Nov 232017
 

I usually do not talk about customer service very much since it has generally been getting better for most brands even the ones that were not known for this in the past.

For example, in years past Burris was not famous for great customer service, but they have really stepped up in that department (and my personal experience with them last year was excellent).




 

As far as Leica goes, I was never aware of anything being wrong with their customer service, partly since Leica riflescopes and binoculars I used never needed any.  I did have a Leica camera that needed to be repaired and Leica took care of that quickly and with more courtesy than I expected (or deserved).  It broke right before a trip I needed to go to and after sending it I called an begged for them to move it up the line.  I really did not expect anything, but they stepped up, replaced the lens on my Leica Q and got it back to me in time.

With this as background, I was talking to a friend of mine a little while back and he said he would not buy a Leica scope because of customer service concerns.  Rather than do forensic analysis on the history of their customer service, I reached out to my contact at Leica and politely inquired how they are going to go about fixing that reputation.

Frankly, I liked their response.  They did not offer any excuses and did not spend any time admitting or denying anything or discussing whether that reputation was deserved or not..  Their basic response boiled down to a very simple acknowledgment that they pay attention to the market and they recently made an investment in beefing up their service department both in terms of personnel and resources.

It takes very little effort to get bad publicity and a lot of hard work to regain your good reputation.  I will keep an eye on how Leica does moving forward, but I like what I am seeing from them so far.

 Posted by at 2:48 am
Nov 122017
 

written in November, 2017

A couple of links to where you can buy this sight on Adorama and Amazon are at the bottom of this post

This will be brief: I finally got the UH-1 onto a rifle and headed to the range.  The rifle in question is a comparatively light weight carbine with an ARP SOCOM profile midweight 16″ barrel with matching bolt, Brigand Arms handguard, Voodoo integral bolt carrier, Ace UL stock and an excellent TriggerTech trigger.  Naturally, the whole thing was neutered with a finned grip to make it California legal.





Together with the UH-1, this combination weighs 7.2 lbs, which is handy enough for my purposes.  The UH-1 itself, together with the an adjustable QD mount weighs in right around 12 ounces, which, while heavier than small red dot sights, is perfectly manageable.  Still, if you are trying to build a 4 pound AR, this is not the sight for you.

If you are reading this, you have probably heard of UH-1, but for the sake of being thorough…

UH-1 is Vortex’ new holographic sight.  To he best of my knowledge, it is only the third holographic sight to hit the market.  For years, EOTech has been just about the only provider of holographic sights.  Bushnell had Holosight XLP for a little bit years ago.  Now, Vortex jumped into this holographic pond with the UH-1.  Vortex’ timing is quite good since EOTech is going through all sorts of PR problems with their weapon sights and Vortex is likely to be a beneficiary of that.

I’ve owned a few EOTechs over the years and also owned Bushnell’s Holosight XLP some years ago.  I’ve always had some reservations about the way the optical system of the EOTech worked, but they have clearly done well enough with that.  Still, I have been sort of on the fence about the whole holosight business.

Compared to the more ubiquitous reflex red dot sights, holosights have some advantages in terms of reticle patterns and parallax correction, while reflex sights have a substantial advantage with battery life and size.  For combat purposes, one important feature of the UH-1 is that it has effectively zero forward light signature.  By definition, none of the red dot sights can match that.

At the heart of reflex sights is an efficient LED.  At the heart of a holographic sight is a laser.  Lasers need a lot more energy, so the battery life of the UH-1 is a few hundred hours, while battery life of a modern red dot sight like the Shield SIS, that I consider to be the best of the breed, is thousands of hours.

With that out of the way, my initial impressions of the UH-1 are very positive.  I mounted it on the rifle, set up on the bench and sighted it in at 100 yards.  To be more exact, I sighted it in to be about two inches high at 100 yards, which gave me a chance to make sure that the adjustments are reasonably accurate and the sight stays zeroed.  They are and it does.

The rest of my first shooting session with the UH-1 was spent shooting off-hand.  Since I absolutely stink at offhand shooting, I make it a point to practice.   UH-1, in this role was absolutely spectacular.  I shot at paper at 100 yards and steel plates at 200 yards.  The sight picture was extremely easy to acquire and, the fairly classic at this stage, circle/dot reticle is very quick.  Vortex added a secondary CQB aiming point to the reticle in the form of a triangle at the bottom of the circle.  Here is what the reticle looks likes (image shamelessly stolen from Vortex’ website):

I have not yet had a chance to speed up and shoot at anything closer, so I do not yet know how quick the triangle will be to pick up at speed.

