Category Archives: Optics

SKILLS: Misconceptions About Pistol Sights

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The sights are your connection to the target. Don’t buy into myths surrounding choices in a sighting system for your handgun. Read about it!

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Tom McHale

What’s that old saying? A lie, told often enough, becomes truth?

We gun people are often guilty of a related thing. That would be passing along hearsay comments over and over, until they become assumed fact.

pistol sight big dot

Some of the things that I’ve heard a thousand times relate to gun sights. You know, observations like “Big Dot sights are too big to be useful” or “they’re not precise enough!” I got an itch to put some of these handgun sight myths to the test so I could start to separate truth from hearsay.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more common handgun sight myths.

Big Sights Aren’t Precise Enough
To test this potential myth, I figured it was a good time for the first annual Shooting Illustrated Math Fair. In this inaugural event, we’re going to use really basic geometry to see exactly how big that Big Dot sight looks down range. In other words, at realistic handgun shooting distances, how much of your target is covered by the Big Dot sight?

Since this is supposed to be fun and informative, I won’t be a buzz kill and share the math in excruciating detail, but it’s pretty simple. We know that the shooter’s eye is the starting point. We also know that this particular Big Dot Sight is .18 inches in diameter because I measured it with my reloading calipers. We also know, that in my specific case, the front sight is about 24.5 inches from my eye when I’m shooting. Seriously, I measured with a yardstick. So now we have a proportional relationship. At a distance of 24.5 inches, the sight is .18-inch wide. As a result, we can easily figure out how big that sight appears at other distances.

Don’t fool yourself. Even “big” sights don’t cover an appreciable percentage of the target at reasonable distances.

Here’s how much the Big Dot covers at various ranges. Keep in mind that the Big Dot is a circle, so “coverage” of the target down range is also circular. The sizes I relate below reflect the diameter of that circle.

BIG DOT SIGHT

Clearly, Big Dot sights aren’t intended for NRA Precision Pistol Matches. Rather, they’re made for self-defense handguns with the emphasis on speed, clarity, and “good enough” accuracy at self-defense ranges.

What’s the bottom line? When you look at the real numbers, that huge front sight doesn’t cover much of your target at all. At 25 yards, it’s just 6.6 inches, and that is a much farther distance than 99.9 percent of defensive shooting scenarios. If you can shoot into a 6.6-inch group from a distance of 25 yards while someone is shooting at you or charging with an ax, then please submit your application to be my permanent bodyguard! At more realistic self-defense distances like 3, 5 and 10 yards, we’re talking an inch or two of target coverage by that front sight. Even at a whopping 100 yards, if you can hold well enough, you can easily hit a standard 19-inch-wide self-defense target. Yes, your front sight will overlap it, but just a little. To me, this precision myth is exactly that — a myth.

Big Sights Aren’t Any Faster
The idea behind using a large front sight is that your eye can pick it up really quickly as you raise your gun to target. There’s no ambiguity or confusion about which dot is the visible area is the front or rear. In fact, XS Big Dot brand sights don’t even use rear dots. Rather, the rear sight is a shallow “V”shape, much like the rear sights on lever-action carbines from the Bonanza era. I don’t know if Ben Cartwright gets royalty checks or not, but he should.

So, is this approach to handgun sights faster? I decided to find out by performing some semi-scientific testing. Since I’m writing this article during the great Charleston Monsoon of 2015, my shooting range has been unusable, being submerged in water. So I decided to get creative and put my LaserLyte Reaction Tyme targets to work along with a Beretta Px4 Storm, a LaserLyte Cartridge Laser, and a set of XS Big Dot Sights. My plan was to set up two Reaction Tyme Targets in my (relatively) dry living room and recruit a couple of people to shoot for time using the standard Beretta Px4 factory sights. Then, I would install the Big Dot sights and repeat the process, comparing before and after times. If nothing else, I figured this would be a great way to burn off some “four days of non-stop rain” stir crazy.

pistol sight on target

I recruited two shooters, neither of which had any experience with Big Dot Sights. I set up the two Reaction Tyme targets about four feet apart at a distance of 12 feet. The idea was to hit one and have to transition to the other quickly. My thinking was that would exercise the sight acquisition part of the experiment. Each shooter fired 10 shots alternating between targets. The “hit” area on the Reaction Tyme targets is only about a two-inch circle, so shooters had to aim, even at a distance of 12 feet. Only hits counted, so each shooter had to stay on a target until it registered a hit with an audible beep.

What were the results? Each shooter completed three timed runs and I averaged the results. Shooter A completed the course using standard sights with an average time of 12.6 seconds and Big Dots sights in 8.0 seconds. That’s a 36.6-percent speed improvement. Shooter B averaged 20.4 seconds with standard three-dot sights and 17.2 seconds using the Big Dot configuration. That’s a 15.2-percent improvement.

While not completely scientific, the results were pretty clear. Each shooter reported seeing the dot much faster and commented that there was not a need to “focus and line up.”They simply covered the target with the dot and pulled the trigger. The rear “V” sight just fell into place naturally.

