SHOT Show 2010

 

SHOT Show 2010

Now that I am back from SHOT and safely ensconced in the comfort of my extensive collection of single malt scotches, I sprawled out in a Lazy-Boy armchair surrounded by my not-so-copious notes from the show last week.

 

My notes and observations are not very copious because this year’s show was relatively sedate. Still, there are enough things to report on. I will first go through a list of optics companies I visited (in no particular order) and then offer some general observations in the end.Over the next few days (after I post the first draft), I will look over the various brochures I brought back from the show and add whatever additional information that provokes. I will also add a few pictures that I took.

 


Minox
Minox is entering the rifle scope market with some 3x and 5x erector scopes.  They told me that the glass is German, the mechanicals are from Asia (China, I think) and assembly is done in the US (I am not sure by whom).  There are four models: 3-9×40, 2-10×40, 3-15×42 and 4-20×50. Optically, they looked all right.  I did not like the knobs.  I will ask the Minox guy I talked to for a loaner to run against the competition.  Given a choice, I would like to evaluate the ZA-3 3-9×42 scope since it is likely to be the biggest seller.
Some of Minox binocular production has been moved from Japan to Germany, but most product lines continue with the same design, so do not expect major changes.   However, APO HG and HG binoculars went away from using aspheric lenses in an attempt to gain some field of view.  Field of view is indeed wider than it used to be, but still not quite as wide as that of the similarly priced competition.  It is good glass though and Minox’ competitive advantage is light weight.  HG with 52mm objective lens weighs about the same as a competing 42mm designs.  If you are looking for light weight low light binocular, HG 8.5×52 is probably worth looking at.  If they make APO HG at some point, it will become even more compelling.  I am not sure whether the price will be effected by the manufacturing location.  I was told that the labor costs in Germany and Japan are similar right now.
There are also a couple of new BL binocular models with split bridge design.

Meopta
Meopta had a small booth over in the corner of the show floor, so I made it out there fairly late in the show.  It was definitely worth the walk.  I always liked Meopta glass, but their scopes traditionally have had short eye relief and been fairly heavy.  This year Meopta is introducing a line of 1″ tube scopes called MeoPro.  All the components are made in the Czech Republic and the assembly is done here in US by Meopta USA.  Optical quality is supposed to be similar to the 30mm MeoStar scopes but there is a bit more eyerelief (3.75″ or thereabouts).  Knobs are also, ostensibly, redesigned for better accuracy.  These scopes are priced to compete against Zeiss Conquest and, I think, Minox.  I’ll try to set up a scope comparison using a 3-9×42 version (4-12×50 and 6-18×50 are the other configurations).
Also new is a line up of assembled in US MeoPro binoculars that are substantially cheaper than Meostars.  Most welcome is a roof prism 6.5×32 that should retail in the $350 range.  It will be interesting to see how it fares against Vortex Viper 6×32. Other models are 8×42 and 10×42.
One of the more interesting scopes in Meopta’s original line-up is the 1-4×22 K-Dot.  There is now a second version of that scope, which is slightly shorter and lighter with a new reticle and brighter illumination.  This reticle is similar to the original K-Dot, but has three chevrons for holdover calibrated to match 5.56 round at 300, 400 and 500 yards (assuming 200 yard zero).


