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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Swarovski has a new STR 80 spotting scope with an illuminated reticle. That’s right, this new STR 80 spotter has a ranging reticle like a riflescope, with adjustable brightness levels. This 80mm spotting scope can be used for estimating range to targets, using MIL-based or MOA-based stadia lines on the cross-hairs. This allows you to range targets optically, as you could with a ranging reticle in a riflescope.
Revolutionary Reticle “ON”, Reticle “OFF” Technology
The STR 80’s illuminated ranging reticle makes the new STR 80 a fairly unique product among high-end, imported spotting scopes. Thanks to a new technology, Swarovski is the first manufacturer to successfully project a reticle directly in a spotting scope. The reticle (MOA or MRAD) can be activated or deactivated as required. Notably, because the reticle appears via electro-illumination, it can be “turned off” for un-obstructed viewing. So you can have a totally clear field of view when desired, OR a ranging reticle when that functionality is desired. Having the ability to turn OFF the reticle is great — that’s a very intelligent feature.
When viewing targets, the STR 80’s sharp HD (high-definition) lenses will resolve bullet holes at long range. Current Swaro 20-60X and 25-50X (wide) eyepieces can be used with the new STR 80 spotter. Optional accessories include Picatinny mounting rail, digiscoping attachment, and a winged eye cup.
How to Range with STR 80 Reticles
The new STR 80 scope offers a choice of either MOA or MRAD reticles with 15 brightness levels, 10 day levels, and 5 night levels. For convenient ranging, set the magnification level so that the MOA reticle displays ¼ MOA divisions, while the MRAD Reticle displays 0.1 MIL divisions. (NOTE: the reticle will change in size relative to the target at different magnifcation levels. Therefore ranging is normally done at one standard magnification level).
Dustin Woods, Sales Director for Swarovski Optik NA said: “Long range shooters asked for a premium spotting scope with integrated reticle and we have listened. With our new STR spotting scope we now have MOA and Mil-Radian reticle models. Because the reticle is illuminated, the user can have the reticle turned on when they are judging hits and misses but also turn it completely off for an unobstructed view during observation. This product is a real game changer in the precision shooting segment.”
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When shooting at long range, two heads (and two sets of eyes) can be better than one. Teaming up with a buddy who acts as a spotter can speed up your long-range learning process. You can focus 100% on the shot, while your buddy calls the wind and spots your hits and misses.
The NSSF has created a short video that shows how shooter and spotter can work as a team. In the video, the NSSF’s Dave Miles works with Rod Ryan, owner of Storm Mountain Training Center in Elk Garden, WV. As the video shows, team-work can pay off — both during target training sessions and when you’re attempting a long shot on a hunt. Working as a two-person team divides the responsibilities, allowing the shooter to concentrate fully on breaking the perfect shot.
The spotter’s job is to watch the conditions and inform the shooter of needed wind corrections. The shooter can dial windage into his scope, or hold off if he has a suitable reticle. As Rod Ryan explains: “The most important part is for the shooter to be relaxed and… pay attention to nothing more than the shot itself.” The spotter calls the wind, gives the information to the shooter, thus allowing the shooter to concentrate on proper aim, gun handling, and trigger squeeze. Rod says: “The concept is that the spotter does all the looking, seeing and the calculations for [the shooter].”
Spotter Can Call Corrections After Missed Shots
The spotter’s ability to see misses can be as important as his role as a wind-caller. Rod explains: “If you shoot and hit, that’s great. But if you shoot and miss, since the recoil pulse of the firearm is hitting your shoulder pretty good, you’re not going to be able to see where you missed the target. The spotter [can] see exactly where you missed, so I’ll have exactly an idea of how many [inches/mils it takes] to give you a quick secondary call so you can get [back on target].”
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Using a spotting scope seems simple. Just point it at the target and focus, right? Well, actually, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you want to watch mirage or trace, and that involves different focus and viewing priorities. Along with resolving bullet holes (or seeing other features on the target itself), you can use your spotting scope to monitor mirage. When watching mirage, you actually want to focus the spotting scope not on the target, but, typically, about two-thirds of the distance downrange. When spotting for another shooter, you can also use the spotting scope to watch the bullet trace, i.e. the vapor trail of the bullet. This will help you determine where the bullet is actually landing, even if it does not impact on the target backer.
