If you’ve been considering the new Nightforce SHV scope for a hunting application, head over to LongRangeHunting.com. There you’ll find an in-depth field test of the 4-14x56mm SHV by Nicholas Gebhart. This is a very thorough review — Gebhardt checks every feature of the scope and comparison tests the SHV against the more costly Nightforce NXS 3.5-15x50mm. Gebhardt even put the SHV scope in his freezer for a weekend to ensure there was no fogging.
Overall, Gebhardt was very pleased with the SHV: “Optical clarity, image brightness, contrast and resolution were all extremely good.” The tester also liked the MOAR reticle in his scope. He didn’t think it was too “busy” though he thought the hold-over lines would benefit from numbers: “Nightforce’s MOAR was easy to use and provided a clear sight picture for engaging small targets. The line thickness is perfect for both precise shot placement and visibility. My personal preference however would be for the even hash marks to be numbered for the entire lower portion of the reticle.” Gebhart noted that the SHV’s side parallax knob had yardage marking numbers that proved accurate (and handy to use) — most other scopes just have lines.
Nightforce SHV vs. Nighforce NXS
How did the new SHV stack up against the NXS in a side-by-side comparison? Gebhardt was impressed with the $995.00 SHV, saying it held its own with the pricier NXS model: “I took about 30 minutes to evaluate the optics of the SHV and see how it compared to an older Nightforce NXS 3.5-15X50. Both of these scopes are made in Japan but given the price differential, I expected to see some difference in the optical quality. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any optical difference between the two except for a very slight possibility of a brighter image with the SHV.”
Nicholas Gebhardt has been an active hunter primarily pursuing mule deer, antelope, coyotes and prairie dogs since he was old enough to legally hunt. Nicholas is also a precision rifle competitor and a Captain in the Montana National Guard.
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Hunting season is right around the corner. That means its time to inspect all your hunting gear, including your scope set-up. A proper scope installation involves more than just tensioning a set of rings — you need to consider the proper eye relief and head position.
In this NSSF video, Ryan Cleckner shows how to set up a scope on a hunting or tactical rifle. Ryan, a former U.S. Army Sniper Instructor, notes that many hunters spend a small fortune on equipment, but fail to set up their rifle to use the optics optimally. Cleckner likens this to someone who owns an expensive sports car, but never adjusts the seat or the mirrors.
Ryan notes that you want your head and neck to be able to rest naturally on the stock, without straining. You head should rest comfortably on the stock. If you have to consciously lift your head off the stock to see through the scope, then your set-up isn’t correct. Likewise, You shouldn’t have to push your head forward or pull it back to see a clear image through the scope. If you need to strain forward or pull back to get correct eye relief, then the scope’s fore/aft position in the rings needs to be altered. Watch the full video for more tips.
Tips on Mounting Your Scope and Adjusting Your Comb Height:
1. Normally, you want your scope mounted as low as possible, while allowing sufficient clearance for the front objective. (NOTE: Benchrest shooters may prefer a high mount for a variety of reasons.)
2. Once the scope height is set, you need to get your head to the correct level. This may require adding an accessory cheekpad, or raising the comb height if your rifle has an adjustable cheekpiece.
3. Start with the rifle in the position you use most often (standing, kneeling, or prone). If you shoot mostly prone, you need to get down on the ground. Close your eyes, and let you head rest naturally on the stock. Then open your eyes, and see if you are too low or too high. You may need to use a cheekpad to get your head higher on the stock.
4. If your scope has a flat on the bottom of the turret housing, this will help you level your scope. Just find a flat piece of metal that slides easily between the bottom of the scope and the rail. Slide that metal piece under the scope and then tilt it up so the flat on the bottom of the scope aligns parallel with the flats on the rail. Watch the video at 8:40 to see how this is done.
Video find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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They knocked it, tossed it, even hammered with it — but they couldn’t kill a Nightforce NXS. In this remarkable torture test video, past Nightforce Exec Kyle Brown (with help from NF employee Sean Murphy), absolutely brutalizes a Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x56mm scope. Brown bangs the NXS on a concrete bench-top, throws it 50 yards downrange, knocks it on a hardwood beam multiple times, and then heaves it back again. We kid you not. To our eternal surprise, the Nightforce scope survives all that abuse and shoots fine. What did Timex once say — “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking”?
