Below is the top half of a Walmart ad intended to sell hunting rifles and accessories. We’re pleased that Walmart still stocks guns, ammo, and gear on its shelves. But look carefully at the fellow in the tree-stand. He’s got some nice camo clothing, but a few items are missing that might help this hunter in his quest to take home a buck. Apparently Walmart’s ad-makers aren’t too experienced with shooting.
Advertisement scan provided by B. Carlson.
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Editor’s comment: The new lens technology described here is a big deal. The “flexible” polymer lens is nothing short of revolutionary — there’s never been anything like it on a riflescope (though our own human eyes have flexible lenses). In the world of optics, this is as noteworthy a development as the touch-screen was for personal computing. Flexible, “adaptive” lenses can potentially be employed for a wide variety of products, from cameras to spotting scopes. Think about the benefits of “instantaneous zoom” for security cameras.
Sandia’s RAZAR Scope Features Flexible Lenses That Can Change Focal Length Instantly
Sandia National Laboratories has developed a truly game-changing piece of optical technology at the direct request of the Department of Defense: the RAZAR (Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles). Fundamentally different than every other riflescope ever made, the RAZAR represents a revolution in lens design and function. Until now, all riflescopes used a set of rigid, hard lenses (usually glass). The new RAZAR utilizes an advanced set of flexible polymer lenses that allow the user to toggle between high and low magnification with the press of a button. The RAZAR can literally zoom in and out in the blink of an eye (250 milliseconds).
The RAZAR works in conjunction with a tactical-style optic, such the Leupold HAMR (top photo). This tandem (two-part) sighting system combines the conventional scope’s eyepiece and illuminated reticle with the RAZAR’s ultra-fast zooming capability. Unlike traditional eyepiece (ocular) magnifiers, the RAZAR sits in front of the primary optic.
See RAZAR Demonstrated in Sandia Labs Video
The RAZAR’s instant, push-button zoom capability gives soldiers the ability to change field of view and magnification without re-positioning their grip on the rifle, unlike traditional variable-power riflescopes. This capability can be invaluable to a soldier in combat.
Michael Squire, a former SFC with Special Operations Research Support Element, said the ability to zoom between near and far targets within seconds, without taking his hand off the weapon, is “game-changing.” Squire added: “The difference that can make, especially with somebody shooting back, could mean life or death…”
The secret to the RAZAR’s high performance lies within the development of the advanced technologies within the scope. A hermetically sealed, flexible polymer lens core encapsulates a proprietary polymer liquid, and this core then works in tandem with glass lenses to form the basis of the optical design.
Rapid changes in magnification are accomplished via a piezoelectric motor that changes the curvature of the lenses, achieving the correct positioning within 250 milliseconds within an accuracy level of 100 nanometers. When zooming, these electronically-controlled actuators act much like the tiny muscles that allow the human eye to change focus from near to far. Human eyes have flexible lenses controlled with muscles*. The RAZAR has flexible lenses controlled by tiny electric motors.
It’s important to highlight the reliability that Sandia was able to build into the RAZAR. The system requires very little mechanical power to operate, and can undergo up to 10,000 zoom actuations on a single set of two standard AA batteries. The ultrasonic motor draws no power unless it’s being used to bend the soft lenses, which makes the RAZAR very reliable. If the batteries do go flat, the RAZAR remains fully usable — the system simply stays at the last magnification level until the batteries are replaced.
Sandia’s RAZAR design provides a large, clear viewing aperture, without sacrificing any of the optical quality found in traditional riflescopes. The RAZAR is also shock-proof, vibration-proof and capable of operating in a very wide temperature range.
The Future of “Instant Zoom” Adaptive Lenses
Sandia Labs is developing other specialty lenses in the near-infrared, short wave-infrared and mid-wave infrared spectrum, primarily for DOD use. However, Sandia has suggested that its flexible polymer-lens technology could be adapted for other imaging applications where rapid zoom is needed, such as binoculars, spotting scopes, and even security cameras. For more information, visit the Sandia Labs website.
