Element Optics is a fairly new riflescope company. They are backed by FX Airguns, which is a pretty decent recommendation right there. FX makes exemplary airguns.
I met with them during SHOT earlier this year. They seemed like a good group of people, so I figured once they have something to look at I should pay attention. The guys behind the company are all shooters and have technical tendencies, which usually yields good results.
So far, my initial cautious optimism is probing to be accurate. Their first product is a Japanese-made Nexus 5-20×50 and it is a really nice scope. For a first scope from a new company, it is downright outstanding.
It is intended as a precision scope, but given that it weighs in at a comparatively svelte 28 ounces, it is more of a crossover design by modern standards. While not as light as traditional hunting scopes, it is light enough to be used for hunting, while having the feature set appropriate for precision shooting. In other words, you can use for pretty much anything that does not require 1x (and even that is kinda doable with an offset red dot were I so inclined).
I liked the scope enough to place, albeit provisionally for now, on my list of recommendations which is really unusual for a new product from a new company. The recommendation is provisional because I want to see how it holds up over long term. However, given that the scope is OEM’ed by Light Optics Works in Japan, I do not anticipate any major issues.
The big thing that jumped out at me is that, somewhat unusually, nothing bad jumped out at me. This is a really well rounded design. It does everything well and, given the price, very well. Most importantly, there are no glaring weaknesses. It is not going to make me give up my Tangent Theta any time soon, but it doesn’t cost like on either.
Here is the spec table:
Tract Toric UHD 4-20×50
Element Nexus 5-20×50
SWFA SSHD 5-20×50
Meopta Optika6 3-18×50
EOTech Vudu 5-25×50
Burris XTR III 3.3-18×50
Crimson Trace 5-series 3-18×50
Brownell MPO 3-18×50
Main Tube Diameter
Eye Relief, in
3.7 – 3
3.25 – 4
3.54 – 3.82
24.5 – 4.9 9.8@10x
23.3 – 5.8 11.6 @ 10x
33.6 – 5.7 10.3 @ 10x
23.3 – 4.7 11.8 @ 10x
37.7 – 6.8 12.24 @ 10x
33.2 – 6.2 11.6@10x
35 – 6.2 11.16@10x
8 – 2.5
9.5 – 2.8
5.5 – 2.1
8.6 – 2.7
Adj per turn
10 mrad; no rev counter
Adjustment range, mrad
E: 23.2 W: 14.5
E: 35 W: 16
E: 40 W: 20
E: 40 W:30
Spec Comparison Table
The closest competitors Nexus has in terms of price and specs are Tract Toric 4-20×50, SWFA SSHD 5-20×50, Burris XTR III 3.3-18×50 and EOTech Vudu 5-25×50. I have tested all except for the XTR III which is not yet available with illumination.
Simply looking at the specs, Nexus is one of the better rounded ones here. Toric and SWFA have narrow-ish FOV. XTR III does not yet have illumination. SWFA and EOTech do not come with decent tree reticles (Horus’ mosquito net in the EOTech is not my cup of tee). SWFA does not have zero-stop.
The only weakneses Nexus has spec-wise are non-locking turrets and lack of a track record. Track record comes with time, and locking turrets can be a little controversial since they often make click feel worse. Personally, I would leave the zerostop equipped elevation turret as is and make windage turret either covered or locking.
Turret feel is very good. The turrets are not very loud, but very tactile. Tracking is just about spot on, but I’ll be keeping track of how that holds up with use. The turrets are not very large which is helpful for the whole crossover business, but with 10 mrad per turn, those 0.1mrad clicks are nicely spaced out.
Optically, the scope is similarly well rounded. Color is pretty neutral. Resolution is very respectable as is contrast. Edge performance is a little better than average. There is some chromatic aberration at higher magnifications, but not too much. It is similar to SWFA and Tract in that regard and better than the shorter Vudu. Low light is a little better than I expected, largely owing to well controlled flare. All scopes have some flare, so if space allows it, use the included sunshade. Nexus is no exception there, but it is a little better than average.
It is available with four different reticle, two in MOA and two in mrad. I tested their mrad tree reticle called APR-1D. It is generally a pretty decent design, but there are a couple of incongruencies there. I go over all of that in the video below that has a bunch of “through the scope” imagery.
In a nutshell, the tree goes all the way to the edge of the image on low power (30+ mrad) which is both useless and distracting. Also, the tree is based on 0.2mrad base unit, while the main stadia are based on 0.5mrad. it is common problem with many reticles, but I find it a little bipolar.
