Jul 162020
 

David vs. Goliath, East vs. West… the analogies abound, but my goal here is to evaluate these FFP high erector, high magnification juggernauts to find out how they perform and what benefits or drawbacks you can expect to see from the two different designs. The Schmidt & Bender requires no introduction as it has served as the “elite class” of sport optics for many years and while March has been around for a number of years as well, this boutique Japanese manufacturer has most of its loyalists from the F Class division and is wanting to make a bigger impact in the FFP market. This new scope represents the first FFP scope using their new High Master glass.

Please keep in mind that while I try to evaluate each scope based on its own merits, I am human and am prone to err at times.  This review is not intended to be exhaustive as both these scopes are on loan and I only have limited time to evaluate.  My goal with this review is to evaluate mechanical functionality which is different from mechanical accuracy, you should always conduct your own tests to ensure mechanical accuracy when you purchase a scope.

The very first difference is immediately obvious in the image above, once you pull them from the package, the Schmidt is ginormous while the March is smaller than many 5-25 scopes today (hence the David vs. Goliath reference) and while one might immediately gravitate towards the shorter scope there are some pros and cons which are discussed later on when combining high magnification erectors with short body (or short focal length) designs.

Keep in mind this evaluation is based on my own personal observations based on what my eyes “see” when looking through the scope.  My eyes are very sensitive to CA for example while some people cannot or have difficulty seeing CA when looking through the same scope.  The point is that everyone’s eyes are different, and my observations will undoubtedly be different from others. That being said I try to be as objective as possible but, like all of us, do have my bias’s but try my best to keep my reviews as unbiased as I can.  It should also be noted that I am not paid by anyone to do these reviews, this started years ago on Snipers Hide when I was trying to choose a light weight tactical scope that performed well in low light situations, recommendations covered high and low and ultimately I decided the only way to know for sure was to get all the scopes that fell within my criteria and see for myself (personal observation), sure I lost some money in it, but had decided that was worth the cost vs. getting a scope that ultimately would not satisfy my requirements.

I would like to thank March scopes in Japan for providing the March 5-42×56 High Master scope and Eurooptic.com for providing the Schmidt & Bender 5-45×56 High Power for this review.  If either of these scopes interest you I recommend checking them out at Eurooptic using the following links:

March 5-42×56 with FML-TR1 Reticle

S&B PMII 5-45×56 with LRR Mil Reticle

SPECS

The below specs are provided by the manufacturers which makes a good baseline of what these scopes offer.

As mentioned previously, the most notable difference comes in size, the Schmidt represents the traditional “long” scope design while the March represents the newer trend of “short” scope designs.  But other areas of note are:

  • Weight:  The Schmidt is a half-pound heavier
  • Field of view (FOV):  March uses a 26° wide angle eyepiece offering greater FOV throughout the magnification range
  • Turret Clicks:  Schmidt uses .05 mil clicks while March uses .1 mil clicks
  • Total Elevation Adjustment:  March offers 13 mils more total elevation
  • Close focus distance:  Schmidt has a decent 30m while March offers down to 10 yards

One other area of note is that while March is using mrad (milliradian) for the gradation values (like most other scopes in this class), Schmidt is using CM (centimeter) value; the clicks and values can be converted to the same, but you have to divide the Schmidt’s numbers by 10 in order to get the mrad equivalent – so 5 becomes .5 mrad and 60 becomes 6 mrad and so forth. Another reason why I do not like this method of measurement is that it gives the impression that the click value is linear when in fact it is angular – it serves to confuse between inches and centimeters vs. mrad and moa which are completely different.

TURRETS

As I mentioned above this review does not cover the accuracy of each scope but covers the functionality – since any manufacturer is capable of producing a lemon it’s always a good idea to test your scope to ensure its accuracy. 

Schmidt & Bender DT II+ turrets

This is my first experience with the new Schmidt DT II+ and having used both the standard PM II turrets and Ultra Short turrets in the past, Schmidt has knocked this one out of the park, not just in terms of feel but with very little to no play and very distinct clicks.  While the Schmidt offers only 6 mrad per revolution, each click is actually only .05 mrad in spacing so you are getting the same amount of clicks per rev as a standard turret with 12 mrad per rev, so while each click is half as fine as the standard .1 mrad turret the spacing is still very manageable.  I believe Schmidt’s ultimate goal with this scope is the ELR crowd and when shooting 2000+ yards the finer adjustments will come in handy especially if dialing for wind.  One other type of shooting both the magnification and finer adjustments will come in handy for is rimfire competition, but the sheer size of this scope will intimidate any short barreled rimfire rifle.    The added benefit of the DT II+ system is you have a lever for both elevation and windage that allows 3 settings: Locked, Unlocked with MTC and Unlocked without MTC (for those who may not know, MTC stands for More Tactile Clicks which means every full mrad value the click is stiffer than the rest providing a “more tactile” response).  When in the locked position there is no play or movement in the turret.  It should be noted that I had issue with previous generation MTC turrets, the full mil stronger click was so strong it would cause me to inadvertently overtravel by .1-.2 clicks coming out or going back which if I had a solution of 5.1 mils I would overtravel to 5.2 or 5.3 and would then have to dial back causing delay; however, the DT II+ MTC has rectified that and feels like the ideal weight without having to jump forward to get out of the full mrad value.  Someone at Schmidt has been paying attention!  The turrets are very tall but fit well ergonomically with the overall size of the scope and the top of the housing has a lighthouse window which displays the number for the revolution you are currently on.  The Schmidt turrets are non-translatable which means the turret does not rise or fall when spinning through the different revolutions – I tend to prefer this method.  I would rate these turrets as the best yet from Schmidt and Bender and arguably close to Tangent Theta in quality.

March FFP High Master turrets

When I first heard I was going to get the opportunity to test the new March 5-42×56 High Master I was mostly looking forward to seeing how this new “High Master” glass looked compared to previous March glass.  Having reviewed the March 3-24×42 and 3-24×52 FFP scopes previously and being impressed with the glass and build quality coming from Japan I was anxious to see what improvements they could make, but what I was not expecting was the quality of the new locking turrets provided with the new March scope.  The turrets available on the 3-24 left much to be desired but get the job done, landing on their appropriate marks consistently but with a bit of play followed by a mushy feeling.  The new turrets leave the play and mushiness in the dust and offer one of the nicest and most distinct clicks I’ve felt in a long range scope; click values come in the standard .1 mrad per click and 10 mrads per turn.  Not only are the clicks superb but you’ll also notice the face of both the elevation and windage turrets which share a lever with a blue and red dot, blue means unlocked and red means lock and one flip of the switch to locked and there is no play, no movement whatsoever, the turret is frozen in time until you move it back.  The turrets are of the translatable kind which means the turret housing itself will rise and fall depending on the direction you spin the turret; my preference is for non-translatable turrets but this is more personal preference as both do the same thing.  On the flip side of the windage turret comes an anomaly with the inclusion of a locking mechanism for the parallax wheel, I have not seen a great need from the community asking for this feature but it is there nonetheless in case you are one of the few who find yourself accidentally bumping your parallax out of alignment.  The final unique feature about this turret design is the zero stop which March is calling “0-set” and is done using a hex key at the top of the elevation turret, a novel approach – after you reset zero using the side hex bolts, you can set your zero stop anywhere you’d like but it is a tension stop and not a mechanical stop in that if you really crank the turret hard you can move past the stop point; for those who rely on predictable zero stop in low light situations this may be something that takes some getting used to. 

