Jul 252017
 

written by ILya Koshkin, July, 2017

Docter V6 2-12×50 Riflescope

Up until recently I mostly regarded Docter as one of those obscure German brands that predominantly play in Europe and do not do much in the US.  In principle, that is still accurate.  Docter does not have a very large presence in the US and, honestly, that is a bit of a shame.  Docter definitely has more of a name recognition that brands like Nickel AG and Kaps, and that is largely due to their miniature red dot sights.  I do not know if they had the first tiny reflex sight (they market it as DocterSight), but it was definitely among the first to the point that several times I heard people refer to their “Docter”, when the actual reflex sight they had was from a different manufacturer.  I own and use DocterSight III consider it excellent.  Since I liked it so much, I decided to take a look at Docter’s other products.

Docter’s conventional riflescopes and binoculars are not terribly well known in the US although they have been around for a while.  I have seen some of their riflescopes about fifteen years ago and was sorta ambivalent about.  Docter has made some improvements since then, so I dug through their catalog and decided to take a look at the V6 2-12×50 riflescope.



There are a few scopes that compete in the same general $1500 range with the most obviou direct competition being Meopta Meostar R2 2-12×50.  Unfortunately, I did not have the Meopta immediately available to me, so I made do with what I had.  In the table below, I list the scopes I had on hand in bold.  I was also looking at the Leupold VX-6 HD 3-18×44 at the same time, so I looked at them side by side while I was at it.  In terms of price and target audience, Kahles is also a fairly direct competition, although the one I have is a 1” model no longer imported to the States.  It is, however, still available elsewhere as Helia 3.  The two Leica scopes showed up at about the same time as Docter and sorta gave me the means to bracket the V6 with more expensive and less expensive models.  Before I get lynched, I do not expect the V6 to compete with the Magnus that runs an extra grand and, indeed, the Magnus blows every other scope here away in terms of performance.  However, once you get past a grand or so price-wise, you start getting into the world of diminishing returns and the V6 held its own well enough.

 

Docter V6 2-12×50 Kahles KXi 3.5-10×50 Leica ER5 2-10×50 Leica Magnus

1.8 – 12×50

Meopta MeoStar R2 2-12×50
Length, in 14 12.6 14 13.4 14
Weight, oz 23 16.6 22 24.7 21
Main Tube Diameter 30mm 1” 30mm 30mm 30mm
Eye Relief, in 3.6 3.54 3.8 >3.5 3.75”
FOV, ft@1000yards 56 – 9

10.8 @ 10x

33.6 – 12 54.25 – 10.75

10.75 @ 10x

67.5 – 11

13.2 @ 10x

55.8 – 9.6

11.52 @ 10x

Exit Pupil, mm 11.1 – 4.3 14 – 4.7 16 – 5 12.4 – 4.2 11.2 – 4.3
Click Value 0.1 mrad 0.25 MOA 0.25 MOA 0.1 mrad 0.25”
Adjustment range E: 26 mrad W: 16 mrad 48 MOA 100 MOA ~ 51 MOA 70MOA
Parallax 100m 100m 50yds – inf 100m 100m
Reticle Illumination Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Price $1500 $1400 $990 $2550 $1400

Looking at the table above, the V6 seems to be spec’ed out in line with the competition.  6x erector ratios that were very new just a few years ago are now fairly common, although to get a very wide field of view with a high erector ratio, you are still looking at a hefty price tag along the lines of the Leica Magnus.  Lastly, another direct competitor that I did not list is Minox ZEi 2-10×50.  By all accounts, it is a very nice riflescope, but have not had any hands on time with it beyond seeing it at SHOT.  Hence, I am not very comfortable talking about it.

Compared to its closest competitor, the Meopta, the specifications of the V6 are very similar and are largely commensurate with the price tag.  One interesting to note is that the similarly priced Kahles offers a fair bit more FOV, but only has a 3x erector ratio.  Now, Kahles is sorta known for wide FOV scopes, but generally, if you are looking for wide field of view on a budget, high erector ratio scopes may not be your thing.

 

Moving on…

I did most of the testing of the V6 on my Tikka M695 in 280Rem.  It is a hunting scope and I thought the right way to test it would be on a hunting rifle:

Docter V6 2-12x50 on Tikka M695 in 280Rem

Docter V6 2-12×50 on Tikka M695 in 280Rem

 

The rifle is freakishly accurate with just about any ammo I throw at it, so it makes for a decent test platform.  I mounted the scope using high Warne rings that clamp directly onto the dovetail machined into the receiver.  That left a reasonable amount of space between the objective bell and the barrel, so I could slip a cover onto the scope, but not much more than that.  

