: A lot of people have asked what I thought of the new Heritage riflescope. A few have misinterpreted my reticence on not wanting to say anything bad....not true. I've just not seen the darn things.....until now.
I truly was not prepared for what I saw.
The Heritage is a very fine gunsight AND optic. I love the heavy, stout construction, the chunky knobs, the parallax/illumination knob design, the finish, the machining. I definitely prefer the "double turn" knob with the detent every 1 mil and the tactile 2nd turn indicator. I had trouble moving the original single turn knob "only" one click or 0.1 mils due to the fineness of the spacing. I like the locking diopter design, and the tool-less re-zeroing is just dandy. Of course, the Gen 2 mildot and Gen 2 XR are awesome functional long range reticles. Ok, so there are a few "tough as nails" scopes that hold up well to rough treatment...like Nightforce NXS.
Then I looked through the thing. WOW. Premier states that no expense was spared in the specs of the optics and I completely believe them. The Heritage has awesome German glass. Clarity, light management, image quality.... are second to none. I know this is subjective, but within the confines of SHOT, the Heritage had the "Best in Show" optics, combined with a bulletproof package.
Then we got lucky enough to step outside with them.
Specifically, I had the opportunity (along with Ilya Koshkin) to take the prototype 5-25x56 outside for some outdoors viewing (thanks to Jerry from Premier). The inside venue where Premier was situated had a long distance of about 35 yards to the wall....not exactly suitable for evaluating a long range scope (the width of the SHOT Show main floor was a lased 165 yards, and the length was an estimated 500 yards). Ilya and I wanted to see how well the Heritage performed as an optic with some distance to work with.
The Heritage did not disappoint.
The long range resolution, clarity, color rendition....simply outstanding. What was most amazing was the incredible depth of field the Heritage displayed. What I mean by this is the Heritage has the ability to keep two objects in the field of view in focus despite a big disparity in their distance. For instance, we were focused on a building several hundred yards away and a palm frond at a fraction of the distance could wave into the field of view and be in focus. This is exceptional from an optical engineering standpoint (so sayeth the Dark Lord of Optics). The utility of this from the practical standpoint of a combat riflescope should be obvious. The Heritage would seem to confer a decided advantage to the enduser in a variety of competitive or tactical environments.
In my my opinion, this is the single best all-round riflescope I've probably ever seen. American-made and the best? It's nice to put those two concepts in one sentence! Best of luck to Chris Thomas and crew...
I love the Premier Heritage.
I have no data on long term reliability, but otherwise I am very fired up about this scope! I know the NXS is much more proven, but IMO the NXS can't hold a candle to the Heritage. I sincerely wish Premier the best in getting this scope out there in the hands of serious shooters!! Nice folks to meet and deal with, too......
: Those who know me know that the folks at USO are some of my favorite people, first class all the way. This year, they are offering perhaps their most practical all around scope ever, the 1.8-10x37 T-PAL w/ 30mm tube. With 100+MOA adjustment and the same stout construction and crisp reticles you expect from USO, this scope should be a winner. Also new for 2009 are their new proprietary ballistic software and the patented new "Milestone" detent knob, which allows extra resistance to be set at any internal milestone in BDC, MIL, or MOA configuration. With these products US Optics continues their rich custom-building tradition!
We again interrupt this report for......workout equipment!
The Burn Machine
: This item is a funky asymmetrical dumbbell system that utilizes 360 degree rotating handles and a sliding weight system to provide an efficient upper body and core workout. I remember these guys from last year but since they made the trip again I'd thought I mention them. What I appreciated is a little postcard showing how the Burn Machine can "improve your shot" and your "holding endurance" through strengthened upper body and hands. Any company that shows up and caters to shooters (even in a non-traditional sort of way) deserves our consideration, period. Just go to www.theburnmachine.com
and check it out. We have the ability to purchase through a SHOT Show order so if interested let me know!
Back to optics.....
