Leupold’s 300 Blackout Offering: The Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm

There’s a reason there are so few 300 Blackout optics on the market. It’s kinda hard to design a single reticle to handle the exceptionally broad range of ballistic performance of that cartridge while keeping the reticle clean and simple.

The turrets are calibrated for 1/2 minute of angle adjustment per click.

The turrets are calibrated for 1/2 minute of angle adjustment per click.

Let’s take a look at exactly what I mean by “broad range of ballistic performance.” For purposes of the trajectories shown in the table below, let’s assume a zero yard zero, and we’ll use two common and “representative” projectiles and “standard” velocities. For the supersonic load, we’ll show the flight path of a Barnes TAC-TX 110 grain bullet. I’ll assume a velocity of 2,500 feet per second. For the subsonic load, we’ll use the classic 220 grain Sierra Matchking and assume a traveling speed of 1,050 feet per second.

The purpose of the “zero yard zero” is to compare the absolute, unadjusted flight paths of the two rounds. Basically, we’re looking at shooting each round exactly parallel to the ground to see how it falls over distance.

300 AAC Blackout Trajectory

As you can see, the brick, I mean subsonic round, falls at about four times the rate of the supersonic. That’s a lot to account for. From an optics perspective, the most feasible plan is to design a reticle for the supersonic round and figure out a couple of realistic hold points for a short range trajectories of the subsonic round.

The Leupold offering is more of a scope tinkerer’s dream. With variable magnification and lots of fine lines in the reticle, you can get it to do whatever you want, out to very long ranges.

Leupold Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm

The Leupold Mark 4 is a variable scope with the 300 AAC Blackout specific reticle in the first focal plane. This means that the reticle will grow and shrink as you adjust magnification. At low magnification levels, the inverted horseshoe acts like a red dot, especially with illumination on a high level. At higher magnification levels, you have a finely granulated reticle that provides moving target lead information, range estimation tools and holdover points for supersonic and subsonic loads.

The optic itself is all Leupold. It’s solid and all movements operate like clockwork. Flip up scope caps are provided that mount with rubber friction cups. Unlike others on the market, these stay in place until you want to take them off. The magnification dial is stays in place but is easy to rotate with one hand while keeping a firing grip on the rifle. The windage and elevation dials offer quiet, smooth and positive click adjustments, with each click representing ½ Minute of Angle (MOA) or ½ inch at 100 yards. One nice touch for windage and elevation adjustments is an engraved directional indicator that is visible from the back, telling you which way to twist to the dials to move point of impact up, down, left or right.

Subsonic on the left, supersonic on the right.

Subsonic on the left, supersonic on the right.

Let’s talk about the reticle for a minute. It’s engineered to show hold points for both supersonic and subsonic 300 AAC Blackout loads. Leupold’s approach is to split the reticle horizontally – the right side of center shows supersonic information while the left indicates subsonic. Just in case you forget, there is small and subtle hare engraved in the lower right and a tortoise on the lower left.

The supersonic (right side) markings indicate hold points from 100 to 900 yards with marks at each 100 yard increment. Each horizontal indicator bar is sized to represent an 18 inch wide target at the respective yardage length. For example, if the 400 yard hash mark appears to be the same width as an object you know to be about 18 inches wide, then that object is 400 yards down range. It’s a quick and easy ranging system.

On the subsonic (left) side, there are hash marks from 100 to 400 yards with a line at each 100 yard increment in that range. There is not a 50 yard indicator per se, but between the center dot and bottom of the inverted horseshoe, you can do a quick test to find short range impact points for your chosen subsonic load.

One other reticle feature to note. On either side of the center dot are horizontal lines with hash mark indicators that correspond to hold points to lead targets moving at 5, 10 and 15 miles per hour respectively.

To make the distance hold points work for supersonic and subsonic loads, just zero the optic using supersonic (110 or 125 grain) projectile at 100 yards.

The reticle is illuminated with the inverted horseshoe and center dot lighting up in red. A left side knob offers seven different light levels for low light or daylight conditions. One handy feature is that between each intensity setting on the dial is an “off” position. You don’t have to spin the dial all the way back to zero each time you turn illumination on or off. Just keep is one click from your most commonly used setting, give it a click in either direction and you’re good to go.

Leupold Mark 4 MRT 300 Blackout-5

Closing thoughts

The Leupold optic offers precision at longer range. While the markings are a bit optimistic (400 yards for a subsonic 300 Blackout is quite a lob), I guess that’s no different than the speedometer on your Caddy going up to 160 miles per hour. You can lower magnification and turn on the illumination for quick close range performance, but I think this optic really shines when you are engaging targets out past 100 yards. The glass is crystal clear as you would expect from Leupold, and with the finely graduated reticle you’ll be able to account for distance very precisely.

You can find it at Optics Planet.

Four Outstanding AR Optics for Less Than $400

If you splurge on a 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500-KR, you’re not going to fill the crank case with reclaimed Crisco just to save a few bucks. A similar principle applies to optics. Even with AR-15 prices falling faster than BlockBuster Video’s stock price, you’re still probably going to spend north of $600 on a rifle. Don’t cheat yourself by purchasing an optic not qualified for the task. Cheap optics can give you headaches from fogging, poor light transmission and inconsistent adjustment performance. Most frustrating of all are those times you can’t seem to zero your rifle, not matter what, until you find out the reticle in your scope is moving all over the place with recoil. Remember, friends don’t let friends buy those cheap no-name optics you see at gun shows.

