Dec 092019
 

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

I just stumbled onto one of them available online.

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

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

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

 Posted by at 2:07 am
Dec 012019
 
Ares BTR 4.5-27








The shooter’s view behind the Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP scope

Les (Jim) Fischer
BigJimFish
Written: Nov 15, 2019

Table of Contents:
– Background
– Unboxing and Physical Description
– Reticle
– Comparative Optical Evaluation
– Mechanical Testing and Turret Discussion
– Summary and Conclusion
Testing Methodology

Background:

            Meopta is an optics manufacturer located in the Czech Republic. They represent what is probably the most vertically integrated of all sports optics brands. Most scope brands do not actually have any manufacturing facilities beyond warranty repair. Those that do manufacture usually purchase coated glass and often some sub-assemblies as well. Meopta manufactures all the way down to coating and grinding glass. A great deal of their business is done in this OEM capacity, producing parts and sub-assemblies not just for sport optics,but also for a wide variety of other industries, such as medical and aerospace. The first Meopta product I ever used was one of these OEM’d products. The very popular, though now discontinued, original Zeiss Conquest series of scopes were made by Meopta and continue to live on in Meopta’s lineup as the Meopta Meopro scopes.

Like many overseas manufacturers, Meopta has had difficulty with regard to both marketing their products and deciding what features to make for U.S. consumption. Their brand awareness has also been downright terrible. Some of this is understandable, as they were formerly in the Soviet sphere of influence and so were not seen in western markets until after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Much of it has just been lack of good branding, or appreciation of brand value. In the past few years this has changed some. A lot of this has to do with an advanced U.S. based optical coatings company that Meopta acquired a few years ago. The company came with some U.S. based employees who thought like U.S. shooters and changed the thinking within Meopta to a degree. This group also developed the technology behind the Dichro reticles featured on many of the Optika6 designs, though not the example I am testing.

The Optika6 line therefore is a big departure from previous Meopta offerings in that it includes a lot of ffp designs, mil/mil configurations, zero stops, throw levers, and some reticle designs from ILya. 

Meopta Optika6 5-30x56 RD FFP on Mesa Precision Arms Crux Rifle
Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP on Mesa Precision Arms Crux Rifle

Unboxing and Physical Description:

            The Meopta MeoPro Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP comes with a nice scope bra, lens cloth, battery, sticker, hex wrench, some spare screws, and a detachable throw lever that threads into the power change ring. There is also a manual, but it is not particularly useful. It has some stats on the scope’s specifications, but it’s directions on use are quite minimal and difficult to follow. I find the Optika6 to be an attractive scope. I am not sure exactly what makes some scopes attractive and others less so, or if there is any universality to what people find good looking in a scope or not. This one looks good to me though. I would describe it as having a softened tactical appearance. This is both figurative and literal in that the knurling on all the controls is rubber and so will not try to strip the flesh from your hands. The stiffness of each knob (paralax, power, diopter, and illumination) is right on. We will discuss elevation and windage adjustments later. Being a 30x 56mm optic with 34mm tube, it is pretty large. It weighs in at 38oz and is 15.4″ long.

Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP Unboxing
Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP Unboxing

Reticle:

            The Meopta Optika6 line comes in several different reticle options. For the 5-30×56, these include a plex reticle, generic BDC with dichro elements, .308 drop reticle, and ILya’s MRAD RD. It is a pity the MRAD RD does not have any dichro on it, as I would have liked to try that concept out. That is secondary though. Having a reticle that can hit at range is the important thing, and the MRAD RD is by far the best option for that.

ILya’s MRAD RD reticle follows the general trend of .2mil graduated, floating dot center, Christmas tree reticles, but with a few distinctions. The first such distinction is that it only has only 1 mil of graduations in the 12 o’clock sector. I like the open top section as it gives you some space to observe a target area through with no obstructions. The second departure ILya has from the norm is that he does less funny business with graduation increments. Pretty much all the graduations are .2 mil increments and there are .2mil graduations in all sectors of the reticle, including the center. Many other scopes keep changing things up. This causes more mental overhead and more mistakes. I never found myself second guessing what a marking was on ILya’s reticle and that is really the goal. Lastly, the line widths used for the graduations and crosshairs on ILya’s reticle are significantly smaller than the average. I’m a fan of finer graduations so I will take it. This leaves the reticle very fine indeed at 5x, but at 5x you’re really only using the scope for observation anyway, so I don’t see a problem with maximizing the reticles use for 15x and greater.

