This time around I only went to SHOT for one day, since I had to go to China on Wednesday. I’ve spent time writing up my SHOT impressions in a variety of odd places, but doing it on a plane to China… well, that’s a first.
Since I knew I only had one day, I did not even try to cover everything and planned to visit only a small number of people. In practice, I only got through about two thirds of my list.
Here are some random impressions in no particular order.
I took some pictures, and they are here (unsorted).
Tangent Theta does not have anything new this year except that they are in proper production on the three models they’ve been working on. I have tested the TT315M thoroughly and had a little hands on time with the other two as well. Overall, as far as I am concerned, these are the best scopes in the world. They have stunning glass, perfect tracking and the best turret feel I have ever experienced. I do not know what kind of pixie dust they add in there, but it works. In this coming year, I might try to pit them against a couple of new S&Bs that looked interesting.
Speaking of S&Bs, it looks like the Polar T96 scopes will finally make it into the US. They also have three new tactical scopes they called “Ultra Bright”, presumably because they are quoted to have the same light transmission as the aforementioned Polar scopes. I do not know how they measure light transmission, so I will avoid the temptation to pick it the perceived importance of that silly claim apart. That having been said, the new scopes looked pretty nice. There were three models there and the two that stood out to me were the 3-12×54 and 4-16×56. Best I can tell, these are probably T96 Polar scopes with turrets, but the traditional S&B flaws I usually see are not there. There is no tunneling at low magnification. Field of view is pretty wide. Overall, image quality looked very nice, although it is hard to say for sure inside a convention center. The turrets were not production level yet, but they looked similar in principle to the low and wide turrets that sit on S&B’s Ultra Short scopes. I like their form factor, but I think they are cramming too much adjustment into a single turn. The clicks are a bit too close together. It will be interesting to see how they are executed on the new scopes. I think that the 3-12×54 will be an interesting design to look at. I always liked the original 3-12×50 and 4-16×42, so this is a magnification range I like.
I had a brief chat with the folks at Docter, and the recently redesigned reflex sight they have peaked my interest. It is still an autoadjusting sight, but now they have three different brightness modes to choose from. I think I’ll have my Glock slide machined for a reflex sight and check it out. Aside from that, I did not see too much new stuff at Docter. The seem like very competent designs that need better marketing and distribution.
Minox has been growing in the US market and this time around they introduced a new line of ZX5 hunting scopes that will run in the $500-$600 range. They are assembled in Germany and looked like nice designs. The 1-5×24 is very intersting. Also, there is a new large 20-60x spotter with a 88mm objective. I liked the spotter and plan to test it shortly. Minox has impressed me with several things they have been doing in the last couple of year. They are definitely a company to watch.
Leica has a new Trinovid HD binocular (built in their factory in Portugal) that will retail for around $1k. I spent a little time staring through it and liked it. I think it will compete well against Conquest HD and others. Similarly there is a “budget” version of the LRF binocular called Geovid-R. Budget Leica is still $1800 or so. Rather importantly, the ER5 riflescopes that were delayed due to a legal dispute are now going into production and they will be gradually becoming available starting next month for some models. I intend to test the 1.5-8×32 first and go from there.
Leupold has a new VX-3i riflescope line, which seems to be replacing the VX-3. “i” stands for improved rather than illuminated. They simplified some machining and a few other things and got the cost down. VX-3i scopes should cost about $50-$100 less than VX-3. Interestingly, with VX-3i scopes being a little cheaper, there is now a hole in Leupold’s line-up between VX-3i and VX-6. I am not sure that fact is not lost on Leupold marketing people. I have recently tested a Mark 6 3-18×44, so I used the opportunity to chat with the product manager for the Mark 6. None of my observations were news to him and I have a gut feeling that there are good things coming to Leupold tactical scopes. I’ll have a more detailed overview of the Mark 6 in the article itself.
Meopta did not have anything very new. Their MeoPro line really expanded during 2015 with what looks like the designs that were previously marketed as Zeiss Conquest. Since I liked the original Conquest and I am not too impressed with Conquest HD5, that is good news. MeoPro line is a very strong contender in the $500 – $1000 range. I also saw a prototype of their tactical scope which looked quite good (better than the one from last year). I think that is going in the right direction.
