Posted: 1/23/2009 10:34:33 AM EST
[Last Edit: 10/1/2014 12:30:47 AM EST by BigJimFish]
NOTE - PLEASE HEED THE REQUESTS OF THE OP BELOW. Off-topic posts will be removed. This thread is the catch-all for low(er) power scopes.
What should be covered in this thread:
What I DON'T want to see:
- Optics reviews
- Relevant questions about topics in this post
- Useful information for people looking for purchase info.
- "This topic should be tacked" - it's tacked in the FAQ already.
- Ordering information
- Who has what in stock and at what price.
- Anything not directly pertaining to info about the optics in question.
The purpose of this thread is to air opinions on a class of optics that, for the all-around AR, is the most versatile and, consequently, most appropriate for most users. To qualify, an optic must have a low power setting of 1x or true 1x which is ~1.1x. This can be confusing since many makers classify their optics by the actual perceived magnification, rather than the calculated magnification using focal lengths, etc. (more on this later). The optic’s magnified setting must be 2.9x or greater. All scopes reviewed here must also be illuminated. Buying a 1-(n) power scope because it is such a versatile instrument would not make much sense if you could only use it 12 hours of the day and outdoors. This is especially true since much close quarters use is indoors and low light. Also, it is common knowledge that zombies are more active at night.
I have also made the executive decision to exclude cheap fly-by-night glass brands from this thread. It seems like every day a new Chinese-made optic shows up on the market and often disappears soon after. I suspect that many are the same optics with new boxes. Branding seems to have a little different meaning in China than in the U.S. If you notice that I have failed to add an appropriate optic to the chart, please call it to my attention. Despite my regular updating of the chart this is still a hobby and I am bound to overlook things. Please add only opinions of optics you have used. No speculation or hearsay.
Background: I believe variable 1-(n) power scopes to be the best all-around sighting solution for the modern assault rifle. The true 1x (1.1x) setting combined with illumination allows them to be comfortably used in close quarters situations while moving and with both eyes open in a manner typically associated with Aimpoints and EOTechs. The 3,4,6,8, or 10-power setting coupled with the proper reticle makes them viable out to the full 800-yard maximum range of the assault rifle, much like the ACOG. The fact that these scopes have true etched glass reticles that are functional without illumination gives a significant advantage over Aimpoints or EOTechs that are dependent on batteries for function. The only downside I see to this class of optics is the weight. All of these scopes weigh more than an ACOG or red dot, though I expect many weigh a bit less than a red dot + magnifier.
I have arranged the scopes in a table at the bottom of this post with their vital statistics to help in comparing and choosing an optic. I have included all the statistics I could find and even called up a few of the makers to flesh it out. My apologies for the several vacancies in the table. Some makers do not publish much technical information regarding their scopes. I will continue to do my best to complete the table, adding scopes and information as I come across them. Feel free to PM me with any additional info. Many of the statistics such as price, magnification, and weight are self-explanatory. Some statistics require a bit more illumination.
About "True 1x" operation with both eyes open -
I am often asked: Which of these scopes are "true 1x" and will appear unmagnified at the lowest setting allowing them to function just like a holographic sight? I blame Leupold for this since their 1-4x shotgun scope is actually 1.25x at the low end. Ostensibly all the scopes in my table claim to offer a low end that will appear unmagnified to the user when looking at targets that more than a few meters from the observer, i.e., the guy across the room won't appear magnified but if your front sight is in your field of view, it will be fuzzy and too big. There is much confusion about this point in that 1-4x scopes are true optics that bend light rather than just transparent pieces of glass with dots projected on them. Even at 1x they are bending light and so they can be off a little bit due to oversight on the part of the manufacturer or because the target is too close. The assumption of magnified optics is that the object is far enough away that all paths of light from the object to the optic are essentially parallel. When objects get too close, this is substantially not the case and the object will appear to be too large. As Molon has noted: if you hold a ruler a few feet from any 1-(n) power scope it appears to be to big for this reason. This is not really a problem as we are not shooting at rulers a few feet from our scope.
Furthermore, 1-(n)x scopes can be confusing because some are labeled as having a 1x low end whereas others are labeled as having a 1.1x. If you were to do the magnification equations involving the focal lengths of various lenses in the array, you would find that a magnification of 1x mathematically would produce an image that looked a little too small and 1.1x would look about right. This is because the thin lens optical equations used in calculating magnification are idealized equations that assume a lens thickness of zero. Obviously, in reality lenses have thickness. Hence, some of the scope companies designate their scope as 1.1-(n)power. This is mathematically correct but confusing to the consumer. These scopes will appear unmagnified to the user when using them at their lowest setting. It is confusing that some of the companies say 1.1-(n)x and other 1-(n)x when speaking of a scope that appears to the user to be 1x at the low range but is mathematically 1.1x.