I have slight astigmatism, so conventional red dot in reflex sights do not look round to me.  I’ve learned to deal with that, but the reticle in the UH-1 makes precision a little easier for me.  The reticle is slightly pixelated, but that has never bothered me before and doesn’t bother me here.  The 1 MOA (or rather, single pixel) dot allows for good precision.

I see no obvious forward light signature, so that claim seems to be true.  From what I can deduce of the internal design, it seems reasonably robust, but ultimate reliability can only be determined by time and multiple units in the field.

I will keep running the UH-1 side by side with Shield SIS and see if I can form some opinions on how what seems to be the best of the holosights compares to the best of the reflex sights.

Stay tuned.

Link to the UH-1 on Adorama

And on Amazon:

 Posted by at 1:10 am
Oct 222017
 

written in October 2017

Since I was putting together a progress report of sorts, I also realized there are several scopes I have wrapped up with, but havn’t yet written anything about.  Among them are the two Styrka S7 scopes that I looked at late in 2016.





First, a couple of words about the company.  Styrka is, apparently, a Swedish word for “strength”.  It is also a Russian word for “laundry”.  Since I do not speak Swedish, but do speak Russian, I find the name highly amusing.  If you visit Styrka website, it is positively littered with the word “strong” and its various conjugates.  However, all I can think of when when I visit their website is “strong laundry”…  That is probably my personal failing.

Since I mentioned their website (https://styrkastrong.com/), I might as well give a little background on the company.  From a marketing standpoint, they are very good.  Considering how young the Styrka brand is, they have an unusually clear and coherent message aimed at the hunting market (and it is probably quite effective since most people do not think “laundry” when they hear Styrka; OK, I will wrap up with the whole laundry business).  The reason their presentation looks so polished is that Sytrka is, apparently, Celestron’s new attempt to play in the hunting market.  With Celestron behind them, Styrka has every opportunity to do well.  I have not tested their binoculars and spotters, but I suspect they are very well worked out since Celestron has been marketing those forever and a day.  My interest was with riflescopes and their, Styrka has some work to do.

I looked at two of their higher end scopes, both from the S7 product line: 1-6×24 and 2.5-15×50.  I tested the 1-6×24 on my 10mm carbine and on a fairly conventional AR.  The 2.5-15×50 spend some time on an AR and on a 308Win bolt gun.  Neither scope came with exposed turrets, so I did not spend a whole lot of time exploring tracking.  I did a rough check and since nothing objectionable was found, I did not dig into that further.

The 1-6×24 had their plex reticle (non-illuminated), while the 2.5-15×50 had Styrka’s BDC-style reticle.

Optical quality was quite respectable and good for the money.  Both scopes, once zeroed, stayed zeroed.  However, I did not do an extremely thorough test and the reason for that is reticle design.  Best I can tell, Styrka does not have  a whole lot of people with background in sighting devices, so whoever makes the decisions there really does not understand reticles.  For the record, I explained all of that to the very nice gentleman who was my contact there during SHOT 2017.  I have not heard a peep from them since, so I can surmise that they are either hard at work re-working their reticle or they got all poochy-faced because I dared to tell them they made a few mistakes.  Either way, I am too lazy to fig into what they are up to further, so I will keep checking on them every few months to see if they did anything about their reticles.

As they are right now, their reticles are what I would call “designed to fail”.

The plex reticle in the 1-6×24 has a very wide opening and is way too thin for a low range variable.  You can’t really use the thick bars for bracketing anything and without illumination, the reticle really vanishes in low light.  On the flip side of the coin, during the day, it does not stand out either so it does not aid in speed.  If you look at a veritable horde of 1-6x scopes out there you will notice that everyone does something to aid the visibility of their reticle.  Styrka decided to go with a simple hunting reticle (it seem like they are trying to avoid the AR market like the plague, which in itself is a huge mistake), but then they sized it wrong for a scope of this type.  Illumination helps a bit, but not enough.

