What’s new in the world of optics? I thought some of you might be interested, so I spent a good deal of time poking about at this year’s SHOT Show looking for the latest and greatest. Last year there were some profound steps forward in technology regarding scopes with built-in laser rangefinders. But as impressive as last year was, I think 2007′s offerings are even better. How so? Well, there are some very talented engineers out there who are burning the midnight oil to outdo one another, and this year I saw some exciting advancements in riflescope optical design. While it is almost impossible to cover all the new riflescopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes released for this year, I can give you a look at the highlights.
Aimpoint has been supplying rugged red-dot sights to the U.S. Army for years, and they have proved more than a match for the iron-sighted AKs deployed by our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, Aimpoint further enhanced its red-dot sight performance with the introduction of the new CompM4. This new model, recently adopted by the U.S. Army, features improved diode circuitry that allows it to run constantly for over eight years on a single AA battery! So much for worrying about dead batteries.
Featuring a 2 MOA dot, improved mounting system, and 16 intensity settings (nine day and seven night vision) via an easy-to-use knob, this model will fit onto any standard M1913 rail. Plus, the 2 MOA dot is well suited for use with Aimpoint’s 3X magnifier. Adopted by the U.S. Army as the M68CCO, 163,000 units have been ordered for our troops.
Last year was a big year for Burris because of the number of new introductions, including additions to its XTR tactical line, the introduction of a new line of Fullfield II tactical scopes, and the Laser Scope. So I was very curious to see how Burris would follow up this year. The good news is that Burris isn’t resting on its laurels; the company has rolled out a host of new products for 2007. Among these are additions to the Euro Diamond line, a new XTS-235 red-dot sight, and a super-compact XTS-2575 spotting scope. The XTS-2575 is especially interesting due to its small size, made possible through the use of a Cassegrain-style mirror system. Measuring only 10 inches long and weighing just 33 ounces, it sports a 25-75X eyepiece and a 70mm objective.
Perhaps the biggest news from Burris is the introduction of a new premium line of binoculars. Wearing the Euro
Diamond name, the line consists of 8X42, 10X42, and 12X50mm models.
Intended to compete with the best from Europe, Burris’s new Euro Diamond line has a definite Continental edge to it. Mixed in with the good looks are premium optical glass and prisms, broadband multicoatings on every lens surface, and phase correction and a silver coating on the prisms. The result is an eye-catching binocular that I very much look forward to reviewing in the coming months.
Don’t need a binocular but would like an optical aid when bringing the heat onto a target? Check out Burris’s new compact red-dot reflex sight called the FastFire. What is it? It’s a tiny red-dot sight intended for mounting onto the slide of a pistol–or anything else that could use a compact reflex sight. Weighing less than two ounces (including mount), the FastFire features all-metal construction, 4 MOA dot, automatic brightness control, and extremely long battery life. Unlike similar sights, the FastFire also incorporates a simple on/off switch. Compact sights along these lines have exploded in popularity in recent years, and I suspect the FastFire will do very well.
Bushnell has become known for much more than just optics. In the last couple of years the company’s line has expanded to include optics as well as laser range-finders, GPS devices, trail cameras, digital cameras, flightlights, night vision devices, and speed guns. Despite the diversity of the product line, Bushnell remains very much an optics company at heart. To this end it has introduced the new Infinity line of binoculars for 2007. An open bridge design gives them a Continental flair.
They feature rubber armoring and O-ring seals, and they are waterproof to survive hard use. The Infinity comes with either 8.5X or 10.5X magnification and 45mm objective lenses. The in-between objective lens size aids performance without adding bulk or weight. Poking about inside, one finds roof prisms with PC-3 phase coatings with a new SHR coating. All lens surfaces are fully multicoated, and external surfaces feature Bushnell’s RainGuard water-repellent coating. The 8.5X model sports a wide 420-foot field of view at 1000 yards and a healthy 5.25mm exit pupil. Both models weigh in at 25 ounces.
