Tag Archives: riflescope

Kahles K318i Ultrashort Riflescope

When I was a child, I spent a good amount of time under the tutelage of my Grandfather. One of the many things I spent time doing with grandpa was shooting, he always made it fun and ensured that I came away having learned something. The very first time I heard the name Kahles, it was uttered my my grandpa, and probably like most Americans in the early eighties he pronounced it wrong. He said it just like you’d expect a cowboy raised in the desert would: Kales.
All these years later, I’ve managed to become quite familiar with Kahles and their high-quality riflescopes. Something I think grandpa would have enjoyed.

The K318 mounted on a Surgeon Scalpel 300WM

The K318i
Kahles is one of the oldest riflescope manufacturers in the world, so it should come as no surprise that they make a good product. They have taken over the competitive rifle circuit like a storm over the last ten years or so, and with good reason. The Kahles K318i is a more recent development from Kahles, its short length I can only assume was designed to be competitive with other short scopes from several other manufacturers. The short length of the scope makes it a perfect match for a rifle you may want to keep a little more compact. This without giving up much if any performance.

The K318i is a 6X variable zoom optic, it utilizes a thirty-four millimeter tube with a fifty millimeter objective. The K318i utilizes many of the same features found in other top-tier Kahles scopes; features like first-focal-plane reticles, MOA & MRAD models, an illuminated reticle, and the ability to choose which side of the scope you want the windage turret on. And the choice of which direction you want said turret to rotate. Quite a few options there if you are a finicky shooter, I myself am pretty easy going, so however it comes to me is perfectly suitable.
The reticle itself is also an option you can select, mine came with the SKMR2 which I think is just about as good as you can get. But there are other options as well if this one doesn’t meet your fancy.

Details of the SKMR2 reticle

Perhaps the most curious feature of this an other Kahles scopes is the position of the parallax adjustment. The adjustment knob is at the twelve o’clock position underneath the elevation turret itself. A larger knob with clear printed settings makes it very easy to set the parallax for whatever shot you might need to make.
Other features like a zero-stop and turret rotation indicator are also very handy, the indicator is a small red pin that pops up on the top of the turret giving the shooter both a visible and tactile indication of which rotation of the turret you are on. The elevation turret itself is a boastful sixteen MRAD per turn, which decreases the likelihood of missing your rotation anyways. It also allows the majority of practical shooting to be done without ever going into the second rotation of the turret. There is one last cunning feature, which is Kahles’ Twist-Guard windage turret. A free-spinning end to the turret prevents the turret from being inadvertently turned when rubbing or pushed into something such as a barricade.

In the Field
I’ve run many a Kahles scopes over the years, but I was just a little excited to see how this newer model looked. I have always been impressed with the optical clarity of Kahles scopes, and I was curious to see what this little 318 had in store for me. I’ve lost track of how many different rifles this scope has ridden in the last year, but they were not just a few. Like any good scope should, the Kahles was easily transferred back and forth, rezeroed, bore-sighted, torqued, over and over again. And it has never skipped a beat.
For a time the scope directed fire for my 257 Blackjack, a mostly carbon fiber rifle with a sharp recoil impulse that is lightning on animals. It also spent some time on my SRS M2, getting a large variety of testing on various calibers like 300 and 338 Norma. In more recent adventures the chubby little Kahles was the scope of choice for my Tikka T3 TACT A1 in .260 Remington, which made an unstoppable combination. At the moment the scope is mounted on a Bergara BMP 6.5 Creedmoor where it has been for the last month or two. Wherever I put the K318 it seems to shine, I love the moderate magnification range. I rarely set my scopes above 16X unless I am looking at or shooting something really far out there. For average everyday shooting inside a thousand yards I find the 3-18X range to be ideal.

Picking out small targets on distant hillsides is not hard with the bright and clear image from this scope. The impressive transfer of the image from across the canyon to my retina comes with great ease. The eye-box is plenty forgiving for my taste, I’ve only used it on one rifle that didn’t have an adjustable comb. Nevertheless I always found the scope easy to get behind, and very quick to ascertain a good full image.
Shooting the K318 in the field I was quickly enamored with the turret tension and detents, just easy enough to turn without becoming a problem. And the clicks are crisp and audible, I can almost feel it in my cheek-bone as I look through the scope. The zero-stop on Kahles scopes has always befuddled me, there is always four clicks under zero. Perhaps there is a reason to which I’m not privy, but it seems like it would be better to just stop at zero.
The illumination turret is opposite the windage turret on the erector housing, it is a variable rheostat so there are no numbered settings like many other brands. The brightness of the reticle increases as the knob is turned. The SKMR2 reticle is particularly useful for field shooting, where corrections and holdovers are needed. With .1, .2, .5, and 1.0 MRAD subtensions to use for various measuring purposes, and even-numbered graduations for those significant hold-points.

