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.

The NRA Annual Meeting: 75,000 Friends and Hundreds of Toys

The NRA Annual Meeting 2014, Indianapolis, IN.

The NRA Annual Meeting 2014, Indianapolis, IN.

I love the NRA annual meeting. You would think a gathering of more than 75,000 people couldn’t be a more polite undertaking than a Miss Manners Impersonator convention, but it is. You can’t go 10 feet without hearing one or more of the following: Please. Thank you. Sir. Ma’am. Pardon me! Have a nice day!

If the folks who rant and rave about how evil the NRA is would actually come to an NRA event, I believe they would be surprised. Actually, they would be dumbfounded. I was chatting it up with a bellman at my hotel one morning, and he observed “I don’t see why people get so upset about the NRA. These have been some of the nicest people ever to come for a big convention.”

If the best part of the NRA annual meeting is the people, the second best part is the product displays. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting finds this week.

ARES SCR™ Sport Configurable Rifle

I had an opportunity to shoot the ARES SCR™ Sport Configurable Rifle at the American Suppressor Association media event the day before the NRA convention started. For a minute, let’s set aside the discussion of whether a company should even have to make a rifle like this because of silly legislation. As one of the guests on this week’s Armed American Radio Show so aptly stated, “It’s an AR rifle that doesn’t look like an AR rifle.”

The ARES SCR Sport Configurable Rifle

The ARES SCR Sport Configurable Rifle

Here’s what it is, besides a great example of creative ingenuity. Imagine a standard AR / MSR upper receiver, hand guard and barrel, but with a classic rifle stock. You know, just like the stock on your favorite hunting rifle or shotgun. Being that the “bang-bang” parts are all Modern Sporting Rifle, it takes almost all of the standard replacement parts and accessories. Magazines, lights, lasers, vertical foregrips and bipods for example. Remember, it’s an AR / MSR that just doesn’t look like one.

The short bolt carrier that makes the ARES SCR work.

The short bolt carrier that makes the ARES SCR work.

Here’s why it exists: It’s legal in all 50 states, even with the latest in silly and unproductive laws passed as of the date of this article.

The first question people ask is “how does it work?” There is no standard buffer tube as with a standard AR platform rifle, so the bolt carrier is short with a curved pigtail that extends down to a recoil spring in the standard rifle stock. The operating principle is the same.

Shooting the Ares SCR is like shooting any standard stock rifle. You’ll want to mount your optic like you would with a standard rifle – as low to the bore as possible. Since the stock curves down instead of straight back, a standard AR height optic will be too high for a proper cheek weld on the stock. We were using an Aimpoint Micro H1 and it is exactly the right height if you don’t use the AR mount.

Initially, Ares will offer this as a complete package with the lower standard stock and upper mated together. If the upper you want to use accepts standard size bolt carriers, and if there is a short bolt carrier available for your desired caliber, you’re good to go. Just throw that new upper on the lower just like you would with a standard AR / MSR.

Weaver Tactical 6-30x56mm

I fell in lust with a beast of an optic – the new Weaver Tactical model. With 30x magnification it will be a lot of fun for rifles that can reach way out there. It might pair well with the DoubleTap Ammo 7mm Remington Ultra Mag mentioned in this article.

Weaver Tactical-1

It’s got a 34mm tube and an illuminated reticle that offers 5 intensity levels of red and green. It’s a mil dot reticle with .1 mil elevation and windage adjustments. As it’s a long range scope, the best feature might be the SmartZero reset turrets. Remove the cap, set the zero stop, and rotate away, even more than once. When you need to, dial them back to a positive zero point without having to count how many rotations you turned.

I’m probably going to do a dedicated feature on this optic down the road, but I can’t decide on the ideal rifle. Maybe a .22-250? Or perhaps the Weatherby .257 Magnum? Of course a nice .308 is always a good choice. What say you?

 

Crimson Trace New Laser Bling

The Crimson Trace team has quite a bit of new gear in both red and green laser configurations. The new Master Series Cocobolo Diamond pattern grips are gorgeous and will class up any 1911.

