While it has been a while given the current COVID Lockdown in Wales, the only engagement during this time is building up a rifle or reloading ammunition. If you are out of reloading supplies, then rifle tinkering maybe your last option! Different videos are inserted to show evidence, discussion, reviews that illustrate the various points.
In preparation for long distances with a Ruger Precision in 6.5creedmoore the challenge was set to have an optic solution that will deliver performance at 1 mile. The areas impacted by this goal are glass quality, turret reliability/accuracy/repeatability, First Focal Plane, Target sub-tension reticle (etching), accurate parallax with a good range, good field of view at maximum magnification, decent eye relief and of course - an amazing warranty in case something goes wrong.
Additionally, the turret travel vs. zero-stop (vs Zero Lock) feature had to be considered since some newer scopes can reduce the travel by installing a zero-stop ring. To assist with the elevation turret, the RPR comes with a 20MOA rail. The other variable are the scope rings, needing to be reliable with shock and vibe and possibly assisting with additional elevation as well.
Can all of this be done for under £1k? 5years ago, this wouldn’t be possible to have a scope and a set of rings to achieve this for the budget - however, in 2021 we have options to achieve this. Some options will deliver better results when validated.
The usual suspects:
The traditional high-end scopes come to mind when it comes to glass quality and reliability, requiring big money to see it and then send it. Brands like Schmidt & Bender, Vortex, NightForce, Zeiss, Swarovski, Leupold, Hawke, US Optics and many more come pouring in with their choices. There is no lack of choices in the space of rifle scopes - what is in demand is getting to information to make a good choice.
A lot of the newer generation of scopes for long distance are being configured in First Focal Plane, using a Christmas Tree reticle configuration to spot and correct your misses. Scopes like the Vortex Viper PST Gen II, or the new Strike Eagle are popular choices in this space, priced at £1k and £750 respectively. Provenance on build quality matters, Philippines vs. China on the two aforementioned units, and when you dig into reviews and application of your requirements the flaws start to come out forcing a re-evaluation of your usual choices.
New vs used scopes
With forever warranties, used scopes are just as good as a consideration as new scopes, BUT there are drawbacks when looking at older scopes. You give up features, elevation turret travel and in some cases accuracy - older scopes did not have the same technology designing them, building them and achieving the same level of tolerances, robust engineering and design. While the older Vortex PST Gen I is an excellent scope, features like a shimmed zero stop, reticle choices, no-locking turrets, and many other details start to add up and bring you back to the newer generation.
Most of the new features are provided by advances in machining, 5-Axis and process step reduction yielding more accurate tolerances will provide more accuracy and reliability. More importantly, optical designs and engineering where up to 17 optical lenses work together to deliver the shooting experience have to perform functions for a variety of shooting scenarios and conditions. The evolution of the rifle scope is being pushed forward by our community and endeavour to shoot better and farther.
Here is a video comparing the Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25x56 vs the Element Titan 5-25x56 - it’s features, clarity and warranty: https://youtu.be/MyfgMdS8X-8
What’s left to consider?
If you apply your requirements to the “Usual suspects brands” and they blow your budget, or won’t hold on the quality/reliability delivery - then the only option is look at who has a purpose built scope that delivers it at a good price. This isn’t easy, it takes some risk, you rely on others for experience and testing. You have to open your mind that the choices you made in the past are superseded by a new generation of scopes that can rival the high-end scopes of top brands just 5years ago! This requires recalibration of your perceptions, brand loyalty has to be parked to the side, you dig in where the shooters are, what they compete with, and spend thousands of rounds torture testing the scope/turrets in rough conditions. A few amazing contenders are cropping up: Arken SH4, Element Titan, Sig Sauer Tango 4, Delta Optical Javelin. All of these have magnifications raging up to 24x to 30x. Are these really contenders to a S&B PM II, or Vortex Razor HD Gen II?
Specs of the new Scopes on the block:
Sig Sauer Tango 4: https://www.sigsauer.com/tango4-6-24x50-mm.html
Delta Optical Javelin: https://www.opticswarehouse.co.uk/delta-javelin-4-5-30x56-ffp-smr-2-ir-rifle-scope-1
No compromise on rings
Getting a nice scope to then place it on a pair of rings that will not be delivering a proper alignment will defeat the purpose of accuracy, and you will be chasing down gremlins of inconsistent points of impact, driving you crazy all the while wasting ammunition. I have heard all kinds of stories of lose rails, scopes, bases. However, ring alignment is more than just a good set of rings, it’s about staying true to your zero when the scope is bagged, nudged, pressed on, and the various abuse it gets while handling the rifle. While scope concentric rings that are machined from the same aluminium block have a great chance of alignment, the picatinny scope rail has to be machined perfectly flat. With careful alignment, torque settings, it appears that even an amazing installation can be ruined by a side force on one end of the scope. Only a monolithic uni-rail mount will have the strength and alignment that’s required to stay true to those same conditions - so planning to budget a scope ring solution is key. Additionally, you can have a mount that includes additional elevation compensation for long distance, giving your scope elevation turret additional adjustment room.
Video showing movement of 2-ring sets vs a Monolithic mount.
Checking your ring alignment: https://youtu.be/GJ_eAHDbTA0
One mount vs two mounts: https://youtu.be/u8jzCremvuU
After many reviews, the initial best bang for the buck is the Arken SH4 - $450 for that scope and its performance is astounding, great turrets, good glass, amazing price... however some shooters found that the glass wasn’t the best at a mile and seeing the steel. The cause of this is due to taking the scope to its limits on the turret adjustments for the distance and the glass pieces having to transmit light on the edges of the optical lenses. It isn’t just the ballistic curve that bends, your scope is having to bend light to adjust your point of aim. The Element Titan 5-25x56mm, a 34mm tube with amazing glass and specs meeting the requirements comes in at £690 with tax and shipping. Element’s Platinum warranty, designed by shooters and abuse tested and passing gives this scope confidence for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Not forgetting the rings, Tier One has been a solid solution on all Centre-fire rifles, and looking to them once more for a better solution. The Monolith or Monomount Short Saddle comes in different diameters, heights and built-in Mil-rads. Other brand like SPURR have similar solutions.
Given that getting hands-on experience is difficult during a Pandemic Lockdown, one has to resort to new ways of validating your solution, by social media interaction. Panther Hollow Sporting Optics in Missouri USA validated the solution with 3 Shooters that hit steel at a mile, compared both the Arken and Element scopes at some steel a mile away. Michael was even kind enough to answer my questions on the particular setup. It’s great to know that the community support is there, especially when it comes to knowing exactly what you need for your rifle. Great guy!
Initial 1mile Q&A: https://youtu.be/73EuSvlXapg
Q&A response: https://youtu.be/l9EErhS7zrQ
Side-by-side Scope reviews on glass clarity: https://youtu.be/kdAV2KLXV4U
Element Titan Review, Box Test and specs explained: https://youtu.be/O9fyLqVJZqw
Zero stop: A ring within the elevation turret that can be inserted at your elevation zero, using a notch to stop the rotation. This may reduce elevation travel in some scopes like the Vortex Strike Eagle.
Zero Lock: where the zero is set by the use of shims to bottom out a turret.
30mm tube vs 34mm tube: 34mm can provide additional turret travel over 30mm.
YouTube Channel Review Sources: Cyclops Videos, Michael Cornelison, Dynamic Accuracy, Affordable Optics and Rifle reviews.