Turret Mechanical Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):

Turret Click Spacing – Advantage March:  March – 10 | Schmidt – 9

This is more or less a personal preference, but my hand feels better with wider spacing.  Tangent Theta is the best I have felt from a 15 mil per rev turret while the Nightforce has one of the best 12 mil turrets in the ATACR series and the Schmidt DT II+ aligns with the ATACR as some of the best 120 click per rev turrets, but I must admit I think I like the new March turrets best of all with the distinct clicks of each .1 mil value and 10 mil per rev spacing.  The Schmidt is not far behind though giving up very little to the feel and functionality of the March.

Turret Click Feel – Advantage March: March – 10 | Schmidt – 9

This can be very subjective, but I am drawn to more distinct click sounds with very little play between marks, the March has very distinct clicks with very little play, the Schmidt is slightly less distinct with slightly tighter spacing but very little play.

Turret Alignment – Advantage Schmidt: March – 9 | Schmidt – 10

Both Schmidt and March turrets aligned perfectly through my testing running the turret out to the extreme and back.  Because of the March’s translatable design, it does rise pretty high above the center mark which gives a slight perception you are off mark if your eye is not perfectly centered.

Turret Reset Zero and Zero Stop – Tie: March – 8 | Schmidt – 8

In order to reset zero on both scopes you have to loosen the side hex bolts on the turret housing, then spin the turret to align zero and re-tighten, this is typical of most long range scopes today and is only bested by the toolless design of the Tangent Theta turrets.  Schmidt comes with a factory preset zero stop while March offers the hex key adjustable zero stop mechanism.  I wish more manufacturers would come out with toolless designs or offer a convenient hex key in the turret housing like Kahles.  There is definitely room for improvement from all manufacturers.

Turret Locking Mechanism – Advantage Schmidt: March – 9 | Schmidt – 10

Both Schmidt and March offer a locking mechanism, the Schmidt places theirs at the back of each turret while March places theirs on the top of each turret.  Both are rock solid when in the locked position but the Schmidt offers one feature the March does not have with the MTC option.

Total Travel Adjustment – Advantage March: March – 10 | Schmidt – 8

For an ELR scope the Schmidt seems to be shortchanged a bit in the elevation department, especially with other scopes from the manufacturer offering 35 mrad of travel, the 5-45 only has 27 mrad of travel; however, at .05 mrad per click it is double the clicks of traditional .1 mrad click scopes.  The March on the other hand offers a class leading 40 mrad of elevation which is going to be appreciated by the ELR crowd.  On the windage side the March offers over double the travel of the Schmidt with 14.8 mrad of travel vs. Schmidt’s 6 mrad.

Overall Turret Mechanical Assessment – Advantage March: March – 56 | Schmidt – 54 (60 points possible)

Both the Schmidt & Bender DT II+ and new March High Master turrets offer superb mechanical design, fit and finish on both are outstanding and worthy of alpha class categorization.  I would rank these turrets as among the best available today. It should be noted that the Schmidt has the windage zero offset at the 11 o’clock position instead of the 9 o’clock position, this does make it a little difficult to identify where true zero is if you dial elevation, if you hold elevation it may not be that big of a deal.

Mag Ring, Parallax, Diopter and Illumination Mechanical Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):

Magnification Ring Movement – Advantage March: March – 9 | Schmidt – 8

While the Schmidt boasts a greater 9x magnification range vs. 8.4x on the March, the magnification throw is much wider and my particular model exhibited a slight rough feel while the March throw was shorter and very smooth throughout the entire range. Of note is that the Schmidt increases magnification in a CCW direction while the March is the opposite in the CW direction.

Parallax knob Movement – Tie:  March – 9 | Schmidt – 9

Both March and Schmidt exhibited very smooth parallax adjustment, March has a locking mechanism on the parallax which is a first I’ve seen and the jury is still out on whether or not this is actually a benefit. 

Parallax Adjustment – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 7 | Schmidt – 9

Schmidt has numbers marked while March has a symbol indicating smaller to larger.  Schmidt had more forgiving parallax when transitioning between objects both far and near while the March had to be “fine-tuned” in order to correct for parallax.  One must be aware that parallax correction does not always equate to an in-focus image so time was taken to ensure parallax was correctly adjusted for.

Diopter Adjustment – Advantage March:  March – 9 | Schmidt – 8

Both the March and the Schmidt offer a “fast focus” diopter allowing for quicker adjustments, March offers a threaded locking mechanism to help keep the adjustment from moving after being set.

Illumination Dial – Advantage March:  March – 9 | Schmidt – 7

Schmidt still uses an illumination tumor that is separate from the turret housing while almost every other manufacturer has gone to putting the illumination settings in line with the parallax adjustment.  March is using a rubber cover over a push button for on/off functionality with numbers 1-6 on the dial while Schmidt uses a rheostat style to go from off to full power.

Overall Mag Ring, Parallax, Diopter and Illumination Mechanical Assessment – Advantage March: March – 43 | Schmidt – 41 (50 points possible)

Both the Schmidt & Bender DT II+ and new March High Master turrets offer superb mechanical design, fit and finish on both are outstanding and worthy of alpha class categorization.  I would rank these turrets as among the best available today.

OPTICAL QUALITY

One of the most difficult areas to ascertain with any manufacturer is the quality of glass they use in a given scope model, or rather, how the image looks to the shooters eye when viewing the FOV through the scope.  Traditionally when it comes to optics one generally “gets what they pay for” and hence the higher end optics tend to have the higher end prices; however, with new design technologies we’ve seen some scopes punch above their weight class.  It is impossible to take images through the scope to show the quality of the image to the naked eye, this is because any image taking system also has its own lens system which introduces its own optical aberrations and if the system is better aligned on one scope verses another it may throw off values, so you will not see any through the scope images because I do not want to skew opinion based on IQ of one image over another.  So for this evaluation I took meticulous notes based on my naked eye observations under as best controlled conditions I could get outdoors.

Optical Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):

Resolution (Center) – Advantage March:  March – 9 | Schmidt – 8

Looking through both scopes at distance (1000 yards) you are often dealing with atmospherics that can wreak havoc for any optical system, both these scopes performed very well out to 1000 yards, so well that I had to throw up my resolution chart and evaluate line resolution at close range so atmospherics had minimal effect, when testing in these conditions the center resolution victor became clear, the March was able to resolve about 10% better than the Schmidt throughout the magnification range above 10x.