Crimson Trace Master Series-1

Also new are green Lasergrips for the Ruger LCR family. With a positive on/off switch and 2 hour battery life, it’s a great upgrade for your snubbie.

On the short-term horizon are upgraded models for Glock Gen 3 pistols with rear activation laser switches. The new models feature positive on/off switches, which are handy for saving battery life when practicing in daylight conditions.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 Scope With CIRT Reticle: Short & Fast Or Long & Accurate

The Weaver Tactical 1-5x24 optic with Weaver SPR 30mm mount. Shown with a Rock River Arms LAR 6.8

The Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 optic with Weaver SPR 30mm mount. Shown with a Rock River Arms LAR 6.8

The Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope is a high-quality, well-constructed optic that compares favorably to other models costing twice as much. Available on the street for just over $700, it’s not a cheap Charlie, but you get what you pay for. Considering the features and performance, it’s a fantastic value. 

The optic itself is housed in a 30mm tube and features a first focal plane reticle. While first focal plane versus second focal plane is a user preference, I really like first focal plane scopes as the reticle changes in size with magnification level.

More importantly, with first focal plane scopes, holdovers are consistent no matter what magnification setting you’re using. (Tweet This)
With a first focal plane reticle, you can also use the mil-dot graduations on this scope for range estimation regardless of magnification level. (Tweet This)

More on that later. For now, just remember that all the benefits of first focal plane comes at a price – they’re more expensive to manufacture.

A hidden feature! The scope caps have a separate padded compartment for storage - like extra batteries.

A hidden feature! The scope caps have a separate padded compartment for storage – like extra batteries.

The reticle is illuminated and powered by a single CR-2032 battery. CR-2032 batteries are used in all sort of things and are readily available at most big box, drug and many grocery stores. The scope comes with both red and green illumination, with 5 levels of intensity for each color. When turned off, or when the battery goes dead, you’ll see a black reticle as it’s glass etched.

Being that it’s designed as a tactical scope, it’s got all the durability and longevity goodies. It’s a one-piece construction design, has fully coated glass and is filled with Argon. It’s waterproof, shock proof and fog proof. I would also say this optic is idiot proof. The first focal plane reticle allows simpletons like me to use it and not worry about holdover details.

The finish is matte black, so when you’re sneaking around at night playing ninja, it won’t make create of those glaring reflections that could give away your position.

Most importantly, the matte finish will match the finish of your AR rifle nicely.

Turret Envy

I wanted to test consistency of the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope, so I mounted it on a rifle with proven accuracy and consistency – a Rock River Arms LAR 6.8 chambered in, you guessed it, 6.8 Remington SPC. For whatever reason, this particular rifle has proven itself accurate with a variety of loads, but it seems to really like 90 grain Sierra Varminter flat base and 115 grain Sierra MatchKing projectiles.

I prefer a two-part rest like this Blackhawk! Sportster Titan III as it keeps the shooter involved.

I prefer a two-part rest like this Blackhawk! Sportster Titan III shooting rest as it keeps the shooter involved.

I also wanted to shoot under fairly accurate conditions, so instead of shooting from a vice-type contraption, I used the Blackhawk! Sportster Titan III Tri-Stance Rest. This two-part system allows you to keep the gun in your shoulder and achieve a normal firing grip, yet provides plenty of stability for accuracy work. When you zero a rifle using a less restrictive set up like this, it’s more likely to achieve the same point of aim / impact when you’re out and about using a tree, post or vehicle as when using a bench rest. In other words, the shooter is still involved, though assisted.

First, I wanted to be sure that point of impact stayed true at various magnification levels. As the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope ranges from a true 1x to 5x magnification, I fired shots at the same target with power set to 1x, 3x and finally 5x. All shots stayed within standard group size for this rifle and load. No problem there.

The turrets adjust in 1/4 MOA clicks and require no tools to calibrate to zero. Here, I have the aluminum covers removed.

The turrets adjust in 1/4 MOA clicks and require no tools to calibrate to zero. Here, I have the aluminum covers removed.

Next I wanted to check out repeatability and accuracy of the turrets, so I set up a standard “shoot the box” scenario. So I could perform big turret adjustments, yet still stay on the target, I moved my target to fifty yards. I kept the same point of aim for the entire scenario and moved the point of impact around with scope adjustments only.