Vortex
This was the most exciting booth on the show floor (for me).  There was a fair amount of new stuff and most of it is right up my alley.  Most of these products were announced a bit earlier, but this was my first opportunity to see them.
Viper PST scopes offer 30mm main tubes, 4x erectors and interesting reticles.  The models are 1-4×24 (SFP), 2.5-10×44 (SFP), 4-16×50 (FFP and SFP) and 6-24×50 (FFP and SFP).  All models are available with matched Mil reticle/Mil knobs or MOA reticle/MOA knobs configurations (a concept of matching reticles and knobs is finally gaining some ground with many manufacturers).  Al models have ~4quot; of eye relief and reticle illumination controlled by a small knob on the eyepiece.  I really liked 1-4×24 and 4-16×50.  I think these two models will do exceptionally well.  6-24×50 was very good as well. 2.5-10×44 was a bit of a let down since the tunnel vision is quite pronounced  That is quite a shame since this is easily one of my favourite allround configurations.  It is a decent scope, but to be blunt, is not up to the standards of the rest of the Viper PST line.  These scopes should be available some time in the spring and will retail in the $500 to $900 range depending on the configuration.  If you are looking for a scope to put on your M4, 1-4×24 Viper PST should be high on your list.  With more than 200MOA of adjustment range available this is very versatile scope.  For a precision rifle, I think 4-16x50FFP with good glass, solid mechanicals and 75MOA adjustment range rocks.  A slightly larger 6-24×50 has 65MOA of adjustment available if you lean toward higher magnification.  All of the PST scopes also allow you to set zero stop by means of stacking a series of washers to limit knob movement.  It is not perfect, but it works well enough.
Razor 1-4×24 (along with the 5-20×50 model that debuted last year) is also available now.  This scope is superb in every way possible.  It only comes with 1/4 MOA knobs and two reticle choices, one designed for generic use and another calibrated for 5.56 round.  Both are FFP reticles.  I prefer the second one since it is a little faster.  The reticle is illuminated with the control knob sitting on the left of the turret box.  This scope has 200MOA of adjustment and excellent glass.  With good glass quality even 4x is suitable for shooting fairly far out.  It is about 4 ounces heavier than 1-4×24 Viper PST and is a little longer.  I expect Razor 1-4×24 to retail for around $1200, but time will tell what the street prices are.  Honestly, I think Razor is a better scope especially for precision shooting.  However, it is also a lot more expensive and I suspect Vortex will sell a lot more Viper PSTs.  However, the two Razor scopes are squarely aimed at the market segment dominated by Nightforce, and I like them quite a bit more than I do Nightforce.
There is a new red dot sight called Sparc (I think it is an acronym of some sort, but I did not bother memorizing it). Essentially, it is the old Strikefire that went on a serious diet, lost green illumination and added a bit more brightness to red illumination in the process.  It is going to be a bit more expensive than Strikefire with retail price of ~$200. Unofrtunately it has retained Strikefire’s worst feature: itty-bitty control buttons.  Their feel is a bit better than on early Strikefires, but the whole design leaves me cold (to put it mildly).  Red illumination became a little brighter and I welcome smaller form factor, but those buttons useless if you are in a rush.  That having been said, I have owned a Strikefire for about a year now and it has held up without any problems.  Whether I like the controls or not, there is something to be said about durability.  For those who like to use red dots with magnifiers, Vortex offers a 3x VMX3.  It is a same type of the device that other red-dot companies offer: a short monocular with roof prism inside.  I do not like the whole concept very much, but at least VMX3 is not very expensive (~$130).
Also new are Recon spotters/monoculars.  They come in two configurations 10×50 and 15×56.  The R/T versions have reticles and winged eyecups and these are the ones I prefer.  They are compact, light and easy to use.  Each one is essentially one half of a Viper binocular with some additional hardware to enable monocular focusing.  Each has a clip on the body for easy transportation and tripod mount.  Hunting versions lose the reticle and the winged eyecup in favor of an extendible eyecup identical to the one on Viper binoculars.  If you are trying to carry as little weight as possible out in the field, I suggest you give serious consideration to Vortex Viper 6×32 binocular paired with one of the Recon spotters.
Here are Sam and Paul with their newest scopes:
 
Bushnell
I did not see a whole lot of new stuff in Bushnell booth, but there were two items of interest to me: FFP scopes in the Elite 4200 line and Fusion LRF binoculars.
Specifically, 3-12×44 and 6-24×50 are the new scopes.  They have MilDot reticles and 0.1 mrad per click knobs.  Both looked like pretty solid scopes with 20mils (~70MOA) of adjustment and 13mils (~45MOA) of adjustment respectively.  The illumination is green, which I find a bit odd on a long range scope since green can have a detrimental effect on your night vision.  I brought that up and apparently there was a study done by the Navy (or some other government entity) that determined very low intensity green to be an optimal choice for low light.  Since we were in a well lit convention center, I had no way of determining how low the illumination goes on these scopes.  I will try to get my hands on that study and see what this is all about.  The illuminated reticle was not very well executed on the two scopes I saw there (a bit uneven), but perhaps these were prototypes.  We’ll see what production models look like.  The knobs are of the same exposed configuration as those on other tactically-inclined Bushnell scopes made in Japan (i.e. Elite 6500 and 4200) except for mil-based clicks.  Honestly, with Vortex PST around I do not think that Elite 4200 6-24x50FFP is very appealing.  It is a decent scope, just like the rest of the Elite 4200 line, but a long range tactical scope with 45MOA of adjustment range is not all that viable, especially when similarly configured Vortex PST has 65MOA available.  The 3-12x44FFP, on the other hand, is a configuration that has fewer competitors in this price range.
Another interesting product is the Fusion laser-rangefinding binocular.  It will likely retail in the $700-$900 range, but all they had was one prototype which looked pretty decent.  Once again, I want to see the production models before I make any conclusions.
Bushnell Elite 4200 6-24x50FFP:
Close-up on the mrad knobs:
  
