March 7th, 2018 by asjstaff

For many shooters the simple mention of “T-15” brings fond recollections of self-installed scopes successfully on their favorite tack driver they’ve used out in the field or at the range. To others, the thought brings back nightmares of stripped rings and receivers, slipping scopes, crushed tubes, and other avoidable installation incidents. More often than not, these mistakes and the subsequent nightmares were the result of improper application of torque.

Whether it brings fond memories or scarring nightmares for you, the Torx T-15 screw remains a standard fixture (pun intended) among modern scope mounts, so learning to deal with them will serve you well.

Warne Scope Mounts is well known for manufacturing a variety of high-quality, USA-born optics mounts, all of which employ those T-15 Torx head screws. Like most high-end mount manufacturers, Warne holds a recommended max torque specification across all of their ring and base screws — 25-inch/pounds, to be precise.

Warne loyalists take note; the TW1 Scope Mount Torque Wrench (above) is a small, lightweight, T-handle wrench with just the specifications you need — a permanent T-15 Torx bit pre-set for 25-inch/pounds.

The wrench’s plastic shell might be a giveaway that, like the TW65 wrench, it’s manufactured in China for Warne by California Torque Products. However, the shape and size of the handle make it very comfortable and easy to operate. The T-15 bit is of great quality and fits Warne’s screws perfectly.

If you’re mounting a scope base to a receiver, it’s important to note that the TW1 should only be employed with a steel receiver as host. The wrench’s 25-inch/pounds of torque could strip the threads on an aluminum receiver.

My very first TTAG review was on the Warne 45° Side Mount (above). The mount has seen quite a bit of use over the years without fail. Now, in the midst of a series of upgrades to an AR, I had the TW1 wrench in hand for the build.

This wrench, like most torque wrenches, shouldn’t be used to loosen screws so I used the T-15 bit on Warne’s RT-1 Range Tool (above, background) to remove the mount. When it was time for re-installation, I added the recommended pinhead-size dot of blue (non-permanent) thread locker to the screw before grabbing the TW1.

Once snugged to the Pic rail, the TW1’s T-15 bit engaged the screw head with solid lock-up and torqued the screw towards the appropriate 25-inch/pound setting. As the wrench met its limit, it smoothly rolled-over and broke away cleanly.

To confirm the TW1’s torque limit, I used the standard mathematical and mass DIY test. Although slightly tricky due to its short, rounded handle, the torque wrench performed within its specifications.

Warne’s TW1 is a compact, lightweight, fixed 25-inch/pound torque wrench with a permanent T-15 Torx bit. It may be slightly overpriced for a Chinese-made single-spec wrench, but it performs well and works flawlessly with Warne mounts. This tool surely isn’t for everyone, but if paired with the TW65 it’s just about all Warne (and many other brands) mount users will need in their range bag or at the workbench.

Specifications: Warne TW1 Torque Wrench (T-15, 25 in/lbs.)

Price as reviewed: $24.99 MSRP

  • Preset at 25 in/lbs.
  • Bit: Torx T-15
  • Dimensions: 3.5″ x 3.5″ x 1.125″
  • Warranty: Life of product

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * *
Warne’s TW1 torque wrench couldn’t be a simpler, easier to operate tool. Maximum torque is set at 25-inch/pounds and the T-15 Torx bit is permanent. At 3.5″x3.5″x1.125″, it will surely fit into any pocket, drawer, or range bag — plus, it weighs almost nothing.

Quality: * * * *
Unlike Warne’s mounts, the TW1 is made overseas and the difference in quality is somewhat incongruous. However, the TW1 is still well-made, performs consistently well, and is backed by Warne’s “life of the tool” lifetime warranty.

Ease of Use: * * * * *
The TW1’s contoured handle fits comfortably in the palm of your hand and makes operation painless. Stick it in, turn it slowly until it brakes-over, and you’re done.

Overall: * * * *
If you’re looking for a dedicated 25-inch/pound t-handle torque wrench with a T-15 bit, the Warne TW1 is a simple, compact, and lightweight option that is perfect for any range bag.

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February 28th, 2018 by asjstaff

The FLIR T50 ACTS is a thermal weapon sight that is almost a decade old. But it does not feel out of date and has some interesting features that many modern day thermal sights do not have. The T50 is a clip-on thermal weapon sight designed for military and law enforcement.

I have dabbled with thermal sights before but they were budget thermal sights like the Torrey Pines and Leupold LTO. The T50 is a bonafide thermal sight designed to be used on a rifle. It was a collaboration between FLIR and Trijicon. It was designed to interface with the Trijicon ACOG while maintaining the same field of view and zero. The T50 displays the thermal image on a small LCD screen inside the optic. Since the LCD screen projects light, the T50 has a rubber shroud and comes with a coupler to seal out the light from illuminating the user and giving away his position.

Flir T50 coupled to a ACOG

Photo banner by Trijicon

The T50 can be used as a stand-alone handheld thermal device. However, due to the small screen and how it interacts with the ACOG, the screen is rather small. Look at the image above. The soldier is holding the T50 sideways. This is due to how the screen is oriented in the housing. When mounted to a rifle the screen is positioned in a portrait configuration.

This is what I see when I look through the T50 with just my eye.

FLIR T50, Not Just For Trijicon

The T50 can be used with other day sights. I prefer to use the Browe BCO optic with the T50 since the objective lens is flat compared to the ACOG.

T50 paired with my Browe BCO

The T50 pairs perfectly with the Browe BCO.

Here are some other setups I have tried with the FLIR T50 ACTS.

Elcan Specter

Aimpoint T2 Micro

Lucid P7

Optics on Optics: Optic Inception

Since Trijicon helped design the T50, they had an RMR mount integrated into the top of the T50.

Holy height-over-bore Batman!

I bought an RMR when they were being cleared out at Cabela’s and found an immediate problem.  The interfacing lugs are out of spec so the RMR cannot sit flush to the FLIR T50.

I actually bought the RMR for use on my FNX-45 Tactical but I was curious how the T50 would look as intended with an RMR mounted. In order for this to work, I would have to either mill the lug off the T50 or mill the pocket in the RMR wider. I’m not sure if this was a problem with my specific unit as I didn’t have another to test with.

Onboard Features

As I mentioned above, the T50 has features that other thermal weapon sights do not have. Besides the Trijicon optic integration, the T50 has a video output port. This is not as amazing now when modern thermal sights have onboard recording features.

The T50 came with this video out cable that you can connect it to a video recording device.

The cable is coaxial with a female BNC connector at the other end.

I bought a mini DVR from TNVC and found a BNC to composite adapter. I connected that to the video cable of the mini DVR.

One major downside to the video output is the orientation of the screen. As I mentioned above, the screen is oriented vertically. This means the image is sideways as it is recorded in the DVR. While it is easy to rotate a video on a computer, it is slightly annoying. Or I can hold the T50 in my hands and rotate it sideways so the video is oriented properly with the video.

Here is a video I shot at the Agency Arms shoot after they ripped apart a Winnebago with four miniguns.

And here is the video of the miniguns firing.

How far can the T50 see? Well, it seems the T50 is set for the body temperature of people. It shows people very well. When I picked up the T50 I tested it out on the balcony of the hotel I was staying at in Daytona Beach. Please excuse the shakiness. I was using my iPhone to film through the optic.

I took the T50 with me when I went to see Mt. Rushmore.

Laser Beams!