This is a great time to explain how the Weaver Tactical turrets are set up. They windage and elevation turrets are covered, with screw on aluminum caps.

Cool feature: The caps themselves have a screw-on cap that opens up a padded compartment where you can store a spare battery, or perhaps your favorite baby tooth.

The turrets require no tools to zero. Graduations are in ¼ MOA adjustments, or ¼ inch at 100 yards. When you get your desired zero point, just lift the turret straight up, at which point it spins freely so you can calibrate the scale to zero.

The Weaver Tactical 1-5x24 scope shot an almost perfect box pattern - 64 clicks per side.

The Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope shot an almost perfect box pattern – 64 clicks per side.

Back to the box shooting. I used a Sierra 90 grain Varminter flat base projectile with IMR 4227 powder. My load was achieving average velocity of 2,546 feet per second as measured with a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet down range. Not the top end of the 6.8 Remington velocity, but reasonable. I only picked this load as it was shooting particularly well that day and I wanted to minimize other variables to look at scope performance.

I took the first shot at the center of the target, and as expected, since the rifle was close to zeroed, it impacted just outside center.

I then adjusted 32 clicks up and 32 clicks to the right and fired again, keeping point of aim at the center of the target. As expected, the point of impact was about four inches high and four inches to the right.

Then I moved a full 64 clicks left to establish the upper left corner of the box. Then 64 down. Then 64 right.

Finally I set the turret back to zero and fired again to make sure the point of impact would return to the center of the target.

As the photo shows, the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope shot a picture-perfect box and return to zero was right back on target.

When testing a scope, I suppose you can shoot a box pattern. But using strategically placed fruitcake is much more fun.

When testing a scope, I suppose you can shoot a box pattern. But using strategically placed fruitcake is much more fun.

The repeatability got kind of boring, so I reverted to childish things. Rather than try to place a bullet hole in paper at a given location using just scope adjustments, I taped some common objects at different random locations on my target. By “common objects” I mean an old iPod and an unopened fruitcake made circa 1843. Doing a little quick math, carrying the one, and translating that to turret adjustments, I fired away.

Using turret adjustments on the Weaver Tactical scope, I had no problem destroying thousands of digital 80’s songs and making fruitcake goulash. (Tweet This)

The CIRT Reticle

The CIRT (Close – Intermediate Range Tactical) reticle is perhaps the most interesting feature of the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 optic. I could write a book on it. Why? The ranging, ballistic drop compensation and caliber flexibility is limitless. Everything, and I mean everything, on this reticle is carefully calibrated so you can geek out to your hearts content. I can’t list out all the features and calibrations here, so I’ll mention a few highlights.

  • Weaver's CIRT Reticle

    Weaver’s CIRT Reticle

    The solid center dot is calibrated to the size of a human head at 200 yards.

  • The parentheses surrounding the center dot calibrate to human head size at 100 yards.
  • The hash marks correspond to a 20 inch shoulder width at varying ranges.
  • The windage hash marks are placed at 1 mil increments from 2 to 10 mils.
  • The elevation post and hash marks are placed at 1, 2.6, 4.9, 8 and 10 mils. While ballistic drop tables are included for these marks for a wide variety of .223 and 5.56mm loads, you can use a ballistic program to easily map holdovers to whatever load you want. I did this with the 6.8 Remington SPC.
  • Thickness of the primary bars is exactly .25 mils.

What does all this mean?

The Weaver CIRT Reticle allows you to figure out exactly how far away your target is, and hit it. (Tweet This)

If you really want to have some fun, try an app like Ballistic, where you can upload the a custom reticle graphic and key in couple of measurements. Then you can map this reticle to most any caliber, velocity and projectile combination.

I’m still playing with this reticle. So far, I’ve tried it with .223 Remington / 5.56mm, 6.8 Remington SPC and 300 AAC Blackout. You can create holdover tables easily for any load you want. Now, if I could only stop tinkering and settle on a rifle and load…

If you want to enjoy the CIRT reticle (2nd focal plane) for a lot less money, check out the Weaver Kaspa-Z (top)

If you want to enjoy the CIRT reticle (2nd focal plane) for a lot less money, check out the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope (top) We’ll be reviewing that separately soon.