Iron Sights Aren’t Accurate
People often refer to the inaccuracy of iron sights. That’s not exactly a true statement. Iron sights are plenty accurate. It’s our ability to line the sights up properly and consistently that is the issue. The accuracy capability of shooting with iron sights is really more about the limitations of our eyesight and our ability to hold those sights steady shot after shot.

Very rarely is the firearm the reason we don’t shoot accurately. Sight radius plays a part, but the shooter’s role is far more important.

Here’s what I mean. Like the precision scenario we discussed earlier, the accuracy potential of shooting iron sights boils down to a proportional relationship. In this case, we’re concerned about how much or little the front sight moves relative to the rear sight. If you put your handgun in a vise or perfectly mounted Ransom rest, your sights are going to be in the exact same position for every single shot. The minute you rely on human eyesight to line up those sights for the next shot, you’re limited by your vision.

A real example will help illustrate my point. Suppose I fire a shot at a 25-yard distant target using the same Beretta Px4. Now, I settle back into my sandbag rest to fire a second shot in the group. It’s up to me, the shooter, to make sure that the front sight, rear sight, and target are all in the exact same alignment as they were for the first shot. What happens if my front sight is just .01 inch out of perfect alignment relative to the rear sight? Let’s find out.

handgun sight radius

The sight radius of my Beretta Px4 is 5.77 inches. That’s measured from the rear of the rear sight to the rear of the front sight, or the parts that my eye actually sees. If my front sight drifts just .01 inch in any direction relative to the rear sight, that translates to 1.6 inches off target at 25 yards. If we were using a gun with a 2-inch sight radius, the error down range would be even larger. Considering that many modern production pistols care capable of shooting one to two-inch groups at 25 yards when in a Ransom Rest, that’s a big deal.

What does all this mean? When you read about “accuracy” of any given handgun, know that unless machines are involved, what you’re really getting is an indication of that pistol’s ability to be shot accurately. That may depend on the quality or type of sights, the sight radius and the overall ergonomics of the pistol. Viewed another way, a pistol with a 10-inch barrel may or may not be more accurate than one with a two-inch barrel, but it sure will be a heck of a lot easier to shoot accurately. If a human shoots those two guns from sandbags at 25-yard targets, they’ll almost certainly get better groups with the 10-inch gun. That’s because it’s easier to aim precisely with its longer and more forgiving sight radius, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the gun is more accurate.

We shooters tend to pass around too much hearsay information and consider it truth. It never hurts to be a bit skeptical and think things through on your own or even test them if possible. Heck, your life may one day depend on it.

SKILLS: Riflescopes: Adjustments & Variable Power

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There’s a lot to learn to really understand riflescopes and make the best choice. Here’s another valuable lesson. Keep reading…

riflecope

SOURCE: NRA Staff

Windage and elevation adjustments in riflescopes are made with either internal or external adjustment systems. Here’s what that means.

Internal: Most modern telescopic sights have internal adjustment systems using threaded, cylindrical knobs or screws in the turrets. The adjustment screws move the reticle assembly in the optical axis inside the main tube against spring pressure. The adjustment screws have clearly marked graduations around their circumference and many have a ball-detent system that clicks as the adjustment screws are turned. Each graduation or click represents a change in reticle position that moves the bullet strike at the target. This is expressed in minutes of angle (m.o.a.) and normally has a value of 1/2, 1/4 or 1/8 m.o.a. per click.

External: Many older scopes have an external-adjustment system built into the mounts and rings. Such scopes remain popular today for certain types of target competition. In this type of scope, the reticle remains stationary within the main tube and the point of the bullet strike is adjusted by mounts having micrometer windage and elevation mechanisms that move the entire scope laterally and/or vertically. These mounts often allow the scope to slide fore and aft to reduce recoil. An advantage of external-adjustment scopes is that the user is always sighting through the optical center of the tube.

As internal-adjustment systems became more reliable and more accurate, the popularity of external-adjustment scopes faded. Today, external-adjustment models are still offered, however the use of such scopes is now generally limited to a few specialized disciplines of rifle competition.

It is important to note that some scope-mounting systems designed for internal-adjustment scopes still incorporate the ability to accommodate some coarse external windage adjustment.

This leads us to the discussion of variable power. Variable-power riflescopes have an internal mechanism to change the amount of magnification within design limits. This consists of an additional set of lenses mounted in an internal tube that slides forward and rearward under the control of a cam attached to the magnification ring. The design of the lens system and its position in the tube controls the amount of magnification.