Fortunately, you do’t have to spend more than the cost of your rifle on a quality optic. Here are some of my picks for high-quality optics that you can buy for less than $400 – usually a lot less.

Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie Scope

Before you start with the hate mail over including a Zombie scope, hear me out. Besides, the dead could rise one day. Check out the audience on the Judge Judy Show, and you’ll see what I mean. Anyhow, my contacts at ATK pulled me aside some months ago and said “Do you want to know what one of our best value scopes is?” Being completely supportive of saving money, I asked to hear the story – and got the full pitch, along with an evaluation sample of the Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie optic. If you’re not into the whole Zombie thing, that’s OK, as the markings on the scope are subtle. Most of the Zombie cosmetics are in the form of optional stickers.

You won't see a lot of Zombie features on this Weaver Kaspa-Z, but you will get a great deal on a general purpose AR optic.

You won’t see a lot of Zombie features on this Weaver Kaspa-Z, but you will get a great deal on a general purpose AR optic.

Here’s why it’s on this list. Built on a 30mm tube, it gathers plenty of light. With a 16 ounce weight, it’s sturdy enough to use as an impact weapon. The 1.5-6x zoom gives you fast, close range capability as well as precision out to the effective range of a 5.56mm round. The real beauty of this particular scope is the Z-Cirt reticle. It’s brilliant. Variable illumination (green of course) makes it easy to see in low light. The posts and hash marks are pre-mapped to known distances with a wide variety of .223 and 5.56 ammunition and serve double duty as range estimation tools. For example, the solid center dot corresponds to a Zombie’s head at 100 yards and the surrounding parentheses indicate the same target size at 100 yards. The first horizontal hash mark indicates 20 inches (average shoulder width) at 400 yards. With all the ranging and ballistic drop compensation functionality, this reticle is still fast at short to intermediate distances.

MSRP is $299.95, but you can find one on the street for about $199.

Nikon M-223 1-4×20 BDC 600

The Nikon M-223 1-4x20 with BDC-600 reticle.

The Nikon M-223 1-4×20 with BDC-600 reticle.

The M-223 is a one-inch tube model with pure 1x to 4x magnification – plenty for realistic .223 / 5.56mm ranges unless your usage is small varmint hunting at the outer limits of ballistic performance. Turrets adjust in ½ MOA increments with a total adjustment range of 100 MOA. Parallax is fixed at 100 yards, so any potential effect is negligible. Eye relief is generous at four inches, which makes placement on an MSR receiver easy – especially with Nikon’s aggressively cantilevered scope mounts or rings. Both one-piece and two-piece cantilever mounting options are available.

The reticle is developed specifically for 55 grain .223 Remington / 5.56mm NATO cartridges and offers hold points from 100 to 600 yards in 50 yard increments. If you shoot heavier projectiles like 77 grain, you’ll have to establish your own hold point distances out past a couple hundred yards.

MSRP is $299.95, but you can find this one for about $280. Check out other options in the Nikon AR family as you can find great deals on fixed power and higher magnification optics.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Trijicon’s 300 Blackout Optic Offering: It’s Simple and Fast

While a bit slimmer, Trijicon's 300 AAC Blackout model shares many of the same features that made ACOG's so popular.

While a bit slimmer, Trijicon’s 300 AAC Blackout model shares many of the same features that made ACOG’s so popular.

The 300 AAC Blackout caliber is a nightmare for optics manufacturers.

Why? The range of possible projectiles and associated ballistics are crazy. 300 Blackout can be a flat shooting cartridge using a light bullet at 2,500 feet per second. It can be a thrown-brick projectile weighing 245 grains and traveling at 950 feet per second. It can also be just about anywhere in between those extremes.

Like classic ACOG's, the 300 Blackout model features dual illumination sources: fiber optic and tritium.

Like classic ACOG’s, the 300 Blackout model features dual illumination sources: fiber optic and tritium.

Imagine trying to design an optic with ballistic drop compensation (BDC). In plain English, BDC simply means that the reticle is pre-marked to show the hold point for a given distance. For example, if you’re shooting at a target 200 yards away, you just hold the 200 yard reticle mark on the target, and you should make a hit. That’s great in theory when you have a caliber with fairly standard performance over distance like the .223 Remington 55 grain projectile. When a caliber can fire a range of bullet weights ranging from 90 grains to 245 grains, things get tricky.

To put that in perspective, if you shoot a 300 Blackout cartridge with an 110 grain Barnes TAC-TX projectile, traveling at 2,500 feet per second, it will drop about 64 inches at 400 yards, assuming a zero yard zero. If you do the same thing with a 220 grain Sierra Matchking traveling at 1,050 feet per second, that bullet will drop almost 278 inches over the same distance.

The difference in drop between two difference loads in the exact same caliber is a whopping 214 inches. That’s 17.83 feet. To put that in visual terms that’s equivalent to 3.147 Michael Bloomberg’s stacked on top of each other or 4.13 AMC Gremlins. Sorry for two entirely different, yet equally scary, visuals.

Enter the Trijicon TA33-C 3×30 ACOG 300 AAC Blackout

The 30mm objective lens provides plenty of light.

The 30mm objective lens provides plenty of light.

