Apr 272018
 

A little while back I swore that I am done looking at MOA-based riflescopes and that generally I will hold off taking on any unplanned reviews for a few months until I finish off the write-ups for everything I have on hand already.

Well, I lied.  I didn’t mean to, but Maven announced a new FFP riflescopes in a configuration I liked, so I figured I should take a look.  I have never looked at any Maven products before, but I have been following their progress.  Best I can tell, they get binoculars from some very respectable manufacturers in Asia and, as appropriate, align and assemble some of them at their facility in Wyoming.  I like that approach since you can have some very good quality stuff made in Japan, Phillipines or China, but being hands on with quality control at your own facility is a good idea.


When I saw that they introduced a scope, I reached out and very politely asked them to loan me one.  Here is Maven’s webpage describing the scope.

The basic configuration of this scope really appeals to me.  It is a 2.5-15×44 scope with FFP reticle, side-focus and covered turrets.  The reticle is a Christmas tree-style design of their own.  Unfortunately, the version they have now is in the wrong units, but I will keep trying to persuade them to see the light.

The scope appears to be made in Japan, but I have a suspicion they do some assembly in the US.  I will confirm the specifics before I finish my review.  In the meantime, as soon as the scope arrived, I slapped it onto my TIkka M695 in 280Rem and headed to the range:

This particular Tikka, despite its rather unimpressive appearance is freakishly accurate, so it is a very good platform to test a hunting scope.  The range where I was shooting has plate out to 1000 yards, so after a rather uneventful sight in, I was mostly shooting steel.  Once I figured out what the wind was doing down range, I proceeded to hit every plate I aimed at using the reticle for holdover.  The only time I used the turrets was for sighting in, but during that short experiment, they adjusted as they are supposed to and had rather nice click feel.





The clicks are 0.25 MOA each and a full turn of the turret covers 20 MOA.  I only needed to use 7 MOA of adjustment to get to the setting I needed, so the turrets did not get much of a work out.  I will rectify that as I continue messing with the scope.

The eyepiece is of the fast-focus variety, so I was able to get adjusted quickly and painlessly.

My initial impressions are quite positive.  Everything on the scope worked the way it was supposed to. Optical quality, at first blush, seems very good for the price range.  This scopes most direct competitor is Bushnells LRHS which, unfortunately, I do not have here, but I have a few other scope I can use to ascertain how the optics of the RS1 stack up.  Based on the limited experience I have had with it so far, I think it will do well.  Here is the spec table:

 

Delta Titanium 4.5-14x44FFP SWFA SS 3-15×42 Maven RS1 2.5-15×44 Bushnell LRHS 4.5-18×44 Vortex PST Gen 2 3-15×44 Burris Veracity 3-15×50
Length, in 15.2 13.66 14 14.2 14.3 14.1
Weight, oz 21.7 24 24.5 26.5 28.1 25.1
Main Tube Diameter 30mm 30mm 30mm 30mm 30mm 30mm
Eye Relief, in 3 – 4 4.2 – 3.8 3.4 – 4 3.96 3.4 3.5 – 4.25
FOV, ft@1000yards 21.8 – 9.33

13 @ 10x

34.78 – 7.21

10.8 @ 10x

41.7 – 7

10.5 @ 10x

23.5 – 6.2

11.16 @ 10x

41.2 – 8.6

12.9 @ 10x

36 – 7.5

11.25 @ 10x

Exit Pupil, mm 9.8 – 3.1 11.8 – 2.8 11.4 – 2.93 9.2 – 2.5 16 – 3.3
Click Value 0.3437 MOA 0.1 mrad 0.25 MOA 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.25 MOA
Adjustment range 34 MOA 36 mrad 100 MOA 24 mrad E: 22 mrad

W: 11 mrad

E: 70 MOA

W: 40 MOA

Adjustment per turn 5 mrad 20 MOA 10 mrad 10 mrad
Parallax Yes, AO Yes, 6m SF 10 yards SF SF, 20 mrad SF, 50 yards
Zero Stop No No No Yes Yes No
Reticle Location FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP
Reticle Illumination No No No Optional Yes No
Price $500 $700 $1200 $1400 $1000 $700

 
The scope is available with two reticle and I choose to look at what seems to be a more interesting design to me:

I will take some actual through the scope pictures as I go along so you get an idea of how it looks in real life.  Designing FFP reticles so that they work across a broad magnification range can be tricky, but I think Maven did an overall very respectable job (I will naturally find something to nitpick on later).  In particular, notice how the outer thick bars on the horizontal axis are not too far away from the center aiming point.  That really helps reticle visibility at low magnifications.

The reticle allows for 30MOA of holdover, which takes my 280Rem out to ~1000 yards at sea level.  This time around I was shooting some factory ammo I still have left and with that ammo, 30MOA was about right at 950 yards with a 200 yard zero.  For handloads, I am standardizing this caliber on Badlands Precision’s excellent 145gr Bulldozer buller.  With that bullet, I think at 30MOA I will an extra 100 yards or so.  I am unlikely to ever take a shot on game that far out, but it is good practice.