The reticle I looked at in the 2.5-15×50 is their SH-BDC and, comparatively speaking, it is even worse. It has a few holdover hashmarks, like many modern holdover reticle, but it skips on the thick outer bars entirely.  You can imagine what it does to low light visibility and speed of acquisition.  With all lines being about the same thickness, the eye is not naturally drawn to any spot, so it is not built for speed.  Line thickness is cleverly selected in such a way that it is too thick for precision shooting, but too think to see in low light.

I have been looking at riflescopes on a fairly consistent basis for about 20 years now.  One of the biggest differences between now and 20 years ago, is the evolution of and ever increasing sophistication in reticle design.  Styrka went ahead and soundly ignored these last twenty years of practical experience and decided to go their own way (most likely drawing on expertise of people who have never fired a gun).

All that is the bad part, and, as you may imaging, I do not think I made any friends at Styrka headquarters.  Frankly, I can live with that.  Be that as it may, there is a silver lining.

First of all, while the S7 scopes are made in China, they appear to be made exceedingly well.  Best I can tell, the S7 deisgn is related to Athlon Midas and Hawke Frontier which appear to be made by the same OEM.  That is not a bad company to be in.  If my guess on the OEM is correct, basic optomechanical quality of the S7 scopes should be quite good and my impressions from using the scopes support that.  Now, that also means if you want a scope like the S7, but with a more modern reticle design, you can go to Hawke or Athlon.  That is generally true, but not for all situations.  Athlon’s reticle designs are at their best in FFP scopes (so consider Athlon Ares if you want a more sophisticated reticle in FFP from the same OEM).  Hawke reticle in the 1-6×24 Frontier is excellent, while the LRD dot in the 2.5-15×50 Frontier is also a very good hunting reticle.  What is worth noting though, is that both Athlon and Hawke supply their 1-6×24 with fixed parallax.

The Styrka S7 1-6×24 is one of the few low range variables with adjustable parallax.  While generally adjustable focus is not necessary on low range variables, it is a pretty good idea if you want to a scope of this type for a rimfire or an airgun.  For that application, it is a very respectable option, just make sure you get the model with illuminated reticle.  I am considering one for my 10/22.

With the 2.5-15×50 S7, while the BDC reticle is basically useless, Styrka makes a version with a low tech, but very familiar classic mil-dot reticle.  To be entirely honest, I do not like complicated holdover reticles in SFP scopes.  As much as I like Athlon’s APLR in FFP Ares, I do not think the SFP Midas is a good platform for it.

Simple mrad-graduate reticle, like the classic Mil-Dot, on the other hand, is quite usable if you know what you are doing without being particularly complicated.  Also, since this reticle is pretty well established, Sytrka’s crack engineers did not go to town on it.  It is a bit old school, but it works and works well for a variety of applications.  Here is a link to the specific model on Adorama.

Considering how harshly I spoke of Styrka earlier, you are probably wondering why I am providing product links.  The answer is simple: I usually see the S7 priced lower than Athlon or Hawke offerings from the same OEM.  If you can live with the options I outlined, this is a pretty cost effective way to get your hands on a very nice scope from the standpoint of optics and basic mechanical quality.

 Posted by at 10:10 pm
Oct 192017
 

October 19, 2017.

 

I popped the safe open to do an inventory of sorts of the stuff I have on hand that still needs to be written up.
This somehow creeped up on me, but there is a lot of stuff in there. I will stop accepting new review items for a bit, until I clear this out.
Here is a rundown with some brief comments, in no particular order.




1) Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×44. I am basically done with this one. I like VX-6HD a lot and if Leupold made a version of this scope with FFP reticle and mrad adjustments for similar money, I would own at least two or three. It tracked true, the low profile turret had a good feel and optical quality is commensurate with the price.

2) Leica Magnus 1.8-12×50. This is the best general purpose hunting scope I have ever tested, bar none. Swaro Z8 is in the same league, I think, and both are really expensive. Zeiss V8 is in the same price range, but from a cursory look, Leica and Swaro are better. Anyway, the image of the Magnus really agrees with me. FOV is superb. Ballistic turret is accurate and the reticle illumination is world class. The reticle is mrad delineated, so I do not have to learn new BDC dimensions. If you want a hunting scope with no compromises, this it. It is sitting on my Tikka M695 in a McMillan stock. I took it out to 600 yards with zero issues. I’ll take it out to 1k next.