 

The shape of the objective bell is sorta unique with a machined step instead of a smooth transition like we see on most scope.  I am not sure whether it is simply a cosmetic feature of if there is technical reason for it.  My best guess is that they did it this way to maximize the available mounting length.  The turrets are covered and the scope is really designed to be used in a “set and forget” mode, where you only use the turrets to sight in and never touch them afterwards.  However, I sorta ignored that and spent a fair amount of time ‘touching” the turrets, which turned out to have a good feel and reasonable repeatability.  I did not do an exhaustive tracking test, but based on what I have seen so far I would not hesitate to dial a shot in.  The turrets, once you get the covers off, are easy to grab and have a nice tactile feel:

Docter V6 Turrets

Docter V6 Turrets

 

Once the scope is zeroed the turrets are re-settable and, honestly, if I were Docter, I would consider coming out with a version of the scope that has a covered windage turret and an exposed adjustable elevation turret.  They already have the feel worked out, so it wouldn’t be too difficult.

 

The parallax setting on this scope is fixed at 100m and the setting looks to be accurate.  I experimented with parallax at different distances and it never got too egregious.  Still, without parallax adjustment, this is not intended to be a long range precision scope.  That having been said, I did not have a whole lot of difficulty hitting metal plates of varying sizes (12”, 18” and 24”, I think) out to 600 yards.  At 12x, once you get far from the preset focus distance, the image fidelity does suffer a little, so, somewhat oddly, when shooting past 400 yards, I dialed it back to around 9x or so.  I would be able to make the same shots at 12x, but greater depth of field at lower magnification made the picture more pleasing.

 

As far as getting behind the scope goes, I think that is one of the strengths of this design.  The eye relief is fairly forgiving and there is good latitude for eye placement behind the scope even at the highest magnification.  It was not as good as the Magnus and a little worse than the Kahles, but better than ER5.  If my recollection of the Meopta R2 is accurate, Docter is a touch better in that regard, but it is difficult to say without a side-by-side.

Bottom line is that I found the V6 to be a very user friendly design.  Part of that user friendliness is the illumination control which is extremely well executed.  Like many recent designs I have seen, there are two setting you can maintain, one for low light and another for bright light.  The illumination turret is one when you pull it outward a little from the scope body and from there you can flick it either up or down to choose either low light or bright light setting.  Both setting, naturally, are easily adjustable, so you can finetune your preference.  The dynamic range of the available settings is extremely large and it works beautifully both in very low light and the middle of a sunny day.  The illumination technology, best I can tell, comes from the same Swiss company that a bunch of high end scopes use (Swarovski Z6, etc).  Incidentally, that is the same illumination technology that is used in Meopta Meost R2, so in that regard they are more or less equal.

 

The reticle itself is a fairly simple wide #4 pattern with a small floating dot in the center.  That dot is the only part of the reticle that is illuminated (as it should be on a hunting scope).  The reticle itself is fairly thin, so without illumination, it does not do all that well in low light.  Here is what it looks like at high magnification (I do not recall if this was 12x or something a little lower):

Reticle at High Magnification

Reticle at High Magnification

Ignore the greyed out portion of the reticle, it is an artefact of taking a picture with a cellphone.  In actual use, all the reticle stadia stayed perfectly black.  The target is 100 yards away.

 

On low magnification, you can easily see the barrel in the lower portion of the image, but I did not find it terribly distracting:

Reticle at Low Magnification

Reticle at Low Magnification

Thick outer bars are quite visible as the light fades, but thin center lines disappear quickly and the thick bars are spaced to widely to help with aiming (in that regard, I think Meopta’s somewhat similar but bolder 4c reticle works a little better).

 

Since I was curious how well the reticle illumination works, I did some speed drills at 2x and it worked very nicely.  I suspect, that the 1-6×24 version of the V6, which uses the same illumination is very fast on 1x.  If Docter was interested in making an optic to address the burgeoning AR-15 market, the V6 could be a very nice foundation for it.

 

As is, all the reticle options they have are really aimed at the European hunting market.  The center dot in the 2-12×50 subtends around half inch at 100 yards, so it makes for a fairly fine aiming point.

 

As far as overall optical quality goes, I liked the V6 quite a bit.  Like many traditional Euro optics, Docter really seems to emphasize low light performance, kinda like Kahles has historically done.   In that regard, there are some similarities between the Kahles KXi and Docter V6.  While both are quite good in low light, they do not stand out quite as much as you would expect.  However, when the light gets low, they really come alive.  During the day the V6 performed very nicely, but I do not think it incorporates any ED glass in the design and while it is very nicely optimized, there is some chromatic aberration at 12x that is pretty easy to see on high contrast objects (yellow and purple fringing is what I saw).  I could see two colors of CA and while they are not terribly prominent, they are there.  Since this is a fixed parallax design, it is entirely possible to see CA when you are far away from the parallax free distance.  I went and carefully examined how CA shows up at different target distances and made sure I examine it carefully where the parallax error was minimized (turned out to be right around 120 yards).  At that distance, there was very little CA while my eye was on axis, but any slight movement off axis would result in colored fringing.  I do not think that is a particularly major problem, but in this price range, most of the competition has better CA control (Leupold VX-6 HD and Meopta Meostar R2 come to mind).  Color balance of the image is fairly neutral and colors looked true.  Contrast is very acceptable during the day and is downright excellent at night.  In other words, this is a very good low light scope.  What really helps it in low light is excellent flare and stray light control.

