Apr 222017
 

Written by ILya Koshkin, April 2017

I have been continuing to look at miniature red dot sights.  I started a while back with the original Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor and continued on to a bunch of others, most recently DocterSight III and Meopta Meosight III.

Since then, DocterSight III has found a permanent place on my primary AR, mounted on top of the Elcan Spectre OS 4×32 as a close range/backup sight.  I took a rifle class with this combination at Frontsight and I am about to take another one in a week or so.




Spec table

Meopta MeoRed DocterSight III Meopta

MeoSight III

Leupold

Deltapoint Pro

Length, in 1.87 1.8 1.9 1.82
Width, in 1.07 1 1 1.31
Height, in 1.02 0.96 1.2 1.3
Weight, oz 1.05 0.88 oz 1.29 1.95 oz
Window Size, mm 23×17 21×15 23×17 25.7×17.5
Dot Size, MOA 3 MOA 3.5 or 7 MOA dot 3 or 5 MOA dot 2.5 MOA dot or 7.5 MOA triangle
Brightness Control Manual, side button Auto, 3 modes Auto and Manual modes, front button Manual, button on top of battery tray, MST
Parallax setting 50 yards 40m (44 yards) 50 yards 50 yards
Battery Life 1000 hours  not listed 1000 hours  not listed
Battery Type CR2032 Side slot CR2032 Bottom mount CR2032

Side tray

CR2032

Top mount

Price $500 $415 $400 $550

Looking at the specs, a couple of things stand out:

-Deltapoint Pro is notably larger than the others here and also sports the largest viewing window of the bunch

-DocterSight III is the only one without a manual adjustment mode

-They all use the same reasonably ubiquitous battery, but use different means of holding it

-They are all parallax free at more or less the same distance.

I have used all four rather extensively and all were with the smaller of the available dot sizes: 3MOA for the Meopta, 3.5 MOA for the Docter and 2.5MOA for the DeltaPoint Pro.  In principle, the triangle available in the Deltapoint is my preferred configuration.   I sight the top vertice in for more accurate shots at 100 yards or so (different for different bore to sightline offsets) and for speed I just use the whole triangle as if it was a dot.  It works great for center of mass hits.  That all worked wonderfully until I developed some astigmatism in my shooting eye.  As it always happens, when real life chimes in, principles fly out of the window.  A triangle works great when it looks like a triangle with clean lines and vertices.  When it no longer does, you go back to using a simple dot.  The dot does not look terribly round either, but you learn to deal with it.  A slightly distorted dot is easier for me to deal with than a slightly distorted triangle.  Generally, if you have astigmatism, a larger dot will usually look cleaner than a smaller dot.  I still lean toward smaller dot sizes, but my astigmatism is not very severe and I am a precision guy at heart.  With all that, when I am looking for a little more precision, I aim with the edge of the dot and that edge is cleaner looking with a larger dot.  I plan to experiment with that a little when an opportunity presents itself.

So far, all of the sights have spent time on both handguns (different Glocks) and rifles (AR15 and/or AR10).  All held zero admirably and did not give me any trouble whatsoever in terms of reliability.  I have not tried them on shotguns, but I suspect that the pounding they take mounted onto a slide of a semi-auto handgun is a more severe torture test of the sight than anything they get on a shotgun (and a much less severe torture test of my shoulder).

If I had to make a guess on which one seems most durable, I would lean toward the Leupold.  However, this is all conjecture since they have all worked fine for me.  The Deltapoint Pro does have a steel shield around the screen and is the beefiest of the three.  That beefiness does have a downside: it is heavier than the other three sights and getting it to co-witness on a handgun is not straightforward.

In the picture above, the Atom slide is equipped with pretty tall sights and they still do not co-witness.  On a handgun that I might use for defensive purposes, co-witnessing is a must.  After some research, I found that there is an even taller front sight out there.  Leupold offers a rear sight that attaches to the back of the Deltapoint (I did not test that), so you could set up cowitnessing, but options are limited.  Another thing, I did not like too much about the Deltapoint is the intensity control.

Dot brightness is controlled by a button integrated into the top of the battery cover.  In the picture above, you can see it marked by a large letter L.  It is right behind the lens.  To adjust dot brightness, you keep pressing the button.  Unfortunately, while you are pressing that button, you finger is blocking the lens and you can’t see the dot.  I found that awkward, at best.  The way I ended up using the DeltaPoint was to set the dot to a medium bright setting that worked adequately well across a range of lighting conditions and avoid messing with it.  However, that means it blooms and has a noticeable forward signature in low light (or if I adjust it too low, it is not easy to see in bright light).  That more or less wraps up with a negatives.  I liked everything else about the sight.  Honestly, if Leupold offered it with an optional auto-adjust mode, I would have purchased it.  One feature I really liked was the motion activated shut-off.  When the sight does not move for a while, the dot shuts off.  When it detects motion, it turns back on again.  In practical terms, what that meant was that I never bothered to turn it off.

When I set it up on my 10mm carbine, the DeltaPoint Pro was absolutely at home.  Of all of these compact sights, the Leupold transitions the best into a primary long arm sight.  A pistol caliber carbine is not exactly a long range weapon, but I was comfortably tagging steel plates at 200 yards with it and would be perfectly comfortable taking it hunting with me.  Leupold offers the DeltaPoint with a bunch of mounting options and with a riser that gets it up to perfect co-witness height on straight stock firearms (AR15s and the like).

Meopta MeoPro is a much smaller sight and is a further development of the MeoSight III I am well familiar with.  The MeoSight III had a control button on the housing, which I generally liked, although it made some mounting options complicated (on my Atom slide, the tall rear sight would have blocked that button).  However, the MeoSight III offered both manual dot intensity control and an auto-adjust mode.  Unfortunately, if you just turned the sight on, it defaulted to the manual adjust option which always seemed like a bad way of doing things.   I would have preferred a single press of the button to turn on the auto mode, with subsequent presses going into manual adjust.  The newer MeoRed does away with the auto mode entirely, which might be an indication that everyone except me prefers the manual adjustment.  The control button of the MeoRed is on the left side of the lens housing.  It sticks out a little and is very easy to engage.  What I do not know is how easy it is to engage accidentally.  It seems like it would be, but I have not done it.  I am having another 10mm slide machined to accomodate the MeoRed.  Once that is done, I’ll be able to do a better test of how well that button is positioned.

While on the outside the MeoRed looks to be about the same size as the earlier Meosight III, it has a slightly lower base, which make c0-witnessing easier.  The battery is inserted from the side, but there is no pull-out tray for the battery.  There is a covered slot.  The cover is held by two screws and seems to be a very secure way of holding a battery.

Up to now, I only tested the MeoRed on a picatinny bases, since I do not have a slide machined to accept it.  It has a similar footprint to Docter, but different screw locations.  I will set up a slide for it and continue testing.

As far as how these three sights compare to each other, that is not a simple answer.  The dot is slightly sharper on the Docter than on others, but since they are not of exactly the same size, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.  The lens does look a little clearer on the Docter.  Leupold is the fastest on target simply because it has a larger lens.  Between Docter and MeoRed, I can not see any speed difference.  The lens size is about the same between these two despite what the specifications say.  The biggest difference is in the control method, with the Meopta and Leupold having manual intensity control, while the Docter has three auto modes.  For the way I use these sights, I prefer the way DocterSight III works.  What I do not like about the DocterSight III is the bottom mounted battery.  Since the sight has to be removed from the base to change the battery, I have to check and adjust zero every time the battery is replaced.

DeltaPoint is about to head back Leupold.  MeoRed is going to spend some time getting beat up by my 10mm Glock.  DocterSight remains on my AR15 as an accessory close range sight for my Elcan Spectre OS.  It has now survived two carbine classes and many months of practice without skipping a beat, so that is where it will stay.

 Posted by at 7:07 pm
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 182017
 

Continuing where I left off in Part 1

 

Vortex

I think Vortex is one of the more a forward looking companies in this business and the pace with which they have been growing is pretty impressive.  I think their product strategy for a bit looked somewhat like a shotgun blast: fire off  a bunch of new products at the market and see what sticks.  It worked adequately and they came up with a good product range, but thankfully, it looks like they are moving past.  Their product line-up looks reasonably coherent and logical to me, except for a few outliers.  I wonder if those will develop into separate product lines or remain single product experiments.   Vortex has converged on four discreet quality levels for their products: Razor (made in Japan and/or USA), Viper (made in Phillipines), Diamondback (made in Phillipines) and Crossfire (made in China).  For conventional riflescopes, this gradation stays consistent for both tactical and hunting products and for all four product levels, Vortex offers very compelling alternatives to other brands.  With riflescopes, the outliers are Golden Eagle target scope and Strike Eagle low range variable.  These are very different kinds of eagles with the Golden Eagle being more or less at the Razor-level of performance, while the Strike Eagle is a “me too” OEM product.  I am a little surprised they didn’t call the Golden Eagle “Razor F-Class” and be done with it, so I wonder if it will spawn another product family.  With red dots, the naming is sorta all over the place, but it almost seem like they are beginning to clean that up as well.  There is a pretty nice Razor reflex sight and a new Razor AMG UH-1 holographic sight that sit at the top of Vortex’s non-magnified sight line-up.  With the tube-style red dot sights, the original Strikefire is still there and somewhat more recent Sparc and Sparc AR.  All are pretty compelling products for their price ranges, although I will freeley admit to liking Sparc AR a lot more than the other two.  With compact reflex sights, in addition to the previously mentioned Razor, there are the Venom and Viper.  They cost about the same, but use different batteries,  Venom has a top loading battery and slightly larger lens.  Viper needs to be removed from its mount to change the battery, which may effect zero.  I do not fully understand why I would choose one over the other (in my case, why I would choose Viper over Venom), so I am curious to see how Vortex will work this out.  Lastly, there are the Spitfire prism sights.  I am not sure where they fit in the Razor-Viper-Diamondback-Crossfire continuum.

Razor AMG UH-1

Razor AMG UH-1




Generally, with Razor products, the only new offering is a very interesting looking holographic sight. I liked what I saw and I plan to test one.  This is an interesting time to take on EOtech and I think Vortex will do well with this one.  The optical design looks to be a little simpler from alignment standpoint than EOtech, so I do not expect it to have thermal stability issues.  Controls are pretty straightforward with two pushbuttons on the back of the sight.

UH-1 with VMX3 magnifier

UH-1 with VMX3 magnifier

I am a bit mixed on that since accessing them when used with a magnifier could be a bit difficult.  Generally, magnifier use is one of the advantages holographic sights have over reflex style red dots, so I spent some time trying to convince Vortex to make a high quality magnifier for the UH-1.  We’ll see if they do it.  They did have the UH-1 set up with the VMX3 magnifier (which I just tested with Sparc AR) and while it is a very respectable magnifier and good for the money, I do not think it is quite good enough for the UH-1.  However, in the picture to the left, you can see how accessing the controls could be a bit problematic.  Lastly, since all holographic sights have a significant battery life disadvantage compared to reflex sights, I was happy to see a rechargeable battery option.