In this video, SFC L.D. Lewis explains how to use a spotting scope to monitor mirage, and to watch trace. SFC Lewis is a former Army Marksmanship Unit member, U.S. Army Sniper School instructor, and current U.S. Army Reserve Service Rifle Shooting Team member. In discussing how precision shooters can employ spotting scopes, Lewis compares the use of a spotting scope for competition shooters vs. military snipers. NOTE: You may wish to turn up the audio volume, during the actual interview segment of this video.
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The ability to read the wind is what separates good shooters from great shooters. If you want to learn wind-doping from one of the best, watch this video with 2010 National High Power Champion (and U.S. Army 2010 Soldier of the Year) Sherri Gallagher. Part of the USAMU’s Pro Tips Video Series, this video covers the basics of wind reading including: Determining wind direction and speed, Bracketing Wind, Reading Mirage, and Adjusting to cross-winds using both sight/scope adjustments and hold-off methods. Correctly determining wind angle is vital, Sheri explains, because a wind at a 90-degree angle has much more of an effect on bullet lateral movement than a headwind or tailwind. Wind speed, of course, is just as important as wind angle. To calculate wind speed, Sheri recommends “Wind Bracketing”: [This] is where you take the estimate of the highest possible condition and the lowest possible condition and [then] take the average of the two.”
It is also important to understand mirage. Sheri explains that “Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air, based off the temperature of the ground. These layers … are blown by the wind, and can be monitored through a spotting scope to detect direction and speed. You can see what appears to be waves running across the range — this is mirage.” To best evaluate mirage, you need to set your spotting scope correctly. First get the target in sharp focus, then (on most scopes), Sheri advises that you turn your adjustment knob “a quarter-turn counter-clockwise. That will make the mirage your primary focus.”
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While attending the CA Long Range Championship a while back, we had the opportunity to test the performance of a high-magnification (63X) spotting scope in near-ideal conditions (maybe the best I’ve ever witnessed). On the event’s last day we arrived at 5:45 am, literally as the sun was cresting the horizon. I quickly deployed our Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope, fitted with a Pentax SMC-XW 10mm fixed-power eyepiece. When used with the 100mm Pentax scope, this 10mm eyepiece yields 63X magnification. Befitting its $359.00 price, this eyepiece is extremely clear and sharp.
At the crack of dawn, viewing conditions were ideal. No mist, no mirage, no wind. The first thing this Editor noticed was that I could see metal nail heads on the target boards. That was astonishing. As soon as the first practice targets went up, to my surprise, I could see 6.5mm, 7mm, and 30-caliber bullet holes in the white at 1000 yards.
That’s right, I could see bullet holes at 1000. I know many of you folks may not believe that, but there was no mistaking when I saw a 7mm bullet cut the white line separating the Nine Ring and Eight Ring on the target in view. (I was watching that target as the shot was fired and saw the shot-hole form). And when I looked at the 30-cal targets, the bullet holes in the white were quite visible. In these perfect conditions I could also make out 3/8″ bolt heads on the target frames.
The Human Factor
When viewing the bullet holes, I was using my left naked eye (no safety glasses or magnification). I also had a contact lens in my right eye (needed for distance vision). To my surprise, while I could see the bullet holes without much difficulty with my left eye, things were fuzzier and slightly more blurry with the right eye, even when I re-focused the scope.
Then I invited 3 or 4 shooters to look through the scope. One younger guy, with good eyes, said immediately: “Yeah, I can see the holes — right there at 4 o’clock and seven o’clock. Wow.” Some older guys, who were wearing glasses, could not see the holes at all, no matter what we did to the scope’s main focus and diopter adjustment.
The lesson here — if you have to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses, just that extra bit of optical interference may make a difference in what you can see through the scope. Basically anything that goes between the scope eyepiece and your eyeball can degrade the image somewhat. So… you may be better off removing your glasses if you can still obtain good focus sharpness using the diopter adjustment and focus ring. I did the left vs. right eye test a half dozen times, and I could definitely see small features at 1000 yards with my naked eye that I could not see with my right eye fitted with a contact lens. (I did have to re-focus the scope for each eye, since one had a corrective lens while the other did not.)