: Three new offerings highlight the 2009 lineup for IOR. The most unique is a 36x42 benchrest scope
with 1/8 MOA clicks, 30mm tube a new MP-8 style MOA reticle. Priced right at the Leupold Competition fixed power scopes at $1125 MAP, benchrest shooters have a new option with better optics for the same $$. Advantage: IOR. Next in line is the 2-12x36 Tactical with a BDC style exposed knob and a MP-8 or CQB style of reticle and 35mm tube. No parallax adjustment but a simpler and more robust construction priced about $50 more than the (still available)2-12x32. Finally, an all new 1/4x x 30 with 35mm tube was on the table. Very short and stout, the scope utilizes a new CQB reticle with 1x or 4x magnification settings, sort of a poor man's Elcan Spectre. Quite frankly this new optic did nothing for me, but it might catch on with the AR crowd.
A modest 3% price increase (on average) takes effect on February 1 .
Schmidt & Bender
: We all know S&B are awesome scopes. I looked through a variety of offerings and of course the 5-25x56 is flat out impressive. Keep in mind the Gen 2 mildot and Gen 2 XR offerings are just about done in the S&B, extremely limited quantities on hand. There are a very few 5-25x56 with 0.1 mil clicks, double turn knobs and illuminated Gen 2 XR reticle available, so heads up on a sweet riflescope package. Keep in mind service (if you need it) is S&B's responsibility, not Premier Reticles.....
Looking through some of the PMII scopes, I did note some chromatic aberration at the extreme edges of the field of view...which was a little disappointing, given that the Heritage has none I could see....
Also, the vaunted 1.1-4x24 Short Dot series, I will say that I would not spend $2K+ for that scope, maybe not even half that, I would rather have several Millett DMS-1 or Bushnell Elite 4200 1.25-4x24 4a dot scopes than one Short Dot....wire reticle and "nothing special" turrets....what the heck is the big deal????
I believe the big news is a new 2.5-10x40 hunting scope which is a nice trim package with a sensible objective size.
Carl Zeiss Optronics / Hensoldt
: After years of badgering and begging, and even questioning their manhood (sort of), the boys at Hensoldt lined up HDC, LLC to bring the Hensoldt line of long range riflescopes to the US. Basically military grade Zeiss, Hensoldt features 34mm tubes and both FFP and SFP configurations. The initial family of scopes include the 3-12x56, 4-16x56, 6-24x56, and 6-24x72 scopes. Quite frankly I was a bit disappointed with the easily visible chromatic abberation and a touch of internal flare when scanning the ceiling and lights inside the building. No question the overall quality is top rate and the big advantage Hensoldt has over S&B is the oodles of reticle travel (a worst case 58 MOA in the 6-24x50 and a best case 144 MOA in the 3-12x56 SFP model (108 MOA in the FFP model) so long range "dialing in" is easily obtainable. Price will be an average MAP of well over $3K, and availability should be 6 weeks from now in a worst case scenario....
The other super cool Hensoldt product is a military grade spotting scope with illuminated FFP mildot style spotter reticle and bulletproof construction and Picatinny accessory rails...but quite expensive at around $4999......
Nathan Hunt, President of HDC
, was great to meet and seems to be a fine fellow, so it's time to realize that there are more top shelf choices in riflescopes than ever before...
Nikon Sport Optics
......while I'm still more than a little peeved that the Tactical series of riflescopes was sniped for political reasons, Nikon is simply too big to ignore. The Monarch-X series of riflescopes do boast the Ultra Clear Coat optic system but the tube and knobs are definitely a bit different (not better) than the old Tac...more random scope observations....the Monarch 2-8x32 is simply a DANDY optic and performs above its counterparts (thanks to Ilya Koshkin for the inside scoop there)..I like it in the BDC reticle (though not crazy about the hollow circles)....the 4.5-14x40 Buckmaster mildot reinforced my belief and faith by being quite exceptional for the price point...no worries there. Nikon introduced some new fancy schmancy reticles of the BDC genre but frankly I'm getting a little burned out on the hype......In binoculars, the new high priced EDGs were all the rage, and they were very nice glass...but for less $$ you can get similar performance from the Kowa Genesis XDs......Nikon also re-introduced the Premier series of binos..which they seemed quite proud of...but when Ilya looked through them and wondered about some optical deficiencies which weren't apparent in the "old" Premier binos...the Nikon rep claimed the binos were "only a prototype"....hmmmmmm.