Resolution (Edge) – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 7 | Schmidt – 9

The Schmidt had the clear advantage in edge to edge sharpness throughout the magnification range.  The sweet spot for the Schmidt appeared to be in the 5-20x magnification range while the sweet spot for the March was between 20-25x.  March is utilizing a brand new 26° wide angle eyepiece that offers and HD viewing experience similar to the ZCO with very thin outer edges while looking through the scope, but as a result of this wide angle design one of the effects is the edge distortion which is apparent throughout the magnification range – one of the drawbacks to such enormous FOV and a tradeoff the shooter will have to decide.

Color/Contrast – Advantage March:  March – 10 | Schmidt – 8

When I bought my March 3-24×52 I currently owned a Schmidt ultra short 5-20 and was surprised to find the March, with its 8x erector design, faired very well in color/contrast to the Schmidt’s 4x erector design.  Likewise, with the new High Master scope I was surprised to see that the March does very well with maintaining contrast and color and doing so better than the Schmidt up until 25x, at 20x the Schmidt exhibited what appeared to be flare while the March in the same conditions held a very strong image, at 25x and higher both scopes showed increased degradation in color and contrast.

Chromatic Aberrations (CA) – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 7 | Schmidt – 9

A hotly debated topic – CA, which is typically seen at the edges between high and low contrast objects in what is termed as fringing and usually comes in a band of color along the green/yellow and magenta/purple spectrum, some are greatly annoyed by this optical anomaly while others insist they cannot see it, one thing to know is it has nothing to do with your ability to hit a target but can affect the clarity of the target.  One situation I noticed is that while the March maintained excellent control over center CA I was able to observe more CA towards the edges, I believe this may have to do more with the wide angle eyepiece due to the curvature of the lens – sacrifice a bit of CA and sharpness to gain greater FOV is the tradeoff here.  One other area is CA sensitivity with lateral movement off the center of the scope, you can quickly induce CA in these situations which are often rectified by proper cheekweld/eye placement behind the center of the scope.  Up to 15x both scopes handled CA very well both center and edge, but above 15x the Schmidt showed better control of edge CA most likely due to the more traditional (longer) scope tube and resulting optical formula.  The March suffered most with edge CA and some CA in certain conditions were observable around the black reticle and numbers.

Depth of Field (DOF) – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 7 | Schmidt – 9

The Schmidt has extraordinary DOF, objects outside of the plane of focus maintain sharpness and detail for quite a distance, the March is not as forgiving and has to be dialed a lot more with finesse of the parallax wheel – fine adjustments are necessary and both ends of the magnification range with the sweet spot coming between 20-25x offering the most forgiveness.  With the Schmidt it wasn’t until about 30x that DOF began to fall off some.

Field of View (FOV) – Advantage March:  March – 10 | Schmidt – 9

For the longest time the scopes that boasted some of the widest FOV have been the Optronika inspired class of 5-25×56 scopes (e.g. Tangent Theta, Minox ZP5 and Premier Heritage) but when Schmidt introduced the 5-45×56 a few years ago it took the crown in the long range scope market, but the new March 5-42×56 High Master with its 26° eyepiece is the new king of the hill.  Even the new Nightforce NX8 and Burris XTR III series with their impressive FOV numbers can’t really compete leaving the March in a category unto its own.  Outside of the specs which offer FOV numbers at the low and high magnification settings, at 15x I was able to determine on both scopes how many mils could be viewed.  The following numbers are from center so to get the full FOV value just multiply x2:

MagMarch 5-42Schmidt 5-45
15x15.5 mrad13.7 mrad
20x11.7 mrad10.2 mrad
25x9.5 mrad8.4 mrad
30x7.8 mrad6.9 mrad
35x6.7 mrad5.9 mrad
42x5.5 mrad5.0 mrad
FOV values from center to edge

Eyebox – Tie:  March – 8 | Schmidt – 8

I have seen varied definitions of eyebox in the community, so to be clear, here is my definition which will help you understand what I’m looking for – put simply, eyebox is the ability to be able to quickly obtain a clear sight picture when getting behind a scope. Both the March and the Schmidt showed decent eyebox forgiveness through about 30x with both getting more finicky at higher magnifications. The March seemed to have a slight edge in eyebox forgiveness around 25x.

Twilight Transmission (low light performance) – advantage March:  March – 8 | Schmidt – 7

To be honest, I did not spend much time with these scopes in low light situations but both of them showed impressive results after the sun went down, the March seemed to maintain a slight bit more color fidelity while both scopes were “bright” when magnification was set appropriately.

Overall Optical Assessment – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 66 | Schmidt – 67 (80 points possible)

The Schmidt has a brilliant image from edge to edge with excellent color and contrast while the March has some edge distortion but makes up for it with higher center resolution and brilliant color, possibly the best color/contrast I’ve seen.  The Schmidt manages CA slightly better while the March offers enormous FOV throughout the magnification range.  The Schmidt has very forgiving DOF while the March is more finicky requiring a lot more adjustment of the side focus setting. The Goldilocks zone (superb optical performance) for the Schmidt was between 5-20x while the March was between 20-25x during my testing.

Special Note on Resolution:  As mentioned previously the center resolution between both scopes appeared very close during my normal testing so I decided to throw up my resolution chart at close range (to minimize atmospheric interference) and see how many lines my eyes could differentiate before they blended together, as you can see in the chart below as you move from left to right the lines get closer together, with each scope I would place the optical center/crosshair where the lines began to blur together and I would note which section that occurred.

The results were surprising because the March was the clear winner at every magnification, and you’ll notice there was some falloff with the Schmidt above 30x where resolution actually dropped with 35x exhibiting the worst performance throughout the range.  So I had to ask myself why, during normal testing, did it appear the Schmidt may have been sharper and I believe that because the Schmidt has better edge to edge sharpness it tricked my eyes into thinking the overall image was as sharp or sharper than the March.  I think further testing is necessary with equipment beyond what I have available to me to more accurately assess the lp/mm but the below chart shows what I saw with my eyes; keep in mind these are indicative of the units I had on hand and sample variance could have an effect on results for your individual scope.

MagMarch 5-42Schmidt 5-45
15x40-45 lp/mm35-40 lp/mm
20x50 lp/mm40-45 lp/mm
25x60 lp/mm50 lp/mm
30x60 lp/mm50 lp/mm
35x70 lp/mm40 lp/mm
40x60-70 lp/mm45-50 lp/mm
Resolution Chart Results

RETICLE & ILLUMINATION

One of the most important choices one can make in a long range scope today is the reticle, this is, after all, what you will see every single time you bring the scope to your eye so it’s important to make sure that it fits the needs or your shooting style.  That being said, reticle selection or preference is extremely subjective and saying Brand X reticle is “the best” is like saying “Brand X vanilla ice cream is the best” – we all have different tastes and the good news is that there are many, many options available to the long range community.  With this in mind, my ratings below should be taken with a grain of salt because they are based on MY preference, but I will explain what I like and why, which should help you understand if it might be something you would like or not like even though I may have a differing opinion.