Mirage Degrades Image Sharpness and Resolution
The “magic light” prevailed for only an hour or so, and then we started to get some mirage. As soon as the mirage appeared I was no longer able to see raw bullet holes, though I could still easily see black pasters on the black bulls. When the mirage started, the sharpness of the visible image degraded a huge amount. Where I could see bullet holes at dawn, by mid-morning I could barely read the numbers on the scoring rings. Lesson: If you want to test the ulimate resolution of your optics, you need perfect conditions.
Chromatic Aberration Revealed
As the light got brighter and the mirage increased I started to see blue and red fringing at the edges of the spotting disk and the large numerals. This was quite noticeable. On one side of the bright, white spotting disc you could see a dark red edge, while on the other side there was a blue edge (harder to see but still present).
The photo below was taken through the Pentax spotter lens using a point and shoot camera held up to the eyepiece. The sharpness of the Pentax was actually much better than this photo shows, but the through-the-lens image does clearly reveal the red and blue fringing. This fringing is caused by chromatic aberration — the failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point. Chromatic aberration, most visible at high magnification, causes different wavelengths of light to have differing focal lengths (see diagram). Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point on the optical axis. Keep in mind that the Pentax does have “ED” or low-dispersion glass, so the effect would be even more dramatic with a cheaper spotting scope.
If you wonder why top-of-the-line spotting scopes (such as the $3900 Leica APO-Televid 82) cost so much, the answer is that they will deliver even LESS chromatic aberration at long range and high magnification. With their exotic apochromatic (APO), ultra-low-dispersion glass, a few ultra-high-end spotting scopes can deliver an image without the color edging you see in the photo above.
The Pentax PF-100ED is a heck of a spotting scope. Any scope that can resolve bullet holes at 1000 yards is impressive. But if you want the ultimate in optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberration, you may need to step up to something like the 88mm Kowa Prominar TSN-883 with Flourite Crystal lenses ($2450.00 body only), or the 82mm Leica APO ($3899.00 with 25-50X eyepiece).
EDITOR’s NOTE: The purpose of this report is to show what is possible… in IDEAL conditions. With this Pentax 100mm, as well as a Swarovski 80mm, we have often been able to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. But again, that performance requires really good viewing conditions. By 10:00 am at my range, even with the 100mm Pentax at 75 power, seeing 6mm bullet holes is “iffy” at best. So don’t go out and mortgage the house to buy a $4000 optic with the hope that you’ll be able to spot your shots at 1000 yards. If conditions are anything less than perfect, you’ll be lucky to see bullet holes at 500 yards. The real solution for very long-range spotting is to set up a remote target cam that broadcasts a video picture to a screen at your shooting station.
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At long range, small bullet holes are much easier to see in the white than in the black. When you’re practicing at long range on high power targets, one way to enhance your ability to see your bullet holes is to print a “negative” version of the regulation bullseye target.
How do you create a “negative” of a target image? Many image programs, including the FREE Irfanview software, have a “Negative” function in the pull-down menu. If you don’t see a “Negative” menu option in your program, look for a “substitute colors” option. Many printers also have a “reverse colors” function. If you can’t find a solution with your computer or printer, just take a normal bullseye target to a copy shop, and the staff can easily print you a set of targets with white centers in black fields.
Forum member Watercam uses a Pentax PF-80ED spotting scope. With his 80mm Pentax he can see 6mm bullet holes in the white at 600 yards (in very good conditions), but holes in the black are only visible out to 400 yards or so. Accordingly, Watercam uses a modified “reversed” black-to-white target for 600-yard practice.
Watercam told us: “The view through the Pentax is very sharp and contrasty with great color. Eye relief with the Pentax 10-60 power zoom is 18-22mm (much more than the Kowa zoom), so I can use glasses with no problem. With my 6mm and limited mirage I’m seeing defined, 6mm holes in the white out to 600. In the black, I can see bullets holes at about 400 with my eyes. I am printing reverse-color targets for training without a pit partner at the 600-yard line.”
