January 25th, 2019

SHOT Show 2019 — Scopes, Spotters, and Electro-Optics

SHOT Show Optics Scopes rangefinder spotting scope

At SHOT Show 2019, some of the most impressive new products were in the realm of scopes and electro-optics. We are seeing big companies like Leica, SIG Sauer, Swarovski, and Zeiss moving big-time into the technological marriage of microchips and lenses. With the release of the $4500 Swaro dS, a scope with no manual windage or elevation controls, we are really entering a new era in aiming systems for shooters.

Swarovski dS Rangefinder Scope with Ballistics “Brain”

SHOT Show Optics Swarovski dS rangefinder laserscope scope

Swarovski rolled out a new flagship scope this year at SHOT Show, the remarkable dS 5-25×52 P. This $4500+ wonder features a built-in laser rangefinder (like the Burris Eliminator). But there’s more — working with a smartphone App, the dS incorporates a sophisticated ballistics computer that calculates your trajectory at any distance and then displays an aim point on your reticle. It even adjusts the aim point for the wind (with data entered wirelessly via mobile device).

This really is a state-of-the-art electro-optical system. However, there are some negatives to consider. First there are no conventional elevation or windage knobs/turrets. So, if your battery dies in the field, you are SOL. (FYI that big “turret” in the middle is actually just a battery and tool holder). Secondly, all that smart calculation depends on extremely accurate BC and velocity data. If you switch ammo, and don’t have an accurate velocity or BC, you won’t get the right solution and there are no knobs to turn to fix that. The dS will give you an aim point, but it might not match your true ballistics. (NOTE: There are hidden mechanical controls for setting your zero, but these are not intended for conventional shot to shot adjustments).

High-Magnification Competition Scopes

SHOT Show Optics Scopes Kahles 10-50x60mm scope

Kahles K1050 — Central Parallax, Great Glass
Kahles scopes are now being used by many of the top shooters in PRS game. Kahles optics offer great European glass, precise controls, and some unique features. Our readers may not realize that Kahles makes an outstanding high-magnification zoom scope suitable for long-range benchrest and F-Class comptition, the Kahles K1050. This 10-50x56mm optic has a unique centrally mounted parallax control — great for lefties or guys who run a left port/right eject. The Kahles K1050 has a true 8 meters to infinity parallax adjustment range making it suitable for everything from Field Target air gun, 1000-yard competition, and long range tactical. The Kahles K1050 costs $2899.00 — that’s midway between a Vortex Golden Eagle and a 10-60x56mm March High Master (starting at $3425.00).

SHOT Show Optics Scopes Sightron 10-50x60mm spotting scope

Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm
Sightron offers a very affordable 10-50x60mm scope in its SIII optics line. There is a special version for Field Target competition that comes with a “Big Wheel” parallax control. Field Target competitors use the Parallax control to determine target range.

ELR Scope — For 2 Miles and Beyond

March 6-60X Genesis with 400 MOA elevation
A typical premium riflescope might have 50-60 MOA of elevation. That’s enough for shooting out to 1500 yards or so with a high-BC bullet launched at 2900 fps. But for Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting you need more elevation adjustment, and that’s where the innovative March 6-60X Genesis optic stands out. This unique optic offers a whopping 400 MOA of elevation adjustment. That ample elevation doesn’t come cheap however — the 6-60x56mm Genesis sells for $6950.00. CLICK HERE for full specifications.

Lightweight Hunting Scopes

As scopes have grown increasingly sophisticated and complex, they have also become bulkier and HEAVIER. That’s a big deal for a hunter who may be carrying a rifle, plus another 20-30 pounds of gear and food/water. The average dear hunter will be taking a shot well inside 400 yards so he doesn’t need 25X power or fancy features. He does need clarity, good low-light performance, and reliability — and LOW WEIGHT. We think a good deer hunting scope should come in under 1.5 pounds (without rings). Here are two smart hunting optics, both under 20 ounces.

Leupold VX Freedom — 12.2 ounce Weight, Simple, Affordable
The Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm weighs just 12.2 ounces and street price is under $200. It has a 4.7mm exit pupil, 60 MOA of elevation, and a 33.7 ft Field of View at 100 yards.