The popularity of variable-power riflescopes rests squarely on their flexibility. Variable magnification enables the shooter to adjsut the power to suit a wide variety of conditions ranging from lower power (with a wide field of view for fast shots at close range), to higher power (for greater precision at long range). Once considered expensive and unreliable, variable-power riflescopes have become the most popular type as their design has matured and prices have dropped. Todya, the single most popular riflescope is the 3-9X-40mm, which has become a kind of “jack of all trades.” Smaller variables such as 2-7X-32mm remain popular for smaller-caliber rifles, while 4.5-12X-50mm and bigger models are favored for long-range shooting. Despite their flexibility, no one variable fits all applications and that is why there are so many different models.

Despite their popularity, variable-power riflescopes may suffer from certain drawbacks:
ONE: The variable magnification system introduces another level of mechanical complexity and another source for optical error, potentially decreasing reliability.

TWO: The movement of the internal components of a variable-power scope can produce changes in zero as the scope power is increased or decreased.

THREE: Variable-power scopes are harder to seal than fixed-power scopes by virtue of the magnification-adjustment ring.
As the magnification increases, the field of view and image brightness decrease, often substantially.

FOUR: Variable-magnification scopes are substantially heavier than fixed-power scopes.

FIVE: Variable-power scopes are more expensive than fixed-power scopes.

Optics Terms Defined: Magnification and Objective Lens

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When it comes to optics for firearms, the specific terms that people use to describe them can be confusing. Here’s what all that argot actually means…

optics array

by NRA Staff
SOURCE: NRAFamily

Magnification
The magnification, or power, of a riflescope is expressed as a number corresponding to the size of an object viewed at a specified distance through the scope, relative to its size as seen with the naked eye. Put another way, an object 100 yards distant viewed through a 10X scope will appear to be the same size as if it were viewed with the naked eye from 10 yards away. Different scope magnifications are used for specific shooting activities.

High-magnification riflescopes from 15X to 50X with objective lens diameters of 40-50mm or more with adjustable objective-lens systems are popular for various types of centerfire rifle competitions such as benchrest and F-Class.

Varmint shooters normally prefer a scope with magnification levels of 12X to 24X and adjustable objective lens diameters of 44-50mm for their precision work.

Long-range big-game hunting demands a scope with an adjustable objective lens system of approximately 40mm diameter with power levels up to 15X that enable the hunter to judge game and wind conditions at extreme distances.

At dawn, dusk or during poor light conditions, scopes with large objective lenses of 50mm and above that gather all existing light are preferable, with powers between 6X and 12X. Illuminated reticles are a popular option on these scopes.

Low-power scopes of 1.1X to 4X with a wide field of view and fixed objective are well-suited for hunting in woods or brush at close range.

For general-purpose hunting, most sportsmen are well served by a 3-9X-40mm variable scope with fixed objective, which is a good compromise between a wide field of view for close shots (at 3X) and added magnification (at 9X) for distant shots.

As magnification levels increase, the field of view decreases, which makes target acquisition increasingly difficult. Increasing magnification also magnifies movement, making the reticle appear less steady and thus hampering the ability of many shooters to hold their point of aim. These factors conspire to make most scopes over 8X very difficult to use without a solid rest. When shooting from a rest on a bench, a narrow field of view and high magnification are less of a problem.

Objective Lens
The objective lens is the light-gathering lens at the front of the scope. The larger the diameter of the objective lens, the more light will be admitted into the scope. This results in a larger exit pupil with a brighter image.

Most riflescopes have objective lens diameters from 32mm to 44mm. These provide a good balance between light-gathering capability, cost and image quality. Such riflescopes are relatively lightweight and easy to mount on most rifles. For many hunting applications, such riflescopes are an excellent choice.

For hunting at dusk, dawn or in very low light conditions, the increased light-gathering capability of a larger objective lens may be a better choice. For such conditions, most scope manufacturers offer models with 50mm to 56mm objective lenses. However, there is a penalty to be paid for th is increased performance in the form of substantially increased weight, higher cost and difficulty in mounting a scope with such a large objective.

Varmint hunters and some target shooters prefer riflescopes with large 50mm or greater objective lenses for a different reason. They want a higher-power scope of 12X or more with a clear, crisp, flat image with excellent contrast and an adjustable objective to remove parallax. The image quality reduces eyestrain and enables them to clearly see small targets at long ranges and to judge wind and mirage precisely. They also spend considerable time looking through the scope with the rifle held on a solid rest, so unsteadiness from high magnification and a narrow field of view is less important.

SKILLS: Problems (Some) Riflescopes (Can) Have

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The more you know the better choices you can make. Consider all of this carefully before you purchase your next riflescope.

by NRA Staff

There are some problems that riflescopes can experience, but you should note that modern manufacturing techniques can make a real difference. There are three main issues:

Parallax
Many riflescopes suffer from a condition that stems from the inability of a scope to remain focused at all ranges. The compromise solution for most scopes is to design them to focus at infinity or one specific range. This serves most purposes and simplifies scope design. When a scope is properly focused at the chosen zero range, parallax will be minimal.

