Compact AR Scopes: Hensoldt ZOi 4×30 vs Elcan Spectre OS 4×32

 

Written by ILya Koshkin, November 2015

 

I have written about Trijicon ACOG, Leupold HAMR and Elcan Spectre OS before and I think I made abundantly clear that I really like this class of scopes.

 All three are good scopes, but out of those I clearly liked the Elcan the most with the HAMR being not too far behind.  The Trijicon, while a very nice design on its own, did not do too well side-by-side with the newer offerings.  I suspect that I managed to irritate a legion of ACOG fans out there, but, to be honest, I still manage to sleep quite well at night despite that.  Needless to say though, this is pretty exalted company, so even the worst scope in this group is still quite good.

I ended up keeping the Elcan and it has become my “go to” sight on a compact AR I built.  I added a set of 45 degree offset iron sights to that rifle and called it a day.

Since then, I fired a lot of rounds through that rifle and the Elcan held up admirably.  Naturally, when I got a chance to take a look at Hensoldt ZOi 4×30 (courtesy of EuroOptic), I jumped onto the opportunity.

I considered evaluating a Browe scope, but a little research on the track record of Browe scopes out there suggested that testing one of those may not be worth my while (some electronic functions are innovative, but optomechanically, it is a basic clone of of the ACOG).

To re-iterate what I said, elsewhere, I have some fairly specific notions on the relationship between how much riflescopes these days cost and what I should be getting for that money.

 



When speaking of AR scopes, I loosely divide the price ranges as follows:

– For $500 and under, I am willing to make all sorts of compromises: it just has to hold zero, have a usable reticle and decent image.

– For $1200 and under, the scope has to be exceptionally well executed.  It may not have every functionality or feature I want, but every feature it does have must be executed well

– If it costs north of $2k, I want it to be perfect for what I do.

 

Here is a spec table for the two scopes I looked at (in bold) along with a couple of others:

Trijicon ACOG 4×32

Elcan Specter OS 4×32

Leupold HAMR 4×24

Hensoldt ZO 4x30i

Browe 4×32

Length, in

5.8

6

5.7

5.47

6.3

Weight, oz

14 with mount

18.6

with mount

14.8

with mount

21.16

17

Eye Relief, in

1.5

2.75

2.8

2.56

1.5

FOV, ft@100yards

36.8 (7 deg)

31.5 (6 deg)

31.5 (6 deg)

42 (8 deg)

36.8 (7 deg)

Click Value

0.5 MOA

0.5 MOA

1 MOA

0.2 mrad

0.5 MOA

Illumination

Fiber-optic and tritium

Dual mode battery power

Single mode battery power

Battery powered

Battery with autocompensation

Price

$1218

$1254

$1299

$1590

$1184

 

Looking at the specs, a couple of things immediately stand out:

-Hensoldt is a little heavier

-Hensoldt has a freakishly wide FOV

-Hensoldt is more expensive

 

Size wise, these two scopes are very similar to each other.  The mechanical design of the two is quite different, with the Elcan’s adjustment being external and Hensoldt adjustments internal in a manner that is a bit more conventional.

 i-vZ29HLZ-L.jpg

 

In practical terms, I only used the adjustment in both scopes for sighting in and after that used the reticle for holdover.  In principle, while sighting in, the adjustments performed as advertised, but I did not bother to mess with tracking a whole lot.  I think these scopes were intended to operate in a “set-and-forget” operating mode.

 Both come with integrated mounts.  The Elcan has ARMS QD levers.  I intend to upgrade mine to the adjustable versions of the same levers, but the ones on there now have worked well for me, so no complaints there.  The Hensoldt has what I presume is their own version of a QD Picatiny mount integrated into the ZOi.  It seems to work fine and comes back to zero well enough where I can not really see the difference on a gun that shoots around 1MOA.  One thing I liked about the Hensoldt mount is that the lever is locked in its closed position.  It is a very secure arrangement.

Both Elcan and Hensoldt can be paired with a small red dot sight.  Elcan can be equipped with a small base that fits the Docter sight and several other compatible miniature red dots.  I have the base on the sight in the picture below and used it with the rather excellent Meopta Meosight III for quite some time.  The Hensoldt has a short picatinny rail on top of the sight, so it is a little more flexible in terms of what you can hook up to it.  I did not try to run it with a secondary sight, since it did not seem like it would be vastly different in terms of usability to the Elcan.  The separation between the optical axis of the magnified sight and the sighting axis of the red dot is a touch larger on the Hensoldt, but in exchange you get the flexibility of the picatinny mount.

Windage and elevation adjustments of both of these scopes are not intended for frequent dialing, so distance shooting is accomplished using the reticle for range estimation and holdover.  While the reticles of these sights are intended to satisfy the same basic requirements, they go about it in a very different way.  Both offer holdover points calibrated out to 600+ yards, but I did not stretch them beyond 600.  The holdovers are intended for SS109 ammo, which I generally do not use, but with a little experimentation and tinkering with a ballistic calculator I had no problem using both reticles with 77gr Mk262 style ammo.  Still, I much prefer mrad marks to cartridge specific holdovers.

Both reticles offer choke-style rangefinders that work reasonably well on man size targets.

That is where the similarities end.   The reticle in the Hensodlt has a large horseshoe that offer excellent visibility in low light.  Inside the horseshoe is a crosshair, with a couple of windage/lead hold marks and distance holdover points.  The hashmarks for different distances are of different widths, which can be used for rudimentary range estimation as well.

