This should be listed in Trip Advisor warnings: “When going to Canada…”
I am going to go ahead and scan the news for a sheep shagging elk in Edmonton or something along those lines.
This should be listed in Trip Advisor warnings: “When going to Canada…”
I am going to go ahead and scan the news for a sheep shagging elk in Edmonton or something along those lines.
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.
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.
|Meopta MeoRed||DocterSight III||Meopta
|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
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.
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 www.sight-mount.com
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.
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.
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.
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|
|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
|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
|Close focus||10 yards||7 yards||10 yards|
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 (http://www.mtcoptics.us/). 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.
As I mentioned in my SHOT overview, I ran into these guys by accident and liked the idea of a short eye relief scopes for no/low recoil guns.
I have been playing with their rather unique Viper Connect 3-12×24 scope for a little while now, and I really like what I see so far.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just like the videos (here), this is going to be long and laborious. If you manage to make your way through this whole thing, pour yourself a nice bourbon. Personally, I am starting with the bourbon now, as I write this. I suspect, it will be a living document for a few days (so Scotch and Rum might be involved in some stages of this creative process).
I liked the DocterSight III quite a bit, so I made sure I visit Docter Optics at SHOT. They are now owned by a company called Noblex. I am not sure what that means for Docter, but I hope that means more funding for R&D and increased marketing reach. Docter is one of those German companies that I can never quite figure out like Kaps or Nickel. I know Docter has an arm that deals with the military side of things since I have run into theei US arm in the past. In the commercial world, Docter has a fairly complete line of hunting scope and a few offerings intended for some sort of competition use. I am not up to speed on the types of competitions that exist in Europe, but it sounds like a low range variable scope with a simple dot reticle and bright illumination is just the ticket for that. Aside from that, these all look like very solid scopes with the V6 line standing out to me as the more modern offerings that probably go head to head price-wise against Meopta’s MeoStar R2 line, the new Leupold VX-6HD and a few others. I honestly do not know where these sit quality wise, but they looked pretty good offhand, so I will make sure I look at one. I think the V6 2-12×50 will be an interesting design to mount on my 280Rem and test. It looks like it only comes with the #4 reticle which I happen to like, but the illumination system looks to be exceptionally well worked out. There are quite a few other magnified scopes in the Docter line-up (some come with intersting colors…), but I have to start somewhere and I think I will start with the V6.
On the red dot sight, they have a couple of products that got my interest. The new DocterSight G is the next evolution of their miniature reflex sight, but with a much larger lens, so I expect it to be notably quicker to pick up. It will also have manual intensity adjustment. I expect it to land on our shores toward the end of the year and I will test it then. Quicksight, is on the other end of the spectrum: it is a freakishly small reflex sight intended for shotguns.
It has a different construction which allows it to have a very low axis. The construction uses some sort of a prism to redirect the projected dot, so the LED can be set underneath the lens. That way the body you can see to the right of the lens is basically just a battery compartment. Vertically, the sight is extremely short and low profile. Looking it over, I did not see any means of adjusting POA, so I suspect that on shotguns, it clips to the top rib of the barrel and is considered to be more or less sighted in by design. I would like to test that theory.
In short, I see some things at Docter that are very traditional and some are pretty innovative.
They were right next to Docter and the revolver there looked very cool with interchangeable barrels, cylinders, etc. Once I learned that these start at around $6k, I walked away, but not before taking a couple of pictures.
EOTech had some reasonably well publicised issues involving their holographic sights which tarnished both the company and product in many ways. Beyond this acknowledgement, I will pretty much ignore all of that sordid history and focus on the new products. New products in question are Vudu riflescopes. Finally, EOTech offers a line of proper magnified sights and they seem to be pretty decent magnified sights. What I am not entirely sure of, is whether they are sufficiently differentiated from everybody else on the market who uses LOW’s OEM designs. What I do not know is whether EOTech has made any modification to these LOW designs outside of their own reticles and external cosmetics. The EOTech person I talked to said there was some additional customization, but I do not have an easy way to verify that. There are four riflescopes in the Vudu product line: 1-6×24, 2.5-10×44, 3.5-18×50 and 8-32×56. There are some discrepancies between the brochures I picked up at SHOT and the information on the website, but best I can tell, 1-6×24 and 2.5-10×44 are available as FFP models only, while 3.5-18×50 and 8-32×50 are available in both FFP and SFP configuration.