The rest of the Razor line is unchanged for now and, honestly, that is a good thing.  These are excellent scopes.  Razor HD LH has become my go to recommendation for hunting scopes (I think they will adda model or two to it next year) and Razor AMG is still almost impossible to get due to all the backorders.  Razor Gen II in the meantime soldiers on as one of the more compelling general purpose precision scopes out there.  I think the decision to round out the Razor line-up with an American-made quick acquisition sight is a good one.  Aside from that, the Razor HD spotters are new(ish) and I am testing the 65mm model.  It is very good.

PST Gen 2 3-15x44 and 1-5x24

PST Gen 2 3-15×44 and 1-5×24

Viper product family probably had the biggest splash in the Vortex booth this year, since the PST riflescopes were redesigned.  They are still made in the Phillipines, but by a different maker.  The new models are 1-5×24, 2-10×32, 3-15×44 and 5-25×50.  They all sport a new larger eyepiece and they are a bit heavier than their predecessors.  1-5×24 is a SFP model only, while the others are available as both FFP and SFP.  The reticles are well conceived and are generally similar to those in the Razor scopes, so someone who uses a Razor on a primary rifle can put a new PST onto a trainer and feel right at home.  The three higher magnification scopes now sport a proper zero stop similar in operation to Gen 1 Razor.  They seemed like well designed scopes at SHOT and I suspect they will be a meaningful improvement over the original PST.  The big question, of course, is whether they will compete well against all the scopes that were designed to compete against he original PSTs.  That question I can not easily answer without doing a proper test.  The Gen 2 PSTs run between $700 and $1100 depending on the model, so they are a bit more expensive than the original ones and go head to head against Burris XTR II and a few others, most notably Athlon Ares and Midas (2.5-15×50 and 4.5-27×50), as well as Hi-Lux Phenom HD 6-30×56 and PentaLux 4-20×50.  There are others, of course, but one of the things I am really curious about is whether the better-made Chinese scopes from Athlon and Hi-Lux can compete adequately well (and consistently enough) against the better-made Phillipine scopes like the PST Gen II and XTR II.  Once I work that out, the next question will be how well they stack up against Japanese competition like Sightron S3 and some of the US competition like Leupold VX3i LRP.  Basically, I am going to have a lot of fun with this, since this is the price range I want to look at this year.

Among the PST Gen 2 scopes, the 3-15×44 and 1-5×24 seemed to be the best ones of the bunch based on a rather cursory look, so I will start with the 3-15×44.  Interestingly, with the original PSTs, the 2.5-10×32 was the best optimized model, followed by the 6-24×50, while the 2.5-10×44 was the runt of the litter.  We’ll see if my original impressions of the Gen 2 are correct.

Rounding out the Vortex news, they introduced a tactilized version of the Diamondback with a ranging reticle and exposed turrets.  I like Diamondback scopes, but unless there is a lot of interest I will likely skip this one over: it only comes with MOA turrets and I really prefer mrad.

Lastly, Vortex now has a rangefinding binocular called Fury HD.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with how it looked, but then again, at around $1200, it is about half the price of the LRF binos I like.  In other words, as far as LRF binoculars go, I am both spoiled and picky.  I will look at it if time allows, but I have a suspicion that these will be difficult to come by for a bit, so a test may have to wait.

 

Hi-Lux Precision Optics

I know these guys pretty well, since I have been talking to them on and off for some years.  The first of their product I looked at many years ago was not great and I was not kind to it.  Rather than getting all poochy-faced about, the guys at Hi-Lux took it as constructive criticism and got better.  The next scope of theirs I looked at was the original 7-30×50 Uni-Dial with an elevation turret that allows to set flags for different distances (they have a patent on this and I am moderately certain that some other people who use this approach pay them licensing fees).  That scope was not a world beater either, but it stayed zeroed and adjusted true.  Some things on it were a bit crude, but it was ultimately a very usable design and I said exactly that.  A bit more time passed and Hi-Lux introduced their CMR and CMR4 scopes, which are generally good and absolutely superb for the money.  These scopes easily landed on my list of recommendations and I spent a fair amount of time and effort beating them up.  They kept working and working well.  Most importantly, they did well for Hi-Lux so there are enough of these out there to give me confidence that Hi-Lux can build these consistently.  Unlike most other companies who make optics in China, Hi-Lux has their own factory, so they control the manufacturing process.  As they continue moving toward more sophisticated designs, I’ve been sorta keeping tabs on what they do and it sounds like this year they have a bunch of new stuff that is of interest to me:

-CMR8 1-8×26 FFP with 34mm tube

-new Uni-Dial 5-30×56 SFP with a 34mm tube (successor to the original Uni-Dial I tested so many years ago)

-Phenom HD 5-30×56 FFP with a 34mm tube

-PentaLux 4-20×50 FFP or SFP with a 30mm tube

-CMR4-based 1-4x34AO Competition scope since you can now use optics for servie rifle competition

-8×42 and 10×42 binoculars with field flattener lenses

All of these will be in the $500 to $900 range, which makes them fairly accessible.

Hi-Lux makes a lot of other stuff as well, but most of it has been around for a bit and I do not have enough time to look at everything.  I will, however, mention the MM2 (Micro-Max 2) red dot sight that I have failed to break for a number of months now.  It is probably my favourite of the sub-$300 tube-style red dot sights (and is one of the reasons I have not bought an MRO).

The new CMR8 is of particular interest to me since late last year, Hi-Lux asked for some ideas on a reticle for the CMR8.  They already had a very nicely executed internal design, but they wanted another option.  I am perpetually dissatisfied with most of the reticles out there, this was an opportunity for me to try a design that I like.  I suggested a few things and they implemented most of them and added a couple of other things that appealed to them.  I will talk a bit more about this reticle in future articles.  At SHOT was the first time I saw it live and I think it is going to work well for my purposes.  I took a couple of blurry handheld pictures at 1x and at 8x, so you can see what it looks like.  I will do better photography when the first production scopes get here.

CMR8 reticle at 8x

CMR8 reticle at 8x

CMR8 reticle at 1x

CMR8 reticle at 1x

My basic design concept was to have a large out horseshow that is outside the FOV at 8x, but salmost serves a ghost ring at 1x. At 8x, the smaller 10 mrad horseshow is the dominant feature designed to draw the eye to its center where there is a mil-scale and a small mrad-grid array that serves as elevation, wind and lead holds for typical 5.56, 6.5Grendel or 7.62×51 load out to 500-600 yards without the need to twist the turrets.  The grid can also be used for quick rangefinding which I will cover in more detail later.  However, the primary rangefinding features are the choke style rangefinders for both horizontal and vertical targets 1m and 1.75m in size.

CMR8

CMR8

Aside from the reticle, the scope looked pretty well executed, but I will reserve judgement until I get a production unit and properly test it. The turrets are easily finger-adjustable with 0.1 mrad clicks.  You can keep them exposed without any undue effects, but I prefer to run scopes like this type primarily with the reticle, so the included turret covers suit me well.  The illumination starts at a couple of night vision compatible settings one one end and gets pretty bright on the other end.  I am not convinced it will be day bright at 1x, but the reticle is designed to be very visible regardless.  I will work it out for a range of lighting conditions once it gets here.  Overall, the scope is fairly compact at only 10″ of length and at 22 ounces is not overly heavy for a 1-8x design.  Field of view looks to be impressively wide and eye relief is longer than on the CMR4.

Hi-Lux Uni-Dial

Hi-Lux Uni-Dial

The new Uni-Dial seems to be a new design and since I liked those programmable turrets originally, I will definitely test this one as well.  The turrets seemed to have decent feel and tool-less reset.  These days, many companies offer custom engraved turrets for their scopes.  Uni-dial’s customizable nature approaches the same problem from a different angle.  I suspect that the new Uni-Dial and Phenom HD are related design differing in reticle location and perhaps a few other design specifics and aesthetic features.

Hi-Lux Phenom HD 5-30x56FFP

Hi-Lux Phenom HD 5-30x56FFP

The turrets are clearly different between the two with the Phenom being ore of a traditional precision scope design with knurled exposed turrets.  Both offer a removable cat-tail for quick magnification adjsutments.  The FFP reticle in the Phenom is a mil-grid style (along the same lines as Sig’s DEV-L, some Horus designs and many others) and generally this scope’s feature set is pretty ambitious.  I think the Phenom and Uni-Dial will be the first of Hi-Lux’s new scopes I look at.  With the CMR8 and the new competition scope following suite in late spring some time.  As I mentioned earlier, between Hi-Lux and Athlon it looks like Chinese-made designs are really coming of age.  Hi-Lux’s Phenom HD and CMR8 are ambitious designs, but if they are executed well could be a pretty major deal simply because of their sub-$1k price.

CMR4-based service rifle scope

CMR4-based service rifle scope

The CMR4-based competition scope is fundamentally a direct response to the change in the service rifle competition rules that now allow magnified optics of no more than 4.5x of magnification and no more than 34mm objective.  Bother March and Nightforce came out with scope specific for this competition, but both are expensive at $1900 for the Nightforce and well over $2k for March.  I am sure they are exceptional, but I was curious to see what will be out there that is a bit more affordable.  Well, this is an interesting design that will be far cheaper.  Best I can tell, it is the regular CMR4 with the objective lens bumped up to 34mm and adjustable configuration to dial out parallax.  The reticle is a fairly clean MOA-based design.  Now that the rules allow for optics, I have been thinking about trying the service rifle competition.  My original plan was to simply use my Elcan Spectre OS, but perhaps I will experiment with this one as well.  Honestly, I think it is a clever way to quickly get a product to market using a proven platform.  Similarly importantly, this is probably the largest objective for a low range variable scope out there.  I am very curious to see how it does.  At 4x, with a 34mm objective, this scope should have far better low light performance than most similar low range variable designs.  While Hi-Lux was thinking of service rifle competition when they came up with this, I can think of a variety of other applications where it can do well.




Sig-Sauer Electro-Optics

I would like to start this with a formal complaint:  I take my sweet time when I test precision riflescopes.  After months of messing with it, I finally concluded that I really like Sig’s Tango6 scopes.  Naturally, Sig responded by introducing an entirely new Tango6 line-up.  The 1-6×24 is not too different, except the tall turrets I did not like are gone, replaced with covered low and wide knobs.  It is also the only one with a 30mm tube.  The rest are 34mm.

New Tango 6 3-18x44

New Tango 6 3-18×44

The 3-18×44 got much shorter and noticeably fatter.  It is now about the same length as the Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44, but a lot heavier.  4-24×50 is new, while the 5-60×56 appears to be similar to other designs coming from the same OEM (you all know who this is, but Tango6’s product manager seemed sensitive to this, so I won’t say it out loud).  Other than the 1-6x, they all have 120 clicks per turn turrets (i.e. 12 mrad for me or some irrelevant number of MOA for the unholy MOA shooters out there…) that also have zero stop and locking capability (pull-up to unlokc, press down to lock).  The 1-6×24 might also have that many clicks, but I did not check.  The turret on the 1-6×24 is now eerily similar to the Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6×24.  I like all of these new turrets.  The feel was good and the feature set is very rich.  There is now an electronic level and, importantly for me, there is now a mil-grid Christmas tree stile reticle called DEV-L.  For me, that is a big deal.  The electronic level has two indicators that appear to be in the reticle plane, that light up when the scope is not level.  They eat a little into the FOV, so I am trying to decide what I care about more: FOV or electronic level.  I asked Sig to keep me in mind when the 4-24×50 shows up.  While in principle a 3-18×44 is more up my alley, the 4-24×50 is only 3 ounces heavier, so I figured I would rather look at that model.