The 318 at home on a Tikka T1X .17HMR

Pros vs. Cons
I know it says pros vs. cons just now, but I have had a hard time finding anything to hold against this scope. With a street price around $3350.00 I guess you could say the cost is a bit of a challenge for many people, but if you are in the market for a scope like this you probably were ready for that price before you got here. Being that the 5-25X sibling to this scope is only an additional $200, it almost seems a premium to pay this much for “less” scope, but again I think prospective shoppers for these scopes know what they are getting into. The K318 is no lightweight, at just over 33 ounces it is heavier than many of its competitors. But said competitors also don’t boast as many feathers in their cap either.
Pretty much everything else about the scope is as advertised, the very robust turrets are accurate and repeatable. The optical clarity is as good as any scope I’ve ever used, particularly with lower light conditions. Granted, the lower power range tends to give the appearance of brighter image than comparable larger magnification scopes. Generous adjustments and solid construction just seem to make this scope feel bulletproof.

Final comments
If you haven’t gotten on the Kahles train, its worth your time even if it’s just for a few stops. I think there is good reason and evidence as to why so many competitors and pro’s use the Kahles line of precision optics, I’ve run this scope all over the mountains, and I’m not easy on equipment. The scopes perform like a professional scope should, I think that whether you are engaging steel targets in world class competition or shooting with lives on the line, you will be happy with this one. The short and compact K318i will likely never leave my collection, its just that good.

-CBM

Optics: First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane

I may certainly be biased in my thinking, but I think that first focal plane riflescopes are perhaps the best development of the last couple decades. Sure they existed before then, but they have only become prevalent to the general shooting public over the last ten or fifteen years. Before we get too deep into the subject, lets make sure we both understand what this subject is about. So we are on the same plane so to speak.

Focal Planes
No I’m not talking about an aluminum lifting body flying through the atmosphere, I’m talking about a point of focus used in your shooting. When you look through a scope and see the magnified image of the target, you are looking through several lenses inside the scope. A first focal plane scope (often called a front focal plane) has the reticle placed effectively before the magnification. A second focal plane riflescope as you might imagine has the reticle placed after the magnification feature of the scope. These two different construction techniques allow for two differing functions. Most of us have likely used the more traditional second focal plane scope. When the magnification ring is turned and the scope zooms in or out, the reticle remains unchanged. For most of the past, with simple duplex or crosshair reticles this wasn’t a big deal as the only relevant point on the reticle was the tiny intersecting point at the middle.


As reticle technology has grown over the years, additional points (subtensions) of hold have been added to our reticles. These additional reticle markings are for measuring hits and misses as well as holding wind corrections and holdovers. This is only relevant to the discussion in that the values of these additional points can change when used in a second focal plane optic. In a first focal plane scope, the reticle is magnified with the image. As the scope zooms in, both the target and the reticle increase in perceived size. The advantage to this lens configuration is that the reticle values stay the same regardless of what magnification the scope is set to. Second focal plane reticles typically register full value when they are at their maximum magnification.

Which is Better?
Despite a revolutionary change towards front focal plane scopes, one is not necessarily better than the other. Its simply based on the user’s preference or purpose. Both types of riflescopes have their pros and cons, so better is not the way to look at it. For example, if you are shooting extreme long range (ELR) competitions then you likely would prefer the finer size of a second focal plane reticle on a target that is three-thousand yards away. And on the other hand, if you are shooting a PRS Match where you have to quickly call your own shots and make corrections at varying ranges it helps to have your subtensions uniform regardless of magnification setting. So while some folks will try to convince you that one is better, keep in mind what you plan to do with the scope.


Pros and Cons
To help you better make a choice between these two scope configurations, I’ll discuss a few of the pros and cons of either selection. First focal plane scopes as I mentioned keep the reticle values intact regardless of what magnification setting you use, this comes at an additional expense. Many manufacturers offer near identical scopes in both FFP and SFP, with the latter being the more affordable option. If reticle usage isn’t part of your routine then this may not be a justified expense. Whereas if you use reticles frequently, it is well worth the added cost.

As I mentioned above, reticle thickness can be a downside to FFP scopes depending on the reticle design. As the reticle increases in size with magnification it can obscure the target or aiming point. Second focal plane scopes don’t have this issue as the reticle is always the same size. They also don’t become so fine as to become illegible at lower power. If you have poor eyesight or other issues related to reticle size, you may be better off with a SFP scope.

If you are looking for a very high magnification optic like a 5-50X, you will find that nearly all of them are SFP, their reticles would otherwise disappear at low power, or cover up a truck at maximum power.
If you do use your reticle for measuring hits, misses, and range features with a second focal plane reticle, you may need to refresh your math skills. Using a SFP reticle to measure things at any magnification besides its calibrated setting will require you to calculate the actual value based off the magnification setting and the measurement with the reticle. Some people like math but they should not be trusted.

Conclusion
There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to focal planes, there is only an evaluation of their applications. Things such as engagement distances and moving targets should surely be considered when deciding which way to go. I have fully embraced the FFP revolution that has occurred these past years, and I think the huge increase in FFP market share tells that I am not alone. The rapid expansion of long-range shooting and related competition has likely driven the trend.

