ILya

Mar 062018
 

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

 Posted by at 10:27 am
Feb 262018
 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 8:32 am
Feb 132018
 

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

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

 

 Posted by at 4:33 pm
Feb 102018
 

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



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

 Posted by at 5:39 pm
Feb 052018
 

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

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

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

 Posted by at 12:50 am
Feb 032018
 

I live in California.  In many ways it is a wonderful place to live (or at least that is what I keep telling myself).  The weather is awesome and…  well, I am struggling to come up with anything else, but the weather is pretty nice.

Political climate here is a little bit tricky, especially if are a gun owner.  As far as California political class goes, the residents of California are classified along these approximate lines (from most respectable to least respectable): Hollywood people (Harvey Weinstein et al), Sacramento politicians (finance by Harvey Weinstein et al), left wing academia (PhDs in basket weaving preferred), rapist and murders, non-violent felons, people who work for a living and, finally, gun owners.  If you happen to be a gun owner, it does not matter what else you do.  In other words, a PhD in nose picking does not redeem your sins if you happen to be a gun owner.   The only exception to that is if you are a gun owner wealthy enough to lavishly donate to carious politicians’ re-election campaigns.  If you do that, you can go out to the parking lot with a machine gun and mow down a bus full of nuns.  Noone cares for as long as re-election checks keep coming in.


Ultimately, California is marching toward finally abolishing firearm ownership, but they can’t do it outright, so for now they seem satisfied with making it ever more difficult in a step-by-step manner via a bunch of regulations that are so spectacularly idiotic only a politician could come up with them.

One of them is the definition of an assault weapon.  Not satisfied with the definition already on the books, California came up with their own ever changing definition.  I am not going to into all the details, but basically, if you have a centerfire semi-auto rifle (like the ubiquitous AR-15) you have to be real careful with how you equip it.  For example, if you have such a rifle with a detachable magazine and pistol grip, you are a felon.  However, if you have a finned grip that does not allow you to wrap your thumb around the grip, you are a law abiding citizen (for now).

Basically, if you have a detachable magazine with any of these, you are a felon: pistol grip, collapsible stock, flash hider, bayonet mount.  There may be more “evil” features, but these are the ones I remember.



To keep your build featureless, you have to either give up on a detachable magazine and separate upper and lower receivers to reload or make sure you do not have any other restricted items on your gun.  Here is an example:

Featureless build: Fixed ACE UL stock, Strike Industries finned grip, no bayonet mount, JAP linear device from AR-15 Performance

Featureless build: Fixed ACE UL stock, Strike Industries finned grip, no bayonet mount, JAL linear device from AR-15 Performance

Most of these different options are reasonably well explored, but with muzzle devices it is not all clear.

We know that flash hiders are not allowed (all the birdcage A2 style devices, multi prong flashhiders, etc).

We know that simple muzzle brakes like the ones used on competition guns to cut down on muzzle rise are good to go.

I think we can be reasonably certain that linear compensators are fine as well.  They do not do a whole lot to reduce recoil, but the re-route the sound forward so there is a little less muzzle blast to the side and quite a bit less back to the shooter.  The JAL linear comp that is in the picture above is one of those.  I generally like the muzzle devices from ARP since several tend to be very compact:  http://www.ar15performance.com/muzzle_devices

The specific linear compensator I use is this one: http://www.ar15performance.com/inc/sdetail/2121/39188

Of the ones ARP sells, only JAL linear comp and SSB Shorty Brake can be used in California.  The hybrid design of the Vortex Comp makes it illegal here.

One other linear compensator I have used is from Kaw Valley.  It is a fair bit bigger than the JAL, but it works and many people like its aesthetics: https://www.kawvalleyprecision.com/KVP-Linear-Compensator-p/kvp-linear-blk.htm

As far as competition brakes go, I do not have too much experience with those.  There are a couple that I have used and I still have one from Adams Arms:

https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1003288067/adams-arms-competition-muzzle-brake-1-2-28-thread-ar-15-black-melonite-finish

It does provide for noticeably faster shot-to-shot speed even with a mild recoiling 5.56 chambered AR, but this thing is impressively loud.  One thing to look for with muzzle brakes is where the vents are.  If you ever shoot prone, you do not want any vents on the bottom of the brake or you will be breathing a lot of dust.  Also, having the vents on the top and non on the bottom helps control muzzle rise.

There are obviously many other good designs out there.  I am not up to speed on the latest ones since I do not shoot in competitions and I do not like loud muzzle blast.

I do recall trying Lantac Dragon and it was effective.  The rest of muzzle devices I have experiemented with were flash hiders and hybrid brakes which are no longer allowed here in Commiefornia.

 Posted by at 7:27 pm
Jan 312018
 

As I plan what to test in 2018 a few things come to mind.

Generally, I would like to do a careful overview of different 1-8×24 scopes priced in the $1k to $2k, so I will be doing that more or less continuously as I go along.  Besides, I do not yet know which scopes I will be able to get my hands on, so I will have to adjust on the fly.  This is a market segment I am interested in, so I plan to explore it thoroughly.  The products that come to mind right now are as follows (I am itnerested in FFP or DFP 1-824 scopes):

Burris XTR II 1-8×24 (I have this one and I plan to compare it to competition)

Trijicon 1-8×28 (I know where it stands, so I am not sure I will seek one out again)

GPOTAC 1-8×24 (I am very curious what they did with the illumination on this one)

Primary Arms Platinum 1-8×24 (I really liked the Griffin Mil reticle, so I want to test it)

Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 (the compactness of this scope is very appealing)

I know there will be one or two new designs, but I am not sure whether they will be here mid year or for next SHOT, so that remains to be seen.  I am comfortable extending this into next year if it means covering more products.

Am I forgetting any interesting offerings in the $1k to $2k range?  The only one I can think of is the Bushnell SMRS 1-8.5×24 and I am still a little mixed whether I want to test it or not.  It is another scope that has been out for a bit, so I know how it stacks up.



Another question is whether I should consider looking at some of the similarly priced 1-6x scopes out there.  When you increase the magnification ratio, one of the things that really has to be looked at carefully is performance at 1x.  It is easy to introduce distortion and make eye relief less flexible.  I expect that in the over-$1k price range, it is paid attention to, but it may worthwhile to see how performance on 1x compares between similarly priced 1-6x and 1-8x designs.

If you would like to make any suggestions or comments, please do so here on my Facebook page.



 Posted by at 5:55 pm
Jan 202018
 

As I plan out my SHOT Show schedule, I stumbled onto a new riflescope company called “Zero Compromise Optics”: http://www.zcompoptic.com/

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

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

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

 

 Posted by at 10:14 pm