Trijicon has taken a whack at this ballistic challenge by using a single reticle, but marking it with realistic and common hold points for both extremes of the 300 AAC Blackout performance range. We’ll get more into that in a minute.

Like other Trijicon ACOGs, the 300 Blackout model is a fixed power magnification design. This one offers straight 3x magnification, which is plenty sufficient for realistic subsonic and supersonic ranges.

The fixed magnification means no zoom rings or controls and generous eye relief, so it’s really fast and efficient. Also like most other Trijicon optics, it’s designed to use the Bindon aiming concept. In Trijicon’s words, “Human vision is based upon a binocular (two eyes) presentation of visual evidence to the brain.” In plain English, that means keep both eyes open. Your brain does magic brain stuff and you see your target with reticle superimposed. The reason is that the Trijicon uses a bright reticle, which allows your brain to merge the target image from your outside eye with the aim point visible through your “scope” eye.

Like other siblings in the ACOG family, this model has a dual illuminated reticle. The distinctive fiber optic tube across the top collects light to amplify the aim point when ambient light exists. An internal tritium lamp provides illumination in low light and pure dark conditions. No controls to turn on or adjust, you just use it, regardless of light conditions. My evaluation model came with a green reticle, but you can also choose amber or red if you like. The green reticle shows up plenty in broad daylight. In low light conditions, the visibility is even better.

Zeroing

For initial zeroing, the optic has two removable caps that cover the windage and elevation dials. Using a dime, empty cartridge case or screwdriver blade, move the dials as needed. Each click will adjust the point of impact by ¼ inch at 100 yards.The arrows on the adjustment dials indicate the direction you want the bullet to move on the target. Simple. My unit came pre-centered and only required a couple of clicks of windage and elevation adjustment to match the point of impact of my Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AAC Blackout rifle.

Windage and elevation adjustment dials are a one-time use affair, or whenever you significantly change your primary supersonic ammo choice.

Windage and elevation adjustment dials are a one-time use affair, or whenever you significantly change your primary supersonic ammo choice.

This ACOG includes a handy reference point on the reticle that simplifies zeroing. When installing on a new rifle, set a target at 25 yards. Instead of using the cross intersection as you would for a 100 yard target, use the pointed top of the long distance 300 meter post, which is the same as the top of the 50 yard subsonic diamond, as a hold point. If your shot impact matches that, the 100 yard zero using the cross above will be pretty close. Now move your target to 100 yards and verify that the 100 yard supersonic aim point matches point of impact.

The reticle

The reticle is simple, yet has both hold point (ballistic drop compensation) and basic ranging tools. It’s also parallax free so it works from zero to 600 meters without the need for parallax adjustment.

The ballistic drop compensation features are clever in their simplicity. Rather than cluttering up your view with lots of marks, Trijicon has figured out how to make the few marks that are there multitask. For example, the primary aim point for 100 yards (supersonic ammo) is a free-floating cross. For 200 yards, there is not a separate mark, you simply hold on the bottom of the crosses vertical post. Horizontal hash marks indicate 300, 400, 500 and 600 yard supersonic projectile hold points.

The Trijicon ACOG TA33 Blackout reticle.

The Trijicon ACOG TA33 Blackout reticle.

For subsonic rounds, there are two solid diamonds on top of the vertical bar: one above the 300 yard supersonic hold point and the other resting on the 400 yard hold. These are 50 and 100 yard holds for a standard subsonic round.

I zeroed the Trijicon at 100 yards with 110 grain supersonic ammunition. Then I popped in a subsonic rounds put the 50 yard whole point directly over the bullseye on a 50 yard target. The very first shot hit dead center, so that was encouraging.

The reticle also includes basic ranging indicators. The horizontal BDC marks vary in width to represent a 19 inch wide target. If a known object of 19 inches matches the width of one of the crossbars, there’s your range. If it’s in between two, you can guesstimate.

Closing Thoughts

The Trijicon ACOG TA33 300 Blackout model is a fast no-brainer solution. With fixed 3x magnification, there’s nothing to fiddle with. Raise your rifle, open your eyes and go. The two eyes open concept works great unless you’re cross-eye dominant and establishing aim is fast. The reticle offers enough granularity to hit reasonable sized targets out to a few hundred yards. For a tactical or home defense rifle, I do like the “always” on reticle lighting. In the daytime, the fiber optic tube makes the reticle glow brightly and in low light conditions, a tritium lamp lights it up. No batteries to run down and no switches to operate – it’s just on.

 

Ever thought about reloading your own ammunition? Then you might want to check out our new book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Reloading Ammunition. Practical, yet comprehensive advice and tips will get you started in no time!

Premium Optics for the 300 Blackout Rifle

night·mare [nahyt-mair]

The Trijicon 3x30 ACOG for 300 AAC Blackout.

The Trijicon 3×30 ACOG for 300 AAC Blackout.

noun

  1. a terrifying dream in which the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety, sorrow, etc.
  2. a condition, thought, or experience suggestive of a nightmare: the nightmare of his years in prison.
  3. reflective of the process of trying to design an optic for the 300 AAC Blackout.

I got this from Websters, really. OK, maybe not all of it, but you have to admit that the definitions of “extreme anxiety” and “helplessness” fit pretty well, right?

