Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

Elornis Industry Back Pack/Drag Bag

I frequently get the chance to check out some cool new gear, and this is about just such a thing. Elornis Industry is a manufacturer in the Czech Republic, they make steel targets, hardware, textiles, Kydex, and many other great products for shooters. I managed to get my hands on one of their BackPack/ Drag Bag‘s, and I was very impressed.
The bag is a smaller one, for carbines and bullpups like my SRS. It serves as either a simple soft case for transporting your rifle to the range, or as a backpack to carry the rifle and accessories all over creation. It also works as a traditional snipers drag bag, to tow a marksman’s kit safely.

First I must say, the quality of Elornis Industry products is second to none. Quality materials, stitched firmly with good quality fasteners present a top notch case. The extra large zippers used in the case are smooth and strong, almost feels like you could zip a finger up in them.

The backpack straps are well padded, and adjust to fit the user. They also can be stowed inside the pack if not used as a backpack, as can the waist belt and chest strap.

There are additional storage compartments both inside and outside the case. Allowing for gear organization, there are even different colored zipper tabs to help distinguish. Inside the case, there are three zippered pouches made of mesh. On the back outside of the pack there are also three pouches accessed by opening the three way zipper.

The rifle compartment itself has a soft interior lining, a couple straps can be added to help support and stabilize the rifle inside.

The pack also has a built in rainfly that deploys from the top. It fits over the pack with a small bungee around its circumference to keep it tight.

Other handy little things like well positioned handles for carrying, velcro strip for adding patches (you know the ones, so that everybody at the range knows your blood type), these features round this pack out as just a great bag. I think it is ideal for a full day deployment for something like a shooting match, or a day chasing rock chucks in the Rockies.

If Elornis Industry makes all their products like they did this one, then I need to order more of them. Definitely intuitive products built for shooters by shooters.

-CBM

Watch the video here

Nikon Black FX 1000 4-16X50 Riflescope

What a time to be alive! Shooters have so many good options to choose from these days, the variety makes this fat kid feel like he’s in a candy shop. Today I’d like to tell you about another great product that followed me home, it wouldnt be as significant if it hadn’t kicked out a long time inhabitant of my safe.

Ive said it before, the optics game is a vigorous one, but thats good for consumers like us. With so many great companies fighting for our dollars, there is almost without question a good option for every budget and application.

I bought my first Nikon Rifle scope many years ago, it was a slightly used Buckmaster 4-14. I mounted it on my old 25-06 and used it to kill both my first deer and my first elk. I hope your sitting down, but in my humble and true opinion, Nikon has always made some great optics. There have been times where they were behind, and they may not have had the best offerings, but for the most part what they made was of good quality. For a long time, Nikon was the best I could afford, and I made do with what I had.
Thank goodness times have changed, and like the times, Nikon has stepped up their line of scopes. I was introduced to the newest Nikon tactical scopes (the Black line) a year or so ago. It was an event for writers to see some of the new products. Nikon showed up with the Black FX 1000 line of scopes, they feature a 30mm tube, first or second focal plane reticles, and they are also available in either MOA or MRAD subtensions. Not only did they have these more modern features, they also brought the always high quality Nikon glass lenses that they are so famous for. That day we shot and killed steel at 1800 yards with the Black 6-24 mounted to a .375 Cheytac.
I could barely wait to get my hands on one, the scopes had everything I wanted in a sub $1000 price range. And even better than that, they were priced well below comparable scopes from other trusted names.

Setting the zero-stop

When I got my FX 1000 4-16 in the mail (after chasing down the UPS driver) I hastily opened up the package to get this party started. I already had a rifle and rings ready to go, it was a Winchester Model 70 chambered in 7 WSM, it’s sole purpose in life is to make elk into elk steaks. Within a few minutes I had the scope mounted, and I took it outside to bore-sight it.
Another great feature of the FX 1000 is the zero-stop, if your not familiar with a zero-stop, you need to be. After zeroing your elevation turret for whatever your zero distance is, you set the zero-stop. This is accomplished by loosening the three allen screws around the turret grip area, and lifting the turret itself off the top. Underneath you will find another knurled ring with another three allen screws holding it tight over a threaded stud. All that is required is to loosen the screws, and then turn the knurled ring down until it stops. Once you’ve done that, you retighten the allen screws and re-install the turret aligning it at the zero mark.

