September 23, 2010
The first time I looked through a riflescope at a whitetail buck with the intention of shooting, it was through a Weaver K4. My dad had sprung me from school early on a cool fall day, handed me his Savage Model 99 with the aforementioned Weaver, and said have at it.
Weaver--which started producing scopes in 1930--at one time practically owned the American sporting optics market. Most shooters associate Weaver optics with hunting, but a select few soldiers and Marines who fielded M1903A4 rifles peered through Weaver 330C scopes--the M73B1 in military parlance--in World War II and Korea. In fact, Weaver produced approximately 36,000 riflescopes for the U.S. military during World War II.
Today, Weaver is revisiting its martial heritage with the recent introduction of a tactical line.
After changing hands quite a few times since the 1960s, it appears Weaver has finally found a home in the ATK family of companies. The defense giant has some pretty deep pockets and makes all kinds of high-tech military gear. That money, research, and development bleed over into the hunting brands from time to time, allowing Weaver to greatly expand its offerings in the past few years. But the company is easing into the tactical world with just two initial offerings, a 3-15X 50mm and a 4-20X 50mm.
Out of the box, the Weaver 3-15X 50mm Tactical looks pretty standard. Oversized windage, elevation, and side-focus knobs are crenelated for a sure grip and have fine white numbering and indicator lines. Each adjustment click is worth a quarter-minute at 100 yards, and the 3-15X has an adjustment range of 70 minutes. One of the scope's really nice features is the pull-up windage and elevation turrets that cannot be inadvertently knocked off by rough handling. Just pull upwards or outwards on the knob to make an adjustment.
Weaver describes the turrets as "return to zero," but they are not zero-stop turrets such as those found on some competing brands that, once set, will not adjust down beyond the stopping point. The Tactical requires shooters to line up a number with an indicator line if returning to zero after a gross adjustment. Designers did dispense with those aggravating little Allen-head setscrews and used one big screw with an oversized head that captures the turret barrel against the scope body. This arrangement does not require tools and cannot be stripped out by overzealous tightening.
A look through the ocular reveals a key feature and one new to Weaver scopes--first-focal plane (FFP) reticle placement. To the uninformed, a reticle that changes size as the power ring is dialed up and down probably seems weird. My first experience with FFP reticles came in college when my roommate coughed up the cash for a fine European optic, which he still uses today. While common on European scopes, I had never seen or heard of such a thing and thought it strange. After some research, I quickly changed my mind.
If the reticle stays the same size, as with more common second-focal plane reticles, the carefully crafted relationship between scope magnification and additional ranging and holdover stadia or mil-dots only works at one magnification setting. For military and law enforcement snipers, an FFP reticle can be used as a ranging and holdover tool at any power. Being able to range, or "mil," a target at 5X instead of just 15X is pretty handy for plotting leads and determining the range of fast-moving targets or those where maintaining a large field of view is critical. The only downside is losing some precision at extended ranges since the reticle subtends more of the target.
The Tactical also utilizes an etched reticle, which is generally more durable and suffers less distortion than a wire reticle. If Weaver should decide to add illumination in the future--and expanding the line is something company officials plan on doing--the etched reticle is easier to illuminate.
In the tactical world, mil-dot reticles reign supreme and with good reason. Once learned, the milling system is easy and fast since everything is divided or multiplied by 10. Just remember the scope's adjustments are in minutes of angle, not mils. Weaver's mil-dot reticle follows a pretty standard pattern and has eight evenly spaced, quarter-mil dots on both the vertical and horizontal stadia. The distance between dots, from center to center, is one mil, which is 10 centimeters at 100 meters, or 3.6 inches at 100 yards.
The 30mm, one-piece tubes are hard-coat anodized and have a three-point spring system on the erector tube to increase reliability and shock resistance. Weaver's hunting scopes use the standard two-point system. Engineers shock tested the scopes extensively, which are rated for heavy-recoiling rifles like the .50 BMG. Scopes are sealed against the elements and purged with argon gas to prevent internal fogging.
My standard scope evaluation process proved uneventful for the well-built Weaver. I froze it for an hour, baked it at 140 degrees for 30 minutes, and submerged it in water. There was no fogging or leaking. Pairing the optic with a Sabre Defense AR-15, I headed to the range for some live-fire testing. The scope's adjustments were nice and smooth and, most importantly, moved the point of impact the correct distance and returned to zero.
In terms of optical performance, the Tactical certainly stacks up nicely against other scopes in its price range--the 3-15X has an MSRP of $1,033, and the 4-20X runs $1,154. Using coatings found on other high-end Weaver scopes, light transmission was excellent. The lenses that touch air have a special coating that adds an extra level of abrasion resistance that should come in handy in nasty environments. Resolution and clarity were good.
The tactical optics world is crowded with a tremendous amount of overlap. The Weaver stands out not for its overload of superfluous features, but for its rugged simplicity. An etched reticle sitting in the first focal plane surrounded by high-quality glass and moved around by a solid set of adjustments is just the ticket for a tactical shooter.