The two reticles available in the 1-6×24 both built on the original circle-dot theme of the HWS. There is a 65 MOA circle that makes for a very quick CQB aiming point. However at 6x, it disappears outside the FOV and whatever is in the center of the reticle can be used for more precise shots. There you have an option of either a mil-scale or a horseshoe with caliber specific holdovers for either 5.56 or 7.62.
The reticles in the other scopes are fairly simple designs that look a little bit like Gen 2 MilDot (or Sig’s milling reticle) and are available in two versions: mrad-based and MOA-based. They look like perfectly respectable reticles, but I am surprised EOTech is not offering something along the lines of a Christmas tree or grid style reticle. I could have sworn I saw mention of H59 somewhere in the past, but I can’t find it anywhere now. Honestly, I think that is an oversight. I am curious to see how these scopes will do, so I sent an e-mail to the gentleman I talked to at SHOT to see if they are willing to lend me one to play with. The model I am most interested in is the 2.5-10×44. It is a very underlooked configuration and there are very few of these in FFP form. My plan is to compare it to US Optics B-10 1.8-10×42.
Oddly enough an item that caused a lot of interest in the EOTech booth was the rifle that a couple of the scopes were mounted on. The rifle in question is called “The Fix” by Q LLC. Best I can tell, Q employs a bunch of people that used to work at Sig and AAC. I am not sure if either one of those companies has a financial interest in Q and do not particularly care. The rifles were interesting and, unlike most modern chassis-style rifles, quite light. I made a mental note to look them up and I did. And then I pre-ordered one. I like the idea of huting with the same gun I use for precision shooting and my Desert Tech is a bit too heavy for that. The Fix with a 16″ 308Win barrel weights right around 6lbs and takes a regualr LR-308 magazine that costs abotu $20. A Desert Tech Covert with a 16″ 308WIn barrel weighs around 10lbs and the magazines are $100 each. Desert Tech is probably a better precision platform. I like the bullpup configuration and its weight distribution, I like the quick change barrels. However, if I wanted to buy a Covert to add to me Gen 1 Desert Tech SRS, I’d be out around $5500. The Fix is $2800 and weights four pounds less. If it proves accurate enough for my needs, I’ll have to pull off some sort of a miracle of self-persuasion to keep my old SRS. Ultimately, that will become the question of how much I want to keep my 338LM.
There were two fairly new things at Nightforce booth this year: ATACR F1 7-35×56 and SR-1 Competition 4.5×24 scope. Both were announced a bit before SHOT, but that was the first time I got to see them. The little 4.5×24 looked mighty appealing to me (I like compact fixed power scopes, probably owing to how much time I have spent with various Mosin PU scopes) until I figured out that it costs right around $1900. I will freely admit that it looks like a very well optimized scope and I am sure it will do well with service rifle competitors, but I am having a hard time justifying that cost for a fixed power scope. Then again, I am not a service rifle competitor, so I might be missing something. Also, it is cheaper than the March 1-4.5×24 that is also new this year. On the other side of the spectrum the FFP 7-35×56 ATACR is intended for a very different audience and I suspect it will do very well with precision rifle shooters. It is pretty expensive at right around $3500, but that is more or less in line with the competition, although in all fairness, if you want more than 30x in a FFP scope there isn’t that much competion out there. S&B 5-45×56 is close to $5k. March 5-40×56 is probably the closest and it costs about the same. There were two 7-35x56s sitting in the Nightforce booth and one looked excellent while the other seemed a little iffy. I am guessing these were prototypes of some sort, but in the meantime I asked Nightforce to send me one of these for T&E. I really liked the 4-16×42 ATACR F1, so my expectations for the 7-35×56 are pretty high. I have not shot my 338LM in a little bit. This will be a good opportunity to do so.
The big recent news with Trijicon is their acquisition of IR Hunter. That was a shrewd move on their part. In my opinon these are the best engineered of the commercially available thermal sights. Now, with Trijicon’s marketing muscle behind them, we will likely see them get a bit more traction. The first obvious effect though is that the price has gone up… Now, in principle, Trijicon has something to offer regardless of the type of a weapon sight you are looking for. Between RMR and MRO the have some of the better red dot sights on the market. ACOGs and Compact ACOGs continue to do well (although some could models stand a refresh). Accupoint and Accupower cover conventional riflescopes fairly well, while TARS serves the precision market (not sure how much impact it has had).