Brits Use New White-Field Target for F-Class
In the UK, ranges are now using a “reverse-style” target with a mostly white area. Laurie Holland says this allows shooters to see shots much more easily. Laurie reports: “Here’s a photo of the 500/600 yard F-Class match target we use in PSSA comps at Diggle Ranges with club members Chris Hull (L) and Terry Mann (R). We now use this target form at all ranges up to 1K for F-Class, and, yes you can often see your hits at 600 on the target before the markers pull it. Regards from England — Laurie”.
Day-Glo Stick-on Targets
If you’re not concerned with official scoring rings, you can use an all-white target with a bright, fluorescent target dot in the middle. A 2″- or 3″-diameter stick-on target dot is highly visible at 600 yards. With a high-quality scope, you can use the small black diamonds in the center for precise aiming. The Birchwood Casey Target Spots® assortment (item #33928-TSA) offers neon orange target dots in 1″, 2″, and 3″ diameters. This “value pack” includes 72-1″, 36-2″, and 24-3″ self-adhesive circles.
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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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Leica just released an inline power-booster (1.8X Extender) for its APO-Televid spotting scopes. Brilliant! That’s a great accessory we would like to other spotting scope makers offer as well. Hopefully we’ll see the other major brands — Kowa, Nightforce, Nikon, Pentax, Swarovski, Vortex, Zeiss — follow Leica’s lead.
With Leica’s new 1.8X Extender combined with the 25-50X eyepiece, the effective magnification range is 45-90X. That’s right — you can boost the high-end magnification from 50X all the way to 90X. In good viewing conditions (with a solid tripod), we have found you really can use 80+ power or higher on a spotting scope to resolve very small bullet holes at long range. With its 1.8X Extender in place, Leica now offers the greatest magnification of any premium spotting scope. According to the German company: “Leica is the world’s only manufacturer in the premium spotting scope segment to offer such an additional eyepiece for an existing angled spotting scope and such extreme magnification.”
The optical system of the 1.8X Extender consists of a two-lens achromat that mounts securely with an integrated bayonet mount locking mechanism. With the simple push of a button and a quick turn of the wrist, the Extender 1.8x can be quickly and securely mounted between the APO-Televid angled spotting scope and the eyepiece. (NOTE: the 1.8X Extender only works on Leica’s angled spotting scopes — there is no straight version). Leica designed the new 1.8X Extender to be optically, mechanically, and ergonomically matched with the APO-Televid spotting scopes to work flawlessly as a modular kit. MSRP for the 1.8X Extender is $449.00.
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Now through March 12, 2014, you can save big bucks on Nikon optics products. Nikon’s Long Range Precision Promotion offers up to $200 Instant Savings on eligible long-range riflescopes, rangefinders, binoculars, fieldscopes and mounts.
This Instant Savings promotion runs from January 20 through March 12, 2014. The Long Range Precision Promotion covers 49 different Nikon products. Here are some of the deals to be had:
$100 off select M-223 riflescopes
$100 off M-308 riflescopes
Up to $100 off select MONARCH 3 riflescopes
Up to $100 off select PROSTAFF 5 riflecopes
Up to $50 off select PROSTAFF riflescopes
Up to $120 off PROSTAFF 5 Fieldscopes and Outfits
$80 off the PROSTAFF 3 Fieldscope Outfit
$100 off a MONARCH 1200 Rangefinder
$70 off a RifleHunter 1000 Rangefinder
$200 off select MONARCH 5 56mm binoculars
For a complete listing of Long Range Precision Instant Savings eligible products, (with terms and conditions) visit NikonPromo.com. Here is a partial sample of some of the riflescopes on sale:
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Forum members have asked “what’s the best option in a spotting scope in the $500 to $1000 price range?” We’d certainly have to include Kowa spotting scopes on the “short list” for value-priced, high-performance spotters. And now Kowa spotting scopes are cheaper than ever, thanks to Bullets.com’s Holiday Kowa Promotion. Kowa Spotting scope and binoculars are on sale at Bullets.com for up to 26% off regular list prices.
If you need an affordable spotting scope for High Power matches or hunting, consider the 66mm or 82mm Kowas. If you want a no-compromise, ultra-low-dispersion glass, category-leading spotting scope, take a look at the 88mm Kowa Prominars. These have been rated among the “best of the best” in a variety of independent spotting scope comparison tests. Bullets.com is also discounting a wide range of Kowa binoculars.