This feature makes it simple and reliable to return your scope to zero after dialing elevation for distance. The Nikon zero-stop is fast, strong, and clean. I say clean because it doesnt use shims or blocks like other scopes. These types sometimes can cause a slow buildup of friction as they lockup, causing a mushy zero, and unessesary effort to start or stop turning. The Nikon is completely opposite of that, it turns until it stops, exactly on zero, every time.

This young moose made good eye candy while testing my scope.

The FX-MRAD reticle is much simpler than many of the hottest reticles on the market today, and thats just fine. The reticle has plenty of detail for real use, without getting too busy or complicated. Subtensions with .2 MIL and a hollow spot on the half MIL marks is very handy when doing holdovers or wind doping. Numbered marks on the even MIL marks are also handy when you start getting further away from the centerline. Reticle’s have advanced just like scopes, many shooters like the “Christmas tree” type reticles that are popular these days. While I personally prefer them, I dont mind using a standard milling reticle such as this either. And for those who like an uncluttered perspective they are probably better.

With the scope now mounted, I was ready to hit the range, which for me is up into the snowy and clouded Wasatch Mountains.
My bore sight job was close enough to get us on paper, and with a couple quick reticle measurements, I had the rifle zeroed. Even with a zero cant scope base, the rifle still had 18 MRAD of its 25 available MRAD to correct up. On this rifle 18 MRAD will get me out to approximately 1600 yards, which is beyond where I would ever anticipate using it, so no worries there.


With ten MRAD per revolution turrets, its easy to keep track of which rev of the turret you are on. Even so, the turret base has markings for you to keep track of, something all manufacturers should do.
Speaking of the turrets, they are just stiff enough, and have a crisp and audible click. With a rifle as flat shooting as this, the scope will likely never dial more than seven or eight MRAD, but it’s nice to have more if you need it.

I also tested the turret values, I did this by measuring out 100 yards exactly, and bolting the scope into a vise. Then measured the click value against a yard-stick. The results were very pleasing, especially since I am so bad at math. The turrets were very consistent and repeatable, always returning to the same spot when I hit the zero-stop. And over the course of the 18 MRAD from zero to topped out, there was as little as 0.3 MRAD of disparity between what was dialed, and what the reticle actually moved. I’m no Galileo, but thats close enough for what we do around here.

The parralax adjustment was pretty close to the aligning numbers on the focus knob. I usually disregard the numbers and just turn it to where the image is clearest, and minimum parralax, so its pretty nice when they are at least close.

Lens quality is exactly what you would expect from Nikon. All images were bright and clear, even in lower light conditions as the sun faded. Very minimal aberration around the edge of the sight picture regardless of magnification setting.
And despite the cold blowing snow of the high Rocky Mountains, the scope never fogged up on me, though I did need to blow the accumulation off the glass now and then.

A great companion to any good rifle is the Nikon RangeX laser rangefinder, you can read more about it here.

Shooting with the FX 1000 was what you would expect from a good scope. Targets are easily identified, and the reticle was very useful for measuring corrections at distance. The texture of the magnification ring and turrets was a very agressive, I like the firm purchase it gives to your hands. And the firm audible clicks would make it easy to use even when wearing gloves.

I took the rifle all the way out to 1150 yards, I was hitting a little high at that distance, but using the reticle to measure the deviation, it was easily corrected. The 4-16 magnification range is great for these distances, enough to clearly see targets, trace, and impacts. While not being so magnified as to darken the image, and exacerbate every small movement.