March
This is the first time I saw March scopes and I was very impressed.  This company pretty much owns the benchrest shooters the best I can tell, and I can pretty much see why.  This company has extended its product range impressively over the last few years.  However, the manufacturer (DEON) is only going  to be making 1200 scopes per year, so do not expect these to be very plentiful and, for the time being, there is only one dealer/distributor, Kelbly’s.  While March started out with glass for benchrest shooting, now they have several models and configurations aimed at tactical and hunting markets, which is how they ended up on my radar.  All of their scopes, ostensibly, have ED glass in them.  They are designed by four engineers who used to work for LOW, but branched out.  They design everything and farm out component manufacturing to local high tech companies.  They they assemble and align every scope themselves.  The scopes most applicable to tactical and hunting uses are the following models: 1-10×24 (200MOA adjustment range), 2.5-25×42 (100MOA adjustment range), and 5-32×52 (60MOA adjustment range).  All three of these (along with the various models used for benchrest) are built on 30mm tubes.  There are also two scopes with 10x erectors that are built on 34mm tubes: 5-10×56 and 8-80×56.  All of these are come with a number of reticles, all in the second focal plane, MTR-1 and MTR-2 being most applicable to tactical shooting.  These are thin MOA-based reticles that are very precise.  Both illuminated an non-illuminated version are available.  Illumination control is built into the side-focus knob and consists of a pushbutton that has four illumination levels.  Two different circuits are available: low intensity and high intensity, depending on the application.  Speaking of the side-focus knob: scopes so equipped focus down to 10 yards.  Tactical knobs are wide but low and have 25MOA per turn with 1/4 or 1/8 MOA per click.  Click feel is superb: both tactile and audible and rock solid.  Zero stop is available with these knobs and seems to be of fairly simple, but effective construction.  Optically, these scopes are superb.  It is hard to evaluate glass on the show floor, but they seemed to be optimized for top notch resolution which agrees with my eyes.  Contrast is reasonable, but it did not stand out as much.  Most remarkably, the image remains very good across the whole magnification range even with the 10x erector.  I have gotten pretty jaded as far as scopes go, but I was very impressed and I will try to get my hands on one for review.
The people I talked to in the booth were very receptive of feedback, both good and bad.  They are trying to figure what configurations and features are most useful for the tactical market, and I fully expect other reticles and knobs to show up as needed.
Now for the bad part: the warranty is only five years (apparently because of some Japanese regulation), and I do not know if this will cut it in this segment.  Time will tell.  In all other ways, these scopes are superb.
Here is the 2.5-25×42 (in the foreground):
  
Zeiss
There are a couple of new laser rangefinding binocular with 56mm objectives.  They are superb and expensive.  Of more interest to me were the new Victory FL scopes and new knobs.  Technically, only one is really new: 4-16×50.  The other two scopes have been around before: 6-24×56 and 6-24×72.  If I understand this correctly, 6-24×56 has been redesigned a little (updated glass) and 6-24×72 only has the new knobs.  The knob options are the following: Hunting Turret, Hunting BDC and Shooting BDC.  Hunting Turret is just a normal turret.  Hunting BDC is a taller knob that provides a zero stop and one full turn of adjustment, once the zero stop is set.  Shooting BDC is simply a tall knob that has no zero stop and can go multiple turns.  There are several adhesive metallic strips available for different bullet drop compensations.  4-16×50 is available with either Hunting Turret or Hunting BDC.  Higher magnification copes only come with Shooting BDC knob.
One interesting thing is that when you look at the 30mm Victory FL scopes, there is a step in the tube diameter near the turrets.  Apparently, the larger turret box is borrowed from 34mm scopes and added to the 30mm 4-16×50 and 6-24×56 in order to have a little more adjustment range and cleaner clicks.

