Hunters and tactical shooters need scopes with good low-light performance. For a scope to perform well at dawn and dusk, it needs good light transmission, plus a reasonably large exit pupil to make maximum use of your eye’s light processing ability. And generally speaking, the bigger the front objective, the better the low-light performance, other factors being equal. Given these basic principles, how can we quickly evaluate the low-light performance of different makes and models of scopes?
Here’s the answer: ScopeCalc.com offers a FREE web-based Low-Light Performance Calculator that lets you compare the light gain, perceived brightness, and overall low-light performance of various optics. Using this scope comparison tool is pretty easy — just input the magnification, objective diameter, exit pupil size, and light transmission ratio. If the scope’s manufacturer doesn’t publish an exit pupil size, then divide the objective diameter in millimeters by the magnification level. For example a 20-power scope with a 40mm objective should have a 2mm exit pupil. For most premium scopes, light transmission rates are typically 90% or better (averaged across the visible spectrum). However, not many manufacturers publish this data, so you may have to dig a little.
ScopeCalc.com’s calculator can be used for a single scope, a pair of scopes, or multiple scopes. Once you’ve typed in the needed data, click “Calculate” and the program will produce comparison charts showing Light Gain, Perceived Brightness, and Low-Light Performance. Though the program is easy to use, and quickly generates comparative data, assessing scope brightness, as perceived by the human eye, is not a simple matter. You’ll want to read the annotations that appear below the generated charts. For example, ScopeCalc’s creators explain: “Perceived brightness is calculated as the cube root of the light gain, which is the basis for modern computer color space brightness scaling.”
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New S1 and S5 Knurled Dials can be user-installed in place of older Leupold turret caps.
Leupold & Stevens makes good scopes, but the standard turrets with screw-on caps are inconvenient for some users. It’s too easy to misplace the caps. Also the standard turrets are not the easiest to grip, particularly with gloved hands. To improve the “gripability” of its scope turrets, Leupold now offers new S1 and S5 screw-on knurled dials that fit in place of the cap covers. These aluminum dials offer large, knurled surfaces that are easy to grip, even when wearing gloves. “These screw-on dials mean no more lost caps or the need for a coin to make adjustments in the field,” said Tim Lesser, Leupold’s Product Development Director. The S1 is for MOA scopes while the S5 is for MIL scopes.
The S1 and S5 dials simply replace Leupold’s screw-on turret caps, so the user can install these easily without tools. It is NOT necessary to send your scope(s) back to the factory. Just remove the caps on your windage and elevation turrets, and screw the knurled dials in their place. The S1/S5 dials automatically align with the adjustment slot and securely tighten down. These dials are interchangeable between different riflescopes in the field. MSRP is $50 per dial set (either S1 or S5).
The S1 dial is engraved in ¼-MOA increments while the S5 (for mil-based turrets) is marked in 0.1 MIL. Both come with a locking zero stop and can be equipped with the Custom Dial System® (CDS) through the Leupold Custom Shop. The Leupold S1 and S5 dials are compatible with most Leupold riflescopes with click adjustments, with the exception of the VX-1 series and older riflescopes with friction adjustments. For those with bullet-drop-compensating reticles, the S1 and S5 are completely compatible. The screw on dials are covered by Leupold’s full lifetime guarantee.
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by Tony Chow
In recent years, the use of electronic trainer systems has revolutionized training in all disciplines of position shooting. By capturing (and illustrating) key performance variables like the steadiness of a shooter’s hold, accuracy of aiming, and the timeliness of trigger release, these devices can offer tremendous insights into the strengths and weakness of a shooter’s position and technique, making high-level marksmanship training less voodoo and more of a science.
Until now, electronic trainers all suffered from one critical limitation: the inability to be used outdoors in live fire training. Now, however, SCATT has introduced the next-generation MX-02 electronic trainer, a product that can finally support outdoor live firing in broad daylight, as well as dry firing indoors. In addition, the MX-02 is the first electronic trainer to support centerfire rifles. It goes without saying that, when we at AccurateShooter.com were offered an MX-02 test unit to review, we jumped at the opportunity.