I mounted several  scopes including the V6 on my tripod fixture and spent a lot of time looking at them side by side:

Side-by-Side

Side-by-Side

 

 

From left to right, the scopes are: Kahles KXi 3.5-10×50, Docter V6 2-12×50, Leica Magnus 1.8-12×50, Leupold VX-6 HD 3-18×44, Leica ER5 2-10×50.  All the way on the right is the new HiLux Phenom 5-30×56 which was not a part of this comparison, but was already sitting there from something I was doing earlier (pretty decent scope, by the way).

 

In a direct comparison, as I expected, Leica Magnus blew everything else a way, as it should, being a LOT more expensive.  In terms of basic image quality, Kahles and Docter were the closest, with Kahles being a touch better in low light, largely owing to its larger field of view.  The difference is small though and Docter compensates for that by a much broader magnification range and a more sophisticated reticle illumination control.  

 

Compared to the less expensive ER5, V6 was comparable in daylight and a touch better in low light.  Here, ER5 is helped by its adjustable parallax.  Side by side at 10x, while V6 seemed to have a bit more contrast, the ER5 had less color fringing and similar resolution.  ER5 does not have reticle illumination, which is probably one of the reasons it costs less.  Still, the optical quality you can get for around #1k is getting pretty impressive.

 

One of the more interesting comparisons was with Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×44.  It is not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, since the Leupold has a 44mm objective.  However, with street price of around $1600, both 3-18×44 and 3-18×50 version of Leupold VX-6 HD compete in this market segment.  Honestly, during daylight, I thought the VX-6HD was generally equal to the Docter, except with better CA control.  Leupold is obviously intended for a broader range of shooting distances (due parallax adjustment and more sophisticated reticle options).  In low light, V6 had a bit of an edge (I took care to do this comparison at lower magnifications where I could equalize exit pupils), but the Leupold was no slouch and it’s wider FOV helped.

 

Finally, the question I always have to ask myself is whether this is the scope I would recommend to others, and whether I would recommend it over the competition.  That is not a simple question to answer.  I liked the scope quite a bit and thought it was a very good general purpose hunting scope. 2-12×50 is a very versatile configuration.  The eyepiece is very easy to get behind.  Illumination design is excellent.  Mechanical quality in my experience has been excellent.  There was no POI shift I could see across the entire magnification range.  All SFP scopes have it  to a certain degree, but it was small enough to where I could not detect it while shooting (I measured it on the collimator in the lab and it is indeed very small).

 

There is nothing really wrong with the scope, and it is fundamentally a very solid design.  However, to make onto a list of recommendations I maintain, it needs to be updated a little and the most important part of that is the reticle.  There is nothing wrong with the #4, but it is too wide, in my opinion.  And I would really like to see additional reticle options become available.  Reticle development has been a pretty big deal in the last few years and that is where Docter seems to lag behind the times a little.  If they offer additional reticles and correct CA a little better, this becomes an easy pick.

 

 Posted by at 11:24 am
Jul 162017
 

Written by ILya Koshkin, May, 2015
This was originally written for a product blog of a now defunct company called TechEyes. Their website seems to be down, so I figured I’ll post it here. I thought of this because of an article I just saw on Trijicon’s IR Hunter thermal sight.  As thermal sight get out there more and more, I figured I should start talking about them a little. There is so much incorrect information on these, that I am inclined to clear a few things up.

FLIR RS32: Thermal Scope in a Texas Blind

I have spent the bulk of my professional career working in and around thermal imaging and I have used all manner of thermal sights in the past. However, my familiarity with thermal riflescopes available to the consumer has been fairly limited, so when I had a chance to borrow a FLIR RS32 and take it with me on a trip to Texas, I jumped at the opportunity.

One of the things I plan to do is an overview of several commercially available thermal riflescopes and I will do so in a different article, but for now I am only going to discuss the FLIR sight and use it as the groundwork for the next article.

Thermal sights have some advantages and some limitation. Those advantages and limitations apply to all thermal scopes, so keep that in mind while I discuss the FLIR sight.




Here is the spec table for all of the FLIR R-series riflescopes that I copied directly from FLIR website:

 