That’s pretty much it for a first look.  I like what I am seeing so far.

Stay tuned for more.

 Posted by at 11:09 pm
Apr 032018
 

As is often the case, I get my inspiration from various arguments on different forums where I am active. This video is to address some questions I get on the Hide. If something is not clear, please ask and I will do my best to explain it better.

The question of magnification comes up a lot as does the question of tube size. There are many considerations that go into determining the right tube size for a scope and reticle cell size is just one of them.


 Posted by at 11:56 am
Mar 192018
 

General disclaimer: I am more of a shooter than a hunter,  As I get older, hunting appeals to me ever more and I do hunt, just not as much as I would like.  Perhaps, my reticle ideas on the subect will morph as they go along, but I do spend a lot of time peering through optics in varying lighting conditions.  I have been fairly consistent with what I like with reticles.

The key is to figure out what reticle features you need and what reticle features you don’t. Of the ones you do not need, you have to figure out which ones are unobtrusive and which ones get in the way.

For example, I once complained to Vortex that I was not happy with the state of basic hunting reticles out there and drew on a back of a napkin, what I would like. They surprised me by taking my basic sketch and making a reticle out of it, albeit with some modifications (they made it MOA based and changed a couple of dimensions; I am a mrad guy).


The reticle in question is G4-BDC that they use in the Razor HD LH scopes. Here is a snapshot through the 2-10×40 scope at about 5x:


I’ll walk you through my thought process to explain why I like this design.

First of all, when it comes to shooting at game, I am unlikely to take a long shot any time soon.  I practice shooting from field positions a fair bit, but even with a good shooting platform, I am not sure I have the guts to take a 400 yard shot, but 300 is reasonable when conditions are decent.  From less steady positions, this distance is lower, but I do a lot of offhand practice at 100 yards, so a 75 yard shot off hand unsupported is something I am adequately confident in even accounting for adrenaline and fatigue.

That having been said, I like to practice with my hunting rifle(s) and I think it is a good idea to practice at considerably longer distances than you are willing to tackle in the field.  With that in mind, whatever addition features the reticle has to range use, must be something that does not interfere with field use.

There are many traditional hunting reticle designs out there with two most common ones being duplex and German #4 reticles.  Here is a collage of reticle sketches I shamelessly pirated from Meopta website, hoping that they do not mind:

Middle is German #4.  On the right is a duplex and on the left is their BDC reticle.  You can clearly see how this BDC reticle started out as a wide duplex reticle that they added some additional features to.  These are very stylized sketches.  Even with simple duplex and G#4 designs there is a lot of variation in terms of line thicknesses and the length of the thin stadia in the center.

Now that most makers have been transitioning to glass etched reticle designs, there are comparatively few limitations in terms of feature sizes and spacings.

Between the two classic designs, personally, I prefer the #4 since I like that largely unobstructed half of the image on the top and I am not seeing any difference in terms of visibility or speed between #4 and duplex given same line thicknesses and spacings.

In general, the current trend on the market is for people to use reticles that are more complicated than they should and thinner than they should because so many only shoot in broad daylight at the range.  In good light, when you are trying to shoot tiny groups off the bench, it all works great.  Once the light changes and your shooting position gets a little wobbly that ultra thin reticle may not be optimal.

With all of that in mind, when I started thinking about a hunting reticle, I started out with the #4.  Since I do spend a lot of time on the range, I wanted some means to shoot out to 600 yards or so without messing with the turrets and I wanted the aiming point to be reasonably fine.  However, overall, the reticle had to be easily visible in any lighting conditions.

I shoot a lot of different calibers, but my primary hunting rifle is a Tikka M695 chambered for 280Rem.  For when I do not anticipate longish shots, I also have an AR chambered for 458 SOCOM (the AR happens to have a Vortex Razor HD LH 1.5-8×32 on it with the G4 BDC reticle).

I also have a hunting weight rifles chambered for 308Win, 7.62x54R and 6.5Grendel which are all similar in terms of external ballistics.  280Rem is the flattest shooting of this bunch until I get a 300WSM barrel for my Fix rifle.



My go to bullet for the 280Rem is a 145 gr Bulldozer design by Badlands Precision which gives me a maximum 5 inch MPBR of a bit over 350 yards.  Since I usually sight in my hunting rifles right around 200 yards, my practical MPBR is right around 300 yards which works just fine for me.

To reach to 600 yards, I need almost exactly 3 mrad with 200 yard zero, so my original vision for this reticle was to simply have two hash marks 1 mrad and 2 mrad below the primary aiming point and have the thick bar terminate 3 mrad below the primary aiming point.  The thin bar would terminate half mrad below the primary aiming point, but I did not want a horizontal hashmark there to keep the eye naturally drawn to the aiming dot.  That would give me some rudimentary range estimation at top magnification and simple to remember holdovers that can accomodate multiple calibers adequately well.  Since most scopes of this type are FFP, my basic assumption is that all the shooting beyond MPBR is done at top magnification.