*Changing the curvature of the human eye lens is carried out by the ciliary muscles surrounding the lens. They narrow the diameter of the ciliary body, relax the fibers of the suspensory ligament, and allow the lens to relax into a more convex shape. A more convex lens focuses divergent light rays onto the retina allowing for closer objects to be brought into focus.
About the Author
Kip Staton is a freelance gun writer based in North Texas, and loves to blog about news within the firearms industry and his perceptions on marksmanship. Kip is a content marketer, copywriter and digital strategist for an award-winning Dallas marketing agency. To read more by Kip, visit KipStaton.com.
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Readers often ask “What’s the difference between a Weaver scope rail and a Picatinny Rail?” The answer is not as simple as it seems. The dimensions of a Picatinny Rail should be consistent (from one rail-maker to another), since there IS a government spec. Conversely, there is some variance in “Weaver-style” rails. The width of the groove is the most important difference between Picatinny Rails and weaver rails. “Mil-spec” Picatinny rails will have a grove width of 0.206″ while Weaver rails typically have a narrower, 0.180″ groove width.
Brownell’s has a helpful GunTech™ Article that discusses the Picatinny Rail vs. Weaver Rail. That article explains:
“What are the differences between the ‘Picatinny’ and the ‘Weaver’ systems? The profile of the two systems is virtually identical. Depending on the quality of the machining done by the manufacturer, the two systems should be indistinguishable from the profile. The key difference lies in the placement of the recoil grooves and with width of the grooves. MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) grooves are .206″ wide and have a center-to-center width of .394”. The placement of these grooves has to be consistent in order for it to be a true ‘Picatinny’MIL-STD system. Weaver systems have a .180” width of recoil groove and are not necessarily consistent in a center-to-center measurement from one groove to the next.
In many instances, a Weaver system has a specific application that it is machined for, so interchangeability is not necessarily an issue. A MIL-STD-1913 system must adhere to the specifications listed above in order for it to be considered MIL-STD, since the military desires uniformity in the recoil grooves to allow for different systems to be mounted on the weapon with no concern for compatibility.
Now, what does this mean to you? Boiled down, it means that accessories designed for a Weaver system will, in most cases, fit on a ‘Picatinny’ system. The reverse, however, is probably not the case. Due to the larger recoil groove, ‘Picatinny’ accessories will not fit a Weaver system. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, but for a good rule-of-thumb, [full-width] ‘Picatinny’ won’t fit Weaver, but Weaver will fit ‘Picatinny’.”
Schmidt & Bender revealed some impressive optics at SHOT Show. Perhaps the “star” of the S&B line-up was the 3-27x56mm PMII. This optic boasts the first-ever 9 times zoom range. Originally custom-designed to U.S. SOCOM specs, this impressive optic won a contract for use in SOCOM sniper platforms. S&B’s representative said this scope, when employed with steep-angled bases, may be used to engage targets at distances exceeding 2 kilometers.
Unrivaled Brightness — T96 Polar Offers 96% Total Light Transmission
Schmidt & Bender also unveiled its all-new 2.5-10x50mm Polar T96 scope, which S&B claims is “the brightest low-light hunting scope in the world” Designed for hunting, the new Polar boasts extremely high 96% light transmission levels, the most ever in a 10-power scope. In addition, transmission of “night-relevant wavelengths” has been improved dramatically, offering 5% more light in the evening than other hunting scopes. This means the scope will be brighter at dusk than other optics, effectively extending a hunter’s usable time in the field, allowing the hunter to use “the last light of the day.” S&B is considering expanding the T96 scope line to include 3-12X or 4-16X models.
Schmidt & Bender had scores of scopes on display, worth well over $100,000 in retail value.
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At SHOT Show 2015, SIG Sauer showcased a host of new optics products. SIG’s new Electro-Optics division will market a complete line of riflescopes, battle sights, red dot/reflex sights, rangefinders, binoculars, and spotting scopes. For ALL the new Electro-Optics products, SIG will be offering a lifetime transferable warranty. That’s impressive. SIG’s new electro-optical offerings, which are named after radio alphabet words (such as “Bravo” and “Tango”), are revealed in this video:
The “Whiskey” riflescope series is marketed as a rugged, affordable optical solution for hunters. Designed for law enforcement and tactical shooters, the “Tango” series of riflescopes feature 6X zoom ratios and meet MILSPEC requirements. Shown below is the 3-18x44mm Tango.