The number one feature that sets the T50 apart from other thermal sights is the onboard laser designator.

So the laser is actually why I bought the T50. The T50 comes in three flavors. NO Laser, Visible Laser and IR Laser. This one is infrared and has two settings. ON and HIGH. When set to ON, the IR laser is a Class 1 type laser. When set on HIGH it is a CLASS III IR laser that is not eye safe.

The lower right button, on the side panel, is how you activate the laser. It is momentary only and is used for designating a target.

When the laser is turned on, a square reticle is displayed in the center of the screen. LZ is the indicator to let you know you are on HIGH.  You can see how this looks below. The thermal is boring and gray due to the ambient temperature. It was 38F when I took these images.

Why would you need a laser built into your thermal sight? So you can point out to others what you are looking at. I was told that this setup would have been used in the military. A single person in a squad would be equipped with a FLIR T50 while everyone else has night vision. The thermal equipped solider would scan for threats and when he sees something he does not recognize he could designate it with the onboard laser to indicate to the rest of the team what he is looking at and they can better identify the target.

A Closer Look

The T50 is powered by three CR123A batteries held in a single magazine. I often store the T50 with the battery magazine removed because the “on” switch has an oversized paddle that is easily activated accidentally. This results in the T50 killing my batteries.

The rail mount is a little odd. The lug that interfaces with the Picatinny rail is at the far leading edge of the mount.

I am sure you have noticed that the FLIR T50 has an odd shape to it. It is taller than it is long. This periscope-like shape was intentional so the T50 would not take up a lot of rail space but also so laser aiming modules would not interfere with it. The lens sits high enough to clear the top of my laser.

Wrap It Up: I’ll Take It

As I said before, I really bought this for the laser. My friend Justin was offered the FLIR T50 by his local LGS. They got a few of these as trade-in’s from a local security team for a nuclear power plant. He asked if I would want a thermal sight. To be honest, I was not interested in thermal since I do not hunt. He borrowed it from the LGS to see if it was worth the price. That is when he discovered it has a laser and that it is infrared. What interested me most was the HIGH setting. I met up with Justin and confirmed it with my PVS14 that the laser is indeed Class III.

Now comes the part about price. If you Google the FLIR T50 ACTS, you will find online retailers selling them for around $10,000 USD. Thankfully I did not pay nearly that much. Justin was offered the FLIR T50 for $3,000 but he had no use for it so he passed the deal on to me. I figured a full power IR laser would cost me around $2,000+ and in some cases $3,000 depending which one. Then having a thermal weapon sight was just the cherry on top of the icing.

Even though the FLIR T50 ACTS is almost 10 years old (they came out in 2009) it works very well as intended. It easily displays heat signatures in the range of human body temperatures. It is designed to work in conjunction with a day optic so you can attach this to multiple guns without needing to zero anything. It is important to note that it is not recommended to use high magnification with the FLIR T50. At most, 6x magnification works but anything higher the image is difficult to use. You are zooming onto an LCD screen and the closer you look the worse the image appears. The price is the hardest part to swallow but if you can pick one up, I would highly recommend it.

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February 25th, 2018 by asjstaff

As a hunter with a photography background, I can attest to the difference high-quality glass can make in the field. Seasoned outdoorsmen will invest a thousand dollars or more in a single pair of binoculars or a spotting scope to gain a better view of game. Long range and small-bore (non-hunting) shooters can relate.

Thing is, unless you stabilize the image, the optic is just extra weight (~2-5-pounds). While most binoculars are hand-stabilized, the majority of spotting scopes require a support system such as a tripod — especially with wind or strong mirage.

Oh, but the weight and size of a tripod! The balance between weight, maximum load, size, durability, and price has always been a struggle.

The compact tripod that came with my current spotting scope didn’t cut it this past season, so I turned to Vortex Optics for a solution. Their recently released (2017) High Country Tripod Kit strikes a balance of features designed to accommodate the needs of weight-sensitive hunters, shooters, photographers, and wildlife-watchers alike, making my choice an easy one.

Out of the box, the High Country is a compact 21-inches tall by 3.8-incles wide and tips the scales at a scant 2.2-pounds. A simple zippered nylon (un-padded) carrying case with strap accompanies the tripod, as does an Allen key to adjust the tripod’s head.

With a nice matte black finish across nearly all aspects of the tripod, it’s also visually stealthy. From an auditory perspective, there are no floppy parts to create unwanted clanking sounds.

The tripod’s center column also features a rubber gasket around the bottom, which prevents the legs from banging the column or each other.

The High Country Tripod comes equipped with a nice, all-metal, ball head assembly. The two-piece clamp with thumbscrew allows for very quick adjustments throughout a wide range of positions and secures even heavy optics (up to five pounds) without needing to wrench-down on the thumb screw.

The Vortex ball head also features excellent, extremely smooth panning of the head. The panning ring provides good resistance to keep you from over-shooting your subject when you pan to keep up with its movements.

There is a very slight amount of wiggle at the panning ring, but not enough to cause performance issues. Worth noting: the panning feature cannot be locked in place.

Connecting your optic to the ball head is fairly standard with the provided High Country Tripod Quick Release Plate (above, top). Simply screw the plate into your optic, and then slide the plate (with optic) into the plate platform.

A spring-loaded pin (below) secures the plate to the head and the rubberized tension knob sets the plate in place. To remove the optic, simply release the tension on the plate and depress the button on the side of the plate platform while sliding the plate out.

Additional plates are available for $14.99 each, allowing users to easily swap different optics on and off of a single tripod without the hassle of moving a plate between optics. And Vortex also offers the Binocular Tripod Adapter and Uni-Dapter for those that employ a tripod with their binoculars.

The tripod’s center column allows for 7.75-inches of height adjustment. The center column’s collar (below) allows for adjustable tension.

If you’re using a 4-pound spotting scope you’ll want more tension than if you’re using a 1-pound set of binoculars. Once at the desired height, use the thumbscrew (above) to lock the center column in place.

The bottom end of the center column sports a spring-loaded hook from which to hang a counterweight. Adding additional weight under the center column (above) can help further stabilize a tripod in windy or mirage conditions and uneven terrain. Should the hook not suit your needs, it can be removed.

Underneath the ball head is a bull’s eye spirit level. It is highly visible with a nice, small bubble.

The High Country Tripod’s telescoping, non-rotating legs have four sections apiece and are very lightweight. Flip up the Quick Lock polymer clamps (above) with a single finger to extend or retract leg sections, then flip them back down to secure legs in position.

With everything collapsed, beginning leg length is approximately sixteen inches from foot to hinge. The second and third sections provide an additional 9-inches of length each, while the fourth section extends 9.5-inches. Overall, the High Country can extend from 19.5-inches to 53-inches tall.

Each leg is capped with a lightly textured, rounded rubber foot. These feet aren’t the kind to fall off and they most certainly help keep the legs from slipping.

The coated metal leg hinges feature three rock-solid angle settings. Simply slide the leg release pin (above) to the position of your choice. Each position keeps the legs from further movement outwards, but does not lock them in place.

Its light weight and compact profile are largely noticeable benefits of the High Country. The three-angle position, extendable legs helped stabilize my optics, allowing me to take advantage of better vantage points. The ball head locks-up with little torque on the thumbscrew and panning is extremely smooth and controllable.

