Thursday, January 26, 2012 Filed in: Rifles, General gun stuff
More of the 2012 SHOT Show!
It seems that I’m always looking at new riflescopes. I'm pretty particular about image quality, and given how I tend to treat field gear (roughly!) I also need a scope that will stand up to abuse. In past years I've been happy with the price/performance balance of the IOR/Valdada and Leupold scopes I’ve owned, but their optical quality isn't as good as the more expensive brands. I’ve had the privilege to use a Schmidt & Bender scope, and while I love the optical (and mechanical) quality I can’t afford the stiff tariff! I’m thus in a constant quest for something approaching the quality of the S&B, while costing closer to the Leupold. Believe it or not, there may in fact exist such a scope.
At SHOT I managed to stumble upon the Premier Optics booth. Premier is familiar to me (and I suspect a few of you) as the maker and installer of custom reticles in Leupold scopes. Unbeknownst to me, a couple years back they decided to start making their own scopes. They hired some very experienced German scope makers to do the engineering, then started building them here in the U.S. I've got to say that what they've come out with is stunning!
Premier was showing their two basic lines: the Tactical line, which features 34mm tubes and the biggest, best adjustment knobs I've ever handled; and the Light Tactical line having 30mm tubes and smaller (but still big) knobs. I examined the scopes closely, and did a quick-and-dirty optical evaluation. I could find no obvious spherical or lateral color aberrations and no field curvature. The scopes have great contrast while color, to my eyes, was a little on the cool side (but not so much that there was a cast.)
The Premier rep assured me that all of their scopes would pass a box test with flying colors and return to zero perfectly. Given their long experience in military and long range competition circles, I’m inclined to believe them!
I was particularly taken by their Light Tactical 3-15x50. I has very solid click adjustments, and they even built in a mechanical turns counter so that you don't get confused trying to remember how many clicks you've put into the adjustments. Neat!
Turns counter, underneath dot on upper turret, shows the number “1” - meaning the turret has been rotated one full turn.
As noted, optical quality was top notch, which is not surprising considering the pedigree. All reticles are in the first focal plane, making rangefinding with the mil-dots a snap at any magnification.
I did a double-take when I looked through their new 1-8x Tactical scope. At magnifications under 3x you see a red dot, designed for speed of acquisition and rapid close-quarters shooting. Once the magnification is set beyond 3x, the reticle magically changes into a standard cross-hair mil-dot! It's a cute trick, and I can see this scope being very popular with AR-15 shooters who want its unique attributes.
Like with anything else, quality costs - but not as much as it might from some of the German brands. Yes, you’ll spend north of two grand for the cheapest of their scopes, but given the very high construction and optical quality I think that’s a bargain.
There were quite a few vendors of what has come to be called ‘tactical gear’, things like pouches and bags and load-bearing equipment, at SHOT. One I'd not heard of is Marz Tactical Gear, a Phoenix-area company who proudly marks their stuff as Made in USA. They showed a couple of products that intrigued me.
First was a first aid kit pouch perfectly sized for a trauma kit. Called the "Patrol IFAK", the pouch will hold a tourniquet, pressure bandage, a roll of hemostatic gauze, and a few incidentals. The cool part is that the back is covered with Velcro, and they have a matching plate that straps onto the backside of an automobile headrest. This keeps the kit in a known and easily accessed location; in use, you simply grab the handle and rip the kit from the mounting plate. You can then take it to where it is needed. Very useful; I think I'll be buying a couple of them.
The other thing that caught my eye was what they call their "Field Kit". It's a large piece of waterproofed Cordura nylon attached to a couple of zippered pouches. The pouches can hold cleaning supplies, lubricants, or even spare parts. When unrolled you have a decent-sized work surface to catch parts and keep dirt away from mechanisms, with the pouches on one side for easy access to the aforementioned incidentals.
It would make a great field cleaning station or armorer's go-anywhere emergency shop, and might be very useful for the instructor who occasionally needs to fix a student’s gun. A neat little idea to make life in the field (or at the range) a little easier.
All week I kept hearing about Mossberg's new "tactical" lever action. At least a half-dozen people told me that I just had to go see it, so I did.
“Tactical” has officially jumped the shark.
My initial reaction: “you’ve GOT to be kidding.” Where to start? Mossberg managed to design out all of the lever action's positive attributes while adding very little to its usability. The collapsible AR-style stock wobbles and doesn't have a comfortable grip; the rails add unnecessary weight and make holding the forearm quite unpleasant; and the action was, to put it charitably, rough.
The myriad protrusions of the butt stock and fore end rails simply destroy the smooth, snag-free handling that is one of the chief virtues of the lever action. It's a rifle that has been styled as opposed to designed, perhaps by someone who might not have had the opportunity to become familiar with the lever action and how it is best employed.