Model RS24,

1x

RS32,

1.25-5x

RS32,

2.25-9x

RS32,

4-16x

RS64,

1.1-9x

RS64,

2-16x

MSRP $3,499 $3,999 $4,499 $7,499 $6,499 $8,999
FPA 240×180 VOx 336×256 VOx 640×512 VOx
Frame Rate (Hz) 30 Hz 60 Hz 30 Hz
Lens Focal Length 13mm 19mm 35mm 60mm 35mm 60mm
Lens HFOV 20° 16° 18° 10°
Focus Fixed Manual Fixed Manual
Electronic Zoom N/A Up to 4x Up to 8x
Color Pallets Black/White/InstAlert™ Black/White/Sepia/Iron/Red/InstAlert™
Eye Relief 3 inches (76.2 mm)
Dimensions 8″ x 3.3″ x 2.9″ 8.5″ x 3.3″ x 2.9″ 8″ x 3.3″ x 2.9″ 8.5″ x 3.3″ x 2.9″
Weight <1.8lb <2.4lb <1.8lb <2.4lb
Reticles Duplex, Fine Duplex, German
Reticle Colors White, Black, Red, Green
Diopter Adjustment +/-6
Operating Temperature -4° to 122° F (-20° to 50° C)
Storage Temperature -40° to 140° F (-40° to 60° C)
Ingress Protection IPX7, Submersible 1m for 30 min
Weapon Interface MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rail
Battery Life >4 hours of use
Battery Type Internal Li-ion
Battery Charging Standard USB interface with included wall charger
External Battery Pack Compatible, not included
Display Active Matrix LCD
Display Resolution 640×480
User Interface Simple four button interface
On Screen Symbology Battery charge, ezoom state
Weapon Compatability MSR semi-automatic up to .308 Cal.
Video Out No Yes
Warranty 2 Years Standard, 3 Years (with registration), 10 Years (thermal sensor only)

 

Digital riflescope makers try to describe what you see through them in the same terms as are used for conventional riflescopes: magnification. However, that magnification number (the thermal scope I used is listed as 1.25-5x) does not tell you the whole story. The variable zoom is purely digital: when you zoom in you do not really see a whole lot more detail since all that happens is the increase in pixelation. Now, it does have the reticle blocking less of the target, since the reticle is generated on the rear projection screen, but that is the extent of the advantage.

Affordable thermal imagers do not have very high resolution yet, so unless the zoom is optical, it does not do much and variable zoom infrared lenses are quite expensive. If you want to figure out how far you can shoot something, you have to look at the resolution of the imager and the field of view (FOV) of the lens.

As an example, the FLIR RS32 I used has an imaging sensor that 336 pixels wide and 256 pixels tall. Horizontal FOV is 16 degrees, which means that each individual pixel subtends 0.0476degree or, to stay with terms that most gun enthusiasts are familiar with, 2.857 MOA. That translates to approximately 2.99 inches at 100 yards. For the sake of this discussion, we can safely round that up to 3 inches.

In order to identify your target, it has to be large enough to subtend at least a few pixels. This is where military purposes differ from those of a hunter. In the military application, you do not have to identify exactly each part of your target, so as long as you can figure out the silhouette of what it is you are looking at, you may be justified in pulling the trigger (and modern thermal scopes used by the military are typically of higher resolution anyway). If your target subtend 5-10 pixels, you might have enough information.

For a hunter, in order to make an ethical shot, you need to see a lot more detail than that. A hunter needs to be able to clearly resolve the outline of the animal and get enough information to land an ethical shot into an animal’s vitals.

When I took the FLIR RS32 with me to Texas, I was after a pig, so naturally, deer were all over the place. They came out into a clearing between our blind and the feeder and I spent some time roaming all over the place giving me an opportunity to see how they look in a thermal scope at varying distances.

The feeder was 175 yards away from us (I had a nice Leica LRF binocular with me, so I ranged distances quite carefully), and at 175 yards, using the thermal scope I had, i would not have been able to take a shot at a deer-size animal.

Here is a picture out of the blind taken with my cellphone. The feeder at 175 yards is the small white spot out at the distance.

The blind is 175 yards away

The blind is 175 yards away from the feeder

We had a camera with us, but with an unstabilized lens, the images of the deer turned out to be a little blurry. We had a dozen or so deer roaming between us and the feeder at different times, so here are a few cropped images taken with a 300mm lens on a Nikon DSLR:

Since this was not deer season, they were everywhere

Since this was not deer season, they were everywhere

I think they were simply messing with us...

I think they were simply messing with us…

Posing and everything...

Posing and everything…

If you think of a chest size of a deer or a pig to be 18” or so, at 175 yards it subtended less than 4 pixels. That was not large enough for me to take a confident shot.

With that thermal sight, I would have been comfortable taking a shot out to 50-60 yards, I think. In order to be confident of taking a shot at 175 yards, I would need a different model from the table above.

The same 18” target size at 175 yards would subtend:
-6 pixels with the RS32 that has 9 degree FOV or RS64 with 18 deg FOV
-11 pixels with the RS32 that has a 5 degree FOV or RS64 with 10 deg FOV

Personally, based on my experience, I would say that I want the chest area of an animal to subtend more than 10 pixels for me to be moderately confident in the shot and more is better.

That was a fairly interesting conclusion for me. I have a lot of mileage with thermal sights, but most of that has been in non-hunting applications where hand-held or weapon mounted thermal sights were used at closer ranges.

Another interesting experiment was the use of a thermal sight in broad daylight. Going out to the blind we had two guns: one with a thermal sight and another with a regular daysight. We headed out there before sunrise and stayed out until the late morning. One of the things I wanted to see was how easy it would be to see the screen on the thermal sight when it is bright out. The answer to that is that it was not that easy.