Vortex Optics’ High Country Tripod Kit is compact, lightweight and tough enough to handle rugged outdoor endeavors. Whether you prefer to mount binoculars, spotting scope, or camera, this tripod and its quick release plate system will stabilize all while helping shed an extra pound or two off your pack. The ball head provides a very wide range of positions, clamps your optic securely in place, and also pans very smoothly. Additional features such as counterweight hook, multi-angle leg positions, rubber feet, and bubble level help make the High Country Tripod Kit a great mate for any optic up to five pounds.

Specifications: Vortex High Country Tripod Kit

Price as reviewed: $109.99 MSRP ($79.99 via Brownells)

Technical Specifications:

  • Height: 15″ – 52.3″
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs.
  • Maximum Load: 5 lbs.
  • Leg Sections: 4 telescoping
  • Folded Height: 21″
  • Folded Width: 3.8″
  • Case: Zippered bag with carrying strap

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * *
The High Country tripod has an excellent balance of features, size, and weight. It covers all the major bases and gives you extras like leg angle positions and quick release optics mount.

Quality: * * * *
Vortex Optics uses high-quality metal components in the High Country; all of which are coated very nicely. The ball head with smooth, controllable panning and quick release optics mount system performs very well. The tripod does utilize several plastic parts.

Packability: * * * * *
This tripod weighs a mere 2.2-pounds and is only 21-inches when fully collapsed, making it an easy addition to your pack. The quick release optics mount system allows for easy optics/tripod connection or separation.

Overall: * * * * *
Compact, lightweight, and able to easily stabilize optics up to five pounds, Vortex Optics’ High Country Tripod Kit is a great choice for anyone looking to save some weight and a few dollars without sacrificing quality and features.

Posted in Hunting, Product Reviews, Rifles Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

February 24th, 2018 by asjstaff

Warne produces some mighty fine optics mounts. Like many other quality-seeking shooters, I’ve trusted their products for years and have their MSR and tactical mount 1/2-inch hex nut torque specification engrained in my brain – 65-inch/pounds.

Adjusting a torque wrench to 65-inch/pounds isn’t typically a tiresome task; however, many wrenches like the Vortex Torque Wrench don’t stretch to 65-inch/pounds. The Wheeler F.A.T. wrench, another popular torque tool, has a limit of 65-inch/pounds so you’re moving the needle all the way out and back which, frankly, is anything but a good time.

Warne offers a nice reprieve from adjustable torque wrenches in the form of the TW65 Torque Wrench, a handheld wrench preset at 65-inch/pounds. Manufactured by California Torque Products on behalf of Warne, the 1/4-inch drive comes with a 1/2-inch socket and features electronic visual and auditory limit notifications.

The TW65’s handle is quite comfortable in the hand and easy to operate. The rubber coating provides additional grip support and doubles as an oil and chemical-resistant covering.

Removing the two screws closest one another (above, left side) allows removal of the battery tray which houses two CR2025 replaceable batteries.

At the other end of the wrench sits a 1/4-inch square drive. It secures sockets very well, but is clearly made overseas.

The provided 1/2-inch socket can be swapped out to any 1/4-inch drive socket.

For instance, above, a 1/4″ drive 12mm socket is used to tighten a non-Warne scope mount with the same 65-inch/pound torque specification.

When the torque limit is met, the wrench rolls-over very smoothly and disengages itself from action with a “tactile click,” as they put it. Even with no (or dead) batteries, the wrench will still perform its function adequately.

With electrical power, however, the TW65’s red indicator light shines bright and a rather loud alarm sounds from within the wrench. I suppose some may find these electronic features helpful – especially if you need a sharp reminder to stop wrenching – but I’ve never had any issue feeling a torque wrench hit its limit and could do without the auditory reprimand.

The TW65 is approved for loosening hex nuts, as well. Simply apply force in the opposite direction until the nut is loose. No light or sound indication will be given when used in the reverse direction.

As accustomed as I am to Warne’s very high-quality, made in the USA optics mounts, the TW65 65-inch/pound Torque Wrench (made overseas) is a definite departure in quality. However, it gets the job done without issue and is backed by Warne’s lifetime warranty – that’s the life of the tool, no receipt necessary. The smooth roll-over as it reaches its torque limit is satisfying, but the ensuing shrill alarm is rather loud. The TW65 is a more-than-adequate lightweight solution to serve the needs of folks who often tighten 65-inch/pound scope mount screws.

Specifications: Warne TW65 Torque Wrench (1/4″ Drive, 65 in/lbs)

Price as reviewed: $59.99 MSRP ($48 shipped via Amazon)


  • Preset at 65 in/lbs.
  • 1/4″ drive
  • 1/2″ socket
  • Audible beep and red light when torque limit is met
  • Replaceable batteries (2 CR2025)
  • Oil resistant rubber coating
  • Warranty: Life of product

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * *
Warne’s TW65 1/4-inch drive 65-inch/pound electronic torque wrench is a less-expensive alternative to adjustable wrenches and is designed to tighten the 1/2-inch hex nut on Warne MSR and tactical mounts. Simply designed, it features a rubberized coating that resists oil and chemicals.

Quality: * * * *
Compared to Warne’ excellent optics mounts, the TW65 feels cheap. After all, Warne mounts are made in the USA and this plastic-shelled wrench is manufactured by an overseas OEM. That said, I’ve yet to encounter any issues with its performance or reliability.

Ease of Use: * * * *
Ergonomically, the TW65 feels good. It’s easy on the wrist and the textured handle and rubberized grip help to prevent slipping. The battery compartment requires the removal of two screws and a battery carrier. Absent batteries, the wrench still performs, just without the light and sound indicators.

Overall: * * * *
Designed specifically for Warne MSR and tactical mounts, the Warne TW65 is a reliably-performing, relatively inexpensive electronic torque wrench with a set torque limitation of 65-inch/pounds. Backed by a “life of the tool” warranty, this is a wrench any serious Warne mount user should consider for their tool chest or range bag.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

February 10th, 2018 by asjstaff

There was a time when SIG SAUER did one thing and did it well. Those times are past. SIG SAUER now does just about everything and . . . still does it well. Over the last decade, the company’s expanded their product line to include ammunition, optics, suppressors, and even airguns. The TANGO6 series are SIG’s top-of-the-line scopes for tactical operations and hunting. The first thing to note . . .

the scope’s aesthetics. In a world where flat black is the default color for scopes (with possibly a gold ring thrown in for flair) a two-tone color scheme is a remarkable if minor improvement. The colors go well with SIG SAUER’s line of rifles, like the 716 DMR 2 shown here.

The TANGO6 scope’s finish isn’t quite as silky smooth as the polished anodizing on older Leupold scopes, but it’s tough as nails and that’s the real money shot.

A lot of optics companies tend to skimp on the magnification adjustment knob. For example, I love the function of the Leupold Mark AR Mod 1 SPR scope, but trying to zoom in for longer range targets in a hurry is like trying to open a can of strawberry jam with your hands coated in butter.Entire companies have been profitable simply by selling clamp-on devices that allow you to actually grip and operate your scope.

The magnification adjustment ring on SIG’s TANGO6 line sports some seriously aggressively knurled segments. They’re grippy enough to provide the purchase you need without turning your hands into hamburger.

A set of fiber optic adjustment markers on the knob reveal your scope’s magnification at a glance. Ye olde tick mark machined and painted into the knob does the same thing, but SIG SAUER’s method is faster.

Next, let’s talk adjustment knobs.