However, this is not acceptable for some applications, such as varmint shooting and hunting at long ranges. Under such conditions, parallax becomes a problem that must be addressed. Scope makers solve this problem by offering models with adjustable objective (AO) lenses. AO models incorporate adjustable objective bell housings with graduations marked on the traveling edge that allow quick and easy adjustment to remove parallax at any range. Alternately, some models locate the parallax adjustment in a third turret on the main tube for more convenience. Although AO and side-focus models cost more, shooters demanding enhanced accuracy often feel they are worth the asking price.

Sealing
Most quality scopes are sealed. This means the outer lenses and adjustment systems must be sealed against ingress of water, dust and dirt. This is very important, as dust or dirt inside the tube will degrade the image in several ways, mainly by appearing as black spots within the field of view. Dirt inside the tube can also jam the delicate adjustment system. Moisture inside the tube can cause fogging so that the shooter cannot see through it. Moisture can also cause corrosion of inner parts and surfaces.

Scopes are sealed at the factory by first attaching them to a vacuum pump that removes all air from inside the tube. The tube is then filled with dry nitrogen gas to prevent fogging and then subsequently sealed. Of course, if you remove a turret or the ocular bell housing, the nitrogen gas may escape, thus compromising your scope’s anti-fogging capability.

Many high-quality scopes have double seals to ensure gas-tight integrity. However, no scope is permanently waterproof despite advertising claims to the contrary. Wear, tear, impacts and age all conspire against the tube holding the nitrogen gas. For this reason, most scope manufacturers will reseal and refill a scope at modest cost.

Want to check your scope for leaks? Try this simple test: Fill a sink or washbasin with warm water. Immerse your scope in the water for five minutes and check for bubbles coming from the tube. Bubbles mean leakage and such scopes should be sent back to the manufacturer for resealing and refilling.

Shock & Recoil
Newtonian physics are not kind to riflescopes. In addition to maintaining their accuracy, reliability, and water-tight integrity, scopes must withstand the considerable shock of repeated recoil many times the force of gravity. The delicate adjustment mechanisms and lens mounts are particularly susceptible to high G loads and must be designed accordingly. Scope makers are well aware of this and have designed shock resistance into their products. They have been so successful that shock resistance is now taken for granted by shooters and manufacturers alike.

Air rifles are a special case. Be careful when using conventional riflescopes on a spring-piston air rifle. If you do, the lenses may come loose, sometimes within a few shots, and your scope could be damaged or ruined. The reason is that spring-piston air rifles recoil in both rearward and then forward directions while a conventional rifle recoils only rearward. Thus, a riflescope for a conventional firearm need resist G forces in only one direction — rearward. Air rifle scopes must resist G forces in both directions. This requires a special scope designed for the purpose.

SKILLS: Riflescopes: Lens Coatings

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Lens coatings provide superior optical clarlty and utility. Here’s how and why…

coated lenses

Source: NRAFamily.org

In any optical system, some light is lost through reflection each time the light passes through a glass-to-air surface. The light loss can be significant in multi-element riflescopes; as much as 50 percent of the light may be lost to reflection as it passes through an uncoated lens system.

In the 1940s, it was discovered that magnesium flouride coatings on lenses would increase light transmission, color fidelity and image brightness considerably. Today, nearly all modern scopes have coated lenses that transmit from 95 to 99 percent of the light that enters the objective lens.

Coatings such as zinc sulfide and zirconium oxide are used, often in combination with magnesium flouride. A coated lens will appear tinted when viewed from the side. The exact color may vary from blue, green, purple, red or gold. Abrasion-resistant coatings have been developed for the exterior lens surfaces of modern riflescopes. Water-shedding coatings have also been developed.

Various levels of coating can be applied to lenses ranging from a single layer of magnesium flouride on the exterior objective and ocular surfaces, to as many as 15 layers or more on every surface of every lens. Typically, coating layers are only a few ten-thousandths of an inch thick.

The term “fully coated” when applied to a riflescope usually means that all lens-to-air surfaces have at least one coating layer. This includes the interior lens systems as well as the exterior.
The term “multi-coated” or “multiple-layer coated” signifies that multiple coating layers have been applied to some, but not all, lens surfaces. Normally, this means that only the outer lens surfaces have been multi-coated. “Fully multi-coated” signifies multiple coatings on all lens-to-air surfaces.

Lower-priced scopes may have from one to five lens-coating layers while more expensive scopes may have as many as 15 or even more. In lower-priced scopes, only the outside surface of the objective (front) and ocular (rear) lenses are coated. Higher-quality scopes have all internal and external lens surfaces multi-coated.

How many layers are enough? That depends on the quality of the lens system and the intended purpose of the scope. Adding more layers of coating rapidly reaches the point of diminishing returns, but on a high-quality scope where maximum light transmission and image fidelity are necessary, 15 layers of coating can be easily justified.

REVIEW: Vortex Recon R/T, Solo Tactical R/T Ranging Monoculars

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Combining the best of a dedicated range finger with a powerful and handy spotting scope, these new monoculars from Vortex are a big hit.