Now within 300 yards, I like to be able to hold for wind or for a slowly moving target, for which useful holds are 0.5 mrad, 1 mrad and 2 mrad.

Vortex has its own BDC reticle, so the G4 BDC design they came up with used the MOA-based dimensions that kept it roughly in line with BDC values they have been using on other designs:

I understand why they did it in MOA and the dimensions are consistent and make sense.  I think using varying line thicknesses on the horizontal axis is a very nice touch and it naturally draw the eye to the primary aiming dot.  I wish that dot was a touch bigger or illuminated, but as is, the reticle works quite well and I have used it in all sorts of lighting conditions.

Now, when drawing up a reticle, it is very hard to resist the temptation to start adding features: extra wind holds, ever more granular hashmarks, etc.  For some shooting disciplines those are important, but for typical hunting applications, I think they an unnecessary distraction.

With this design, all I wanted to do was to add a couple of basic hold points to compensate for wind and drop.  However, for hunting applications, I have very limited interest in compensating for wind or lead at distances beyond MPBR and the primary aiming point must be the one your eye is drawn to when you have to shoot fast.  I am not a long range hunter (yet).

In the interest of full disclosure, I have talked to a bunch of people over the years about what I want out of a reticle of this type and I do not know if some other similar designs out there were influenced by that.  A few similar designs came out in the years since I started getting vocal about that.  However, the guys at Vortex were honest enough to admit that they were, so I can openly talk about that.

In all fairness, all of this is rather evolutionary in nature and I am sure other people have been thinking through similar things at the same time.

 Posted by at 2:05 pm
Mar 132018
 

This was inspired by a few more discussions on SnipersHide.

Let me know if any of this makes sense or if you want me to go into more details on anything.

And I am still trying to get a grip on the whole video/audio thing.  The first video is from Z-cam E1 camera with an external X-Y microphone.


The second video is taken with my cellphone and with audio coming from a lapel microphone. Let me know which sounds better to you.  Next time I will try the lapel microphone with the Z-Cam E1, I suppose.


 



 Posted by at 3:41 pm
Mar 062018
 

I am somewhat active on several forums, one of them being SnipersHide.  The gentleman who runs it is a very accomplished military trained long range/precision shooter, so a big part of the forum leans toward the precision side of the shooting world.

While my personal interests span most of the shooting disciplines, I really lean toward the precision world, so that suits me really well.

Almost every day, I see incessant arguments about which scope is better than others and why.  One thing that I do not see differentiated enough is whether the argument is about fundamental quality vs personal preferences and design decisions.



For example, holding zero, returning to zero, adjustment accuracy and adjustment consistency are all fundamental qualities.

Click feel is somewhere in between since for people who use the reticle exclusively it is not terribly important.  Also, it is easier to get good click feel with turrets that have fewer clicks per revolution, so this one spans a little bit of everything: fundamental quality, design compromise and personal preference.

Reticle selection is almost entirely personal preference with a little bit of a design compromise mixed in.

Magnification range is both a personal preference and a design compromise.

Durability is a fundamental quality, but it is very difficult to measure without statistical data.  For example, you will hear about a lot more failures from companies that sell the most scopes.  Let’s say a company sells 100 scopes per year with a 1% failure rate.  That means there is one broken scope out there from this company and unless that one scope is mentioned on the forums we never hear about it.  With another company that sold 1000 scopes in the same period of time, with the same failure rate, there are ten broken scopes out there, so we are almost bound to run into someone complaining about it on the web.  The failure rate is the same, but a larger brand will take a bigger hit to their reputation.

On the other hand, a smaller brand who only sells a 100 scope per year suffers from a small sample size.  Let’s say they have no failures for four years and five failures in one year.  Overall failure rate is still 1%, but their reputation is taking a serious hit from that one bad year.


Ultimately, I watch this kind of stuff carefully, but do not draw too many conclusions from it, partially because people who are pissed about an expensive scope taking a dive are usually a lot more vocal than satisfied customers.

We live in a time where precision shooters have an impressive array of options from quality manufacturers.  It used to be just one or two makers serving this market segment, but now there is a bunch.  On top of that, there is an increasing number of quality designs popping up at half the price of the alpha stuff.

I will ignore price considerations for now and give some thought to what would be an ideal precision riflescope for me based on the features I like from different makers out there.  Keep in mind that I do not do ELR a whole lot, so extremely large adjustment range or very high magnification are not critical for me, especially since I can always get a Tacom prism.

There is no one scope right now that does exactly what I want, but Tangent Theta gets close on the strength of excellent optomechanical quality and the best turrets I have seen to date in terms of feel (there are several options with excellent reputability and return to zero, Tangent Theta being among them).

