Tag Archives: Optics

US Optics TS8X

Low Power Variable Optics (LVPO’s) have been flooding through the firearm market for years now, likely due to the proliferation of medium-range carbines. It didn’t take long for shooters to realize the value of variable low power optics, but what makes an LVPO shine over another?

I’ve had several different models from a wide range of manufacturers, and today we will discuss in depth the US Optics TS8X.

The Tactical Sport 8 power LVPO is one of several great scopes I’ve been able to shoot in the offshore line of scopes from USO. So far they have proven to be a great option for shooters in my opinion. I have been shooting USO scopes for many years now, and to be completely honest I was a bit worried when I saw they were releasing a more affordable line of scopes. My concerns were quality and performance, for which USO’s are well known. My concerns were assuaged with the TS20X, which quickly became one of my favorites. The TS8X has so far been just as good an experience.

Why an LVPO?
I also have the TS6X, which is the little brother to the TS8x. I wanted the 8X because having used several 1-4’s and 1-6’s, I wanted just a little bit more power for seeing those downrange targets. Again in my opinion, a 1-8 or 1-10 is about perfect for a medium range rifle, for distances around six to eight hundred yards. The TS8X fit that spot perfectly in my estimation, and with the RBR Reticle, it would give me plenty of holdover points for shooting at those further distances.

Features
The TS8X features a 30mm tube, with adjustable diopter eyepiece, covered turrets, and an illuminated front focal plane reticle.
Many manufacturers have moved to the 30 or 34mm scope tube now, it gives a larger tube to pass light through, as well as allow a larger erector to increase the internal mechanical movement of the scope. The parallax is fixed for 100 yards, which leaves the diopter eyepiece focus the only adjustment for the image seen. This is common in most LVPO’s, particularly in this price range. If I had one wish for the TS8 it would be adjustable parallax, I frequently shoot well beyond 500 yards with this scope and others like it. The ability to adjust parallax for those distance targets would be very welcome.
Another feature that thankfully is becoming more commonplace, is the reticle placed in the front focal plane (second focal plane models are also available at a lower cost). This means the reticle is magnified with the power setting of the optic, keeping the reticle values always the same regardless of power setting.

The RBR reticle is illuminated red, with an adjustable rheostat for brightness. It also features both MRAD hash marks (both whole and half) as well as range based holdover points, including wind holds at five and ten MPH.

With the stiff competition in the LVPO market, the TS8X fits in the middle ground of price range. There are many options that are far less in price, and many others that cost double, triple, or more.
My initial concerns about quality were more based on mechanical performance and robust construction. I knew that due to its price point, it would likely not have the same optical quality as scopes costing more, which I was okay with.
Speaking of optical quality, I found the image to be bright, and clean. Not much to complain about there, but don’t expect to see the same image as a $1600-$2400 scope.
I found the RBR reticle to be very useful at distances out to nearly 1000 yards, at 8X it could possibly be a little thick for tiny targets, but I don’t expect many people will be doing benchrest or squirrel hunting at that range. For real world shooting, such as echo targets inside 600 yds, it is perfect. The rifle its currently mounted on will be doing some coyote hunting, and I’m very confident that anything inside 800 yards will be easily identified, targeted, and engaged using the RBR.
As I mentioned above, the reticle features both MRAD marks, as well as estimated drop and wind marks. This is handy, because if you need an honest elevation or wind call, you have the actual MRAD values. Whereas if your shooting at the aforementioned coyote, you can use the drop values according to how far away he is.

I mounted the TS8X on my Desert Tech MDR, which at the time was a sixteen-inch 223. The scope was easily zeroed with no tools, and in no time I was shooting steel all over the range.