The guys behind the brand are shooters and they are getting a lot of input from other shooters. Reticles are a personal thing and this one is better than most I have seen. I am sure they will be listening to market feedback and making changes if needed. I could be wildly off-base here anyway.
Here is the video. Let me know if I missed anything that should be covered.
UncategorizedComments Off on A few updates: Leica PRS, Everyday Marksman, et al
I’ve been busy as all get out with no time to write anything significant, so I figured a short update is worthwhile.
I published my video review of the Leica PRS 5-30×56 riflescope and the full write-up will follow as soon as I get a little time. Hopefully not too long. Here is the Youtube video:
I am friendly with a few other firearm bloggers and one that I pay attention to most is probably Matt at Everyday Marksman. I recorded a podcast with him a couple of days ago. Not sure when he will have it ready to go, but his podcast is generally worth paying attention to, so check it out if you have a chance.
I am working on a bunch more reviews that will be coming out over the next couple of months. I am almost done with the write-up on the new Vortex Razor Gen 3 1-10×24 and S&B 1-8×24 dual CC (and some more on the March 1-8×24 Shorty that I have been using for some time now). Gen 3 is definitely going on my list of recommendations. The Schmidt is probably the best engineered tactical LPVO I have ever seen, but the price is hard to swallow. Still, if you want the best, this is it.
I am also testing the new Nexus 5-20×50 from Element Optics and it is really growing on me. I think this will end up being my go to recommendation for a 50mm precision scope, barring something unforeseen
I get asked questions about different brands all the time and, recently, Hensoldt came up a few times.
Hensoldt is kind of an odd duck in the civilian market. The brand is very famous and has been around for a long time. It really gets a lot of the mystique from how deeply integrated it has always been with German military, but the part of Hensoldt product line that most of us see in the shooting world is kinda like a small pimple on the ass of an elephant compared to all the military stuff they do.
Hensoldt used to be a part of Zeiss, but since Zeiss Sport Optics has always looked at anything related to the military with the same kind of enthusiasm with which Bernie looks at capitalism, they sold Hensoldt to Airbus Defense. Airbus Defense spent a few years mismanaging it and then sold the entirety of they defense electronics business, including Hensoldt Optronics, to a private investment firm which named the whole billion dollar electronic warfare conglomerate Hensoldt. Today Optronics is one of the ten-or-so Hensoldt Group companies and day optics comprise a miniscule portion of Optronics and an even smaller portion of Hensoldt overall.
Why am I telling you all this? To make it clear how little the civilian market matters for Hensoldt. When they make a new product or a modification to an existing product, they do it because there is an opportunity somewhere in the military world. If the product happens to be something unrestricted, they will happily also sell it to civilians. That is not a bad or a good thing. It is what it is and if you are looking at Hensoldt products you have to keep these things in mind. If your Hensoldt product requires warranty service or repair, it will take a while. If you are thinking about contacting the company in Germany with questions… that may be hit and miss.
On the plus side, while Hensoldt in the US is only available through one distributor, Eurooptics, they are friendly and very customer focused. If you have Hensoldt questions, you will have much better luck with them.
Hensoldt makes several riflescopes and a couple of spotting scopes. I have tested some of the riflescopes over the years and generally liked them. In many ways they were really ahead of the curve: they were the original short overall length designs with large objectives and absolutely exceptional eyepieces. In terms of optomechanical designs the 3-12×56 and 4-16×56 are still very competitive and exceptionally easy to get behind. However, the reticles are kinda outdated by modern standards. They still work fine, but it is a competitive marketplace and the competition has been moving rapidly. The 4-16×56 was updated at some point to incorporate locking turrets and a couple of Horus reticles, but that pushed the price up to around $5k and for that amount there are other scopes I like a little more.
Most questions I get about Hensoldt pertain to their latest 3.5-26×56 design. I have not done a full test of it and do not plan to. There are several reasons for that. The most obvious one is that it costs nearly $8k and I can find better uses for that. If I wanted to drop a lot of money on an optic, I would buy N-Vision’ Halo or Halo LR thermal scope and probably have some cash leftover. For a fairly conventional dayscope, I really think that going over $5k is unwise and even at $5k you have to really want something. My primary precision scope is Tangent Thetat 5-25×56 that costs about that much and I really enjoy using it, but when people ask me for recommendations… you can do really well for less money. Now, in some ways TT is still better, but once you get past $2k-$3k, you really get into the realm of diminishing returns. The 3.5-26×56 Hensoldt was designed for a particular military tender that imposed strict limitations that to me are absolutely not worth it. I have seen several prototypes of this scope. The first two or three were optically atrocious. The most recent ones seem OK. 18 mrad per turn turret looks good on paper and was a requirement, but the clicks are close together and the feel is not very good at all. I have heard people rave about this scope, so I figured maybe they finally got it worked out and I should take a look. I took a quick look and I still don’t like it, so I do not want to spend the time reviewing it. My initial impressions could be wrong of course, but at $8k per scope I am not itching to dig into it.