By Major Pandemic

Warning: One of these Vortex ranging monoculars will end up on your “stuff I need” list. Let me sum this up quick and then I will work through the features. The Vortex Recon R/T and Solo Tactical R/T deliver the shooter a compact, quick, and robust observation, scouting, and ranging solution that starts at only $169. It is an idea that combines an offset MRAD/MilDot ranging reticle with a simple-to-use high-quality monocular. Vortex is offering these monocular models in 8x, 10x, and 15x magnifications. All the R/T (Ranging and Tactical) models feature the mil-dot reticle and pre-ranged 300-, 400-, 500- and 600-meter standard man-sized silhouettes. Look, range, adjust turrets, and shoot. The Mil-based reticle also allows ranging via a standard mil-dot grid system.

Vortex Solo
Vortex Solo and reticle view.

Line up the silhouette with a human-sized silhouette for immediate ranging or use the Mil-Dots for measurement and you can quickly calculate the range all without batteries. This method also prevents rangefinder errors because grass was waving in front of you while you were snuggled into a prone position. Ahh, good old fashioned manual ranging technology paired with enough magnification power to actually see details that an electronic 4x rangefinder would fail to deliver. In my opinion, this was one of the top optic products of the 2016 SHOT Show, and after testing I believe it should be in everyone’s kit.

A great pair of binoculars are handy, however there are a lot of times that they seem too cumbersome or heavy and this is where a quality monocular makes perfect sense. Monoculars can be tucked into a jacket pocket or, in the case of the Vortex Recon and Tactical R/T, clipped to the belt. Technically, you are getting better optics in a monocular for the money than you would with binoculars simply because you are paying for just one eye-full of optics and not two. The clarity of these Vortex Monoculars is really outstanding considering the price. The only shortcoming in the lineup is a focus-free model, but all the current models do feature easy-to-use focusing and ocular adjustment.

Vortex monocular
The Solo is a lower-power and smaller, more compact choice that slips into any jacket pocket.

If you are using a Mil-Dot ranging system, regular scouting optics would require you to find what you are looking for and then get behind your rifle to relocate the target and use the rifle optics’ reticle to measure objects in order to calculate the distance for the shooting solution. With both the Vortex RECON R/T and Vortex SOLO R/T you or a shooting partner can find and range a target and the rifle only needs to be used to deliver the shooting solution. Some people would say, “Why do I care?” The main reason is that the Vortex Monoculars get the measurement tool off a potentially loaded gun so that you can range all sorts of stuff at football games, golfing, and keeping an eye on that car down the street all without waving a gun muzzle around. The other valid reason is that it gives you a ranging and scouting tool which will never require batteries. Once you start burning into your brain the mil-dot sizes of typical animals, human, and environmental objects, ranging can be really fast without any math involved.

Recon strap-handle
The Recon features a strap to help secure the hold and stabilize the image.

Vortex has thought out each of these monoculars very well. Both have belt clips to make it easy and simple to clip to a belt or pack. Other accessories include lens covers, lanyards, and compact and protective neoprene covers. The larger RECON R/T includes a hand strap, picatinny rail, tripod adapter, and mini tripod.

Recon kit
The Recon includes a case, cover, and quick tripod.

Vortex’s Recon R/T is basically a compact spotting scope with 40 mils of positive and negative ranging ability from center. The 10X magnification does require some type of stabilization or the image starts to jump around. Vortex does include a small flexi-leg tripod which mounts quickly via the included multi-mount. The included tripod is just barely strong enough to hold up the Recon’s weight, but it does work if you get the legs bent the right way. The Recon R/T also can be mounted to any screw-on type tripod on either side which would be a preferable mounting if used on a bench. At $689 the assumption is correct that the Vortex Recon R/T is a significantly better optic than its little brother. Notably the Recon is a significantly higher tier of optic with greatly improved clarity and brightness all around. It feels more rugged and is a more featured packed kit compared to the slimmed down Solo. Where I see the primary use of the Recon R/T 10x and 15x models is taking the place of compact spotting scopes in the field while also reducing the weight burden of also carrying binoculars and ranging devices.

The Vortex Solo R/T is the little brother of the Recon but with 60 Mils of positive and negative of ranging front center due to the broader field of view 8x magnification. The Solo does not have the extra lens covers, the tripod, or the hand strap, however it is the perfect compromise of small compact usefulness that would make you carry it everywhere. It does not look “tactical” which I think is important as a multi-tool optics for residential, urban, and even public sporting environments. The Solo R/T still packs in the ranging reticle, silhouette ranging, and pocket clip all protected by a simple slip-in neoprene case. The 8x magnification is more forgiving and easily used unsupported single-handed while still delivering a stable image. I can say that I use the Solo so much I will likely buy at least one more. It gets used a lot at the range to check targets.

Vortex reticle
Here’s the dynamics of the ranging system. Simple and effective!