This brings us to the Christmas tree section. At first I was a big proponent of Christmas tree sections. The concept appealed to me because I really like more utility in a reticle. I thought that trees would make for faster measurement of shot correction, give you a faster way to make corrections in a pinch, and extend your total drop compensation range. In practice though, I have experienced less gain than I expected in these areas, and found a big trade off when it comes to seeing splash. Even when using a reticle with a tree section, I have continued to find it more accurate to measure for shot correction by moving the reticle to get read outs at right angles. Using the tree is both less accurate (big vertical gaps) and only works if your miss lands in the tree section. Not shooting strictly timed competitions (or ones that specifically contrive to disallow adjustment of the scope on some sections) I have found no speed advantage. Finally, most scopes now have adjustment range sufficient to any distance that I am confident of hitting at anyway. I really don’t do more than 15mils in drop ever and virtually every scope will give you that on the elevation turret. So, I have become uncertain as to whether or not I want a tree section at all and very certain that if I have one it should be minimal. The section in the MRAD RD is very thin but does have a lot of measurements. There are dots every .2mils and also dots at the .5mil increments between lines. For me it does interfere some in my ability to see splash. Less tree is desired. In testing, the reticle showed only the smallest deviation from correct dimensions. It starts a little larger than correct and then at about 8 mils crosses back to be very slightly smaller. At no point is it off more than .02 mils. That is to say, it is very good. The reticle is canted only very slightly relative to the adjustments, .03 mils in 10 mils of adjustment, in the counter-clockwise direction. This is also pretty good and of a small enough magnitude that it should not cause any problems.

ILya's MRAD RD Reticle in the Meopta Optika6 5-30x56 RD FFP scope on the HORUS CATS target at 30x
ILya’s MRAD RD Reticle in the Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP scope on the HORUS CATS target at 30x

Comparative Optical Evaluation:            

This review of the Meopta MeoPro Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP is part of an ongoing series of sub $1k FFP mil/mil precision rifle scope reviews. These scopes are used as the optical comparison scopes for each other. In order of arrival, they are the:  Sightron SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH, Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27×50 FFP IR Mil, Athlon Midas TAC 6-24×50, Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56, Sightron S-TAC 4-20x50FFPZSIRMH, and Nikon Black FX1000 6-24x50SF Matte IL FX-MRAD. For testing, these scopes were lined up together on a 5 slot adjustable v-block and evaluated using the procedure outlined in the methodology section at the end of this review. This same methodology is used on all long range scope evaluations and has been for several years now. Lastly, the Nikon had some issues necessitating its return. At the time of this review’s publication, its replacement has not arrived.

All seven sub $1k FFP mil/mil long range precision rifle scopes
All seven sub $1k FFP mil/mil long range precision rifle scopes

The Meopta MeoPro Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP was optically the most interesting of all the Sub $1k ffp optics I have tested. The reason for this is that it was the most unpredictable with regards to how it would perform on any one specific attribute. For an example, we will start off with resolution. The Meopta was significantly better than all the other sub $1k scopes with regards to resolution. It was good enough I actually broke out a USO SN3 3.2-17×44 I was testing for my uncle to test it beside the Meopta just in case. That probably wasn’t necessary. The answer was no, the sub $1k Meopta Optika6 is not competitive with the USO that had been well over twice the price. It does, however, lead all other sub $1k scopes tested in resolution. On the flip side, it is by far the worst at handling stray light. It should have come with a sunshade. If you buy this scope, buy a sunshade and you will be a much happier person. This stray light issue was a pain for me as both my principle shooting range, and my optical comparison area are south facing and anytime any direct sunlight landed on that objective from any angle it significantly degraded performance. It actually took a while to figure out exactly what was going down as the stray light would sometimes show up as the typical hazy look, but other times things just looked out of focus or showed as very telltale blooms.

Resolution and stray light were what I would call the two bookends of the optical performance of this scope. Following that pattern, The Meopta’s depth of field was the best in the group but its eyebox was the worst. In practice, at the range, the eyebox was perfectly functional, I actually had mistakenly thought it would prove to be roomy when compared to others. However, shorn of the stabilizing adjustable cheek piece of my rifle, it proved the smallest. On field of view, the Meopta had one of the largest, but it also had close to the most pronounced barrel distortion. The Meopta again led the field with very minimal chromatic aberration but was only average when it came to contrast. Despite having one of the few larger 56mm objectives in the lineup, the Meopta was only average in low light performance. What to make of a scope so often at the extremes? I think a couple things are notable. First, though the Meopta did spend a lot of time at both the top and bottom of the lineup, it spent more at the top than the bottom. Second, it tended to land near the top on the most important aspects of performance, these being resolution and field of view. Its worst showing, easily stray light handling, is also easily remedied with a sunshade. So, on balance I would say it performs better than average optically for the price, provided you have a sunshade on it.