I did like the prismatic 4×30 ZOi scope a fair bit, but I am not sure how many of these are out there.
Some Hensoldt designs are really unusual and do not really have a direct comparable among other brands. While all Hensoldt scopes are really good in low light, the 6-24×72 is absolutely exceptional. It has been out for a while and it is still the best dedicated low light scope out there (I have been diligently waiting until EuroOptics puts a demo or some other discounted version of it on sale).
Once we get to spotters, Hensoldt also marches to the beat of their own drum and in this case it is a good thing. They make two versions of the their 72mm objective spotting scope: 20-60×72 Spotter 60 and 15-45×72 Spotter 45 and both are exceptional. The only other difference between them is the reticle. These are folded light path scopes with ranging reticles and absolutely remarkable depth of field and overall image quality. They are expensive, but if you want the best spotter out there for looking at bullet trace, this is it.
Hensoldt does not make any low end products. Everything they make is expensive and very good… for their specific design purpose. If that design purpose matches what you are looking for, Hensoldt is a good option. Otherwise, there are other alternatives.
Then, life happened and I did not get to do most of those. I did address some and over the course of the next few weeks I plan to do some more.
Please let me know if there is something specific you want covered. The Youtube playlist where these videos will be added is called DLO Explanations and all the videos are automatically copied onto the gunstreamer website as well.
The ones I am looking to do next are on the following topics:
Apparent FOV in riflescopes
Low light performance of LPVOs
Why is the exit pupil calculation breaks down on low power and some other general exit pupil considerations
Tube diameter. This lunacy comes up again and again, so it has to be revisited
It is official. Element Optics website went live and it looks like they have a good number of scopes out in the reviewer’s hands.
I had a nice meeting with these guys at SHOT and I really liked what I saw. The key people behind the brand are smart, well funded and full of energy. Most importantly, they are shooters so they understand the end goal. In too many optics companies there is a strong disconnect between shooters and engineers. I know this will sound odd, but I mean it as a compliment. The guys behind Element, while hunters and shooters, have enough of a nerdy streak to stay on top of the technical stuff.
In other words, I have high hopes that they will do it right.
The first scope available will be the Japanese-made Nexus: https://element-optics.com/product/nexus/. The rest will be along shortly, I am sure. A brief look at the initial dealer list seems to be taking advantage of the existing FX Airguns (FX is behind Element Optics) dealer network which is a pretty good thing. I am sure that will grow.
Given that NRL22 competitions now have an airgun, I have a hunch we will start seeing FX airguns with Element optics scopes on them. I have two small kids and NRL22 is where I want them to start shooting. Perhaps, I will start them with airguns. FX airguns are likely the most accurate long range air rifles on the market now, so perhaps that is a good place for my kids to start.
This came up elsewhere, but it got my interest peaked, so I think I will look into that a little more.
I have a lot of experience setting up my rifles in a dual optic configuration. Usually, I go for a magnified primary (either prismatic or LPVO) and an offset small red dot.
I have also been messing a bit with a piggybacked red dot set-up. That has an advantage of being ambidextrous, but I find rolling the rifle a little bit easier than lifting my head up. I am still experimenting with the options though.
With all that, the paranoic in me still wants some sort of a back-up sight that does not depend on batteries. I have played a little bit with fixed offset BUIS from Dueck Defense and they worked OK, but were a little bulky. The obvious solution to that is the folding offset BUIS made by Magpul, Troy, MI and several others. I have been planning to look at a couple for a little while, but one thing where I am sorta mixed is that folding sights are not “always on”. They need to be deployed. With RDS or fixed offset sights, all I need to do is roll the rifle a little and I am there. Just now I have accidentally stumbled onto the XS Sights’ XTI DXT/DXW setup that looks to be lower profile than the Dueck sights, but they are always there.
I will probably pick up a set and do some experimentation. Any of you have experience with these?