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Creedmoor Sports is offering two Holiday Specials with complete Spotting Scope systems, including Spotting Scope (with eyepiece), Scope Cover, and Scope Stand. You can choose between two price levels. If you are on a limited budget, go for the Konus 80mm bundle (item ID Konus-bundle). This includes Konus 80mm spotting scope, Scope Cover, and 3/4″-diameter Polecat Stand with two stand extension rods. These items would normally sell for $607.75, but now you can get them all for $545.00 with Holiday Special Pricing.
Creedmoor Sports also has a Holiday Kowa Scope Package (item ID SCOPEPKG) that can save you $112.65 off the regular $1487.65 price. This is really a nice bundle that should meet the needs of even top High Power competitors.
KOWA SCOPE PACKAGE — For $1375.00 you get all the following:
Kowa TSN-82SV 82mm Angled Spotting Scope
25X Long Eye Relief Eyepiece
Creedmoor Scope Cover in blue
Creedmoor 1″-diameter PoleCat Scope Stand
Two Extension Rods for Stand
Creedmoor Scope Stand Bag
See-Through Objective Lens Cover
Kowa Eyepiece Cover
The regular price for all this hardware is $1487.65, so you save $112.65 with this Kowa Scope Package. That’s a pretty significant savings you can put back into bullets and brass.
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Here’s a great deal on an excellent spotting scope. Right now Amazon.com has the Pentax PF80-ED Angled spotting scope body for just $684.95 with FREE Shipping for Prime members. Supplies are very limited, so don’t hesitate. Mind you, this is just for the BODY ONLY — but the PF80-ED body alone sells elsewhere for $899.00 (See: Optics Planet PF-80ED).
The PF-80ED has a large objective lens with high-definition glass. Focusing is fast and precise. You will have to purchase an eyepiece separately — but rest assured, the Pentax eyepieces are some of the best available, with large-diameter, astronomy-style mounts, and wide-angle view with extended eye relief. We use a Pentax PF100-ED and PF80-ED, with both zoom and fixed-focal-length eyepieces. The Pentax eyepieces are outstanding.
We actually prefer the PF80-ED (vs. the PF100) for most duties because it is MUCH more compact, and sits more steady on the tripod. While the PF80-ED has been out for a few years, it still compares favorably with spotting scopes that cost twice as much. To do better, you’ll need to spend over $2000.00 for a Kowa, Leica, Nightforce, Swarovski, or Zeiss spotting scope with low-dispersion glass. And, with most of these brands, that two grand will only get you the spotter body — you’ll then need to spend $400-$700 for the eyepiece. We think it’s hard to beat a PF80-ED at this sales price. Even after purchasing the eyepiece your total cost is about $925.00.
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Bushnell Outdoor Products has introduced a new compact, roof prism spotting scope. The new Bushnell Elite Tactical 8-40x60mm Lightweight Modular Spotting Scope (LMSS) features a rubber-armored housing, ED Glass, and an optional (extra cost) H32 ranging reticle. A Picatinny rail is supplied that fits to the bottom of the LMSS.
The Elite Tactical 8-40x 60mm LMSS features ED Prime glass, BAK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics. The LMSS is available in both a standard (clear view) model or with the Horus Vision H32 reticle, a highly-regarded ranging reticle. With a minimum 8X magnification, and a maximum of 40 power, the LMSS is extremely versatile.
Sheathed in rubber armor, the LMSS spotting scope is fog-proof and meets IPX7 waterproof standards. It also features the water-repellant RainGuard HD lens coating, a patented Bushnell technology that we have found works very well.
The spotting scope includes a detachable picatinny rail, giving users the ability to quickly and easily mount the spotter to a firearm or tripod system. The Elite Tactical 8-40x 60mm LMSS is available for an estimated retail price of $1699.99 or $2,199.99 with the Horus H32 reticle.
Bushnell Bulletproof 100% Money-Back Guarantee
Every product in the Elite Tactical series is covered by the Bushnell limited lifetime warranty. The entire product line is also backed with the new one-year, no-risk Bushnell Bulletproof Guarantee. The 100% money-back guarantee is valid up until one year from date of purchase.