Mechanical Testing and Turret Discussion:

            First we will start by talking about the unique the Optika6 has. The elevation pulls up to adjust and pushes down to lock. Oddly, the windage is neither capped nor locking. The zero adjusts on both knobs with the removal of a single screw in the center of the elevation adjustment and then removal and repositioning of the outer sleeve.  Meopta has made this single screw easily removable without tools for the elevation knob which is nice. The windage knob’s requires a coin or screwdriver. The zero stop on the Optika6 scopes is a unique system. I have illustrated how to change it in the illustration below. You will note that, due to its unique cog-based system, use of the zero stop system will limit the maximum elevation range to a little less than three full revolutions. This comes out to somewhere around 28 mils total travel, which is a lot. You also may feel the zero stop cog as you rotate past it moving to your 2nd and 3rd revolutions. It feels sort of like a loose mechanical part. In fact, the first time I felt it I thought something felt loose and broken. Eventually, I realized what it was and that it is not an issue. Really, it is a pretty clever zero stop system and solves the difficulty that adding the locking mechanism to the elevation knob created for making a zero stop system.

Setting the Meopta Optika6 zero stop
Setting the Meopta Optika6 zero stop

Here is where I will talk about the feel of the clicks in the adjustments. Most people are just wrong about clicks. Everybody seems to say they like firm, stressed out, super positive clicks and not squishy ones. This really comes down to saying you want almost all the resistance to motion in the knob to come from the click detent itself and not something else, usually an o-ring. I used to think this might just be a matter of taste, but it is not. Most people are just wrong in their preferences, and here is why. This is not about the tactile sensation of handling your knob and wanting it firm and positive. This is about counting the clicks as you adjust, not miscounting, and not having to break position to look up and check that the knob is on the correct number. If the turrets are the very “clicky” variety, best characterized by the S&B MTC turrets, you will often experience clicks that you miss. This is because it takes a lot of force to move the turret over the first detent, but between the first and second it takes almost no force. So, your turning pretty hard and the turret skips though several detents quickly enough that you don’t feel them all. The Meopta Optika6 is not near as bad as the S&B MTC in this regard but I did experience some miscounted clicks on it and had to break position to look up at the knob on it. This is something you very easily note when you are assessing the tracking on a humbler device but might actually fail to notice in the field, leading you mistakenly attributing a missed shot to another cause. I mention all of this because people will like the feel of these turrets. They will say things like, ‘they feel very positive and adjust with a pleasing amount of force’. Perhaps Meopta has done them just right for the market. It certainly doesn’t pay to tell your customers they are wrong and people seem to like “clicky” feeling turrets. My thoughts are that I miscounted clicks on these very nice feeling turrets and I never miscount on nasty, squishy feeling ones.

Now on to the tracking. The first thing to note in the tracking of the Meopta is that there is some slop due to the locking turret design. Internally, there is some sort of spline sleeve that allows the outer part of the adjustment mechanism to raise and lower to lock and unlock whereas the inner portion contains the adjustment threading. In this design, the outer portion also contains the click detents. As such, it is the outer portion that you can both see and feel. You cannot see or feel that there is just a little movement in that spline sleeve joint. The effect of this is that there is about .07 mils of slop in the system. So you might adjust up 6.0 mils on the knob and have the reticle at 6.0 mils on target. Then, you reverse and go down to 5.9 mils on the knob but your reticle will be at 5.97, having moved only .03 mils because of the slop. So, whenever you are adjusting up, your adjustments will always read .07 mils higher than when you’re adjusting back. This is a bit annoying, mostly because it means that whenever you reverse direction for a shot adjustment, you get less magnitude of adjustment than you think. I understand this is a common behavior for locking turret designs. The windage, which does not lock, does not display this behavior.

Now for the tracking. Going up from optical zero, the scope tracked clean to 6.0 mils. At that point it starts to loose little by little. At 13.9 mils on the adjustments the scope has optically moved 14.0 mils. It adjusts a total of 15.7 mils up from optical zero. Of course, going back it is +.07 mils reticle position at each knob reading.

Going down from optical zero, the adjustments go to 18.0 mils. Going down they actually look good at that 10 mils but, of course, when you reverse and go back up, the .07 mil slop now makes it look like you’re a click off.