I use Tangent Theta TT315M as my general purpose precision scope and it is just superb.  However, since we are talking about a wishlist here, for a dedicated precision gun, I could use a little more magnification.  I do not need a whole lot more but I prefer 20x or more for this role.

The TT315M has 6 mrad per turn turrets with spectacular feel.  However, the larger TT315P and TT525P have near perfect turrets with even better feel and 15 mrad per turn; however, these scopes are significantly heavier and the turrets are taller than I like.   Still, if I were to choose one precision scope from what is on the market right now, TT525P would be it.

As far as form factor goes, the turrets on Vortex AMG 6-24×50 are just about perfect.  They are a bit more compact, with 10 mrad per turn, zero stop and locking feature.  The feel is not Tangent Theta though.

The weight of the AMG is about right (near same as TT315M), but it is on the long side at 15 inches (TT315M is around 13.5″).

Overall length is not that critical, unless you plan to use a clip-on in front of the scope.  Still, given a choice, I would prefer to keep it in the 12 to 13 inch range if possible (or shorter).  Of the designs on the market now, only S&B 5-20×50 Ultra Short is there, but the upcoming EOTech Vudu 5-25×50 and Kahles K318i are in that same size range.  I think EOTech turrets are too tall for a scope of this size, but Kahles K318i turrets are a good compromise.  In terms of factor factor, low and wide turrets on S&B Ultra Short, are good size, but I do not like the feel as much.  ZCO 4-20×50 is also promising, ditto for Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18×44.

As far as control configuration goes, I really like what Kahles is doing with the center parallax.  I shoot both right handed and left handed and that parallax location is very convenient.  Other ambidextrous parallax options are on the objective bell and that is more of a reach than I like.

As far as magnification range goes, low mags are not that critical for precision use, but I shoot quite a bit off hand and from poorly supported positions, so I like to have 4x or so on the low end.

Reticles are a really personal preference.  There is not single reticle design out there that is perfect for me, but most Christmas tree style reticles work well enough.  I use both reticle and turrets, so Horus designs are not my thing.  I will do a separate piece on which reticle would be perfect for my needs.  In the meantime, I am quite comfortable with Gen 2 XR, Vortex EBR-2C and a few others.

To summarize all of this meandering, my ultimate precision scope would be a 4-24×50 with Tangent Theta’s optomechanical quality and turret feel, Vortex AMG weight, S&B Ultra Short overall length and turret size and Kahles’ general control configuration.  Not to mention that it would have to have a reticle that does not yet exist and would probably be something that only I would like.

I do not think I will get that any time soon, so I will continue to use whatever is on the market and every time I miss a shot I will claim that I missed because the scope is not perfect…


 

 Posted by at 10:27 am
Feb 262018
 

I answer quite a few questions via PM on different forums where I participate and every once in a while, I take one and make a blog post out of it.  A little while back, I received something I though was worth exploring:


Most comparisons don’t compare across price lines, except for your fun “if I could only have one” thread. Looking mostly at FFP 5-25 and I am trying to decide how much better a scope I am getting if I go with something in the Athlon Ares/PST GENII $725-$900 range versus jumping up to an Athlon Cronus/Sig Tango 6/Vortex Razor range at $1425-$1800, Athlons being new at the bottom of both those ranges. With several good deals popping up on here for Sigs and the dealers offering good pricing on Athlon, I am a little torn.

There is a reason why it is difficult to compare across price lines simply because quantifying what is worth the money is kinda complicated.

A basic rifle scope that you put on a hunting rifle really has two jobs:

  1. Stay zeroed
  2. Show the target and the reticle well enough to pull the trigger

If your scope of choice does not acomplish those two goals, you start going higher up in price until you stumble onto a product that does.  In this case, value for the money is obvious.  However, once you go higher up in price range in order to get additional features and performance, justifying that is not always straight forward.  Still, there is a reason I’ve got Leica Magnus on my 280Rem.

With precision scopes, there are additional baseline requirements, largely pertaining to the reticle and the adjustments.  However, once those are satisfied, how do you justify spending more?

Everyone does so in a different way and a lot depends on what you do with it.  For example, if you are putting your ass on the line, spend some money on reliability and track record.  The best warranty in the world is of no help if your scope craps out on you in the middle of nowhere.  Or in the middle of a competition if you are a serious competitor (that is far less traumatic than getting shot at in one of the “stans”, but still very disappointing).

However, outside of really challenging conditions and high risk situations, there is a lot to be said about mid-range scopes.  They are getting really good right now.

The stuff made in the Phillipines is maturing.  When Vortex made Gen 1 PST, it had issues, but a lot of those were resolved.  Gen 2 is much better.  Burris XTR II proved that you can have a very feature rich scope with dead nuts reliable mechanics coming out of the Phillipines.  PST Gen 2 is better optically, but not better mechanically.  It is newer though.  I am sure that Vortex is stabilizing PST Gen 2 mechanics (and the two I am looking at are very good), while I am similarly sure that Burris is plotting to improve the glass on XTR III or whatever the next one is (among other things).  Still, there is now some track record for mid-range stuff coming out of Phillipines and it is beginning to push Japanese products quite a bit.