How the SCATT MX-02 Works
The SCATT sensor mounted on the end of the barrel has a digital camera that “sees” the black bullseye in the target, even in broad daylight outdoors. Using the bullseye as a reference, the SCATT software tracks the movement of the muzzle relative to the center of the target. The unit can plot these movements as a continuous trace, which appears on a monitor as a squiggly, colored line. Data points from the trace are also available in a tabular spreadsheet format. This allows the shooter to “crunch the numbers”, revealing strengths and weaknesses in his gun-handling and aiming technique.
In our testing, we confirmed that, like SCATT’s earlier indoor-only WS-01, the MX-02 offers excellent support for indoor dry-fire training, which will continue to be the primary means through which position shooters sharpen their fundamental skills. Since the new SCATT uses the same familiar Windows software for data capture and analysis as its predecessors, shooters and coaches upgrading to MX-02 will have no learning curve to overcome, and newcomers to the SCATT platform can tap into the wealth of institutional knowledge accumulated over the years by the shooting community on how to interpret shot data.
It’s in the support for outdoor live firing, however, that SCATT MX-02 distinguishes itself from its predecessors and the competition. Shot trace data captured by MX-02 during live firing turned out to be every bit as valuable (and revealing) as we had hoped. The ability to correlate SCATT tracing with real shots on target gave us a better understanding of the shooting process, and helped the reviewer, already a high-level smallbore prone shooter, uncover a significant problem in his shooting. SCATT MX-02’s outdoor capability is therefore an invaluable feature, particularly for experienced shooters aspiring to world-class performance.
In summary, SCATT MX-02 is an outstanding product that delivers on its promises. We heartily recommend it, both for first-time users of electronic training aids, and also for those shooters who may wish to upgrade their current electronic training system. The MSRP for SCATT MX-02 is $1,799, $500 more than its predecessor, the SCATT WS-01, which is still available. In my view, the $500 premium for the MX-02 is justified by the MX-02’s enhanced capabilities, making it a better long-term investment.
Our complete, 3600-word MX-02 review of the SCATT MX-02 can be accessed through the link below. This full review contains many more photos plus detailed field test results. For the time being, the review only covers our experience with the product in smallbore shooting. An upcoming addendum to the review will include test results from centerfire shooting. Those attending SHOT Show in Las Vegas next week can examine SCATT MX-02 in person. SCATT will have the MX-02 on display at Booth 111.
For many spotting chores, this small $260.00 Minox MD50 16-30x50mm may be all you really need.
Many readers have asked: “Can you recommend an affordable, quality, very compact spotting scope for viewing mirage or hunting?” These folks want a handy, general purpose optic — they aren’t trying to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards and beyond. For that kind of long-range viewing, you’ll need a premium ($2000+) high-magnification spotting scope (or better yet, a target cam system). However, for other tasks (such as viewing mirage, wind flags, or game animals), you can save your pennies and go with something smaller, lighter, and WAY less expensive — such as the Minox MD 50.
If you are looking for an ultra-small, medium-magnification spotting scope that is light, bright, affordable, and easy to use, we recommend the Minox MD 50 16-30x50mm spotter. To be honest, this is a steal. We don’t know of any pint-sized spotting scope that offers better performance at anywhere near the price (currently $259.00 on Amazon.com).
This small optic is easy to mount (even on very small tripods). It has a reasonably wide field of view, and is surprisingly bright and sharp considering the sub-$300.00 price. We prefer the angled model (for viewing mirage and flags while shooting prone), but there is also a straight (non-angled) version for the same price (currently $259.00 on Amazon.com).
Mind you, this little Minox MD 50 will certainly NOT replace a high-end Kowa or Swarovski spotting scope, but it may be all you need to see mirage, wind flags, and shot markers. Moreover, this little unit is ideal for use with pistols or airguns inside 50 meters. In fact this is the spotter we use when shooting pistols because it’s compact enough to fit inside a small range bag.
We’re not alone in our praise for the little Minox MD 50. The OpticsThoughts Blog reviewed five (5) different ultra-compact spotters from Leupold, Minox, Nikon, and Vortex, which ranged in price from $300 to $700.* Though the little Minox was the least expensive optic in the test, the reviewer concluded it was the best value by far:
MD50 16-30×50mm (OpticsThoughts.com Review)
This is easily the champ in the “bang for the buck” contest. Form factor-wise, it looks like a scaled-down, full-size spotter with a proper “foot” for a tripod mount. It has a very solid feel, owing to it being short and moderately heavy.