Reticle & Illumination Assessment criteria (rating 1-10 with 1 being worst and 10 being best):

Reticle Usability – Advantage March:  March – 10 | Schmidt – 7

The reticle in the March is their new FML-TR1 which is a superb design created by none other than the Dark Lord of Optics himself.  The reticle provided in the Schmidt is their new LRR-MIL design.  Both are a newer .2 mil hash design with the TR1 offering a Christmas tree and the LRR with no tree but a ranging grid.  The LRR-MIL is thin, we’re talking very thin, thinner than the SCR2 Mil reticle in the new Burris XTR III which I thought was too thin, the center dot all but disappears unless the background is a solid light color, like a target painted white.  I do not like the sentences written in the reticle and the ranging grid takes up a lot of space.  Reticle was unusable below 15x.  The FML-TR1 on the other hand has become my favorite reticle, everything is based off .2 mil distance, even the gaps so you always know it’s .2 mil.  When I first saw the specs for the reticle, I was worried the center would be too thick, but it is ideal in my book offering the perfect balance and allowing it to be usable even at 5x.  The Christmas tree is made up of small dots and practically disappears if you’re not using it which is how I prefer tree reticles. 

Illumination Color and Brightness – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 6 | Schmidt – 8

Both scopes offer red illumination as the only option.  Schmidt has always had lackluster performance when it comes to brightness, but sufficient for low light engagements, previous March scopes have been about on par with neither offering a “daylight” bright reticle.  But that has changed with the Schmidt 5-45, this is the brightest illumination I’ve seen from the German manufacturer and is usable during daylight, while the March has improved on previous performance but still does not deliver a daylight bright illumination out of their module, although it is ample for low light situations.  Both scopes did not exhibit any noticeable bleed in very low light but both designs only illuminate the very center cross of the design.

Overall Reticle & Illumination Assessment – Advantage March:  March – 16 | Schmidt – 15 (20 points possible)

The Schmidt LRR-Mil seems optimized for purely ELR and/or rimfire work where precision is of utmost importance, for me personally I found the reticle to be too thin in almost every situation.  The FML-TR1 on the other hand feels at home for just about any situation, the center may be a bit too think for some tastes with ELR or if you shoot .17 caliber primarily but one benefit is that once you move out of the center (like you would if holding wind) the rest of the reticle is more thin.  My personal opinion is that the FML-TR1 is the best crossover reticle I’ve seen yet and by crossover, I mean it is as much at home on a competition long range rifle as it is on a hunting rig whereas the LRR-Mil I would never consider for a hunting application.

ERGONOMICS

Overall Ergonomic Assessment – Advantage March:  March – 9 | Schmidt – 7 (10 points possible)

Schmidt continues to excel with traditional designs in long range scopes, clearly they have some of the best glass and best fit and finish of any scope on the market; however, the “long” scope is getting just that… putting a scope the size of a baseball bat on your rifle is falling out of favor especially with the competition crowd; the newer shorter scope designs are beginning to take hold within the marketplace and the March offers almost the same magnification while reducing size and weight considerably.  Schmidt really needs to get rid of that illumination tumor and free up more space on the tube for mounting options and while the new DT II+ turrets are the best from Schmidt to date the overall ergonomic winner is March with its short body and astonishingly good locking turrets, the scope looks at home on any rifle from short covert styles to the beastly ELR rigs.

FIT & FINISH

Overall Fit & Finish Assessment – Advantage Schmidt:  March – 8.5 | Schmidt – 9 (10 points possible)

As good as the March is in overall craftsmanship, and it is superb… the best I’ve seen from Japan, earning it a spot in the ranks of alpha class scopes that are dominated by European craftsmanship, I do have to give the nod to Schmidt & Bender with overall fit and finish.  Quality reeks from this scope everywhere you look, the smoothness of each mechanical feature, the precise fit of every single part abounds with the precision that German manufacturing is known for.  All that being said March has their own set of impeccable crafts-men and women who are hand assembling each and every scope, if Schmidt gets a 9 then March is hot on their heals with an 8.5, we are truly splitting hairs when it comes to the fit and finish of each of these scopes – as it should be with the alpha class.

PRICE

Overall Price Assessment – Advantage March:  March – 7 | Schmidt – 5 (10 points possible)

Most knowledgeable shooters are aware that the alpha class of sport optics is not cheap, you’re guaranteed to pay in the thousands for these top quality optics, but the March and Schmidt scopes really push the wallet to the limit.  MSRP for the March comes in at $4200 while the Schmidt is at $5650!  Street price you can expect to pay less, check with eurooptic.com for the best price available.

OVERALL SCORE

Final Score – Advantage March:  March – 205.5 | Schmidt – 198 (out of 240 possible points)

The final results are very close and I could easily see any one shooter choosing one scope over the other.  But at the end of the day the March just has so much going for it: less expensive, shorter, lighter, more ergonomic with superb turrets, High Master glass with amazing color/contrast and outstanding center resolution with an industry leading FOV, and throw in a fantastic new reticle in the FML-TR1.  The Schmidt bests the March in several areas including edge to edge sharpness, overall fit and finish, MTC clicks DOF and forgiving parallax.  The Schmidt also separates itself by being a dedicated ELR or rimfire scope while the March seems to be more of a “one size fits all” design that can find its home on just about any rifle out there.  If the features of the Schmidt suit your fancy more than March you won’t find an argument from me, but if the March finds its way into your heart with all it offers I think you will be pleasantly surprised and at over $1400 less your wallet will be thanking you as well.

Areas of Improvement

March

The first item that comes to mind is for March to design non-translatable turrets, that is – turrets that do not rise and fall as you spin them up or down.  Move the zero set hex key under the locking lever to protect debris from hindering operation.  Get an illumination module like so many other new scopes that have excellent low light quality with no bleed but also bright enough to be used when the sun is out.  Find that Goldilocks zone between magnification and scope length which allows for much more forgiving DOF and parallax.

Schmidt

Get rid of the illumination tumor already!  A PM III series with shortened bodies (doesn’t have to be ultra short short) for many of their long range scopes (e.g. 5-25, 3-27 and 5-45) would be welcomed.  The LRR-Mil reticle falls short in some areas and the GR2ID reticle is a bit too busy for some, it would behoove Schmidt to send some of their German engineers designing these to the good ol’ US of A and get input from the PRS/NRL crowd.  There’s a reason why the Kahles SKMR series, the ZCO MPCT series, the Nightforce Mil-C/XT and Tangent Theta’s new Gen 3XR have captured so many competitors hearts.  Years ago Minox accomplished this feat with the MR4 and now March with the FML-TR1 – it is time for Schmidt to finally get it right when it comes to a good .2 mil Christmas tree reticle that’s not too thin and not too busy.

