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!

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.

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…

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!

EOTech 300 AAC Blackout Holographic Site – Coming Soonish!

EOTech 300 AAC Blackout XPS2-300

The EOTech XPS2-300 features two 1 MOA dots positioned inside a 65MOA circular reticle.

We had the pleasure of spending the past few days at the 2013 Professional Outdoor Media Association annual conference in Columbia, South Carolina. One of the joys of the annual POMA gathering is spending quality time with corporate members like EOTech. Away from the bedlam of SHOT Show or the NRA Annual Meeting, there is opportunity for lot’s of questions. Even better, the range day event allows more leisurely trial of new products.

One of this year’s range day highlights was the new EOTech .300 AAC Blackout holographic sight. On the outside, it shares primary features with other XPS models.

EOTech SM2-300 reticle

The EOTech 300 AAC Blackout reticle looks something like this.

For example, it uses a sideways mounted CR123 battery. There are two reasons for this. The sideways mount helps to shorten the overall length of the optic – handy for AR platforms with limited rail space. This is especially important if you also want to mount  a magnifier or backup iron sights. The hidden benefit of the sideways mounted battery is increased resistance to adverse recoil effects. As the rifle fires, the battery does not move back and forth against the battery contacts. The result? Longer life and improved reliability. Clever.

The XPS2-300 model also features rear mounted on/off and brightness buttons. This is primarily for true ambidextrous operation. Windage and elevation adjustments are 1/2 MOA, or about 1/2 inch per click at 100 yards.

The real deal with the EOTech 300 AAC Blackout is the multi-dot reticle. Like most other EOTech models, there is a 1 MOA center dot. With the XPS2-300, there is a second dot below the first. This is intended for an additional range zero with the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge. The idea is that you choose either subsonic or supersonic 300 Blackout loads and establish two range points corresponding to the two dots. For example, most 300 Blackout subsonic rounds, if zeroed at 50 yards, will have the lower dot corresponding to 100 yards. In all likelihood, supersonic rounds will match the top dot at 50 yards also and depending on your specific load, you can establish a range that corresponds to the lower dot. Or, with the wide variety of 300 AAC Blackout loads, you could zero the upper dot for your choice of supersonic load, then determine the range for your choice of subsonic load sighted with the lower dot. This will be a fun optic to experiment with if you’re a reloader.

The EOTech models for .223 / 5.56mm also have a 7 yard aim point. This is where the bottom post intersects the 65MOA circle. This aim point should also apply for the 300 AAC Blackout optic as there is minimal trajectory influence at just 7 yards – most of the difference between aim point and point of impact is a result of the height of the center dot over the barrel. We weren’t able to test this, but it should be pretty darn close.

We’re anxious to get one of these in so we can experiment with a variety of both subsonic and supersonic loads and report on the reticle function. According to EOTech, the unit will be out sometime in the late spring / early summer of 2013.

More to follow.

Top 10 Shooting Products from NSSF SHOT Show 2013

Doing a Top 10 list for SHOT Show is ridiculous. Kind of like trying to fit all the amazing things that have spilled out of Joe Biden’s mouth into a single leather-bound book. It simply can’t be done.

But as you probably already know, we’re kind of ridiculous around here, so we’re going to highlight our Top 10 shooting gear finds of SHOT Show 2013.

Here goes:

 Trijicon 300 AAC Blackout ACOG
Trijicon 300 AAC Blackout ACOG Optic. This is cool, cool, cool. We’ve a got a 300 Blackout rifle coming in for testing and can’t wait to spend more time with this optic. We shot it at the Media Day event and loved our first experience. The neat thing about this optic is the graduated reticle. It’s got normal elevation hashmarks calibrated for supersonic 300 AAC Blackout loads out to 600 yards. It also has indicators for subsonic rounds. Just zero the optic with supersonic ammo and everything falls into place. You’ll also notice the scope is slimmer than standard ACOG’s.
 Kestrel Meter 4500 Ballistic Bluetooth Nightvision Kestrel Meter with Horus ATRAG Ballistics Software. This is one cool device. You may be familiar with Kestrel’s pocket weather meters that provide instant data on humidity, temperature, wind, etc. This one adds a full ballistic computer to the mix. You can store multiple gun and load configurations with bullet type, ballistic coefficient, weight, and velocity. This information is combined with automatically collected atmospheric data to calculate a perfect long-range shooting solution. A new model is coming out soon with even more advanced ballistic software and load storage capabilities. Technology is cool.
 Black Rain Ordnance AK-47 Black Rain Ordnance AK-47. What’s the big deal about another AK-47? Look closely at the photo. This baby is a MILLED receiver, not a piece of metal stamped out like a Yugo fender. If memory serves, it’s going to be called the Freedom Fighter when it’s available in a couple of months. Oh, and we found out that one of Black Rain’s Pro Shooters, Sandra Orvig, lives virtually across the street from us. You’ll know a couple of other Black Rain Pro Shooters from Top Shot – the always energetic Gabby Franco and really huge guy Greg Littlejohn. This gun shot like a dream. Solid, heavy, and gentle. Fun!
 Tracking Point Laser Targeting System Tracking Point Networked Tracking Scope. Why yes, that is a laser targeting system on my .338 Lapua Magnum! I have no long-range shooting skill. Mainly because there’s no place nearby with a long-range facility. So when that crazy guy from Tracking Point asked me if I wanted to shoot a .338 Lapua Magnum at a steel gong 967 yards away in a freezing, howling wind, I thought he was a little nuts. With the Tracking Point, you simply lase the target with a red dot on the reticle using a button near the trigger. The system already knows your load ballistics and gathers atmospheric conditions for trajectory calculation. Once the target is lased, you can move the rifle around in an moderate-sized zone around the target center. Just press and hold the trigger and try to cover the laser indicator again. When your scope passes over the exact spot, the rifle fires automatically – you don’t have to hold on the target, just pass over it. A secondary benefit is there is no trigger flinch. You don’t know exactly when the gun will fire. And yes, I did hit the steel gong ⅔ of a mile out there on the first try. Through no fault of my own.
 NSSF First Shots Reception SHOT Show 2013 Crazy Fun People. Ok, so this isn’t actually a product, but most of our shooting industry friends are more or less products of insanity. That’s what makes the people so great and all of this so much fun. Here’s a photo from the First Shots reception, run by the NSSF’s always entertaining Tisma Juett. She’s coordinating First Shots events all across the country and getting thousands and thousands of people introduced to the shooting sports. You might recognize some of those wild and crazy huntresses from The Women’s Outdoor News, Stephanie from XS Sights, Kelle – the better half of Hot Caliber Jewelry, Team Archangel – tactical trainers extraordinaire, and @GlamGunGirl.
 Flashbang Eva Holster and others in the Pin Up Collection women's holsters Flashbang Eva Women’s Holster. A number of companies that are more dude-oriented are making hybrid holsters like the Galco King Tuk and CrossBreed. Lisa and Bart Looper have some up with a model just for the female form. The Eva has an exceptionally well made leather backing, gun-specific kydex shell, and best of all, a colorful suede backing. Fun and functional!
 Blackhawk AR Rail Thumb Shelf Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest. Sometimes the simplest products are the most valuable. This is a nifty accessory for virtually any rifle with a forward side rail. The thumb shelf helps you achieve a perfectly consistent and firm grip with your support hand every time. Reversing it creates two different thumb shelf heights. A lower position is great for rifles with a vertical fore grip. The upper position is better if you don’t use one. You have to try it to believe the difference it makes.
 US Optics SR8 Rifle Scope U.S. Optics SR8. This is one gorgeous optic. It’s obviously built like a tank. It offers 1-8x zoom with a true 1X so at closer ranges it works like a red dot. It features two different ranging reticle options which are in the first focal plane so ranging is not affected by zoom level. It also offers a red dot in the second focal plane which can be turned on or off. The red dot features variable intensity controls. Or you can get a not-red dot as the optic is orderable with your choice of red, green or blue illumination. Can’t wait to spend some quality time with this one.
 SilencerCo Saker 5.56mm silencer SilencerCo 5.56mm Saker. This dedicated 5.56 / .223 silencer was just downright fun to shoot. Less blast, less noise, accurate, and light. What’s not to love? The neatest part of the Saker design is the MAAD, or Multiple Accessory Attachment Device. This simply means that the attachment mechanism is not proprietary. Which means you can mount this over other vendors flash hiders. The end cap is removable, so if you manage to blow the end off, you can simply replace the end cap and there is far less risk of damage to your suppressor.
 Slidefire 22 Stock Slidefire .22LR Stock System. Here’s a great way to clean out your local Wal-Mart’s supply of bulk .22LR ammunition. Last year, SlideFire introduced bump-fire stocks for AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic rifles. This year, they’ve managed to get the system to work on certain .22 rifles. Available soonish is a trigger set for the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22. The stock is the basic AR-15 stock. The lighter trigger set is required to make the SlideFire system work with the reduced recoil impulse of .22 ammunition. Soon, SlideFire will introduce a solution for the Ruger 10/22 platform. We shot the M&P 15-22 system at Media Day and it was a hoot! And affordable :-) Get one.