3) Leica ER5 2-10×50. Optomechanical quality seems very good. I am a bit mixed on the magnum Ballistic reticle, but I will admit I have not spent as much time with this scope as I wanted to. I got it at the same time as I did the Magnus and I have to admit, I spent more time with the Magnus than with the ER5.

4) Athlon Ares 4.5-27×50.  I’ve spent some time with this scope already and so far I like what I see.  It offers a lot for the money, but as the design is new, I want to spend some more time with it before I decide whether I will recommend it or not.

5) HiLux Phenom 5-30x56FFP.  Same general comment as on the Athlon above.  These two scopes cost about the same customer.  I like the design overall, but there is some field curvature that I need to see if I can dial out.  HiLux Phenom and Athlon Ares go directly against each other, so I am looking at them side-by-side.  These are very featured rich design for not too much money.  These are also among the most ambitious designs I have seen come out of China so far.  Naturally, they peaked my interest.

6) Hi-Lux Uni-Dial 5-30×56.   This is sort of a SFP version of the Phenom above and it is looking quite good so far.

7) Vortex Razor Gen 2 spotter.  I am done testing the variable eyepiece and I am now looking at the fixed eyepiece.  This spotter rocks and it is easily going to end up at the top of my list of recommendations.  Vortex should really get a reticle in there.

8) Leica Noctivid 8×42 binocular.  This is the best general purpose binocular I have seen to date.   Now, you can make a reasonable claim that other similarly priced designs are as good, but they all have their own character.  I have looked at Zeiss, Swaro and Leica at reasonable length and while all three are excellent, Leica agrees with my eyes the best.  It has spectacular microcontrast and the most relaxing image I have ever seen in a binocular.

10) Shield RMS miniature red dot sight.  I’ve got this thing incorporated into the slide of my Glock 43 and it is likely to become that sight of choice for my handgun use on smaller handguns.  Generally, I have been looking at a variety of miniature red dot sights recently and for handgun use, I am converging on Shield RMS and DocterSight III as my favourites.  RMS has the lowest sightline of them all, but it is not waterproof.  However, I accidentally tested that feature and it is definitely splashproof.  I will avoid going swimming with it though.  RMS easily lands on my list of recommendations that I will be updating shortly.

11) Shield SIS is to ARs, what RMS is to handguns.  I am extremely impressed and it moves to the top of my list for carbiine use.  The SIS has really impressed more than I thought it would.  There is an interesting (to me) aspect of it that I hadn’t really thought about earlier.  Everyone is trying to make red dot sights with minimal visible housing, so that all you see is a bright red dot surrounded by as little as possible.  With the SIS, at first blush, the window is comparatively small, while the housing is pretty prominent.  However, it does not seem to have slowed me down in the slightest.  However, when I did some house clearing drills, I realized that at these close ranges, that housing is really helpful.  I do not have to worry about the red dot at all.  The moment I see something that needs to be shot through that window, I can pull the trigger and hit it.  At longer ranges it works about as well as most other red dots.  I have a little astigmatism, so the dots are not terribly sharp, but I can still use the holdover reticle well enough.  I have not yet tested it to see if it works well with a magnifier, so that is next.

12) Vortex UH-1.  I will have it in my hands next week, so a First Look article is forthcoming.

13) Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15×44.  It is arriving next week.  When I looked at the new PSTs briefly earlier this year, I thought the 3-15×44 was the best one of the bunch.  We’ll see how it holds up.

14) Docter QuickSight.  This is mostly a shotgun sight, but I fashioned it to a handgun to see how a short/low window will work.  It is an interesting design, and I’ll have more to say about it shortly.

15) Vortex AMG 6-24×50.  Almost done with this one.  It is currently sitting on my 338LM and working great.  EBR7 reticle is not my favourite, but it works.  The horizontal has a bit too much happening on there for my taste, but it is undoubtedly a functional design.  The scope itself is excellent and I fully expect to buy it from Vortex when I am done.  There are a couple of tests I still need to finish, but I am really impressed with what I see so far.

16) Burris RT-6.  Almost done with this one.  This is my favorite budget 1-6x.

17) Hawke Frontier 1-6×24.  I am surprised with how much I like this scope.  Excellent reticle design and overall a very solid product.