Sig Whiskey5 scopes

Sig Whiskey5 scopes

Whiskey 5 scopes have gone through an update as well.  These are Japan-made hunting scopes that are now black in color (apparently the hunting crowd objected to greyish bodies).  They also gain the previously mentioned electronic level.  They look like fairly well worked out hunting scopes.

Other riflescope product lines (Tango4 and Whiskey3) look to be reasonably unchanged.

Sig’s excellent LRFs get an upgrade in the form of Kilo2200 and Kilo2400.  Kilo2200 looks like its predecessor, but get a little more range.  Kilo2400 doubles the price tag and adds a sophisticated ballistic calculator and a wind meter that plugs into your smartphone.  Essentially, it is an attempt tog et rid of the Kestrel.  I do not spend a whole lot of time looking at LRFs, but this got my interest.

Aside from that, Sig has a new full size red dot sight called Romeo6 that is apparently assembled in the US.  It looks like a nice sight, but full-size red dots are not my cup of tea.  It does have a solar battery, which I like (I just tested solar powered compact Romeo4).  What did peak my interest was the Juliet4 4x magnifier.  However, it seemed like it was a rather early prototype.  There are not that many truly high quality magnifiers out there, so I am very curious to see what Sig came up with.

 Posted by at 10:40 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
Feb 042017
 

Written by ILya Koshkin In January, 2017

 

Sig Sauer Electro Optics Tango 6 3-18×44

Well, this is one article where I am going to eat some crow, figuratively speaking.  

I make it a point to try to get my hands on some representative samples from more or less every new riflescope brand.  I know that there are differences between models and product lines.  However, since I have a day job, I can’t do a thorough test of everything out there.  I do what I can and only recommend products that I have reasonable hands on time with make it to my list of recommendations.

When I select which products to test, I often ask some of my friends in the industry whether a particular product is worth my time.  I do not always follow their suggestions, but I have to use some sort of a filtering scheme.  When I test a scope, I spend a LOT of time with it and fire a fairly significant number of rounds with it mounted on a gun.  I invest a lot of time and money into it.  I remember I was once talking to a guy who is an avid hunter and he claimed that he practices a lot with his rifle.  Well, after a little digging it turned out that I fire more rounds while testing a single scope than he does in a year with all of his rifles together.  Now, simply firing a lot of rounds by itself does not necessarily mean all that much, but it is still reasonable representation of the time and effort spent.  




When I was first looking into testing a Sig Tango6, a couple of people I talked to said that they are decent, but unexceptional and might not be worth my time.  Sig being a pretty big name, I figured I should test one any way, but my expectations were pretty low.  Digging through the specs was not terribly encouraging either.

Actually using the scope turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  This scope is the case where the whole package turned out to be more than the sum of the individual parts (forgive me for this overused terminology, but it truly is applicable).

Here is the spec table of the scopes I think represent the Tango6’s competition.  I can come up with a few more, but I think this is a good cross-section of what’s out there.  I tried to stick with a similar magnification range and a 42-44mm objective lens.  I did include the Steiner T5Xi in there which is a 3-15×50 design largely because it is the most direct competitor to the Sig price-wise.  I was able to compare the Sig directly to the Nightforce, Leupold and Steiner since I had them here.  I have not looked at the IOR for a bit, but I have spent a lot of time with it in the past.  While it was a pretty groundbreaking design when it was first introduced (especially for the money), in the modern marketplace and in this price range, it is not terribly competitive.  The Bushnell LRHS is a little less expensive, but looks like a very competent design, that I plan to test thoroughly.

Nightforce

ATACR F1 4-16×42

Leupold

Mark 6

3-18×44

Sig Electro-

Optics Tango6

3-18×44

Steiner T5Xi

3-15×50

IOR SH

3-18×42

Bushnell Elite

Long Range Hunter

4.5-18×44

Length, in 12.6 11.9 15.3 13.1 13.5 14.2
Weight, oz 30 (31.9 w/caps) 23.6 31.8 29.8 (31.5 with sunshade) 28 26.5
Main Tube Diameter 34mm 34mm 30mm 34mm 35mm 30mm
Eye Relief, in 3.35 – 3.54 3.8 – 3.9 3.9 3.5 – 4.3 3.35
FOV, ft@1000yards 26.9 – 6.9

11@10x

36.8 – 6.3

11.3@10x

35.3 – 5.9

10.6@10x

36 – 7.3

11@10x

31 – 7.5

13.5@10x

23.5 – 6

10.6@10x

Exit Pupil, mm 10.3 – 2.7 11.4 – 2.4 12 – 3.4 9.2 – 2.5
Click Value 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad
Adj range E: 26 mrad

W: 18 mrad

E: 29 mrad

W: 14.5 mrad

20.9 mrad E: 34 mrad

W: 15 mrad

22 mrad 24 mrad
Adj per turn 12 mrad, double turn 10 mrad, double turn 8 mrad, double turn 12 mrad, double turn 10 mrad 10 mrad
Zero Stop Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Reticle Location FFP FFP FFP or SFP FFP FFP FFP
Reticle Illum Yes Optional Yes Yes Yes Yes
Price $2400 $2200 – $3200 $1800 FFP

$1700 SFP

$1800 $1850 $1449

 

Looking at the specs, the Tango6 looks like a reasonably well conceived scopes, but a little behind the pack in a few key areas: it is significantly longer than others, a little heavier than others, has the least adjustment range and the least adjustment per turn.  Field of View is on the low side of things, although eye relief is adequately long.

Based on the specs, it is pretty easy to lose interest in the Tango6, but I think that would be a mistake.  I found it to be a very well executed scope in most ways.

Mechanically, I had exactly zero problems with it.  All controls were repeatable and well weighted.  Turrets tracked true (while the scope is available with both MOA and MRAD clicks, the version I looked at had 0.1mrad clicks).  SIde focus did not exhibit any hysteresis that I could see and there was no discernible POA shift with side focus adjustment that I could find.  A couple of times when I thought I saw some POA shift while adjusting side focus, it turned out to be parallax error.

The turrets come with zero stop, which I have really learned to appreciate over the years, and with a locking feature: push down/left to lock and pull up/down to unlock.

The 8 mrad per turn is a little low for this price range, but in practice it is not terribly limiting.  I figured that this scope might be at its best on a gas gun, so it mostly sat on the my large frame AR chambered for 308Win:

On the 308Win, 8mrad gets me out to about 800 yards.  To go further, you need to tap into the second turn.  Since the turret has a zero stop, it is pretty difficult to get confused where you are.  The clicks themselves are widely spaced and very tactile, which I liked.  In terms of overall shape, the turrets are fairly tall and not very wide.  They are easy to grasp, but honestly I prefer turrets that are a little lower and wider. Still, I was not in any way limited by this design.

Windage and elevation turrets are similar in size which, ones again, is not really my thing.  I can’t think of the last time I dialed for wind.  I always hold for wind, so I would have preferred a covered low profile windage turret that does not stick out that much.  Still, with the Tango6, the turret locks down, so after zeroing in, I pushed it in and never touched it again.

The elevation turret and the side focus/illumination turret I exercised quite a bit and came away pretty happy.  

 

All the markings are bright and nicely visible under almost any ambient condition.  The throw of the parallax adjustment is a little short, but I got used to it quickly.  The reticle illumination on this scope is easily among the best I have ever seen.  There is an off setting in every other position and the dynamic range is very broad.  The two lowest settings are for night vision and they are very low indeed.  The brightest setting is pretty much daylight bright.  What I really liked was that unlike most precision scopes, there are no hard stops of on the illumination control.  From an off setting between the brightest and the lowest settings, I can rotate the dial either way continuously.  For me that is very convenient.  

The illuminated part of the reticle is the whole thin section.  Since it can get fairly bright, I found it very helpful even in bright light.  Here is a picture of one of the mid-level settings at night:

The picture was taken with a cell phone, so I apologize for the quality.  I bumped the illumination level up, so that the autofocus could lock on the reticle.  The church in the picture is a bit over 750 yards away and the scope is on 3x.  Note that the thick outer bars of this reticle )MRAD Milling in Sig nomenclature) are pretty nicely visible in low light, more so than the picture suggests.  Even with a dead battery, I stand a pretty good chance of being able to use the reticle in low light simply by bracketing between the thick bars.

Also, the scope did not have any tunneling at low magnification.  The black ring in the picture is an artefact of the picture taking process.

While we are on the subject of the reticle, I liked this one.  It is a simple reticle that reminded me of the Gen 2 MilDot except with some additional features: open center and 0.2mil hashmarks in a few strategic spots to aid in range estimation.

Here are reticle pictures at a few different magnifications.  I found the reticle easy to pick out in any light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For comparison, here is a snapshot of Steiner’s SCR reticle at 3x from the T5Xi 3-15×50 that I compared to the Tango6:

 

In anything but good light, without illumination, the Steiner reticle was much harder to use than the one in the Sig.  The SCR reticle in the Steiner, in general, seemed a lot busier.  I am sure it is a very capable design with a lot of features desirable for competition use, but I I found that I preferred the simplicity and visibility of the Sig reticle design.  This is sort of a personal preference for me.  I do not mind complicated reticles (with a strong preference toward Christmas-tree style designs), but I prefer patterns that retain reasonable visibility even without illumination.

 

Getting the reticle focused was pretty straightforward with the quick eyepiece focus adjustment.  Once focused, it stayed that way.  One of the quick checks to see if the erector system in a FFP scope is worked out correctly is to carefully examine the reticle in the center of the FOV and at the edges.  If the reticle lines remain sharp all the way to the edge of the FOV, it is a good sign.  Some early designs with high erector ratios did not do that.  No such problem with the Sig.

Parallax adjustment is a touch quicker than I like, but with a little practice, I did not have too difficult of a time dialing it in.  The scope has pretty good depth of field, so from the standpoint of getting a sharp image, the somewhat quick adjustment of the parallax knob is not an issue.  However, sharp image does not necessarily mean no parallax, so make sure you check.

Optically, I thought that this design was rather well worked out for the money.  I had a bunch of 3-15×50 scopes here (all costing more), so I had a chance to compare them to the Sig.  Mostly, they were better, but also more expensive.  Of the scopes that competed more or less directly against the Sig due to either price or configuration, I choose the first four in the table above: Leupold Mark 6, Nightforce ATACR F1 and Steiner T5Xi.