Zeiss conquest V4 3-12x44mm

Zeiss 3-12x44mm Conquest — 18.2 ounce Weight, 90% Light transmission, 4X Zoom
These riflescopes were designed as a lightweight, high-performance product line for demanding hunting and shooting applications. The Zeiss 3-12x44mm Conquest delivers 90% to-the-eye light transmission, along with 70 MOA of both elevation and windage travel. This premium second focal plane scope weighs just 18.2 ounces, slightly over one pound.

Compact Spotting Scopes for Field Carry

Many shooters and hunters don’t want or need a heavy, bulky spotting scope. They need a spotter to see mirage, and to deliver more magnification than can be comfortably handheld with binoculars. For hunters, weight and overall size are key. The hunter wants a spotting scope that can be packed and carried easily. Here are two clear, sharp spotter options in a smaller format. The Leupold Gold Ring 15-30x50mm Compact Spotter is particularly well-suited to hunters and tactical shooters.

Nikon Monarch Fieldscope 60mm 18-48x spotting scope

Nikon Monarch Fieldscope 60ED-A
Small but powerful — that describes the Nikon 60ED-A Monarch Fieldscope with 16-48X eyepiece. This unit delivers big spotter performance in a much smaller package. It focuses fast and showed very good sharpness though we observed the image darkens at higher magnifications. This has ED glass and Nikon’s proprietary “field flattener” lens system that enhances sharpness throughout the entire field of view.

Leupold Golden Ring 15-30x50mm compact spotting scope

Leupold 15-30x50mm Gold Ring Compact Spotting Scope
The affordable Leupold Gold Ring Compact Spotter offers 15-30X magnification. That’s plenty for spotting game or viewing mirage. This unit is remarkably compact and we like the simple right-side focus knob. Half the size of typical spotting scopes, this Compact Leupold spotter weighs just 21.5 ounces (1.34 pounds).

Superb Binoculars — When Cost is No Object

Leica Noctivid 8x42 binoculars

Leica Noctivid 8x42mm Binoculars
Our Hunting Editor Colton Reid is a Ph.D. who works with specialized electro-optical devices costing over $30,000. So he knows a few things about light waves and glass quality. When he looked through the 8×42 Leica Noctivid his comment was simple but telling: “These are the best compact binoculars I’ve ever looked through. The clarity and brightness are truly exceptional”. At nearly $2700.00, Noctivids are crazy expensive, but the quality will be worth it to some buyers.

Parting Shot — Think about the Warranty BEFORE You Buy

Vortex Razor spotting scope warranty

This patched-up Razor spotting scope was on display at the Vortex booth. We actually know the history of this particular spotter — it belonged to one of our Forum members. He sent this busted unit back to Vortex, and Vortex sent him a brand new Razor spotter. That Forum member told us: “Vortex earned a customer for life when they replaced my spotter, no questions asked. When Vortex says its warranty is ‘Unlimited, Unconditional, Lifetime’, believe it.”

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January 25th, 2019

World’s Highest Magnification Rifle Scope: March 8-80x56mm

March optics scopes 8-80 8-80x56 tactical scope more power

When it comes to long-range optics, some folks can’t have too much magnification. At 500 yards and beyond, when the air’s misty or the mirage is thick, you can’t always use extreme magnification. But, when the conditions are excellent, it’s nice to have 50X magnification (or more) on tap. You can always “crank it back down”.

Higher magnification (when conditions are good), can help you see your bullet holes at long range, and that makes it easier to judge your hold-offs and keep your group centered.

In addition, there’s no doubt that high magnification lets you aim more precisely, no matter what the distance. Even at 100 and 200 yards, short-range benchresters are using 40X, 50X, and even 60X power scopes. This allows you to position your cross-hairs with extreme precision — something you need when you’re trying to put multiple shots through the same hole.

Raising the Optics Bar
How much power is usable? A few years back, folks said you can’t use more than 45X or so at long range. Well, as modern optics have evolved, now guys are buying scopes with even more magnification — way more. There are practical limits of course — with a 56 to 60mm front objective, the exit pupil of a 60X or higher-power scope will be very tiny, making head orientation ultra-critical. Any many scopes get darker as you bump up the magnification.