The “Bravo” series of prismatic battle sights (illustration below) are pretty remarkable. An innovative new lens design provides an exceptionally wide field of view. SIG claims that Bravo battle sights offer a 50 percent greater field-of-view than similar battle sights.
The “Romeo” series of red dot sights are designed for tactical carbines. The miniature “Romeo1″ Reflex Sight is designed to be slide-mounted on a pistol, and SIG will offer several pistols with the Romeo1 pre-installed. For big game hunting or extreme long-range shooting, SIG developed the “Kilo” rangefinder series, the “Victor” spotting scope line and the “Zulu” binocular series. The “Kilo” rangefinder (bottom photo) can reach out to 1600 yards and features an auto-dimming display. It is about the same size as a Leica CRF, but it is easier to hold. There are molded, rubberized finger grooves on the top and the whole unit has a nice feel in the hand.
To learn more about other SIG Sauer products for 2015, visit the Shooter’s Log, presented by Cheaper than Dirt. For 2015, along with new handguns and rifles, SIG Sauer has rolled out a branded line of suppressors. SIG’s new cans should be popular with both tactical shooters and hunters (where suppressor use is allowed).
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Our friends Ed and Steve, aka the 6.5 Guys, were prolific last week in Las Vegas, visiting dozens of vendors at SHOT Show. Here are Ed and Steve’s video reports for Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO), Vortex Optics, and Thunderbeast Arms. (If you’re thinking about buying a suppressor definitely check out the new Ultra series from Thunderbeast, featured in the third video below). You can see more SHOT Show videos by Ed and Steve at 6.5Guys.com.
Ashbury Precision Ordnance
Here Precision Rifle Series (PRS) Competitor Melissa Gilliland talks about the modular chassis systems offered by Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO). With adjustable buttplate, cheekpiece, and grip, these systems can be adapted for a variety of shooting disciplines. APO even offers a modular chassis for Savage barreled actions. Melissa shoots a tricked-out 6.5 Creedmoor rig with a Titanium APO action.
New Precision Rifle from APO
SABRE Chassis System for Savage Actions
Vortex continues to grab a larger share of the tactical and long-range hunting markets. This video features the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56mm and 3-18x50mm scopes. These Gen II Razors feature apochromatic objective lenses, rugged 34mm single-piece aluminum main tubes, and versatile 6X zoom range. Both MOA-based and Milrad-based reticles are offered. Vortex scopes have large, user-friendly controls, and a good feature set for the price.
Thunder Beast Arms
Thunder Beast Arms’s suppressors, built by shooters for shooters, are tough yet light. Thunder Beast developed a strong following for its titanium cans that offered excellent performance with light weight. In this video, Thunder Beast unveils its new “Ultra” series of suppressors. Compared to Thunder Beast’s previous CB-series suppressors (of like size), these Ultras are 4 to 5 ounces lighter, yet provide 4 to 5 decibels of additional noise reduction. That represents a major gain in suppressor performance.
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Magnified Optic + Laser RF + Ballistics Computer. What if you could combine all that in a single, compact package. Impressive eh? Well Steiner-Optik (a Beretta-owned company), has done that. Steiner just announced its new “Intelligent” Combat Sight (ICS). The 6x40mm ICS, a true electro-optical aiming device, provides trajectory compensation by automatically calculating the point of aim based on ammunition ballistics, measured distance, and angle to the target out to 800 meters. The ICS combines a 6X optic with a laser rangefinder and a microprocessor-controlled ballistics solver.