About the author:

Bill has been around firearms since he was a young boy and enjoys shooting for fun as well as hiking around the Rocky Mountains in search of big game.  Bill was a professional wedding and portrait photographer for over 17 years which gave him his obsession for good “glass” and translates into his pursuit for the perfect scope (which he’ll readily tell you does not exist).  Bill served in the US Army in the late 80’s and in 2012 he caught the long range bug and began having custom precision rifles built, as well as building some AR platform rifles himself.  Bill’s passion for shooting has driven him to find gear which will best serve his shooting style and he enjoys sharing the knowledge he picks up along the way with other sportsmen.

Score Cards

Jan 142020
 








Athlon Midas TAC 5-25x56mm on Kelbly Atlas Tactical with it’s Favorite Lapua Ammo

Les (Jim) Fischer BigJimFish Written: Dec 18, 2019
Les (Jim) Fischer BigJimFish Written: Jan 14, 2020

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

Background:

This Midas Tac 5-25×56 is the third scope I have reviewed from the relatively new Athlon optics company. Started and run by a couple of optical industry alums, Athlon sources optics from a number of different overseas OEM’s which are made to the companies’ specifications. Based on the company’s growth rate and customer satisfaction, the Athlon guys appear to be quite good at this. Certainly the scopes I have seen from them have proven predictably reliable and with features that I judge to be well chosen for the marketplace. Furthermore, Athlon appears to have a very rigorous quality control apparatus in place, as the scopes I have seen have much lower than average deviation from specifications when it comes to adjustment magnitude, reticle size, and reticle alignment. The predictability of their function is starting to make them rather dull to test.

Today’s scope, the Midas Tac 5-25×56, is a new scope being added to their existing Midas TAC line. It’s sort of a gap-filler. It is of similar glass quality and magnification to the existing Midas TAC 6-24×50, but has a larger 56mm form factor more in line with the higher end ARES ETR 4.5-30×56. You could choose to see it as a lower cost alternative to the ARES ETR 4.5-30×56, which it is similar in size to or as a larger alternative to the Midas TAC 6-24x that it shares relative glass quality with.

Unboxing and Physical Description:

We may as well start the theme of this review right here. There were no surprises in the unboxing. The Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 comes with a lens cloth and manual just like its little brother the Midas TAC 6-24×50 did. It is styled very similarly and, from the objective to the tube to the eyepiece, it just appears to be a slightly bigger version of the same idea. The 5-25×56 is about 4oz heavier, just under an inch longer, has a 34mm instead of 30mm tube, and, of course, has a 56mm objective instead of 50mm. Probably, the biggest highlights are the 32mil instead of 25mil total elevation adjustment and the larger 5x instead of 4x magnification ratio.  32 mils is actually a pretty large adjustment range at any price these days, and the Midas TAC 5-25×56 is not a high cost optic.

The manual included with the Midas TAC 5-25×56 I received for testing appears to be the same one as the Midas TAC Athlon Midas TAC 6-24×50 from last year. In fact, its section with scope dimensions has not been updated to include the 5-25×56. I received this scope just before they hit the market generally, so it is likely from the first run and the manual you will receive had not yet been printed. Hopefully they update the troubleshooting section of the new one to remove the suggestion to directly support the barrel with a sandbag, as well as the text about excessive grease in the barrel. There should be no grease at all in a barrel at the time of firing.

Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 (foreground) with the TAC 6-24×50 (background on Mesa Precision Arms Crux rifle)

Reticle:

The Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is available with just one mil and one MOA reticle option. The mil option, the APRS3, is a typical mil hash Christmas tree reticle with a floating dot center and .2 mil increments horizontally out to 6 mils then .5 mil increments after that out to 9 mils, at which point there is just a thick crosshairs. Vertically, the reticle is graduated in .2 mil increments for just one mil. At that point, the top half is graduated in .5 mil increments out to 9 mils and then it becomes a thick crosshairs, while the bottom half is graduated in .5 mil increments out to 7 mils, where it goes back to .2 mil increments until 10 mils, at which point it becomes a thick crosshairs. While there is probably some rationale for the alternating use of a .2 mil graduation system and a .5 mil one, this is not fully explained anywhere, though even if it were, I likely wouldn’t agree with it over the consistency of sticking with the .2 mil increments throughout. Both vertical and horizontal crosshairs are numbered every 2 mils and are on the thinner than average side when it comes to line thickness. The Christmas tree section has rows of dots every mil below the central crosshairs. Each row is graduated in fine dots every .2 mils and a thicker dot every mil. The MOA based reticle, the APLR4 FFP MOA, has essentially the same appearance as the mil reticle. Unsurprisingly, its graduations are spaced 1 MOA apart. The APRS3 Christmas tree mil hash reticle is very much in line with what I see the industry converging to and the alternation between .5 and .2 mil increments at places is really the only bone I have to pick with it.

When tested, the reticle showed a very slight cant of ~.5 degrees counter-clockwise relative to the adjustments. This is not an amount of deviation I would be concerned about. The reticle graduations were correctly sized.

Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56’s APRS3 Mil-Hash reticle on the HORUS CATS target at (magnification set at roughly 18x)

Comparative Optical Evaluation:

For optical comparisons with the Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56,I had the entire suite of sub $1K FFP mil/mil precision riflescopes that have been part of this ongoing series of reviews. 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, Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP, Sightron S-TAC 4-20x50FFPZSIRMH, and Nikon Black FX1000 6-24x50SF Matte IL FX-MRAD. It should be noted that, at the time of this writing, the Nikon was not present to be compared as the example. It had proved defective, was returned, and its replacement had not yet arrived. Testing of all the scopes was done in accordance with the same methodology that I have used now for a number of years.

All seven sub $1K FFP mil/mil long range precision rifle scopes. S-TAC is 3rd from the right.
All seven sub $1K FFP mil/mil long range precision riflescopes. Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is on the far left.

All seven sub $1K FFP mil/mil long range precision riflescopes. Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is on the far left. On balance, the Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is optically the best of the Athlon scopes tested and on the better side of the field of sub $1K scopes overall. Its strongest points were field of view, depth of field, low light performance, and contrast. In these aspects it was either the best performer or close to it. The TAC 5-25×56 was more middle of the pack when it came to resolution, eyebox, barrel distortion, stray light handling, and chromatic aberration. In no aspect of optical performance that I measured did the TAC 5-25×56 test in the bottom 3rd of scopes tested. I think that the avoidance of any real weaknesses might speak as well for the scope as the overall above average finish. There is something to be said for an optical design balanced well enough that it really doesn’t stumble in any single design criterion.

