September 23, 2010
Meade's innovative new designs have reinvigorated the Redfield and Simmons lines of riflescopes.
The new Simmons and Redfield riflescopes have a true one-piece tube, including the eyepiece housing; everything is internally contained.
Meade Instruments (Dept. ST, 6001 Oak Canyon, Irvine, CA 92618; 800-626-3233;) is the world's foremost manufacturer of commercial and recreational astronomical telescopes. When Meade purchased the Simmons, Redfield, and Weaver optics brands a few years ago, industry observers knew it was only a matter of time before those venerable company names would see an infusion of new product development based on the highest of high-tech optical manufacturing technology. That time has come.
With the introduction of the new Simmons Master Series riflescope lines, along with an entirely new catalog of premium-grade Redfield riflescopes, the Meade engineering team has dramatically redefined riflescope engineering. It has developed and patented completely new and original mechanisms to accomplish nearly every mechanical and optical task that goes on inside a riflescope and has solved virtually every inherent design problem riflescopes have ever had. That's a bold statement, but these are impressive products.
All the original engineering and design work for both brands has been done in Meade's American research and development facilities. The Simmons-brand Master Series products are being manufactured and assembled in a brand-new facility in China that is American-owned, American-built, American-managed and exists for these product lines only. All Redfield-brand scopes are being assembled and tested at Meade's design and manufacturing facility in the U.S., from components produced both in America and in Meade's overseas operation. Under the popularly priced Simmons brand label, which will continue to be available at traditional Simmons retail outlets, the new technology will be applied to several product families, including the Simmons AETEC, ProHunter, and ProSport riflescopes and ProDiamond shotgun scopes. Under the Redfield label, the entire catalog will embody the new technology, plus several additional new higher premium features.
A full description of all the revolutionary technical aspects in both brands would consume this entire magazine, so here's just a taste of how different from everything that's come before these new Simmons and Redfield designs are--dealing first with what they have in common and then looking at some of their different qualities.
A Revolution Inside
Riflescope construction begins with the main tube. Redfield invented the original one-piece main-tube design in 1982, which is today common throughout most of the riflescope industry. However, in previous scopes this means one-piece from the eyepiece forward. Now Meade has developed the industry's first and only true one-piece scope tube, end-to-end, which includes the eyepiece housing as well. The new, lightweight tube is precision machined as a one-piece unit and weighs an average of 22 percent less than competitive products. The one-inch Simmons tubes are a premium aluminum alloy; the one-inch and 30mm Redfield tubes are an even lighter magnesium alloy. All the eyepiece lenses and eyepiece focus adjustments are now contained within a tube-integral housing, which reduces parts, increases strength, and eliminates an unnecessary joint to seal. Moreover, this true one-piece construction allows the cut for the magnification dial in zoom models to be only about two-thirds as long as is necessary in separate-eyepiece designs. And, again, much stronger.
There are no gimbals or springs in Meade's TrueZero Flex Erector System, and the erector tube has offset alignment so that it flexes within itself.
Inside the tube, the key element of the new technology is what Meade calls a TrueZero Flex Erector System. All traditional scope mechanics utilize a biasing spring to force the erector tube against the dial pads; this biasing spring weakens over time and becomes less responsive. There is also "drag" where the erector contacts the spring, which prevents the erector from returning to the same point when it "bounces back" in place after the recoil from each shot. Result: shifting point of aim and point of impact. However, the unique new Meade/Simmons erector eliminates the traditional gimbal/biasing spring altogether and replaces it with a newly patented erector tube that is solidly attached to the scope body, with increased flexibility at the normal gimbal point being provided by special grooves in the unique erector material. This unique design allows the erector to maintain an even pressure from end to end, eliminating the need for a biasing spring altogether while maintaining a consistent optical path. Response to windage and elevation adjustments are immediate and precise. No more tapping on the turret to be sure the adjustment "sets."
The new Flex Erector design is therefore much less sensitive to recoil stress and also eliminates 30 percent of the parts traditionally used in erector tube construction. Fewer parts in any type of mechanical device always means fewer places for things to fail or go wrong. Plus, the removal of the biasing spring results in an added benefit: it creates additional room within the scope body that allows a significant increase in windage and elevation adjustment range, as much as 17 percent greater than competitors' scopes.
The second part of the TrueZero system is a completely redesigned windage and elevation dial mechanism, which employs an audible-click ball bearing and spring system to significantly reduce wear while maintaining dial reliability and accuracy over time. The dials themselves do not screw in or out but pull an internal post, which ensures equal click value throughout the full adjustment range, and are precise, repeatable, and capable of holding zero under any recoil conditions over time. Also, TrueZero dials are completely sealed against water intrusion, even with the windage and elevation caps off. They are offered in both 1/4- and 1/8-MOA versions, depending on the scope model. As an added feature on the Redfield line, it's no longer necessary to use an Allen key or screwdriver to reset your dials to zero. To adjust the new Redfield dials, simply push down on the dial, turn the indicator to zero, and allow the dial to pop back up and lock into place. The TrueZero system features alone would make the new Simmons and Redfield scopes a huge step forward, but the added "room to work" inside the tube has also allowed the Meade engineers to add other original innovations.
The new Redfield scopes utilize an innovative 3-cam zooming system, which provides a five-times magnification range.