March optics scopes 8-80 8-80x56 tactical scope more power

Despite the exit pupil and brightness issues, shooters are demanding “more power” these days and the scope manufacturers are providing new products with ever-greater magnification levels. Right now, the most powerful conventional riflescope you can buy is the March X-Series 8-80x56mm scope. Featuring a 34mm main tube and 56mm objective lens, this offers a true 10-times zoom ratio and up to 80X magnification. This scope has minimal distortion thanks to high-quality ED lenses designed in-house by Deon Optical, which also machines the main tube from one solid piece of billet aluminum.

MORE INFO: Learn more about the March 8-80x56mm at MarchScopes.com

To demonstrate the capabilities of high-magnification March scopes, Aussie Stuart Elliot has created a cool through-the-lens video with the March 8-80x56mm scope set at 80-power (See 0:30 timeline). Along with being one of Australia’s top benchrest shooters, Stuart runs BRT Shooters Supply, dealer for March Scopes in Australia. In the video below you can see the March 8-80X focused on a target at 1000 yards (910m). For best resolution, watch this video in fullscreen, 720p mode.

Look through the Lens of 80-power March Scope at Target 1000 Yards Away

Through-the-Lens Views at 40X and 80X at 1100 Yards
To reveal the difference between 40X and 80X magnification, here are two through-the-lens still images taken with March scopes sighting to 1100 yards. The top photo is at 80X magnification, looking through the March 8-80x56mm. The lower photo is at 40X magnification viewed through a 5-50x56mm March X-Series scope. You can see there is a big difference in perceived target size! Click on the “Larger Image” button to see full-screen version at 80X.


larger photo

Video Find by Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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January 25th, 2019

The Dummy Round — Why You Need One for Chambering

Gre Tannel GreTan, Gre-Tan Rifles dummy round chambering gunsmith reamer chamber

How and Why to Create a Dummy Round
When you have a new custom rifle built, or a new barrel fitted to an existing rifle, it makes sense to create a dummy round. This should have your preferred brass and bullet types, with the bullet positioned at optimal seating depth. A proper dummy round helps the gunsmith set the freebore correctly for your cartridge, and also ensure the proper chamber dimensions.

Respected machinist, tool-maker, and gunsmith Greg Tannel of Gre-Tan Rifles explains: “I use the dummy round as a gauge to finish cut the neck diameter and throat length and diameter so you have [optimal] clearance on the loaded neck and the ogive of the bullet just touches the rifling.” He recommends setting bullet so the full diameter is just forward of the case’s neck-shoulder junction. “From there”, Greg says, “I can build you the chamber you want… with all the proper clearances”.

Greg Tannel has created a very helpful video showing how to create a dummy round. Greg explains how to measure and assemble the dummy and how it will be used during the barrel chambering process. Greg notes — the dummy round should have NO Primer and No powder. We strongly recommend that every rifle shooter watch this video. Even if you won’t need a new barrel any time soon, you can learn important things about freebore, leade, and chamber geometry.

This has been a very popular video, with 244,000 views. Here are actual YouTube comments:

That is the best explanation I’ve ever seen. Thank you sir. — P. Pablo

Nice video. You do a very good job of making this easy for new reloaders to understand. I sure wish things like this were available when I started reloading and having custom rifles built. Once again, great job, and your work speaks for itself. — Brandon K.

Beautiful job explaining chambering clearances. — D. Giorgi

Another Cool Tool — The Stub Gauge

When you have your gunsmith chamber your barrel, you can also have him create a Stub Gauge, i.e. a cast-off barrel section chambered like your actual barrel. The stub gauge lets you measure the original length to lands and freebore when your barrel was new. This gives you a baseline to accurately assess how far your throat erodes with use. Of course, as the throat wears, to get true length-to-lands dimension, you need take your measurement using your actual barrel. The barrel stub gauge helps you set the initial bullet seating depth. Seating depth is then adjusted accordingly, based on observed throat erosion, or your preferred seating depth.

Stub Gauge Gunsmithing chamber gage model barrel

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