Whether you are a competitive shooter, a military or law enforcement sniper, or just a redneck hunter with serious intentions, the FFP scopes of today can give you an edge that shooters of the past would lust after. But that’s not to say SFP scopes are inferior, as the brilliant shooters of the past have shown us.

-CBM

The US Optics Foundation 17X

I love a good riflescope, one of the great things about having so many guns is getting riflescopes to go with them. The challenging optics market continues to push for the perfect scope, the one that has everything. Despite their best efforts, there are just too many eyes to please which leaves consumers to pick and choose the features that they find most useful. I say most useful, but there is also an associated cost with all these features. It is not uncommon to spend two to three times the cost of a rifle on the scope that goes with it. So there is a great deal of settling for when it comes to general consumers, for example choosing scopes in the 1000-1500 dollar range with similar features to a scope that costs twice that much.
I find myself lucky to live and work in a world that can help justify some of the best equipment available. And being a bit of a scope junkie, one place I enjoy some of the finest products is on the glass that sits on my rifles. I have used many of the best brands, but today as you might have guessed from the title we are looking at my latest purchase from US Optics.

The Foundation 17X
The Foundation series of riflescopes is US Optics premier line of US made sights. I’ve had several US Optics scopes over the years, last year was my first dip into the Foundation series with my Foundation 25X. And after running that scope hard for over a year now, swapping it between multiple rifles, and packing it all over the Rocky Mountains from here to nearly Canada. It has hit the top of my list, always keeping zero, and precise adjustments have kept me always on target. I’ve used it hunting everything from antelope on the plains of Wyoming, to the dark bears of Montana’s Kootenai Forest, and the elusive elk of the Uinta Mountains.
I’ve also been running 5-25’s for some years now, and I wanted to try something different. Particularly because I rarely use them on maximum power for anything other than inspecting potential targets, so the next obvious choice for me was the Foundation 17X.

The FDN17x uses the same 34mm tube as the other Foundation scopes, and at its heart is the ER3K turret above the erector. The third generation of the EREK system allows the erector to be adjusted with a center screw to the rifles zero, without moving the turret itself from its zero. This allows full turret rotation, and it also keeps all turret movement in the up direction from its stop. Unless of course I’m lost and barmy, in which case someone will be along to correct me in a few seconds.
The objective lens on the FDN17x is a modest 50mm, slightly smaller than its bigger sibling. The windage is controlled with a capped US #1 windage knob, and it stays capped for the most part as I rarely dial any wind once I have a zero. Another standard feature of the Foundation series is the illumination, using a simple and single button to power up and select brightness settings. I can count on my fingers the times I’ve really needed illumination, but I can also tell you I never would have made those shots without it. Everybody has red illumination, so last time I ordered my FDN25X I selected green illumination. And this time around just to be different, I chose the blue illumination. I’ve yet to decide which of the three colors I like the best, but its nice to be given the choice. Other improvements of the Foundation line is a shorter throw on the magnification ring, where one-hundred-eighty degrees of rotation takes you from minimum to maximum magnification.
Another great option I added on to both of my Foundation scopes was the internal bubble level. It is cunningly placed in the eyepiece just out of the way enough that you need to look for it to see it. From the shooting position you can simply adjust the focus of your eye and see the bubble and its markings to ensure your rifle is level without ever breaking your eye from the target in the scope.

Perhaps one of my favorite options with the Foundation series is the reticle choices, and I usually choose the JVCR. It is a Christmas tree style reticle, with just enough going on to not distract my brain from doing its thing. Subtensions as small as .1 MRAD are part of the reticle, but much more prevalent are the .2 and .5 subtensions.
The JVCR like most modern reticles gives the user a superior ability to spot misses and correct for them. The FDN17X and its siblings are first focal plane scopes, which I prefer over the alternative. The reticle always reads true regardless of the magnification setting, which allows you to easily measure and correct for a miss. Whether you dial or hold for that miss depends entirely on your preference, depending on the size of the correction I will often do either. Good reticles like the JVCR allow you to do exactly that without getting so much information in front of your eye that you can’t focus, or worse yet you lose your impact in the noise around the reticle.
Before mounting the scope to an actual rifle, I ran it through a few scope tracking tests to double check turret values and repeatability.