I love using the scope at 1X, with the reticle lit up, it is just like using a red dot scope. Up close shooting at steel, animals, or whatever else is easily done with both eyes open. Cover the target with red as you break the trigger will give you sure hits.
I then switched out the barrel for the new Hornady 6mm ARC barrel, to see how the TS8X would match up to its ballistic curve.
Without even rezeroing the scope, I was in business, perhaps more a testament to the rifle than the scope. I later made a few corrective adjustments, and the rifle was punching centers very consistently. The click values of the turrets seemed to be close enough to values marked, but to be honest, I hardly had to move them.
Stretching the rifle out would require using the drop points indicated on the RBR reticle, I figured they would be close since the 6 ARC is not too far off of the 223 trajectory it is based on.
It was close enough to be dangerous that is for sure, at 960 yds I shot over the target. The 6 ARC has less drop than a 223 at that distance, so I held a corrected hold (7MRAD) and a bit of left wind for a perfect center punch hit.
I followed it up with a few more shots to confirm, inside I was giggling like a child watching the trace of my bullets on the way to the target.

I’m not sure if its the TS8X or just better optics that we are spoiled with today. When I first started shooting these farther distances, it seemed like 10X was barely enough, and 15-25 was more like what you needed for shooting long range. But I found shooting almost everything inside a kilometer to be relatively easy with the 8X of this little USO.
I guess the technology is catching up, soon one thousand yards will no longer be a long range benchmark. It will be more like medium range for drills at a beginners carbine class. If you find yourself on that spectrum, the US Optics TS8X will fill the need for a medium range optic. And it will do it without needing a signature loan to checkout, and you’ll still have the quality and guarantee US Optics has always put on their scopes.
-CBM

Nikon Monarch 82ED-A Fieldscope

I do a fair amount of glassing on average, not just for hunting but also for target shooting. The Rocky Mountains tower over my home to the east and the animals I hunt are tantalizingly close. I found it necessary to get a good spotting scope, a good multi-purpose scope that would suit both my hunting and target shooting needs. Is it possible for one scope to do everything? I’d like to think I found one that can.

Features
The Nikon Sport Optics Monarch Fieldscope boasts an 82MM objective lens, which gathers every detail of the landscape before it. The image is reflected through a coated prism in the aluminum body of the scope. There is a focus ring around the body that allows the user a tactile touch to finesse the image into perfect clarity. At the rear of the scope, you find the angled eyepiece, and that is where the magic happens.

The quick-release of the eyepiece allows you to use any of the available eyepieces from Nikon. There is a 20-60 power option, a 30-60 power option, or my favorite, the 30 power option with either the FX Mrad reticle or the FX MOA reticle. The same reticle I use in my riflescope is now in my spotting scope, giving me the ability to call misses and judge distances with exactness.

Having two eyepieces would be a bit superfluous, but it sure is luxurious to be able to zoom in to sixty power and inspect a nice buck. Then swap over to a thirty power eyepiece with a reticle so I can measure his spread if that’s what you want. I love the 20-60 zoom eyepiece, but my shooting style would find the reticle more useful than the extra power.
The fixed thirty power eyepiece does have a focus ring around it, this focuses the reticle against the target giving the user the best possible image to call shots, measure adjustments, as well as range targets.

The angled eyepiece is complemented by a rotating body, giving you several angle options. There is a set screw on the side that allows the scope body to rotate 360 degrees, offsetting the angle to whatever suits you. The body has a spring detent to hold the scope every 90 degrees during the rotation.
The scope also has the extendable shade around the objective. I like shades for two reasons, one is obvious, keeping direct sunlight from coming into your view while glassing. The other is to keep dirty hands and fingers away from the lenses.

The Monarch Fieldscope also came with a nice bikini-style soft cover that zips over the scope body. It also has soft plastic lens covers to protect the glass which goes on under the snap over lens covers, to double up on your protection.
It also comes with a shoulder strap should you want to carry it that way, though I think I am more comfortable carrying it in my pack. The only gripe I might have with the cover is that it limits your ability to rotate the scope body, its not much of a gripe as I feel I won’t use that feature very often.

The FX MRAD reticle is a very good companion to the Monarch Fieldscope. Some reticles can get pretty busy, leaving some observers feeling a little cluttered. The FX MRAD reticle is a perfect mix of simplicity and subtensions, it has both whole, halves, and .2’s all represented on all four posts. Whole MIL’s are only numbered on the evens to simplify, and there is even a small one MIL square in the lower right quadrant that has .1’s both vertical and horizontally.