 The reticle in the Elcan is a variation on the duplex theme with a small floating crosshair in the center, thicker outer bars, and small holdover hashes for varying distances.

Without illumination, the Hensoldt reticle is faster to deploy, while the Elcan has an edge in precision shooting.  Both work, but I found the windage/lead hold marks of the Hensoldt a nice touch.

 

Elcan reticle:

i-sbR8D8M-M.jpg

 

Hensoldt reticle:

i-fLW7ZVK-M.jpg

 

Both sights offer illumination, but they are very different in execution.  Hensoldt illumination is only intended to be used in low light situations and it lights up the whole reticle.  In bright light the illumination is not visible, so the reticle is made to be fairly bold for operating speed.

Elcan illumination is considerably more sophisticated, with two operating modes: bright illumination of the center crosshair only for day use and dim illumination of the whole reticle for low light use.

 Both are workable solutions, but reticle illumination scheme is a weakness for the Hensoldt.  If your battery has died on you, on the other hand, the Hensoldt reticle shines.

Another noteworthy difference is the location of the illumination controls.  On the Spectre OS, the illumination is controlled by a rather large knob on the left side of the sight.  That jives well with us on AR-type rifles, which are intended to be manipulated with the right hand on the grip and the left hand operating the controls.  However, when shooting with a support sling, my left hand is fixed in place, so the controls have to be accessed with the right hand.  The illumination control knob on the Elcan is large enough to make it possible, but not ideal.

The illumination control on the Hensoldt (see picture below) is in the same basic location as it is on many full size red dot sight from Aimpoint: on the bottom right of the sight.  It is easy to reach with the right hand, but rather inconvenient for the left hand.  I think Elcan offers a more flexible arrangement, but both are workable.  Ideally, I would have liked for the illumination control to be mounted a little higher on the scope in the 10 or 2 o’clock position.  That would be much better for ambidextrous use.

i-CnW6HzS-M.jpg

 

Optically, both scopes are excellent with somewhat different strengths.

In terms of ability to see detail, Elcan is a little better.  It was also better than Trijicon ACOG and Leupold HAMR, so Hensoldt is in pretty good company there.  I did not have the Trijicon and Leupold on hand, but if my recollection is accurate, in terms of detail and contrast rendition, Hensoldt fits between these two and the Elcan.

 The two sights also present different color balances, with Elcan being fairly neutral and Hensoldt a little warm.

Where Hensoldt really shines is in the FOV.  While it does not look like a big difference on paper, in actual use, it is noticeable.  The ZOi also has a spectacular eyepiece design.  Eye relief is exceptionally flexible and the image distortion as you move toward the edge of the exit pupil is notable less significant than on the Spectre OS or any other prism sight in my experience.  The ZOi is exceptionally easy to get behind.

I spent a fair amount of time using both sights for observation and did not observe any real difference in eye fatigue.  Still, in terms of simply staring through it, Hensoldt is more user friendly.

Finally, which is better?  That really comes down to which reticle you prefer.  For my purposes (and keep in mind that I lean toward precision shooting simply based on temperament), the Elcan is a better choice, owing to slightly better optics and superior reticle illumination system.  However, truth be told, I could easily switch to the Hensoldt without any detriment to hitting the target.

Here is one last photo before I wrap things up.  One of the days I was at the range a friend of mine joined it with his newly acquired WInchester levergun, which, in some ways, is the original assault rifle.  It is interesting to see a compact AR next to an old 30-30 levergun.  Aside from the optics and the pistol grip, they are almost the same size.

i-QwLnK5n-L.jpg

Lastly, since I sorta set out to overview the entirety of available 4x prism scopes out there, it does not hurt to summarize what I found so far with the four models I looked at:

-Trijicon ACOG 4×32

-Leupold HAMR 4×24

-Elcan Spectre OS 4×32

-Hensoldt ZOi 4×30

First of all, obviously, if push comes to shove I can use any one of these with reasonable effectiveness.  They are all good designs.

 Still, in my opinion, not all are created equal and all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Since I am quite certain I have already irritated a whole legion of ACOG fans out there, I might as well re-iterate that I did not care much for the Trijicon’s ultra short and finicky eye relief.

Besides that, optically the other three scopes are better.  Now, the relative importance of that is different for everyone, but it matters to me.

All four prism sights I have looked at to date did not give me any mechanical or reliability issues and best I can tell all have a good track record of standing up to abuse.

What differentiates them from each other are ease of use, optical quality, FOV and reticles.  All four sights have their niches and here is where I think they fit:

-If you must have an illuminated reticle without batteries, get the ACOG.  If you are looking at the battery powered version of the ACOG, you should check out the competition because I think it is better.

-If you are getting a bit older and find yourself seeing a fuzzy picture or getting serious eye fatigue quickly with the other sights here, the Leupold HAMR is the only game in town.  It has an adjustable eyepiece as is common on conventional scopes making it more adaptable to your eyes.

-If you are looking for something with the highest resolution and you lean a little more toward the precision side of things, get the Elcan (that is my case)

-If you worry about the battery dying on you, but still want something more user friendly than the ACOG, get the Hensoldt.  Its reticle works without illumination quite well, FOV is crazy wide and this is the easiest scope to get behind out of the four.  You have to be comfortable with reticle illumination that is not day bright, however.

Next step for me is to get my hands on the new Sig Bravo4 prism sight and compare it to the Elcan.  The Sig scope promises an even wider FOV than the Hensoldt and a few interesting features, so I would like to take a look at it.

 I know there are a few lower priced options out there, but so far they have not really grabbed my interest.

 Posted by at 9:52 pm