EOTech, now owned by L3 Communications, brought out yet another version of its hugely popular HWS (Holographic Weapon Sight) this year. Called the M557.AR223, it was designed specifically to increase the versatility of this rugged design. Based upon the proven M552, the M557.AR223 is designed to be more adaptable to modern add-ons while at the same time requiring less rail space. To allow night vision monoculars or EOTech’s new 3X and 4X magnifiers to be easily mounted behind the sight, the unit’s controls have been moved to its left side.
Plus, it is fitted with a new reticle that features bullet drop compensation aiming points, which allow it to be used at extended ranges in conjunction with a magnifier. The aiming points consist of 1 MOA dots that are calibrated to match the trajectory of 5.56mm ammunition when fired from an M4 carbine. To complement this new optic, EOTech also introduced 3X and 4X magnifiers. When mounted behind the sight, these magnifiers turn a 1X HWS into a low-magnification optic. Both flip-to-side and QD mounting systems are available. Why two magnifiers? Well, the 3X is intended to be lightweight and economical while the 4X offers good performance out to 600 meters.
When I.O.R. of Romania introduced scopes with a sixfold magnification increase a couple years back, the company set the optics world on its ear. Why? Because many engineers did not think it was feasible in a riflescope. For 2007 I.O.R. upped the ante and introduced the world’s first scope with a sevenfold magnification increase. Starting at 4X, I.O.R.’s new design zooms all the way up to 28X. Built on a 40mm tube (yes, 40mm), it’s 16.5 inches long, weighs 39 ounces, and has a 56mm objective. It features an oversize elevation turret that provides 25 MOA of adjustment in a single revolution. Total adjustment range is 90 MOA in 1/4 MOA clicks.
In addition to this impressive optic, I.O.R. also introduced a new 4-14X 50mm model designed expressly for use on .50-caliber antimaterial rifles. Also built on a beefy 40mm tube, it features 125 MOA of adjustment in 1/4 MOA clicks. Length is a fairly compact 15.25 inches, and the scope tips the scales at 36 ounces. Optics are typical I.O.R., built using Schott glass and featuring fully multicoated lenses. Both scopes come with steel 40mm rings.
Kahles is one of the oldest and most respected optics manufacturers in the world. For 2007, it introduced the Helia KX line of riflescopes. Developed specifically for the U.S. market, this new line is built on a one-inch tube and is intended to be attractively priced. Models are 3-9X 42mm, 3.5-10X 50mm, and 4-12X 50mm. Blessed with handsome good looks, very good optical images, extremely wide field of views, and light weight, they will be right at home in the hunting fields.
Leupold had a number of important introductions at SHOT, including the new flagship VX-7 riflescope line and RX-IV Boone and Crockett laser rangefinder. However, what caught my eye was Leupold’s new compact 1X 14mm prismatic sight.
At only 4.5 inches long and weighing just 12 ounces, this is a very small optic indeed. Field of view is a wide 83 feet at 100 yards, and the sight boasts a 14mm exit pupil. Simple and extremely robust, it features a glass-etched reticle and comes with an illumination module. The reticle is a quick-to-deploy circle with a dot. I’m sure this prismatic design will find itself onto a wide variety of firearms.
Although not strictly new for 2007–it was introduced at the end of 2006, but I won’t hold that against it–NightForce Optics’s NXS 1-4X 24mm scope is tough and compact. Made in the good old U.S. of A., this dual-purpose optic serves equally well on either a hunting rifle or a tactical rifle. Very compact at only 8.8 inches long, it boasts 100 MOA of adjustment in 1/4 MOA clicks. Three reticles are offered, and illumination is standard. Weight is a light 17 ounces. It’s a good-looking scope with excellent optics, and I’m sure it will be popular with both big-game hunters and 3-gun competitors.
Nikon has a lot of new items for 2007, including the 4-12X 42mm Laser IRT (Immediate Ranging Technology) laser-rangefinding riflescope, the Trailblazer ATB binoculars, and the 1X 30mm Monarch Variable Size Dot Sight (VSD). But what caught my eye was the new BDC Riflescope Reticle.
The BDC reticle incorporates small aiming circles that provide precise but unobtrusive aiming points. Each circle offers three distinct aiming points so that shooters can match a load to each aiming point.