Zeiss is the booth where I go every year and spend a little while wandering around looking at things and being soundly ignored. If I ask a question, I usually get a monosyllabilic answer. Either I pissed someone off at Zeiss, or they simply do not give a rat’s behind. Either way, it looks like the V8 scopes are finally making it here and they seem like really nice designs. With a 34mm tube, the 1-8x scope has a 30mm objective which makes it stand out a bit from competing designs that all have 24mm objectives. The V8 scopes are freakishly expensive, but look very good.
Hensoldt did not seem to have anything new, but I will check with Jason from EuroOptics when he gets back to the office to be sure. I think Hensoldt is due for something new, so perhaps I missed it.
Nightforce has a couple of new designs: a nice fixed power competition scope and a FFP 4-14×50 SHV scope. I did not look at the competition scope too much since I am not sure what I can do to get an impression of a 45x scope handheld in a convention center. The turrets felt good and the scope felt quite solid, but I expect no less from Nightforce. The 4-14×50 FFP scope is sort of a spiritual successor to the defunct NXS F1, except reasonably priced. Three reticles are available: IHR, MOAR and MilR. The first two were with capped turrets, while the MilR has an exposed elevation turret. I liked it a fair bit. The front focal SHV is reasonably compact and is a good general purpose configuration for precision shooting.
Vortex probably had the most introductions at the show of all the companies I visited. The biggest news is their new Razor AMG 6-24×50. In a nutshell, it is an American-made high end precision scope that addressed every complaint I had with the Razor Gen 2. It is light for the configuration, has a superbly comfortable eyepiece, wide field of view and pretty nice turrets. The prof is in the pudding, of course, so we will see how it performs, but it looks and feels impressive. The turrets are the same L-Tec design as Gen 2 Razors, but a little smaller. The tube is 30mm, but despite that it still has quite a bit of an adjustment range. Off hand, the only scope out there with a wider FOV is likely Kahles.
Speaking of Kahles, they see to have gotten the ball rolling nicely in the US and the K624i is now available with a left side windage turret. The rest of the designs seem more or less the same, which is not a bad thing. I think they will have a couple of new things around mid year or so, but we’ll see.
Going back to Vortex, they surprised me a little with the Razor HD LH hunting scopes. I sorta knew they were coming since every time I would complain about a lack of high end light weight hunting scopes they would tell me to sit tight and wait. The new scopes are 1.5-8×32, 2-10×42 and 3-15×42(with side focus) and all are quite light. They all have 1″ tubes, reasonable adjustment range, and superbly designed eyepieces. They are very easy to get behind and look exceptionally well built. What surprised me the most was the G4 BDC reticle. Last year at SHOT, I was whining that noone has a hunting reticle I like, and they called me on it. So, I went ahead and sketched up a design for them that I liked. This time around, as I get into the Vortex booth, Paul hands a scope over to me and goes: “does the reticle look familiar?” Apparently, my whining did not fall on deaf ears, and they took my basic concept with some modification and put it into the Razor HD LH scopes. I am naturally stoked about it, but we’ll see how it does in the market place. Aside from that, there is a new red dot sight called Sparc AR. It looks like a version of the Chinese red dot made in the image on Aimpoint Micro that also has similar battery life. I am familiar with the design and it works well. Vortex’ version of it has a AA battery built into the mount, so it can not be mounted very low, but it is perfect for ARs. Lastly, the 15-60×52 Golden Eagle competition scope is new and looks like a well made design. Turrets have a nice feel and the optics look nice. The scope is lighter than I thought it would be, but still feels very solid.
Hi-Lux/Leatherwood is re-branding itself as Hi-Lux precision Optics and is coming out with a line of FFP PentaLux scopes: 4-20×50, 6-30×56 and 1-8×24 were there in prototype form. They need some work, but look promising. They also have 6-25×56 SFP scope that is especially beefed up for use on 50BMG and other large rifles. I chatted with the folks there for a bit and I like the way the approach stuff. They are comfortable showing prototypes, but they are not going to bring them to market until they are ready.
Athlon Optics is a new company that has a very complete product line, with the high end stuff made in Japan and the rest in China. They look pretty well polished and I plan to look at them carefully. They seem to have veyr good connections with a variety of OEMs. They have a spectacularly tiny spotter that I definitely want to see, nice binoculars and a good assortment of FFP scopes in different price levels.