The configuration I found most intriguing was the 4-16×50 with illuminated #60 reticle (kinda like 34) and Hunting BDC knob.  It is an optically spectacular and very versatile choice.  I wish it was available with a MilDot (#43 in Zeiss-speak).

  
Swarovski
Swarovision binoculars are pretty new and offer an absolutely spectacular view all the way out to the edges.  When you pan, it creates a little bit of a rolling ball effect, but when stationary, the view is as close to flawless as I have seen. I think these replace ELs
I spent some time chatting with a gentleman named Clay Taylor.  He is about as direct and eloquent of a guy as I have seen in this business.  No wonder Swarovski of North America has a reputation for spectacular customer service.  He gave me a refreshingly honest and clear overview of where Swarovski products sit compared to their direct competitors.  He also clarified what Swarovski means by “HD” (since there is no standard for “High Definiteion” as it applies to sporting optics, every company means something else by it, if anything it all).  For Swarovski, HD means the addition of extra-low dispersion optical elements to the objective lens system.  Apparently, the headquarters completely missed the marketing potential of “HD” labeling and all Z6 scopes with magnification higher than 12x have always had the extra low dispersion glass.  Starting some time this year, they will be labeled as such.  I do not know if the same holds true for Z5, but I’ll ask.
{loadposition content_adsense468}

Leica
Leica riflescopes are kinda new.  They had a couple of prototypes last year that I found decidedly underwhelming.  This time around, it looks like the chassis and the glass have been properly worked out.  The image looked excellent in both models: 2.5-10×42 and 3.5-14×42.  There is also a diminutive 8×20 monocular that has the Leica glass you expect.  It weighs next to nothing and can make a good hiking companion if you are so inclined.
We’ll see what the future holds for Leica rifle scopes.  They will go head to head against Zeiss, Swaro and S&B.  Leica scopes have short eyepieces and long mounting lengths.  Image is very contrasty and configurations are quite versatile.  They have the potential to do well.


Schmidt and Bender
Two new scopes were shown at SHOT: 1-8×24 with 30mm tube, and 5-25×56 with 34mm tube.
The 5-25×56 looks like the original 5-25×56 S&B stuffed into a larger tube and outfitted with a stiffer MTC knob (MTC stands for More Tactile Clicks, I believe).  It is a nice knob that is normally locked down.  In order to make an adjustment, you have to pull up on its outer sleeve.
The 1-8×24 looked very good on paper.  Dual reticle setup: FFP reticle together with SFP bright dot, true 1x, and 100MOA of adjustment range.  The actual scope on display should have never been shown.  It is not ready for prime time: non centered illuminated dot, circular reflection off of the lens housing somewhere, etc.  I hope they work out the bugs soon.  Since there were two other eerily similar scopes from Premier and Leupold, I am guessing they are all pursuing the same contract.
One pet peeve of mine is that to look at S&B scopes during SHOT you have to go there on the first day.  They do not bother to clean the lenses at any time during the show.  I would think that for what they cost, a little lens cleaning could be accomplished in order to show a prospective customer the quality of the optic.
Here is the 1-8×24:

 