Some scopes don’t lock the knobs into place, allowing them to spin freely at the slightest touch. Go ask Kirsten Joy Weiss how that worked out for her (hint: it probably cost her a spot on the Olympic shooting team).

Having turrets that lock firmly into place when not being adjusted is critical, and SIG SAUER hit the mark with their design. The turrets pull out when the shooter wants to adjust them and lock firmly back into place when complete.

The turret’s outside design is also perfectly judged. The knurled sections provide plenty of grip for pull and turn. The markings on the sides stand out; they’re clearly readable in low light situations.

On the other side of the tube body is the parallax adjustment knob. To my somewhat untrained eye, they match up with the distance of the target as well as could be expected.

Hiding inside that knob: a battery powering awesomeness. The SIG SAUER LevelPlex system.

Instead of having a spirit level (a.k.a., a bubble level) attached to the outside of the tube (like these) or fitted on the inside somehow, SIG SAUER fitted the scope with electronic gubbins that sense when the scope is tilted and instruct you on how to level it.

Making sure the scope isn’t canted to one side is essential for long range accuracy. SIG’s LevelPlex system is a fantastic approach to an age old problem.That said . . .

The battery. Spirit levels might not be that accurate or easy to use, but they will operate for centuries. The LevelPlex battery, which also powers the reticle illumination, will eventually need to be replaced. Hopefully not at some critical juncture.

I slapped the scope on my SIG SAUER 716 DMR and headed out to the range.

It definitely adds a bit of bulk and weight to the rifle, clocking in at damn near two and a half pounds. On a lightweight build — where the rifle itself might only weigh five pounds — a 50 percent weight increase in weight is substantial, maybe even unacceptable. On a heavy long range rifle like the ones I was using it’s not a major consideration.

The clarity of the glass was excellent. Even on a cloudy day I could still see the target and every hole I had placed on it.

The scope is a First Focal Plane (FFP) scope. The markings on the reticle remain the same size relative to the target no matter the magnification. I really prefer these kinds of scopes because I don’t have to make any guesses about how high to hold at a given magnification level to hit my distant target,  I can calculate it and hold directly using the reticle markings.

I also like the way the central aiming point: a single single dot surrounded by open space. A lot of reticle designers like to clutter that area, obscuring the target and making it hard to get a really accurate shot. SIG SAUER’s approach is my new favorite.

FN 15 Military Collector M16

I ran the scope through the usual tests (including a box test for turret tracking) and it performed perfectly. No matter what gun I put it on in the weeks following, the scope made shooting distant targets so easy it felt like cheating.

SIG SAUER wants $2,759 for the TANGO6 4-24X50mm optic in this configuration. There are cheaper scopes in the same magnification and performance range; the Leupold VX-6HD springs to mind. But they don’t have the bells and whistles of the SIG SAUER product.

Is the SIG scope worth big bucks? There’s either something missing on their similarly priced competitors or something SIG’s scope does better — with one notable exception (see Overall Rating). So yes, it’s money well spent. Just make sure you buy extra batteries.

Specifications: SIG SAUER TANGO6 4-24x50mm

Magnification: 4x to 24x
Focal Plane: First
Objective Diameter: 50mm
Focus Range: 50 yards to infinity
Diopter Adjustment Range: -2.5 to +2.5
Body Tube Diameter: 34mm
Weight: 40 ounces
Length: 18.25 inches
MSRP: $2,759 (a couple hundred less via Brownells)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Glass Quality * * * * 
It’s good glass. Not the best ever, but the SIG scope offers excellent clarity and light transmission.

Reticle * * * * *
Love it. First focal plane mil reticle with a surprisingly open center.

Turrets/Dials * * * * *
Crisp and precise adjustments that lock firmly into place.

Overall Rating * * * * 
The price is the only thing killing the score. It’s an amazing scope and worth every dollar. But I can’t justify a five star rating when Jeremy just reviewed a scope for the exact same price and pretty much same specifications that includes a ballistics calculator in the viewfinder.

Posted in Product Reviews, Rifles Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

February 8th, 2018 by asjstaff

When two Henry Repeating Arms rimfire lever action rifles (LARs) landed in my hands for review, I thought about all of the fun things I could do with them…like threading barrels. Then I thought about the things I needed to do with them – like accuracy testing, which meant scoping the two LARs.

The Henry’s receiver plays host to a 4.5-inch-long, 3/8-inch (11mm) Dovetail mounting rail, an industry standard for light-recoil firearms and airguns. Problem was, my only air gun with an appropriate scope, the SIG Sauer MCX .177 cal., has Mil-spec 1913 rails – go figure!

After selecting a 1-inch tube Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35 Diamondback scope for the task, I began searching for a good-quality, reliable one-piece aluminum mount. I waded through a mound of garbage mounts designed for low-end air guns, until several commenters in an online forum referenced BKL Technologies out of Fort Worth, Texas.

Once at BKL’s website I was quickly funneled to their 200 Series aluminum alloy mounts based on my needs. The BKL 200 Series features 1-inch scope rings and a mount compatible with both 3/8-inch rimfire and 11mm airgun dovetail rails. There were fifteen different options to choose from, including quite a few I hadn’t considered initially.

After distilling the options down, I ordered the matte black BKL 261, a 4″ long unitized set of scope rings designed specifically for rimfire firearms and air guns.

A keen individual will point out that the clearance ports on this model are designed for use with bolt-action rimfire rifles, allowing loading and ejection from either side. Given that the LARs eject to the side and the magazine is fed from the muzzle end, the rifle doesn’t exactly reap the full intended benefit of the port.

However, I found that the extra space is helpful when loading a single round or clearing a jam. Additionally, the size and spacing of the port matched-up very well with receiver and provided a reduced-weight unitized mount option.

BKL aims to make installation easy with their Auto-centering feature. Strategic relief cuts are made in specific relation to the milled clamp and screw axis’ such that when all is buttoned-up, everything sits centered on the rail. After swapping the mounted Vortex Diamondback across rifles without any issue, I believe there is validity to this feature when it comes to rimfire firearms and airguns.

All parts accounted for, including the provided Allen key, the mount was ready for its first host rifle.

Installing the BKL 261 mount to the Henry LARs was fairly routine. I suspected the mount would not fit over-the-top but I tested it anyway. No-go.

All BKL mounts offer a nice clamp spreading feature (shown above) to help over-the-top installation. I’m not a fan of bending mounts unless absolutely necessary so I passed on this option.

Fortunately, the dovetail is full-length on the Henry and cocking the hammer provides the clearance needed to slide the mount into place on the dovetail rail from the rear.

The BKL 261 mount fit well on the rail and its clearance port lined-up nearly perfectly with the case of the rifle. I applied Loctitie Blue 242 and hand-tightened each of the three screws with the provided 9/16-inch Allen key. There are no torque specs listed for the model.

An additional benefit of the unitized design is that it provides a nice flat space on which to employ a digital protractor during scope mounting (zero receiver, zero mount off of receiver, then zero scope in mount).

Scope successfully mounted, I headed to the range to test both the mount and the rifle simultaneously. The mount put the scope right where it needed to be and after over 500 rounds of various .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle, the mount (and scope) remained steadfast to the receiver.

I swapped the mount over to the second Henry LAR, a .22 Magnum, and proceeded to run another 500 rounds with the same rock-steady result. Dozens of groups shot from both rifles confirmed the same.