Overall, Sig did pretty well and about as well as I would expect it to based on price.  Optically, it was better than the Mark 6 (which pays the penalty for being compact), but not quite as good as the more compact and more expensive ATACR F1 4-16×42.  Tango6 is ultimately a better bang for the buck than either one of these, simply due to being less expensive.  In broad daylight, the biggest difference between these three is in apparent contrast.  Nightforce has really gotten better at that recently.  Both Nightforce and Sig have a touch better resolution than the Mark 6.  In low light, the gap between Nightforce and Sig narrowed just a bit, owing to Sig’s excellent flare suppression.  Mark 6 suffered in low light a little simply because it lacked an illuminated reticle.  Still, the ATACR F1 was the best one of the three once the light got low.

The real problem for all three of these scopes in terms of overall performance for the money is Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50, which has a larger objective lens with minimal size and weight penalty, for about the same money as the Sig.  I am not a huge fan of the SCR reticle, but if we take the reticle out of the equation, the T5Xi is a bit better in low light than the other three scopes I mention, has nice low and wide turrets and is pretty easy to get behind.  Now that the tracking issues with T5Xi have been resolved, it is a very nice package.

That having been said, for my purposes, I prefer Sig’ milling reticle to Steiner’s SCR, and I generally found Sig to be very usable.

Eye relief is generous and reasonably flexible.  It gets pretty tight at 18x, but that is the case with most scopes at high magnification as exit pupil gets smaller.  I did not feel unduly burdened by it.  

Naturally, as soon as I finally decide that I really like the Tango6, I go to SHOT and discover that Sig has completely re-designed the line-up and the new 3-18×44 is much shorter and a bit heavier, with a 35mm tube and new turrets (12mrad per turn).  It looked pretty nice, but I am not excited about the weight.  We’ll see how it stacks up.  I did like their new Dev-L grid style reticle.

In the meantime, I suspect that there will be good prices on the first generation Tango6 and if I were looking for a scope of this type, it would be near the top of my list.

 

 Posted by at 12:20 pm
Feb 012017
 

While I work on the pictures and some written commentary, here are the video clips of my ramblings after SHOT.  I apologize about how disorganized these are, but they are mostly intended as a means for me to record my impressions before they fade.

These are long and meandering, so watch at your own risk…




 

 

 Posted by at 10:45 am
Oct 222016
 

Written October 22nd, 2016

DocterSight III

 

I have been looking into various miniature red dot sights for quite some time.  I typically use them as auxilliary sights to the primary magnified optics, but I did put together an article focused on a couple of specimens: Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor (here).  I liked both of them pretty well, but they also had a few shortcomings.  Also, I realized that the type of shooting I typically do is not conducive to giving red dot sights a fair shake.  I am a precision guy at heart, and that is not what these sights are designed for.

That did not mean that I stopped looking at reflex sights, but I did start expanding my shooting practice into other disciplines and, a couple of weeks ago, I finally made it out to Frontsight for a rifle class.  This class had a very brief stint shooting from 200 yards, but the bulk of the shooting was from closer distances, mostly within 50 yards, which is red dot territory by and large.  On top of that, I suffered a leg injury early in the class, so I had to shoot standing from all distances even when other positions were available.  Trying to get into any other shooting position was painful.  Even though I had both a magnified sight and a red dot on my rifle, I ended up using a red dot a lot more than I originally thought.

For me a rifle class is both a training opportunity (especially since shooting offhand is easily my weakest discipline) and an opportunity to test different optics.  I went there with my brother and my nephew and since I had three rifles to set up, I had a chance to look at several sighting systems.

As far as reflex sights go, I had the following with me:

  • DocterSight III (mounted on top of my Elcan Spectre OS 4x)
  • Meopta Meosight III (on the rifle that also had Elcan Spectre 3x)
  • Vortex Sparc AR (with a VMX3 magnifier)
  • Leupold LCO (together with a D-EVO)

 

I will talk about most of these other sights in separate pieces, but I will mention them here and there.




In principle, the DocterSight competes directly against the Meosight and they look very similar, to the point that they even use the same mounts.  However, there are a couple of important differences in how they operate.

DocterSight does not really have any external controls per se.  Once the cover is off, it senses ambient light level and adjusts the dot brightness accordingly.  Generally, that is a pretty good way to go, except for one problem: if you are in a shaded place, but your target is brightly illuminated, the dot might not be bright enough.  To be honest, that is how this whole idea of looking at the DocterSight III started.  I was roaming around SHOT Show earlier this year and upon stumbling onto the Docter booth, I blurted out something along the lines of: “nice sights, but I’ve got some issues with the operating method”.  Going forward, I think I will try to first see what is new in the booth before voicing opinions, since the very pleasant lady at the Docter booth, instead of telling me to shove my opinions where the sun don’t shine, cheerily suggested that I looked at their latest iteration of a reflex sight, namely the DocterSight III.  

DocterSight III, unlike its predecessors supports three different operating modes.  All three involve automatic adjustment with light level changes, but they can now accommodate the variable lighting situations I have described earlier.  Here is an excerpt, from the product manual:

operatingmodes

Keep in mind that this is a log-log plot, so the actual perceived brightnesss difference between the modes is significant.  In order to switch between operating modes, there is a magnetic switch integrated into the front right corner of the sight body and a magnet incorporated into the sight cover.  Hold the magnet to the switch for three seconds and you go to a different mode.  Here is another illustration from the manual:

switchingmodes

Basically, I had to eat some crow.  It is not my favourite thing to do, but that is what I get for talking too much.

I was pretty busy earlier in the year, but in late summer I reached out to Docter and asked for a sample of DocterSight III that I can take with me to the rifle class.

The first thing I did, was try to throw different lighting conditions at the DocterSight III to test all these operating modes and it passed that first test with flying colors.  

Then, I mounted it on my rifle and headed to the range.

 

Sighting it in was pretty trivial.  The adjustment screws require a small flat screwdriver, which is provided with the sight.  They also provide a reference disk that you can affix to the screwdriver and that tells you how much you need to turn the adjustment screws to move the POI.  While I freely admit that it is a good idea, I ignored all that and made some educated guesses.  THe basic process is simple: loosen the set screws on the back, adjust windage and elevation, tighten the set screws again.  I suspect that instead of taking about ten shots to get a basic zero, it would have taken my five, but I can live with that.  Once I got the initial zero, I proceeded to settle down and, taking my time and paying attention the fundamentals, fire off twenty shots without fiddling with anything.  That tells me a couple of things:

1) it is the first rudimentary check on whether the sight is holding zero

2) if you do this, you really get an idea of where your zero is.  Basing it on an aggregate of twenty shots is much more trustworthy than on three.    

I had to make one small adjustment after that and we were off to the races, so to speak.

After that, I spent a fair amount of time setting up other rifles and did not shoot with the DocterSight a whole lot until we headed off to FrontSight.  I did shoot it side by side with the Meopta MeoSight III a fair bit, and one interesting thing that came up was that the dot on the Docter optic had sharper edges.  The MeoSight seemed to have a bit more of a starburst effect to my eyes.  Now, I have a slight astigmatism, so the dot is not perfectly round to me, but with the DocterSight, in slow fire, I could use the edge of the dot for aiming.  With the other red dot sights I had, I could not do that as easily.  Frankly, I have not spent too much time digging into that so far, but I will.  Generally, that blooming effect is usually due to the dot being too bright, but with MeoSight I was running in the manual mode (it has both a manual mode and an Autoadjust mode), so I tried to decrease dot brightness.  The dot was still sharper on the Docter.  Weirdly, the dot in the Leupold LCO and Vortex Sparc AR was also less well defined than in the Docter.

During the class, all reflex sights I had functioned without issues, but I had the most time with the Doctersight and it worked beautifully.  I had some initial concerns that the speed of finding the dot might be a problem due to the sight sitting above the primary sight, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded.  

The 3.5 MOA dot size turned out to be just right for my purposes.  I generally like smaller dots and I think the 7 MOA is better suited for handguns, while the 3.5 MOA was just right on a rifle.

Despite some fairly rough handling the sight stayed zeroed and never gave me a hint of trouble.  I am not sure what the battery life will be, but so far I have not had to change it.  I’ll keep using it and see how long it lasts.  In order to change the battery, I have to remove the sight from the mounting plate, so one of the things I want to keep track of is whether that causes a significant POI change.  Interestingly, some competing designs, like the Razor and Meosight, have a sidemounted tray that holds the battery, while some others, like the Deltapoint Pro and FastFire access the battery from the top.  I am a bit mixed on what is the better way, so it will take some experimentation.  I suspect that accessing the battery from the bottom aids reliability and compactness.  With the side mounted battery, keeping the contacts always connected might be more of a challenge, although I have not run into these issues.  Top acces battery is likely to require a larger sight body and might interfere with LED placement.  Either way, that is one of the things I plan to investigate going forward.

Fundamentally, I like this sight a fair bit and, honestly, more than I thought I would.  I will keep it on my AR for now.  At a later point, I might try it on my Glock.

As I wrap up with my testing, I’ll put together some final thoughts and, naturally, if I run into issues, I will report those as well.  For now, I am pretty impressed with what I see.

 Posted by at 11:11 pm
Oct 212016
 

I mentioned this little carbine a while back:

Pistol Caliber Carbines from TNW Firearms

I finally managed to get my hands on one in 10mm and dragged it out to the range together with my longslide Glock that takes the same magazines.

I really like the concept of this carbine: it is easy to take down and it is very handy.  Also, a 10mm cartridge out of a 16mm barrel is a pretty potent beast.

Now, I understand that firearms need some break in, so I am not going to form any major conclusions yet.  However, of the three ammo types I brought with me, it only fed with one: 180gr FMJ Armscor.  I had two Double Tap loads with me, 135gr HP and 230gr Hardcast and neither would feed.

The trigger is quite possibly the worst I have tried on any modern firearm and the grip it comes with must have been selected specifically to be so uncomfortable that I do not pay too much attention to the trigger.

Once I got a round in the chamber and muscled my way through the trigger, the gun went boom every time and ejected a spent case every time.

I chrono’ed the velocities and they were within expectation.

I will take it apart and take a close look at what is happening inside.  I can see where the cartridges are getting hung up and causing failures to feed, so perhaps I will need to do some minor surgery to that spot. That will wait a bit though since I will first get a couple of hundreds of rounds through it as a break-in process of sorts.  If it still gives me issues, I will give TNW a call and see what they say about it.

Stay tuned…




 Posted by at 7:57 pm
Sep 302016
 

written by ILya Koshkin, September 2016

 

High End Tactical Part V: The Cruiserweights

 

I called the previous High End Tactical article “The Heavyweights” and figured I can stick with the martial arts analogy for this one.  Since the scopes I am looking at are a bit smaller, I figured I can call it “The Middleweights”.  

After some reflection, it occurred to me that the name is not really very appropriate.  This will meander a little, but since I plan to continue looking at high end tactical scopes for the foreseeable future, I figured a little meandering is OK.