Leupold
I did not see anything particualrly new at the main Leupold booth.  Redfield Revolution scopes are new, but I have already reviewed one so I know how they stack up.
I think Deltapoint is new: it is a miniature red dot sight a la Docter and Burris Fastfire.  It seems well executed, but otherwise looks like a “me too” product.
Leupold Tactical booth had a bit more action around it. M4 and M5 are the new metric knobs styled like M1 with 0.05mrad and 0.1mrad clicks respectively.  I think M5 has the best feel of any knob placed on a Mark 4 scope.  Also, Mark 4 is back to using a fast focus eyepiece after a year long stint with an old-style fine-thread eyepiece focus.  Also, the illumination knob now has intermediary OFF positions between brightness levels.  Both are good things in my book.
There are two new scopes, apparently going after the same contracts that S&B is gunning for: 8.5-25×56 and 1.1-8×24, both with 34mm tubes.
The high magnification version is totally massive and has an elevation knob the size of a vodka bottle.  It is normally locked and in order to make an adjustment you have to depress the button at the top of the knob.  There is a lot of adjustment available and knobs look very sturdy.  Optically, I am not convinced it is any different from the pre-existing 8.5-25×50 Leupold, but mechanical package is new and I am happy to see Leupold becoming a little faster on their feet.
Then there is the 1.1-8×24 CQBSS scope, that is pretty impressive indeed.  It has a couple of different reticle options. One is a partially illuminated FFP milling reticle (I do not remember its name offhand).  Another is a dual reticle system with FFP Horus reticle and a holographic dot.  I liked the second one quite a bit.  It is a good combination of speed at low mag and precision at high magnification.  Optically, the scope looked quite good, but the conditions there were not conducive to evaluating glass.  Mechanically, the package is all new for Leupold. The knobs need to be squeezed to be adjusted.  Otherwise, they are locked down.  I liked that system and found it pretty intuitive.  When you adjust magnification, the whole eyepiece rotates.  That I did not like very much.
Another thing I did not like was the price tag, which is in the ballpark of $3k for both of the new scopes.
For the first time in my SHOT Show experience, I was not intercepted by a marketing guy upon entering a Leupold booth.  The guy I ran into was Brad Brumfield, one of the two optical engineers who worked on the CQBSS project.  He was honest, direct and allround helpful.  Is that another change I see from Leupold?  I thoroughly enjoyed talking to a guy who was not trying to bombard me with buzzwords.
I have no way of predicting how well these scopes will do, but I definitely welcome the new products from Leupold.  I hope they get some mileage out of these new developments.
Here are some pictures:
   
Premier Reticles
A new scope for PR is the 1-8×24 V8 built on 34mm tube.  I looks a little odd with the reticle box being way forward.  They had two prototypes in the booth which I liked.  This is another two reticle design: precision FFP reticle together with a bright SFP dot that turns on under 2.5x. Above 2.5x, FFP reticle is utilized.  There is a switch somewhere in there triggered by the magnification ring position.  As you dial past 2.5x it switches modes.  Overall, the scope looked quite good and should be a strong competitor for whatever contract S&B, Leupold and Premier are gunning for.
Premier had a chunk of their scope tube in the booth, just to show how massive the scope tube walls are on their scopes.  That explains why they are so heavy.
I generally like Premier scopes and I hope they do well.  Now that they won the USMC contract for their 3-15×50, Premier’s future looks pretty good.
Here are the guys in the booth with Premier V8 1-8×24 scope:
I am likely alone on this, but I like the fact that turrets are a bit further forward. That adds some mounting flexibility for a short receiver weapon like AR-15.
  
Hensoldt/Zeiss Optronics
This is one of the visits I was really looking for.   I like Hensoldt scopes and I get along well with Nathan Hunt, the gentleman who imports them to the US.  Hensoldt scopes are superb and do not need much commentary from me.  New this year was a 4×30 weapon sight designed for G36C.  It has a huge eyebox, but very short eyerelief.  Nathan tells me it is very weapon specific and it should work well on something without much recoil.  Personally, I found it too close to my nose for comfort.  Field of view is very wide. Reticle is not illuminated, but very visible (illumination is coming next year, I think) with a nice thick circle that is very fast to pick up.  Nathan was also kind enough to share some of the upcoming product development with me, and I like where his product line is going.
These scopes are optically and mechanically superb.  They are only available in a few configurations and they are very expensive.  However, if you want the best, expect to pay for it.  I have seen just about every scope made and I there is a reason why Hensoldt has been around for as long as it had.
The new 4×30:
Nathan Hunt (importer of Hensoldt scopes) with the 4-16×56:
  
Vanguard Optics
I had never heard about Vanguard Optics before.  They import a series of Chinese spotters and binoculars that are rather affordably priced.  Ordinarily, this would not attract much of my attention, but there have now been some good binoculars coming out of China, so perhaps I will look at these binoculars when I get a chance.  They have a line of ED binos that should run under $300.

 

Shirstone
I went and looked at Shirstone scopes again.  They look like well-made Japanese scope.  I really liked the 1-4×24 and 1.5-6×42 from their Gold line.  Shirstone is looking for a US distributor and, if properly priced, these scopes could do all right.  I think they are made by LOW, but I could be wrong.
  
Kowa
Nothing new this year.  Spectacularly good 88mm Prominar spotter is still the king of the hill for most uses (not for all thought) and Genesis binoculars are not properly appreciated.  They are very good.
 
