was an opportunity for me to try a design that I like.  I suggested a few things and they implemented most of them and added a couple of other things that appealed to them.  I will talk a bit more about this reticle in future articles.  At SHOT was the first time I saw it live and I think it is going to work well for my purposes.  I took a couple of blurry handheld pictures at 1x and at 8x, so you can see what it looks like.  I will do better photography when the first production scopes get here.

CMR8 reticle at 8x

CMR8 reticle at 8x

CMR8 reticle at 1x

CMR8 reticle at 1x

My basic design concept was to have a large out horseshow that is outside the FOV at 8x, but salmost serves a ghost ring at 1x. At 8x, the smaller 10 mrad horseshow is the dominant feature designed to draw the eye to its center where there is a mil-scale and a small mrad-grid array that serves as elevation, wind and lead holds for typical 5.56, 6.5Grendel or 7.62×51 load out to 500-600 yards without the need to twist the turrets.  The grid can also be used for quick rangefinding which I will cover in more detail later.  However, the primary rangefinding features are the choke style rangefinders for both horizontal and vertical targets 1m and 1.75m in size.



Aside from the reticle, the scope looked pretty well executed, but I will reserve judgement until I get a production unit and properly test it. The turrets are easily finger-adjustable with 0.1 mrad clicks.  You can keep them exposed without any undue effects, but I prefer to run scopes like this type primarily with the reticle, so the included turret covers suit me well.  The illumination starts at a couple of night vision compatible settings one one end and gets pretty bright on the other end.  I am not convinced it will be day bright at 1x, but the reticle is designed to be very visible regardless.  I will work it out for a range of lighting conditions once it gets here.  Overall, the scope is fairly compact at only 10″ of length and at 22 ounces is not overly heavy for a 1-8x design.  Field of view looks to be impressively wide and eye relief is longer than on the CMR4.

Hi-Lux Uni-Dial

Hi-Lux Uni-Dial

The new Uni-Dial seems to be a new design and since I liked those programmable turrets originally, I will definitely test this one as well.  The turrets seemed to have decent feel and tool-less reset.  These days, many companies offer custom engraved turrets for their scopes.  Uni-dial’s customizable nature approaches the same problem from a different angle.  I suspect that the new Uni-Dial and Phenom HD are related design differing in reticle location and perhaps a few other design specifics and aesthetic features.

Hi-Lux Phenom HD 5-30x56FFP

Hi-Lux Phenom HD 5-30x56FFP

The turrets are clearly different between the two with the Phenom being ore of a traditional precision scope design with knurled exposed turrets.  Both offer a removable cat-tail for quick magnification adjsutments.  The FFP reticle in the Phenom is a mil-grid style (along the same lines as Sig’s DEV-L, some Horus designs and many others) and generally this scope’s feature set is pretty ambitious.  I think the Phenom and Uni-Dial will be the first of Hi-Lux’s new scopes I look at.  With the CMR8 and the new competition scope following suite in late spring some time.  As I mentioned earlier, between Hi-Lux and Athlon it looks like Chinese-made designs are really coming of age.  Hi-Lux’s Phenom HD and CMR8 are ambitious designs, but if they are executed well could be a pretty major deal simply because of their sub-$1k price.

CMR4-based service rifle scope

CMR4-based service rifle scope

The CMR4-based competition scope is fundamentally a direct response to the change in the service rifle competition rules that now allow magnified optics of no more than 4.5x of magnification and no more than 34mm objective.  Bother March and Nightforce came out with scope specific for this competition, but both are expensive at $1900 for the Nightforce and well over $2k for March.  I am sure they are exceptional, but I was curious to see what will be out there that is a bit more affordable.  Well, this is an interesting design that will be far cheaper.  Best I can tell, it is the regular CMR4 with the objective lens bumped up to 34mm and adjustable configuration to dial out parallax.  The reticle is a fairly clean MOA-based design.  Now that the rules allow for optics, I have been thinking about trying the service rifle competition.  My original plan was to simply use my Elcan Spectre OS, but perhaps I will experiment with this one as well.  Honestly, I think it is a clever way to quickly get a product to market using a proven platform.  Similarly importantly, this is probably the largest objective for a low range variable scope out there.  I am very curious to see how it does.  At 4x, with a 34mm objective, this scope should have far better low light performance than most similar low range variable designs.  While Hi-Lux was thinking of service rifle competition when they came up with this, I can think of a variety of other applications where it can do well.

Sig-Sauer Electro-Optics

I would like to start this with a formal complaint:  I take my sweet time when I test precision riflescopes.  After months of messing with it, I finally concluded that I really like Sig’s Tango6 scopes.  Naturally, Sig responded by introducing an entirely new Tango6 line-up.  The 1-6×24 is not too different, except the tall turrets I did not like are gone, replaced with covered low and wide knobs.  It is also the only one with a 30mm tube.  The rest are 34mm.

New Tango 6 3-18x44

New Tango 6 3-18×44

The 3-18×44 got much shorter and noticeably fatter.  It is now about the same length as the Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44, but a lot heavier.  4-24×50 is new, while the 5-60×56 appears to be similar to other designs coming from the same OEM (you all know who this is, but Tango6’s product manager seemed sensitive to this, so I won’t say it out loud).  Other than the 1-6x, they all have 120 clicks per turn turrets (i.e. 12 mrad for me or some irrelevant number of MOA for the unholy MOA shooters out there…) that also have zero stop and locking capability (pull-up to unlokc, press down to lock).  The 1-6×24 might also have that many clicks, but I did not check.  The turret on the 1-6×24 is now eerily similar to the Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6×24.  I like all of these new turrets.  The feel was good and the feature set is very rich.  There is now an electronic level and, importantly for me, there is now a mil-grid Christmas tree stile reticle called DEV-L.  For me, that is a big deal.  The electronic level has two indicators that appear to be in the reticle plane, that light up when the scope is not level.  They eat a little into the FOV, so I am trying to decide what I care about more: FOV or electronic level.  I asked Sig to keep me in mind when the 4-24×50 shows up.  While in principle a 3-18×44 is more up my alley, the 4-24×50 is only 3 ounces heavier, so I figured I would rather look at that model.

Sig Whiskey5 scopes

Sig Whiskey5 scopes

Whiskey 5 scopes have gone through an update as well.  These are Japan-made hunting scopes that are now black in color (apparently the hunting crowd objected to greyish bodies).  They also gain the previously mentioned electronic level.  They look like fairly well worked out hunting scopes.

Other riflescope product lines (Tango4 and Whiskey3) look to be reasonably unchanged.

Sig’s excellent LRFs get an upgrade in the form of Kilo2200 and Kilo2400.  Kilo2200 looks like its predecessor, but get a little more range.  Kilo2400 doubles the price tag and adds a sophisticated ballistic calculator and a wind meter that plugs into your smartphone.  Essentially, it is an attempt tog et rid of the Kestrel.  I do not spend a whole lot of time looking at LRFs, but this got my interest.

Aside from that, Sig has a new full size red dot sight called Romeo6 that is apparently assembled in the US.  It looks like a nice sight, but full-size red dots are not my cup of tea.  It does have a solar battery, which I like (I just tested solar powered compact Romeo4).  What did peak my interest was the Juliet4 4x magnifier.  However, it seemed like it was a rather early prototype.  There are not that many truly high quality magnifiers out there, so I am very curious to see what Sig came up with.

 Posted by at 10:40 pm