When it comes to rimfire (and airguns) the BKL 261 4-inch Long Rimfire Unitized Dovetail mount hits the mark. It is arguably a bit more than is required for low-recoil platforms (including .22 Magnum and .17 HMR) and it rings-up at a very competitive price given the quality of manufacture and coating. If this specific model doesn’t meet your needs, they have fourteen others in the 200 series – check them out!

Specifications: BKL Technologies BKL 261 4″ Rimfire Dovetail Mount

Price as reviewed: $54.95
Technical Specifications:

  • Overall Length: 4″
  • Short clamp Length: 0.75″
  • Large clamp Length: 1.65″
  • Ring Width: 0.6″
  • Bottom of Mount to bottom of Scope Tube: 0.774″
  • Turret Clearance: 0.125”
  • Ejection Port Length: 1.72″
  • Weight: 4.2 oz.

Ratings (out of five stars):
Design: * * * *
The BKL 261 mount features auto-centering, clamp spreading, and a very nice clearance port that works well across a variety of firearm types. It’s slightly on the bulky/boxy side of the spectrum.

Quality: * * * *
BKL mounts are very good quality. They are not precision parts, my any means, but they certainly exceed the needs of the average rimfire (or airgun) enthusiast. The coating is very good, as well.

Installation: * * * * *
Installation is straight-forward. If you cannot slide the mount down the rail from the front or back, then use the spreading screws to gain clearance for over-the-top rail installation.

Overall: * * * *
The BKL 261 is an excellent mount for low-recoil firearms and airguns that utilize an 3/8″ dovetail or 11mm mounting rail. Solid craftsmanship and coating with equally solid lock-up and retention of optic, the BKL 261 comes in at a decently competitive price and is well worth a look.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , ,

January 17th, 2018 by asjstaff

It was only a matter of time before somebody incorporated a full-on ballistics computer into a rifle scope. Apparently that time is now, and that somebody is Revic. As Revic is young and this is their first product, my expectations were tempered. Turns out they didn’t need to be. The PMR 428 delivers on its promises . . .

On the outside, the PMR 428 looks mostly like a typical, but obviously high-end, high-zoom scope. It’s a 4.5-28×56 job with a 34mm tube and it’s 14″ long.

At 47 ounces, the PMR 428 is heavy. Sure, if you look to Vortex you can find scopes of equivalent zoom and size at the same weight (Razor 4.5-27×56 weighs 48 oz), but most will come in six to eight ounces lighter. Of course, none of them have internal ballistics calculators.

The PMR’s body and turrets are anodized in a gray/bronze finish. Machining, fit, and finish are great all-around. It does not appear that any corners have been cut in order to deliver a product at a price — $2,750 — competitive with similar, but ballistics computer-free optics.

Instead, Revic states that their pricing is possible because they’re consumer-direct. You won’t find these scopes in stores or via other distribution channels. Only through the Revic website. Most companies sell to a distributor, who sells to a retailer, both of whom need to turn a profit on the process. This probably doesn’t explain all of it, but it’s reasonable to believe it explains much of it.

As I understand it, Revic does in-house testing, final QC, design, and R&D. Much of the technical design is contracted to an engineering firm in Germany. Manufacturing and initial QC is done in Japan, likely at one of the companies responsible for many of the high-end scopes we’re familiar with on the U.S. market that aren’t German or Austrian.

The end result is an optic that feels familiar to me. Lift the turrets to unlock them, spin them through precise, clean clicks to adjust. Side parallax adjustment glides smoothly and is very close, for my eyes, to matching the ranges marked on the dial. For more on how that works, read this article.

Rotating the ocular bell moves the PMR from 4.5x zoom to 28x. The fit is snug and precise, rotating smoothly but with at least enough resistance to ensure it doesn’t move unless you want it to.

Helping turn that dial is the battery compartment. Revic’s PMR 428 runs on a single lithium AAA battery.

Over on the parallax dial, a set of buttons controls what’s going on inside. Depress and hold the “enter” button for three seconds to turn the scope on. What can the PMR 428 do for you?

It has internal sensors to determine compass heading, incline, cant, pressure, and temperature. The user can input wind speed and direction as well as latitude. This is everything necessary for the computer to calculate ballistic trajectory with stunning accuracy. Well, once you’ve loaded your profile…

The very first thing you need to do with your new PMR 428 is download the app and get your ballistic profile(s) loaded into it. With that done, you’ll sync your smartphone with your scope via Bluetooth and load the desired profile. Once the profile is on the scope, the phone is no longer needed.

Now hit the range. Zero your rifle at any distance, then use the scope’s internal menu on its internal display to inform the electronics that your point of aim aligns with your point of impact at the distance you’ve input and at the point to which the elevation turret is dialed. Now the turret and the computer are synced up.

Want to align “0” on the scope turret with your chosen POA/POI zero? Forget the hex wrenches and set screws and swearing. Simply depress that little silver detent — the tip of a bullet works great — on the top of the turret, and rotate it over to the “disengage” icon. Now the turret spins freely without moving the internal adjustments. When you’re on “0,” push the detent again and rotate the cap insert back to the locked position. Done.

Despite being decidedly non-electronic, this is one of my favorite features on the PMR.

At this point, using the PMR 428’s ballistic calculating functionality is extremely simple. See that “447” up in the display above my target picture? I ranged this target at just shy of 450 yards, and all I have to do to get dialed in for it is turn the elevation turret until the display is showing me “450” or as close to it as possible.

What the PMR is displaying is not actual yardage, but corrected yardage. It’s doing all of the math necessary to compensate for the angle to your target and the atmospheric conditions as compared to when you zeroed the gun.

In fact, I had zeroed my rifle at 100 yards on a different day in different conditions while shooting at a slightly different angle. With the turret dialed to zero on the day the two photos above were taken, the PMR was telling me I’d now be dead-on at 103 yards instead of 100. It provides real-time, near-instant ballistics calculations.

Below the yardage indication is a digital bubble level. Keeping your scope level to the Earth is mandatory for long range shooting, unless you’re prepared to deal with the left/right error caused by inducing even a small cant. Many long range shooters employ a bubble level clamped to the scope tube, scope mount, or Picatinny rail, but having it inside of the scope and easily seen along with your sight picture is a huge plus.

Using the side buttons to cycle through the internal menu, the user can adjust dozens of different settings. Including reticle illumination — 10 brightness settings and seven colors. Plus set display brightness, wind calculation, coriolis calculation, adjust ballistic settings as needed, and much more.

Does it work? Yes. I dialed for that nearly-450-yard target and was dead-freaking-on. Minus slightly under-compensating for a 3:00 wind. But the elevation adjustment was flawless. It also worked for me at 230 yards — exactly dead-on — and shooting at 100 yards on a couple different days when it told me my turret zero was high or low and I dialed up or down for a corrected 100-yard trajectory.

Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to shoot at longer ranges with the Revic, but I ran simulations on my ballistics apps out to 1,500 yards then dialed the PMR’s turret to the MOA hold indicated by the apps. The PMR’s as-displayed, corrected yardage was always in-sync as long as I had the scope level and atmospherics matched between app and scope. One thing it can do far better than my phone app: instantly adjusting based on shot angle.

Cell phone photos don’t do an optic justice, unfortunately. But suffice it to say that the clarity and colors through the PMR 428 are what you’d expect of Japan’s finest. I’ve seen slightly brighter, but overall we’re right in-line with price point for optical quality. Forgetting the electronic wizardry, the PMR 428 is still an extremely nice scope (and functions as such with a dead battery or otherwise powered-down electronics).