Another new company is Styrka. They also market Chinese and Japanese made scopes and seem to have a financial connection with Celestron. Their higher end Japanese scopes are not ready yet, but the mid-range Chinese-made scopes looked pretty good and had nice close focus, which is a little unusual.
Sightron has a few new scopes in the S-Tac line. Just like the rest of the S-Tac scopes these are assembled in the Phillipines out of Japanese-made components (there import tax advantages to that). The new designs are 2-10×32, 3-16×42 and 4-20×50 if memory serves me right. There is also a new HHR2 reticle. All of these scopes have a little tab on the magnification ring that can be either folded down for compactness, or flipped up for speed. Their reticle designs are maturing, but still need work. Overall, nice scopes. I like tweener scopes so the 2-10×32 peaked my interest. Also the SV 10-50×60 34mm tube scope that I like a lot received an illuminated reticle.
I stopped by Trijicon to see what is new. I am somewhat familiar with most of their products, so it was interesting to see what they were going to do next. Fairly new sight I have not seen is the MRO, which is basically designed as an Aimpoint Micro killer, which it might very well end up being. It is about the same size but with a more open view owing to a larger objective lens. Aside from costing a couple of hundred dollars less, it is also a bit more user friendly. The illumination control turret is on top of the sight, which makes it very easy to adjust with either hand. Generally, I think I should spend a little time and do an overview of Trijicon’s non-magnified sights. The new MRO looks promising and what I remember of the RMR is pretty good to.
Sig Sauer Electro-optics looks like it is ready for prime time. The show samples for the most part looked like products, not projects. There are a few items there that I find interesting. I expect to take a look at the Tango6 3-18×44 scope fairly soon. The design looked well executed and I think it holds a lot of promise. Bravo4 prism 4×32 scope has a very wide FOV, so I will make sure I look at it as soon as a one is available. Also, their solar powered red dot looks worthwhile. I am moderately certain it is OEM’ed for them by the same Chinese company that makes good quality Aimpoint Micro style RDSs for several people, but I do not think I have seen this version.
Looking around the Sig Electro-Optics exhibit I saw several very competent people who used to be with Leupold. That bodes well for Sig EO. Another interesting product was a Sig P-series handgun with integrated Sig miniature reflex sight. It was very well integrated with the slide. The mide RDS is called Romeo1 and it has a couple of interesting features: motion activated illumination is a good option for defensive handgun and with the battery accessible from the top, there is no need to re-zero after a battery replacement.
Burris and Steiner booths sorta share space, or more specifically, split one large exhibit in two. There are not too many new things with Steiner, but it sounds like the got to the bottom of the tracking issues that popped up in some of the T-series scopes and have a new turret design. The T 3-15×50 scope I have been looking at has performed quite well, but since they have a new turret, I asked them to send me one of the new ones for a quick look. The scope I have been testing is good enough to be on my “Recommended” list, but since they are changing turret design, I want to look at it before I officially start recommending the T series. Aside from that there isn’t too much new stuff from Steiner. I think they have been putting a lot of resources on making sure the T-series scopes are a success. I did glance at their binoculars for a moment and noticed that they have a 8×30 LRF binocular which ranges out to 6000 yards or so. I think it is LEO only, but perhaps I can borrow it from them. It should be interesting to play with that:
Burris seems to be enjoying some success with their XTR II scopes (I have been playng with one and I am quite impressed) and the next XTR II model looks quite interesting. It is not quite production ready, but the prototype I saw looked reasonably polished, so it can not be far off. The scope is a 1-8×24 variable built on a 34mm tube. I expect both FFP and SFP version to be available. I have been lookign for an scope for my 458 SOCOM and this might be it (although Athlon’s Cronus is also a contender):
Aside from this I did not see too many new things from Burris at this show. They have some additional configuration options with switchable turrets I think , but I was time limited, so I did not get into it too much.
Bushnell is introducing some optics intended for AKs, rather than ARs. The biggest difference is likely the mounting options, but I think there are also AK specific reticles in the works. Tactica hunter It generally looks like there is all sorts of rebranding and re-packaging happening at Bushnell. That is hardly surprising since Bushnell, Weaver, Millett, Tasco and Simmons are all owned by ATK. All these multiple product lines have tremendous amount of overlap and should be re-organized a little, in my opinion.