For example, if you are in the market for a very full featured 3-15x scope for a fair price, I have a very hard time recommending anything other than PST Gen 2 3-15×44 right now.  To do noticeably better than that scope you really need to be stepping up to TT315M or something along those lines.

Athlon’s Ares is the highest end scope I have seen come out of China to date, so there is no track record to speak of.  If you buy an Ares riflescope you take a risk, but you also pay less than for the better Phillipine stuff.  The 4.5-27×50 Ares BTR I have been playing with is very good for the money, but not as good overall  as the PST Gen 2 (I have them side by side on my tripod fixture right now).  Is it worth the money? Yes, but until it has been out a little longer, I would be wary of putting it onto anything you plan to depend on.  Mind you, mine has been rock solid, but it is a sample of one.  Ares ETR that is coming out is an even more ambitious design, but if it holds up, the Phillipine-made scopes will have something to worry about.

Then there are the Japanese scopes, most of them made by LOW (except for a new Sightron that will be available mid year).  Most LOW scopes in the $1500 and up range are mechanically robust and the difference between them comes down to turrets, reticles and specific requirements from the customer.  Weirdly, the best I have seen so far from LOW in terms of optics is from a Polish company, called Delta Optical, but the rest of them are not far behind.  SigSauer’s LOW products are probably the most full-featured overall.  Vortex’ Razor Gen 2 have the best explored track record.  Athlon Cronus is probably the value leader among designs commonly available in the US.

Are these scope worth the price premium over the PST Gen 2?  Are PST Gen 2 and XTR II worth the price premium over Ares?  For that matter, are the alpha brands worth the price premium over the better Japanese scopes?

Then there are occasional products that really throw a monkey wrench into this by offering reliability and track record with fewer features (yes SWFA SS scopes, I am looking straight at you).

If I could afford it, I would have Tangent Theta or Leica Magnus on every rifle.  I can’t.

I have two rifles on which I refuse to compromise:  My primary hunting rifle (re-stocked Tikka M695 in 280Rem) has a Leica Magnus 1.8-12×50 and my general purpose boltgun (Q’s Fix) has Tangent Theta TT315M.  ZCO is coming up to compete with Tangent Theta and others, but they are not here yet, so they do not enter this discussion.

I am probably going to sell my Desert Tech when I am done testing the Vortex Razor AMG I currently have on it, but the primary scope on the SRS is SWFA SS 5-20×50.  It is as reliable as anything out there and I can not afford to put a $3k scope on everything.  And it hasn’t skipped a bit on 338LM for a couple of years now.

In sub-$2k world, if I am looking for a scope with 20x or higher magnification, I think I am still going to lean toward Japanese designs.  For now.  That means, SWFA SS 5-20×50 or Delta 4.5-30×56.  Or Cronus if that reticle rocks your boat, but Delta seems better optically despite being a clearly related design.  If you can find Razor Gen 2 for that money, go for it.

In the 3-15x range, it is PST Gen 2.  That is clearly the cherry of the PST line-up.  Here, I would have a hard time justifying the cost of anything until you get to $3k and scopes that offer minimal compromises.

In the 2-10x range, it is XTR II 2-10×42.  It needs more reticles, but Burris did an exceptional job with this design.

If you want to go lower in price, you get to pick between the track record of SWFA SS 3-15x42FFP and the featureset of Athlon Ares BTR, and I can’t make that choice for you.

 Posted by at 8:32 am
Jan 312018
 

As I plan what to test in 2018 a few things come to mind.

Generally, I would like to do a careful overview of different 1-8×24 scopes priced in the $1k to $2k, so I will be doing that more or less continuously as I go along.  Besides, I do not yet know which scopes I will be able to get my hands on, so I will have to adjust on the fly.  This is a market segment I am interested in, so I plan to explore it thoroughly.  The products that come to mind right now are as follows (I am itnerested in FFP or DFP 1-824 scopes):

Burris XTR II 1-8×24 (I have this one and I plan to compare it to competition)

Trijicon 1-8×28 (I know where it stands, so I am not sure I will seek one out again)

GPOTAC 1-8×24 (I am very curious what they did with the illumination on this one)

Primary Arms Platinum 1-8×24 (I really liked the Griffin Mil reticle, so I want to test it)

Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 (the compactness of this scope is very appealing)

I know there will be one or two new designs, but I am not sure whether they will be here mid year or for next SHOT, so that remains to be seen.  I am comfortable extending this into next year if it means covering more products.

Am I forgetting any interesting offerings in the $1k to $2k range?  The only one I can think of is the Bushnell SMRS 1-8.5×24 and I am still a little mixed whether I want to test it or not.  It is another scope that has been out for a bit, so I know how it stacks up.