Video is Continuous — No Tricks
You’ve got to watch this video — it was shot with five cameras and runs with no “time-outs”, cutaways, or video tricks. What you see is what you get. This is one tough NXS. Thank you Kyle Brown and crew for taking the time to prove the durability of Nightforce Optics products.
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Based on its external appearance, a modern riflescope may seem simple. It’s just a tube with two or three knobs on the outside right? Well, looks can be deceiving. Modern variable focal-length optics are complex systems with lots of internal parts. Modern scopes, even ‘budget’ optics, use multiple lens elements to allow variable magnification levels and parallax adjustment. We had a chance to look inside a riflescope thanks to a product display from ATK, parent of Alliant Powder, CCI, Federal, RCBS, Speer, Weaver Optics. ATK sliced open a Weaver Super Slam scope so you can see the internal lens elements plus the elevation and windage controls. We thought readers would like to see the “inner workings” of a typical modern rifle scope, so we snapped some pictures. The sectioned Super Slam scope was mounted inside a Plexiglas case, making it a bit hard to get super-sharp images, but you can still see the multiple lenses and the complex windage and elevation controls.
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Old eyes not up to the task of inspecting your brass and bullets anymore? Need a magnified view so you can check bullet meplats and polymer tips for defects? Want to very carefully inspect a reamer before you run it into an expensive new barrel blank? Well then you can use this handy gadget — a high-resolution microscope that can be plugged into a laptop or tablet computer. It costs only $35.00 — about the same as a box of match bullets.
The Plugable Digital Microscope is Amazon’s #1 Best Seller among digital microscopes. This $35.00 unit offers 10X to 250X magnification — more close-up power than you’ll ever need in your reloading room. Surrounding the “viewing” lens is LED halo light with convenient brightness adjustment control. This built-in light is very handy when inspecting the innards of complex parts.
This Digital Microscope works with Windows, Apple (iOS), and Linux operating systems. It can plug in to the vast majority of modern computers and mobile devices via a standard USB 2.0 port. The Plugable Microscope uses an industry-standard webcam chipset and sensor, so you can probably run the unit without needing to install software. However, if you have an older operating system, drivers are available free from www.Plugable.com”. Free third-party software is also available that lets you capture still pictures and video.
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Nightforce is bringing out a new 20-60X 80mm spotting scope that is significantly less expensive than its 82mm big brother, the 20-70X TS-82. The new TS-80 Hi-Def spotter is priced at $1595.00 MSRP compared to $2653.00 for the TS-82 (MAP “street price”). Yes, you heard that right, the new TS-80 is more than $1000.00 less expensive than its 82mm big brother. That’s a lot of hard-earned cash saved in return for the loss of just 10X magnification on the upper end. Both spotting scopes feature high-definition glass and easy-to-use, full-diameter focusing controls.
At its $1595.00 price point, the Nightforce TS-80 looks like a winner. It shares features we liked in the more expensive TS-82: Extra-low-Dispersion (ED) glass, easy-to-use zoom ring, built-in sunshade, and rubber armor on the entire body. However, on the TS-80 the eyepiece is NON-removable. That means you cannot swap in a different eyepiece (such as a fixed power 25X for greater field of view).
The TS-80 offers a lot of performance for the $1595.00 price. Most other current-production spotting scopes with comparable features and ED glass cost a lot more. Weight is 68 ounces (4 lbs., 4 oz.) — that’s fairly hefty. The TS-80 will focus from 20 feet to infinity, making it suitable for all shooting chores, even close-range pistol work. The mounting foot fits many quick-release tripods and accepts standard 1/4″ tripod screws. The TS-80 includes an integral, retractable sunshade for the front objective. Optional accessories include a protective sleeve and a fitted carrying case, shown below.
Product Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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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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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.
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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Our friend Vince Bottomley in the UK has written an excellent article for Target Shooter Magazine. Vince offers “solid-gold” advice for new F-TR and F-Open shooters. Vince reviews the cartridge options, and offers suggestions for a shooter’s first (and hopefully affordable) F-Class rifle. Vince also reviews various bipod choices for F-TR and discusses optics options (from $300 to $3000).