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Gary Eliseo of Competition Machine is now (again) manufacturing adjustable heads for spotting scopes. These work great for High Power, Three Position, Across-the-Course, Prone, and F-Class shooting. The head fits on a scope stand, so it can adjust to any height you need. This is a super-high quality unit according to our buddy Dennis Santiago: “They’re back — the best scope head on the planet is back in production. Direct from Gary Eliseo this time. Uses any 3/4″- or 1″-diameter shaft stand.”
Gary tells us: “I had so many people ask me to bring my scope head back into production I thought I’d try a trial run to see how they were received. Well, the first run nearly sold out just by word of mouth! I do have some still available from the first run, and we’ll do another run. Price is $185.00 plus shipping. You can choose from 12 Cerakote colors.”
Eliseo Universal Scope Head Features
Scope Head can be mounted above or below scope body.
Scope Head works for both right-handed and left-handed shooters. 6.25″ Offset.
Scope Head works with 3/4″-diameter and 1″-diameter uprights.
Integral dovetail mount (saves wear and tear on spotting scope base threads).
Coarse and fine elevation settings require no tools to adjust.
Adjustable windage disc brake friction.
The Competition Machine Universal Scope Head is available right now — a few units are left from the first production run. To order, call 714-630-5734. To see other Competition Machine products, including tube gun chassis kits, visit www.GotXring.com.
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Nightforce Optics will unveil new products at the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits this upcoming Friday. The big news is an 82mm spotting scope — the first-ever spotter from Nightforce. We knew Nightforce was planning an important product launch, but frankly this announcement caught us by surprise — Nightforce has always been a riflescope company. This is new territory. Why is Nightforce rolling out a high-magnification spotting scope now? Kyle Brown, Nightforce’s Director of Sales and Marketing, explains: “Our customers have asked for many years when we would introduce a spotting scope. The answer was, ‘at a time when we could produce a spotting scope equivalent in performance and quality to Nightforce riflescopes.’ That time is now.”
The new TS-82™ Xtreme Hi-Def™ spotting scope features a large 82mm objective, plus high-quality, European-made APO Fluorite Glass. The “street price”, including a 20-70X eyepiece, should be $2522.00 ($2600 MSRP). Shown above is the straight-body version, but the TS-82 will also be offered with an angled body for the same price ($2522.00 including 20-70X eyepiece). Nightforce promises that, by the end of 2013, an optional wide-angle 30-60X eyepiece will be available. In addition, Nightforce plans to offer an accessory mount for attaching a red dot sight or a laser rangefinder. This is good news for long-range hunters — you can locate your target through the spotter and then instantly range distance-to-target with an LRF aligned precisely with the spotting scope lens. Nightforce will also offer a handy iPhone accessory mount for digiscoping.
At the NRA Meeting in Houston, Nightforce will also introduce a new, side-focus 2.5-10x42mm NXS riflescope. For years, the Nightforce 2.5-10x32mm NXS Compact has been a popular optic. The new Nightforce 2.5-10x42mm NXS Compact, with its larger objective, should be more effective in low light. Yet the scope is still fairly light-weight (19 oz.–20.5 oz.) and compact (11.9 inches in length). Expect “street price” to be around $1740.00.
The notable feature of the new 2.5-10x42mm NXS is its side parallax adjustment (25 yards to infinity). It’s unusual to find side parallax control on an optic with 10X max magnification. The new 2.5×10 also incorporates red or green reticle illumination with adjustable intensity settings. Six different reticles are available, including the new IHR™ (International Hunting Reticle). The 2.5-10x42mm is offered with .250 MOA Hi-Speed™ or .1 Mil-Radian adjustments on exposed turrets, or, alternately, enclosed (capped) turrets with .250 MOA clicks. For more information, visit NightforceOptics.com
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I have been looking for a bag that can securely carry a large spotting scope as well as chronograph hardware, wind meter, and camera gear — all the extra stuff I typically take to the range in addition to the essential cleaning and shooting products that go in my regular range kit. The folks at Grizzly Industrial told me to check out their new 20″ Range Bag by Bald Eagle. These 20″ Range Bags, are very versatile and well-made. With eyepiece removed, my jumbo-sized Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope fit perfectly inside the padded central compartment. At the same time I could haul ALL the peripherals for my PVM-21 chronograph, plus a camera, wind meter, spare Pentax eyepiece, AND a netbook computer. Without the netbook, there is room for four pistols along the side channels. If you don’t need to pack a large spotting scope, the main compartment could easily hold 3 more pistols in Bore-Store socks, plus holsters, ammo boxes, and earmuffs.