Shooting Performance

The CIRT reticle shines in a first focal plane placement. When you’re operating at 1x, the whole reticle makes a visible “crosshair” pattern in the center of the viewable area. If you light it up, it operates more like a holographic sight. The illuminated crosshairs occupy somewhere near 5 to 10 percent of the vertical and horizontal area.

Translation: The aiming point is visible and fast to acquire when operating at 1x.

When you crank up the magnification to 5x, the reticle grows in size (first focal plane, remember?) until it occupies about ⅓ of the viewable area vertical and horizontally. It’s plenty large for precise shooting and the reticle is sharp.

Closing Arguments

The Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope is a heckuva value, considering what you get. Look around online,  especially at the buyer reviews. Nearly all of them were as impressed as I was with this scope. Crowd wisdom perhaps?

Got an AR in any caliber? Get one.

Want an Extra Set of Eyes Downrange? Try the Bullseye Camera System

Shoot a rifle? How about a pistol? Or a bow? Or an air gun? Or maybe an atl-atl?

If yes, then you need to take a close look at the Bullseye Camera System. It’s like having an extra set of eyes just a couple of feet away from your downrange target, closely monitoring (but never criticizing!) every shot you take.

The Bullseye Camera System goes downrange to monitor your target so you don't have to.

The Bullseye Camera System goes downrange to monitor your target so you don’t have to.

Here’s the Bullseye Camera System in action downrange. Open the case, set up the camera, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s what the Bullseye Camera System does, in a nutshell:

  • Watches your target for every shot
  • Tracks the exact location of each hit in the target area
  • Beams that information back to your shooting bench location
  • Displays a real-time view, on a laptop or netbook computer, of each shot taken
Here’s the Bullseye Camera System in action downrange. Open the case, set up the camera, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s the Bullseye Camera System in action downrange. Open the case, set up the camera, and you’re ready to go.

It’s a little bit like having an insanely high-powered spotting scope zeroed in on your target, only better. Unlike a spotting scope, the Bullseye Camera System tracks each shot individually throughout your shooting session. The system monitors target status and all previous shots, so no matter how many holes are in your target, the most recent one will be clearly flashing on the laptop screen at your shooting bench. Not only that, you can choose to mark shots with colored dots for future reference.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

Scope Review: Hawke Panorama EV 3-9×40 AO

The Hawke Panorama EV 3-9×40 AO is the third Hawke Optic we’ve tested over the past couple of years. A while back, we shot some cocks with the Hawke Sidewinder Tactical IR and more recently, we tinkered with the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose for crossbows and AR platforms. In both previous cases we found the Hawke offerings to be great values. Not only because of features for the dollar, but performance approaching that of much pricier optics.

The Hawke Optics Panorama EV 6-9x40 AO mounted on a Rock River Arms 6.8 SPC

The Hawke Optics Panorama EV 6-9×40 AO mounted on a Rock River Arms 6.8 SPC

Last January we got a bug up our butts to acquire a 6.8 Remington SPC AR. After waiting nearly 17 years to have it delivered from Rock River Arms, it finally arrived. And yes, it was worth the wait, although we would suggest that Rock River Arms spend a little more time communicating with customers on long wait lists. Even the occasional “we still have no idea when parts will arrive, but we wanted to let you know we are working diligently on your order” message would go a long way when wait times approach a year or more. When the situation stinks, communicate. A lot. But that’s a separate discussion.

Finger adjustable turrets are resettable and have 1/4 MOA increments.

Finger adjustable turrets are resettable and have 1/4 MOA increments.

Anyway, given the interesting performance window of the 6.8 SPC cartridge and its heavier (115 grain for these tests) projectiles, we felt that a mid-range variable scope would be a great fit. After a little consultation with the optics gurus at Hawke, we settled on the Panorama EV 3-9×40 with a mil-dot reticle. While the Panorama is available with three different reticles at last count, we’ve just got a thing for mil-dot scopes. Always moving them from rifle to rifle and endlessly tinkering with different ammo loads, you simply can’t beat the flexibility.