Burris
Burris unveiled a new laserscope, the Eliminator.  It is 4-12×42 version of Fullfield II with a bunch of electronics added on (some of it in the optical path, which degrades the image).  I’ll let you read the press release yourself.  It is supposed to calculate the holdover and adjust your point of aim, but that only works at the highest magnification.  I was somewhat underwhelmed by the whole package, so I would let someone else be the guinea pig for ~$1000 each.  For ranges where I have any business taking a shot, I think this is a totally superfluous development.
There are also two new versions of the SixX scope: existing configurations, except with illuminated reticles.  They looked pretty good, but I wish they had Side Focus.  Just for the record, I want to commend Burris on using #4 and #4a reticles in SixX scopes.  I certainly prefer these to regular plex reticles.
  
Trijicon
Still superb and unique products, but nothing new for this year.
  
Leatherwood
I only ran through Leatherwood booth very briefly since I was out of time.  They are not too far from where I live, so I can always stop by if I really want to.  They have a new 1-4×24 scope with an interesting reticle design.
  
Weaver/Nitrex
About a year ago, Weaver moved back into ATK’s company portfolio much to my satisfaction.  I think the brand languished under its previous ownership, but now I like what I see.
Super Slam scopes are mostly based on 5x erector assemblies and come with either 30mm or 1 inch tubes depending on configurations (4-20×50 has a 30mm tube).  Also, a couple of Super Slam 30mm tube scopes are based on 3x erectors and seem to be reincarnations of Classic Extreme scopes of a couple of years ago that were very solid pieces: 1.5-5×24 and 3-9×56.  30mm tube Super Slam scopes also have illuminated reticles.  I have never done any thorough testing on these, but I think this is about time I do.  They looked quite good to my eye and were very solidly built with generous eyerelief.
New for the show was the 1-5×24 Dangerous Game Super Slam scope.  They only had a prototype in the booth, but it looked quite decent.  Production models will have a heavy duplex reticle for acquisition speed.  Eye relief is very generous and non-critical.  This is a good scope to put on your 375H&H or similar (assuming it holds up to recoil, of course).
Grand Slam scopes continue as they always have.  There are no new models that I am aware of, but the existing ones represent good bargains.
Weaver Tactical scopes are essentially FFP version of Ultimate Slam.  Both are 30mm tube scopes with 3-15×50 and 4-20×50 configurations.  Both felt pretty solid, but if memory serves me right the higher magnification version has less than 50MOA of adjustment range, which makes it of limited use to me.  3-15×50 has around 60MOA or a touch more, so it is a better choice.  The clicks are 1.4 MOA for the time being, but mrad-based knobs are on the way.
New for this year are Buck Commander scopes which are made in Phillipines (same place that makes Vortex Diamondback, I think) and are based on 1″ tubes and 4x erectors.  I expect them to retail in the $200 to $250 range.  They looked pretty good and 2.5-10×42 should be a strong contender in this price range.
Nitrex scopes are essentially rebadged version of similarly configured Weavers, so I will not spend much time on them.  If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me.

 

Hawke Optics
I do not think Hawke had anything new there that I had not seen.  They have some nicely targeted products for crossbow market that are doing well for them, but I do not know much about crossbows.
Sidewinder 30 Tactical scopes are pretty new and look good (I am currently reviewing one).  I spent some time with Hawke rep pressing for the data on the return rates on their products. He was a little shy with concrete information and what he did share I can not disclose.  However, it looks like the return rates are very low.  I suspect that the major reason for it is that Hawke designs all of its products to be usable on airguns that are notoriously  tough on scopes.  Since I slammed the original Sidewinder 30 scopes for having poor glass, the optical system went through a pretty thorough redesign.  The new scopes are much better with 4.5-14×42 being my favourite configuration.  Endurance 30 scopes also went through a n optical system refresh and looked quite good.  So far, these two lines represent the best scopes I have seen come out of China.  Traditionally, it has been difficult to maintain quality control in Chinese factories, so we’ll see if Hawke guys manage to do that.   From that they have told me they are spending a lot of time and effort on making there are no QC issues.
  
Aimpoint
The guy I ran into at Aimpoint booth was very helpful and a pleasure to talk to, so I feel a little bit bad about what I am going to say.
Aimpoint Micros are the best red dot sights I have seen.  Full size Aimpoints are obviously excellent, but I prefer the Micros, since they employ a larger knob that is easier to grab (for me).  The battery last essentially forever.  They have excellent track record for durability and are quite light.