Watch the video to see how much stuff will fit in this bag. NOTE: If you carry a tripod or windflag stand using the straps under the case lid, be sure to position the foam padding carefully to prevent any direct contact with a spotting scope in the main compartment. Overall, the 20″ Range Bag is a remarkably capable gear-hauler. With the nicely-padded interior it will safely carry expensive items such as laser rangefinders, and binoculars. There is also a slash pocket on the rear side (not shown in video) that will hold thin items such as target stickers and shooting log-books. The 20″ Range Bag is offered in four (4) different colors: Red, Black, Green, and Camo. Price is $59.95 for solid colors and $61.95 for camo.
Smaller, 15″ Range Bag Offered Also
Grizzly also sells more compact, 15″-wide Bald Eagle Range Bags. There are six (6) color choices for the 15″ Range Bag: Red, Black, Navy Blue, Green, Hot Pink (for ladies), and Camo. Solid colors cost $45.00, while the Camo Bag costs a couple dollars more ($46.95). If you don’t need to haul a spotting scope, you may prefer the smaller version. The 15″ version still offers lot of carrying capacity — it’s big enough to hold ammo, muffs, target stickers, and much more.
REVIEW Disclosure: Grizzly Industrial provided the 20″ Range Bag for testing and evaluation.
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Having heard many good things about Vortex spotting scopes from our readers and Forum members, on Day 1 of SHOT Show we headed over to the Vortex Optics booth. On display was the entire line-up of Vortex Viper and Razor spotting scopes (both HD and non-HD), with objective diameters ranging from 50mm to 85mm. We know that the 85mm Razor HD has been very popular with our readers, as it offers excellent “bang for the buck”. This spotter runs $1599.00 complete with 20-60 power eyepiece. That’s about half the cost of the big name Euro-brand spotting scopes with comparable objectives. Making the Razor HD even more attractive this year is the availability of a new 18X/23X long-eye-relief eyepiece for Vortex’s flagship spotting scope.
For 2013, Vortex has added much-requested 65mm and 50mm models to its Razor HD line of spotting scopes. This is good news for guys who prefer a lighter, more compact spotting scope, or who don’t need the extra light-gathering power of a big 85mm objective. The 65mm and 50mm Vortex Razor HD models should be available by mid-spring 2013, and they will be priced quite a bit lower than their 85mm big brother shown above.
Watch Video to See Vortex Spotting Scopes and NEW 2.5-10X FFP Tactical Scope
Watch Factory Video on Vortex Razor 85mm HD Spotting Scope
After reviewing Vortex’s spotting scopes, we checked out an all-new, compact first focal plane scope from Vortex that we predict will be very popular with three-gun and tactical shooters. The New Vortex Viper PSD 2.5-10x32mm tactical scope features an FFP design. This enables rapid ranging with the provided reticles at all magnification levels. This scope with be offered with mil-based clicks and EBR-1 milrad reticle, or with MOA-based clicks and a EBR-1 reticle with MOA-based subtensions. We were also pleased to learn that Vortex will add a 6-24x50mm model to its Viper HS riflescope line.
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Following shoulder surgery, our Contributing Editor German Salazar moved to F-TR shooting, replacing his sling and iron sights with bipod and scope. German has done remarkably well for an F-TR newbie, winning his first two 500-yard matches (in F-TR class) at Phoenix-area ranges. German has been shooting his “old Palma rifle with a scope and bipod attached”. This rig features a Gilkes-Ross action in a Robertson/Sitman Highpower Prone stock with an Anschütz 5020 trigger and 30″ 1:11″-twist Krieger barrel. The rifle is fitted with a Canadian-made Rempel “Ski” bipod and a Leupold BR 24X scope.