Mounted up!
I mounted the FDN17X into one of my 34mm scope-mounts, and leveled everything up. Bubble levels aren’t perfect, but they certainly can give you a very close to level mark. I carefully torqued down the scope rings checking the internal bubble level on the scope to see that it matched the bubble on the scope-mount, and triple checked them both against another level.

adjusting the zero of the ER3K turret

Then it was time to get it mounted up on a rifle, or a series of rifles better said. This scope was likely going to be one of my switch-around scopes, jumping from one rifle to another (I go through a lot of rifles). The first rifle I mounted the scope to was a Ruger RPR 6.5 Creedmoor, a great little rifle to wring out this scope and ensure it functions properly. Using the provided tools, I adjusted the ER3K knob to zero using my bore-sighting method. And after firing a few shots to confirm, I reset the zero according to impacts. Aside from this very convenient method, there are other things to like about the ER3K turret. I love the firm stop at zero, unlike the mushy stops from cheaper scopes achieved by shims, this thing stops on a dime. The large size of the knob gives you a very precise grip, and as you turn the turret to zero it stops hard. The turret has twelve MRAD per rotation, which for most of my rifles will take them out to their usable limits.
Today I was only able to take this little Ruger out to nine-hundred and fifty-yards, plenty far for sure, but not even into the second rotation of the FDN17X. As I am accustomed, I made corrections using the JVCR reticle, and using it to measure target sizes.
The clarity and brightness of this scope is superb, watching leaves flutter on the distant ridge made wind estimating more simple. Even at nine-hundred and fifty-yards picking out the soil rolling downhill from my misses was visible, as was the occasional snow flurry floating between my target and I.

Another day brought another rifle, the FDN17X was destined to end up on one of my MDRX rifles. This one has just received the 6.5 Creedmoor conversion kit in it, with a twenty-inch barrel and the new Blk Lbl Bipod twenty-inch handguard installed. The beautiful Tungsten Cerakote of this scope didn’t exactly match the black of the rifle, but I’m okay with that.
I quickly reset the zero on the ER3K turret using the Allen wrenches, and in no time I was ready to go. The 6.5CM MDRX is not quite as accurate as the RPR was, but still plenty accurate for many purposes. In the snowy and cold desert of the Great basin, I picked out a small white rock across a long draw. It was five-hundred and fifty yards according to my rangefinder, so after consulting my drop chart for this rifle I dialed 3.7 MRAD elevation and began evaluating the cold wind. My estimates put my wind-hold right at .6 MRAD, which is real convenient to hold with the JVCR. To me there are few things more satisfying than first round hits, and watching that first round pulverize the rock into a bright dust-cloud was exactly that. I spent an entire afternoon picking out little targets at varying distances out to seven-hundred forty-five and nine-hundred yards. I find the offset two-tenths sub tensions of the JVCR very handy and quick to make sense, this is particularly handy when you shoot in wide open spaces and mountains where the wind switches direction faster than a politician.

note bubble level at bottom of scope

Am I wrong?
As I said in the beginning, its hard to make a perfect scope that fits everyone’s needs. But I’ve found that for my purposes, these Foundation scopes seem to fit me perfectly. I don’t know if that means US Optics just nailed it, or if I’m past my prime and simply content with what I’m used to. The ease of use with the ER3K elevation turret, the clear and bright clean images through the glass, and no need for an external anti-cant level make this scope very user friendly. And though I haven’t abused this one just yet other than smacking it into a few rocks, I have no doubt it will be as robust as the other USO scopes that I have abused thoroughly.

another custom Remington used with the FDN17X

This scope is already lined up to go on several other rifles, I look forward to a bright future shooting with it. The moderate magnification and size will fit perfectly into a well used portion of my gun collection, and more than likely it will see some killing come this fall.

-CBM

Crimson Trace Hardline 3-12X42 Riflescope

It wasn’t too long ago that imported and economically priced scopes were looked down upon by the American shooting public, I remember seeing quite a few of these less expensive brands being raked over the coals as junk. Some of it was warranted, while some of it was simply a perception of inferiority. Don’t take this the wrong way, there is nothing better in my eyes than a quality built riflescope made by the best companies here in the US, or our good friends from central europe. But there are great optical options to be had nowadays that are built elsewhere, and they are being made by American companies that we are quite familiar with.
Today we are going to discuss a riflescope from Crimson Trace, and to be completely transparent here, I didn’t even know they made riflescopes. That was until I picked this one out of a line-up.

The Crimson Trace Hardline Series are marketed towards the tactical and sport shooters, they are priced lower than Crimson Trace’s Hardline Pro scopes which enjoy a few more high end features. The scope in hand today is the Hardline 3-12X42, it features a 30mm tube, MRAD turrets, the MR1 MIL reticle, and as you might imagine they come with other standard features like multi-coated lenses, nitrogen purged, and waterproof. They also feature a warranty that is fast becoming the standard, and that is a no-nonsense lifetime warranty that won’t ask for receipts, registrations, or money. Yes that is a great kind of warranty to have, but nonetheless it remains one we don’t want to use.

When the Hardline arrived I was eager to open the box and see what waited for my eyes. I must say that I wasn’t sure what to expect as I was previously unaware of Crimson Trace’s scope line. But as I immediately raised the scope to my eye, I knew this was something I would like. The optical clarity of this little scope was striking, as confirmed by a few fortunate passersby. Very clean, and very bright was the image from this scope, I took it outside to look down the street to confirm. This scope has a look that I very much like, that is that the scope body seems to disappear when you look through it, almost as though you are looking through a magnification bubble floating in the air over your rifle. I rushed home to get the scope mounted up on a rifle with plans to confirm a matching quality performance.