The FX MRAD reticle as seen through the Monarch Fieldscope

In The Field
Taking the Monarch Fieldscope into the Rocky Mountains was a long-awaited venture for me. I couldn’t wait to see how my favorite varmints looked through this scope, and to see how well it would function as my main spotter.
A couple of my very good friends came along with their rifles, and we took shots from six hundred yards all the way out to fourteen hundred yards. The Monarch performed my every expectation, allowing me to see all the little details of hits, misses, and all the trace as well. I glassed across miles of canyons and shady draws, and pictures just don’t do it justice. As my friend crossed over a ridge spine some three miles away, the light was just right as I watched him stop to look at flowers, and even pick one. Clarity is absolutely top-notch with this scope, I cant wait to take it on a mature bull Elk hunt this fall.

Conclusion
I’ve used many high-end spotting scopes from most of the big names, and to be fair, I have loved every one of them. They all have a few things that I like, and a few that perhaps I would change. The Monarch Fieldscope is right up there with most all of them, the image quality is outstanding, and with it’s multiple eyepiece offerings it leaves many scopes of significantly higher price far less desireable to at least this frequent user.

I can’t imagine what it would cost to build a scope like this out of carbon fiber or something similar, but reducing the weight of it seems like one of the only things I could change to make it even better. But until they do, I will be transfixed behind this eyepiece, enjoying the view.

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

Vortex Optics Fury Range-finding Binoculars

I’ve said it before, I am a huge geek for optics and everything that goes with them. Something about quality and the edge that good optics give you gets me giddy.

Anybody who shoots at any significant distance should be familiar with laser rangefinders, otherwise I take their claims as what they are; hopeful aspirations.

It didn’t take me long to realize the need for a rangefinder in my shooting, and I didn’t want a substandard one. I bought my first rangefinder many years ago, it was a Leica. Over the years I have come to appreciate a good rangefinder, that Leica taught me a lot. It is absolutely necessary to make good shots at distance, and I’ve been lucky to have hands on quite a few of them. One of the first things I noticed when playing with LRF’s was that many of them were at best 80% of what they are rated for. And many of them lower than that. Ive come to find that a good LRF will actually go beyond its rated limits, in good conditions. With optics and rangefinders especially, you do get what you pay for.
With so many new and exciting things hitting the market recently, I was excited to get the chance to try out a new prodcuct from Vortex Optics
The brand new Fury Binocular from Vortex incorporates a 1600 yard laser rangefinder into a 10X42 armored binocular.

I’ve never had a rangefinding bino before, I’d mostly used just a plain rangefinder. I never felt much like carrying multiple optics into the field, nor could I afford it, but with the technological advancements we enjoy today there is no reason to. The Fury gives you high a quality ten power binocular, with clear and bright images. And ontop of that, it also serves as a 1600 yard rangefinder. For a hunter, I think it is the best of both worlds. Especially since you dont want to be carrying anything extra with you, unforgiving mountains are not the place to carry extra weight.

The Fury, like most modern rangefinders, allows you to select yards or meters. It also has a slope indicator that allows users to select line of sight distance (LOS) or use a corrected angular compensated distance (HCD).

The display on the Fury has a circle reticle for aiming at your target. Up and to the right of that, is the angle display, shown in degrees. The distance is shown below the reticle, and just off to the left there is a battery level indicator.

I have taken the Fury out many times now, used it in many different settings and places. One of the first times I tried it right out of the box, I managed to hit 1780yds with it. That was a building, and I didnt expect it to hit a deer at that distance. But its good to know that it can reach those kind of distances, even though in the real world of my shooting habits, it wont need to go that far. For me, I think being able to range the animals I hunt in the conditions and places where they live is the overall determining factor for performance. And in those places and conditions, the Fury seems to shine. Like this:

Hitting trees and rocks at thirteen, fourteen or fifteen hundred yards proved to be pretty easy. In the bright daylight of the sun, or in the angled afternoon light of the evening.