As a matter of background, I have been a martial artist most of my life.  I am a pretty big guy, so I am certainly a heavyweight; however, the weight classes I enjoy watching the most, be it in boxing or MMA are the middleweights.  The lightweights may be faster and more technical, but they are usually not big hitters.  The heavyweights hit harder, but they seldom have the speed and as far as technical ability goes, the heavyweight fighters are usually the least skilled of all weight classes (there are exceptions, of course).  The middle weight classes is where you have guys who are extremely technical while still being big enough to hit hard.  To me the middleweights are the best overall fighters in the sport.

Well, the scopes I am looking at for this article are kinda like that: they are exceptionally good allround and can do almost everything in a pinch.  

I was going with the whole middleweight theme until I actually spent some time with these scopes and realized that in terms of “punching power” (to continue with martial arts analogies) these scopes are dangerously close to the larger designs I called “The Heavyweights” in the previous article.

The Middleweights really should be scopes with objectives in the 42mm range and a magnification range of right around 2.5-10x or thereabouts.  For example, Nightforce NXS 2.5-10×42 would be an example of such a scope.  Of the scopes I have assembled, only Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 and Nightforce ATACR F1 4-16×42 could conceivably qualify as middleweights, but both of these sorta punch above their weight class.  

Truthfully, if I manage to finally convince someone to make me a FFP 2.5-15×36 with David Tubb’s DTR reticle, weighing less than 20oz, that will be the perfect “Middleweight” the way I see it




With that in mind, I renamed this article into “The Cruiserweights”.

Still, with all that, there are really a few distinct parts to this article:  Nightforce ATACR F1 4-16×42 and Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 go head to head.  Sig Electro Optics Tango6 3-18×44 also goes head to head with them.  I received the Sig later than others, so I have not had as much time with it and while I will occasionally mention it here, it will largely be a subject of another article.  They have smaller objective lenses than the rest of the scopes here and both seem largely designed for the same application.  Tangent Theta, Steiner M5Xi and Minox ZP5 are similarly priced and have the same basic configuration in terms of magnification range and objective size.  These three offer a very “clean” comparison.  That leaves Steiner T5Xi,  Vortex Razor Gen II and Kahles K312i as different approaches to the same basic value problem:

  • Steiner T5Xi is significantly cheaper than every other scope in this test, so it is an entirely different value proposition.  Here, the question is really “what do you give up by paying $1k less
  • Kahles K312i is also on the lower side of the spread in this group in terms of price, but it has a different take on user friendliness and on optical optimization.  It does have the lowest top magnification in this group, so that is a part of the compromise
  • Finally, Vortex Razor Gen II is the company’s most ambitious design yet with Vortex flatly stating that they are willing to compete against anyone else out there  

 

Here is a spec table for the scopes I have assembled here:

 

Nightforce ATACR F1 4-16×42 Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50 Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 3-18×50 Steiner M5Xi

3-15×50

Tangent Theta TT315M

3-15×50

Kahles K312i 3-12×50 Minox ZP5 3-15×50
Length, in 12.6 11.9 13.1 14.4 14.2 13.8 14.8 13.6
Weight, oz 30 (31.9 w/caps) 23.6 29.8 (31.5 with sunshade) 46.5 32.5 (33.6 w/caps) 27.7 w/caps 29.5 32.5
Main Tube Diameter 34mm 34mm 34mm 34mm 34mm 30mm 34mm 34mm
Eye Relief, in 3.35 – 3.54 3.8 – 3.9 3.5 – 4.3 3.7 3.5 – 4.3 3.54 3.54 3.54
FOV, ft@1000yards 26.9 – 6.9

11.04@10x

36.8 – 6.3

11.34@10x

36 – 7.3

10.95@10x

37.8 – 6.25

11.25@10x

39.7 – 7.9

11.85@10x

38.4 – 8.1

12.15@10x

41 – 11.5

13.8@10x

38.4 – 8.1

12.15@10x

Exit Pupil, mm 10.3 – 2.7 12 – 3.4 10.4 – 3.33 11.5 – 3.5 9.7 – 4.2 11.5 – 3.5
Click Value 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad
Adjustment range E: 26 mrad

W: 18 mrad

E: 29 mrad

W: 14.5 mrad

E: 34 mrad

W: 15 mrad

E: 35 mrad

W: 20 mrad

E: 26 mrad

W: 12 mrad

E: 18 mrad

W: 12 mrad

E: 26 mrad

W: 12 mrad

E: 28 mrad

W: 12 mrad

Adjustment per turn 12 mrad, double turn 10 mrad, double turn 12 mrad, double turn 10 mrad, triple turn 15 mrad, double turn 6 mrad, double turn 14 mrad, double turn 15 mrad, double turn
Zero Stop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Reticle Location FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP
Reticle Illumination Yes Optional Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Price $2400 $2200 – $3200 $1800 $2200 $3000 $3000 $2400 $2900

 

Looking at the numbers tells an interesting story.  As always, they do not tell the whole story (that is why we test scopes), but they are worth looking at.  

Leupold Mark 6 is a seriously compact scope.  I put this spec table together prior to requesting the scopes from the makers.  When I first looked at the dimensions of it I thought that they must be sacrificing some performance for that compactness (I was right, and for some applications it is a worthwhile compromise, but more on that later).  As far as size and weight go, it is in the league of its own in this group. The next lightest is Tangent Theta TT315M, but it is two inches longer which is a big difference.  Nightforce ATACR F1 is designed to compete against the Mark 6 and it is almost as short, but significantly longer.  Weight-wise it is right in the same ballpark as the 50mm designs.  Interestingly, Steiner T5Xi with its 50mm objective weighs about the same as the Nightforce and is barely half an inch longer.  Generally, both Steiners, Tangent Theta, and Minox are all of very similar weight and size. Kahles weighs about the same, but is the longest scope here.  Vortex Razor HD Gen 2, while a touch shorter than the Kahles is in an entirely different class as far as weight goes.  It is a full pound heavier than most scopes here.  Gen II’s weight has been a subject of considerable discussion ever since the scope was released and my take on it is very simple: if you are mounting a scope on a heavy precision rifle that weighs fifteen pounds to start with the extra weight of the Gen II is irrelevant.  However, if you are scoping an accurate gas gun that weigh 8lbs (like my Grendel chambered AR), it is a different ballgame.

Kahles has a seriously wider field of view (FOV) than everything else.  That is sorta their thing and it stands out.  However, on the flip side of the coin, K312i has the lowest magnification range here.  I did not feel particularly affected by it, but for some conditions it can make a difference.

Also, if you look at FOV, you notice that Tangent Theta TT315M and Minox ZP5 3-15×50 have absolutely identical numbers (same for eye relief).  Both are descendants of the original Premier Heritage 3-15×50 design and they bear certain similarities.  

Steiner T5Xi is the least expensive scope here and by a significant margin.  It also has the narrowest FOV.  I suspect that the narrower FOV is a side effect of trying to stay on a budget.

The next differentiator in terms of specs is the amount of adjustment and adjustment per turn.  Minox ZP5 and Steiner M5Xi offer the most adjustment per turn at 15 mrad, Kahles is not far behind with 14 mrad, T5Xi and Nightforce offer 12 mrad per turn, while Leupold and Vortex go with the somewhat common 10 mrad.  Tangent Theta here sticks out by offering 6 mrad per turn in a double turn turret.  All of these offer at least a double turn turret (triple for Vortex).  What this means is that with Tangent Theta, once you have everything set-up, you get 12 mrad of available adjustment.  If your shooting routinely requires more than that (mine does not), TT315M is not optimal for you.  You can get away with it by combining the reticle with the turret, but for ELR, I would look elsewhere, namely at the Razor HD Gen II with the most available adjustment in this group by a significant margin. As far as Tangent Theta goes, they do offer a larger version of the 3-15×50 design called TT315P with more adjustment.  However, it is more expensive and of less interest to me, so I stuck with the 30mm tubed TT315M.

All of these scopes offer a ZeroStop of some sort and reticle illumination. Most offer some sort of a locking turret arrangement, which I generally like.  However, for me zero stop is more important than a locking turret on scopes of this type (on smaller scopes where I am more likely to just use the reticle, I really prefer the turrets to either have covers or to lock in place).

In my opinion, scopes in this price range should have reticle illumination.  Note that I list two prices for the Leupold Mark 6.  It costs $2200 non-illuminated and $3200 with illumination.  From a consumer standpoint, paying an extra grand for reticle illumination is, frankly, preposterous.  I suspect that the pricing is set up this way because of some government contract.  If you do business with the US government, you can not offer the same product for sale to someone else for less than the government pays you.  I suspect that the price of the illuminated Mark 6 is set by some contract with the government.

Why do I spend so much time on size and weight of different scopes?  If you only shoot from the bench or prone, it may not make much difference for you.  However, when I test scopes of this type, they spend a little time both on my heavy precision rifle (Desert Tech SRS) and on a couple of lighter rifles (an 8 lbs 6.5Grendel AR-15, a 10 pound LR-308 and occasionally some others).  Once you get into this class, overall performance is not that different between most scopes, unless something gets pretty screwy.  Barring some serious QC problems, there are very few scenarios where I could take a shot with one of these scopes that I can not take with the rest of them.  It does not mean there are no differences.  They are there and they are noticeable.  However, with these scopes we are clearly in the “diminishing returns” part of the price range.  

Here is a spec table for the sub 50mm objective scopes.  I threw the Steiner T5Xi in there because it is comparatively inexpensive and rather compact for a 50mm design.

 

Nightforce ATACR F1 4-16×42 Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 Sig Electro-Optics 3-18×44 Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50 Bushnell Elite Long Range Hunter 4.5-18×44
Length, in 12.6 11.9 15.3 13.1 14.2
Weight, oz 30 (31.9 w/caps) 23.6 31.8 29.8 (31.5 with sunshade) 26.5
Main Tube Diameter 34mm 34mm 30mm 34mm 30mm
Eye Relief, in 3.35 – 3.54 3.8 – 3.9 3.9 3.5 – 4.3
FOV, ft@1000yards 26.9 – 6.9

11.04@10x

36.8 – 6.3

11.34@10x

35.3 – 5.9

10.62 @ 10x

36 – 7.3

10.95@10x

23.5 – 6

10.63 @ 10x

Exit Pupil, mm 10.3 – 2.7 11.4 – 2.4 12 – 3.4 9.2 – 2.5
Click Value 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad
Adjustment range E: 26 mrad

W: 18 mrad

E: 29 mrad

W: 14.5 mrad

20.9 mrad E: 34 mrad

W: 15 mrad

24 mrad
Adjustment per turn 12 mrad, double turn 10 mrad, double turn 8 mrad, double turn 12 mrad, double turn 10 mrad
Zero Stop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Reticle Location FFP FFP FFP or SFP FFP FFP
Reticle Illumination Yes Optional Yes Yes Yes
Price $2400 $2200 – $3200 $1800 FFP

$1700 SFP

$1800 $1449

 

I am not going to go through the whole forensic analysis again, but note how much longer Sig and Bushnell are than the other three scope in the table.  Price-wise, Sig is most directly competes with the Steiner T5Xi, with Bushnell providing some pressure from below.   Here is a picture that shows the comparative size of the Sig, Leupold and Nightforce:

I will have a separate section on each scope as I go along, but first here are some notes on how I test things and how the scopes compare.  Generally, I do not write up my methods in a whole lot of detail for a few reasons.  Mostly, I am lazy and I think my time is better spent by writing about scopes.  Second, that is more trouble than I am looking for. Bottom line is, that nothing that I do here is rocket science.  I am a fairly experienced observer and I am very careful with how I set up my experiments.  It is easy to do for anyone with basic understanding of experiment setup and rudimentary optics.