On his Riflemans’ Journal website, German has crafted a helpful article with advice for “sling shooters contemplating a busman’s holiday into F-Class.” Even seasoned F-Class shooters can learn something from German’s observations in his F-TR: Scoping it Out article. Here are some highlights from the article:
Carpet Under the Bipod
“I quickly learned that a piece of carpet was an essential component under the bipod. Without the carpet, [on dirt surfaces] the bipod tends to dig into the dirt with every shot, resulting in odd elevation shots. On the concrete it isn’t quite as essential, but it smooths the recoil movement appreciably and is worthwhile. [I used] a short-nap carpet remnant for this, but my car floor mat also worked well.”
Clicking vs. Holding Off
“I’ve been shooting iron sights and clicking sight knobs for most of my life; trying to hold off made me very uncomfortable and the reflex pull of the trigger just wasn’t there. Once I returned to holding center and clicking, I was more comfortable and was able to execute my shots more quickly and cleanly. By zeroing the windage knob I can also easily return to a previous setting when conditions warrant.”
Reading Mirage with Spotting Scope
“In conversations with other F-Class shooters in our club, I found that few were using a spotting scope to see mirage; they were largely relying on the rifle scope. However, the rifle scope is focused on the target, as it must be to eliminate parallax, and thus cannot show mirage with the same clarity as a spotting scope that is focused roughly halfway down the range.”
Positioning Your Spotting Scope
“I position the spotting scope in the same manner as I did when shooting from the sling. It is very close to me and can be used without moving the head from the cheekpiece. The object, as always, is to minimize movement in order to maintain a consistent position and to minimize the time lost between the last glance at the mirage and breaking the shot.”
Carl Zeiss Sports Optics has some very attractive promotions in place right now — with rebates from $50 to $500.00. With Zeiss Field Days mail-in rebates you can save money on premium rifle scopes, spotting scopes, laser rangefinders, and rangefinding binoculars. But time’s running out. The 2012 Carl Zeiss Field Days Promotion runs out on December 31, 2012. CLICK HERE for Field Days Rebate Coupon.
Save $500.00 on Zeiss Diascope Spotting Scopes
Zeiss produces a very high-quality spotting scope. We did a three-way test with a Pentax PF-100ED, 2010-model (one piece) Swarovski 80mm, and 2012 Zeiss 85mm Diascope. Compared to the big Pentax, the Zeiss could resolve very fine lines better and the Zeiss had less chromatic aberration. The Diascope was very, very close to the Swaro in resolution, but it had a slight edge in low light given its larger front objective. Most of our testers gave a slight edge to the Swaro for contrast. The dual-rate focus system on the Zeiss does take a while to master, but it allows faster focusing than either the Pentax (which uses two separate knobs for course and fine focus), or the Swaro (which has one large full-diameter focusing ring). If you’re choosing between the Swaro and the Zeiss, the $500.00 rebate can easily settle the argument. Street price for the Zeiss Angled 85mm Diascope (before rebate) is $2999.99 including Vario 20-60x Eyepiece. Do note, however, that anyone considering a high-end spotting scope should also look at the Kowa 88mm TSN-88X Prominar HD series ($2310.00 street price for TSN-883 Angled, BODY ONLY).
How to Get Your Discounts
All purchases must be made from a Carl Zeiss Authorized Dealer in the United States and rebate request forms must be completed and postmarked within 30 days of purchase. Payment will be made by a ZEISS Prepaid Reward Card by American Express. For promotion details, visit the Field Days Promo Page. For faster payment and real-time tracking, register on-line at Zeiss.4myrebate.com. After submitting your rebate forms, check the status of your rebate with the Zeiss Online Rebate Tracker.
$500 rebate on the 65mm and 85mm VICTORY DiaScope (plus free tripod).
$300 rebate on the award-winning VICTORY RF rangefinding binoculars.
$50 rebate on the award-winning VICTORY 8×26 PRF laser rangefinding monocular.
$100 rebate on the NEW Conquest HD 42mm binoculars.
$100 rebate on the NEW Conquest 30mm Duralyt Riflescopes.
$100 rebate on all riflescopes that have any Rapid-Z reticle.
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