For information purposes only. This is what it's all about.
Hope you enjoy.
- Vortex continues to build on their success in 2008 with expanded offerings in the riflescopes, binos, and spotters.
Of course, the really big news, is a first peek at the new tactical scopes. :wub: Planned for a mid-summer 2009 debut, we were invited "backstage" for a preview. All I can say is "wow". Two models to start with. Vortex has REALLY done their homework and they are going to make a scope that will be made to last a lifetime. The technical details in design, features and materials set a new bar and I'm very surprised how well Vortex has been watching and listening to shooters.
Here's some details I know I can divulge:
A true 1-4x and a 5-20x
FFP illuminated reticles
MOA/MOA and mil/mil models coming (MOA reticles first)
Exposed turrets with proprietary zero stop, standard
Side focus on the LR model
Oodles of reticle travel
Internals and mechanics 2nd to none (I was impressed with the "hard core" design). Designed to track and hold zero for a lifetime.
Optics expressly spec'd to be "way beyond" the current Viper series (!)
A whole family of similar spec'd scopes to follow!!
Street price will be a bit higher than originally projected but well below the target market by at least $500.
Backed by Vortex....GTG
Now, for other news.
: Minor tweaks to the Viper line include the introduction of a mildot reticle in the 6.5-20x44 and mildot and BDC reticles in the 6.5-20x50 model.
: The very popular DB series adds a new 2-7x35 rimfire (V-Plex with 50 yard parallax setting) and a 4-12x40 AO model with Dead Hold BDC reticle. Prices have risen on all DB scopes for 2009.
: In a wise economic move, Vortex has greatly expanded the Crossfire series to include 9 new offerings. Prices have risen modestly for 2009. The big news are the 30mm tube models 4-16x50 AO and the 6-24x50 AO with illuminated etched reticles. The 4-16 has illuminated V-Plex and mildot reticles and non-illuminated V-Plex. The 6-24 has both illuminated and non illuminated mildot. Reticle travel is about 100MOA and the knobs will feature 1/4MOA clicks on the tall target turrets. For about $200 you simply can't find a better value. Another new longrange model is the 8-32x50 AO with 30mm tube and fine V-Plex wide reticle. The Crossfire series also includes a 2-7x32 and 4x32 rimfire models with V-plex and 50 yard parallax setting. The 4x32 is simply the clearest and brightest little scope I've ever looked through for the price. A 3x32 crossbow model with crossbow reticle and 2x20 EER pistol scopes are welcome additions. Finally, the fixed 6x40 V-plex model is a fantastic, simple, all around woods-hunting scope.
: Vortex introduces a new top of the line flagship bino, the Kaibab 15x56 HD
. Looking like a Viper bino on steroids, these are designed for long range glassing on a tripod and I can tell you these babies deliver in spades. As clear and sharp and bright as anything on the SHOT Show floor. Also, the optics on the Kaibab and Vortex Razor binos feature a new proprietary coating called ArmorTek
similar to the Leupold Diamondcoat but with unique anti-reflex and oleophobic properties as well as dirt and scratch reistance. MAP price on the Kaibab's is $1200.
For 2009, the Razor binos are unchanged in price and lineup.
Folks who read my posts know I love the Viper series of binos. Prices have gone up on the 42mm models a bit. An all new 32mm series (under 20 ounces) makes it debut and fit, finish, feel, and optical performance are all Viper....in a lighter weight package. New for 2009, all Viper binos are Argon purged.
The very popular Diamondback series of binos are completely updated for 2009. All new multicoatings and Argon purging and a style redesign combine to give one of the best bino values available. With a performance rating at about 90% of the best Vortex offers and a price from $140-$250, The DBs are the best value for the money in my opinion.
Finally, the completely new Raptor porro prism models are 17 ounce mighty mights in 6.5x32 and 8.5x32 models. With a street price of just over $100, these are very decent glass for the money.
: Many of you know I haven't held the Vortex spotters in the highest regard, but that feeling is over. The new Razor HD 20-60x85 is brand spanking new, with a triplet apochromatic lens system with two HD lens elements, ArmorTek lens coatings, state-of-the-art dual focus, magnesium housing (just now being offered by Swarovski....) argon purging, 15.5 inches, waterproof, shockproof, 4 pounds, the performance of this spotter is now taken Vortex quantam leap to the upper echelon. MAP is $1600, and the word I'm getting in the field reviews are absolutely laudable. I apply my guarantee to this spotter, if not happy in 3 days, your money back. This spotter is THAT good. Finally.
Finally, Vortex has teamed with Manfrotto and Bogen for proprietary branded tripods of top quality. Look for exting offerings early this year.