Function Similar to Burris Eliminator
Steiner’s ICS is not the first integrated scope/LRF/ballistics calculator. The Burris Eliminator has been around for a few seasons, and it works much the same way. A laser senses the distance to the target, the required hold-over is calculated, and a red dot appears in the scope view. Put the dot on your target and pull the trigger. So Steiner isn’t bringing us something really new, it is just providing this technology in a smaller, ruggedized, waterproof package. (Steiner claims the ICS is waterproof down to 1 ATM – 10 m, which is actually pretty impressive.)
Ballistics Profiles for 7.62x51mm, 5.56x45mm, .300 BLK, .300 WinMag
While the magnification is optimized for the 7.62X51mm (.308 Win), the ICS’s internal ballistic calculator offers settings for other popular chamberings: 5.56x45mm, 300 Blackout, and .300 Win Mag.
The new ICS is easy to use according to Steiner VP Tom Frane: “Just feed the ICS your cartridge’s ballistic info and the scope’s computer and inclinometer instantly calculate perfect hold-over at your exact distance and gives you a bright red dot in seconds — all at the push of a button.” The 6x40mm ICS offers 120 MOA of total elevation. The illuminated reticle adjusts from dim to bright for daylight conditions. A Picatinny base on top of the ICS allows for the addition of a CQB sight, and there is a back-up iron sight on the right side of the unit.
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You knew it was just a matter of time until modern Bluetooth wireless technology was harnessed for precision shooting. Now weather data from a Kestrel and range info from a Vectronix rangefinder can be shared to a remote PDA with GPS capability. The system works via the common Bluetooth networking protocol used for smartphone accessories and computer peripherals. Ballistic solutions are calculated using Field Firing Solutions software. Composed of weathermeter, rangefinder, and hand-held processor (PDA), this three-part TALON Wireless Ballistic Targeting System was developed for Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO). The Talon System will be introduced by APO at SHOT Show 2015 where pricing and availability will be announced.
Here’s how it works — dual Bluetooth feeds (from Kestrel and rangefinder) communicate with a Trimble T41 Juno or NOMAD PDA. The dongle is set up for any Vectronix Laser Rangefinder equipped with a RS232 data port. The enabling technology, a nicely packaged Bluetooth dongle, was developed by a team of U.S. SpecOps personnel. Their goal was enhance operational capabilities by getting rid of wires and cables. They succeeded.
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Nightforce is introducing two all-new First Focal Plane (F1™) scopes at SHOT Show 2015 in Las Vegas. With abundant elevation adjustment, these new F1 optics should be popular with long-range shooters. Nightforce will offer these F1 scopes with either MOA-based 1/4-minute clicks or a Mil-based 0.1 (one-tenth) Mil-Radian adjustments. Reticle choices are: MOAR™, Mil-R™, Horus H59, and TReMoR3.
Our readers will probably be most interested in the new ATACR™ 5-25x56mm F1™ riflescope. Nightforce tells us that “We have been bombarded with requests for this specific model. We wanted to design and pack this model with so many features that it would be the true heavyweight champion in the field.” With a beefy 34mm maintube, the new 5-25x56mm F1 boasts an impressive 30 MOA (or 12 Mil-Rads) of elevation per revolution, with 120 MOA (or 35 mils) of total elevation adjustment. That’s a lot. Tactical shooters should appreciate the yards/meters markings on the side parallax knob (yards for MOA scopes, meters for Milrad scopes). You can actually “dial the distance” with the marked parallax knob. That should speed up focus adjustments during target transitions. For low-light applications, the new 5-25x56mm F1’s DigIllum™ reticle illumination system provides precise brightness control.
Nightforce believes the 5-25x56mm F1 will be a hit with long-range and tactical marksmen, even though MSRP is a hefty $2900.00: “We anticipate that some of the weapon applications for this model will include long-range and ultra-long-range precision tactical rifles, unique long-range hunting rifles, and many of the purpose-built magnum AR platforms.”