There aren’t many 300 AAC Blackout specific optics on the market and I can guess why. Imagine trying to design a reticle that can accommodate the incredible variety of ballistic performance of that round. As we talked about a few weeks ago in the article about 300 Blackout Ammunition and Reloading, there is no “standard” ballistic performance profile. You can do pretty much whatever you want in a broad range of subsonic to supersonic performance. And therein lies the challenge for the optics gurus. How do you design a ballistic drop compensation reticle to account for… infinity plus one?

Wonky ballistics

The Leupold design is classic AR tactical, with 1.5-5x magnification.

The Leupold design is classic AR tactical, with 1.5-5x magnification.

Before going into the specifics of these two optics, let’s take a look at the ballistic challenges they have to overcome – all in the same reticle. For purposes of the trajectories shown here, let’s assume a zero yard zero, and we’ll use two common and “representative” projectiles and “standard” velocities. For the supersonic load, we’ll show the flight path of a Barnes TAC-TX 110-grain bullet. As a side note, Barnes just released a 120-grain version of this bullet – I can’t wait to try it. I’ll assume a velocity of 2,500 feet per second. For the subsonic load, we’ll use the classic 220 grain Sierra Matchking and assume a traveling speed of 1,050 feet per second.

The purpose of the “zero yard zero” is to compare the absolute, unadjusted flight paths of the two rounds. Basically, we’re looking at shooting each round exactly parallel to the ground to see how it falls over distance.

Yards Barnes
110 grain TAC-TX, 2,500 fps
Sierra
MatchKing 220 grain, 1,050 fps
0 0.00 0.00
50 -0.72 -3.98
100 -3.00 -16.14
150 -7.05 -36.78
200 -13.13 -66.20
250 -21.52 -104.71
300 -32.57 -152.59
350 -46.68 -210.13
400 -64.31 -277.63
450 -86.02 -355.36
500 -112.41 -443.63

As you can see, the brick, I mean subsonic round, falls at about four times the rate of the supersonic. That’s a lot to account for. The idea behind a common reticle is to design it for the supersonic round and figure out a couple of realistic hold points for a short range trajectories of the subsonic round.

As we’ll look at in more detail this week, two premium optics companies have done just that. Trijicon and Leupold have each developed outstanding 300 AAC Blackout solutions. In my words, not theirs, the two options are not really comparable. They’re more like apples and oranges. Do you want applesauce or orange juice? More specifically, do you want adjustable precision or simplicity and speed?

The Trijicon offering borrows from the company’s ACOG line. It’s a fixed power optic that you adjust once, then shoot. And shoot. And shoot.

The Leupold offering is more of a scope tinkerer’s dream. With variable magnification and lots of fine lines in the reticle, you can get it to do whatever you want, out to very long ranges.

Let’s take a closer look at what each has to offer. One thing that both have in common is that they have boiled the ballistic ocean to two options at the extreme ends of 300 Blackout performance. The idea behind both the Trijicon and Leupold optics is that they design a dual reticle, with one-half mapped to supersonic projectiles in the 110-grain vicinity and the other mapped to subsonics in the 220-grain vicinity. If you want to use stuff in the middle ranges, it’s up to you to do some trial and error to map the reticle marks to specific ranges. On the plus side, at shorter and more reasonable ranges, it won’t really matter if you’re shooting 110, 125 or even 135-grain projectiles. That will only become significant past a couple hundred yards or so, so don’t get too concerned.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

 

Be sure to check out Tom’s latest books! They are ON SALE now for a limited time!

Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope Review

The Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope is a swingin' deal at a street price of $199

The Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope is a swingin’ deal at a street price of $199

Lots of folks are skeptical about the whole Zombie thing. Unrealistic they say. Will never happen. I say just look to Washington, DC or The Maury Show live studio audience. It’s obviously real.

Even if you choose to remain in a blissful state of denial about the Kardashians Zombies, you ought to check out the Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie rifle scope.

Why? Zombie label or not, it falls in the heckuva deal category. With an MSRP of $299.95, you can actually find one on the street for about $199.

Just the specs

If you don't want zombification on your scope, leave off the stickers. All that remains is the turret fonts and a hazmat logo that's kind of cool.

If you don’t want zombification on your scope, leave off the stickers. All that remains is the turret fonts and a hazmat logo that’s kind of cool.

Here’s what you need to know about the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope:

It’s got a 30mm tube, so make sure you get appropriate rings.

Zoom range is from 1.5x to 6x.

The turrets offer ¼ MOA adjustments and total adjustment range at 100 yards is 80 inches.

It’s got multi-coated lenses to increase light transmission and prevent zombie-attracting glare.

It features a nitrogen-filled tube to prevent fogging.

Weight is a hair over 16 ounces, so it’s got some meat on the bones. I was impressed by its construction – especially for the price point. It’s a solid beast that could probably be used as an impact weapon against the undead.

The second focal plane reticle is black and easy to see in daylight conditions, but has illumination powered by a CR2032 battery. Just twist off the illumination turret cap to replace the battery.

The Z-CIRT Reticle

I really like the Z-CIRT reticle. It's a mil-dot geek fantasy.

I really like the Z-CIRT reticle. It’s a mil-dot geek fantasy.

I’ve had some quality time behind Weaver’s CIRT reticle. A while back, I took a close look at the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope which also uses the CIRT reticle. Besides being a cool looking pattern, the CIRT is insanely useful for both targeting and distance estimation.

It’s clearly designed for AR platform rifles and Weaver conveniently includes pre-mapped ballistic information for a variety of .223 Remington / 5.56mm rounds.