FINAL THOUGHTS
It is easy to whip out your laser range finder, but there are many situations where I have found these tools to deliver false or unreliable readings. Mil-based ranging may not give you the perfect accuracy of a laser range finder, but the Recon and Solo provide a tool which can validate a range and double as a scouting tool. A brilliant idea by Vortex of offering this concept in an affordable package to the consumer markets.

Vortex specifications

Click HERE to learn more about these  amazing optics.

Click HERE to see Midsouth’s Vortex selection.

[Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com]

 

SKILLS: Riflescopes: All About Reticles

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This is the second in a series on optic basics, and it covers the most visible component of a scope: the reticle. Read on…

by NRA Staff

basic riflescope reticle

The riflescope’s reticle is the visible reference used as an aiming point to align the gun with the target. There are many reticle patterns ranging from simple to complex. The most popular remains the general-purpose crosshair. However, even the simple crosshair offers choices, such as tapered, ultra thin, duplex, mil-dot, ballistic compensating, range-finding, center dot, center ring and post, just to name a few. Each configuration is intended for a specific type of use and there are multiple versions of all. For example, tapered crosshairs are a popular choice for varmint hunting and duplex crosshairs are a common choice for big-game hunting. There seems to be no limit to the new reticle designs being offered, and most makers offer at least six or more types. Your best bet is to try out several at a local gun store, then consult with experienced shooters or hunters before making a final selection.

Reticles may be illuminated electronically, with tritium or with fiber optics to enhance their contrast against dark backgrounds; this is helpful especially at dusk or dawn or during heavy overcast conditions. Illumination remains an expensive option that may not work well in very cold conditions and has limited usefulness. Still, it has proven a popular addition to many scopes.

reticle choices

The reticle itself may be located inside the scope at the first, or front, focal plane or the second, or rear focal plane. The location is an issue only in variable-power scopes. Reticles located in the first focal plane in a variable-power scope will increase or decrease in size as the magnification is changed while those located in the second focal plane do not change size when the power is adjusted. For this reason, the latter location has become the most popular.

One situation in which a front-focal-plane reticle is clearly advantageous is in scopes with a mil-dot ranging system. This type of reticle employs dots spaced one milliradian apart on the crosshair. (A milliradian is the angle subtended by 3 feet at 1,000 yards.) An object of known size is bracketed between the dots, and a table is used to determine the range based on the number of dots the object measures. With a rear-focal-plane reticle variable, the mil-dot system is only accurate at one power setting. A front-focal-plane location maintains the same relationship to the target throughout the range of magnification, thus enabling mil-dots to be used accurately at any power.

A second benefit of placement in front of the variable-magnification lens system is that the reticle remains unaffected by tolerances or misalignment of the erector tube during power changes. With a rear-focal-plane location, these tolerances may shift point of impact as the power level changes.

In the past, many scope reticles were not constantly centered, meaning they moved off to the side when windage or elevation adjustments were made. Many shooters found this annoying. Today, nearly all riflescopes have constantly centered reticles that do not change position when adjustments are made.

Crosshairs or other reticle patterns are created by laser etching on optical glass or by ultra-thin platinum wires. Some early scope reticles used strands of hair, hence the name “crosshairs.” Others used spider silk…interestingly enough, the silk of the black widow spider, which has a better tensile strength than other types of spider silk.

David Tubb DTR Reticle
David Tubb’s DTR design takes a reticle about as far as it can go, offering built-in aiming dot compensation choices to even account for density altitude.

REVIEW: Springfield Armory SAINT

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We have been waiting a long time for Springfield’s AR15 and it is worth the wait, and worth the money. Here’s why…

by Bob Campbell

Springfield’s ads had been teasing us with the introduction of a new product and very recently we learned that the SAINT was an AR15-type rifle. This is the first-ever AR15 with the proud Springfield Armory stamp. The rifle had been described as entry level but this isn’t really true. There are more expensive rifles but the Springfield isn’t cheap — it is simply below the $900 threshold. That is a pretty important price point. The rifle has good features and is built for reliability. The SAINT is intended to appeal to the young and adventurous and to those serious about taking responsibility for their own safety. I agree but older shooters such as myself who are able to discern quality at a fair price will also appreciate the SAINT. As a Springfield fan, the SAINT will take its place beside my 1903 Springfield and the modern 1911 Operator handgun, but there is more to the puzzle than the name. At present I have fewer than 600 rounds fired through the SAINT but the experience has been good. (I fire the rifles I test for real on the range, and not with the typewriter. I know the difficulty in firing one thousand rounds or more in an economic and physical sense.)

SAINT and 1903
The SAINT is shown with a 1903 Springfield. A proud tradition!