At the end of the day, I think the PMR 428 is missing just one important feature: a built-in rangefinder. Its real-time ballistics calculating magic still only helps if you know the true range to your target. Which, in my mind, somewhat limits its utility.

I can see it for PRS competition or other known-range shooting events and shooting ranges. With nothing but a target map, you could run through stages rapidly dialing for atmospheric- and position-compensated range, all calculated in real-time.

I can see it for hunting and tactical use, where you’ve ranged certain landmarks ahead of time and know approximate distance to target when a target presents itself. At that point, just dial until the correct range is displayed and know that the scope is taking care of the rest.

But for unknown distance shooting, which is most of what I find myself doing, you still need a rangefinder. And many mid-to-high-end rangefinders will do all of the math that the PMR 428 will, providing the shooter with a fully conditions-corrected range and/or corrected adjustment in MOA/Mils.

Sure, it may still be easier or faster to dial the turret while watching a yardage number on a display vs. dialing a turret up 34.25 minutes, for example, but it would be darn close. With the PMR’s capability, you could also use a lighter, less expensive rangefinder without requiring a smartphone ballistics app or a DOPE card to get on target.

But, ultimately, the necessity of still using a separate rangefinder prevents the PMR 428 from being the mind-blowing, all-in-one ballistics solution that it’s so close to becoming. For most of my long range shooting use, where my rangefinder is going to spit out a ballistic solution anyway, the biggest value I’m getting out of the PMR is in its internal bubble level.

Thankfully the price is on-point. Revic is providing all of this built-in ballistics computing technology with a price that’s similar to traditional optics in its category. And, in known-range scenarios, the PMR 428 is dang fast and it’s spot-on.

Specifications: Revic PMR 428 Smart Rifle Scope

Actual Magnification: 4.67x to 29x
Focal Plane: First
Exit Pupil: 8.4mm on low zoom, 2mm on high
Eye Relief: 85mm on low zoom, 82mm on high
Ocular Diameter: 38mm
Objective Diameter: 56mm
Focus Range: 50 yards to infinity
Diopter Adjustment Range: -2.5 to +2.5
Elevation Adjustment Range: 85 MOA
Windage Adjustment Range: 50 MOA
Elevation Travel Per Turret Revolution: 30 MOA
Body Tube Diameter: 34mm
Weight: 47 ounces
Length: 14 inches
MSRP: $2,750

Ratings (out of five stars):

Glass Quality * * * * 
Color and clarity is excellent. Brightness average. Overall about average for the price, but above average in general. There’s definitely no penalty going on here to offset some aspect of the electronics. Even viewed as a traditional scope, the glass is right where it should be.

Reticle * * * *
First focal plane with an MOA milling reticle that’s clean, precise, and well-marked. Excellent. It would earn another star with a bit of a “Christmas tree” to make holding for wind easier when also holding for elevation. Of course, I suppose the whole point of this scope is that you’re dialing for elevation, not holding. Plus it has 10 brightness settings and seven color options. It’s a nice reticle.

Turrets/Dials * * * * *
Clean and precise adjustments, smooth locking system, easy-to-read markings, and the easiest turret zeroing ever.

Features * * * * *
Success. The PMR 428’s on-board sensors and ballistics computer work great and they “talk” with the elevation turret with no issues. There’s also a built-in bubble level and the display shows temperature, barometric pressure, compass heading, and more. Easy-to-navigate menus allow in-scope adjustment, or much of it can be done through a Bluetooth-synced smartphone. I think it’s fair to say this scope has more features than anything else on the market right now.

Overall Rating * * * * 
Build in a rangefinder and the PMR 428 would be a game changer in the most legitimate sense possible. When used for known-distance shooting, it provides a real advantage. When used for unknown distance shooting, I don’t see a big benefit. Of course, at a price right in-line with much of its competition I’d choose the PMR 428 every time. It’s a slick piece of kit, to be sure.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

October 21st, 2016 by asjstaff

Modern range finders, scopes and custom turrets make it simpler than ever to shoot accurately out to long ranges.


The aoudad were camouflaged in the dry grass and rocks above us, but there was no way to stalk any closer to the herd in the barren west Texas landscape. It had already been a difficult hunt, with lots of vertical climbing in the heat of the day. The band had several sentinels, and these sharp-eyed young sheep hung back behind the rest of the herd watching our position. If we were going to get a shot, it would have to be right at that moment, and from right where we were positioned.

The ram we were looking for was near the back of the herd, grazing and totally unaware of our presence. I asked for the distance and my hunting partner – Ben Frank of Browning Ammo – called back to me that it was 277 yards. With a normal scope, that would mean accounting for the drop and holding somewhere above where I wanted the bullet to strike. But with the Leupold VX-3i scope with CDS turrets I had another option.

Author Brad Fitzpatrick (right) with an aoudad taken with Leupold’s CDS system on a Browning rifle. The old holdover method of shooting works fine in some cases, but there are a number of shots at game in country like this that you may have to forego.

Author Brad Fitzpatrick (right) with an aoudad taken with Leupold’s CDS system on a Browning rifle. The old holdover method of shooting works fine in some cases, but there are a number of shots at game in country like this that you may have to forego.

Based on the load and the accompanying chart I had printed with the trajectory for my .30-06, I knew that I needed a 1¾ minute-ofangle elevation adjustment to be dead on-target at 275 yards. Simple enough. I turned the dial, held right where I wanted the bullet to strike, and pressed the trigger on the rifle. There was a crack and a thump, and even in the recoiling scope I could see that the ram was hit hard. He went down within 20 yards.

The new LRHS from Bushnell comes with either a mil or MOA reticle and easy-to-use windage and elevation knobs. It’s also a front focal plane scope, which means you can use it to estimate range because the relative size of the reticle stays the same as you change magnification.

The new LRHS from Bushnell comes with either a mil or MOA reticle and easy-to-use windage and elevation knobs. It’s also a front focal plane scope, which means you can use it to estimate range because the relative size of the reticle stays the same as you change magnification.

A FEW YEARS AGO, hunters and shooters faced a challenge when they sought to extend their effective range. The serious long-range equipment of a few years ago required some knowledge of milradians and MOAs, and relatively few had a good grasp on how to range targets and make windage and elevation adjustments in the field.

But as new laser rangefinders hit the market, that process became simplified. Suddenly, it was easy to know how far away a target was, but there was still the matter of hitting that target.

Scope makers also did their part to help simplify tough shots. Today, most scope companies offer custom turrets that are precisely cut to your own specifications for your load based on a variety of factors (bullet weight, velocity, altitude, and more). Nikon offers their Spot On turrets, Leupold their CDS (Custom Dial System) versions, and there are many, many more. And, if the optics company doesn’t provide custom turrets, custom builders such as Kenton Industries will fill the void.

The advantage of a custom turret is that you no longer need to cheat the scope up and guess holdover. Many shooters do just that because, frankly, that’s what they’ve always done, trusting rough estimation more than the wizardry of custom scope knobs. However, if your scope does its job, your turrets are properly cut and you’re using the right load in the rifle, you’ll be amazed at just how accurate these turrets really can be.

For example, on the Browning hunt mentioned above, some of our scopes had turrets cut the particular load we were using, and all we required was a range estimation to quickly get on target. After that, it’s simply a matter of turning the dial to the correct range and pressing the trigger. And, if you want to change loads, most turrets are easily removable.