For one, the new Quick Target Acquisition (QTA) fast-focus eyepiece provides a constant eye relief of 3.75 to 4 inches and keeps eye relief constant throughout the entire power range, eliminating the need to close in on the scope as the magnification is increased. Once the shooter finds the proper cheek weld, that position can be maintained throughout the entire power range. The QTA eyepiece also provides a larger "eyebox," which not only puts the shooter's eye a safer distance back but also allows increased up-and-down and side-to-side movement while still maintaining a clear view of the target.
The new Simmons and Redfield lines will also be offering newly designed side-focus parallax adjustments on high-magnification variable models, both in one-inch and 30mm tube diameters. By changing the location of the adjustment from the objective bell to the saddle area, parallax and fine focus adjustments can be made while maintaining the target in the full field of view. In the Redfield line, these adjustments will feature AccuClick yardage stops; plus, all Redfield power change rings also include positive AccuClick stops at each magnification setting, and all Redfield fast-focus eyepieces include the AccuClick design with 1/8 diopter adjustments over the entire dioptric range.
A special HydroShield hydrophobic coating is being applied to the external surfaces of all lenses of all Redfield scopes and all Simmons Master Series scopes to disperse water and condensation into microscopic particles. This ensures clear vision in all weather conditions, with no fogging of lenses or "spotting" by rain. Plus the Simmons 2005 Master Series scopes also feature SureGrip rubber surfaces on selected windage and elevation caps, power change rings, eyepiece diopter adjustments, and side-focus knobs. Mechanical adjustments can be made to the scope under any type of weather conditions--even with heavy gloves.
The Simmons Master Series riflescopes will continue to feature the same high-quality glass, lens configurations, and optical multicoatings that Simmons scopes have been known for.
And At The Premium Level
The single thing about the entire new Meade feature set that will grab most shooters' attention first will be that all the new Redfield scopes will feature a new 5X zooming system. Variable-powered riflescopes typically feature a 3X or 4X zooming system. To illustrate, a 3-9X scope has a 3X system, where the lowest magnification multiplied by three gives you the higher magnification. Similarly, a 6-24X scope has a 4X system. Before now, the limitations of the design have restricted a greater range. Redfield's new scopes deliver an incredible 5X power range from low to high magnification.
This new zoom system achieves its five-times power range through use of a patent-pending three-cam zooming system, a unique method of providing the extra magnification range within the scopes' erector system. As a result, these riflescopes exhibit ultrahigh performance with no point of aim shift across an unprecedented range of magnification. The versatility and potential applications for these scopes is extensive--everything from hunting dangerous game at up-close and personal ranges to long-range target or varmint shooting is possible with these new Redfield scopes.
In terms of optical performance, the Simmons Master Series riflescopes will continue to feature the same high-quality glass, lens configurations, and optical multicoatings as the AETEC, ProHunter, ProSport, and ProDiamond lines have been known for. The Redfield line, however, will have an entirely new lens technology as well as all the other mechanical innovations, which will now provide the primary difference in performance between the Simmons and the Redfield lines.
The new adjustment dials do not screw up or down; they retain a constant position for exact intervals. Turret caps and audible click adjustment dials can be easily manipulated even with gloved fingers.
As light passes through a lens, some of that light is lost at each surface of the lens due to reflection, so it's important to reduce the amount of lost light as much as possible. Lens coatings are the standard way to reduce lost light, and there are various types of coatings used throughout the industry, each achieving a certain level of lost light reduction. Most high-end riflescopes feature fully multicoated lenses because they have the greatest amount of success in reducing lost light. The Meade optical engineers literally reached into the world of outer-space optical standards and used precision broadband coatings to fully multicoat each lens, thereby reducing lost light by an extra .2 percent per lens surface--a full 2.8 percent overall--compared to other fully multicoated lens systems.
Chromatic aberration, or "fringing," is another problem that has plagued optical designers, particularly at higher magnifications. Chromatic aberration occurs in a riflescope when the objective lens bends white light towards the reticle. The white light then separates into different colors, each color bending at a slightly different angle.
The result is that all the colors don't focus at the same point. This is easily recognized and most often described as a "bluish" or "yellowish" edge on the image, particularly straight black and white edges. In most scopes, chromatic aberration is reduced by using multiple lens elements--usually two, but sometimes as many as five--composed of different types of glass. The combination of low-dispersion positive lenses and high-dispersion negative lenses results in the red and blue colors recombining. Although cost-effective, this method adds weight and does nothing to bring the green light back into focus with the blue and red light.
The new eyepieces have rubber cushioned fast-focus diopter settings.
The best it can do is to minimize the focus separation between the green light and red/blue light, causing residual color fringing in the image. So the new Redfield scopes now feature a more expensive, Extra-low Dispersion (ED) exotic glass in the construction of its objective lenses. This ED glass does not disperse or separate the colors as much as its higher dispersive counterparts, thereby allowing Redfield's designers to bring the red, green, and blue light to focus. These special apochromatic lenses (APOs) eliminate the need for heavy compound lenses, and they generate a true white image, giving the us
er the truest achievable representation of the image. The result of apochromatic ED lenses and broadband multicoating across the new Redfield line is a total optical system that is both lighter and brighter than any comparable product.
Meade is claiming to have "reinvented" the riflescope. If these new Simmons and Redfield products live up to their billing, it'll be hard to disagree.