With a conventional scope, the image coming through the riflescopes is typically brighter than the ambient light coming at your eye from around the scope. The reason for that is simple: whatever energy hits the objective lens is condensed onto a smaller (typically) exit pupil of the scope. With a thermal scope, what you are seeing is a small viewfinder screen on the back of the sight. Making that screen super bright is technologically challenging and power hungry.

That is one of the reasons why sights like this are primarily used at night when ambient light going into your eye is minimal. Still, thanks to the eyeshield FLIR provides with the RS32, I did not have a whole lot of issues using it during the day.

Do keep in mind that thermal sights are generally not designed for hard kicking rifles. Aside from the whole recoil tolerance issue, there is the eye relief to worry about. The rear screen is recessed somewhat, so you basically end up keeping your eye very close to the sight housing. The rubber eyeshield helps with recoil mitigation, but after some experimentation I decided to keep the FLIR RS32 on my AR-15 chambered for 6.5Grendel. It is a fairly soft shooting gun, that is still peppy enough for most hunting:

6.5 Grendel with the FLIR on top of it

6.5 Grendel with the FLIR on top of it

Sighting the thermal scope in took a little thinking, since a conventional target is somewhat difficult to see in the infrared spectrum. On a bright sunny day, the black circle on the conventional target is at a slightly different temperature than the rest of the target paper. It can be seen with a thermal scope, but I did not trust that, so I took one of those disposable handwarmers and taped it to the back of the target. That made for a nice bright (i.e. warm) spot for me to aim at.

Aside from that, sighting in was pretty straightforward. The FLIR RS32 uses buttons for control, so to move the reticle to match the POI, you have to press some buttons. The buttons are rubberized and fairly large, so they are not difficult to use. They do make for a fairly streamlined package, but they are not as intuitive as turrets. They sight offers several view modes: White-Hot, Black-Hot, etc. They all work well depending on the situation, but the one I chose to use was the mode where most of what you are looking at is in greyscale, with warmer objects showing as lighter tones than colder objects. However, this mode also made objects significantly warmer than the environment, show up in red. For hunting, I think, this is a better way to go. That way, I can spend some time observing the scene and getting used to the way it looks in infrared, but when an animal shows up, it really stands out. That is the mode FLIR refers to as InstAlert and I found it very useful. Virtually all controls are done with those four large buttons on top of the scope body and after a little experimentation, I had no issue using them by touch:

Control buttons

Control buttons

The same buttons are used to select the reticle style. Between the two different versions of the duplex and a German #4 reticle, I chose the #4. All are perfectly serviceable though.

Aside from what is in the picture above (scope, covers and eyeshield), the FLIR sight comes with a complete set of accessories: cables, chargers, recorder, etc.

I played with them very carefully and, other than the charger, left everything at the camp. FLIR provides a pretty nice recorder that can be affixed to the buttstock of the rifle and connected to the sight via a miniUSB-type cable, but I do not like to hang unnecessary things on the rifle, so I largely ignored it. It works well and is a good accessory for those who want to record their shot. However, personally, I would rather have a card slot for the recorder incorporated into the body of the scope. That is just a personal preference though.

Battery life of the sight was better than I expected. I was worried about and left the auto shutoff on. That ended up costing me a shot, since the only time I saw a pig during my trip, the sight was shut off and while I was turning it on, the pig ran off. Technically, I do not know if I would have had the time to get a shot off, but I like the idea of blaming the sight rather than myself.

Having had this experience, I think I would have rather set the rifle up with a clip-on thermal sight than a dedicated thermal scope. For night time use at reasonably close distances, this thermal sight is a great option. However, for longer distances or daylight applications, I would have rather had a conventional scope.

 Posted by at 10:46 am
Jul 082017
 

written by ILya Koshkin, July, 2017

Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50×60

 

Lately, I’ve been looking at a few high magnification scopes and the primary reason for that was the fact that I was curious to see what is out there in the sub-$2K price range.

I have long been a fan of Sightron SIII which sorta “brought high mag to the masses” and when they introduced a considerably more expensive SV 10-50×60, my curiosity was peaked.  Then Vortex announced there Golden Eagle 15-60×52 and the guy sat Vortex said something along the lines of: “we know it is not your cup of tea, but we think you’ll be impressed”.  Then I go to SHOT and stumble onto the Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50×60, which is the subject of this article.  It has an interesting feature where the turrets are removable and you can switch between mrad, and MOA clicks.  I was curious enough to check it out.

These are all priced a bit differently, so the comparison is not really apples-to-apples.  Hence, while I will mention how I think these all stack up, in this article I will focus on the Hawke.  Vortex and Sightron will be the subject of another piece.

Before I continue, my assumption with all of the scopes that I tested is that they are all representative of their product lines and are not outliers of some sort.  If they turn out to be outliers, I will procure another copy and retest (and update this article accordingly).