The rifle I chose to first mount it to, was a custom I had built a couple years prior. It is a 25 Creedmoor built on a Tikka T3, with a twenty-two inch Xcaliber barrel, mounted in a KRG Bravo chassis. It has been an extremely accurate and long-range performer. The rifle had previously been mounted with a Riton Optics 6-24 scope, which had worked well since day one, but it was time to change things up. I mounted the Hardline in a one-piece scope ring set, and put it atop the Tikka, in just a few minutes I was ready to bore-sight the scope.

The process of sighting in the scope got me quite familiar with it’s turrets, which at first I really liked. They do have a feature that I don’t like much, but is quite common. To zero the turret you pull up and rotate it back to zero, this raises the knob away from its seat, and the detents. It’s not a big deal really, I just prefer turrets that are mechanically seated and locked down with a screw. I cant help but think that just the right tree branch or bump could lift and turn the turret and mess up either your elevation or windage setting.
Other than that, I really like the turrets. The clicks are firm and audible, strong enough I believe that they will stay put hiking through brush. The MRAD turrets on my scope have 8 MILs per rotation, better than 5 which used to be more common among less-expensive scopes. I prefer 10-15 MRAD per rotation, which I’ll admit is a fairly meticulous gripe since most of my rifles don’t need that much elevation to shoot to the extreme end of their typical range. But for scopes like this one that do not have a zero-stop, I like it. Mainly because with 15 MRAD turrets you will likely stay on the same turret rotation for 99% of your shooting, thus avoiding the dreaded over/under miss because I dialed a whole rotation off.


Turret values appeared to be accurate, this rifle has very consistent drop values which means I could anticipate the hits at 600 and 1050 yards. Which came effortlessly after confirming a hard zero at one-hundred yards. I dialed up and down for many different ranges between 300 and 1100 yards, the Hardline kept up just fine, and the hits kept coming.

After running the Hardline on my 25 Creedmoor for a few days, I decided to swap it over to another rifle. I mounted the scope into a cantilever mount, and stuck it atop my Desert Tech MDRX, a multi-caliber semi-auto which happened to have the 223 barrel in it at the time. Back into the mountains I hiked, with my MDRX slung over my shoulder. When I pulled the rifle around to shoot the first time, I noticed that the scope was noticeably unclear which shocked me. I then noticed that the eye-focus ring Had been turned as I hiked by rubbing against either my pack, or my shoulder. Not good thing, but it also could have been the way I carried it. It was easily re-focused, and I was in the groove. In no time at all I found myself zeroed and smashing everything I aimed at. Despite my not caring for the pull-up to zero turrets, it sure made it nice and fast to re zero with no tools. Continue Reading Here…

The MR1 reticle features whole and half MIL marks on the vertical post, and .2 MIL marks on the horizontal. (Mule deer at approx. 400 yards)

Riton Optics RT-S Mod 7 4-32X56

Riton Optics is a relatively new manufacturer of optics, since their start in 2013 they have been working in the Arizona heat to make affordable sighting optics without sacrificing quality.
My first encounter with Riton Optics came a year or so ago, when I put their RT-S MOD 5 6-24X50 scope on one of my rifles. I wasn’t sure what to expect as Riton was relatively new to me, but in a short time the scope’s performance had earned my praise. That same scope has been hauled all over these Rocky Mountains on my Tikka , dropped, snowed on, rained on, used as a crutch, and still maintains a perfect zero. Its no stranger to distance work, these past two seasons it has been used to take five mule deer and two cow elk from two hundred to eleven hundred yards. So I can say with pretty good certainty that these scopes are robust enough for western hunters.

The Riton Optics RT-S Mod 5 6-24X50 mounted on my Tikka T3 25 Creedmoor

I recently talked myself into one of Riton’s newer and bigger scopes, the RT-S Mod 7 4-32X56. The Mod 7 is definitely a step up in both price and performance from my Mod 5, at more than twice the price, the Mod 7 delivers quite a few more features to the optics aficionado. Both scopes are front focal plane (FFP), which means the reticle is magnified with the power adjustment. This feature allows shooters to use the reticle for accurate holdovers and corrections regardless of the magnification setting. The 8X zoom of the Mod 7 gives a substantial power range from 4X up to 32X, like many scopes, however, I found the very top end of the magnification (29-32x) to be too dark and aberrated to be very useful in the field. It was fine for shooting paper targets up close though.