I’ve tried to come up with something about this scope that I dont like, and to be honest I’m having a hard time doing it. The price point of this scope puts it in prime position for guys who want a reliable and tough riflescope, but who dont want to spend four digits. It comes with the prestige of Nikon, and their no fault lifetime repair/replacement warranty.

If you are working on your next rifle build, and your optics budget is around $600, you’d be ill-advised to not check out the offerings of the Nikon Black FX 1000 in either 4-16 or 6-24. I told you at the beginning that this Nikon replaced an old standby scope, the particulars aren’t as important, but I paid significantly less for the Nikon, and I feel its superior in every way.

I have used and played with many high end scopes, and it’s very refreshing to find such satisfaction at this price, for that I give Nikon a near perfect score.
That old Buckmaster was the best I could afford at the time, but the new FX 1000 will serve on many of my rifles because it is a perfect fit, irrespective of its cost.

-CBM

Nikon Black RangeX 4K Rangefinder

A good laser rangefinder is an essential tool for any marksman who regularly shoots any significant distance. Personally I learned the value of a good laser many years ago, and have carried one ever since. I’ve had a chance to use many of the most popular models, and today another one joins my collection.

Nikon Sport Optics has long provided quality optics to the hunting and shooting community, so I was happy to see one of their newest product show up at my door, the Black RangeX 4K rangefinder.

The RangeX features an OLED display, it has several brightness settings which include an auto adjust for surrounding light conditions. Simliar to many of its competitors, the RangeX also will give the user an angle compensated distance should it be selected. The RangeX has an available Arca Swiss compatible tripod mount, allowing the rangefinder to be quickly mounted and used from the sturdy perch of a tripod.
The response time of the display is very fast, not quite as fast as the laser itself, but .3 seconds is close enough for me. It uses a single CR2 lithium battery for approximately 9000 uses.

The display as seen through the RangeX, the X around the crosshair shows when the laser is activated.

Perhaps the most celebrated feature of the Nikon RangeX, is its distance capabilities. For some time, ranging beyond 1200 yards or so was relegated to higher priced LRF’s. But as the market has grown, there are more and more great options that will go well beyond what folks are used to. The RangeX is advertised as a 4000 yard maximum range, that is a very impressive statement, and one I planned on testing.

In my experience, the lower the price point on a rangefinder, the less likely it was to hit its maximum advertised distance. Unless you spent upwards of six or seven hundred dollars, you basically had a thousand yard rangefinder, and sometimes not even that. The best rangefinders are the ones that will range not only their advertised distance, but even beyond it sometimes.

To be completely fair though, once a rangefinder hits the two thousand yard mark reliably, I dont really care if it goes beyond. At least not for civilian use.
The vast majority of recreational shooting takes place inside two thousand yards, and those few that need more range know how and where to get it.

I started out the RangeX with basic simple ranging tasks, shooting down the road, across town etc. The simple stuff like inside a thousand yards was lightning fast, and targeting was easy. The narrow beam divergence of the RangeX (Vertical 1.8MRAD by .25MRAD horizontal) allows the user to shoot through gaps in trees, and between closer obstacles. This is a very handy feature for those like me who hunt in wooded forests and mountainous terrain.

The first time I took the RangeX into the mountains to shoot, I decided to stretch it out a little further. It was a cold February afternoon, heavy clouds hung tight against the Wasatch Mountains. Snow was falling at about 6500 ft, which wasn’t too far above my shooting spot that was tucked back into a deep and jagged canyon. Therein was plenty of real world ranging opportunities, rocks, trees, deer, etc. And all at whatever distance you wanted to try and hit them at.

I tried out the angle correcting feature of the RangeX, first measuring the distance to a target, then again with an angle corrected distance. Regardless of how far the target, the display popped up faster than I expected. The furthest I was able to range that day was 1978 yards, which was pretty impressive considering how much precipitation was in the air. Looking back down into town from my Rocky Mountain post, I ranged some buildings that were 2240 yards away.

Ive tried it several other times since, and have been able to reach out even further. The best I can do on rocks and trees is still about two thousand yards, but good reflective targets like cars, windows, and especially road signs, I have hit as far as three thousand eight hundred yards.