 

Here is the Cliff’s notes on what I think of the Hawke:

It is the least expensive workable variable scope out there that takes you up to 50x.  It stayed zeroed and adjusted accurately.  While advertised as able to focus at infinity, in practical terms, I could not get it parallax free beyond 400 yards or so, so it is not for people who shoot far away, nor does it have the adjustment range for that.  The whole removable turret business is cute, but seems to be a solution looking for a problem.  Still, if you like to switch between MOA and mrad adjustments for some reason, Hawke is the only game in town and it is a great marketing tool.  Optically, it is a nice scope, but the Sightron SIII 10-50×60 looked better to me at high magnification for not a lot more money.  They are not too far off from each other though.  I do prefer Sightron turrets though.  I liked the TMX reticle.  It is a well conceived design.  Who is it for?  Hawke is a British company with roots in the airgun world.  I think this scope is at its best for closer distance applications where you need the magnification to create very shallow depth of field, i.e. Field Target airgun competition.  It works fine for target shooting within a couple of hundred yards with firearms, but there are better options for that, I think.

 

Now, onto the pesky details.  Here is a comparison table for a bunch of scopes that aim at the same customer.  The scopes that I will be mentioning here and there are in bold font,

Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50×60 Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60×52 Sightron SIII 10-50×60 Sightron SV 10-50×60 S&B

FTII 12.5-50×56 

Kahles Comp 10-50×56 Nightforce Comp 15-55×52 March 8-80×56
Length, in 18 16.1 16.9 16.9 16.9 16.9 16.2 15.74
Weight, oz 34.6 29.7 30.1 41.8 42 31.4 27.8 29.63
Main Tube Diameter 30mm 30mm 30mm 34mm 34mm 30mm 30mm 34mm
Eye Relief, in 3.7 3.9 3.8 – 4.5 3.8 – 4.5 2.75 3.74 3.15 3.4 -3.7
FOV, ft@100yards 11.7 – 2.4

6 @ 20x

6.3 – 1.7

5.1 @ 20x

9.6 – 2.2

5.5 @ 20x

9.6 – 2.2

5.5 @ 20x

12.6 – 3.3

7.38 @ 20x

8.7 – 1.8

4.5 @ 20x

6.91 – 1.83

5.03 @ 20x

13.2 – 1.3

5.2 @ 20x

Exit Pupil 3.22 – 0.87 5.24 – 1.2 4.55 – 1.18 5.4 – 1.12 3.54 – 0.93 7 – 0.7
Click Value 0.1 mrad or            ⅛ MOA  or           ¼ MOA ⅛ MOA 0.05 mrad 

or ¼MOA or ⅛MOA

0.05 mrad

or ¼MOA

0.1 mrad    or

⅛ or ¼ MOA

⅛ MOA ⅛ MOA ⅛ MOA
Adj per turn 3 mrad

or

3.7 MOA or

7.5 MOA

10 MOA 2.5 mrad or

10 MOA

5 mrad or

20 MOA

Adj range E: 45 MOA

(13 mrad)

W: 45 MOA

E: 55 MOA

(16 mrad)

W: 45 MOA

E: 14.5 mrad

(50 MOA)

W: 14.5 mrad

E: 20.4 mrad

(70 MOA)

W: 17.5 mrad

E: 65 MOA
W: 32 MOA
E: 55 MOA
W: 45 MOA
E: 55 MOA
W: 50 MOA
E: 60 MOA
W: 40 MOA
Close focus 10 yards 15 yards 13 yards 13 yards 7.7 yards 8 yards 25 yards 10 yards
Zero Stop No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Reticle Location SFP SFP SFP SFP FFP or SFP SFP SFP SFP
Reticle Illumination Yes No Optional Optional Yes No No Optional
Price $900 $1500 $1050

$1250ill

$2000 $3400 $2750 $2350 $2970 – $3400

 

As a general background statement of sorts, when we talk about variable high magnification scopes, the almost undisputed king of the hill there is March.  However, March scopes are expensive.  There are other contenders, of course, and they are pretty good, but March seems to rule the roost (I have not looked at everything in this market segment, so there may be something out there I am missing).  If I were buying a target scope and had $3k or more to spend, I’d get a March be done with it.  However, most of us do not have $3k to spare, so I was curious what else was out there. Yes, I have S&B and Kahles in the table above that are both interesting designs that bear further investigation, but from what I have seen so far, March is a better target scope and keeps improving (I really need to spend some time with the new High Master scopes).

For the last few years, in the $1k range, there was Sightron SIII and not much else.  There are some rather decent fixed power competition scopes from Leupold, Weaver and Nightforce, but for my use that is too restrictive.

Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50×60 undercuts Sightron SIII by a couple of hundred bucks and Sightron SV by a factor of two or so.

As far as magnification per dollar goes, Hawke does well.  Size-wise it is largely on par with the competition (it is a bit longer, but that is hardly an issue for this category).  Notably, with close focus down to 10 yards, it does a bit better than most of its competition (although Sightron offers a separate Field Target version of SIII that focuses from 7 yards to 300 yards).

Adjustment range for the Hawke is the lowest in this group and for its intended use, that is perfectly reasonable.

Field of view is a bit wider than the competition, which is nice.