Another question is whether I should consider looking at some of the similarly priced 1-6x scopes out there.  When you increase the magnification ratio, one of the things that really has to be looked at carefully is performance at 1x.  It is easy to introduce distortion and make eye relief less flexible.  I expect that in the over-$1k price range, it is paid attention to, but it may worthwhile to see how performance on 1x compares between similarly priced 1-6x and 1-8x designs.

If you would like to make any suggestions or comments, please do so here on my Facebook page.



 Posted by at 5:55 pm
Jan 172018
 

This was prompted by a question I received on the Hide in this thread.

Here is the actual question: “Ilya, just curious, what could be the optical or opto-mechanical compromises associated with super short scopes like this, if any?”

I figured that it may take a little effort to write down, so instead, I talked into the camera for a few minutes.  I forgot to fix the focus distance, so the focus is hunting all the time.  My apologies.

I will try to re-record this at some point.

 

 

 Posted by at 3:11 pm
Jan 132018
 

Elcan Spectre TR is a very unique riflescope. Elcan generally seems to march to the beat of their own drum and it seems to work out pretty well for them. I generally like Elcan products and have a lot of mileage with them. Some people like them. Some hate them. Few are ambivalent. I am generally in the former category since all the Elcans I have seen to date really agreed well with my eyes.

Elcan Spectre TR on a California-legal AR (yes, this state stinks so so much)

Elcan Spectre TR on a California-legal AR (yes, this state stinks so so much)

Interestingly, a lot of the complaints I have seen about Elcan center around their use or ARMS mounts.  While I  have not had any problems with the ones on my Elcan Spectre OS, but I still upgraded them to the new adjustable levers.  Spectre TR, however, eschew ARMS hardware entirely and instead utilize two simple nuts (that look like they are around 1/2″ or similar metric size; I didn’t bother to measure exactly).   The windage and elevations adjustments are external as is the case on most Elcans and were exceedingly robust in  my practice.

Generally, I really liked this scope and it is a strong contender for my “if I could only have one” crown. I spent a few minutes talking to the camera and here is the video. Let me know if there is something you are interested in, that I havn’t touched on.

Three magnification levels really extend the flexibility of this site beyond what you get with a single or dual power option. Generally, for a regular 5.56 carbine, my go to set-up is Elcan Spectre OS 4x with an add-on miniature red dot sight. Spectre TR functions basically as a red dot at 1x, offers optically excellent 3x for general purpose use and allows you to flip up to 9x for extended range.



I would have preferred a mrad-based reticle, to the BDC Elcan uses, but that is my complaint with many riflescopes. It appears that the military insists on the BDC set-up and companies who really focus on military sales simply go with what their customers ask for. Personally, I think that is a mistake, but to each his own. If you use something long enough you can get used to almost anything.

While the reticle in the Spectre TR is available in 5.56 and 7.62 versions, I really think the 7.62 version is a bit fit for this scope. It is a bit on a heavy side and makes a better match to a DMR style rifle than to a lightweight carbine. I had it on a lightweight carbine and took a class with it. While it worked well, it had a significant effect on the balance. There, my Spectre OS 4x is a much better fit.

On the 18″ Grendel that I shoot a lot and on the AR-10, it was a much better fit in terms of balance and the reticle worked reasonably well with both 123gr Hornady Grendel load, and with precision 308 ammo in the AR10.

 Posted by at 10:58 am
Dec 302017
 

written by ILya Koshkin, December 2017

One of the goals I had for 2017 was to take a break from the stratospherically priced precision scopes I have been spending so much time on and take a closer look at products people can actually afford.  Also, since I have been shooting my various ARs a lot, I decided to look a little more closely at red dot sights and low range variable power (LRVP) scopes.

Looking at the changes that have been happening in the LRVP market, I can make a pretty good case that development-wise it is the most active segment in the riflescope world at the moment and has been for a little while.  First, decent 1-4x designs became available for not too much money. Now, you can get a very respectable 1-6x scope for under $500 (see my Burris RT-6 impressions here).  Next step is a proliferation of rather capable 1-8x designs.  Now, when I say “capable” 1-8x designs I am not referring to the inexpensive Chinese OEM design that a bunch of people use, retailing in the $300-$400 range.  It is apparently quite popular and I am sure I am not making any friends when I say this, but it is barely serviceable at best.

As a general aside, if you want to see a super positive review on everything, buy any gun magazine.  Every once in a while, I ruffle through a few pages and my blood pressure goes up every time I get to an article on optics.  I could swear that half the time they do not even use the scopes they claim to test.  They mount them on a gun, take a couple of nice pictures and proceed to rehash whatever is in the marketing literature.  As riflescopes get more sophisticated, the basic technical illiteracy of an average gunwriter becomes more and more apparent.  Some time, I should do some audio recordings from the press room at SHOT show; you hear all sorts of interesting things there…

Going back to the matter at hand… another factor to consider is that once we get into a rather broad magnification range designs, fairly long shots are very viable and reticle plane needs to be considered.  With 1-4x and 1-6x scopes, I am perfectly comfortable with either FFP or SFP, as long as it is done well.  However, once we get to 8x at the top end, I really start leaning toward FFP.

