Jun 142019

Lately, I seem to make a habit out of taking on scopes that do not have any sort of direct competition to compare them to.  That was the case with the somewhat unusually configured Steiner P4Xi 4-16×56. With the Diamondback, I never thought I would run into that same issue.  After all, there is no shortage of 4-16×44 or similar scopes. However, once you add FFP and a sophisticated tree reticle, the options dwindle considerably.  Add a $350 price tag, and Diamondback Tactical pretty much stands alone. There is a Falcon scope that is somewhat similarly configured, but since I have had dismal luck with Falcons, I am not quite ready to re-visit that.  Athlon makes a good range of FFP scopes, but the Argos line does not have anything with appropriate magnification range for this comparison and, to be blunt, I really like Athlon scopes starting with Midas TAC and up. All of those are significantly more expensive than the Diamondback Tactical.

In practical terms, I really have nothing that competes against the Diamondback Tactical head to head. The only other worthwhile precision oriented scopes in the $300 range are fixed power scopes from SWFA. They are very well proven designs with excellent reputaiton for durability and tracking, but aside from being fixed power, they also do not come with a tree reticle.

Since I have mentioned reticles, I might as well explore that in a little more detail: the reticle is what really makes this scope interesting.  EBR-2C reticle is the same exact design as Vortex uses in their PST Gen 2 scopes and used to use in the Razor Gen 2 (they have just switched the Razor to a related EBR-7C design, but there are plenty of Razors with EBR-2C floating around).  That offers some interesting options in terms of having very similar looking sight picture on a variety of guns. While it would be nice to get a Razor Gen 2 on everything, that is a pretty significant impact on your wallet. Besides, Razor is kinda on the heavy side, so for some guns it is not a great fit balance-wise.  On the other hand, I can easily imagine someone having a 4.5-27×56 Razor Gen 2 on a competition bolt gun, PST Gen 2 3-15×44 on an accurate semi-auto and Diamondback Tactical 4-16×44 on a rimfire trainer. That saves you a ton of money and you are developing familiarity with the same reticle all along.

Given the apparent lack of directly comparable design, I put together a spec table of a few FFP scopes in a similar configuration range, but they are all appreciably more expensive than the Diamondback Tactical.

Delta Titanium 4.5-14x44FFPSWFA SS 3-15×42Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-16×44Athlon Midas TAC 4-16×44Athlon Ares BTR 2.5-15×50
Length, in15.213.661414.613.8
Weight, oz21.72423.123.827.3
Main Tube Diameter1″30mm30mm30mm30mm
Eye Relief, in3 – 3.5
4.2 –”
FOV, ft@1000yards21.8 – 9.33
13 @ 10x
34.78 – 7.21
10.8 @ 10x
26.9 – 6.7
10.7 @ 10x
27.7 – 7
11.2 @ 10x
41.8 – 6.8
10.2 @ 10x
Click Value0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad0.1 mrad
Adjustment range5 mrad36 mrad25 mradE: 30 mradW: 15 mrad29 mrad
Adjustment per turn5 mrad5 mrad6 mrad10 mrad10 mrad
ParallaxAO 10mSF  6mSF 20 yardsSF 20 yardsSF 10 yards
Zero StopNoNoNoYesYes
Reticle IlluminationNoNoNoNoYes

Looking at the specs, there is really nothing hugely unusual about Diamondback Tactical other than the price.  Specwise, the only scope that kinda stands out in this group is Delta Titanium with its 1” tube, wide FOV and very limited adjustment range.  It also happens to be quite good optically (better than other scopes in this group), but AO is less user friendly than side focus and it has the lowest erector ratio of the three.  It is a really interesting design otherwise. Still, it is significantly more expensive than the Diamondback Tactical.

Most of the testing of the Diamondback Tactical was done on an accurate large frame AR chambered for 243Win.  Honestly, it was really uneventful. I shoot with very fancy scopes and, obviously, Diamondback Tactical is not going to make me give up my Tangent Theta any time soon.  However, it did everything I asked of it and did it well. Most importantly, once zero’ed, it stayed zero’ed.

The reticle, obviously, is the standout feature of this scope and the bulk of the shooting I did was without messing with the turrets at all. The way the reticle is sized, I can use the tree portion fairly comfortable from 8x and up.  On 4x it looks like a thin German #4 reticle. Honestly, the only feedback I really gave to Vortex regarding this scope was to lock the turrets and add an illuminated dot. That would probably make it $400 instead of $350, but they would never be able to keep it in stock.  To be fair, I think the scope has exceeded their expectations as is. Here is what the reticle looks like on 16x, 12x, 8x and 4x.

View of the reticle: 16x, 12x, 8x and 4x

Speaking of the turrets: they are of a non-locking variety.  The turrets are exposed and there is no zero stop. Each click is 0.1 mrad and there are 6 mrad per turn.  Honestly, since I was mostly interested in the reticle I was planning to ignore the turrets altogether, but the gentleman I talk to at Vortex kinda suggested that the turrets will surprise me.  He is sort of an understated kind of a gentleman, and if he offers an opinion on something, I pay attention. I went ahead and tested the turrets under recoil and without it. I only tested them for one revolution ( 6 mrad ), but I spent some time on them and they were absolutely spot on for those 6 mrad.  Clicks have good feel. There is no hysteresis. Windage and Elevation turrets are reasonably decoupled from each other. I did not push them all the way to the edge of the adjustment, but the 6 mrad square after zeroing in a 20 MOA mount, there were no issues whatsoever.

They are reasonably tactile and somewhat low profile.  There is enough resistance in the clicks to not worry too much about inadvertently shifting them, but I would have preferred some sort of a locking feature.  They are resettable, however, which was useful. The way the turret cap latches onto the stem, there are fine teeth that have to engage. Once the turret is on there, it is not going to slip and there is no adjustment slop worth worrying about.

Optically, the scope was pretty solid for the price.  There was some flare, but it was not excessive. Sun shade really helps.  Resolution was perfectly respectable. Not great, but not bad either. You can tell the scope is built to hit a price target, but but it seemed competitive with other sub-$400 variable scopes I have seen. Contrast was a bit on the low side, but then again: show me a sub-$400 FFP scope that does better.  I am not aware of any. I think this one is better optically than Falcons I have seen and Athlon Argos. There is minimal tunneling on low power, so you can pretty much use the entire magnification range. On 4x, there is a good bit of distortion as you move your eye behind the eyepiece, but not enough to bother me. It is noticeable, but not bothersome.

I did not spend any sort of time exploring image quality deterioration toward the edges of adjsutment, since this is not the scope I would want to push too much in terms of adjustment range.  While it tracked fine, if you primary purpose is spinning the turrets, you should be giving SWFA SS 3-15×42 a close look. With Diamondback Tactical, in my opinion, you should really focus on using the reticle for distance and wind compensation.

Diamondback Tactical is, provisionally, added to my list of recommendations, primarily to be used as a 22LR or airgun trainer scope. The recommendation is provisional because the design is fairly new and I am going to track how well it stays zeroed. Vortex has had some trouble keeping up with demand for this scope, so there should be a good number of these out there, i.e. I expect to have reasonable reliability statistics fairly soon.