Finally, because these scopes are true optics that bend light, they can have other optical problems that effect how well they work on 1x. For instance, some scopes can appear fish-eyed when looking through them. This can cause problems when using them at 1x since both eyes are not seeing substantially similar images. Other scopes have the problem of being fuzzy near the edges of the image. Because of all the idiosyncrasies of true optics as well as the differences between one man's eye and another, it is not really possible to say that yes, this optic is a true 1x and will appear so to everyone in every situation. This is, of course, a very long way of saying that all the scopes in the table are trying to appear unmagnified at their 1x setting with varying degrees of success. Using the scope is the best way to know if you think they have succeeded. Reading detailed reviews is the next best. Hence, this thread.
Illumination technology - This section used too contain details of the battery type. This is such a compelling topic that scope makers often don't even publish information on it. Almost everyone uses CR2032's. Because of this I decided to go a different direction and list the illumination technology used. I did this because I am constantly getting asked if a particular scope has "daytime visible" illumination. While this is a totally subjective thing it usually boils down to what illumination technology the scope maker uses. Reflected illumination technology is typically not perceived as daytime visible whereas fiber and beam splitter technologies are. Incidentally, and despite this, fiber and beam splitter also usually have battery lives somewhere around an order of magnitude longer than reflected. Lately there have been a few scopes, the Trijicon VCOG, and Leupold MK6's and MK8's that have a different illumination tech still. I talk about this in the VCOG Shot blurb if you are interested. I have listed this new tech as other. It is perceived daytime bright as well though in the earliest incarnation, the Leupold's, it has a little issue with eyebox size which you can read about in the Leupold reviews. In later incarnations, the VCOG and Burris XTR II's, not eyebox issue is present. I should note here that illumination technologies are not something that optics makers report and therefore what is listed in the table is my guess regarding what they use based on what I have seen or heard. I am very probably wrong in some instances.
General disclaimer - Speaking of wrong: At the time of this writing there are 72 scopes in this ever growing table. If there are less than 72 errors I will feel like I am on the winning side of this. I make no guarantees regarding the accuracy of any of the information in this table. I quite simply ganked it off of websites and did not validate it with anyone. I know, with vetting like that I could probably write for (insert the New York Times or Fox News depending on your political bent here.) If you catch an error feel free to send me a PM and I will fix it with the next update. Errors aside, the purpose of this table is to help direct you to scopes in your price range you might be interested in and to serve as an index for reviews. Your on your own to verify the details of any scope you intend to purchase.
Eye Relief - The distance between the eyepiece and your eye for optimum results. On some scopes this changes with magnification. In such cases, the higher the power setting the closer the eye relief. Provided eye relief is sufficient to keep the rifle from recoiling the scope into your eye, no particular eye relief is most desirable. It is a matter of personal preference. Obviously, an eye relief that changes as little as possible with a change in power is best.
Field of View - This refers to how wide a swath you can see with the scope at 100 yards. Obviously, you want to see as much as possible. This is particularly true at 1x since your target, yourself, or both are likely to be moving when you have the scope set to no magnification. You do not want to lose your target; so more field is better.
Exit Pupil and Eyebox Discussion - The exit pupil is the size of the disc of light at the point at which it is focused for your eye. Assuming you are using this scope for close quarters work and you are moving about, your head will not be completely stationary regardless of how good your cheek weld is. A larger exit pupil will allow you to keep view of the object through the scope despite your movement, though it is notable that due to parallax error the reticle will not be exactly where it should be when your head is far off center. People refer to the range through which your eye can move about and still get a good image as the "eyebox". Obviously, exit pupil is a very important, perhaps the most important, specification on 1-(n) power scopes. Mathematically, the largest an exit pupil can be is the diameter of the objective lens / the magnification. I have noticed a trend for scope manufacturers and optics websites to simply list the results of this mathematical formula as their exit pupil. Roughly half of the scopes in the table had done this and, dollars to donuts, it was incorrect on every one of them. Exit pupil can be roughly tested by placing a brightly illuminated object at some distance from the optic and measuring the disc of light transmitted through the scope at its smallest point. After doing this for several scopes (details may be found in my Vortex Razor review on pg 17.) I found that my measurements agreed well with manufacturers whose published numbers were not ideal but rather plausible, did not agree at all with idealized "perfect" numbers, and corresponded quite well to my experiences testing the scopes by bobbing my head around a bit. This has led me to put my own measured numbers in red for scopes I have tested, leave in black numbers for scopes I have not tested but for which I have plausible numbers, and omit all idealized numbers since it is very unlikely any were accurate and therefore gave a false impression to my readers..
