One of the things that has been frustrating me recently is the fact that most low range variable scopes that are intended for AR carbines are a bit on the heavy side. They typically weigh somewhere in the 16 to 22 ounce range. A decent single piece mount adds a few more ounces and by the time you are done you can easily end up adding a 25 – 30 ounce weight on top of a six pound rifle. At this year’s SHOT I went and looked around to see if there is something that I can put onto a lightweight AR carbine that is not quite as heavy. The obvious answer to this question is a lightweight red dot like the Aimpoint Micro, but once you add a magnifier to it, you are in the same weight range. Back to square zero. The lightest decent quality low range variable scopes I have found are Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4×20 and the new Minox ZA Tactical 1.2-6×24. They do not go all the way down to 1x, but they are worth a look and I plan to test them when the opportunity presents itself. Still, I looked around some and decided to look at compact fixed power scopes that promise to be a touch later. The tiny Trijicon ACOG 4×32 came to mind, so I got my hands on one and started looking at it. It only weighs 10 ounces, but the mount adds a little more weight, so the whole package is 14 ounces. Once I started looking at the ACOG, I figured I should get something comparable to look at as well, so I procured a sample of Elcan Specter OS 4×32 which is a touch heavier at 18 ounces (mount included). I e-mailed Leupold to see if they are willing to loan me a 4×24 HAMR which is similar to Trijicon in weight. Perhaps I will get some other similarly configured scope to look at as well, but these three are if primary interest to me. So far, I have been playing with the Trijicon and the Elcan and found an unexpected change in balance: since both scopes are so compact, they move the balance of the gun back a little which I like.
With the Elcan on the rifle the balance point is right under the magazine well, which makes it pretty neutral in transitions. From the limited testing I have done to date, the performance of the two sights is similar, but the Elcan has better optics and is a little easier to get behind owing to its longer eye relief. The rest of the differences seem to largely come down to individual preferences. For example , th fiber optics and tritium illumination on the ACOG requires no user input, but the battery powered illumination on the Specter is more flexible in use with both bright light and low light settings. The Elcan reticle is definitely a better fit for precision shooting (mine has the C1 reticle) and it does not seem to give up much if anything to the ACOG in speed, but I need to do more testing to be sure. Anyhow, stay tuned as I work through these scopes. Once I am done, I will conglomerate my impressions into a single article as I always do. ILya