For more info, visit www.vortexoptics.com
- I've been a Trijicon convert, and the new ACOG horseshoe reticle is one of the best and most intuitive reticles ever offered. Available in .223 and .308 configs, this new design is FAST and as Ilya Koshkin, the Optics Talk "Dark Lord of Optics" states, the human eye naturally draws to and aligns with circular shapes and thus their utility in reticles. New reticles for the 6.8 SPC are also online for 2009.
I also want to tell you that the "often overlooked" 3x30 ACOG
is fully deserving of your full attention. Excellent, forgiving eye relief, simplicity in the reticle design, lightweight, this ACOG is highly regarded by Trijicon staff and I was quite impressed with it. In fact Ilya directed me to check out this model and optically and in overall execution this is as good as any of them. Price is better than its big sisters 3.5x35 and 4x32 models too.
On to the Accupoints
. The new 30mm 1-4x24 with capped turrets has an unecessary 100MOA+ of reticle adjustment, but eye relief is quite steady throughout the magnification range and the 30mm tube is a big plus. The knobs look like a carbon copy of the Vortex Viper, and were quite good for a capped turret. Great optics too. I think this new offering will be a market leader in the low powered variable market for the AR crowd. I prefer the red triangle/picket post over the others.
Curiously, I wasn't too thrilled with the new 5-20x50 model. 50+MOA of reticle adjustment in the 30mm tube, 12MOA of travel per turn, and optics that exhibited a bit of flare/aberration in them was a turn off. The side focus seemed a bit too loose in feel for me. The mildot reticle=good, the picket post = ? in a long range optic. Overall, I felt the execution of this optic was a bit off the mark, with a street price of about $900.
The new Accupoints, available first quarter 2009....
For military and LE customers, the new Advanced Thermal Weapon Sight
is a FLIR sight that can be hand carried or integrated perfectly with any 4x32 ACOG. I was amazed at how well the two worked together. Trijicon policy will be "no commercial sales" to make Obama happy so I won't expound anymore.
Finally, the new Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR)
red dot sight was on display. Now hear this: I like the CR2032 powered version better as an optic. Why? Clear optics and finer red dot reticles. (4 and 8 MOA vs 9 or 13 MOA). I know, for you SHTF types the tritium and fiber optic powered reticle is appealing, but I can't get past that annoying "coke bottle green" tint that is NOT present in the battery powered model. Buy lots of batteries!!
: The Kowa Prominar line of spotters (especially the 88mm series with flourite crystal lens elements) is world class. In the TSN-883 20-60x angled I was able to read 1/4" tall text consisting of 1mm thick lines inside the dimly lit show floor at a lased distance of 125 yards, through a plate glass window, at 60x. Just another performance benchmark for you to consider. New for 2009 are 33mm objective Genesis XD models
of binos with super-wide field of views and 2 XD glass lens elements per barrel, at 20 ounces these are superb and every bit the equal or better of the Nikon EDGs for a fraction of the price. I love the 44mm models and while a touch heavy they are awesome performers for outdoor use. The Genesis are particularly strong in color rendition and contrast, a real joy to look through. My colleague Ilya Koshkin felt the 33mm were more technically sound than the 44mm, but I'm still partial to the larger exit pupil.
Other news, the old flagship 82mm TSN-821M series is done, but it is replaced by the new TSN-82SV
model, which is angled eyepiece, green rubber armored, and takes the same eyepieces as the 66mm and 60mm models. As Kowa likes to say..."the legend lives on"...
Finally, hear ye, hear ye, prices on all Kowa products are going up 10% across the board for 2009, beginning February 1.
There is never a better time to lock in what results in a 10% discount by ordering your Kowa product before then. You won't regret ordering before the price increase.
Oh, by the way, it's pronounced CO-wa..........
- Still awesome glass...but here's some news. Kahles is done...didn't even show up at the show...while a stake is still owned by Swav, there is a definite disconnect. No US distributor either, as Legacy Sports has come and gone with Kahles...
The new Ballistic Reticle
is a mish-mash of the prototype Kahles tactical reticle from last year and a mildot. Swarovski is unequivocally not going tactical per communication of floor staff...and this reticle (and the knobs) make for an expensive paperweight....avoid.
The SLC binos are as good as ever, and pricey too....
Finally, the LRF, although having the narrowest beam divergence (2.2 mils wide by 0.5 mils tall) and a well documented track record, I was not overly impressed with. NO ONE on the Swarovski floor new what the reticle diameter was, the reading was slow, and the reticle itself has distinct bubbles and/or skips that imparted a cheesy aura......pass....but only b/c of the new Zeiss Victory LRF!!
- Rumor has it that Kahles, long the unwanted stepchild of Swarovski (but still owned by them) has been bought by Leica and commissioned to lauch a new series of proprietary Leica riflescopes .....I have no further info, but I wouldn't get too excited, while likely having novelty and killer glass, I doubt Leica's ability to field scopes with features that make sense to real shooters....but time will tell.