I have used the Big Dot sights from XS on handguns (back when they were still called Ashley Outdoors) and thought they worked quite well. The sight picture is styled off of old express sights used on large and dangerous game so it should be quite effective at close distances. I have used those old iron sights a little and liked them.
Honestly, I don’t need more projects, but this looks interesting.
Table of Contents: – Background – Unboxing and Physical Description – Reticle – Comparative Optical Evaluation – Mechanical Testing and Turret Discussion – Summary and Conclusion – Testing Methodology
This Midas Tac 5-25×56 is the third scope I have reviewed from the relatively new Athlon optics company. Started and run by a couple of optical industry alums, Athlon sources optics from a number of different overseas OEM’s which are made to the companies’ specifications. Based on the company’s growth rate and customer satisfaction, the Athlon guys appear to be quite good at this. Certainly the scopes I have seen from them have proven predictably reliable and with features that I judge to be well chosen for the marketplace. Furthermore, Athlon appears to have a very rigorous quality control apparatus in place, as the scopes I have seen have much lower than average deviation from specifications when it comes to adjustment magnitude, reticle size, and reticle alignment. The predictability of their function is starting to make them rather dull to test.
Today’s scope, the Midas Tac 5-25×56, is a new scope being added to their existing Midas TAC line. It’s sort of a gap-filler. It is of similar glass quality and magnification to the existing Midas TAC 6-24×50, but has a larger 56mm form factor more in line with the higher end ARES ETR 4.5-30×56. You could choose to see it as a lower cost alternative to the ARES ETR 4.5-30×56, which it is similar in size to or as a larger alternative to the Midas TAC 6-24x that it shares relative glass quality with.
Unboxing and Physical Description:
We may as well start the theme of this review right here. There were no surprises in the unboxing. The Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 comes with a lens cloth and manual just like its little brother the Midas TAC 6-24×50 did. It is styled very similarly and, from the objective to the tube to the eyepiece, it just appears to be a slightly bigger version of the same idea. The 5-25×56 is about 4oz heavier, just under an inch longer, has a 34mm instead of 30mm tube, and, of course, has a 56mm objective instead of 50mm. Probably, the biggest highlights are the 32mil instead of 25mil total elevation adjustment and the larger 5x instead of 4x magnification ratio. 32 mils is actually a pretty large adjustment range at any price these days, and the Midas TAC 5-25×56 is not a high cost optic.
The manual included with the Midas TAC 5-25×56 I received for testing appears to be the same one as the Midas TAC Athlon Midas TAC 6-24×50 from last year. In fact, its section with scope dimensions has not been updated to include the 5-25×56. I received this scope just before they hit the market generally, so it is likely from the first run and the manual you will receive had not yet been printed. Hopefully they update the troubleshooting section of the new one to remove the suggestion to directly support the barrel with a sandbag, as well as the text about excessive grease in the barrel. There should be no grease at all in a barrel at the time of firing.
The Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is available with just one mil and one MOA reticle option. The mil option, the APRS3, is a typical mil hash Christmas tree reticle with a floating dot center and .2 mil increments horizontally out to 6 mils then .5 mil increments after that out to 9 mils, at which point there is just a thick crosshairs. Vertically, the reticle is graduated in .2 mil increments for just one mil. At that point, the top half is graduated in .5 mil increments out to 9 mils and then it becomes a thick crosshairs, while the bottom half is graduated in .5 mil increments out to 7 mils, where it goes back to .2 mil increments until 10 mils, at which point it becomes a thick crosshairs. While there is probably some rationale for the alternating use of a .2 mil graduation system and a .5 mil one, this is not fully explained anywhere, though even if it were, I likely wouldn’t agree with it over the consistency of sticking with the .2 mil increments throughout. Both vertical and horizontal crosshairs are numbered every 2 mils and are on the thinner than average side when it comes to line thickness. The Christmas tree section has rows of dots every mil below the central crosshairs. Each row is graduated in fine dots every .2 mils and a thicker dot every mil. The MOA based reticle, the APLR4 FFP MOA, has essentially the same appearance as the mil reticle. Unsurprisingly, its graduations are spaced 1 MOA apart. The APRS3 Christmas tree mil hash reticle is very much in line with what I see the industry converging to and the alternation between .5 and .2 mil increments at places is really the only bone I have to pick with it.
When tested, the reticle showed a very slight cant of ~.5 degrees counter-clockwise relative to the adjustments. This is not an amount of deviation I would be concerned about. The reticle graduations were correctly sized.