Optically, the spotter is very good for what it costs. It is a bit cheaper than the Leupold and outperforms it in most ways, while being more compact: FOV is wider, low light performance is better and overall image quality is better from 15X up to 22X or so. At higher magnifications, eye-relief gets a little short and Leupold is easier to use. However, the FOV advantage carries over across all magnifications. The focus ring is on the body of the spotter and the large diameter offers a fair amount of adjustment precision. [T]he focusing mechanism … is quite good.
If you are looking for a great deal on a top-quality scope, visit Kelbly.com. Our friends at Kelbly’s are now discounting their remaining inventory of March Scopes. Bullets.com has taken over distribution of March Scopes in North and South America, but Kelbly’s has a few models remaining at deeply discounted prices. In addition, Kelbly’s has some Vortex Razor HD and Vortex Viper scopes on sale.
Here’s a special savings opportunity from Midsouth Shooters Supply — save up to 60% on unclaimed special order items. From time to time, Midsouth’s customers request special order items but never claim them. To clear space for other inventory, Midsouth is running a blow-out sale on these items. If you’re looking for a super deal on dies, rings, and other gear, check out this Unclaimed Special Order Item Sale. Here are just a few examples of items at 30% off normal pricing:
AMMO: 6.5x55mm 100 Grain A-Max 20 Rounds (Closeout $28.90) SCOPE: Leupold VX-2 4-12x50mm CDS Duplex Reticle Matte Finish (Closeout $374.50) DIES: Forster 223 WSSM Full Length Die & Ultra Micrometer Seater Set (Closeout $67.92) SCOPE MOUNT: Integrated 1″ Ring Mount Weatherby/Howa Short Action (Closeout $36.96) KNIFE: Gerber Powerframe Serrated Knife (Closeout $14.91)
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The Swarovski Optik website features a blog with interesting technical articles. In the “On Target” series of blog stories, Swarovski has provided a handy explanation of how optics systems work, with exploded diagrams of rifle scopes, spotting scopes, and binoculars. CLICK HERE for Swarovski Optics Blog.
Scope Terminology Focusing Lens
The focusing lens is an adjustable lens inside the optical system for focusing the image at different distances…. In the case of rifle scopes, apart from focusing, the focusing lens also facilitates parallax compensation.
For rifle scopes, the reticle can be focused using the diopter adjustment on the eyepiece, thereby correcting any visual impairment. [Editor’s Note: Movable eyepiece diopter adjustment is not offered on all rifle scopes. It is a useful feature on Swarovski and other premium scopes. This allows shooters who need eyeglasses to get a sharply focus image even without wearing corrective lenses. Of course shooters should always wear ANSI-certified eye protection. With the diopter, folks who need correction can use inexpensive, non-Rx safety eyewear instead of expensive prescription safety glasses.]
The purpose of the reversal system is to reverse the image by means of prisms in binoculars and telescopes, and lenses in rifle scopes….The lens reversal system is needed in rifle scopes to control the variable magnification and move the exit pupil[.]
Resource tip by EdLongRange. We welcome reader submissions.
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We all know Zeiss makes good optics, and now you can save $50-$150 on Zeiss binoculars or Zeiss riflescopes. As part of the Zeiss Summer Field Days promotion, Zeiss is offering $50.00 cash back on select scopes and binoculars (and $150.00 on the Victory HD binos). Hunters may want to take advantage of this offer for the CONQUEST HD5, and Victory HT Scopes with RAPID-Z ballistic reticles. Those are nice optics. To claim the rebate, purchase eligible products between 7/1 and 8/31/2015 at any participating ZEISS Authorized Dealer, then visit the Zeiss Online Rebate Center to register your rebate. Be sure to save your product receipts.
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Forum member Jacob spotted this simple, but effective set of scope ring inserts on the Brownells’ Website. With these inserts, you can use a scope with 1″-diameter body in 30mm rings. Non-marring, matte black Delrin sleeves surround the scope tube so it can fit larger-diameter rings. Each sleeve comes in two parts for easy installation around your scope tube. Ring Reducers are sold as front/rear kits. Cost is $14.99 for the 30mm to 1″ ring adapters, item 084-000-091.