18) Burris XTR 2 1-8×24.  I think the reticle needs a little work, but it is functional.  I suspect this the best overall 1-8x scope under $2k

19) HiLux CMR8 1-8X24.  I helped design the reticle for this one, so I like it a fair bit. The scope itself is quite respectable and seems to stay zeroed.  This is likely the best FFP low range variable to come out of China to date.

ILya

 

 Posted by at 5:52 pm
Oct 132017
 

written by ILya Koshkin, October 2017

Earlier this year, I found myself heading over to Colorado to visit a customer (I do have a dayjob after all) and since it looked like I would have a couple of hours to kill, I reached out to Burris to see if I can stop by take a look at the factory.

To be honest, I fully expected that they will politely suggest I take a long walk on a short pier, so imagine my surprise when asked me what time I would like to stop by.



Armed with two things I always have with me, a camera and an attitude, I showed up on their doorstep and got a rare (for me) look at how they do things.  Considering what I do for a living, I have seen a few optical manufacturing facilities, but not too many that make riflescopes, so this was interesting.  For a variety of obvious reasons, I am not going to talk a whole lot about how they do things, but I will post a few pictures I took inside and mention a few things here and there.

Generally speaking, I liked how they go about it.  The factory is intelligently set up.  I did not see any obvious signs of negligence which is extremely rare, frankly.  The production flow made sense and people knew what they were doing.  Most importantly, I got to ask them a few questions as we walked along and, most refreshingly, no one tried to BS me.  Some things they answered; on some they were not sure what the answers were and said as much.  In a few cases, they declined to comment since it involved something proprietary to them and a couple of questions that they answered, they asked me to not talk about (and I won’t).

I had recently had a chance to use Burris’ customer service (I sent in one of my old US made Burris scopes for repair) and my experience was excellent.  However, in years past, Burris did not have a stellar service reputation.  Naturally, I brought that up.  I do not think that scored me any brownie points, but they pretty much said that mistakes were made.  However, since then, the service department has been significantly beefed up.  I had a nice chat with the gentleman who runs it and he knows what he is doing.  Naturally, I asked about support for old scopes, so they showed me this:

Spare part for old products

Spare parts for old products

Apparently, they have diligently sorted through their inventory and organized all the old parts they had (there are a couple of cabinets like this one).  When they take an old scope in that can not be repaired, they pull whatever parts they can and keep them.  I have a couple of old Burris scopes, so that made me feel a lot better.

Here is a box with a bunch of reticle cells for old scope:

Notice how in the picture below, there is a bunch of small windows in the wall on the left.  In front of each window there is base where a scope can be clamped.  Outside the window, there is an unobstructed few to targets that are, I think, about a 100 yards away.  That’s an inexpensive way to check if the scope is working and to adjust focus as necessary:

One of the assembly benches:

And another:

Here is where the scopes are purged:

And tested for leaks:

And here is a recoil testing fixture, where the scopes a clamped and tortured.

It sits inside a chamber that baffles some of the sound that this fixture makes when it slams up and down.  Here is another fixture that REALLY makes for some serious impact when it slams down.  It makes some serious noise, so they try to not use it when the building is full of people:

Final inspection area:

None of the Burris scope currently for sale in the US are made by Burris facility.  The scope that are made their are mostly Steiner products, which are higher priced and are better suited for US manufacturing costs.  However, the scopes that are made for Burris by OEMs, do go through an inspection at the US factory.  Some lines for through a complete check (XTR II, for example), while others ae spot checked.

Finally, I made my way to the warehouse where all the ready-to-ship products are:

I made a valiant effort to “accidentally” walk out with a few boxes, but they were watching me pretty carefully…

 

I usually have some parting thoughts at the end of every post and frankly, this time, I do not have much to offer.  I have been pretty happy with what I have seen from Burris lately and a walk through their factory simply confirms that.  With Beretta owning several optics brands (Burris and Steiner being most prominent), I am very curious how they plan to develop Burris further.  However, any brand development starts with solid products and Burris seems to be doing quite well in that regard.

 

 Posted by at 5:58 pm
Aug 292017
 

I looked at Leupold LCO and D-EVO 6×20 quite some time ago and talked about them here and there.  However, I never did a formal write-up and given my schedule, I won’t for a bit.

So, I talked into the camera for a few minutes and I will add some commentary to this post later.




Here are a couple of pictures:


And here is the video:

 Posted by at 11:29 am
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