I'm a big fan of the Nikon ED Fieldscopes
so with much anticipation I checked out the ultimate EDG spotters....specifically the angled 85mm model (which does NOT have the dielectric coated prisms of the straight eyepiece model). Quite frankly, while decent, I have no idea what all the fanfare is about. Featuring body (objective) focus and extra-low dispersion glass, the EDG simply underwhelmed in the confines of SHOT, so it's hard to get excited about it....I'm not sure what the problem is, but the sight picture was absolutely nothing special....go figure....maybe it too was a prototype?
Nightforce (Lightforce USA):
I've been fairly consistent with my assessment of Nightforce NSX riflescopes the last couple of years...excellent mechanics with rock solid reliability, excellent QC, excellent finish and build quality, quirky features, "tunnel vision" field of view, reticles that on average are too fine for my tastes, and mediocre optics, especially considering the price point. Despite claims to the contrary, there is nothing redeeming about the optics in the NSX.... period, end of story. Nightforce has gotten away with it because they are more rugged and reliable than the two closest competitors (IOR and Lupy Mark 4) and track and hold zero like nobody's business. NSX are great gunsights, but so-so optics.
Having said that, I made the pilgrimage to the Nightforce booth again, and for the first time in 6 years, somebody actually walked up and helped me. That somebody was Ken ("NightforceKen" on longrangehunting.com). Ken and I had corresponded briefly in the past and I found him to be friendly and personable. He showed me the exact goods I came to look at, the 2-12x32 and the new 3.5-15x50 FFP model. The 2-12x32 is a newer model and judging by availability it's very popular. I like the mildot reticle model. This is a nice "medium-sized" optic that could do about anything except extreme long range shooting (no parallax adjustment). The FFP scope is also a new model and is simply waaaay overpriced. Same story, it had iffy optics that failed to impress. For roughly the same cash, you can (and should) get a Premier Heritage that is better on so many levels....... I realize that several Nightforce FFPs are working out just fine at Rifles Only...but I predict the new Vortex tac scope and the Heritage will deal a one-two punch to the NSX that will hurt a bit before the end of the year.
At any rate, Ken is a class representative of of Lightforce USA, passionate about the scopes, a great salesman, and he exhibits great professionalism. Thanks for taking the time, Ken.
I finally caught up with Glen Seekins of Seekins Precision
and he debuted a new AR-15 lower of unique design. While I'm not an AR-15 aficionado, the lower had a sleek, curvaceous style that was very well received (pun intended). Like all Seekins products, machining and detail were second to none and Glen just keeps on innovating. Another top notch American made product.
I've been meaning to bring Aimpoint into the fold ever since my struggles dealing with L3/Eotech
. I own an older model Aimpoint that has resided on my muzzleloader for years. I finally met up with Gilbert Russell of Aimpoint and he was a fine gentleman that was a credit to his company. The T-1 Micro is highly lauded and I examined one residing on a Glock pistol that was attached to a special mount that utilized the rear sight dovetail. When I realize that the sight will be riding the slide during every single shot, I understand the confidence that Aimpoint has in the ruggedness of the T-1. With my customers demanding a top quality red dot sight for their AR-15 platforms, I promise I'll be reading the Aimpoint catalog on the long flight home to get re-acquainted with this family of gunsights. Anyone wanting a quote on any Aimpoint sight, we will be placing an opening order sometime soon, drop me a line. Also, I want to know, what's your favorite Aimpoint red-dot??