Click ‘n giggles

We found this to be a really versatile optic. One of the reasons for its versatility is range of adjustment. Just internal to the scope, you’ve got about 400 clicks of windage and elevation. At ¼ MOA (¼” at 100 yards) per click, that’s about 100 inches of adjustment at that range. That’s a lot. Of course you always want to line the scope up as closely as possible physically, without relying on internal adjustment to establish zero, but having the option provides some flexibility in your choice of mount and the effective range of the scope.

Turrets

A front parallax ring adjusts from 15 meters to infinity.

A front parallax ring adjusts from 15 meters to infinity.

The turrets on this optic feature screw caps to keep things where you set them. When adjustments need to be made, unscrew the caps and you’ll see finger-adjustable turrets with ¼ MOA click adjustments. The turrets are resettable, so when you establish the desired zero for your rifle, just loosen the two small phillips-head screws on each turret This will allow the turret ring to spin freely and you can align your zero and the indicated zero mark on each turret.

Shooting this sucker

We mounted the Hawke Panorama EV 3-9×40 AO on a Rock River Arms 6.8 SPC AR. For those not versed in this chambering, it’s a .270 projectile stuffed into an AR platform. Bolt, barrel and magazine are a tad different, but the lower is a standard AR configuration. In fact, the lower shown in the pictures here is a Rock River Arms LAR-15 (.223 / 5.56mm) model.

Check out this 64 click box! Especially the return to zero on the sixth shot.

Check out this 64 click box! Especially the return to zero on the sixth shot.

The first project, after getting it approximately zeroed was to shoot a six shot box. We set this up at 50 yards so we could do some fairly extreme scope adjustment and still keep all the shots on paper. Using the aim point show in the photo here, we shot a center target, then proceeded to make click adjustments to create a box 64 clicks on each side. For the sixth shot, the scope was returned to zero to make sure the impact point was the same as the initial shot. All six shots were fired using the same aim point, so we were simply moving impact points around using the scope’s internal adjustment.

Wow! The photo here speaks for itself. The corner shots impacted exactly where expected and even more impressively, the final shot ended up touching the hole from the first. Very nice.

The next thing we wanted to test was possible impact shift at different zoom levels. Using the same point of aim, a shot was fired using the lowest 3x setting. A second shot was fired using 6x zoom and a final shot fully zoomed at 9x. Again, as you can see, all shots impacted within the expected area.

We also verified that point of impact doesn't change with level of magnification.

We also verified that point of impact doesn’t change with level of magnification.

The reticle is etched and is perfectly visible in daylight without using the illumination features. However, for early morning, and of day, or other low-light conditions, you can turn on red or blue illumination.

Closing Arguments

We were really pleased with the performance of this scope. The only thing lacking with this optic is the enclosed flip-up covers, which did not stay on as solidly as I would have liked. Scope covers are a matter of preference however. Folks like the rubber band “bras” and others like flip-up caps. I don’t mind adding my choice of covers to this optic – it’s well worth the money regardless.

Available direct from Hawke for about $240, you simply cannot beat the value of this scope. While we tested it on an AR platform, it would make a great addition to a hunting rifle as well.

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

Scope Review: Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose Scope

The Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi Purpose Scope plays well with others

Somewhat like Captain Jack Sparrow, the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope easily adapts to all sorts of situations. Originally designed as a crossbow optic, people quickly realized that it was fit for more combustible applications. As I’ll show in more detail, it has 3 easy-to acquire aiming points which you can use to identify both near and far zeros for your particular rifle, crossbow or shotgun.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope  3

The Hawke 1×32 Multi Purpose Scope plays well with others. Crossbows, AR-15’s and shotguns to name a few.

 Just the facts about the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope…

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope illumination

The left side-wheel operates the illuminated reticle. Both red and green illumination is available and each color offers five levels of brightness. The “crosses” illuminate – see the reticle image below for detail. The illumination feature is powered by a single CR2032 battery – available most anywhere. Just unscrew the reticle brightness control knob cap to replace the battery.

 Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope windage and elevation

As this is a 1x optic, you’re probably not going to use the windage and elevation controls while shooting. They’re more for adjusting your zero as you change rifles and ammunition types. You might even move this to a crossbow! Each click adjusts the point of impact by 1/2 MOA, or just a hair over a half an inch at 100 yards. I found this to be plenty of granularity to get my favorite .223 load on target. The turrets are finger adjustable, and once you get your settings right, just screw the protective caps back on.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope reticle

Clarity of the scope was really good, with no discernible loss of focus or brightness as you look to the edges of the scope. The photo here shows a view at a berm about 110 yards away. The long horizontal and vertical bars made targeting fast and easy. Also as this photo shows, the cross aiming points show as black when illumination is not turned on. There’s really no need to use the illumination feature unless you’re in early or end of day low light conditions. One more thing – the top of the vertical bar is another aiming point – we’ll talk more about that below.

Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose Scope coated lens

Lenses are multi-coated and I found visibility to be good. While the objective is 32mm, the tube is 1 inch in diameter.

Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose Scope mount

Keeping this an all Hawke Optics solution, I used the Hawke 1″ 2-Piece, Reach Forward mounts. As you can see in the photo, this left quite a bit of remaining adjustment play both on the rail and in the scope rings. The eye relief in the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope is very generous so you can put this scope pretty much anywhere on the receiver rail. The specs indicate that eye relief is 8 inches. It’s not intended to be a scout scope so you’ll get some shadowing if you try to put it on the front rail. While testing, I placed the scope so the rear lens was about an inch forward of the rear of the receiver. This provided great visibility and unhindered access to the charging handle.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose BRC reticle

Hawke Optics offers free ballistics software for Mac, PC, iPhones and iPads and Android devices. The BRC software has the Hawke reticles and a bunch of cartridge profiles built-in, so you can quickly tell it you’re using the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope with an AR-15. As I was using practice hand loads, I adjusted the actual velocity to 2,700 feet per second instead of the default 3,250. As this is a 1x optic, and I’m half blind, I chose a 200 yard zero. not to actually shoot at 200 yards, but because the “near” zero point for the primary aiming cross works out to 42.2 yards. You can see on the image here that the left columns shows near zero distances while the column on the right shows far zero distances. Using my specially calibrated tennis shoes, I paced off 42 yards and added a bit more. Sure enough, I was right on target with the primary (top) aiming point in the reticle.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Hawke BRC software tells me, that for this reticle, with my specific load and velocity, what the aiming points are for the lower cross and the top of the vertical post – 6.3 and 4.3 yards respectively. So I moved my target in to 6.3 yards, again using my Imperial system calibrated shoes and paced off 6.3 yards. Again, right on target. same with the top of the vertical post aim point at 4.3 yards. Depending on where you set your primary zero, and which load you use, you can develop a useful scenario where you know point of impact for both very short and very long-range. This is particularly handy with AR-15 applications. As the center of AR-15 optics is generally about 2.5 inches above the bore, you normally have to compensate for short-range shots. With the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope, you simply use one of the lower two aiming points to put you right on target at “inside the home” distances.
Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose BRC software

The Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose BRC software comes preloaded with all of the Hawke Optics reticles so you can easily work out point of aim and impact solutions. Here’s the data we used for AR-15 testing with a 2,700 foot per second .223 Remington load.

 

Closing Arguments

The practical flexibility of this optic is just plain cool. I’ve been using it on an AR-15 with great success. My daughter just got a Barnett Jackal crossbow, so the weekend project will be to equip it with the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope and see how that works. Our first step will be to configure the Hawke BRC software with the Jackal’s ballistic data. Here’s the initial report based on the bolt velocity of the Jackal. By the way, crossbow data is preloaded into Hawke BRC software and you can tweak variables like velocity.

Hawke BRC Crossbow data

The Hawke BRC Software give us this projected aim point and range data for the Barnett Jackal crossbow.

So, looking at the right column of far aim point data, we see that the three default aim points correspond to ranges of 20, 40 and 50 yards.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the value of this one. Retailing at $129.99, the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope is a great option to consider if you’re on a tight budget. Add the benefit of moving it around from rifle to crossbow to shotgun and you’ve got a winner.