  • Shooting M855 ammo? Then you know that the top of the vertical post is your hold point at 325 yards.
  • How about M193 ammo? Then you know the second horizontal bar is your hold point for a 585 yard shot.

I could go on with pre-mapped firing points all day as the CIRT is carefully calibrated to give you near infinite hold points. Oh, and it’s a swell ranging tool too.

  • The solid center dot corresponds to the size of a zombie head, assuming it’s still in one piece, at 200 yards.
  • At 100 yards, that zombie head will fill the area between the parentheses around the solid dot.
  • Assuming your zombie still has both arms, the top horizontal hash mark represents 20 inch shoulder with at 400 yards.

If you’re a mil dot freak, you can go crazy. Weaver gives you elevation indicators ranging from .25 mils to 10 mils and everything in between. Windage is also marked out the wazoo. Get a phone or tablet program like Ballistic and go crazy mapping out aim points for any load you want.

Performance Against the Undead

I had hopes of using this against hordes of undead at long range, but they’re all on hiatus until the next season of The Walking Dead. Instead, I mounted the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope on a Daniel Defense DDM4V5 300 AAC Blackout rifle. That was particularly fun with the Z-CIRT reticle as there are plenty of aim points to help me cover the wide range or trajectories available with 300 Blackout ammo. When you’re ballistic performance ranges from 110 grain bullets cursing at 2,500 feet per second to 240 grain subsonic bricks lumbering along at 950 feet per second, you need some flexibility.

After doing a little basic mapping, and zeroing the supersonic rounds at 50 yards, I started doing some semi-serious tests.

I tested the Weaver Kaspa-Z on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle. Suppressed of course.

I tested the Weaver Kaspa-Z on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle. Suppressed of course.

The Scope Olympics

I usually like to “shoot a box” with a new optic, like I did with the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24, but I was bored. So knowing the measurements of my 5 target sheet, I started doing some predictive shots. Using one target as the hold point, I did some clicks to inches math and started trying to hit other points on my target backer. Like the Weaver Tactical, the Kaspa-Z had no issues with impacting within 1 MOA of where it was supposed to, even with large windage and elevation adjustments.

One of the other things I always verify in a new scope is whether the point of impact stays constant when you change magnification levels. With a scope that starts at or near 1x magnification, this can be a little tricky as you’re relying more on your eyesight to properly sight in a distant target. For the Kaspa, which starts at 1.5x, I set up a target at 100 yards and fired a carefully aimed shot at the lowest magnification level. I then cranked up the zoom to about 3.5x and fired another at the exact same point. Last, I enjoyed the luxury of actually getting a clear view of that 100 yard target with the full 6x magnification. All three shots were within about an inch and a half of each other, which was darn lucky as I could hardly see the target at the 1.5 zoom level. Old eyes and all that.

Closing Arguments

The Weaver Kaspa-Z scope is a deal. Even though it has a Zombie name, the Zombie gear is optional as most of the zombification is accomplished by a pile of stickers in the box. You don’t have to put them on if you don’t want to. Construction is solid and performance was great. I really dig the CIRT reticle. It’s fast at closer ranges and infinitely flexible if you want to establish pre-determined hold points at all sorts of distances.

A Light and Laser Combo For (Almost) Any Gun

The new Crimson Trace CMR-204 (green) light and laser combo.

The new Crimson Trace CMR-204 (green) light and laser combo.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a couple of “problem” guns in my safe at the moment.

Actually, the only “problem” is that they don’t lend themselves to integrated Lasergrip or trigger guard installations. My examples are the Beretta PX4 Storm and the FNS-40. Both are excellent guns and I really like them. The “problem” is putting integrated lasers and lights on them. Right now, I’ve got a Crimson Trace Rail Master light on the Beretta PX4 Storm and the FNS-40 sits naked and unlit.

Fortunately, Crimson Trace just announced a solution. While I’ve heard rumblings about the Crimson Trace CMR-204 and CMR-205 Rail Master Pros for a while, I had not yet seen a formal release. As part of the SHOT Show 2014 product announcement deluge, they’re here.

Both units are rail mounted units that contain both tactical light and laser. The difference between the CMR-204 and CMR-205 models are the color of laser light. The CMR-204 is green while the CMR-205 is red. Both models allow you to set the operating mode to laser and light, laser only, light only or strobe light and laser. Both units also feature a 100 lumen light – like the Crimson Trace Lightguard and operate for about 4 hours in a single CR2 battery.

An aluminum body provides strength and water resistance to one meter, so no worries about rain. Remember, if it ain’t raining’ you ain’t trainin’ right?

More to follow when I get my hands on one of these…

Do You Like It Flat? Your AR-15 That Is…

The LaserMax Uni-Max ES offers a very low profile option for your AR-15. Mount it on the top, side or bottom.

The LaserMax Uni-Max ES offers a very low profile option for your AR-15. Mount it on the top, side or bottom.

Do you like it flat?

Meaning the front of your AR rifle? Perhaps you don’t want a vertical fore grip laser and light assembly up front. If you frequently shoot at longer ranges, from sandbags or perhaps from a prone position, a vertical grip can get in the way. If you still want a laser attachment, there’s a great alternative that won’t get in the way of that nice, clean front hand guard.