The Leupold CDS offers a custom dial option or, as shown here, you can opt for mil or MOA adjustments. This helps take the guesswork out of long-range hunting.

The Leupold CDS offers a custom dial option or, as shown here, you can opt for mil or MOA adjustments. This helps take the guesswork out of long-range hunting.

EVEN IF YOU AREN’T CERTAIN about which loads you will be using, that’s not a problem. There are a variety of phone and tablet apps that take your data and develop a custom trajectory curve. You can then enter this information and it will relate your elevation adjustment. You can also print out this info in advance for multiple loads and keep it on a range card in your pocket or taped to the stock of your rifle. This method is especially useful if you will be traveling to country where you will have no cell service.

By using a ballistic calculation system, you can quickly adjust to the current conditions and match your rifle’s load exactly. It may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. The digital age has helped consumers understand how to input data in fields, so typing in your bullet’s ballistic coefficient is really no different than typing in your address when you purchase an item online. This ballistic data will give you an elevation and windage adjustment, and you can simply dial this into your scope using the turrets.

If you carry a smartphone, it makes sense to have a ballistic app. This will give precise holdover points. If you can’t carry your phone, a range card, which the author is using with this DPMS rifle with Trijicon Accupower Mil reticle scope, works well.

If you carry a smartphone, it makes sense to have a ballistic app. This will give precise holdover points. If you can’t carry your phone, a range card, which the author is using with this DPMS rifle with Trijicon Accupower Mil reticle scope, works well.

Need 2.25 MOAs of elevation adjustment? Simply turn the elevation knob on your scope. A half MOA of wind? Make that adjustment, too, and simply hold where you want the bullet to strike. There’s no specific brand of scope that is tied to these applications, so regardless of whether you have a Trijicon, Leupold, Bushnell, Nikon, Zeiss or other optic, one MOA is equal to one MOA – provided, of course, your scope is calibrated correctly.

 Range cards give you all the data you need to make accurate shots. You simply have to print them – and use them.

Range cards give you all the data you need to make accurate shots. You simply have to print them – and use them.

What these turrets – and learning to use them – eliminate is the need to guesstimate and hold over game. If you’re planning on using the “hold a little higher on the shoulder” principle, that’s fine, and there are hunters who don’t ever plan on taking game or ringing targets outside of a couple hundred yards.

But if you want to extend the potential range of your firearm to a quarter mile or more, the notion of holdover begins to fall apart, shots become inaccurate and game suffers. I’ve known a lot of hunters who were hesitant to use turrets to dial for long shots, but once you understand how the process works, it’s no more complex than operating a remote control or programming a cell phone – provided, of course, you know how to handle your rifle, know your loads and have mastered basic shooting skills.

Using custom turrets is an inexpensive way to shoot accurately at longer ranges, and new technology has effectively reduced the learning curve for those new to long-range shooting. You should never shoot beyond your limits, always respecting the game and doing absolutely everything possible to ensure a clean kill, but new dial technology on scopes has made it easier than ever for you to be a better shooter. ASJ

 In many places, long shots are the norm, and having a dial makes accurate shooting much simpler.

In many places, long shots are the norm, and having a dial makes accurate shooting much simpler.

Posted in Gear Tagged with: , , , , ,

September 11th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Selecting The Best Optics 

Story by Tom Claycomb III


We can all boast life lessons that have taught us certain principles. For me, the optics lesson happened years ago. Ed Sweet, the host of Kid Outdoors, and I would take a lot of kids bear hunting. I’d write articles about the hunts and he’d film them for his show. On one of our first hunts we saw 10 bears in two afternoons. Only once did I spot the bear before anyone else. That’s because my partners had good glass. I had an average pair of binoculars and have realized over the years that I had been missing a lot of game. I started a quest to learn more.

Unfortunately, the old saying “you get what you pay for” is never so true as it is in the optics world. When you buy a set, get the best that you can afford and you’ll never be sorry. I’ve heard a lot of people cuss bad optics, but I’ve never seen anyone regret buying good ones.

I thought I knew most of the optic companies out there and had tested products for at least half of them, but then I attended my first SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor and Trade) Show years ago. Wow, was I shocked. I bet there were 50 to 75 optic companies on display.

How to Glass

We used a Leupold Gold ring spotting scope while hunting in the high country.

So, who’s the best? What makes one better than another? They all look clear and crisp in the store, don’t they? So how can you tell which one to buy, and why spend $2,000 on a pair of binoculars when you can buy a pair for $99? Why would you buy a spotting scope instead of just using your binoculars or the scope on your rifle? Well, let’s try to get our sights around these questions.

I teach a lot of glassing for big-game seminars, have been sponsored by a lot of optic companies over the years and I still don’t claim to know it all, but here are some of the things I have learned.

What does it all mean?

On an 8×42, the 8 signifies the power or magnification. The second number, 42, is the objective size. You preferably want your objective size to be four times the power. If it is less than four times, it won’t let in enough light for low-light conditions like dawn or dusk. The problem is, the higher the objective, the heavier the weight. Therein lies our dilemma.

If you’re a sedentary hunter, buy a 10×50, but if you’re hiking all day, buy a 10×42. I used to recommend 8×42. My thinking was that when you’re huffing and puffing up a mountain and throw up anything larger than an 8x, you wouldn’t be stable enough to focus. Years ago, however, I realized how much game I was missing, so I now carry a 10x.

What am I doing? 

Basically, there are three main options: compact, semicompact and full size. You need to determine your application. Where I live, we often scramble up and down mountains all day; this is why I carry a semicompact version. A full-sized binocular would be too heavy, and I know that I would never carry them. On the other hand, if you live in Texas and hunt out of a blind, then by all means get the larger set.

Now the tough choice: What brand should you buy? There are several good choices on the market. I’m sponsored by Leica and they have top-notch optics. Leupold and Bushnell also offer models that meet different budgets, and both offer decent warranties as well.

To strap or not to strap?

Years ago, everyone used leather straps to carry their binoculars. After a hard day of scrambling up and down it would feel like my neck had been dislocated by all the bouncing around. This is when I discovered Butler Creek elastic straps. They fit like a bra – not that I’ve ever worn a bra – and hold the binoculars against my chest. A lot of people make straps that are similar, but back in the day Butler Creek owned the market.

Spotting scopes

Now let’s cover spotting scopes. Why buy a spotting scope? Why not just use your binoculars? Because you’ll miss a ton of game. What size should you buy? Because of weight, I choose to carry a 35x, which is sufficient for me here in Idaho. If you’re sheep hunting in Alaska, you may want a 60x. You will need to determine where and how you hunt before making your decision.

How to glass

When I glass, I do what is known as “zoning” – no, not fall asleep. I’ll climb to the top of a high ridge and set up. I start viewing towards one end of the mountain and glass across horizontally, then drop down 50 yards and go back. I will do this until I get to the visual bottom. Try to avoid randomly looking around. Have a system or you’ll miss game and never even know it.

How To Choose The Best Optics

If you hunt long-range areas with just a set of binoculars, you might be surprised at what you don’t see. To see elk on far-off ridges you’re going to have to have a spotting scope.

Animals feed in and out of cover, so wait a few minutes and repeat glassing. If you glass an area long enough, you’ll grow accustomed to odd-shaped rocks and stumps, and notice when something new appears that wasn’t there before. As the sun moves, shadows may cause things to look different throughout the day too.