The tripod mount made the RangeX very stable, and easy to focus the reticle on targets. And with the various mounting solutions it could be configured however you want it.

The Nikon RangeX is a fantastic buy for the committed shooter, it gives outstanding performance at a very reasonable price. It is lightweight, waterproof, compact, and it gives accurate range readings very quickly. I haven’t hit the magic 4000 yards with it yet, but I’m at least several thousand yards from the park that Nikon knocked it out of.

-CBM

Riton Optics RTS Mod 5 6-24X50 Riflescope

The optics race is a nonstop fight to get the attention of prospective shooters. It has been exciting if nothing else to watch some of the developments over the past decade or so, particularly from a consumer’s point of view. But have there been any real game changers?

I am always on the lookout for good optics, as I am frequently approached by friends and others looking for good shooting options. And optics is one of those heavily fielded questions.
So when I had the opportunity to try out one of Riton Optics scopes, I jumped at it.

Riton is a fairly new manufacturer, I had hardly noticed them before getting hands on one of their scopes. That scope is the RTS Mod5 6-24X50, it is a first focal plane scope, which is a must for me anymore. It has a traditional configuration with a side focus/parralax adjustment, an illumiated proprietary reticle with the rheostat ontop of the eye box, and a focus ring at the back.

First Focal Plane reticle

The reticle and turrets are both MOA, I’m more of an MRAD fan, but at least they both match. It wasn’t that long ago that many scopes were a hybrid mix of MOA and MRAD, thank goodness those days are gone.
I like the reticle, I found it very useful for measuring corrections and holdovers. Being an FFP reticle was also very handy, avoiding any kind of field math is a plus for my slow processor.

The turrets feature a push pull locking system, to keep them from being turned unintentionally. There are fifteen minutes per revolution of the turret with a total of 70 MOA internal adjustment, that is plenty of adjustment for the kind of shooting I do. I ran the scope on two different rifles, first on my 6.5CM MDR, a bullpup semi auto multicaliber, and then on my brand new 25Creedmoor, a custom built bolt rifle in an impressive new caliber. Both rifles shoot well beyond a kilometer, and the Mod 5 had all the elevation and power I needed for such shots. (Scope was mounted in a 20 MOA cant on both rifles)

While shooting the MDR I became quite familiar with the features of the Riton scope, though it took me a second to revert back to MOA.
Engaging targets as far as twelve hundred yards was no problem with the Mod 5. I am not a large magnification shooter, I usually have about five to ten more X’s than I need, but most of the time I shoot between eight and sixteen power.

I think that is where the Mod 5 shines, as with most scopes, you loose some clarity and brightness at the higher magnification. And in my experience, the lower the price point on the scope, the higher the disparity in sharpness at high magnification.
The Mod 5 was no different, I did find that at twenty four power it was a little difficult to pick out little details out past the grand mark. I solved the problem by backing off to eighteen or twenty power for those long observations. I also wish I’d had a sunshade for it, most of my scopes use one, and it is very apparent when even a little bit of sunlight hits the objective. Luckily, Riton has me covered, and Ive got a shade on the way.

I also ran a test on the click values, they were consistent, but slightly off. Over the course of the forty nine minutes of available elevation from my zero, the click value was on average 0.262 MOA. Again, thats a little off, but it was consistent. The good part was it returned to zero perfectly every time, and no significant reticle wandering or cant.
There was a time that I wouldn’t have trusted a sub 1000$ optic to be precise for repeatable turret travel in serious long range shooting, but technology has caught up it seems. And now scopes like this one are showing that not only can it be done, it can be done well.

The Mod 5 weighs in at thirty ounces, which isn’t necessarily light when compared to it’s competition, but its not particularly heavy either. For my taste, it’ll do just fine. I am used to hauling heavy guns all over these mountains, so switching to something this light was very refreshing.