For optical evaluation, I simply look through the scopes side by side under a variety of lighting conditions and look for differences.  I have to make sure my eyes get enough rest and that the conditions change slowly enough for the comparison to be relevant.  I pay attention to spectral content of light sources since it can change considerably.  I do the same comparison multiple times.  I look at both test targets and real scenes (more real scenes than test targets).  If I find something really screwy or unusual, I set the scope up behind a collimator, take some images and do some numerical analysis.  

One thing worth noting is that the good folks at Kelbly’s sent me their fixture for mounting multiple scopes side by side  on a tripod.  They made the fixture when they were distributing March scopes and I inherited it.  That also gave me an opportunity to play with Kelbly machined rings and I am very impressed with how superb they are especially considering their light weight.  Generally, if you are looking for an accurate rifle, Kelbly’s is worth a look.  I am considering having them build me one.

For tracking and other mechanical tests, I do a few things.  Generally, there is no substitute to actually using these things the way they are supposed to be used.  That is one of the reasons everything takes me so long.  I go and use this stuff.  Tracking is tested both on a rifle under recoil, and in a fixture.  What I do with a fixture is a little different from the approach that has become so popular in the last couple of years, where people bolt the scope to a platform, point it to a grid target at a known range and see how the adjustments work.  I have a precision optomechanical tilt stage from Newport bolted to a tripod sturdy enough for me to sit on (it is the type typically used for pretty serious astronomical telescopes).  The stage is accurate to about a hundredth of a mrad, so it is more repeatable than typical 0.1 mrad turrets.  All I have to do is point the scope at an easily discernible spot fairly far away (like a corner of a building) and by manipulating the tilt stage and the turrets, I can easily test how the adjustments work and the reticle feature size.  I do not need to worry about seeing small features on a grid, about inclination of the line of sight or about distance to the target.

As I test things, I take fairly copious notes.  It can be problematic in low light since to be able to write something down I need light which messes with my night vision.  Sometimes I dictate, or use a red light.  Naturally, if someone else is looking at the scopes, I take notes which is easier.  Here are excerpt from my notes, just to show what they typically look like and what kinds of things I am looking for:

 

Low light test at around midnight looking out from the upper deck.  I am the observer. Examine the church at 757 yards (LRF’ed) with a single bright light that can be moved within the FOV.  Then look out toward the valley (city lights a few miles out).

Scopes tested are Nightforce, TT, Kahles, Leupold, M5Xi, Steiner M, all set on 10x.

Optically, under these conditions, Tangent Theta is the best in this group.  Kahles trails it very slightly. TT has a touch more contrast.  Both have very good flare control.  Ultimately, wide FOV is a big advantage in low light and these two scopes have the widest FOV in this group.  Neither is particularly susceptible to flare or ghost images.

The two Steiners: M5Xi and old M perform well, but have just a little more flare and stray light.  They perform very similarly to each other with the the old M showing a little more detail all in all than the newer M5Xi.  The two smaller objective scope, predictably were a touch worse since they had less light to work with.  In terms of overall performance in low light, the two do very similar things at 10x.  Leupld reticle is easily the most visible in low light in the group.  Nightforce and TT really benefit from illumination.  Kahles and M5Xi also need illumination; thick bars are OK but thin center practically disappears.  Interestingly enough the G2B in the original Steiner Military does better in low light.

 

Day light test.  Alex is the observer.  Impressions on TT, Kahles and two Steiners (M5Xi and Military), with the Vortex added in later.

First impression is at 10x, than 12x.  Primary observation target is a church at a lasered 757 yards.  Sun was at 3 o’clock.

TT stands out as having tremendous depth of field.  Everything (almost) is in focus, to the point where it can even be a little distracting.  Vortex also has extremely deep depth of field.

Kahles picks up a lot of mirage for some reason.

Kahles has the better detail in the shadow than Vortex and marginally better or equal to TT

Kahles image has a flatter look to it.

Ultimately, there is less pop in the Kahles image, but more color detail in the dark portions of what you see.

Steiner M5Xi is easily the least favourite for Alex.  He saw a lot of chromatic aberration that he could not dial out.  He liked the old Steiner M 4-16×50

Ability to see detail: TT, Vortex = Kahles, Steiner

Contrast: Too close to call

Flare: All are well corrected except for Steiner M5Xi that picked up some artefacts.

Adjustment feel:  TT and Kahles were the best in this group of 50mm scopes.  M5Xi the worst.  T5Xi and Vortex are close with T5Xi clicks a touch more distinct.

 

Another night time test.  First at high mag just for the heck of it.  I set all scopes to 15x.

Primary observations targets are the church and DeSoto.  Looking at the billboard behind Kaiser is interesting.

In terms of eye position flexibility at high mag, Steiner M5Xi was clearly the better scope here although none are bad.  Amazingly, both the Leupold and Nightforce can almost hang with the bigger scopes here.  Vortex appears to have the brightest image in this group, but in terms of retained contrast Tangent Theta is a little bit better (and so is Kahles).  T5Xi is very good and amazing considering the cost.

M5Xi seems to have a touch more contrast than T5Xi.

In terms of flare, M5Xi is showing a little more than others, but all are pretty good.  Vortex has phenomenal flare control for such a short objective system scope.  Tangent Theta and Vortex are similar in this regard.  Nightforce, Leupold, and T5Xi are just a touch worse and M5Xi is a little worse still.  I have seen a few M5Xi scopes and this one has more noticeable flare than others.  I wonder if this is just sample variation.

Either way, off axis light sources do not have a strong effect on any of these scopes.

At 18x, Leupold and Vortex both offer a lot of detail, but Vortex edges ahead, probably due to its 50mm objective.  The image is more contrasty.  Mark 6 image at high mag is a little dull.

Nightforce at 16x in low light easily hangs with Leupold and beats it slightly (in low light).  Leupold and T5Xi have slightly narrower FOV than most others and in low light at high mag there is a small perceptual difference in collected light.

At 10x, I can’t help but be impressed with the whole group.  Once my eyes are properly dark adapted, the smaller objective scopes suffer a little bit, but even with a 42mm objective, 10x is a viable magnification setting for a low light shot when the scopes are this good.

As magnification drops, FOV opens up and Leupold starts picking up more significant flare from bright source near the edge of the FOV.  M5Xi, oddly, feels a little less flare prone once the magnification goes down.  Older Steiner Military 4-16×50 that I have also has this effect.  Overall order of things is about the same.  Vortex, for what it costs is stunning.  TT is the best scope here in terms of glass, but it is also one of the more expensive ones.

Playing with the reticle illumination a few things jump out.  T5Xi does this really well.  a small center portion is lit: enough for some holdover, but clearly designed to draw your eye to the center.  Vortex illuminates the whole grid and I do not like it too much.  Nightforce illumination is too bright in really low light even at the lowest settings.

Going to 6x and lower settings is, to quote a movie I like, “Everything is illuminated”.  All scopes look excellent.  As FOV widens, it is easier to induce some internal stray light issues.  Nightforce and Vortex are impressively well-baffled for those.  I can induce some effects with Leupold as well, but they are not too well structured. With TT and both Steiners, by going way off-axis I can induce a semi-circular ghost near the edge of the FOV.  It is a sufficiently minor effect to not matter, but these scopes are so good I am left to nitpick.

 

If I am typing notes up as I go along, I use complete sentences.  Handwritten notes are naturally more terse.

Do keep in mind, that this is just a sample of the notes.  These same observations have been repeated multiple times.

 

The way these scopes line-up is sorta interesting.  Here is my aggregate assessment:

 

Optical quality in good light:

TT315M > Minox ZP5 > Razor Gen II ≥ ATACR F1 ≥ Kahles K312i ≥ T5Xi ≥ M5Xi ≥ Mark 6

Optical quality in low light:

Kahles K312i ≥ TT315M > Minox ZP5 > Razor Gen II ≥ ATACR F1 ≥ M5Xi ≥ T5Xi ≥ Mark 6

Depth of field:

TT315M = Minox ZP5 > Razor Gen II > ATACR F1 > M5Xi > Kahles K312i ≥ T5Xi > Mark 6

Flare control:

TT315M = Minox ZP5 = Razor Gen II = ATACR F1 = Kahles K312i ≥ T5Xi ≥ M5Xi ≥ Mark 6

 

Overall, Tangent Theta is exceptional and Minox is not far behind.  Kahles edges them both out in low light, but by a small margin. Mark 6 has some compromises built-in in an effort to make it as small it is.  Optically, it is a little behind other scopes here, but If you account for how compact it is, the fact that it hangs in this group at all is impressive.  I was extremely surprised to find that overall Steiner T5Xi was able to hang with its much more expensive stablemate the M5Xi.  In low light, M5Xi’s wider FOV helped, but in good light, I actually preferred the less expensive Steiner Tactical.  I have seen several Steiner Military scopes ever since the first ones came out and they all have some sensitivity to flare as the magnification gets past 10x or so.  I suspect that the sample I have is a little worse than average.  Once again, keep the context in perspective: these are all excellent scopes and I am nitpicking.

As far as mechanical quality goes, all of these scopes held zero.  I saw very little reticle hop with side focus adjustment (and that is not an easy measurement to make anyway).  In terms of tracking, the scope I spent the most time on was the T5Xi since there was a lot of controversy around it and the one I have tracks well.  I checked with Steiner and they made a design tweak that resolves the turret issue a number of early scopes had.  

I did check all of the scopes I had on hand and the only one that gave me fits was the Mark 6.  The version I have has the original M5B2 “squeeze to unlock” turret and I am not a fan of it.  

Adjustments were off by a considerable margin and each elevation turret setting had slop to the tune of ±0.1mrad. I do not think any of this is a secret to Leupold and the newer M5C2 turret is much better.  Generally, I think Leupold has some interesting things coming up in the Mark 6 line.  

As far as feel goes, there was a lot of difference between different scopes here.  Tangent Theta has easily the best click feel of any of these.  That should not be any sort of a surprise since it is 6 mrad per turn allowing for rather wide click spacing in a compact turret.