One good thing about using a spotting scope is if you see something, you can back away from the optic and let your partner look through. How many times have you seen an elk across a mountain and it’s taken five minutes for your buddy to see it too? Problem solved!

Which is best? A straight or a 45-degree angled optic? Over the years I’ve started favoring an angled neck. To me it’s a little more user friendly and causes less muscle stress throughout the day.

At the end of a hard day of glassing your eyes are going to be strained. You’ll go to bed feeling like you’re seasick or worse, hallucinating. I know everyone is on a budget, but as an old buddy used to say, “On this purchase, don’t leave any change in your pocket.”

Mounted scopes and covers

PHOTO 3 IMGP2736Let’s move onto scopes. For fast shots you’ll want a 3x to 9x. They use smaller powers so they can pick up game fast. For hunting out West, you’ll want more magnification for the longer shots you’ll take.

I love the idea of a scope cover because the last time I hunted deer in Nebraska during a blizzard, I found a deer, threw up my rifle, looked through the scope and it was full of snow. Needless to say, I missed. I’ve tested numerous scope covers over the years and every single one has managed to get hung up on a limb and disappeared. This also goes for the covers on my binoculars. Maybe it is just me.

Cost considerations

Some people will tell you to spend more on the scope than you do your rifle. This is somewhat true, I feel. I have a stainless-steel Remington 700 .338 Winchester Magnum. The scope is a Leupold VXIII 4.5x to 14x, so it’s half again as expensive as the rifle. This must mean that I somewhat agree with this concept.

Optic care and cleaning

It goes without saying, baby them! I don’t strap my rifle on my four-wheeler and go bouncing around. I baby my scope and consequently it stays on tight. It is also not a good idea to leave optics in the blistering sun either.

To properly clean them, Hamilton Boykin at Leica told me to hold them upside down, blow off any loose dust and then pour water on the lens to rinse off. Then with a soft, wet lens rag, wipe them clean in swooping motions. Don’t wipe in a circular motion or you will grind in sand particulates. Spitting on the lenses and wiping them off with your dusty shirt tail doesn’t cut it either.

Try a good optic once and you’ll never go back. ASJ




Posted in Long Range Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

July 27th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

The New

TERRA XB75 Crossbow Scope

By Zeiss

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, the world’s leading manufacturer of high performance sports optics, is pleased to announce the world’s first premium crossbow scope, TERRA 3x XB75 with patented ballistic reticle. The new XB75 2-7×32 offers crossbow enthusiasts the ability to determine aiming points from 20 to 75 yards in 2½-yard increments based on the chronographed speed of the bow.

The anti-reflective coatings to produces bright, high-contrast images eliminating the need for an illuminated reticle

The TERRA XB75 2-7×32 features all the benefits of German engineering and performance that you’ve come to expect from ZEISS, including uncompromising optical performance, all in a lightweight, extremely rugged, compact 1″ design. The XB75 features MC anti-reflective coatings to produces bright, high-contrast images eliminating the need for an illuminated reticle. Now you can hunt harder and longer by being able to stay on stand when the last bit of light is being squeezed out of the day.
“This was a much needed product for the hardcore crossbow crowd. Finally an optical device that has caught up to the high-tech crossbows out there. Gone are the days of being stuck with subpar optics for the crossbow enthusiast,” stated Mike Jensen, President of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. “ZEISS sets another major milestone by being the first premium optics company to launch a dedicated scope for the crossbow community. Once again, this demonstrates our commitment not only to shooting sports but also to the sport of archery.”
The patented technology of the XB75’s reticle provides the ability to shoot distances up to 75 yards in 2½-yard increments. The scope has six separate crosshairs, the main cross section of each crosshair represents whole yardages (20 to 70 yards). The dot in between each set of crosshairs represents the half yardage marks. The top and bottom of each individual crosshair represents the 2½-yard marks. The top of the reticle wire protruding from the bottom of the reticle is the 75 yard indicator mark.

Once the 30-yard crosshair is sighted in, the scope is now calibrated to your crossbow and all of the other aiming points will be correct.

TERRA 3x XB75-Hero ShotThe scope’s ocular ring has engravings representing speeds from 275 fps to 425 fps and magnification from 2x to 7x. To program, simply mount the scope on the rail of the crossbow using high-quality rings, then set a target at 10 yards using the 20-yard (1st crosshair from the top) and shoot until you hit center, then repeat at 20 yards. Once the main 20-yard reticle is sighted in, turn the speed indicator on the ocular to the manufacturers advertised speed (this may vary based on bolt length and weight). Now move the target to 30 yards and sight in using the 30-yard reticle (2nd crosshair from the top). Once the 30-yard crosshair is sighted in, the scope is now calibrated to your crossbow and all of the other aiming points will be correct. Crossbows with speeds over 425 fps and using a lighter arrow combination may require a main crosswire sight-in point of 30 yards instead of the normal 20 yards. This will require calibrating the scope at 40 yards to compensate for the flat trajectory of the crossbow bolt. The owner’s manual includes more detailed setup instructions.TERRA XB75 is built to handle the most rugged terrain and challenging conditions, and is backed by the Carl Zeiss U.S. Limited Lifetime Transferable Warranty.

TERRA XB75 features:
 Extremely low profile 1-inch tube design
 2 to 7x Magnification
 1/4-MOA adjustments provide 100% repeatability, click by click
 Patented ballistic reticle with yardages from 20 to 75 yards
 For crossbows speeds 275 fps to 425 fps
 German Engineered

MSRP: $444.43

Technical Data:
Magnification 2.3 7
Effective lens diameter 24.4 mm 32 mm
Exit pupil diameter 12.2 mm 4.6 mm
Twilight factor 7 15
Field of view (ft. at 100 yards) 46.5 ft. 13.5 ft.
Objective viewing angle 7.4° 2.5°
Diopter adjustment range ± 2.5 dpt
Eye relief 90 mm / 3.55 mm
Parallax-free 30 yds.
Square adjustment range 62 MOA
Adjustment per click 1/4 MOA
Center tube diameter 25.4 / 1 mm
Eyepiece tube diameter 41 mm
Objective tube diameter 39.5 mm
Coating ZEISS MC
Nitrogen filling Yes
Waterproof 400 mbar
Functional temperature range -13 / +122 °F
Length 11.5 in
Weight 13.4 oz
Subject to changes in design and scope of delivery as a result of ongoing technical development.

For more information on ZEISS’ award winning products please visit us at

About the ZEISS Group
ZEISS is an international leader in the fields of optics and optoelectronics. The more than 24,000 employees of ZEISS generated revenue of about 4.2 billion euros in fiscal year 2012/13. Founded in 1846 in Jena, the company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. ZEISS has been contributing to technological progress for more than 160 years. ZEISS develops and produces solutions for the semiconductor, automotive and mechanical engineering industries, biomedical research and medical technology, as well as eyeglass lenses, camera and cine lenses, binoculars and planetariums. ZEISS is present in over 40 countries around the globe with more than 40 production facilities, around 50 sales and service locations and over 20 research and development sites. Carl Zeiss AG is fully owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung (Carl Zeiss Foundation).

Editor’s note: Crossbow hunting rules vary by state, see yours for more information

As an fyi, crossbows are banned in Oregon, but can be used during Washington’s rifle big-game seasons (but not during the archery hunt). They’re also OK during Idaho short-range weapons seasons (as are tomahawks, large rocks, boomerangs, very loud and shrill yells).

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