I ran the Riton pretty hard, up and down, zooming in and out, hiking across mountains and riding up dirt roads in the bed of a truck, semi auto fire,  mounting, re-mounting, etc. No issues with it so far, it keeps right up with me.
All Riton scopes are guaranteed for life, with no hoops to jump, or rules to follow. Thats good to know, becasue we all know about Murphy’s Law.

There was plenty of things to like about the Mod 5. I like the reticle, and the the glass is inline with the price point, the internals appear to be robust and repeatable, with simple turret rezeroing. I will also say this, according to the medical practitioner, my eyes are in pretty good shape. So I tend to second guess my own approval of some optics, mainly because what looks fine to me, is usually pretty crummy when someone with anything less than great vision tries it out. I was happy that the Riton RTS Mod 5 got more than just my own approval. The clarity and quality of the imagery seen through the scope was exactly what I would have expected for a scope in this price range.

If I had to pick out the things I dont like about it, I guess that wouldn’t hurt either;
-MRAD for starters, its not 1987 anymore. I know there are some misguided souls out there still addicted to minutes, but the rest of us have graduated to MRAD. Having both options would greatly improve this scopes desirability to a larger audience.
-Turret rotation graduations, would be very helpful to see what rev your on.
-Parrallax, seemed a little off at times, not bad, but requiring frequent adjustment and checking.
-Magnification ring, the texturing was counterintuitive, making it slightly uncomfortable from the shooting position to zoom in or out. This is a very small gripe, and could simply be preference.

I dont want to sound too hard on this scope, because I actually do like it very much. Hunting season is here, and Junior and I have a date with several deer, and elk. I have all the confidence in this scope to get us on target, whether it be a head shot on a cow elk at four hundrd yards, or a high shoulder shot on a big cross canyon buck at eight hundred and fifty yards.

I look forward to a long future with this scope, and Im sure it wont be long till Riton brings something new. They obviously have the drive, adapting newer and better optics is inevitable. I’ll be waiting to see what that is, and I’ll make sure to have an empty set of rings available until it does.

-CBM

US Optics B25

The craziness of youth has somewhat subsided in me, I used to haul all kinds of garbage with me all over the mountains. To some degree I still do, but the wisdom that comes with age has also taught me when to say enough. There was a time when I would carry in my pack a days worth of snacks, water, lots of ammo, shooting mat, tools and who knows how many other things. All this for a quick couple hour hike around the steep Rocky Mountains that tower over the valley I call home, the Scout motto was never lost on me. Perhaps it was experience that assuaged the contents of my backpack, maybe it was the tired back and legs that carried all my gear that convinced me to lighten up. But like it always does, it seems that technology has snuck in and played a big part in lightening the load. Good gear tends to be heavy, light good gear tends to be expensive, today I want to discuss how I have applied all this to my backcountry recreating.

Many of you may remember that for quite some time I carried a US Optics ER-25 scope, it was a spectacular optic. It carried almost every option I could have dreamed up when I first got into this business, and it was tougher than I could have ever imagined. US Optics scopes are famous for their robust construction, and they stand up to abuse that would make a safe queen owner toss their lunch. Hardly a gimmick, I can attest that my USO took several spills, many of which I thought for sure would end up costing me money, a trip back to the factory, and some serious downtime. But to my surprise and delight, my scope never lost zero, or required re calibration. Even falling onto concrete mounted to a twenty pound rifle landing on the scope itself wasn’t enough to damage the scope beyond a few dings.

A young buck seen through the B25 and Gen2 XR Reticle

With experience like that, countless trips into the wild, constantly dialing and working the scope, you might imagine my discomposure when I first saw and lusted over US Optics new line of scopes. The B series of scopes have what I would consider smooth and more modern lines, I know that some people don’t care about looks, but I am a sucker for performance when it meets precision and beauty. When I first got my hands on one, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Clean and bright were the images I saw through the glass, and the always ample selection of reticles leaves no excuse to even the pickiest of reticle snobs. Simple and strong turrets, with improved features like locks, and a quick tooless rezero for the elevation only increased my desire to run these scopes through the paces of my alpine shooting adventures. But one of the significant improvements of the B series of scope was the weight. The robustness of US Optics scopes has always translated into significant weight, something I was okay with because I knew it going in. The B 25 weighs six ounces less than my old ER 25, yet boasts all these improvements. The scope may feel light because I’m used to something heavier, but it sure felt like a bonus to me.