Mechanical Testing and Turret Discussion:

The Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 features a virtually identical large uncapped 10 mil per turn zero stop elevation adjustment to that of the Midas TAC 6-24×50. Both scopes adjustments have the firm, postitive, “clicky” feel.  that comes from a high ratio of click force / rotation force between clicks. This does mean that you will occasionally over-rotate with them or lose click count and have to look at the dial. The Midas scopes are not the most difficult in this regard, but it will happen occasionally. I think the ratio of click force / rotation force between clicks is a difficult decision for optics makers. People generally greatly prefer this “clicky” feel and dislike the squishy feel that you get if the ratio of click force / rotation force between the clicks is low. However, it is difficult to have that positive “clicky” feel and also have a knob that the user won’t occasionally over rotate or loose count and have to break position to check on. Athlon has experimented both ways on this in the past and has understandably gone with the customers preferred feel. You do not make money telling people what the ought to want, you make it by producing what they already want.

Just like the smaller Midas, the 5-25×56 has a smaller capped windage knob. This knob is a 10 mils per turn knob that is marked 1-5 in each direction. The windage knob on my 5-25×56 is significantly stiffer and “clickier” than it was on the TAC 6-24×50, and, as a result, is easier to over-rotate or lose click count on. The power ring and parallax knob on the Midas are on the looser side of average with the euro-style diopter ring about average. The diopter rings on both Midas scopes seem to have a bit more correction range than on most scopes which I classify a win since I recently had an issue with a competitor who had so little range that I couldn’t even focus my 20/20 uncorrected eye all the way back to its optimum 20/15 or so.

The zero stop system used on the Athlon Midas and Ares scopes (this pictured on an Ares BTR 4.5-27x50 FFP IR Mil, O-ring no longer present in either scope line)
The zero stop system used on the Athlon Midas and Ares scopes (this pictured on an Ares BTR 4.5-27×50 FFP IR Mil, O-ring no longer present in either scope line)

The Midas TAC 5-25×56 elevation knob’s features and design are common to all of the Athlons I have tested so far. They are 10mil per turn and feature Athlon’s particular zero stop system, as well as an outer knob with the mil graduation markings on it that can be repositioned. Repositioning the markings to read zero at the rifle’s zero is done in the common way. The outer knob pops off and can be repositioned after removal of a single screw in the top. This outer knob is toothed with enough teeth that its markings will properly line up with the actual detents instead of landing between as some others have done. The zero stop system is one that both Midas TAC scopes share with the Ares BTR but that I have not seen on other optics. As is common, the whole elevation knob on the Midas screws up and down as the adjustment it rotated. This attribute forms the basis of both the zero stop and the simple scribed turn indicator. The zero stop consists of a brass disc they refer to as the “zero stop locking plate” located under the removable outer adjustment sleeve. This disc can be repositioned using three set screws. So, basically, you zero the scope, remove the outer sleeve, loosen the set screws, and move the disc so that it is lying flat on the saddle with its stop protrusion immediately to the right of the stop protrusion on the scope saddle. You then gently tighten the set screws and replace the sleeve and its screw with the proper alignment of the zero. This zero stop is very inexpensive to make, in addition to being quite functional. It also has the same advantage as most plunger style systems in that you can set it independently of the markings to give you a few tenths of adjustment below the zero if you want. It is a well designed system and I’m a fan.

In testing, the scope tracked absolutely dead nuts from 0 up to 17.4mils, returned to zero fine, and then tracked down from zero right on the money to 17.1mils for a total travel of 34.5mils. This travel range is even a bit more than the already generous 32mils advertised. Unsurprisingly, the Midas TAC 5-25×56 also tracked fine to the 4mils each way that I can measure horizontally and showed no zero shift with adjustment of the parallax, diopter, or power ring. The parallax knob even showed exactly 100yds when focused at 100yds and those things are never right.

Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 during mechanical testing

Summary and Conclusion:

The pattern emerging with these Athlon scopes is that they are solid predictable performers with good value at their price points and with the most in-demand features. The quality control on the three scopes I have seen has been superb, as two of the three showed no measurable deviation at all from perfect in adjustment increment and the other was still better than average. Similarly, all three had properly sized reticles and none had cant of more than .5 degrees. This is a rather impressive record.

Optically, all the Athlons I have tested have met or exceeded my expectations. Overall, this one was the best performer, landing well on the higher performing half of all the sub $1K scopes tested. Larger 56mm scopes are not my favorite, as I typically see little gain for the extra size and weight of over 50mm scopes. In this case though, you do get significantly more elevation range, and the optical design itself is a little better optimized than either of its 50mm brethren.

The street price on this Midas TAC 5-25×56 is around $850, making it about the same as the Ares BTR 4.5-27×50 and ~$200 more than the Midas TAC 6-24×50. All three of these scopes make good arguments at their price points so I think that Athlon has done a pretty good job of the tricky work of product positioning. It is not hard to see why the company is having such success.

Here is Your Pro and Con Breakdown:

Pros:
– Optics are significantly better than average at the price and well optimized
– Tracked perfectly
– Properly sized reticle with very little cant
– Athlon’s QC is starting to look pretty superior
– Very simple effective zero stop that lets you chose travel below zero if you want.
– Full 10mil/turn knobs
– Superb 32mil elevation travel
– Reticle design in line with current trends
– Good warranty and reputation

Cons:
– 56mm objective does add size and weight
– You will occasionally lose click count on the “clicky” adjustments and need to look at the graduations.
– No illumination.
– Basically no extras like scope caps, sunshade, or bra
– Relatively new company with short, though good, track record

Testing methodology link

Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 (background on Kelbly’s Atlas rifle) with the Midas TAC 6-24×50 (foreground on Mesa Precision Arms Crux rifle)
Dec 182019
 
Sightron S-Tac 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH on Kelbly Atlas Tactical with it's Favorite Lapua Ammo








Sightron S-Tac 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH on Kelbly Atlas Tactical with it’s Favorite Lapua Ammo

Les (Jim) Fischer BigJimFish Written: Dec 18, 2019
Les (Jim) Fischer BigJimFish Written: Dec 18, 2019

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

Background:

Sightron is best known in the target shooting community for producing solid no frills scopes at prices lower than comparable competitors. Sightron has always appeared to be low on advertising expenditures and behind the curve on features, but their quality, price, and customer service has been good. Sightron was very late to the party with ffp, mil/mil offerings, and zero stops. For years I talked to them about this and, finally, two years ago, they came out with an SIII in mil/mil ffp. That SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH was one of the sub $1K, ffp, mil/mil scopes I reviewed last year. Since then, they have come out with both a higher cost SV ffp design and this, lower cost S-TAC which sits at $700 street with an MSPR of $1k at the time of this writing.