Available in .22LR or .30-30, I'm sure it will sell - just like the Taurus Judge sells. I'll stick to my traditional models, thank you, as they've proven themselves capable of a wide range of tasks, without poseur bolt-ons, for quite some time now.
(This is a perfect example of my belief that the rifle, particularly the lever action, is a general purpose tool. The more crap you hang on it, the more specialized and therefore less useful it becomes. My AR-15s are pretty much stock, and I've found that they're the most versatile in that configuration. As my eyes continue to deteriorate I may have to fit them with optics, but even then I'll make sure that the choice will leave them usable for the variety of tasks I expect to encounter. The same can be said of my lever actions. Someone at Mossberg, in my opinion, just doesn’t Get It.)
More to come tomorrow - stay tuned!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 Filed in: Rifles, Accessories
From The Firearm Blog comes news about a new iPhone/iPod Touch app called Mil-Dot Rangefinder which claims to "take the math out of ranging targets.” Intriguing idea.
Sadly I have no mil-dot scopes in my inventory; several scopes with rangefinding reticles, but no mil-dots. This app is therefore useless for me, but looks pretty neat and will probably be of great value to those who do have appropriate optics.
I must admit that I feel my inner Luddite surfacing when considering things such as these. A huge benefit of the mil-dot is to allow rangefinding in the scope, without having to use externally powered systems or devices. Will the shooter become as familiar with his equipment as his technologically backward counterpart? What happens if he leaves his iPhone at home, or if the battery dies?
Not that I'm throwing stones, as my glass house (well, glass-faced iPhone anyhow) contains the superb Ballistic FTE. I love that app, though it has come at the expense of memorizing my rifle's drop table at various distances. In the old days, which is now a scant five years ago, I'd tape the drop table to the stock for quick reference. Ballistic FTE has made me lazy, and I don't even have a table made for a couple of my rifles - let alone having one taped to their stocks. What happens if I leave my iPhone at home, or if the battery goes dead?
Miss, I suppose. My inner Luddite is laughing at me.
-=[ Grant ]=-
GETTING THE MESSAGE: I've been harping on the failures of "Rule #1" for some time now, and it seems that the attitude is catching on. Slowly, but at least progress is being made.
IT ISN'T JUST ME: I've recently expounded on the issue of dogmatic teaching in the self defense world, and I'm not alone in my criticism. Check out this post from Roger Phillips over at warriortalk.com, then read the entire discussion. (I've never met Roger, don't know him from Adam, but he makes sense. Can't say that about everyone.)
POCKET COMPANION: no, not a J-frame! From Dustin's Gun Blog I learned of a new iPhone/iPod Touch app called Legal Heat. It's an interactive version of their printed guide to concealed carry and gun laws in all 50 states, written by attorneys and instructors. It' a great idea, and something that's needed. Unfortunately, despite the viability of the concept I cannot in good conscience recommend this particular app.
There is a big issue with Legal Heat's usability. The pages are just images of the book, which means they're pictures and not text. This sounds inconsequential, but it's not. When you bring up the laws on a state, because it's showing the whole page the text is tiny; unreadably small. To read it, you need to magnify the image by pinching. (The usual double-tap doesn't work, because it doesn't work on full-frame images!) Once you magnify the image to read the text, you have to continually scroll back and forth because images don't wrap text. Finally, the app doesn't support screen rotation; it only displays in portrait orientation, which exacerbates the scrolling issue.
Frankly, iPhone users are accustomed to a higher level of application quality than Legal Heat delivers. If they would simply make their pages actual text and enable screen rotation I'd be comfortable recommending it. As it stands, even at $1.99 it's not worth the hassle.
DEAL ALERT: My background in commercial photography has left me more than a little anal retentive with regards to optics, particularly when it comes to binoculars. I'm a fan of porro-prism designs, as they a) have better three-dimensional perspective, b) are brighter, and c) cost less than roof-prism types for any given level of optical quality (resolution/contrast.)
Minox makes some of the best porro-prism binocs. The optical performance is exceptional, and the build quality matches the glass. They make an 8x and a 10x version, and at a street price of roughly $550 they are something of a bargain; you'll need to spend roughly twice as much to get a roof prism of comparable performance, and you still won't get the perspective advantage that the porro-prism design gives you.
Despite their advantages, porro-prism designs are distinctly unfashionable these days and don't sell well regardless of brand. Roof prisms are what people buy, and Minox has bowed to the market: they've discontinued the 10x model. SWFA is closing them out at $299.95, which has to be classed as a screaming good deal. You won't find anything even approaching their optical performance for that kind of money. (Yes, I grabbed a pair - for that price, I wasn't about to pass them up!)
-=[ Grant ]=-