However, FFP makes it difficult to have a day bright reticle illumination, which can be important on 1x.  One way to offset that is with a sophisticated reticle design, but there has also been a lot of improvement in reticle illumination technology.

To me, the king of the hill with 1-8×24 scopes in the last couple of years has been Minox’ ZP8 1-8×24 (with the new Nightforce ATACR being the most recent challenger), but it is expensive and out of reach for most people.  With that in mind I decided to restrict myself to the sub-$2k range and gradually look at whatever is available as time allows.

That’s how we get to the Burris XTR II 1-8×24.  It runs for right around $1100-$1200 and seems to be a very well built scope.  Another reason I was curious was that I tested the 2-10×42 version of the XTR II and liked it immensely.  However, while all the other XTR II scopes are made in the Phillipines, the 1-8×24 is made in Japan by LOW.  That was an interesting enough development for me to get my hands on one.

I ran out of one piece mounts, so the XTRII ended up in a set of Kelbly's 34mm rings. It worked surprisingly well.

I ran out of one piece mounts, so the XTR II ended up in a set of Kelbly’s 34mm rings. It worked surprisingly well.

Here is my customary table of all the 1-8×24 FFP scopes I could think of in the sub-$2k price range:

Burris XTR II 1-8×24

Trijicon 1-8×28 HiLux CMR8 1-8×26 Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 (new) GPO TAC 1-8×24 1-8×24

(new)

PA Platinum 1-8 X 24 Bushnell SMRS 1-8.5x 24

Length, in

10.75 10.8 10 8.75 10.7 10.8 10.5
Weight, oz 24.3 25 22 17 27 26.45

23

Main Tube Diameter

34mm 34mm 34mm 30mm 34mm 34mm 34mm
Eye Relief, in

4 – 3.5

4 – 3.9 4 3.75 3.54 3.98 – 3.83 3.5
FOV, ft@1000yards

105 – 12.5

109 – 13.1 114.8 – 14.5 106 – 13 107 – 13 105.8 – 13.25

105 – 14

Exit Pupil 12 – 3 11.8 – 3.5 16.6 – 3.2 7.9 – 3 24 – 3(???) 11.7 – 3

13.2 – 3.2 (???)

Click Value 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.2 mrad 0.1 mrad 0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

Adjustment per turn

10 mrad

10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad 10 mrad
Adjustment range 30 mrad 29.6 mrad 30 mrad 29 mrad

17.5 mrad

Zero Stop

Yes Yes Yes

Yes

Reticle Location

FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP FFP

FFP

Price $1100 $1400 $800 $1800 $1000 $1300

$1700

Two of the scopes I list are not yet out in the wild: Nightforce NX8 and GPO TAC, so all I know about them is limited to the published specifications.   The exit pupil spec for the GPO TAC has got to be a typo.  NX8 seems to be impressively compact and light for this category.  Both GPO and Nightforce are supposed to have truly day bright reticle illumination.  I’ll be sure to test both designs.  The exit pupil specification for the Bushnell SMRS is definitely a typo.  You can’t get a 3.2mm exit pupil with a 24mm objective and 8.5x magnification.  I’ll need to look at this scope a bit more carefully we well.



Best I can tell all of these designs other than the Hi-Lux are either entirely or partially OEM’ed by LOW in Japan.  I will talk about Hi-Lux’ CMR8 in another article, since that is a different story.  Between Burris, Trijicon, PA and Bushnell, there is a lot of similarity in specifications and I suspect they are related, though not identical designs.  None of these offer fully dayr bight reticles, so I expect that to be compensated by reticle features.  Burris reticle has a large(ish) circle that serves that purpose.  Here is what it looks like on 1x with and without illumination:

1x, illumination OFF

1x, illumination OFF

I probably would have preferred a somewhat thicker circle for visibility, but it worked quite well as is.  The circle and the bars really draw the eye to the center and at closer distances.  Here are a few pictures at different magnifications:

2X

2X

4X

4X

6x

6x

8X

8X

The photos are taken with a handheld cellphone and are not intended as a measure of image quality.  The are only meant to give you an idea of what the reticle looks like.  The circle inside diameter is 10 mrad and the thickness is 1 mrad, which is a little on the thin side for my purposes.  It works though.  10 mrad is very easy to use for some rudimentary rangefinding.  The beauty of the mrad system is that at any distance 1 mrad subtends exactly one thousandth of that distance. Well, that means 10 mrad subtends exactly one hundredth of the distance.  In practical terms, if you are looking at a target that is 100 yards away, the circle subtends 1 yard.  At 100 feet, it is 1 foot.  At 50 yards, it is 0.5 yards (or 18 inches). And so on.  For me, it is pretty intuitive and I can make quick range estimation using the circle at moderate distances.  Here is a drawing with the rest of the subtensions that I grabbed from Burris’ website.  Unless specifically noted, they are all in mrad.