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.”
Tactical ace Zak Smith of Thunder Beast Arms employs a simple, handy means to store his elevation and wind dift data — a laminated data card. To make one, first generate a come-up table, using one of the free online ballistics programs such as JBM Ballistics. You can also put the information in an Excel spreadsheet or MS Word table and print it out. You want to keep it pretty small.
Above is a sample of a data card. For each distance, the card includes drop in inches, drop in MOA, drop in mils. It also shows drift for a 10-mph cross wind, expressed three ways–inches, MOA, and mils. Zak explained that “to save space… I printed data every 50 yards. For an actual data-card, I recommend printing data every 20 or 25 yards.” But Zak also advised that you’ll want to customize the card format to keep things simple: “The sample card has multiple sets of data to be more universal. But if you make your own data card, you can reduce the chance of a mistake by keeping it simple. Because I use scopes with MILS, my own card (photo below left) just has three items: range, wind, drop in MILS only.”
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.
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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In the above video, a spokesman for Horus Vision explains how and why scopes can experience zero shift. First, just cleaning the gun can cause a small shift in point of impact. Second, when you re-tighten rings and ring bases, this can cause a change in zero. Horus recommends that you use a torque wrench to confirm that you maintain the same torque settings each time. The same goes for action screw tension — tensioning your action screws can shift the point of impact.
Other factors that can cause a change in zero:
Dramatic ranges of temperature will change your zero, because the air density affects the velocity of the bullet. With increased temperature, there may be a higher velocity (depending on your powder).
Gun Handling and Body Position
You rifle’s point of impact will be affected by the way you hold the gun. A “hard hold” with firm grip and heavy cheek weld can give you a different POI than if you lightly address the gun. Even when shooting a benchrest gun, the amount of shoulder you put into the rifle can affect where it prints on paper.
Type of Rifle Support — Bench vs. Field
Whenever you change the type of rifle support you use, the point of impact can shift slightly. Moving from a bipod to a pedestal rest can cause a change. Similar, if you switch from a mechanical rest to sandbags, the gun can perform differently. That’s why, before a hunt, you should zero the gun with a set-up similar to what you would actually use in the field — such as a rucksack or shooting sticks.
Transportation of Firearms
Even if you don’t mishandle your weapon, it is possible that a shift of zero could occur during transport. We’ve seen zero settings change when a tight plastic gun case put a side load on the turrets. And in the field, if the turret knobs are not covered, they can rub against clothing, gear, storage bags, scabbard, etc. If the knobs turn, it will definitely move your reticle slightly and cause your point of impact to be off.
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Forum member Roy Bertalotto did a real nice off-set scope installation on a bolt gun to help a sight-challenged shooter. Roy explains: “A friend of mine shoots left-handed and has lost the sight in his left eye. I built him a scope mount so he can still shoot left-handed, but now use his right eye.” Roy’s fabrication work is impressive and we praise his efforts to help a fellow shooter stay in the game.
Roy bolted a plate to the existing scope rail on the top centerline of the Rem 700 action. This plate extends a few inches to the right. On the outboard end of the plate, Roy fitted a second scope rail, aligned with the bore. Weaver-based rings are then clamped to the outboard (right side) auxiliary rail.
Be Careful of Canting Issues with Offset Scope Installations
We’re pleased to see that Roy developed a solution for a shooter with an optical disability, but we want to stress that this is a specialized installation that can create some problems with point of impact shift if the gun is not maintained perfectly level. With the amount of horizontal offset (between the scope’s optical axis and the bore axis) built into this rig, if the rifle is canted, point of impact can shift rather dramatically. For a southpaw who is willing to adapt his/her shooting style, it may be better, in the long run, to learn to shoot right-handed if his/her right eye is the only good eye. Likewise, if a right-handed shooter can only see well through his left eye, he may benefit from learning how to hold the stock and work the trigger with his left hand. The shooter could still work the bolt with his non-trigger hand. Changing from right-hand to left-hand shooting (or vice-versa) may require a stock swap if the stock is not ambidextrous.
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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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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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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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