Let’s look at the particulars. The SAINT features the A2-style front sight/gas block and a folding rear sight. The rear sight is stamped with the Springfield “crossed cannons” emblem. The rear sight isn’t target grade but it is useful for short-range defense work and snagging predators to perhaps 100 yards, the use I will put this 6-pound, 11-ounce rifle to. The gas system is a mid-length architecture. Without getting into a discussion that would fill these pages all its own, the mid-length system is ideal for use with common bullet weights. The SAINT has a 16-inch barrel chambered for the 5.56mm NATO cartridge. This means you can fire .223 Remington or 5.56mm cartridges without a hint of trouble. Its 1-in-8 inch barrel twist is increasingly popular. Midway between the 7- and 9-inch twist this barrel twist rate has proven accurate with the majority of loads I have tested. So far this includes loads of 52 to 77 grain bullet weights.

SAINT
The SAINT handles well. The author found the SAINT exceptionally controllable.

The trigger is a GI-type that breaks in my example at 6.7 pounds. This is in the middle-ground for an AR trigger and it is clean and crisp. There is also a special coating that allows the trigger group to ride smoothly. The receivers are anodized aluminum, no surprises there, but the bolt carrier group is also specially coated, and stamped with the Springfield logo. I like that a lot. Springfield has added a new design with the Accu-Tite Tension system. This is a set screw located in the lower receiver that allows the user to tighten the receivers together. I like this feature and I probably will not add any other tightening measures to the SAINT. The furniture is Bravo Company and the handguard is a Springfield exclusive. The three-piece handguard features a heat shield in the lower base, and allows for accessory mounting via a keylock system. The handguard offers excellent grip when firing but doesn’t abrade the hand when firing in long practice sessions. I like the stub on the end of the handguard that prevents the hand from running forward onto the gas block. Optics are not optimally mounted on the handguard since it isn’t free-floated, so the receiver rail is available for mounting optics. The six-position stock utilizes a squeeze lever for six-point adjustment. The grip handle is the famous BCM Gunfighter.

SAINT sights.
The front and rear sights are adequate for shorter-range use, and the controls are excellent. Note bumper on handguard to prevent the hand running forward off the handguard.

To begin the evaluation I filled several magazines with Federal Cartridge Company American Eagle cartridges. The rifle had several hundred rounds through it and I expected the same performance for this Shooters Log test. These 55-grain FMJ cartridges burn clean, are affordable, and offer excellent accuracy in a practice load. I loaded the supplied MagPul magazine and a number of other various magazines I had on hand. The bolt was lubricated. AR15 rifles will run dirty but they will not run dry. I addressed man-sized targets at 25 and 50 yards, firing as quickly as I could get on target and align the sights. Keeping the hand forward on the handguard (and avoiding the gas block!) and controlling the rifle fast and accurate hits came easily. The rifle is controllable in rapid fire but then it is an AR15… The sights are adequate for the purpose. The Gunfighter grip is particularly ergonomic allowing excellent control. As for absolute accuracy with the iron sights, it isn’t difficult to secure 3-shot groups of two inches at 50 yards, par for the course with an iron-sighted carbine.

Accuracy Testing
For a complete evaluation, you have to go further with accuracy testing and this means mounting a quality optic. I settled down with a mounted Lucid 6x1x24 rifle scope. This optic provides a good clear sight picture and has many advantages a trained rifleman can exploit. I settled down on the bench and attempted to find the best possible accuracy from the SAINT. Hornady has introduced a new line of AR15 ammunition. Since black rifles run on black ammunition the new loads should prove popular. My test samples of Hornady Black Ammunition featured the proven 75-grain BTHP. This is a good bullet weight for longer-range accuracy and it proved to give good results in the SAINT. I also tested a good number of popular .233 loads including a handload of my own, using the 60-grain Hornady A-Max bullet.

Meopta MeoRed
The Meopta MeoRed Red Dot gave good results.

I have also mounted a MeoRed red dot with excellent results. For use to 50 yards this red dot offers good hit probability and gets the Springfield up and rolling for 3-Gun Competition.
I like the Springfield SAINT. I drove in the rain to get the rifle and was at the door at my FFL source when they opened. I had to wait to hit the range! I am not disappointed and the SAINT is going to find an important place in my shooting battery.

Check out the complete specs HERE

SAINT free-float
The SAINT is also available with a free-floating handguard tube.

Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).

SKILLS: Optics ABCs: What All Those Terms Mean

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When it comes to optics for firearms, the specific terms that people use to describe them can be confusing. Here’s what all that argot actually means…in alphabetical order, no less.

Source: NRAFamily.org

rifleman with scope

Contrast
The ability of an optical system to distinguish clearly and crisply between areas of light and dark is called contrast. For shooting purposes, always select the riflescope with the highest contrast.

Exit Pupil
Exit pupil is the diameter, in millimeters, of the beam of focused light transmitted by the ocular lens. The exit pupil can be calculated by dividing the diameter of the objective lens by the power, or magnification, of the scope. An exit pupil of about 5mm or larger in diameter is preferable. A large exit pupil provides a brighter image with greater contrast and a wide field of view for easy target acquisition. Exit pupils smaller than 5mm in diameter offer darker images with lower contrast and progressively narrower fields of view.