Aimpoint’s new product for the show was their new hunting sight, which left me decidedly underwhelmed.  Imagine a maglite flashlight that has swallowed an Aimpoint Micro and you’ll have a reasonable idea of what it looks like.  It is now based on a 34mm tube and dot brightness is now controlled by a couple of pushbuttons on the top of the sight.  I could not quite figure out the advantage of going to this form factor, so I went ahead and asked the company rep who was standing  right next to me.  His theory was that due to larger tube diameter the Field of View is appreciably wider.  I did not find the argument compelling since one of the advantages of a red dot sight like this is the ability to keep both eyes open.  Aside from that it looked like a larger and more expensive version of a good old Aimpoint red dot.  I don’t get the idea behind this.
  

Sightron

The big news was the introduction of fixed power S3 scopes with rear parallax adjustment: 10×42, 16×42 and 20×42.  They looked pretty good and come with a modified Mil-Dot reticle: a regular Mil-Dot with  half-mil hashmarks added.  I contacted Sightron with a request for a loaner 10×42.  I think it makes for a good comparison against SWFA S.S. 10×42 and 10x42HD, since it is priced right between them.

Another new scope is the 10-50×60 S3 aimed at benchrest guys.  It comes with a couple of very thin reticles and should be a superb scope for shooting groups.

I had a chance to look at one prototype scope they had and thought it was very impressive.  I think we will see some interesting products from Sightron in the coming year.
Here is a picture of 10×42 Sightron S3:
There is also a new Sightron red dot sight.  It is about the same size as the original Sightron red dot, but the illumination is controlled via a side knob.  There are some NV settings along with a setting marked “A”.  Apparently, if you set it on “A”, the brightness of the dot is automatically adjusted based on ambient lighting (there is a little sensor in the knob).  It seems like a nice red dot.
   
Pentax
Pentax had a small booth in a remote corner of the show.  They have a new line of sub-$300 binoculars that replace the HRc line.  There is also a new Gameseeker scope with motorized zoom.  If the battery dies, you have a fixed mag scope.
Pioneer II scopes, ostensibly copies of Burris Fullfield II, are now made in China.  That is just about all the news from Pentax.  I like their spotters, but as far as sporting optics go, I think Pentax lost their way a little.  We’ll see where it goes from here.
  
BSA, Leapers, Barska, etc

Largely not worth my time or yours.

  
Nightforce

New knobs with more clicks per turn were shown at shot.  They are nice knobs, but I certainly expect everything mechanical coming out of Nightforce to be well executed.

They have new Velocity reticles that are kinda like Rapid-Z.  I do not like holdover reticles in SFP, so this a very un-exciting development from where I stand.
The best I can tell, no major news out of Nightforce, but I did like those knobs.
  
Steiner

Steiner introduced rather large 10×50 porro prism binoculars with built-in Laser Range Finder that will run well over $2k.  I am struggling with figuring out why I would buy this over similarly priced and superb LRF binoculars from Leica or Zeiss.  Rangefinding function itself seemed pretty slow to me when I tried it on the show floor.  I like some Steiner products, but this one leaves me confused.

   
US Optics

Nice folks with nice custom products.  I did not see anything particularly new there, but I did chance onto USO scope sitting on a GAP rifle that had a “Baby EREK” knob: EREK knob of smaller diameter which I liked.

  
Eotech
Nothing new that I saw.  New Eotechs has much longer battery life than the original ones and I like the version with lithium 123 battery.  I have heard some rumors about L3/Eotech branching out into sights other than the current holographic ones, but nothing concrete.

  
Bresser
I had never seen this brand before at SHOT, so I stopped by.  Bresser is Meade’s european brand if memory serves me right, but now they are testing the waters in US.  The gentlemen I ran into apparently worked for Meade for 20 years prior.  These were mostly somewhat uninspiring chinese made scopes and binoculars with a spotter or two in the mix.  However, they probably work well at their price points.  I am not sure if I am interested in spending more time on Bresser now, since I was singularly unhappy with how Meade handled Weaver, but I’ll track this brand’s progress in the US market the best I can.
  