Mark 6 click quality as I mentioned before did not impress me.  Nightforce ATACR F1, on the other hand, is excellent.  The turret is low and wide, which I like and looks very much like the M5C2 turret on Leupold scopes. The turret is locked at its zero position and a push of the button allows it to move.  When you get back to zero, it automatically locks in place.  The turret does not lock in any other position other than the zero setting.  The turret feel of the ATACR F1 and Razor Gen II was somewhat similar in terms of ease of use, but the Razor Gen II can be locked in any position.  There is a collar that pops up to unlock the turret and can be pushed down to lock it in place. I think the clicks on the Gen II are very well weighted and the adjustments were dead on reliable.  It also offers three turns with a tactile indicator of which turn you are on.  However, in order to make that lock ring work, there must be some minimal play in the turret and the clicks on the Vortex are nicely tactile, but not as audible as T5Xi for example.  Of the high adjustment per turn designs, Kahles was the best one.  I am not a huge fan of turrets that allow that much adjustment per turn since the clicks end up too close together.  The best turret of this type I have ever seen was on the larger 34mm tube Tangent Theta and Kahles is up there as well.  Minox is quite good, but not as good as Kahles.  

Minox did something interesting with the markings on the turrets: they are freakishly white and visible.  Apparently they use some sort of ultra high reflectivity paint, so they stand out really well.  At a zero position, two triangle vertices are pointing toward each other.  It is hard to miss:

Steiner M5Xi turret, while adjusting reliably, had much worse feel and it was very easy for me to accidentally skip a click or two.  With visual verification, it worked fine and I did not have any tracking issues with it (I have tested a few M-series Steiners over the years and they all worked well, but the clicks were softer than I like).

Steiner T5Xi turret was more to my liking.  The tactile feel was a touch more “ratchety” than on the Razor Gen II, but more audible.  It was better than on the M5Xi all round.  The clicks are both tactile and audible and very usable.  They are a touch lighter than I like, but I had no problems getting used to them.  The spacing also feels a bit wider than on the M5Xi.  Another reason I was not too happy with the M5Xi turret is that it is quite tall which is not my favourite thing.  That is a personal preference though.

Last comment I’ll make on this is that all other things being equal, how wide the clicks feel is a function of how many clicks per turn are there and of how large the diameter of the turret is.  I tend to prefer turrets that are low and wide specifically for that reason.  It is worth keeping in mind that the clicks on a 10 mrad per turn turret can feel less spaced out than those on a 15 mrad per turn

 

With that commentary out of the way, here are some thoughts on each scope.

 

Tangent Theta TT315M is the only design here with a 30mm maintube.  That limits the overall adjustment range a little, but makes the scope a little lighter.  The turrets are also quite compact and designed to have no more than 12 mrad of elevation available after a proper zero using a 20MOA canted base.  12 mrad is sufficient for most of the shooting I do, but it is definitely not enough for those who shoot really far out.  For ELR, you need to step up to the more expensive 34mm models within the Tangent Theta line and I think that the higher magnification 5-25×56 TT525T is the better suited design.  Those 12 mrad on TT315M come courtesy of a double turn knob.  With 6 mrad per turn, the clicks are widely spaced despite a more compact turret than others here.  The click feel is just spectacular and tracking is flawless.  Another thing that is spectacular is the image quality.  In terms of overall optical quality it is the best scope here.  It is based on the original optical design of Premier Heritage 3-15×50 which I am well familiar with; however, it looks like something was improved.  There were a couple of artefacts inherent to the erector system design in the Premier that I do not see in the Tangent Theta.  Color is exceptional.  There is a lot of texture to the image and small details really pop out at you.  Depth of field is very deep which let me see the conditions at a good range of distances without messing with sidefocus.  Also, if I wanted to get a quick shot off, I could leave the sidefocus set for around 100 yards and the depth of field is sufficient to see everything from pretty close to a few hundred yards without struggling for image focus.  It does not mean there was no parallax error, but the image was sharp over a great depth.  The only complaint I have is purely subjective.  While I really like the Gen 2 XR reticle, I would have preferred the thick outer bars to be a little thicker.  As it is, at lower magnification, the reticle is very hard to use in low light without illumination.  Even in good light, it is not as fast to acquire at 3x as I would like.  This is a personal idiosyncrasy I have: I prefer to be able to use the reticle at all magnifications even if the battery has died.  Also, I really liked the fact that the windage turret on some scopes either has a cover or a turret lock (both Nightforce ATACR F1 and Mark 6, for example have simple covered turrets for windage).  I seldom adjust for windage, so that is a turret I do not use for much of anything aside from zeroing in.  I think for the TT315M a covered turret would save a little more money and fit into its overall concept better.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, this is a comparatively light weight scope (second lightest in this group after the Mark 6), which extends its usefulness to a broader range of rifles than that of a heavier scope.  Had I been in the market for a scope in this price range, the TT315M would be at the top of my list.  This is not just me trying to say the politically correct thing to maintain a good relationship with the manufacturer.  If I were planning to spend $3k on a riflescope for the shooting that I do, I would buy this scope.  I hope that is a blunt enough way of saying how much I liked it.

Kahles K312i in many ways stood out from this group as well.  This is an interesting scope because the basic specs do not look all that impressive outside of the really wide FOV.  If I were new to the market and were simply shopping on specs, I would be extremely likely to overlook the K312i and that would be a mistake.  While I think the Tangent Theta I talked about above is the best overall design here (for anything that needs no more than 12 mrad of adjustment), the Kahles has a lot to recommend itself as well.  For starters, this the easiest scope to get behind in this group.  Eye relief is exceptionally flexible, even slightly better than the Steiner M5Xi which is also very good in this regard.  While the top end magnification is the lowest here at 12x, that is sufficient for most applications.  Now, I am not a competitive shooter, so my take on it is perhaps a little different, but I usually shoot at around 12x or thereabouts since where I live the conditions often preclude easy use of higher mags.  What I do use higher magnifications for is reading the conditions and there, 18x does have an advantage over 12x.  Still, even at 12x I did not have a whole lot of problems reading the mirage with K312i compared to the rest of the scopes in this group.  I suspect that the shallow depth of field is the culprit here.  This more or less wraps up with the negatives.  The positives, in my opinion, far outweigh the negatives.  Firstly, the optical quality is very impressive.  Kahles is optimized for low light and at night it is the best scope here.  Tangent Theta and Minox are very close, but still not quite as good at night. Turrets tracked without any issues.  I checked and checked them again both with recoil and without it.  Tracking is spot on.  In terms of feel, I think these are my second favourite turrets in this group behind the Tangent Theta.   The center mounted parallax turret makes it easily the best scope for left-handed shooters or those who practice shooting off of both sides (something I do not do enough of).  The parallax adjustment is pretty slow, so it was easy for me to dial in the exact correction I wanted.  Illumination is well designed with low light in mind.  Since it is not combined with the parallax turret, the illumination knob is a rather understated affair on the left  hand side of the turret box.  It gets fairly bright, but not quite bright enough for effective use in broad daylight.  With that center mounted parallax and excellent eyepiece design, the Kahles is probably the most overall user-friendly design here.  

It is not compact, but on a lighter side for this group.  With the magnification range being what it is, I think this scope is at its best on compact 308 rifles, especially on gas guns.  Unlike most scopes out there Kahles is available with the windage turret either on the left or on the right side of the scope.  Now, as I mentioned earlier, I do not use the windage adjustment a whole lot, but I do use the illumination.  Depending on the way I shoot the gun, it is easier to reach on the left or right side of the scope.  For example, when using the scope of a rifle equipped with a shooting sling, my left arm is, quite literally, tied up.  In that situation, I have to be able to reach all necessary controls with the right arm without shifting my shooting position a whole lot.  The only scope that gave me a shot at doing that was the K312i with its center mounted parallax and right side illumination control.  On the other hand, when using a bipod, especially with an accurate AR, I prefer to keep my shooting grip and use my left hand for all the scope manipulations.  In that case, the K312i top mounted parallax is equally use to reach.  The illumination is a little more awkward, since it is now on the opposite side of the scope, but still doable. The reticle preferences are in the eye of the beholder.  Kahles uses a version of the MSR reticle with slight modification that is unique to Kahles.  It is a popular reticle these days and for a good reason.  It offers a lot of ranging capability and a precise aiming point.  That having been said my personal preferences recently shifted toward doing elevation and wind holds with the reticle least out to a few hundred yards, so the MSR is not my favourite design.  However, as I said, it is a personal preference more than anything.   Besides, Kahles is available with the AMR reticle that is a cross between a “Christmas tree” design and a Horus.   As I wrap up with Kahles, keep in mind, that is also significantly less expensive than Tangent Theta or Minox that I am going to talk about next.

 

Minox ZP5 is another extremely competitive design loosely based on the original Premier Heritage 3-15×50.  The Premier was designed by Optronika in Germany which itself was, I believe, mostly founded by a group of Schmidt and Bender engineers who were not happy about management changes at S&B.  I am not going to go through all the details of what happened to Premier and Optronika, but the relevant detail is the Minox and Optronika merged a couple of years ago and became one company.  The tactical scopes introduced by Minox are the result of that merger.  Optical quality is superb.  I think Tangent Theta edges it out slightly, but it is close enough to where it might be sample variation.  The turrets use conventional reset method without al the tool-less reset complications that larger Tangent Thetas have (and Premier had), However, they clearly gave a lot of thought to ergonomics and typical usage.  As I mentioned earlier, the white paint on the turrets has incredible visibility in low light and the use of triangles for zero settings makes them very easy to see.  

The overall feel of the turrets is very good, especially considering that they offer 15 mrad per turn. However, like with virtually all turrets of this type, the clicks are a bit closer together than I like.  Still, if you want a lot of adjustment per turn, this is a nice design and after a little acclimatization, I was able to use the scope adjustments by touch.  The magnification control is also a little different than on most scopes.  In that regard, it is similar to Leupold Mark 6 and it is overall the design I like the most in this group: the magnification ring has a lot of length to it taking up a significant portion of the eyepiece.  The whole eyepiece does not rotate, like it does on the Nightforce, but it is still very easy to grab.  Eye relief flexibility is similar to that on the Tangent Theta (the optical system designs between these two are clearly related) and not quite as good as the Kahles.  It is very serviceable though.  The reticle is Minox’ MR5 and it looks somewhat similar to the MSR with an additional rangefinding feature in the lower left quadrant.  I have a suspicion that this particular feature is a solution looking for a problem, but it works and is easy to adjust to.  The line thicknesses are well weighted and I like the illumination.  It is clearly designed with low light in mind as it gets very low for night time use.

 

Vortex Razor HD Gen II 3-18×50 is next on my list, and frankly, ranking its position in this group has been extremely difficult.  First, I have to mention the “elephant in the room”: this scope is bloody heavy!  With that out of the way, I have to grudgingly admit that I do not have anything else to complain about. Literally nothing.  It is a superbly well rounded design.  It covers the broadest magnification range here (along with the Mark 6).  It can hang optically with everything out there. Tangent Theta and Minox are a bit better, but the difference is small.  The scope is very easy to get behind.  It also has the most full featured turrets here with both zero stop and turret lock. Resolution is good.  Contrast is good.  Turrets tracking is absolutely flawless.  Adjustment range is sufficient for just about anything you might want to do. The reticle is my favourite design in this group.  It gives 10 mrad of holdover with the Christmas tree that ends up reasonably unobtrusive when I do not need it.