Holdover points work well for typical AR cartridges and the horizontal hashmarks subtend 18″ at 300, 400 and 500 yards.  I am not a huge fan of BDC reticles and of this type of rangefinding, but it works in a pinch and Burris keeps things consistent between different models.  I am reasonably well used to it, but I would have preferred a mil-scale on the vertical axis.  Perhaps, I will talk Burris into putting one in (it is unlikely, but I keep trying).

Before I wrap up with the reticle discussion, it is worth mentioning that this is a very streamlined reticle design that is very quick to deploy.  Most of my complaints about the reticle are really a matter of personal preference, so YMMV.  I held back this review for a bit in order to spend some time with the reticle and do some more shooting in different lighting conditions.  I can honestly report that the reticle did not hold me back in the slightest.  For use on ARs of all sorts where you want to cover everything from CQB to 600 yards or so, it worked great.

If I want to push it further, I can use the turrets, which are well weighted and very repeatable.  The scope comes with Burris’ MAD system, which basically means that you can switch between an exposed turret with a zero stop and a simple covered turret.  It came from the factory with an exposed turret and the covered turret is in the box.  For scopes of this type I generally prefer covered or locking turrets, but a zero stop is very helpful as well.  Since I am planning to take this scope out to 1000 yards soon, I have not yet switched the turrets.   Windage turret is of the covered variety, which works great for me.

Exposed elevation turret and covered windage turret

Exposed elevation turret and covered windage turret

The illumination control knob is on the left of the turret box and offers a pretty good range of brightnesses from very low that is suitable from low light use to fairly bright conditions.  As I mentioned before, it is not quite bright enough for broad daylight, but close.

In terms of physical size, it is marginally bigger than some 1-6×24 designs, but the difference is small.  Here is a snapshot where you can see four scopes sorta next to each other: Hawke Frontier 1-6×24, Burris RT-6, Hi-Lux CMR8 1-8×26 and Burris XTR II 1-8×24.

The magnification ring is reasonably well weighted and is knurled so it is easy enough to grab.  Same for all the other controls.  The scope came with a couple of lens covers that do not seem to be Butler Creek.  I am not sure who makes them, but they appear to be holding up alright.  If they break, I’ll update this.  The eyepiece is of the fast focus variety.  It did not take long to set up and I did not see any obvious hysteresis in the adjustment.

Generally, setting up the eyepiece for scopes that go down to 1x is a little different than that for higher power scopes.  What I usually do is get it focused at the highest power first in the conventional manner, but then I do some finetuning at 1x to minimize distortion and match magnifications.  XTR optical designed is very solid and it did not take a whole lot of messing with.

Generally, I am pretty happy with the optics.  It is still a 24mm objective, so if you are looking for something optimized for low light, this is not it.  However, it is very respectable for what it is and since the image has good contrast and stray light control, overall optical performance is better than I expected.  At 8x, the exit pupil is only 3mm which works well for daylight, but as the light got lower, I found myself turning the magnification down.  I did not try it on a pitch black night, but with some sort of moon/stars/street lights/etc, I found myself settling somewhere right around 4.5x.  Optically, it seemed to be fairly similar to the Trijicon 1-8×28 and Bushnell SMRS that I have spent some time with and better than the less expensive Hilux CMR8.  I have not spent enough time with the PA Platinum to be sure where it stacks up, but I think it is also similar.

As far as eye relief flexibility goes, the scope was very easy to get behind across the magnification range.  It got a little tighter at 8x, as the exit pupil got smaller, but overall the eyepiece looks to be well designed.  I did not see any tunneling anywhere, which is important for LRVP scopes.  It seems to be a touch better than the previous generation of 1-6×24 LRVP scopes (1-6×24 models like SWFA SSHD 1-6×24 and GRSC 1-6×24), but not by much.  The biggest advantage it has over those is with broader magnification range and slightly wider FOV.  Outside of that, optically, CA seems to be slightly better controlled.  In other words, it looks like the 1-8×24 FFP design achieves slightly better optical performance than the earlier 1-6×24 FFP  across a wider range of magnifications.  To me, that sounds like a tangible improvement.  To sorta bracket how it performs, I think that the better 1-6×24 SFP scopes like Vortex Razor Gen 2 and Meopta Meostar R2 are a touch better, but SFP scopes are a little easier to build, and they are more expensive.

Overall, I am really impressed with what the XTR II offers for the money.  It seems to be offering comparable performance to to its competitors while costing less, by a non-trivial amount.  With that in mind, the XTR II easily lands on my list of recommendations.

 Posted by at 6:00 am