: Optolyth spotters are made 100% in Germany by Sill Optics, excellent quality spotters. Valdada has introduced a new wide angle fixed eyepiece with a reticle that utilizes a grid pattern on the outside and some aiming points that allows a spotter to call in corrections to point of aim utilizing the mil system. After about 30 seconds behind it I could comprehend how it works and this is an "outside the box" alternative to standard crosshair reticles that seems it would really work. I'll post a pdf diagram of the reticle as soon as I get one. Contact Valdada IOR optics for more info.
Bosma Sport Optics
: For some reason, I lingered unnecessarily long at this booth and a polite Chinese gentleman behind the counter took up some conversation. I checked out some rifle scopes that I simply filed away in the NSL (No Second Look) pile. However, I eventually realized that these guys were the Chinese factory for Fujinon. After connecting some dots I found out that Bosma make a pair of ED glass binos (8x42 and 10x42)
that I spent quite some time with. Audible and tactical clicks on the focus wheel mounted diopter adjustment, a decent focus mechanism and surprising good optics that were free of chromatic aberration and any serious physical flaws. Hmmmmmm. When I got my price quote for some quantity buys on these binos, well, all I can say is that those who believe the Chinese can't provide good value on quality optics simply have their head in the sand. Chinese optics factories can do anything they need to. I've seen it year after year here at SHOT.
Zero Tolerance Knives
: I witnessed the debut of ZT several SHOT Shows ago and I've always pined for them (along with Chris Reeve knives, which I missed this year). Looks they are just rolling along just fine. Beefy liner lock and fixed blade knives as well as new models like the JB2 Shroud Cutter and 0500 Manual folder demonstrate ZT's continued commitment to excellence. Neat stuff!
: The Rokon 2x2 is a clunky but rugged looking motorcycle made in New Hampshire. Featuring low-displacement Kohler or Honda engines and a 3-speed Kevlar belt drive moving both wheels via a set of chains, this beast apparently can do some amazing things in rough terrain. Whether climbing logs, running through streams or negotiating steep rugged terrain, the Rokon seems ready for anything. Lightweight at just over 200 pounds (ever weigh a 4-wheeler lately?), the Rokon can be floated through deep water, top 40mph and haul 1000 pounds payload and pull 3000 pounds. These buggers were very intriguing and if any readers own them or have any experience with them, I would love to hear from you.
Chinese ED binos:
I had a response to my posts about Hawke Frontier and Bosma ED binos, and it seems there is an explosion of new models, like the Promaster ELX ED and the Zen Ray (neither which was at the show, I think) which are seeming to push the envelope of price vs performance. More support of my theory that the Chinese manufacturers are starting to come into their own with the higher end stuff. Bosma apparently is an OEM/ODM for Vixen Optics also, which was at the show with a display of HUGE telescopes and other optics. Still, the warranty/service should be a deciding factor. I know Vortex Optics will take care of you with no hassles, even if you are not the original owner of the optic. What about those other guys? The other thing to realize is the inherent prejudice against Chinese-made products, I experience it weekly in this business. Bottom line: When push comes to shove, the dollar rules in a slow economy and these look to provide great bang for the buck, so you need to know about your options.
Finally, a quick story....
During the flight home from Orlando, a somewhat familiar face stood up in the plane looking unhappy. Walking to the back of the plane, the gentleman offered $200 to a young lady to vacate her aisle seat. Being that she was a college student, he didn't have to ask her twice. After staring for a bit, I asked "Lynn Thompson?"...."In the flesh!!! he roared back with a hearty handshake to boot. Lynn Thompson
is the president of Cold Steel
knives. Given I own quite a few of his knives, striking up a conversation was easy. Lynn apparently was tired of the guy's behavior sitting next to him, and was going down the path of knocking his block off, which would have been a big "no-no" on a plane, so he bought his way to sanity. Say what you want about Lynn (and I've heard the gamut), the guy is successful, innovative, and doesn't let grass grow under his feet. It was a pleasure talking with him, and I just "accidentally" discovered he hunts almost exclusively with Leupold scopes....
I suppose we can help him get past that..... ;+)
Until next time (January 19-22, 2010 in Las Vegas) folks!!