On the non-thermal side of things there is a new version of the MRO called “patrol” or something along those lines, which is the original MRO with a different mount and some accessories. I really like the MRO and prefer it over the Aimpoint Micro, and the new mount is a solid improvement. THe top mounted control dial is much easier for me to use with either hand than most other arrangements. As far as small tubualr red dot sights go, I sorta settled on the MRO is being my overall favourite with Hi-Lux MM2 being the bang for the buck champ.
There is also a new Accupower, and it is an interesting design being a FFP 1-8×28.
A slightly larger than the more common 24mm objective might make a difference at 8x. Aside from that, it looks suspiciously similar to the 1-8×24 design that Light Optical Works from Japan makes for a bunch of other people. That is not a bad thing since this is a very respectable design, but I am not really sure what changes Trijicon has introduced other than a slight bump in objective diameter. The reticles are simple and fairly effective designs: broken circle and a ranging scale. There are two versions, one with mrad scale and another with MOA scale.
I have mixed feelings about broken circle designs. They work adequately well, but a solid circle or a solid horseshoe is, I think a better option. One other nice feature thing is a removable cat tail.
I asked Trijicon who I should talk to if I want to borrow one of these for T&E, and they gave me a business card for a gentleman named Eddie Stevenson who is the President of Driftwood Media. Apparently, that is Trijicon’s PR firm. I reached out to Eddie and got a fairly quick reply politely asking who I am. I told him what I do here and never heard back from him. He is either really busy, or he deemed that I am not worthy of testing the new Trijicon. I might still borrow one from one of my dealer/distributor friends, but that sorta depends on how busy I am in this coming year. In years past, I tried to get my hands on every new scope in some manner, but that was before I was married and with kids. Nowadays, I follow the path of least resistance: I figure out what I want to compare, reach out to the makers and spend whatever time I have on the actual testing process. If I have to spend time chasing after a manufacturer or, in this case, a PR firm, that’s basically a non-starter for me. Most of the time, that means they will not deal with writers whose opinion they can not easily influence (via advertising revenue or other means), and I do not feel like delving into figuring this out.
I had never heard of Juggernaut Tactical before, although they, like me, live behind enemy lines (in California) and have to comply with California insane laws.
They make a lot of miscellaneous parts for semiauto rifles including a bullpup chassis for M1A and a bunch of other things. What attracted my interest was there CA-compliant AR stock. It replaces the buffer tube and provides a pretty good way to make a “featureless” CA-compliant AR-15 or LR-308. Interestingly, the part of the buttstock that replaces the buffer tube is apparently three times thicker and it feels exceptionally sturdy. They also tell me, it gets rif of that annoying twang sound AR buffer tubes make. It comes with an extended takedown pin that serves as a thumb rest and still allows yo to use your original pistol grip (except you cant wrap you thumb around it). The length of pull was about right for me, and I think it will serve well on my LR-308 when it finally comes out.
I always stop by the Kel-tec booth to see what they have that is new. They are an innovative company that really needs more manufacturing capacity. What has a really got my interest lately with Kel-tec is their RDB-C rifle. It is a semi-automatic bullpup rifle that does not have a pistol grip. What it does have is a very respectable trigger. Since there is no pistol grip, it should be allowed in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia. It was surprisingly comfortable to hold and when equipped with a 20″ barrel, the overall length is just over 30″. If they actually make it, they will have the bulk of the California market to themselves. They have a 5.56 variant and they are working on a 6.5Grendel one. I will buy both when available.
I’ve always had a somewhat complicated relationship with US Optics. I like a lot about this company, but for a little bit I thought that the market has sorta passed them buy. They did not have a whole lot of new development (they did have some with low range variables) and while I am a big fan of the EREK knob, I do not like the low magnification tunneling and I did not like how much their scopes cost. This year, they’ve got the new B-series scopes which are newer iterations of the original 1.8-10x, 3.2x-17 and 5-25 designs called B-10, B-17 and B-25 respectively. They told me that there were some changes in the system that helped with the tunneling and the turret box was redesigned a bit to be more streamlined. The tunneling is still there, but looks less pronounced. The elevation turret is still excellent, and, very importantly, the pricing is a bit more reasonable, at least for the B-10 which lists somewhere around $1700. B-17 and B-25 list at $2300 and $3300 respectively. B-10 is the one that I would like to look at. It is reasonably compact and I really want to give the new turrets a workout with the new zero stop design, tool-less zero, etc. I glanced at their website and it looks like they are still making changes to it. At the moment they’ve got some rather questionable product categories there, but I will reserve judgement until it is all updated.