All seven sub $1K FFP mil/mil long range precision riflescopes. Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is on the far left. On balance, the Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 is optically the best of the Athlon scopes tested and on the better side of the field of sub $1K scopes overall. Its strongest points were field of view, depth of field, low light performance, and contrast. In these aspects it was either the best performer or close to it. The TAC 5-25×56 was more middle of the pack when it came to resolution, eyebox, barrel distortion, stray light handling, and chromatic aberration. In no aspect of optical performance that I measured did the TAC 5-25×56 test in the bottom 3rd of scopes tested. I think that the avoidance of any real weaknesses might speak as well for the scope as the overall above average finish. There is something to be said for an optical design balanced well enough that it really doesn’t stumble in any single design criterion.
Mechanical Testing and Turret Discussion:
The Athlon Midas TAC 5-25×56 features a virtually identical large uncapped 10 mil per turn zero stop elevation adjustment to that of the Midas TAC 6-24×50. Both scopes adjustments have the firm, postitive, “clicky” feel. that comes from a high ratio of click force / rotation force between clicks. This does mean that you will occasionally over-rotate with them or lose click count and have to look at the dial. The Midas scopes are not the most difficult in this regard, but it will happen occasionally. I think the ratio of click force / rotation force between clicks is a difficult decision for optics makers. People generally greatly prefer this “clicky” feel and dislike the squishy feel that you get if the ratio of click force / rotation force between the clicks is low. However, it is difficult to have that positive “clicky” feel and also have a knob that the user won’t occasionally over rotate or loose count and have to break position to check on. Athlon has experimented both ways on this in the past and has understandably gone with the customers preferred feel. You do not make money telling people what the ought to want, you make it by producing what they already want.
Just like the smaller Midas, the 5-25×56 has a smaller capped windage knob. This knob is a 10 mils per turn knob that is marked 1-5 in each direction. The windage knob on my 5-25×56 is significantly stiffer and “clickier” than it was on the TAC 6-24×50, and, as a result, is easier to over-rotate or lose click count on. The power ring and parallax knob on the Midas are on the looser side of average with the euro-style diopter ring about average. The diopter rings on both Midas scopes seem to have a bit more correction range than on most scopes which I classify a win since I recently had an issue with a competitor who had so little range that I couldn’t even focus my 20/20 uncorrected eye all the way back to its optimum 20/15 or so.
The Midas TAC 5-25×56 elevation knob’s features and design are common to all of the Athlons I have tested so far. They are 10mil per turn and feature Athlon’s particular zero stop system, as well as an outer knob with the mil graduation markings on it that can be repositioned. Repositioning the markings to read zero at the rifle’s zero is done in the common way. The outer knob pops off and can be repositioned after removal of a single screw in the top. This outer knob is toothed with enough teeth that its markings will properly line up with the actual detents instead of landing between as some others have done. The zero stop system is one that both Midas TAC scopes share with the Ares BTR but that I have not seen on other optics. As is common, the whole elevation knob on the Midas screws up and down as the adjustment it rotated. This attribute forms the basis of both the zero stop and the simple scribed turn indicator. The zero stop consists of a brass disc they refer to as the “zero stop locking plate” located under the removable outer adjustment sleeve. This disc can be repositioned using three set screws. So, basically, you zero the scope, remove the outer sleeve, loosen the set screws, and move the disc so that it is lying flat on the saddle with its stop protrusion immediately to the right of the stop protrusion on the scope saddle. You then gently tighten the set screws and replace the sleeve and its screw with the proper alignment of the zero. This zero stop is very inexpensive to make, in addition to being quite functional. It also has the same advantage as most plunger style systems in that you can set it independently of the markings to give you a few tenths of adjustment below the zero if you want. It is a well designed system and I’m a fan.
In testing, the scope tracked absolutely dead nuts from 0 up to 17.4mils, returned to zero fine, and then tracked down from zero right on the money to 17.1mils for a total travel of 34.5mils. This travel range is even a bit more than the already generous 32mils advertised. Unsurprisingly, the Midas TAC 5-25×56 also tracked fine to the 4mils each way that I can measure horizontally and showed no zero shift with adjustment of the parallax, diopter, or power ring. The parallax knob even showed exactly 100yds when focused at 100yds and those things are never right.
Summary and Conclusion:
The pattern emerging with these Athlon scopes is that they
are solid predictable performers with good value at their price points and with
the most in-demand features. The quality control on the three scopes I have
seen has been superb, as two of the three showed no measurable deviation at all
from perfect in adjustment increment and the other was still better than
average. Similarly, all three had properly sized reticles and none had cant of
more than .5 degrees. This is a rather impressive record.