Available Here Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose Scope

 

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How To Add Night Sights To The M1A or M14 Rifle, And Other Rifleman Jazz

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight (TCCS)

Recently I had a Springfield Armory M1A in for evaluation. Somehow, this military classic (civilian semi-automatic version of the M14) just insists that you use iron sights.

Why?

Got me. But I’ve waffled more on the scope / iron sights decision more than Eric Holder in his Fast and Furious testimony. Some weeks the scope mount goes on and others its back to iron sights. Right now, it’s iron sights, and I think I’m going to stick with those – at least until Honey Boo Boo gains another 5 pounds.

Actually I’ve got even more incentive to stick with irons for a while. Recently I picked up a Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat front sight for the M1A / M14.

Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight for M1A and M14 Rifles

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight (left) shown next to the standard Springfield Armory M1A front sight.

As you can see, the front sight post is noticeably wider and not tapered like the standard M1A front sight post. This sight is intended for low visibility, close quarters use. Don’t take it to the National Matches! Here’s why…

Let’s consider the sight picture at 100 yards. My particular Springfield Armory M1A sight is just about .055 inches wide on the shooter side. It’s tapered and therefore narrower than that in the front. This helps create a really crisp and precise sight picture. Many other M1A’s use a National Match sight blade, which is .062 inches wide, so your particular mileage may vary a bit. Keep in mind that numbers will float around depending on exactly how far from the front sight post you place your shootin’ and aimin’ eye. In my case, it’s about 34 inches.

On the other hand, the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight has a post that measures just about .093 inches wide.

What does this mean if your shooting at a target 100 yards away? Let’s do some fancy math and find out…

Gun math

So, solving that equation, dividing by the number of times John Boehner visits a tanning booth and carrying the one gives us the following sight pictures:

My Standard M1A Front Sight post covers a 5.82 inch wide target at 100 yards. With this fancy new match, that means a standard military 20 inch wide target would exactly match the width of my front sight blade at 343 yards.

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight post covers a 9.84 inch wide target at 100 yards. Not trusting my math, I eyeballed this at the range. Close enough. To make a similar military target ranging comparison, the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight would match the 20 inch target width at about 203 yards. That’s kinda handy for ranging a man-sized target at distances us older folks you can actually see with the naked eye.

So, for long targets, you’re going to lose some precision with the Smith Enterprise Tritium Combat Sight. But that’s by design. This sight is supposed to be easy to see in low light conditions. With it’s built-in Trijicon tritium vertical bar, you can’t miss it.

This front sight upgrade also makes a great backup scenario if your M1A or M14 is scoped. Many (maybe most?) M1A / M14 receiver mounts have a half-tunnel cutout that allows you to see the front and rear iron sights under the scope. Smith Enterprise makes an M1A / M14 mount configured this way.

Front Sight Installation

If you have a standard M1A with the factory muzzle break installed, installation is simple.

M1A front sight removal

The standard front sight is a reverse dovetail setup where the sight itself has the female dovetail cut. It’s held in place by a hex bolt. Just loosen and remove that.

M1A front sight dovetail

The front sight will slide right off. Perhaps a gentle nudge will be required to get it moving.
 M1A front sight  1 Save that hex bolt. You’ll need it for the replacement front sight!

Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight installation

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight installs exactly the same as the standard sight. Don’t apply any Loctite – yet. First, you’ll want to bring your hex driver to the range with you for zeroing. If you zero for windage by drifting the front sight, then you can have your rear sight mechanically zeroed too. Just place the rear sight at it’s zero windage point, shoot, and adjust the front sight side to side as necessary. Once you’re happy, go ahead the tighten everything up.

Initially, I tried out the Tritium post version of the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight, but they also make one with a round tritium dot, also provided by Trijicon. I’ll be trying that one in a few weeks to see how it compares.

I really like shooting with this configuration. Given my aging eyes combined with iron sights, it’s not hurting my practical accuracy either.

 

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

 

You can find the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sights at Brownells

Smith Enterprise M14 Tritium Close Combat Sight
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