As is typical for Hawke, it comes nicely packaged and with a bunch of accessories that make total sense for a Field Target shooter:

The Box with the Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50x60

The Box with the Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50×60

As soon as you open the box, you immediately see the included sunshade (a necessity), large side focus wheel, focus locator (or at least that is what I call; that is the 30mm ring that is mounted on the scope tube and has a little sharp point sticking out.  The only use for it that I can think of is to have it mounted so that the point tells you the exact position of the sidefocus wheel), and a couple of tools that make mounting the large sidefocus wheel and scope covers easier.

The included rigid scope caps did not look terribly confidence inspiring, but held up quite nicely.  I have a couple of scopes from another Chinese manufacturer and the scope caps on those seem to have a failure later of close to 50% (although the scopes themselves are pretty good).

Hawke scope caps are very functional and can be rotated to open in any direction that suits you, which is a nice touch.

As soon as I got the scope, I looked it over to make sure nothing is obviously falling off, rummaged around my workshop until I found a set of 30mm rings and headed to the range.  For the firing portion of the test, I mounted the scope onto my 308Win Mauser.  It is not a pretty looking rifle, since it was one of my original experiments in rifle building: I bought an intermediate Yugo Mauser action, a short chambered ER Shaw barrel and a Boyd’s stock.  Once all that was in hand, I bought some tools and went to town on it.  Miraculously, the rifle turned out to be fairly accurate and, similarly to most of my more recent and higher quality acquisitions, the limiting factor is probably not the gun, but rather the nut behind the bolt, so to speak.

Mounted on a 308Win Mauser

Mounted on a 308Win Mauser

Honestly, the biggest reason I picked this rifle to do the testing was the simple fact that I ran out of taller rings and the Farrell base on the Mauser is pretty tall.  The only unused rings I had at the moment were the inexpensive Weavers that were low in height.  Since the Hawke has a 60mm objective lens, I needed a rifle with a tall base.

Sighting in was rather uneventful.  The scope I tested came with turrets that had 0.1 mrad clicks and the TMX reticle is mrad accurate at 20x.  I set the target up at 50 yards, fired a shot, measured the offset with the reticle, adjusted to have the POI about half of an inch below center and fired another shot. Then, I moved the target over to 100 yards and fired a ten shot group to see if the scope is holding zero and to get a reasonable idea of where the centroid was.

While the barrel was cooling off, I started getting early signs of odd parallax troubles.  The range where I do most of my shooting has metal plates out to 600 yards, so I spent some time messing with the side focus knob at different distances.  I could not get it to be parallax free at 600 for the life of me, so that made me pay attention.  I carefully re-focused the eyepiece and experimented with parallax again.  Same basic story: I can get the scope to be parallax free at 400 and closer.  At 500, it is almost there, but not quite.  At 600, parallax is obvious and I can not dial it out.

I left it at that and did my usual tracking test for the elevation turret (I do not usually do much with the windage turret beyond making sure it does not affect the elevation adjustment).  For this test, I fire a shot at a zero setting, then go up 1 mrad and fire a shot.  Then back to zero for one shot and up 2 mrad for a shot.  Then back to zero and so on.

This takes a little time and ammo, but is worthwhile.  The tracking seemed decent, but I did not test over a particularly large range of adjustment.  With 3 mrad per turn and no zero stop, I am going to go out on a limb and say this was not designed to dial many turns.  Besides, there were parallax issues at longer distances anyway.

The turrets themselves are interesting.  As I mentioned earlier, they come off which I found to be a little unnatural.  I have seen scopes where after dialing your correction you can accidentally end up with the turret in your hand, detached from the scope.  Usually, that is not a good thing.  With the Hawke, you can do that by design.

Removable turret

Removable turret

The threads that hold the turret to the scope are on the inside of that metal ring at the base of the turret.  There is some spring tension involved, so mounting that turret back on without bungling up the threads took a little practice.  At the top of the turret is the locking knob, so if you choose to have one or both turrets locked down for transportation or as a matter of preference, it is there.  Given an opportunity, I usually lock the windage turret, which I did for most of the testing.

Turrets

Turrets

 

The available turrets have 0.1 mrad or ¼ MOA or ⅛ MOA clicks.  Best I can tell, whichever turrets you go with, you get 30 clicks per turn.  The clicks are widely spaced and reasonably tactile.  There is some slop in the turret, but it is well within one click, so it does not get in the way too much.  I suspect the reason the clicks are so widely spaced is to allow for a tolerance build up that comes with removable turrets.  The downside of that, is that competing designs offer quite a few more clicks per turn, which translates into either much finer granularity or greater adjustment in a single turn.

For example, Hawke’s most direct competitor, SIghtron SIII, has 0.05 mrad clicks in a 2.5mrad per turn turret, which amounts to 50 clicks per turn.  MOA version of the Sightron has 80 clicks per turn for ⅛ MOA turret or 40 clicks per turn for ¼ MOA turret.  You can kinda pick your poison there and since the turrets are not interchangeable, the number of clicks per turn is different for different models.  I am mostly a mrad user, so I stick with those versions.