Hitting an animal at that distance would be hard, not necessarily because of the rangefinder, but because you cant hold still enough without a tripod. I find myself aiming for the nearest tree or rock in those scenarios anyways.

The beam divergence on the Fury, or the size of the laser beam for lack of a better explanation, is 1.6X.07MRAD. That isn’t bad considering the price-point of the Fury, there are a few better, but surely there are worse. Again I look back to the purpose of the Fury, at least in my case. It wont be often when I am looking at a deer, elk, or any other target that is standing on the horizon some thousand or more yards away, with nothing near it that I cant sink that laser into. So while a tighter beam dispersion might be better in some situations, I think this one will do just fine for my purposes. And I think it will do for most other’s as well, I assume I am not the only person who lases the target multiple times when targeting. Particularly when distances are extended, and critical to making the shot.
At 31 oz the Fury is very comparable to its competitors, it doesn’t feel heavy to me, which oddly enough seems like a bad thing. I know I’m crazy, but for some reason I like to feel the weight that usually accompanies quality. But I certainly wont hold that against the Fury.

The Fury comes with a nice shoulder strapped carrying case, it has a double shoulder harness, and it is secured with a a small hook and elastic strap to close it. I liked it, but honestly the Fury might be a little big/heavy for the case design. It also comes with your standard lens covers, as seen in the above picture. I feel for optics companies when it comes to lens covers, it can be a difficult subject. You can either go with cheap and easy option, knowing that users will likely upgrade to something more to their liking. Or you can invest in some very nice covers for them, and then risk people not liking them and wanting something else anyways. I found that the soft rubber options provided with the Fury are perfectly serviceable, and they are easily removed if not to your liking.
Both barrels of the Fury have a focus ring, the right barrel adjustment is to focus the display, and the left barrel adjustment is for equalizing the focus between the users eyes. I may have gotten a a mismatched set at the factory. Eyes that is, it has always been a challenge for me to get any pair of binoculars to stay in focus for me, probably due to the difference in my eyes. I noticed this problem slightly when using the Fury, but I am quite sure it is my eyes relaxing between uses.
The Fury has adjustable eye cups, with four different depth settings. The cups were easily adjusted to fit my eyes, with or without glasses. It also made it easy to adjust to fit the relief on my phone, so that I could get all these spectacular images 😜
The battery compartment on the Fury is located on the bottom, nice and out of the way. From this angle you can also see the two adjustment rings for focusing the unit.
For many years I have been using some great rangefinders, Leica as I mentioned, Swarovski, Sig Sauer Electro-Optics, among others. While the price of good rangefinders has come down, my budget for shooting accessories has mantained its place on the leger. But I felt the Fury was well worth the splurge, and my money was well spent with Vortex, as it usually is. I still have never had to use their famous no BS warranty, but it’s always nice to know it is there. Look for the Fury in upcoming stories and pictures, I dont see it going away anytime soon.

-CBM


Sig Sauer Electro Optics Oscar 3

I am a sucker for optical doodads, and usually anything that is heavy and comes in a small package. That said, I’ve never been a huge proponent of large or bulky spotting equipment. Sure, there are advantages to them, but for the kind of shooting I usually do and am involved in, they are a bit more than necessary. Most times, another rifle scope of similar magnification and quality will do, especially if it is mounted to someone else’s rifle, who can tell what I’m doing wrong.
I do have a small field spotter, it works very well for what I need, and it has a handy reticle for making corrective calls a “breeze”. Other than that, the scope on my rifle, and a good rangefinder, I have never felt much of a need for more. Once again I was forced to challenge my own prejudice regarding equipment, when a friend handed me a small package with the instructions to “try it out”.