The rest of the reticle is similarly well conceived with good visibility across a range of lighting conditions and well executed illumination.  The original Razor HD was a very well engineered scope, but the Gen II leaps beyond it in every way possible.  The only thing that stands in its way is weight.  For many applications, weight does not matter.  However, for those applications, why would you go with the 3-18×50 scope when there is a 4.5-27×56 Razor Gen II that is marginally bigger and marginally heavier, while offering a bit more magnification and a larger objective for more reach?

Aside from that objection, Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 scopes raise an interesting question. Since you can get one of these (or the larger 4.5-27×56) for $2300-$2500, and if you do not mind the weight, why would you be compelled to buy anything more expensive.  It is a question that the makers like S&B, Tangent Theta, Hensoldt, etc have to answer.  In a side-to-side test I did, the Tangent Theta is better (and in case of the TT315M, it is lighter, which is important for me).  However, in principle, the model that competes directly against the Gen II is the TT315P with its 34mm tube and larger turrets.  It is a full $1k more than the Vortex and if paying my own money, it is not clear to me whether the price difference is worth it.  Another example is with the Minox ZP5 which I am very impressed with.  However, it is a solid $600 more than the Razor and I prefer the reticle in the Razor.  The optical performance is sufficiently close where for my purposes, I would go with the Razor Gen 2.

 

Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50 is the best bang for the buck in this group.  It is significantly less expensive than all of the other scope here and it mostly hangs with them without any issues.  As I mentioned earlier, it had some early hiccups with the turrets, but those appear to be resolved.  The scope is compact for the configuration and optically pretty well sorted out.  The FOV is a bit on the narrow side for this group, but aside from that, optical compromises in it are fairly minor.  Still, I see more difference between this scope and the Tangent Theta, than I do between TT and Razor Gen II.  However, the Tangent Theta is $1200 more, so it better be better!  $1800 is still a lot of money, but honestly, I do not have all that much to nitpick on with this design.  It is reasonably easy to get behind, though not as easy as Kahles and Steiner M.  There is some flare, so it really benefits from leaving the sunshade on.  However, the flare is not excessive. Contrast is not as pronounced as on the TT and Minox, but respectable, Resolution is pretty good.  The SCR reticle, however,  leaves me cold.  It is a very busy reticle with very poor low light visibility if your battery is out.  KIt gives you a lot of feature for ranging, but not for holds.  Illumination is pretty decent, but make sure you have a spare battery.

Side focus knob, showed a little hysteresis, but nothing major. The turrets tracked well and I spent a LOT of time with them.  I like the second turn indicators (little windows in the turret) and I like the overall configuration of the turrets: they are low and wide with an easy to set zerostop.

Ultimately, if you are comfortable with the SCR reticle, this scope is well worth looking at.  For the money, you’d be hard pressed to do better.

 

Steiner M5Xi 3-15×50, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment.  Mind you, if it cost less, I would be a lot less picky.  However, it is sorta telling that I liked the somewhat less expensive T5Xi more.  There was nothing wrong with how the M5Xi functioned: turrets tracked, the scope stayed zeroed and the eyepiece is exceptionally easy to get behind.  That was the one thing where the M5Xi really did well: flexibility of eye relief.  It was the only scope in this group to compete with the Kahles in that regard. However, the turret feel was mushy and optics were not good enough for the price.  At $3k, this is one of the more expensive scopes here along with the Minox and TT, and both of those run circles around the M5Xi in terms of image quality.  I hope I received a bad sample, but this one is underwhelming. At its core, the problem was significant susceptibility to flare that was difficult for me to block even with a sunshade.  This effect was most pronounced at higher magnifications.  The scope I had came with the MSR reticle.  Steiner’s version of it has a slightly bolder center aiming crosshair, which I sorta liked.  I generally like reticles on the bolder side.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, I prefer reticles with wind holds at distance, but that is a personal preference.  Steiner’s MSR is well executed and I did not have any issues with it.  

Reticle illumination on this Steiner is excellent.  It is very well calibrated with no bleed and quite bright when I need it.  I spent some time beating it up and it is largely a competent design that is brought down a bit by the flare and mushy turrets.  Its most direct competitor here is the Minox ZP5 and I prefer the Minox overall. Then again, as I mentioned above, The Vortex Razor Gen II creates a bit of a value problem for both Minox and Steiner.

 

Now, we get to the two smaller scopes in this group.

 

Nightforce ATACR F1 4-16×42 really peaked my interest because the earlier NXS F1 was a very competent design with somewhat disappointing optics.  When Nightforce came out with the ATACR, the optics looked much improved, but it was a SFP design which is not my cup of tea in this range applications.  I was all set to look at the larger 5-25×56 ATACR F1, then I saw the 4-16×42.  I think that this is a great configuration for compact precision rifles, so I rounded it up to compare to the Leupold Mark 6 (that is really how this whole article idea started).  The TACR F1 is a fairly compact scope, although the Leupold Mark 6 is still smaller and a fair bit lighter.

In the picture above, from left to right: Nightforce, Tangent Theta, Kahles, Leupold Mark 6, Minox M5Xi and original Steiner Military 4-16×50.  

Earlier Nightforce scopes had good resolution, but were a little dull on the contrast side.  The ATACR F1 suffers from none of that. The glass quality is excellent and it did not suffer from any particularly unusual optical artefacts.  Overall optical quality was similar to the Vortex Razor Gen II, which is very good company to keep.  It is priced similarly also, so the basic question I phrased earlier pertaining to why you would want to pay an extra grand or two for a similar S&B or something along those lines applies here well.  The ATACR F1 with its Mil-R reticle is a very well rounded design and the Mil-R matches it well.  It is a comparatively simple looking reticle with a lot of ranging features, which I like.  I got used to it fairly quickly and liked it enough to drag it with me on a pig hunt.  Although the reticle does get fairly thin at low magnification, it worked perfectly well for my purposes and was quick enough to pick up.  The turret design is easily one of my favourites.  It seems similar to Leupold’s M5C2 turret and I am not sure who came up with it first.  There is a lock button, which keeps the turret locked at zero position.  The turret is low and wide, so it does not catch on stuff.  Most importantly, it tracked perfectly.  Windage turret is a simple covered design, which I like a lot.  I never touch that after sighting in.  Eye relief was reasonably flexible and even with some unorthodox shooting positions, I had no issues whatsoever.  The only real weakness of this scope is the design of the reticle illumination.  It is a pushbutton arrangement integrated into the parallax adjustment knob, similar to the original March design.  It has four illumination settings and the lowest one was a bit too bright for low light and the highest one is not bright enough for bright light (same complaint as I had with March until they introduced the low power unit).  To change magnification, you rotate the whole eyepiece, which is common to most Nightforce designs.  I am not a fan of this arrangement since it rotated the lens covers.  Nightforce uses Tenebraex covers which can rotate independently to rectify that.  However, I prefer the more conventional arrangement with a non-rotating eyepiece myself.  Overall, I liked the Nightforce

 

Lastly, we get to the Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44. I really wanted to like this scope and despite its shortcomings, I do.  It is the smallest and lightest scope in this group by a significant margin, which really appeals to me.  It was an excellent match for my 6.5 Grendel.  It was the only scope in this group that worked well on the Grendel in term of weight and balance.  It was not as good as the competition optically, which I sorta expected because of the size, but it was still quite good.  Good enough for me to be comfortable with the tradeoff.  What I was not comfortable with was the stinky turret.  M5B2 turret has well explored issues and as far as I am concerned, this scope is to be used in a set and forget mode: use the reticle for holdover.  Another problem is the illumination, or more specifically lack thereof.  To get this scope with illumination, you have to pay an extra thousand dollars, which I find absolutely preposterous.  The reticle in the scope I looked at was the CMR-W.  When I talked to the Leupold product manager in charge of this scope, I mentioned that they sent me a scope with CMR-W reticle.  His reaction was: “#$%&, I wish they has asked me first!” Despite that, I was mostly alright with that reticle.  There are a couple of things about it that are odd, like the mil-scale for range finding is sufficiently far to the left of the FOV, where at top magnification (where you would be ranging), it is outside of the FOV.  The reticle itself is pretty coarse which I find rather practical (I am probably alone on that) and very visible under a range of conditions.  

Besides, to work well in a FFP scope without illumination the reticle does have to be fairly thick.  One thing I really like is the horseshoe arrangement in the center with the floating dot.  At high magnification, the small dot is your primary aiming point.  At low magnification, the horseshoe looks like a large dot and becomes an aiming point.

With all of that, fundamentally, despite its flaws, the Mark 6 is a very interesting design.  The only scope I can think of that is similarly compact with a broad magnification range is March 3-24×42.  However, the Leupold is easier to get behind, which is important for the applications I have in mind.  It also has a significantly less shallow depth of field which makes it easier to use.  As is, the March is a more complete design owing to the turrets.  However, after some consideration, I think I would like to revisit the Mark 6, but configure it differently.

First of all, I want to make it clear that while the Mark 6 is not as good optically as the best scopes in this line-up, it is still very good and there are very few shots that I can take with Tangent Theta and can not take with the Mark 6.  On top of that, I like the compactness of it.  With that in mind, I think I will experiment with a different version of the Mark 6, the one with David Tubbs’ DTR reticle.  I ran into Favid a few years ago at SHOT Show and we have been discussing his DTR reticle every once in a while.  I think it is a great idea and offers an excellent nearly self-contained system.  He has his reticle in the illuminated Mark 6:

http://www.davidtubb.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=148

While not cheap, I think this offers an incredible capability in a compact package, and I fully intend to get my hands on one and properly work it out.  

 

After all that wordiness, I figured I should make a short summary of the recommendations that I can come up with based on spending a pretty significant amount of time with these scopes.

 

If you’ve got $3k to spend and 12mrad of available turret movement is enough, get a Tangent Theta.  It is the best allround scope in this group and it is light enough to double as a hunting scope if need be.  It was equally at home on my Desert Tech SRS 6.5x47L and on a LR-308 clone.  I even tried it on my Tikka M695 hunting rifle and it worked well there too (that was kinda fun when I ended up next to some yuppy with a fancy custom rifle at the range; he was not happy about a bone stock hunting rifle outshooting his pride and joy.  When he looked through the Tangent Theta, his jaw dropped).

 

If your budget stops around $2400 and weight is not a major concern, you can’t go wrong with the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 3-18×50.  It is an extremely complete package.

 

For a large frame gas gun, or if you shoot lefty with any regularity, Kahles K312i is definitely worth a look.  That center mounted parallax makes it uniquely ambidextrous.

 

If you really want a high end scope, but a mere thought of spending upwards of $2k on one gives you an ulcer, you should give Steiner T5Xi a chance.  I liked this scope a lot and while the reticle is not ideal for my purposes, that is a personal preference.

 

Lastly, if you want the most compact package while still having high magnification available for you, see if you can work within the limitations of the Mark 6 3-18×44.  For a precision small frame semi-auto, it may be worth the trouble.

 Posted by at 10:37 pm