From that standpoint, while interchangeable turrets are a curiosity item for me, I can’t quite think of a situation where I would want to switch from mrad to MOA turrets.  For someone who wants to use a TMX reticle interchangeable as mrad or MOA design at different magnifications, perhaps this makes sense.

I spent a couple more days at the range with this scope sitting on the same rifle.  Beyond the previously mentioned parallax concerns, there were no issues.

The rest of the testing was done from my house’s upper deck.  I have an old astronomy tripod base to which I hooked up a precision tilt stage from Newport.  On top of the tilt stage is a picatinny rail, so I can mount a scope on it and check its adjustments against the tilt stages micrometer.  The micrometer resolves down to ~0.01 mrad which is comfortably better than any riflescope I know of.

Scope on a tilt stage

Scope on a tilt stage

 

There is a catholic church a bit over 740 yards from my house and I frequently use the cross on the top of its tower as an aiming point (to add a disclaimer that should be obvious to anyone who has not gone to law school: when I am a riflescope at a church, it is not sitting on a gun.  I do not aim guns at churches.  A riflescope is mounted directly onto a tripod for this as in the picture above).  

What I see through a riflescope is usually something like this:

Through the scope

Through the scope

 

The house behind it is a bit over a mile away.  In the case of the Hawke, since I could not dial out parallax at that distance, I had to look for something within a couple of hundred yards to do another tracking test.  That tracking test worked well, but there was a slight amount of hysteresis in the adjustment turrets and in the sidefocus knob.

The reticle is a very thin design with a good variety of hold points without making it look like a mosquito net.  The dimensions are accurate at 20x.  Since the reticle is in the second focal plane, you have to keep track of what magnification you are at.  If you want to use this reticle as a MOA-accurate variant, you can calculate at which magnification you need to be and then verify it with field use.  To map 0.5 mrad dimension into 1MOA, you need to be somewhere near 34x magnification.  So this would be a situation where you want to have matching reticle and turrets at a higher mag: pop on your ⅛ MOA turrets and dial up to 34x or so.  If this sounds like I am trying very hard to find a marginally viable use case for interchangeable turrets…  well, that is exactly what I am doing and I am struggling with it a little.

Reticle illumination while not strictly speaking a necessary feature for target shooting is a nice thing to have and Hawke’s implementation is done well.  It is primarily designed to help in low light situations and can be set sufficiently low to not disturb your night vision.

TMX Reticle

TMX Reticle

 

As far as optical quality goes, for the most part, I was fairly pleased with what this scope offers.  I am pretty certain, that this is the best high magnification performance of any Chinese-made riflescopes I have seen to date.  The image remains fairly clear out to about 35x or so.  Going higher, you lose some image fidelity, but it is still reasonable.  Chromatic aberration is kept under reasonable control (ED glass undoubtedly helps) and, in that regard, it is slightly better than the Sightron SIII, but slightly worse than Sightron SV.  

Where the Sidewinder ED struggles is with stray light control and that is the biggest reason why in terms of overall image quality, SIII edges ahead of it a little bit.  The Hawke scope really benefitted from the sunshade.  Most scopes do, but with Sidewinder ED, it was a pretty significant difference.  When I tried a makeshift aperture reducer, the difference was even more drastic.

Aside from that, the scope resolved well and maintained decent contrast through the lower half of the magnification range.  Going higher in magnification started draining the image of color (this is likely related to stray light control I mentioned above).

Low light performance was quite good as you would expect given a 60mm objective.  Naturally, you have to keep it at the magnification level fairly low to get a reasonable exit pupil.  Hawke ED maintained good contrast levels down into pretty low light levels, but once there were bright sources involved, it did not handle flare terribly well.  There was some veiling flare which is pretty common with larger objective scopes, and other random stray light issues.  Similarly to day light testing, reduced aperture helped with that, but reduced the exit pupil which is not great for low light.

A final question to answer is pretty simple: given what is out there at the moment, would I buy this scope for my personal use?  No, I would not.  Would I recommend it to others? Yes, with a few disclaimers.

This scope simply does not seem to be designed for my use case.  I do not do short distance target shooting or Field Target.  At longer distances, it simply does not work well due to limited adjustment range and parallax limitations. Besides, removable turrets, while cleverly done, do not do anything for me.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if I were shopping for a high magnification scope, I would likely shop in a different price range.  Had you asked me six months ago, I would have told you that ponying up for a March, while painful, is the only way to go.

If someone asks me about a high magnification scope, March is still king, but for my money, I would likely get Vortex Golden Eagle.

In the sub-$1k range, it comes down to Hawke and Sightron S3.  Both have a lot to recommend them and, honestly, this level of performance at this price range in variable scopes would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Lastly, if I were in hawke’s shoes, I would consider bundling an aperture reducer with this scope and looking into parallax issues.  I think they can do quite well with centerfire shooters if they do that.  Revisiting internal baffling may not be a bad idea either.

 Posted by at 2:36 pm
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