Unboxing and Physical Description:

At first glance, the S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH appears to share a lot of similarities with the SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH. They are both long and light scopes with very plain and subdued styling. The S-Tac comes in at 15″ in length and 25.6 oz weight. Both scopes’ turrets are also very similar, being 5 mil / turn with similar styling and feel. The S-TAC, however, comes standard with the better labeled and higher visibility text found on the “tactical” turrets which were an aftermarket option on the SIII and also include a zero stop. I should note that you can now get these updated adjustments (zero stop and tactical labeled turret) in the SIII with the SIIISS624X50LRZSFFP/MH model. These are the only changes from the SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH I reviewed last year. Unfortunately, to get these additions adds a hefty $150 to the price. To that set of features, the S-Tac additionally has illumination and a flip-up throw lever on the power ring. Neither of these features is to be found on either higher cost SIII scope. In the box with the S-Tac is a lens cloth, plastic flip-up covers, two hex wrenches, a battery, and the same generic-to-all-Sightron-scopes manual that I received with the SIII last year. Said manual was supposed to have been updated to fix a minor error pertaining to angular and linear measurements in the windage and elevation movement table section, but evidently was not, as they are identical manuals. This update not happening could be worse, as it is basically a typo. However, each scope also includes a second supplemental sheet which has a reticle diagram and dimensions for said reticle, as well as a mil ranging formula. The ranging formula was wrong in the SIII’s supplemental sheet and is now somehow wrong in a different way on the S-Tac’s. These are not mere typos either, these are incorrect, non-functional, and non-sensical formulas. The correct formula should be: (target height (meters)/angle subtended (mils)) *1000 = range to target in meters. I am dismayed at both the persistence of the Sightron folks in getting this wrong and the misplaced creativity demonstrated by getting it wrong in a different way.

Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH Unboxing
Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH Unboxing

Reticle:

The Illuminated MH-4 reticle on the S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH is very similar to that which was on the SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH. Both are very simple mil hash reticles with .5 mil subtensions over most of the reticle and .25 for the first mil from the center. The MH-4 in the S-TAC improves on the reticle in the SIII by adding some number labels for the divisions. This may seem like a minor improvement but in practice it helps greatly in avoiding mis-counting and can also save valuable time when making adjustments. Neither reticle has a Christmas tree section, which I am not sure is a bad thing as tree sections can interfere with how well you can see the splash on a miss. The reticle on the S-TAC is also illuminated and it is substantially thicker. I expect these two may be linked since the SIII had a very fine reticle that I doubt would have illuminated well. The illumination on the S-TAC is not just on the center area but instead on the whole of the graduated section of the reticle. I prefer this arrangement. In general, I feel very much the same about the S-TAC’s reticle that I felt about the SIII”s. There is little to either enthuse or repel a prospective buyer in the design. In testing, the reticle was correctly sized and showed no cant relative to the adjustments.

Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH's Mil-Hash reticle on the HORUS CATS target at 20x
Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH’s Mil-Hash reticle on the HORUS CATS target at 20x

Comparative Optical Evaluation:

For optical comparisons with the S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH, I had the entire suite of sub $1K FFP mil/mil precision rifle scopes that have been part of this ongoing series of reviews. 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, Meopta Optika6 5-30×56 RD FFP, Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56, and Nikon Black FX1000 6-24x50SF Matte IL FX-MRAD. It should be noted that the Nikon was not present to be compared. The example I was originally sent proved defective, had to be returned, and its replacement has not yet arrived at the time of this writing.

Testing was done in accordance with the same methodology that I have used now for a number of years.

All seven sub $1K FFP mil/mil long range precision rifle scopes. S-TAC is 3rd from the right.
All seven sub $1K FFP mil/mil long range precision rifle scopes. S-TAC is 3rd from the right.

The S-TAC was one of the scopes I was most interested in doing an optical evaluation of. This was because the SIII I tested last year was, on balance, the strongest performer optically in this sub $1K series of reviews. The SIII’s consistently good performance across virtually all of the aspects of optical performance tested coupled with its light weight left me quite fond of that optic despite the features that it lacked compared to most of the other scopes in the field. Superficially, the S-TAC appeared to share some of the same design heritage; perhaps it would do well.

Suffice to say, this was not the case. I will go into more detail. Setting aside the currently-absent-soon-to-be-replaced-because-it-was-defective Nikon, the S-TAC significantly under performed all other scopes in the field. It was rather consistent in this, being at or adjacent to the bottom in resolution, FOV, depth of field, low light, contrast, stray light, and chromatic aberration. Its performance highlights were eyebox and barrel distortion, where it came in just behind its sibling. It is not an uncomfortable or tricky scope to sit behind, it just doesn’t resolve things are well as most of the other scopes I tested.  The sum of all this is that the S-TAC was very obviously a tier below any of the other scopes optically and, I would say, was significantly further from the next scope above it in performance than that scope was from the top performer. Given its sibling, I was pretty surprised at this. The performance difference was enough that when I first picked it up and looked though it without a lineup of scopes, I was already pretty sure how it would stack up.

Mechanical Testing and Turret Discussion:

The S-TAC’s knobs are very similar to those on the SIII with the addition of a zero stop. The knobs are 5 mil / turn and have clicks that feel and sound positive, but are not so stressed out that they will skip over detents and make you miss count. I would therefore say that the feel is a win. As on most of the sub $1K series, the zero indicator adjusts independently of zero stop. In this case, you loosen the top screw to change the indicator setting. The knob is only fastened to the adjustment by this screw and so can be easily turned when it is loose but must be carefully lined up while being tightened as there is no indexing. The zero stop is a collar under the knob that locks into place with three set screws. Once you have zeroed the scope, you just loosen up the set screws on the collar and turn it until it snugs under the knob. The actual threading for this collar is above the section that the set screws interface with so the set screws won’t mess up the threads. Probably the best thing about this system is that the zero stop collar has a line on it for each turn above zero. This is very handy, especially since the 5 mil / turn knobs mean you will often be a few turns above. I find this a substantial improvement over designs that have lines but where you are already several up from the bottom at zero and often also at some odd increment between them. Because the lines are on the collar piece that is the zero stop, they always line up right. The least attractive feature is that the collar feels a bit like a jam nut in that the knob will jam itself onto the stop when you turn to it and stick a bit pulling it off. Overall I like the adjustment mechanism with the exception of being only 5 mil / turn and only being labeled for that first turn.

When tracking, the adjustments deviate from true in a non linear fashion.

Going up from optical center:
-At 5.0 mils on the adjustments, the scope is at 5.1mils on the target.
-At 10 mils on the adjustments it is at 10.1 mils on the target.
-Its full range is 11.5 mils on the adjustments at which point it is at 11.6 mils on the target.
-It returns to zero fine and shows no slop in the adjustments going back to center.

Going down from optical center:
-At 6.0 mils on the adjustments, it is at 6.1 mils on the target.
-At 10.0 mils on the adjustments, it is at 10.1 on the target.
-Its full range is 11.9 mils on the adjustments 12.0 on the target.
-It returns to zero fine and shows no slop in the adjustments going back to center.

On the windage, it also seems to deviate a little, showing ~3.05 mils on the target when it is 3.0 on the knobs. I expect it would prove to follow the same pattern as the elevation if I had a target that went out that far.