Note: These Brownells units simply function as plastic bushings. Unlike Burris Signature Ring inserts, they do not allow you to “pre-load” windage or elevation. If your rings are misaligned, the Brownells Ring Reducers won’t correct that problem.
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Need a high-magnification scope for long-range competition? Among quality scopes with 40+ power, we think the Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm scope may be the best value on the market right now. For a limited time, these scopes are available through Amazon.com for under $980.00. That’s less than half the price of a Leupold 7-42x56mm VX-6, and about 42% of the cost of a Nightforce 15-55X competition model. The Sightron is a good product with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty.
Half the Cost of Leupold 7-42x56mm
Proceeds from Each Sale Help Support Shooter’s Forum
Target Dot Reticle
Fine X-Hair Reticle
NOTE: There are a variety of reticle options and both 1/4-MOA and 1/8-MOA click versions are offered. Read the product description carefully when ordering to be sure you’ve selected your preferred reticle type and click value.
We first ran this article in 2012, and it was very well received. Since then, many Forum members have requested an explanation of MILS and mildots, so we decided to run this feature again…
In this NSSF Video, Ryan Cleckner, a former Sniper Instructor for the 1st Ranger Battalion, defines the term “MilliRadian” (Milrad) and explains how you can use a mildot-type scope to range the distance to your target. It’s pretty simple, once you understand the angular subtension for the reticle stadia dots/lines. Cleckner also explains how you can use the milrad-based reticle markings in your scope for elevation hold-overs and windage hold-offs.
Even if you normally shoot at known distances, the hold-off capability of milrad-reticle scopes can help you shoot more accurately in rapidly-changing wind conditions. And, when you must engage multiple targets quickly, you can use the reticle’s mil markings to move quickly from one target distance to another without having to spin your elevation turrets up and down.
WEB RESOURCES: If you want to learn more about using Milliradians and Mildot scopes, we suggest the excellent Mil-dot.com User Guide. This covers the basics you need to know, with clear illustrations. Also informative is The Truth about Mil Dots by Michael Haugen. Mr. Haugen begins with basic definitions: 1 radian = 2 PI; 1 Milliradian (Milrad or ‘Mil’) = 1/1000th of a radian; 1 Milliradian = .0573 degrees.
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Those of us over-50 types can use some help when shooting iron sights. As one gets older, your eyes lose the ability to rapidly adjust to different points of focus. In practice, when shooting a rifle, this means the target image may be sharp but the sights are blurry, or vice-versa. Or you may be able to see the target and front sight reasonably well, but the rear sight is a complete blur. (That is this Editor’s problem when shooting a rifle, such as a Swedish Mauser, with a notched blade rear sight.) Even if you are using a rear peep sight, you may see a blurry rear circle (or two circles if you have astigmatism). Placing a diopter sight (sighting disc) on your shooting glasses can help many people see open sights better, when shooting both handguns and rifles.
Merit Corp. in Schenectady, NY, offers an adjustable optical disc that attaches to shooting glasses with a rubber cup. Though primarily intended for pistol shooters, the Merit optical attachment can also be helpful when shooting rifles with open sights, such as military bolt actions. Priced at $65.00, the Merit device features a shutter-style, adjustable aperture iris.
We like Scopecoats. These neoprene covers are great for protecting expensive optics during transport and when in storage. (If your safe is crowded, it’s all too easy to scratch or dent a scope body when moving rifles in and out of the vault.) Right now the makers of Scopecoats are running a 2015 Close-out Sale. You can get the 2mm version for just $10.00. If you have quite a few optics in need of a cover, that can add up to significant savings. This is a direct-to-customer special, so contact Devtron Scopecoat directly and ask for the 2015 Closeout pricing.
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.