The standard Nikon BDC is designed to be used with most standard centerfire cartridges with typical bullet weights, and it provides aiming points out to 500 yards with a 100-yard sight-in. With magnum cartridges and typical bullet weights, the BDC reticle offers aiming points out to 600 yards with a 200-yard sight-in. The new BDC 250, which is designed for .50-caliber muzzleloaders using 150-grain powder charges and 250-grain bullets, provides aiming points at 150, 200, 225, and 250 yards. The BDC 200, designed for slug gun loads, has two ballistic circles that represent 100- and 150-yard aiming points and a lower reticle pos
t that represents a 200-yard aiming point.
Shepherd Scopes was building an innovative simple-to-use bullet drop compensating reticle long before these items were cool. Shepherd is still at it today, and for 2007 the company has introduced a new model called the 6-18X 40mm M.556 Varminter. Based on a 6-18X 40mm scope built on a one-inch tube and fitted with an adjustable objective, the M.556 features a reticle calibrated for 5.56mm. Like all Shepherd reticles, this model features a series of circles; in this case the circles subtend nine inches at the various ranges for which they are calibrated. Because the reticle is located in the front focal plane, the reticle can be used at any magnification setting. Quick to learn and simple to use, the Shepherd system works surprisingly well.
Simmons has introduced an upgraded line based upon the Master Series. Called the AETEC Master series, these scopes incorporate some sweet features. Some of them are a fully multicoated aspherical lens system and a side parallax adjustment knob. Simmons’s unique patented TrueZero adjustment system is retained, but the ocular system has been redesigned to provide a larger eye box and a constant eye relief of 3.75 to 4 inches depending upon the model. To disperse water, a special hydrophobic coating is applied to all external lens surfaces.
Swarovski Optik had one of the most impressive new offerings of the show with the Z6 riflescope line. This well-respected, very uppercrust European company has created a line of sixfold magnification increase scopes built on a handsome 30mm chassis.
Yes, whereas almost every other optics manufacturer is limited to a fourfold magnification in-crease, Swarovski has taken a leap forward. In addition to the wide magnification range, Swarovski has increased eye relief and field of view. Models with illuminated reticles have the rheostat built into the ocular in what is without a doubt the most attractive design I have ever seen. Models will be available in 1-6X 24mm, 1.7-10X 42mm, and 2-12X 50mm configurations. Beautiful in form and impressive in function, Swarovski’s new Z6 line is sure to turn heads.
Trijicon’s new 3X 30mm TA33 ACOG stands out from the previous compact ACOGs because of its larger 30mm objective lens and bullet drop compensated dual illuminated reticle. The reticle provides holdover marks out to 600 meters and is illuminated by both fiber optics and tritium–no batteries required. Weighing less than seven ounces (mount included), the new TA33 is well suited for use on lightweight patrol carbines.
Weaver has launched a new line of riflescopes called the Classic Extreme. Built on 30mm tubes, this new line has a bit of European flair. Models include a 1.5-4.5X 24mm, a 2.5-10X 50mm, and a 2.5-10X 56mm with either a standard Dual-X or a German No. 4 reticle. Features include finger-adjustable and resettable turrets, fast focus eyepiece, side parallax adjustment, and a generous four inches of eye relief. Lenses are fully multicoated to enhance performance.
Zeiss’s big news for last year was the 3-12X 56mm Victory Diarange laser rangefinding riflescope. While it was an impressive engineering feat, it came up short in the reticle department. Zeiss recognized this shortcoming and set out to remedy it. The solution was to add four new reticles that were designed in cooperation with Pride Fowler Industries Inc. These Rapid-Z reticles are very simple to use and provide an uncomplicated system to compensate for elevation and wind at long range. The four new reticles consist of the Rapid-Z 600, Rapid-Z Varmint, Rapid-Z 800, and Rapid-Z 1000. All are similar in design and form with holdover marks for range and windage/lead to allow rapid target engagement without having to spin knobs. I am very impressed by the design and think it will prove very popular with serious shooters. In addition to the Diarange line, the Rapid-Z reticles will also be offered in certain Conquest and Diavari models.