This is a British company I stumbled onto purely by accident. Apparently, they make Jpoint and have, in the past made a bunch of miniature reflex sights for others, like Trijicon. They are now marketing their sights under their own brand and best I can tell, they have been in use by British military for quite some time. There is a rumor floating around that their rifle sight (either SQS or SIS, I guess) proved to be more reliable than Aimpoint Micro in some British trials. If true, that is pretty impressive. Aimpoint Micro is a nice sight. Shield currently has for reflex sights in their product line. The original miniature reflex sight is called SMS (Shield Mini Sight) is what you get if you order a Jpoint and a few other sights. Best I can tell, this is the only one that Shield OEMs for others. The other models are RMS (Reflex Mini Sight), CQS (Close Quarter Sportsight) and SIS (Switchable Interface Sight).
The SIS feature list, interestingly, enough, looks like someone reached into my notes and made a carbine/backup sight based on them: it has three auto adjust modes and a manual adjust mode, it has four reticles you can switch between (8MOA dot, 4MOA dot, 1MOA dot with a 65MOA ring made out of 12 dots, and SIS 2MOA bullet drop). It also looks pretty indestructible and very compact. The SIS 2MOA bullet drop reticle is unique to the SIS, while the other four reticle are available in the other sights as well.
CQS looks pretty similar to the SIS, so I am assuming it is the earlier version. That is the sight that is in service with the British military. Like the SIS and RMS, it has an aluminum body (earlier SMS has a plastic body). You lose some of the options you have with the SIS and save about a hundred bucks. I think SIS runs ~$500 and CQS runs around $400, so they are up against some pretty serious competition, and I am very curious to see how they stack up.
For handguns, the sight that really got my attention is the RMS. It has the lowest base of any red dot I have seen and looks like it would be a perfect match for cowitnessing iron sights. With the proprietary plate, it cowitnesses with standard Glock sights, which is kinda remarkable. Basically, the body of the sight below the lens is concealed by the rear sight and does not interfere with the sight picture. That means that all the presentation drills I do with iron sights are not wasted. With RMS, I do not have to change a thing.
I sent the gentleman who owns Shield an e-mail to see if I can get my hands on one. We will see how it goes, but I am pretty pumped about these.
Another British company around the corner from Shield was Nite-Eyes. I was probably pre-dispositioned to not take them very seriously since I have a pet peeve about intentionally misspelling words. I am not sure what the reasoning is behind butchering the words “Night” and “Sight”. Maybe they were trying to write in ebonics or something. I was not born in this country and I worked very hard to learn this language. I sorta take it personally when people butcher it for no good reason.
This company makes a Near InfraRed camera that clamps onto your scope and blasts the image from the eyepiece onto a screen that hangs a few inches above the scope. The gizmo with the screen also contains a NIR illuminator that points in the same direction as the barrel. I see a few problems with this approach. First of all, if you are shooting a rifle with any sort of recoil, that camera will smack you in the face. Looking up at that screen while shooting is very unnatural and breaks your cheekweld, since looking at the screen without breaking your cheekweld did not work for me due to camera housing blocking the line of sight. Then again, they had it all set up with on a Rudolph scope, which kinda stands to reason… On a plus side, the had a standalone system that was essentially a NIR spotter: it integrates a NIR camera and illuminator into one module with a screen on the back. That seems like a perfectly viable idea except for some ergonomic issues. They claim that it is designed to spot things out to several hundred yards which requires some means of holding it in a stable manner. The way it is right now is not conducive to that. Still, that is a fairly clever gadget, while their system that attaches to a scope is… well, I think you worked out what I think about it.
Sightron did not have too many new things this time around. They now offer simple plex reticles in some of their high magnification scopes. There is a new small rimfire scope in the SIH line (3-9×32) which looks like a pretty nice little scope, but a simple crosshair reticle it comes with is not my cup of tea. I think there were a couple of new SII Blue Sky spotters as well. The two announcements that are of interest to me were in two far removed from each other market segments: miniature red dots sights and ultra high magnification target scopes.
I spent a lot of time with Sightron’s SV 10-50×60 target scope and really liked the innovative dual speed side focus. That scope was almost good enough to go head to head with the Marches of this world, but did have some annoying CA at high magnification. More importantly, Vortex’ new Golden Eagle cost a bit less and performs better at high mag. Now, Sightron has updated this scope with ED glass, which should help at high mag. It should be out in late spring some time and I will make sure I get my hands on it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it looks like Sightron is finally getting into the miniature red dot sight business with their new SRS6 that features a 6MOA dot and a battery compartment accessible form the top. I’ll make sure I look at that one too.