Sale Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Here’s a useful, cost-efficient product if you have a rifle with a 3/8″ dovetail on top of the action and you want to use a scope with Weaver-style rings. Kwik-Site offers three grooved receiver adapter products. The first is a two-piece set of short rails that clamp to a 3/8″-wide dovetail. Priced at just $13.50, this two-piece rail set, item KS-W22, is available in gloss black, matte black, and a stainless finish. If you prefer a one-piece rail, Kwik-Site offers the KS-W23 ($29.95) and KS-W24 ($30.95). Both are offered in matte black or silver (stainless-look) finishes. The KS-W24 will work with Romanian rifles.
These Kwik-Site products provide a low-cost solution if you want to take a scope from a rifle with a Weaver Rail and place the optic on a dove-tailed action without removing the scope from the ring set. Please note however, you’ll still need to re-zero the scope when you move it from one rifle to another. To order online, visit www.KwikSitecorp.com.
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MIL-system scopes are popular with tactical shooters. One advantage of MIL scopes is that the mil-dot divisions in the reticle can be used to estimate range to a target. If you know the actual size of a target, you can calculate the distance to the target relatively easily with a mil-based ranging reticle. Watch this helpful NRA video to see how this is done:
Starting June 1, 2015, Bullets.com will take over distribution of March Optics scopes in North America, replacing Kelbly’s. You will soon be able to order March scopes from Bullets.com, which now has exclusive March Scopes importing and distribution rights for the USA, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. For a limited time, Bullets.com will offer March scopes at 15% below regular list pricing.
Bullets.com President Shiraz Balolia is excited about the March scope deal. He himself uses March scopes on his target rifles, and he knows their quality: “We are very fortunate to have been appointed to be the exclusive distributors for the American continent of a very high end scope line like March. I have been a user of March scopes almost since they were first offered. Many major matches have been won with them.”
Let’s say you’ve purchased a new scope, and the spec-sheet indicates it is calibrated for quarter-MOA clicks. One MOA is 1.047″ inches at 100 yards, so you figure that’s how far your point of impact (POI) will move with four clicks. Well, unfortunately, you may be wrong. You can’t necessarily rely on what the manufacturer says. Production tolerances being what they are, you should test your scope to determine how much movement it actually delivers with each click of the turret. It may move a quarter-MOA, or maybe a quarter-inch, or maybe something else entirely. (Likewise scopes advertised as having 1/8-MOA clicks may deliver more or less than 1 actual MOA for 8 clicks.)
Reader Lindy explains how to check your clicks: “First, make sure the rifle is not loaded. Take a 40″ or longer carpenter’s ruler, and put a very visible mark (such as the center of an orange Shoot’N’C dot), at 37.7 inches. (On mine, I placed two dots side by side every 5 inches, so I could quickly count the dots.) Mount the ruler vertically (zero at top) exactly 100 yards away, carefully measured.
Here are some great rifle-centric landscape images courtesy of Nightforce Optics. Perhaps these “gunscapes” will encourage you to grab your rifle and head out into the woods this weekend. These images are part of an ongoing series of rifle photos posted on the Nightforce Facebook page. Can you identify the optics, and any of the locations? To see a full-screen version of each image, just click on any photo, and a larger version will load.
If you are considering purchasing a new optic for your favorite rifle, you should read a recent article by Robert Abrams that appears on the Target Shooter Magazine Website. Abrams, a Canadian shooter who runs the Rifletalk.org Blog, considers a wide spectrum of optics, from bargain-priced models to top-of-the-line scopes from Nightforce and Schmidt & Bender. In comparing optics, Abrams considers a variety of factors including: Optical Clarity, Controls Function, Cost, Reliability/Durability, and Warranty.
Abrams leads off with this invaluable bit of advice: “I have owned a lot of scopes and the reason I’ve owned so many is because, like most people, I made the mistake of ‘false economy’ — initially buying cheap scopes. Today, I firmly believe the old adage ‘only a rich man can afford cheap glass’ and thought it was about time that I shared some of my observations about a few of the optics choices out there.” To prove his point (that buying cheap glass is ‘false economy’) Abrams reviews the full spectrum of optics, from low-end to high-end:
Nightforce Optics has just launched its own YouTube channel. It’s worth a visit. You’ll find many informative videos worth watching, including Product Intro videos, Nightforce In Action clips, and the Torture Test video. On the Liked Videos Playlist, you can also watch related product reviews and field tests from Extreme Outer Limits, the 6.5 Guys, and AccurateShooter.com.
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