The LaserMax Uni-Max ES is technically a multi-purpose product – it can switch teams with only a little bit on tinkering. Through a little rearranging of internal (and included) parts, you can convert this from a rifle laser with a remote activation pad to a pistol rail-mounted laser.

For pistols, you install the toggle switch that enables laser on / laser off from either side. With a rifle installation, you can certainly use the toggle switch if you like, but the momentary activation switch option is even better. This is a remote pressure pad which turns the laser on as long as you squeeze it. With judicious placement of the pad according to your personal preference, it’s a very natural motion to turn the laser on and off as desired. Just to be clear, while you can reconfigure this laser, it’s not something you would want to do daily as it will take you five minutes or so. The purpose is to give you flexibility over time to move between different guns.

Let’s talk about that “flat” configuration. The laser unit itself only extends 1/2 inch from a standard picatinny rail. So even if you mount it on the bottom of your rifle hand guard, as shown here, it hardly extends downward at all. Of course, if you want zero footprint, you can mount it on either side of the barrel and keep the bottom rail completely clean.

Here’s what I prefer. I mounted the laser unit on the bottom rail so that there are no “side to side” issues between the laser dot and point of impact. On the Daniel Defense rifle shown here, the laser and bore are only about 1 1/4 inches apart, so it’s not a big deal either way. I’m just being picky. All I have to worry about is an elevation difference of just over an inch between the laser and the point of impact at short distances. That’s nuthin’ right?

I chose to mount the momentary activation pressure pad on the right side so my natural grip was right on it.

I chose to mount the momentary activation pressure pad on the right side so my natural grip was right on it.

I chose to mount the momentary activation switch pressure pad on the right side of the hand guard. I’m right-handed, so my left hand is up front. Holding the hand guard from underneath, my fingers are used to press the pressure pad. I find it to be a very natural position. Squeeze a little tighter and the laser comes on. Release a bit of pressure and the laser goes off.

LaserMax includes a MantaRail cover with the Uni-Max ES, which is 2 3/4 inch section of textured rubber rail cover with an internal slot for the cord connecting the laser unit and momentary activation switch. So the cord comes out of the laser on the bottom rail, feeds underneath the rubber MantaRail cover and bends up to the side mounted momentary activation pad. All in all, there are only two one-inch sections of cord exposed, so there aren’t loose wires hanging around to get caught up on stuff. A side benefit of the MantaRail placement on the bottom rail is that it provides a grippy and comfortable rail cover where you hand goes. Nice touch.

A view from the bottom. Note the MantaRail cover just behind the laser. It secures the cord and makes a great hand grip.

A view from the bottom. Note the MantaRail cover just behind the laser. It secures the cord and makes a great hand grip.

The laser body itself also has a single-slot picatinny rail section on the bottom, so you can hang something else, like a light, just below the laser if you like. The laser unit is small and light, weighing just 2.5 ounces, so there is virtually no bulk up front on your rifle. It’s powered by two Silver Oxide 357 batteries and will run continuously for about an hour and a half.

I’m digging the LaserMax Uni-Max ES setup on a Daniel Defense DDM4V5 300 AAC Blackout rifle. A traditional optic is up top for longer ranges. I have the laser zeroed for 10 yards, but shorter and longer distances work just fine as the laser is so close to the bore line. So, in one package, you can have it all. A laser for home defense (or perhaps night hog hunting use) that’s preset for shorter distances and optics for reaching out.

The best part? Your laser configuration is pretty much out of the way when you want to use the rifle outdoors.

How To Peep Through A Glock: RAPS Rear Aperture Pistol Sights

The RAPS (Rear Aperture Pistol Sight) replaces the rear sight only on your Glock.

The RAPS (Rear Aperture Pistol Sight) replaces the rear sight only on your Glock.

Have you ever shown someone how to shoot a handgun for the very first time?

If so, how did you explain the proper relationship between front and rear sights? Did you use the two fingers on one hand and single finger on the other to illustrate the concept? One of those drawings you see on the wall of shooting range classrooms? Or perhaps a custom Lego structure?

While second nature to experienced shooters, standard notch rear sights are a little tough to explain to someone who’s never handled a gun.

“Hold the gun so the front sight is exactly centered in the notch of the rear sight. Good. Now make sure the top of the front sight is exactly level with the top of the rear sight. OK, now turn back around and face the target. Yes, but now the front sight is not centered sideways anymore. OK good. Now make sure all that lines up with the target. Say what?”

Battle rifles like the M1 Garand, Springfield Armory 1903 A1s, M1 Carbines, M14s, M16s and many more use an aperture sight system. So do long-range iron sighted competition rifles. And those World War II ship-mounted anti-aircraft guns.

Why?

Mainly because aperture sights work half-automatically. When you look at a post or dot on the front through a ring in the back, your brain kicks in to mega-OCD mode and wants to automatically center the front sight in the aperture circle. It’s a biological process called “magic.” It means you don’t really have to think about anything. Look through the hole at your front sight and place it over the target. The rest is auto-magical. Your brain subconsciously makes sure that the front sight is in the center of the rear sight circle.

Note the flat front edge. This allows one-handed slide racking on a belt or table if things really go south.

Note the flat front edge. This allows one-handed slide racking on a belt or table if things really go south.

While I’ve shot lots of rifles with aperture sights, I’ve never shot a pistol with aperture sights. Until now.

I mounted a RAPS (Rear Aperture Front Sight) on a Glock 17 Gen 4 to test it out.The RAPS is a new offering available through White Raven Communications and it sells for about $30.