As I opened up the box which I had been told contained a spotting scope from Sig Sauer Electro-Optics,I thought for sure that I had the wrong package. But further investigation revealed it was indeed a spotter, just a more compact one than I had expected. It was the new Oscar 3, which is a handheld 10-20X image stabilizing scope.
Perhaps some of you are thinking the same as I did, “what good is a handheld spotter at 20X?” but having been surprised by Sig Sauer on more than one occasion, I decided to save my judgement until after a good field testing. I took it straight to the roof, and began scanning the neighborhood for hostile looking deviants. Like many other quality optics, the view and resolution through the Oscar were very clean, and bright. The warm sunshine that bathed the neighborhood made for crystal clear recognition of tiny minutia on a wide variety of prospective targets. There was of course, one pending issue. The problem that I had first imagined the second I heard “20X handheld spotter” and that of course was the inability for a wobbly twerp like me to hold still long enough to do any good while spotting. Even with my best efforts, it was difficult to hold still enough to read license plates at the end of the street, I could see the characters, and almost tell what they were. But the shaking caused by the slightest breeze, or perhaps even the beating of my heart, made it just barely beyond the grasp of my eyes.

The time had come to test the core function of this handy little scope, I reached with my index finger across the top of the Oscar, and engaged the stabilization function. I was amazed as the auto induced jitters quickly disappeared, and the picture I had struggled to see just a second earlier, suddenly became a floating image. A clear image, centered between my eye and the object that reflected it. No longer did I have to concentrate on holding still, instead I could focus my attention on interpreting the images. The license plates that I couldn’t read, were now steady and clean, not only could I read the plate numbers, but the state identified on it.

I had quickly become less skeptical about this little scope, and couldn’t wait to get it into a real field shooting position to see what it can really do. Easily operated, the Oscar has an adjustable zoom from 10-20X on the ocular end, and the focus is done by turning the objective end of the scope. The switch on top of the unit turns on the stabilization.
Fast forward a few days, and I found myself surrounded by hundreds of miles of Utah’s west desert. Myself and a few friends had made our way up the steep edge of a rocky ridge, overlooking a seemingly unending sage brush flat. Our quarry that day was any number of jackrabbits who called the sagebrush home. We had already spotted several, and knew they were out there, hiding among the brush. Their color matching almost perfectly the plants and ground that they inhabited. So many times one would spot a rabbit, and until it moved, you could never be sure what exactly it was.

It was time to put the Oscar to work, laying down in tumbleweeds and rocks to look through my rifle scope was just too cumbersome, at least to spot the rabbits. My rangefinder was handy, but with only 8X, it made target investigation a little tedious. The Oscar’s ability to zoom in to as much as 20X, and its image stabilization would be perfect for picking out the slightest movement. The quick nature of engaging rabbits made for some challenging transitions from a spotting to a shooting position. But one after another, we found the jackrabbits, sneaking about through the brush. Some of them were quite close, others were as far as three or four hundred yards away. The fate of the former was quite “dispersed” no thanks to my SRS, who has grown quite a taste for large rodents.
As the rabbit population either “aired out”, or burrowed furiously out of sight, and I sat there picking the rocks and tumbleweed stickers from my elbows, I continued to test the Oscar. Taking pictures of a nearby cattle herd through it, as well as scanning the surrounding area. The only gripe if any I might have about this little scope, is that when engaged, if you look really hard at some things, you can almost see a “boiling” impression. An effect I assume must come from whatever tech Sig uses to stabilize the image, I didn’t find it to be a detrimental factor, nor did it impede my ability to spot my targets.

I’ve taken the Oscar from the hot dry desert, and its mirage laden plains, to the snow covered tops of the rocky mountain’s peaks. The Oscar 3 from Sig Sauer has certainly proven itself to be very valuable in my opinion. I think I would even trade a good set of binoculars for it. As a hunter, I think it would be a very valuable tool to inspect potential targets. And also as a hunter, I can greatly appreciate the compact size and weight it comes in. Giving me an on the go kind of spotter, quick to deploy and keep tabs on a moving target. All while providing an outstanding image with which to judge by.
I wonder if, even with the image stabilization, would it be worth it to add a coarse reticle to the Oscar. To provide corrective calls and range/size estimations. I suppose that would be a question for the engineers at Sig.
As for me, I plan on keeping this little handful of help as close as possible, for as long as I can. It has already proved to be a valuable tool to keep in my pack, and I intend on using it thoroughly as this season comes in.
-CBM