Bullet Drop Reticle – The primary point of having a magnified optic on the AR is quite simply to shoot at targets that are further away than would be possible with an unmagnified optic or with iron sights. Secondarily, a magnified optic is also very helpful for target identification. In order to reliably hit a target that is beyond about 300 yards out, even a large, man-sized target, the user must accurately range the target and compensate for bullet drop. Many scopes of this class offer reticles that include ranging and bullet drop elements. Scopes with ranging elements may be of scale type such as mil or MOA dot or ladder reticles or of stadia type such as the GRSC or Trijicon reticles. I believe that all scopes in this class should offer a ranging reticle of some variety. For this reason I have included a column in my table with some information to that end. I also believe that users owe it to themselves to research and understand different ranging methods and different types of ranging reticles. For that reason I have authored and article on the subject.
Thoughts on Scale vs. Stadia Based Ranging
Focal Plane - It has been requested that I include the focal plane location of the reticle in the scope data in the table. Since the meaning of this piece of technical data may be a bit opaque to some readers, and also since it is a point over which much argument is had, I will here explain. In a rifle scope there are two places where a reticle may be placed. These are designated as the front, or first, focal plane and rear, or second, focal plane. In my table, ffp and 2fp, respectively.
The difference in function is that an ffp location places the reticle in front of magnifying elements. The reticle retains the same relative size to the target regardless of what power setting the scope is on. Consequently, as the scope's power is increased, the reticle and the target both appear larger. Thus, ffp reticles have the advantageous feature of being usable for range estimation and bullet drop compensation at any power. However, ffp reticles suffer from having the reticle appear small and thin at low power and thick and bulky at high power. This is precisely the opposite of what is ideal since one wants a thick, noticeable, bulky, and therefore fast reticle at low power and a thin, wispy, and precise reticle at high power. Some reticles have used clever features such as the GRSC horseshoe to attenuate this inherent difficulty. Also, ffp reticles are more difficult to illuminate brightly than their 2fp brethren; though some scope makers have found ways around this. Finally, ffp configurations are more expensive to manufacture than 2nd focal plane so will not often appear on less expensive scopes.
Second focal plane reticles are located aft of the magnifying elements and therefore appear the same size to the user regardless of the power setting the scope is on. Because of this, they have the disadvantage that they can only be used for ranging and bullet drop at one magnification setting since the size of the reticle relative to the target is different at every magnification. The magnification used for ranging the target is usually the highest magnification, though I have a Zeiss 4.5-14x that is inexplicably calibrated for 10x ranging. 2fp scopes have the advantage that, relative to the target, the reticle appears bulkier and faster at low power and thinner and more precise at high power. 2fp reticles can also be more easily brightly illuminated, though often the illumination knob and battery housing stick off the eyepiece like an unsightly wart.
Lately, ffp scopes have come into vogue with many shooters. As a result, more and more new scopes are released in this configuration regardless of the scope's designed purpose. For my part, in general, I prefer 2fp to ffp for 1-(n) power scopes and ffp to 2fp for long range sniper scopes. All that being said, reticle design is more important than where it is placed focal plane wise. I would advise against ruling scopes out of your potential purchases based on focal plane location of the reticle.
The scopes to be commented on, arranged from least to most expensive (those without mount are assumed to be getting a $200 Larue SPR for the purposes of order in the list), are:
The final column of the table lists pages on which I found valuable reviews of each scope. Thank you to all the folks who took time to add quality informative reviews to this thread. Scopes grayed out have been discontinued. Reviews I have done myself are highlighted in red. I have done several reviews at the request of scope companies at this point. If you are a scope maker interested in my services, you may e-mail me about having a review done. You are also welcome to post a review of your scope yourself.
Since many of you are also interested in what mount to use, I am placing a link to an excellent page on one piece mounts assembled by MaxIcon. Many of you folks have probably seen this page as it is no secret around these parts, but if you have not, be sure to check it out here.
Thank you all for your input!
Lester (Jim) Fischer