Giving up weight isn’t a bad thing, as long as you don’t loose the benefits of strength and durability. Which the B25 certainly seems to have retained. I still wouldn’t say I am anywhere near having a lightweight rig, but it still goes with me everywhere. Reducing the weight certainly helps, but having what some might call excessive scope can pay huge dividends in these mountains. Glassing a nice buck from a mile away usually requires a spotting scope, and a good one too. And while I wouldn’t compare a riflescope to a good spotter, I don’t have to worry about carrying them both.

The EREK 2 Turret Lock

The B25 is very clear, regardless of magnification I found my eye was quite comfortable focusing on my target, and the parallax adjustment made both downrange and reticle very clean. Any scope looses much of its brightness as you zoom in, but even at dusk I had no problem seeing and holding perfectly on very distant deer. It was also very handy in picking out Marmots from their hides in and around the boulders.

The new EREK 2 elevation turret is one of my favorite features of the scopes. The turret has a lock ring that you simply pull up on, and it engages the turret keeping it from being rotated. I like the idea a lot more than the pull-up/push-down turrets, it seems like a much stronger design, and less likely to be damaged or messed with. The turret lock is also used when re-zeroing the scope (see video below). The EREK 2 turret has a tool-less zeroing feature that allows you with your bare hands to quickly reset your scope’s zero, I found this feature incredibly useful. On any given day, my density altitude can vary from 4000 ft up to 11,000 ft depending on atmospheric conditions. With drastic changes like that, its nice to be able to quickly adjust my zero, without needing to break out my tool bag. The windage turret also locks, it is much simpler, and of the push pull design. I have no problem with that since I rarely dial wind, due to its fickle and switchy nature.

With so many options today, there is literally something for everybody. The new lighter weight of the B25 is a great excuse to re-scope my rifle, as I have become quite accustomed to having more scope than some would deem needed. I think there is plenty of room for larger tactical style optics in the hunting realm, obviously they will only appeal to those willing to carry it. I for one have seen the value of these scopes, and the advantage they give me.

I hit the field with the B25 in earnest, after some range time which consisted of a couple rifles chambered in 308win, 300wm, and also a big one chambered in 408 Cheytac. I figured if the big calibers didn’t hurt the B25, then surely my SR A1 Covert wouldn’t do it any harm. Most of my shooting was using my little Short Action Customs 223 Remington barrrel, but I also shot 6.5CM, 308win, and 338LM with it. Again, the quick re-zeroing of the turrets made these transitions very easy. The high magnification of the scope was also very handy when trying to shoot tiny groups on paper, something I am not very good at, so I avoid it whenever possible. It also proved valuable when shooting at distances beyond what most routine shots are taken at, I managed to shoot an 18 inchish group at 1133yds with my little 223. Through the clear 25X I could see my trace coming down on the target, and the impacts and voids left by my bullets. Switching from one target to another I dialed back and forth, the audible clicks were also crisp, allowing me to count them even if I wasn’t looking up at the turret. I also noticed the magnification ring was not as stiff as many other scopes I have used, I don’t think a cattail would be needed on these scopes but for serious competition.

Too much scope? Never!

Shooting with this scope felt like a chat with an old friend, everything where it was and as it should be. Dope lined up meticulously where I expected it to, and nothing ever surprised me. I found it difficult to find a downside to the B25. Of course for a scope mounted to a mountain rifle such as mine, you could always wish for something lighter, or more compact. But I fear until new manufacturing and materials become available, it will be hard to make them much lighter, or smaller. But I am sure that when it happens, companies like US Optics will be the first to bring them to market.

-CBM