The PSR reticle in the Riton Mod 7

The PSR reticle featured in my Mod 7 was also a significant step up from the Mod 5. I say step up, some might call it stepping out, the PSR reticle is a bit busier than some. It is a “Christmas Tree” style reticle, with a broadening grid of wind and drop values. I am growing more and more fond of these kinds of reticles, and this one is done very well. Subtensions are clearly marked (on the evens) so you can keep track of your holds, and the marks are thin enough to not bother your view of potential targets. A hollow center and .2 Mrad hash marks come in handy when doing long-range work. The illumination rheostat allows shooters to adjust reticle illumination to fit their surroundings.
Speaking of Mrad, the Mod 7 is available in Mrad which made me very happy. It was one of few complaints I had with my Mod 5, that it wasn’t available in anything other than MOA. Seems like most Riton optics are MOA, could be related to their military background, but I am glad to see newer products available with an Mrad option.
The Mod 7 has a 34mm tube, this again is a step up from the Mod 5’s 30mm tube. The bigger tube allows for more internal travel, giving the Mod 7 a total of 30 Mrad of elevation adjustment. That’s more than enough elevation for your average long-range shooter.

Turret details and throw lever on the Mod 7

Another feature I appreciated on the Mod 7 was the integrated throw lever on the magnification ring. Some call it a “Cat Tail”. You can run the scope with or without it, the throw lever gives you more purchase when trying to adjust the power ring, not a big deal, but a nice touch.
The Mod 7 also features a zero stop in the elevation turret, something the Mod 5 did not. This feature is handy, as you can return your elevation turret to zero without even needing to look at it. This will save you from a miss by being a rotation or more off.
One of the features both scopes have that I don’t like is there isn’t graduation marks on the turret housing to show which rotation you are on, to be fair it is much less of a problem on the Mod 7 because there are only two turns. The Mod 5 has several more, making it hard to be sure which rev you are on unless you keep track in your head.

I mounted the Mod 7 on my Desert Tech SRS A2 rifle, which seemed like a good fit for the scope. With the new hunting weight 6.5 Creedmoor barrel mounted in the rifle, I figured it would make a good companion for this years elk hunts.
But first I took the rifle to the range to get a good solid zero and check a few other things. My first impression with the Mod 7, was that the eye relief seemed to be just a bit touchy. Not so much as to be a problem, just more so than I was used to. I quickly zeroed the rifle and adjusted the zero stop per the instructions, easy enough and very functional. I then took the rifle up into the mountains to do some more testing at further ranges. I was very happy with the optical clarity of the Mod 7, even when looking at animals and trees at a mile or more away, it was a very clean and bright image.
As I mentioned earlier, the quality does degrade some at the very upper end of the scopes magnification, this is something I have noticed with most scopes including the Riton Mod 5. This is a phenomenon I have noticed on almost all riflescopes, but it is significantly less an issue as the price tag goes up.
It doesn’t bother me much as I rarely use a scope at its maximum power setting, for that matter I rarely use them above 60-70 of their maximum. The glass clarity of the Mod 7 is a great improvement over the Mod 5, as it should be at this price point.

The turrets on the Mod 5 have a push pull locking system, whereas the Mod 7 does not. I am torn a bit as to which I prefer, sometimes I like having my turrets locked, to avoid involuntary elevation changes. And other times I like just being able to turn the turret without having to unlock it. For hunting, I think I prefer the locking system, but for range or competition use I would prefer it without.
The turrets are plenty stiff so as not to be inadvertently moved, the clicks are plenty audible, though I would like them a tiny bit more defined. The line between too stiff, and to mushy a click is a hard line to walk sometimes.

As it turns out, I really enjoyed the throw lever on the magnification ring. To be honest I couldn’t describe the tension on the magnification ring, because with the throw lever it doesn’t even register.

It didn’t take long for me to get quite proficient shooting with the Riton Mod 7, so when the time came to put this rifle into action I was quite comfortable. The late season elk hunt had arrived, and I took my Riton topped SRS up into the snow covered mountains. The first shot I was given was some 475 yards away from a young cow, I dialed the 2.0 MIL on the Mod7’s elevation turret, and pressed the trigger. The cold and clean mountain air was visibly disturbed by my shot, I watched the trace cut through the bright image before me as I followed the shot in. I watched the cow drop, kick, and slide down the snowy slope.

The Riton Mod 7 has turned out to be a strong, clear, accurate and repeatable rifle scope. I look forward to using it more in the future.

-CBM

One of the five deer killed over two seasons using the RT-S Mod 5 6-24X50

US Optics TS-20X Rifle Scope

Im a sucker for scopes, you might say I have a weak spot for them. I have used most of the very best scopes, and Ive also used many that weren’t worth straining my eye to focus through them. Part of my affliction is due to being spoiled for some time now, and I blame US Optics for it, at least partially. I have had several of them over the years, and they have earned their keep in my safe.

US Optics has a history for robust builds, with nail driving strength. They have seen many changes over the years, and we could argue surely over the pros and cons. But for me, only one thing matters, whats on-top of my rifle, and how does it perform.

The USO TS20 mounted on my Desert Tech SRS A2

As a riflescope addict, I was interested when US Optics launched their Tactical Sporting line of scopes, the TS Series. Like any true addict I rested not until I had the TS 20 in my hands. It was love at first sight.