Overall, this means that the adjustments are quite well calibrated, notwithstanding the .07 mil of slop you have because of the locking turret. They are never off by more than .1 mil from what they read. The scope shows a 33.7 mils total elevation adjustment, but remember that the use of the zero stop will limit you to a maximum of about 28 mils.

Going left to right on the windage turret that does not have the locking feature, you notice no slop. It adjusts cleanly for the 4 mils each way I have on the target and has a total range of 17.0 mils right from center and 17.3 mils left.

Testing for lash in the parallax adjustment of scopes is not one of my regular procedures but I noticed it while shooting with this scope so I have fully investigated. For those who don’t know, lash in the parallax knob refers to when there is enough slop in linkage inside the scope that adjusts for parallax that it can noticeably shift position under recoil. Important to this is that the movement will only occur if you adjusted one way (typically coming up to your distance from minimum focus distance) and not the other (coming down to your distance from infinity focus distance.) This is because the slop basically represents the internals shifting from one side of their adjustment channel to the other. If they start on the side they would be shifting to, they have nowhere to go. On this Meopta, if you focus up from min distance to your range you will notice that after a number of rounds fired you have gone from zero reticle movement with head bob to about .06 mil of movement because the parallax has shifted a little. There is no shift if you adjusted from infinity down to your range.

To round out the mechanical testing of the Meopta, no reticle shift occurred with change in power, diopter adjustment, or parallax adjustment. So, all good on those tests. I would say there is a trend to all of the mechanical observations on the Meopta Optika6. That trend is that the mechanisms were all calibrated and working properly but there was a little bit of play in them. Realistically, this is not going to effect the use of the scope for long range shooting or hunting. You won’t fire enough rounds at the same range to move the parallax even if it was adjusted the direction that has a little slop. Similarly, the slop in the elevation adjustment due to the locking feature never causes things to be more than .1 mil off. The only way you will notice the slop in these adjustments is if you are testing it on a humbler apparatus such as I did or are shooting many rounds at the same distance.

Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP during mechanical testing
Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP during mechanical testing

Summary and Conclusion:

            At time of press the Meopta MeoPro Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP is sitting at about $899 from the various online retailers. It is a very feature rich optic at that price, having illumination, a locking elevation turret (though, oddly, not windage) zero stop, and a detachable throw lever. On balance, it is the most feature rich optic tested in this sub $1k series. You can have it in a variety of reticle configurations, as well as with MOA instead of mil adjustments, but I think will be most popular in mil/mil with ILya’s MRAD RD reticle, which is a credit to the scope. This scope can also feature Meopta’s unique Dichro reticle technology but does not currently come with this technology in a reticle I would be interested in (a good mil one).

Optically, the Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP is the least predictable performer in the lineup, as often landing best or worst in the test lineup than anywhere in between. On balance, it tends to do better on more important aspects of performance such as resolution and worse on less important ones such as barrel distortion. However, it really requires a sunshade in most conditions to function well and should have included one. I will note here that at the time of my writing, the sunshade for the 56mm Optika6 is not yet available and the 56mm MeoStar shade will not fit. In the end, I would say the Meopta Optika 6 performed above the average of its peers optically, but more in a Brett Favre way than a Peyton Manning one.

Mechanically, the Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP can be best characterized as sound and properly calibrated but with some slop in the system. Both the elevation adjustment and the parallax adjustment have this slop, which essentially means they behave just slightly differently when adjusted one direction relative to when they are adjusted the other. In the case of the parallax that means it can show a little lash when adjusted from minimum focus distance to our target distance. In the case of the elevation knob you will note about a .07 mil difference at each increment depending on whether you adjusted up to that increment or down. The Meopta MeoPro Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP really leaves its potential buyer with a lot to think about because so often it excels or lags in such dramatic ways. On balance, though, it excels more than it lags and I think that Meopta will find this first substantial incursion into scopes with precision long range features a rewarding one.

Here is Your Pro and Con Breakdown:

Pros:
-Feature rich, 10mil/turn, Zero Stop, Illumination, Locking elevation, Detachable throw lever
-ILya’s MRAD RD reticle
-Better than average optical performance especially with regard to resolution
-Large adjustment range
-Tracking and reticle are properly calibrated
-Attractive appearance
-Good warranty and reputation

Cons:
-Really needs a sunshade but does not come with one
-Noticeable slop in both elevation adjustment and parallax
-Though better than average overall, the optical performance does have some significant low points
-The larger, 56mm objective is not translating to better low light performance or a larger eyebox
-Complicated zero stop system not well explained by poor manual

Testing Methodology:

Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP on Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical rifle
Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP on Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical rifle
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