IOR Valdada
IOR had a couple of new scopes on display, both with FFP reticles and 35mm tubes: 3.5-15×50 and 6-24×56 with mil-based knobs and reticles.  These two scopes have new digital illumination with a couple of buttons right by the side-focus knob.  It looked pretty good and worked pretty well.  Both of these scopes seemed to be very lenient in terms of eye position which is a welcome improvement.  They are very easy to get behind.
There is also a SFP version of the 3.5-15×50 with MOA based knobs and reticle.
Here is what the new illumination controls look like:
Scott Cornelia of IOR Valdada is holding the new 3.5-18×50 scope:
   
Optolyth
The only new product from Optolyth is a fairly small 22×60 spotter that is designed, ostensibly, for short range observation (with airgunners and rimfire shooters in mind) that should be fairly inexpensive.
   
Kruger
Kruger had a couple of very unusual scopes aimed at the tactical market.  These were still just prototypes, so there are still issues to work out.  However, Kruger is clearly thinking outside the box.  In the picture below, the squarish body houses lenses in it, just like a normal scope does.  In this case, it is a 2-8×40.  The raised end houses a non-magnifying sight, where you are looking straight through.  If you flip the lever on the left of the body to “MilDot” position, it lifts a mirror that brings the image through the scope up to your eye.  Zooming is accomplished using the sliding control on the left of the scope body.  The large round wheel on top of the scope is vertical adjustment.  It is an interesting concept, which could have some utility if Kruger can pull it off.  The couple of pieces they had at the show were very early prototypes, so we’ll see how they look going further.  There is also a version without the non-magnifying sight where you simply look straight-through like in a normal scope.
I call this OLSLO: Odd Looking Scope Like Object.  However, the concept is interesting and I wonder if they will be able to pull it off:
Kruger
They also have conventional scopes with the K4 and K5 models assembled in their Oregon facility.  They looked all right, but I have exactly zero real-life experience with them.
  
Nikon
Not a whole lot of new stuff.
Monarch binoculars pickup dielectric coatings.  Also, several scopes get AR-ized: Monarch scopes with 223Rem BDCs, like this 2-8×32:
Some General Thoughts
So, approximately 6000 words later, are there any general trends and observations that I can offer?
Yes, there are some and they are not very new:
  • I think the concept of a red dot as a primary rifle sight (i.e. Aimpoint, Eotech, etc) is dead for all practical purposes.  It will linger on for a little bit longer, but these are the death thores of the concept.  Low range variables are getting good enough at 1x to supplant the red dot sights while offering better versatility.  The only red dot sights I expect to survive for quite a while longer are the miniature ones: Aimpoint Micros and Docter-style sights.  They can be used to good effect on pistols and shotguns, as well as mounted on top/side of normal telescopic sights as  secondary aiming instruments.  Full size red dot sights, in my opinion, will see their market share dwindling.  Even US Military that is traditionally slow to react to any remotely useful idea will end up dumping red dots in favor of 1-4x, 1-6x, 1-8x, etc at some point.
  • Chinese ED binocular that offer truly competitive performance have been around for a while now and their QC is mostly holding up.  They are marketed by several different companies and their product quality is slowly improving (better focusing knobs, etc).  They are here to stay.  This is significant because the factory making these is not a captive factory for a large non-Chinese company.  This is an OEM place that makes binoculars for a number of companies.
  • Chinese riflescopes are also slowly inching up-market in both price and performance.  I think Hawke Sidewinder 30 Tactical and Endurance 20 are harbingers of things to come, but time will tell.  We are entering a phase where products both designed AND manufactured in China are becoming truly competitive.
  • US labor costs are sufficiently low to make it attractive for companies like Meopta and Minox to assemble products here (Zeiss has been doing it for a while).  That makes them almost as close to “US Made” as Leupold and Burris.  They are cheaper than products assembled in Europe and they might get some mileage out of the “Assembled in USA” sticker.  Are we going to see more work for other companies done in the US?  are we going to see partial re-birth of sporting optics industry in the US?  personally, I doubt it, but time will tell.
  • Leupold, all out of the blue, is coming out with some innovative products.  Their MO for the last few years has been more along the lines of “innovative marketing”.  Is this a re-birth of innovation at Leupold here to stay? I sure hope so.

 

Here is the relevant OpticsTalk discussion:

http://www.opticstalk.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=21641

 

Copyright ILya Koshkin, January 2010

 Posted by at 12:56 am