Nov 092019
 

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

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

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

A few different optics I’m looking at:  

1. SWFA 3-15x FFP

2. SWFA ultralight 2.5-10 SFP with BDC reticle

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

3. Bushnell LRTS 3-12x

4. Burris XTR 2-10x

5. Weaver tactical 3-15x FFP

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

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

Any other suggestions or thoughts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Oct 292019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the actual optics recommendations: stay tuned.

 Posted by at 4:05 pm
Oct 242019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 6:17 pm
Aug 092019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 5:00 pm
Jul 182019
 

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

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

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

 Posted by at 8:59 am
Jun 092019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-another five hours on the same plane flying home

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

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

 Posted by at 9:02 am
Jun 062019
 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Here is a brief video review:

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 10:04 am
May 312019
 

I have talked a little bit about this on a couple of forums, but I figured that I should not neglect my own website and tell the story of what I am doing with G&A and why.

If you have followed my various ramblings for a while, you may remember that a bit over a decade ago, I had a brief interaction one of the gun magazine publications (admittedly not Guns and Ammo) and in order to write for them, I would have to severely change how I talk about things. They were so afraid of upsetting their advertisers, that I chose to not have anything to do with that. I am not out to slander anyone, but sometimes you have to cal a spade a spade, so to speak. If the product is crap, I have to be able to say it is crap.

Earlier this year, the folks behind the Guns and Ammo specialty editions reached out and asked if I am interested in writing a few pieces for them. The specialty edition magazines are the issues that are published once or twice per year focusing on a particular topic. The specific one that they had coming up was the inaugural Red Dot issue and they asked if I am interesting in writing something that goes over the most common misconceptions people have about reflex and holographic sights.

Red Dot magazine cover (at the newsstands now)

Naturally, the very first question I asked was on the restrictions I would have if I agree. That turned out to be a much shorter discussion than I anticipated. They do not want me to use bad language. That’s basically it. In other words: say what you want to say, but don’t be rude about it. I figured I can do that without sacrificing my journalistic integrity.

I wrote a piece for that Red Dot magazine and they liked it well enough that they asked me to do a couple more articles for the other publications they have coming up. The next one out will be the G&A Rimfire issue that will hit the newsstands toward the end of June.

Upcoming Rimfire magazine cover. This one will be at the newsstands on June 25th.

Probably the weirdest thing about print media for me is having a word budget. Vast majority of my writing has been on the internet where I can be as wordy as I damn well please. Brevity is not one of my virtues, so everything I have written for G&A so far started out as a much longer piece. So far, it takes me more time to pair down to 2000 words than it takes me to put together the original piece. I hope to get better with practice. I always knew I was wordy, but until now, I never realized how really wordy I am.

Beyond the Rimfrie issue, I have written a couple more and as they wrap up with editing and layout, I’ll post updates. For the first two pieces I wrote for G&A, their editing is very light handed, which I am pretty happy with. They move pictures around, obviously, to fit on the pages, but aside from that they just fix my occasionally random capitalization and punctuation.

If you happen to see one of these on the newsstand somewhere, read the article and let me know what you think. I will do a few reviews for them going forward, but most of the topics they want me to address or either educational or overview in nature, which fits me just fine.

 Posted by at 4:28 pm
Mar 302019
 

I field a good number of questions here and there and I like the idea of making some of them as a blog post especially when they touch on something I get asked with reasonable regularity.

Here is a question I received today:

If I can bother you a moment, I do have a quick question on your thoughts about a few optics. As someone who’s been around awhile, I hate asking stuff like this, but with time being limited (you’ll see why in a sec), I was hoping to cut out some of the riff-raff and get right to things.

I’m looking to scope a small-frame (5.56mm) precision AR. I have a S&B 4-16×42 PMII that was supposed to go on it, but I need to free up some funds for career advancement training, so I need to downgrade. I’ll DEFINITELY be looking to replace it when I can, as it’s an amazing optic, but such is life!