So how did it shoot?

The RAPS configuration is fast. Scary fast. There is no conscious process of sight alignment. Bring your gun up, look for the front sight and the rest is automatic. One of the unexpected benefits, and reason for the speed, is that there is nothing on which to focus on the rear sight. It’s just a big hole. You simply can’t help but to immediately focus on the front sight and front sight only. With standard rear sights, you may think that both front and rear sights are in focus, but they’re not. That’s just your brain rapidly switching focal points between the front and rear.

I had no problem with precision using the RAPS. My outdoor range is chock full of fun, and small, targets like golf balls, tennis balls and spent shotgun shells. I was easily able to hit any target I’m capable of hitting with any other type of sight. The large rear aperture may look imprecise, but it’s not. Your brain deals with it. In short, the sight didn’t limit my shooting accuracy.

The rear sight unit is slightly higher than a standard Glock sight.

The rear sight unit is slightly higher than a standard Glock sight.

One other thing to note. The forward edge of the RAPS is milled flat. So, in a pinch, you can hook this on to a belt or holster and rack the slide one-handed should you need to.

The manufacturer states that the RAPS sight “This sight should not be used for competitive shooting where finite accuracy is required.” I think that statement needs a big qualifier. If you’re shooting bullseye pistol events where you care about 1/10 of an inch at 50 yards, maybe. If you shoot the “speed” pistol sports like Steel Challenge, IDPA or USPSA, I completely disagree. All of those events have targets inside of 25 yards and I find the RAPS sight noticeably faster to acquire than standard sights. I’m not a bullseye target shooter, but I had no problem hitting golf ball size targets at 25 yards with the RAPS.

Installation is easy once you get the Glock factory rear sight off. If you have a sight pusher tool, or know someone who does, like most any gun store, cool – use that method. If not, you can use a brass punch to drive the factory sight out. Be careful, it’s tight in there. Once you get the Glock rear sight removed, the RAPS will slide right into place. Center it and tighten it to the frame using the small allen screw that is just forward of the aperture ring. If you need to adjust, loosen, move and re-tighten. Piece of cake.

This is a nifty upgrade. Given the price, and that it’s easy to reinstall the factory sight, give it a try. I got spoiled by the speed of these sights and intend to leave it on my Glock 17.

A Look Through The Redfield Battlezone Tactical .22LR Scope

For testing, I mounted the Redfield Battlezone 2-7x34mm on a Ruger 10/22.

For testing, I mounted the Redfield Battlezone Tactical 2-7x34mm on a Ruger 10/22.

I love shooting .22’s.

There’s just something pure and satisfying about blowing away teeny, tiny targets at moderate ranges without the expense, noise and recoil of a full size gun. While iron sights are purist and awesome, just because they’re so darn traditional, you can’t get really precise with itty bitty targets like golf balls, Tootsie Pops, Life Savers and bugs without some type of optic.

Having just picked up a new standard Ruger 10/22 for myself, I needed a fun – key word, FUN – scope for it. Enter the Redfield Battlezone Tactical 2-7x34mm.

It's a variable power optic with 2 to 7x zoom - plenty for .22 rifles.

It’s a variable power optic with 2 to 7x zoom – plenty for .22 rifles.

The Redfield Battlezone Tactical scope is built around a 1 inch tube, so finding compatible scope rings is easy. That one inch tube is nitrogen-filled, so I didn’t have any fogging issues with rapid temperature changes. Normally when I take any kind of camera or optic from my comfy air-conditioned home out into the blast furnace otherwise known as South Carolina, I get a good ten minutes of fog. Not so with the Redfield Battlezone.

It’s variable power ranges from 2 to 7x, which is plenty given the maximum practical range of the .22LR cartridge. If you can’t see your target at 7x magnification, it’s time to take up a new hobby, like maybe the Yeti ring toss. Magnification is adjusted via a ring mounted just in front of the eyepiece.

The Redfield Battlezone Tactical scope also features an easy to adjust eyepiece focus ring. I say easy as some scopes require so much torque to turn the eyepiece focus ring that the crosshairs come out of vertical alignment. Speaking of crosshairs, the reticle is a standard hash mark pattern, for both windage and elevation, with 2 MOA mark separation.

Ballistic Drop Compensation

This scope is pre-calibrated for a standard, high-velocity .22LR round. More specifically, it’s designed to be spot on at distances from 50 to 150 yards if you use 36 grain .22LR bullets traveling at 1,260 feet per second. There’s plenty of .22 ammo right in that range, or close enough for government work.

Turrets are fairly standard ¼ MOA per click adjustable for windage and elevation.

Turrets are fairly standard ¼ MOA per click adjustable for windage and elevation.

The Redfield Battlezone Tactical 2-7x34mm scope comes with two different elevation turrets. The one pre-installed at the factory is the standard minute of angle (MOA) version. It’s calibrated for ¼ MOA per click, or ¼ inch of vertical adjustment per click at 100 yards. Where the .22 plinking fun comes into play is with the other included elevation turret. About 30 seconds with a small screwdriver and you can install that one instead of the factory default MOA version. Instead of being marked in minute of angle, it’s pre-graduated to show yardage for that standard high-velocity .22LR round.

The alternate (included) elevation turret is pre-marked for ranges from 50 to 150 yards.