Eye Relief
Eye relief is the distance of the eye from the ocular lens when the image fully fills the lens and is not vignetted. Normally, eye relief figures are given as a distance range, for example 3.2 to 3.8 inches, due to differences in individual visual acuity. On a variable-power scope, eye relief typically changes with scope power. Too little eye relief is undesirable, particularly on a scope mounted on a hard-kicking magnum rifle, where it may contribute to a “scope bite” on the eyebrow. For this reason, most centerfire riflescopes have a minimum eye relief of 3 to 4 inches. A riflescope with an eye relief of less than 3 inches should only be used on a small-caliber rifle with low recoil.

Most riflescopes and shotgun scopes are designed to be mounted on the receiver, close to the eye, and thus have relatively short eye relief. Scopes to be mounted on handguns and on the barrels of long guns are classed as long eye relief (LER) or extended eye relief (EER) scopes. Some models provide as much as 18 to 20 inches of eye relief, enabling scope use on a handgun extended at arm’s length. Other models may offer an eye relief of 12 inches or less for scope mounting on a scout rifle. Note that the higher the magnification, the shorter the eye relief of such scopes.

Field of View
Field of view is the width of the area that can be seen in the image at a given distance. Normally, field of view is expressed as the number of feet in the image at 1,000 yards, for example 322 feet at 1,000 yards. Field of view decreases dramatically with increasing magnification. A narrow field of view makes it difficult to find the target and then to hold it in the image. For this reason, a wide field of view may be more important than high scope magnification.

When looking through a scope with a 100-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, a 100-foot-wide object viewed at that distance will just fill the visual field.

Focal Plane
The focal plane is the plane or distance from the objective lens at which light rays from an object converge to form a focused image inside the main tube. Objects in the same focal plane appear to the eye to be at the same distance, and therefore can be seen with equal clarity without the need to refocus the eye. One of the advantages of optical sights is that the target and the reticle are in the same focal plane. This eliminates trying to focus on both iron sights and the target at the same time. This is why riflescopes are so popular with shooters who have less-than-perfect eyesight.

There are two focal planes in a typical riflescope: The first behind the objective lens, and the second behind the erector lens set.

See the huge selection of riflescopes available here at Midsouth HERE

SKILLS: How To Make Sure You’re Seeing Through a Scope

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Ever been frustrated by “black clouds” when you’re trying to look through a scope? Here are a few thoughts on preventing that…

Source: Barbara Baird for NRA Family

Scope setup

First, remember that your eye is the rear sight. You have to place it in the same place with regard to the rest of the gun every time to avoid a parallax error when using the scope. So…what is parallax?

Parallax is an apparent displacement against a background, or a difference in orientation of an object, when the object is viewed along two different lines of sight. Parallax is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. In a riflescope, parallax is an optical illusion. Parallax occurs when the “primary image” of the object is formed either in front of, or behind the reticle (crosshair) of the scope. When you move your eye from its proper alignment with the scope, the resulting parallax moves the image in relation to the crosshair, causing your aim to be off.

Think of it this way. You’re sitting in the passenger seat of the car and you look over at the speedometer. It will read differently to you than to the driver, and that is because you’re not lined up with the steering wheel and gauge in front of it, so you’re not getting the true reading.

Every scope has a quality called “eye relief.” That’s the distance behind the eyepiece lens that your eye should be placed to be able to see through the scope effectively. You have to place the cheek of your shooting eye against the stock; move your head forward and backward along the stock-always with your cheek against the stock-until you get the best view through the scope.

The best view is when sight picture in the eyepiece lens fills the entire lens. As you move your head forward from the best viewpoint, the picture collapses, and when you move your head back from the best viewpoint, the picture starts to get smaller and then goes black. If it’s possible, it’s very important to position the scope itself so you attain correct eye relief using the head position you are most comfortable with. Do that by moving the scope mount or the scope within the mount forward or back. Whether this can be done depends on the mounting system.

If it’s not possible to choose a new scope mounting position, find the right spot to allow full view through the scope, as described. Either way, then practice getting the same “cheek weld” (the position and pressure of your cheek against the stock) every time you shoulder your rifle and you will be one step further in taking a good, clean shot.

Addition from Midsouth Editor Glen Zediker:
One of the reasons I usually test from position (prone) rather than from a benchtop when I’m wringing out a competition-use load has a lot to do with scope positioning. Two things: if there’s already a scope mounted, I don’t want to change its position, and, if there’s not, the difference in my shooting position prone and from a chair could well influence my on-target impact results. Almost always, the scope needs to be scooted farther back firing from sandbags and farther forward for prone or offhand. I offer this as a caution to those who might take a new rifle with a new scope to the range and get it sighted in from a rest, and then get out into the field with it and find out they’re having to pull their head back to see through the scope properly.

scope rail
Zediker note: A setup like this eliminates positioning issues. I’m a big believer in a lot of fore and aft flexibility to get the correct eye relief and still maintain a natural and comfortable shooting position. And, yes, I “crawl” the stock that much prone…