Optically, all the Athlons I have tested have met or exceeded my
expectations. Overall, this one was the best performer, landing well on
the higher performing half of all the sub $1K scopes tested. Larger 56mm
scopes are not my favorite, as I typically see little gain for the
extra size and weight of over 50mm scopes. In this case though, you do
get significantly more elevation range, and the optical design itself is
a little better optimized than either of its 50mm brethren.
The street price on this Midas TAC 5-25×56 is around $850, making it
about the same as the Ares BTR 4.5-27×50 and ~$200 more than the Midas
TAC 6-24×50. All three of these scopes make good arguments at their
price points so I think that Athlon has done a pretty good job of the
tricky work of product positioning. It is not hard to see why the
company is having such success.
Here is Your Pro and Con Breakdown:
Pros: – Optics are significantly better than average at the price and well optimized – Tracked perfectly – Properly sized reticle with very little cant – Athlon’s QC is starting to look pretty superior – Very simple effective zero stop that lets you chose travel below zero if you want. – Full 10mil/turn knobs – Superb 32mil elevation travel – Reticle design in line with current trends – Good warranty and reputation
Cons: – 56mm objective does add size and weight – You will occasionally lose click count on the “clicky” adjustments and need to look at the graduations. – No illumination. – Basically no extras like scope caps, sunshade, or bra – Relatively new company with short, though good, track record
I have a confession to make. I have quite a few AR-pattern rifles and my interests in them have always leaned heavily toward the latest and greatest. I have another confession to make. For the most part I still do. I am a techy guy and I like techy stuff.
However, when I was working on a couple of optics articles for Guns and Ammo’s Retro magazine, I took a closer look at Vietnam-era M-16s and there is definitely some nostalgic appeal there. Now, the articles I did were on the Occluded Gun Sight (OEG) like the ones made by Armson and on the first night vision scope. The original night vision is out of my reach, but Armson OEG is in production, so I started conceiving a retro build.
At around the same time, I decided to review Brownells’ new 3-18×50 MPO scope, which is really growing on me. That is when I discovered that Brownells really put some time an effort into supporting the retro replica market. They have a bunch of AR variants that seem to be rather faithful reproductions of many originals including some prototypes that I have barely heard of. To people who are into retro builds none of this is news, I am sure, but it was news for me.
Also, it turned out that Brownells sells a re-incarnation of the original Colt 4x scope made by the original manufacturer. Me, being a nerdy optics guy, I kick off gun reviews based on what optics I want to look at, so between Briwnells’ Retro and Armson OEG, that was enough for me to start making detailed plans.
Originally, I was going to procure the pieces and build one up from scratch, but now I am sorta questioning that plan. As much as I like working on guns, I am not convinced I can do better than Brownells has done and if I procure good quality components, I am not at all convinced it will be cheaper.
To be entirely honest, the variant I am really curious about the the BRN-PROTO Rifle with its vertical charging handle, but that will not work with carry handle mounted optics, so I will file this one away into the “some day” folder. For a bit there, I was just going to buy one of Brownells’ retro builds and be done with it, but then I stumbled onto something that changed my mind.
The original M16 had a 1-14″ barrel twist. Most of Brownells’ retro models utilize a 1-12″ twist to make the bullet a little more stable at distance. All of the complete 5.56 rifles they have are bult with that barrel twist.
However, as it turned out, one of the complete uppers they have utilizes a 1-7″ twist. While it is not historically accurate, it is imminently more practical for me since I have quite a lot of 5.56 ammo of all manner of bullet weights and I would like to be able to shoot whatever ammo happens to be on hand with this retro build.
With all that in mind, my plan is as follows:
Get a complete upper assembly from Brownells with 1-7″ twist when it is back in stock.
The rest I can procure locally. I’ve built enough lowers over the years that I probably have enough pieces in the spare parts bin to complete a couple of lower assemblies. All I need is a mil-spec stripped lower receiver.
I think that will be retro enough for my purposes.
Lastly, Brownells is not the only game in town for this kind of stuff, but they seem to have the most extensive assortment of relevant pieces. JSE Surplus seems to be another good source and, of course, a few minutes of searching the web will yield a ton of information on different retro builds.
Generally, there is so much information out there on AR-15s and how to select the right components that it is sometimes difficult to filter through the BS. If you are new-ish to ARs, I strongly recommend checking out the AR-15 article series on Everyday Marksman website. Matt knows his stuff. Except for those time when he disagrees with me. Then, he is just plain wrong.