The alternate (included) elevation turret is pre-marked for ranges from 50 to 150 yards.

Simply zero your rifle, with appropriate ammunition, using a 50 yard target. From that point on, you spin the wheel of fortune to the yardage desired. The turret is clearly marked with 50, 75, 90,100, 110, 120, 130, 140 and 150 yard settings. Each click still represents ¼ inch adjustment at 100 yards, the turret simply allows you to dial in yardage instead of doing all that complex math between shots.

This just screams for a test doesn’t it? Between you and me, it was really more of a great excuse to do a whole ton of plinking with a hot scope on a Ruger 10/22, but at least I plinked (plunked?) somewhat scientifically. To take my wobbly hands out of the equation, I set up on one of the new Blackhawk! Sportster Titan III two-part rests. I’ll cover that gear separately, but for now it’s not only portable, but infinitely adjustable and stable.

Although I have collected a wide variety of premium .22LR ammo, I found that my Wal-Mart special Winchester bulk pack had the closest ballistic match. This is the 555 round box filled with 36 grain copper plated hollow point ammo clocked at 1,280 feet per second. Not dead nuts on for velocity, but darn close. And remember, the rifle here is a standard Ruger 10/22 and not an Anschutz 1913 Super Match, so close is good enough. Hey if we can build a national healthcare website for a half billion plus or minus a hundred million, that’s close enough right?

First, I zeroed the Ruger 10/22 and Redfield Battlezone Tactical scope at 50 yards. Although I had the scope zeroed properly by the third shot, I fired an additional 50 rounds or so just to be sure. Also because it was fun dialing up the Battlezone zoom to 7x and trying to hit spent shotgun shells out near the 50 yard mark on my range.

By the way, zeroing is easy and requires no tools. Just shoot and click away til you’re happy. Then lift the turret cap straight out until it spins freely, move it to the 50 yard mark, and drop it back down into place. Piece of cake. I didn’t even have any parts left over.

Next, I wanted to verify the pre-calibrated turret markings at different ranges. My range is marked pretty well out to 120 yards so I was able to plink away at targets 75, 100, 110 and 120 yards away. With this ammo, the scope was dead on.

The last test was a return to 50 yards to make sure there was some repeatability. Not a problem. 50 rounds later at 50 yards, I was still on target with the same point of impact.

Just for kicks, I switched to CCI Mini-Mag .22LR 40 grain rounds at 1,235 feet per second – heavier and slower than that specified for the BDR markings. No worries. While I did not shoot targets, I did plenty of dirt clod plinking at various ranges and found no significant difference once I re-zeroed this ammo at a 50 yard target first. So don’t get too stressed out about your specific ammo ballistics. Find one you like that’s close to specification, zero it and you’re off to the races.

Closing Arguments

This is a fun plinking scope. And it’s affordable. You can find it at Cabelas for about $190.

The only mistake I made with testing (so far) was not mounting it on something like a Colt / Umarex M4 Carbine .22LR rifle. It’s called a Redfield Battlezone TACTICAL after all. That’s next…

Why Green Lasers Aren’t Green – New Native Green Technology from LaserMax

While at a LaserMax media event, I learned a lot about lasers. Like most everything else with a battery or plug, the technology is evolving at a dizzying rate. One of the things I learned was that green lasers aren’t green. Actually, they’re invisible (to the human eye) as they are derived from infrared light.

The LaserMax Native Green UNI-MAX (top) is noticeably brighter than traditional DPSS green laser light (bottom)

The LaserMax Native Green UNI-MAX (top) is noticeably brighter than traditional DPSS green laser light (bottom)

Allow me to explain. To produce green laser light, you need to shoot an infrared laser beam through some seriously mysterious conversion crystals. It’s a process called diode pumped solid-state technology or DPSS for short. The invisible infrared light goes in one end of the crystals and comes out the other side green. It’s a process called “magic.” Make sense?

While DPSS works, and does produce bright and easy-to-see green light, there are some drawbacks.

The Native Green Laser dot (left) and traditional green laser (right)

The Native Green Laser dot (left) and traditional green laser (right)

First, those magic crystals add bulk and weight. Not much, but when you’re trying to build a laser device small enough to work on a gun, every little bit counts. Think about those Ghostbusters Proton Packs. While not technically lasers, they generated some awesome light shows, but required a full-sized backpack particle accelerator. That would never be practical on a carry pistol as concealment would require a cover garment the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

The other consideration is efficiency of the DPSS system itself. At high and low temperature extremes, the conversion process starts to break down and the light becomes less effective. For example, standard DPSS lasers (which use the crystal conversion process) operate beautifully at temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures don’t cover the full range or normal field environments. Any area north of the Florida border is likely to experience near freezing temperatures for a large part of the year. And while 100 degrees sounds like a reasonable top end, think of our men and women deployed in sandboxes around the world, where temperatures reach 120 degrees. Or, consider interior environments like those spooky shipping containers and warehouses prevalent on TV crime dramas. Those non-air-conditioned places get insanely hot in the summer, right?

Native Green lasers generate green light right off the bat using a green laser diode. With a native green light source, there is no need for the extra bulk of crystals to convert the light beam to green. Additionally, the effective temperature operating boundaries are extended. For example, a Native Green laser retains operating efficiency all the way down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. At the high-end, they continue to generate bright green light up to about 150 degrees.

Read the rest at Outdoorhub.com!

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