Buyers Guide: Aimpoint Micro H-1 Red Dot Sight

My Gun Culture Shooting Buyers Guide

IMG_1277This is a fantastic red dot. One of our favorites.

In our recent in-depth review we used it on a DPMS A3 Lite and found it stellar. Battery life is 75% of forever so you don’t have to worry about turning the unit and and off. That’s great if it’s a self-defense gun.

When paired with the Micro LRP Mount, you can remove and remount the sight without loss of zero. We tested this and it worked as advertised.

This is a lightweight and very tough optic. The attention to detail in the optic and its accessories is icing on the cake.

Well worth the money.

Available Here Aimpoint Micro H-1 Red Dot Sight With with LRP Mount

Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope – A Video Tour

A nice scope for the money!

Review: Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope – Cool, but can it shoot the cocks?

The Good
The value on this scope is great. It’s clear, consistent and very tactical looking – all for about 400 bucks.
The Bad
The battery on our illuminated reticle died fairly quickly. Just to note, the green setting appears to burn a good bit more juice. On the plus side, the etched reticle is sharp without any illumination.
The Ugly
Our test would have been easier had the Sidewinder been equipped with a .5186246418338 click adjustment. See below for more on this point. We’ll get over it though.
Our Rating
3 Nuns Four Nuns! For the money, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope

Approximate Retail Price: $409.99

www.hawkeoptics.com

The Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical scope has all the cool goodies:

  • Illuminated glass-etched reticle in red AND green with variable brightness controls for each
  • 2″ side-wheel parallax adjustment
  • 1/4 MOA tactical turrets. Besides looking exceptionally cool, they offer push/pull locking and easy zero adjustment
  • 4″ removable sunshade which looks even more exceptionally cool than the tactical turrets
  • Mil-Dot reticle
  • Multi-Coated lenses

But can it shoot the cocks?

We intended to find out. More on that in a minute.

We met Brad and Steve from Hawke Sport Optics at this years POMA Conference and got a thorough tour of the Hawke lineup. After some discussion, we elected to run the Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical through a comprehensive My Gun Culture evaluation protocol. We’ve been looking for a great opportunity to use a big word like protocol for a while now, so this evaluation is already off to a pulchritudinous (yet another big word) start.

We selected the Sidewinder Tactical as a great match for our test rifle – a Savage 112 in .22-250 caliber. This rifle is an accuracy beast, easily shooting around the 1/2 MOA zone as long as one points it in the right direction.

The Walking Tour

Our evaluation model was the HK4034 10x fixed power with mil-dot reticle. Other models in the Tactical Series offer variable power in 4.5-14x, 6.5-20x and 8.5x25x. It’s a 30mm tube design with a 42mm objective lens so make sure you’ve got the proper rings and bases of adequate height.

We loved the attention to detail in the packaging. The Sidewinder Tactical came in a custom foam-lined hard case with a carry handle for safe transport. Packed in various foam cutouts were the scope itself, a 4″ sunshade, lens cleaning cloth, metal lens covers, a spare battery for the illuminated reticle, tools for turret adjustment, a removable large wheel for parallax adjustment, and owners manual. Inclusion of the little things is a big deal to us as it means the product is immediately usable – without extra trips to the store.

The included lens covers were also a nice touch. Made of metal and a screw-in design, they’re solid and secure. The only gripe we had with them is that the front one will not also mount on the included 4″ sun shade. If you intend to look cool at the range by leaving that on, you have to find a different front lens cover option.

The other stand out feature was the clarity. Loved it. Especially for the price. The sight picture was clear and crisp across the whole diameter of visible area. Speaking of optical characteristics, the eye relief is about 4″ and field of view at 100 yards is almost 12 feet on the fixed 10x model we tested. The ocular lens is easily focused and features a solid locking ring to prevent movement once you get it set just right.

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