My initial impression of the TS 20 was its weight, it seemed light for a USO. This new TS line was clearly a more economical series of scopes, so I expected a simpler construction. Lightweight, and a very clear and clean image were both very welcome features. The JVCR reticle was new to me, and well received. I prefer the newer “Christmas tree” style milling reticles, and I found the JVCR to be very handy to use. The offset two tenth windage holds made perfect sense when hurriedly making a wind call. And like most good reticles, even numbering to keep track of your holds. With as many as ten mils to hold over, and five wide for windage, it makes a perfect companion for todays ultra-flat shooting rifles.

Another feature that impressed me very quickly was the focus/parallax adjustment, which is adjustable down to ten yards. At first I didn’t think it was a big deal, but when I dialed the scope down to 2.5X, I realized that this scope could almost be used like a red-dot. If I ever had any up close shooting to do such as approaching a wounded animal, I could simply turn on the illumination, and mark the target with the red cross and pull the trigger. This to me seemed like a very handy feature for a scope I would surely use while hunting. And yet with the max power of 20X from the scope, there are few things I would not be able to shoot at inside my distance envelope.

US Optics has always helped me put food on the table

The turrets of the TS20 are ten MIL per revolution, that for me is a minimum. Long gone are the days of five MIL per turn scopes, that was so 2010. The clicks are clean, and you can both feel and hear them as you turn the turret. The TS20 has an interesting zero-stop feature, but it requires you to limit the rotation to one turn only. Not a big deal for many things, but since I like to live on the edge, I decided to pull any stops and run it wide open. One complaint if you’ll allow it, the turret housing isn’t numbered to help you keep track of what revolution you are on. Bit of a pet peeve of mine, but not a deal breaker by any stretch. The tension of the turrets, power ring, and focus knob were all just right, not too hard to turn, but stiff enough to avoid accidental movement while packing it around.
I already mentioned the parallax/focus adjustment, but just next to it on the left side of the scope, is the rheostat to adjust the illumination on the JVCR reticle. It’s your standard 1-10 clicks with an off position in between each setting. 10 is bright enough to use as a red-dot in dim daylight, and 1 is dim enough to use with night-vision and thermals.

A downed animal, as seen at 500yds through the TS20 and thermal. Notice JVCR reticle detail

With 24 useable MILS of elevation from its 34mm tube, the TS20 is a very useful long range tool. The rifle it currently commands only needs 5MRAD of elevation to get to a thousand yards. But even if you are shooting a 308 you wont have a problem getting way out there. But with it’s super low power setting, and 28 ounce weight, it is a good option for a long-range hunting rifle as well.

The TS20 mounted on my all carbon 257 Blackjack

In the field the TS20 performed exactly like every other USO I’ve ever fielded. Click values were consistent, and lined up with my known ballistic data. I keep coming back to it so forgive me, but I love the high and low range of this scope. I never thought I would want a 2X precision rifle optic, but I sure am glad I have one now. In the field was the best place to see the value.
I am not huge on high magnification, I rarely use my scopes above 20X. So the TS20 is right in the middle of where I want all my X’s. Even at max power the image is still clear, and the reticle is very useful. Even so, I usually find my power ring somewhere between 10 and 15. It is at those medium settings that I find the optical magnification and reticle proportions to be ideal, both for targeting, and making corrections.

The USO TS20 played well with everything, especially this clip-on thermal

I mounted the TS20 on three different rifles, first on my Desert Tech SRS A2, and then on my MDR. Regardless of which caliber I was shooting I had every confidence that the TS would keep up. Whether it was hunting varmints on the foothills around my home, or chasing big game like mule deer or elk through these big Rocky Mountains. I’ve never had to worry about my US Optics scopes while traipsing through the brush, and no amount of bumps, drops, or bouncing around in the bed of a truck has ever knocked them out of zero. The heavy recoil from my 300 Remington Ultra Mag didn’t phase the scope, and neither did the repetitive cycling of my 450 Bushmaster MDR, it just kept on ticking.

This young buck couldn’t escape into the dusk, not from this combo. 450BM/MDR/TS20

The Tactical Sporting Series of scopes from US Optics looks like it has a bright future. The scopes are well made, and fit a price point that opens the door to a less expensive market than historically available to those wanting US Optics products. The premium Foundation Series remains the flagship of US Optics quality, I may need to get one of those too, but for now I will enjoy the view from this little TS20.

-CBM

Sig Sauer Tango Series Electro Optic

When a company like Sig Sauer jumps into the optics market, paying attention is a must. I was more than happy to get my hands on a couple specimens early on, and I was very happy with my purchase.
The Sig Sauer Tango line of optics is marketed towards precision shooters, long-range shooters, and hunters, as well as tactical marksmen in the LE/MIL community. I’ve been exposed to quite a few good optics in that realm, so I wanted to see how Sig stacked up.