There is no zero shift with parallax, diopter, or power ring and I saw no reticle cant. The reticle graduations are also the correct size. This degree of deviation from true in the tracking is about average for all the scopes I have tested over the years.

Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH during mechanical testing
Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH during mechanical testing

Summary and Conclusion:

There is no getting around that the Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH left me a little disappointed. This is because it was optically a clear step below its peers in almost every dimension tested and, given the performance of its sibling SIII last year, I did not expect that. Though not the cheapest, its ~$699 street price is one of the lower costs in the field and it does have some features not present in all other scopes. Illumination is the most notable of these features, which also include a pull out throw lever and zero stop. The S-TAC is one of the only scopes to be limited to 5 mils / turn though. I don’t think that there is one universal answer in this sub $1K price range of ffp mil / mil scopes. If cost and illumination are important to you and optical performance is less important, the S-TAC has what you are looking for. Ironically, it has precisely the opposite strengths and weaknesses from its sibling SIII. I guess they were separated at birth.

Here is Your Pro and Con Breakdown:

Pros:
-Has some features not all have: Illumination, zero stop, and a detachable throw lever
-It’s zero stop system provides a good indicator of which turn you are on
-Adjustments have a good feel and the correct resistance to them so you don’t miss count clicks
-Sightron has a good warranty and reputation
-At ~$699 street, it is one of the lower cost options

Cons:
-Optically a clear step below the other sub $1K optics tested
-Only 5 mils / turn
-Significantly below average total elevation adjustment range
-Manual is lacking and contains basic errors

Testing methodology link

Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH on Mesa Precision Arms Crux (front) and Sightron SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH on Kimber 82g (back)
Sightron S-TAC 4-20X50FFPZSIRMH on Mesa Precision Arms Crux (front) and Sightron SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH on Kimber 82g (back)
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
Jan 202018
 

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

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

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

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

 

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Jan 162018
 

written on January 16, 2018

I do not usually post much about new product introductions, but this one addresses something I was just discussing, so I figured I should.

I wrote a little bit about Shield red dot sights lately and I just so an announcement that they are introducing an even smaller version of their diminutive RMS reflex sight.

This one is called RMS-C and it is basically a narrower version of the RMS (all pictures are from the press release, not something I took):

I liked the RMS so much that I cut my Glock 43 for it.  It does overhang a little, but my options were limited and it does work well.  Now, as soon as it is available, I will get the RMS-C for my Glock 43.  Anything cut for the RMS will work with RMS-C (same screw locations), so this should be a painless transition.

Kudos to Shield, for quickly reacting to the market.

Now, I need to decide what gun I should put the regular RMS onto…  Don’t tell my wife, but I think I need a new gun.

It is already available for sale directly from Shield in the UK:

RMSc – Reflex Mini Sight Compact 8MOA

As soon as I see it for sale by a US-based distributor, I’ll add some links.

 Posted by at 11:51 am
Mar 242017
 

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

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

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




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

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

20.5 @ 10x

34.78 – 7.21

10.8 @ 10x

105.8 -10.5
Exit Pupil 8 – 2

2.4@10x

11.8 – 2.8

4.2@10x

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

(125 MOA)

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

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

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

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

Lastly, big thanks to Jeff from MTC Optics USA (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.

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Feb 072017
 

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).




Docter Optics

DocterSight G

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.

I think these are Cerakoted...

I think these are Cerakoted…

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.

Docter Optics QuickSight

Docter Optics QuickSight

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.

 

Janz Revolvers

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.

Janz

Janz

The whole kit.

The whole kit.

 

EOTech

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.

EOTech Vudu 1-6x24

EOTech Vudu 1-6×24

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.

EOTech Vudu riflescopes and Q's

EOTech Vudu riflescopes and Q’s “The Fix” rifles

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.

 

Nightforce Optics

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.

Trijicon

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).

Trijicon MRO

Trijicon MRO

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.

Trijicon 1-8x28

Trijicon 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.




Juggernaut Tactical

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.

JT CA-compliant Stock for AR-type rifles

JT’s CA-compliant Stock for AR-type rifles

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.

Kel-tec

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.

US Optics

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.

Shield Sights

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).

Shield SIS

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.

 

1MOA with 65MAO circle reticle

 

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.

Shield RMS

Shield RMS

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.

 

Nite-Site

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.

Nite-Site gizmo

Nite-Site gizmo

 

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

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.

ED Glass in Sightron's next to of the line scope

ED Glass in Sightron’s next to of the line scope

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.

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
Nov 252016
 

Talking about clothing is a bit of a departure for me, but a little while ago, I ran into a guy who got Lyme disease from a tick.  That got me thinking about insect repelling sprays, clothing, etc.  While I was at it, I tried to find something that is also moisture-wicking and offers some reasonable protection from the sun.  What makes this a bit complicated is the fact that some materials or chemical treatments are not compatible with my skin: I often develop rashes and irritations with clothing made from synthetic materials.

The funny thing is that I can not trace it down to a specific material.  For example, something made of polyester will work well with one maker and not at all with another.  I figure that it must be down to some sort of the treatment, rather than the material itself.

On paper Haeleum Darian shirt seemed to have everything I was looking for:

On top of that I like the Mossy Oak camo pattern.  It is thoroughly useless for anything that I might need, so my interest in it is purely aesthetic.

I am not sure what the Haeleum Darian shirt is treated with, but it agrees with my skin.  I wore it for a bit and had no issues.  Testing how resistant it is to various insect proved to be a little bit difficult, but the chemical it is treated with (permithrin) is a pretty well explored quantity and it works well.  However, I will fully admit that I did not try to seek out ticks or Zika-carrying mosquitoes just to see how well it works.  The wasps, of which I have a bunch in my yard, did not land on the shirt, nor did the flies on a hot day when I went to chop some wood in the yard (I had five large pine trees taken down a little while back and I have been chopping them into firewood for exercise).  I will spare you the pictures of me wearing the shirt as a public service of sorts.  It is fairly tight fitting and an image of a fat man in a tight shirt is something you might never be able to unsee.  The shirt I ordered is 2XL and the overall fit is pretty good.  The only thing to note is that the sleeves seem to run a bit short.  They do not cover the wrists, which I thought was a bit unusual.  On the other hand, I prefer that to sleeves that are excessively long.  The rest of the claims Haeleum made seem to have been accurate: I did not get burned through it (no mean fit in California), and it wicked moisture admirably.

One nice touch that I was happy to see was that the size information was printed right on the shirt material, rather than on a label that would get itchy at the worst possible moment:

The way the stitching is done is also pretty nice in a sense that there was nothing scratching or irritating me.  The material is very soft and seems to be staying that way through a couple of washes.

All in all, despite the slightly short sleeves, I’ll keep wearing this shirt and see how long it stays comfortable.  I think I will look into a few other shirt colors from Haeleum.  This is a new brand for me and, so far, I am reasonably impressed.

 Posted by at 10:45 pm