New 4-16x42mm F1 Replaces current 3.5-15x50mm NXS F1
The ATACR™ 4-16x42mm F1 will replace the previous NXS 3.5-15x50mm Nightforce. Like the 5-25X F1, the new 4-16X F1 offers 30 MOA (or 12 Mil-Rads) per revolution of the elevation turret. This scope also features a new ZeroHold™ zero-stop which uses a simple press-button design. According to Nightforce, the low-profile ZeroHold offers a positive zero-stop that is “automatically re-indexed as you return to your zero”. As with the ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 model above, the ATACR 4-16x42mm F1 features DigIllum reticle illumination control. MSRP for the 4-16x42mm ATACR F1 is $2400.00.
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Midsouth Shooters Supply is having a huge End-of-Year Sale. Hundreds of clearance items are marked down 40% (or more) through the end of 2014. For the next couple of days there are amazing deals to be had on ammo, optics, scope rings, gun cases, reloading dies, muzzle-loader rifles, cleaning supplies and much more. Below are some of the top deals we found this morning. (NOTE: This is just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of 40% OFF clearance items.) Remember, these deeply-discounted deals expire soon — you snooze, you lose.
With the price of some premium scopes approaching $3000.00 (and beyond), it’s more important than ever to provide extra protection for your expensive optics. ScopeCoat produces covers that shield scopes with a layer of neoprene rubber (wetsuit material) sandwiched between nylon. In addition to its basic covers, sold in a variety of sizes and colors, ScopeCoat has a line of heavy-duty 6mm products that provide added security.
Triple-Thickness XP-6 Model for Added Protection
The XP-6 Flak Jacket™ is specifically designed for extra protection and special applications. The 6mm-thick layer of neoprene is three times thicker than the standard ScopeCoat. XP-6 Flak Jackets are designed for tall turrets, with sizes that accommodate either two or three adjustment knobs (for both side-focus and front-focus parallax models). To shield an expensive NightForce, March, or Schmidt & Bender scope, this a good choice. XP-6 covers come in black color only, and are available for both rifle-scopes and spotting scopes.
The heavily padded XP-6 Flak Jacket is also offered in a Zippered version, shown at right. This is designed for removable optics that need protection when in storage. The full-length, zippered closure goes on quick-and-easy and provides more complete protection against dust, shock, and moisture. MSRP is $30.00.
Special Covers for Binos and Red-Dots
ScopeCoat offers many specialized products, including oversize covers for spotting scopes, protective “Bino-Bibs” for binoculars, rangefinder covers, even sleeves for small pistol scopes and red-dot optics. There are also custom-designed covers for the popular Eotech and Trijicon tactical optics. Watch the Shooting USA video below to see some of ScopeCoat’s latest specialty covers.
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If you’re thinking of spending thousands of dollars on a new rifle scope or spotting scope, do your homework first. You need to understand key design features, such as first focal plane vs. second focal plane, and turret click values. You should learn about light transmission, resolution, and other factors that distinguish a great optic from a not-so-great one. You also need to analyze your specific requirements before making a buying decision: How much magnification do you really need? Is illumination important? How much scope weight can you reasonably tolerate?
Sport Optics, a new book by Alan Hale, helps you answer all these important questions. Hale, former CEO of Celestron Optics, has more than 50 years of experience in the optics industry. His book, Sport Optics, is an up-to-date, comprehensive guide to Riflescopes, Spotting Scopes, and Binoculars. Hale surveys products from dozens of domestic and foreign manufacturers. Hale explains, in easy-to-understand terms, the technical jargon used by optics-makers. This helps buyers make informed decisions.
The new book is full of good, sound advice. Respected gun writer Chuck Hawks says: “Alan Hale has impeccable credentials in the optics industry. Sport Optics is written for the layman in a clear, understandable and interesting manner.” Bill Thompson, co-publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest adds: “Alan Hale is one of the Zen masters of sport optics[.] He knows more about how optics work, how and where they are made, and how to put them to their highest possible use than most outdoor sport optics writers. Read this book before you make any optics purchase[.]”
FREE Book Preview at Amazon.com
The Sports Optics book is offered at Amazon.com for $21.95. To preview the book, go to the Amazon web page for Sports Optics, and click the cover photo that says “Look Inside”. This lets you see front and back covers, complete table of contents, and many sample pages (such as those shown below):
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