For the purpose of this article, I will be comparing two of the Tango series of riflescopes. One is the Tango 4 which is a 4-16X44, the other is a Tango 6 5-30X56. The comparison will simply be an evaluation as these scopes are peers of different levels and price points.

The Tango 6 seen on my Desert Tech MDR 6.5 Creedmoor

Features
For starters, let’s look at the features they share, then we will look at them individually.
All Tango series scopes feature Sig’s HDX coated lenses for optimal light transfer, waterproofing, Lock-Down turrets, and one free laser-etched turret that is matched to your custom load data and atmospheric conditions.
Both the T4 and T6 are Front Focal Plane (FFP) optics, which means the reticle is placed after the magnifier inside the scope. This means the reticle will grow and shrink with the magnification setting. I prefer this configuration as it makes reticle usage more uniform, regardless of the power ring setting.
Both scopes are available with the MRAD/Moa milling reticle, or the Mrad/Moa DEV-L reticle, for those that prefer one system over the other.
The T4 and T6 also have the available MOTAC™ (Motion Activated Illumination) that initiates when motion is detected and shuts off when motionless.

The differences between the two scope are probably where most people are going to make a choice. The T4 is a 4X scope, and the T6 is a 6X, the T6 allows a wider choice of magnification from 5X all the way up to 30X. The T6 also has a larger diameter tube, it’s 34MM tube allows the T6 a greater internal adjustment range. To this larger tube is owed the 12 MRAD (30 MOA) per revolution of the turret. The slightly smaller T4 has a 10 MRAD (25 MOA) of adjustment per revolution of the turret. The 4X magnification on the T4 also gives it a shorter magnification range of 4-14, depending on your application these two different ranges of adjustment could make your choice for you.

The Tango 4 mounted to my Tikka T3 25 Creedmoor

The T6 that I purchased, also features Sig’s Level-Plex anti-cant system. It is a digital system that uses internal sensors to tell you when the scope is level or not. When engaged (by pushing the outer end of the parallax turret) there are two small illuminated arrows visible through the reticle. You simply adjust the cant of your rifle following the indicators, and when the rifle is level the indicators go dark, showing that the rifle is level. It is a simple and very quick to use system.

On the Range

Turret and other control detail on the Tango 6

Shooting the Tango 4 and 6 made me like them even more. The overall clarity of both scopes was very good, and the bright images made target acquisition and spotting hits and misses a piece of cake. Whether in the bright midday sun or in the waning light of evening, I found the scopes presented more than a satisfactory image.
I did find that for shooting groups that I really appreciated the 30 power magnification of the T6, and the DEV-L reticle provided very precise measurements for both corrections and wind holds. The simpler MRAD Milling reticle in the T4 was also very useful for those who might want a reticle that isn’t so busy. And the lower magnification of the T4 made it a great option for my hunting rifle. Lighter, smaller, and easier to quickly bring onto target.
The process of zeroing the scopes, and setting the zero stop was simple, quick, and effective. In no time I had them zeroed, and was dialing them up and down for distant shots. The Level-Plex system on the T6 proved to be very handy in the field, a simple push of a button engages it, and I never had to take my eye off the target. And it turns itself off after a few minutes. I also like the locking turrets on the scopes, raising them unlocks the turret for smooth rotation, and once set, you can push them back down to lock them in place and avoid accidental adjustments.
If I had to say I didn’t like anything about the scopes, it would probably be regarding the sliding up and down of the turret. I have no basis to prove this theory other than feel, but it seems that when the turret is raised it is not as firmly supported. It feels as if you were to knock it against something hard in the up/unlocked position it could be easily broken. Again, I have no evidence to prove that, it is just a simple observation. To be fair it feels rock-solid when it is down in the locked position.
Perhaps the only other gripe I have is likely a simple defect that is easily repaired. The two fiber optic illuminators that indicate the setting on the power ring seemed to be poorly mounted on my T6. One of them came out and was lost, not a big deal, but something worth noting. I usually don’t focus too hard on the actual setting of the magnification ring anyways, I just adjust it till it looks right to my eye, and shoot.

Conclusion

I think that both of these Sig Sauer optics are fantastic scopes, they definitely come in at two different price points so you can pick one the one that best fits your budget. The T4 at its $719.99 MSRP is a great competitor for the sub $1000 FFP Milling reticle scope market, I think it would compete very well against any scope in that group. The larger and much more expensive T6 MSRP $3,119.99 (as tested) is in another group altogether. I would say pending a few more hard trips into the rugged mountains, and it surviving the beating therein, I would put it against any scope in the 2k to 3k dollar range. The quality is there for sure, the only concern I have yet is with durability over time, but so far I have no reason to think it won’t
clear that hurdle as well. It is quite clear that the engineers at Sig Sauer Electro-Optics took great care in every little feature, whether it is the griping surfaces of adjustment knobs, or something as simple as aesthetic angles and accessories. And with an unlimited lifetime warranty, you can confidently put one of these scopes to work today.

-CBM

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