Here’s where I’m at. I already have a 34mm Spuhr SP-4616, so I’m heavily considering sticking with a 34mm optic, BUT I’m not at all against snagging an SP-3616 if I opt to go with a 30mm scope. Here’s what I’m considering:

-Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50
-Steiner P4Xi 4-16×56
-Burris XTRII 4-20×50
-Bushnell DMRII
-Bushnell LRTSi/LRHSi
-Vortex Viper PST2 3-15×44
-SWFA SS 3-15×42

I have experience with the two Bushnells and loved them. The LRTSi/LRHSi has slightly better glass, but is a bit darker because of the small exit pupil at full power when I use it (not terribly often, but still a consideration). The DMRII doesn’t have glass quite as nice, but is a 34mm, and does have a higher mag range and is a bit brighter at the ranges I’d most often be in.

The SWFA is on the list because it’s a proven basic optic that would get me by. Stepping down that far is acceptable, but less than ideal coming from an S&B, haha. But if I needed to go that low, it would be my choice.

I’m unfamiliar with the performance (tracking/repeatability, brightness, clarity) of the PST2 and Steiner/Burris offerings. I’ve read your reviews on the P4Xi and am interested, but the lack of a sunshade is worrisome, as I live in AZ and shoot in bright sun quite often. The 5-25x T5Xi sunshade works, but I’m not aware of a way to source one by itself, and I don’t yet know if Steiner/Burris will make one specific to the scope. The 3-15x seems like the next logical option, but the DMRII can be had for less with greater mag range for the rare case it’s needed, but weight becomes a penalty. The XTRII is proven, but has a lower level of clarity and higher CA on average. But you sure can beat the hell out of them, from what I’ve read over the years!

If you have $1K to use, which would you use, or perhaps, how would you rank them? Primary uses would be local PRS-type matches, training, informal plinking, and some varmint hunting. Of utmost importance is tracking/repeatability, brightness, and low weight (I can probably find a used 3-18x Razor Gen2 for $1250 if I’m patient, but I’m not putting a lb+ optic on a small frame AR!). I appreciate your time and input, and hope you have a great day!

For this scenario, the short answer is that I would go for Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15×44. Now, onto the long answer.

Do you like mil-scale reticles like Mil-Quad, SCR or TMR? Or do you prefer some sort of a tree reticle like EBR-2D? In a market with a large number of fairly competitive designs, reticle choice can easily be the deal breaker. I do not like to compromise on reticles too much.

That out of the way, a lot depends on how you plan to use the rifle. I have an accurate small frame AR and it has a 3-15×50 optic on it. I find that to be an excellent magnification range for this gun, but I shoot offhand and from weird positions a lot, which I like to do on lower magnifications, hence the need for 3x on the low end. I really like to keep the low end magnification on gas guns at 4x or lower.

Tangent Theta TT315M 3-15×50 on an accurate small frame AR

The best bang for the buck in the precision scope world right now is Steiner P4Xi 4-16×56 scope, but it is too big and heavy for a small frame AR in my opinion. If your AR is a dedicated heavy barrel setup, P4Xi would work fine, but based on how the question is phrased, I do not think that is what we are dealing with here.

Bushnell LRHSi was a nice design, but it is discontinued. LRTSi is similar and I like it, but 4.5x on the low end gives me pause. I like to have more FOV on the low end. It is different for everyone, but I would rather give up a little magnification on the high end that lose FOV on the low end in this case. 3-15x works better for me than 4.5-18x.

Bushnell DMR II 3.5-21×50 sounds like it would give you more FOV, but it doesn’t. This scope has some tunneling on the low end, so its FOV on 3.5x is almost the same as LRTSi on 4.5x. The two Bushnell scopes have FOV of around 24-25ft at 100 yards on the low end, while the PST Gen 2 has a hair over 41ft on low magnification. To me, that is a big difference.

Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50 is a compelling design, but I do not think that it is any better optically than PST Gen 2. The 3-15×44 is sort of a sweetspot of the PST Gen 2 line and it is good enough to my eyes that I effectively stopped recommending other scopes of this general configuration until we get over $2k. I think the 3-15×44 PST Gen 2 punches well above its weight class and I happened to like the reticle.

Now, when XTR 3 comes out, these two will something interesting to look at. Same for Optika6 3-18×50 when it gets here. Until then, PST Gen 2 is what I recommend in this price range.

SWFA SS 3-15×42 is an excellent and time proven design. There is nothing wrong with and if you want to save some money, it works well. However, PST Gen 2 is basically a better and more full featured scope for not a lot more money. SWFA SS has more of a track record and focuses closer though.

 Posted by at 11:40 am