Now we interrupt this optics report for.......guns!!
: OK....totally not an optic...but Arsenal AKs rule the current market, but big news are true Ishmash factory receiver AKs (Saiga)with stamped Russian (Ishevsk marked) receivers, AK-74 style gas blocks, and plum, green, or black factory stock colors. In 7.62x39, these new Section 922-R legal rifles just looked and felt AWESOME...checkout the SGL20
models at a dealer near you soon!!!
Back to our regularly scheduled program....
Zeiss Sporting Optics:
The quality of Zeiss optics is no big secret, so let's focus on the new stuff....
First off, a new Conquest 2.5-7x32 EER
handgun scope was on display. Featuring an average of 13+ inches of eye relief, designed to handle 1500G forces, 1/4 MOA clicks, parallax free at 75 yards, this may be just the ticket for pistol/shotgun/scout guns. Eye relief was very forgiving at 2.5x and not so much at 7x. Finally, a quality EER scope that should sell at a reasonable price.
Another neat scope that was a prototype is the 85mm spotter with objective lens zoom and intregral camera...the Victory Photoscope 85T*FL
....completely eliminates the need for digital SLR "digiscoping"....and probably a hefty price tag to boot.
I am going on record as saying I prefer the Zeiss Victory LRF
over the Swarovski LRF....cheaper, with a beam divergence of 2.5 mils by 1.5 mils (horizontal), ballistic compensation capable, lightweight, faster to range, 2 mil circle ranging reticle, and Made in Japan!!!! This is poised to be the best value on the market. Street price should be well under $700
The Victory LRF rangefinding binos were on hand but at $2500+ we won't be featuring them in this economy....
Some new Victory riflescope models in SFP (vs. FFP) made their debut. 2.5-10x50 and 3-12x56 models were on display. Typical Zeiss quality.
Finally, from the horses mouth, the Victory 6-24x72 scope is nearly identical in build quality and spec as its Hensoldt cousin!!! Food for thought.
: I want to thank Ilya Koshkin (the OpticsTalk "Dark Lord of Optics" and frequent forum visitor) for explaining the finer elements of optics evaluations. His technical expertise on materials and design puts my comprehension to a whole 'nother level. Not to mention he's a great all around guy. I'm glad we have the opportunity to work the show. I learned a lot from him that will make me a better dealer.
One mission we have is to search for new brands or models that will fit in our philosophy of offering customers a superior value/quality at each price point. True innovation is somewhat rare but you never know what you will see or learn at an event like this. Anyway, we were introduced to Hawke Sport Optics www.hawkeoptics.com
which is a decidedly British company that markets a series of Asian optics here in the US. Hawke's specialty is a series of ballistic holdover reticles that are matched with a proprietary free downloadable software that lets you get the appropriate holdovers and aiming points for your particular load. While most of Hawke's optics are made in China, the Frontier series of riflescopes are made in Japan. Featuring 1-inch tubes, the side focus models are the flagship scope for Hawke. A 4-16x42, 6-24x50, and 8-32x50 are the models offered, with 1/8MOA clicks on the latter two. I like the 4-16x42, which had about 80MOA of reticle travel. It's simply a very nice scope but a bit over-priced at $499 street price. Mildot reticles are available in all Frontier models. The non-side focus Frontier models can be thought of as the generic equivalent of the Sightron SI, with a street price in the $125-$155 range.
Probably the most noteworthy of the Hawke products is new Frontier ED
binos, featuring phase coated ED optics, great field of view and open hinge design. Optically, these were very good, but the over-sized focus knob did not have a consistent feel for me. Still, for $350 you get the "Best from China" in a bino I've seen.
My only concern with Hawke is the 'Worldwide Warranty" which is not explained in writing but told to me it only applies to the original owner. I counseled the corporate "powers that be" that a "no hassle" warranty service is a huge key for success in a competitive market, and strongly advised a revision. I'll leave it at that. Overall, Hawke's bread and butter is the customizable printout ballistic reticles in certain models (check out the Sidewinder scopes) that offer a unique variation to play with. There is nothing overly compelling about the lineup to recommend them but there's another option for you.
: Brunton is a fine outdoors company based in Riverton Wyoming. They make neat camping and outdoors gear. They also sell optics. The cream of the crop binocular they sell is the Epoch. I looked at the 8.5x43 model. Bottom line: I still don't understand why they want $1200 for a rather ordinary Japanese bino. I wouldn't give them $600 for it. Go figure. The new compact 60mm spotters were actually pretty decent, featuring a rugged rubberized design, but I feel that Brunton offers optics to round out the product line, not because it is their passion.
: I visited Leupold's hunting booth thinking I was going to stay awhile, but this was not the case. The big news is the new VX-3
riflescopes. I spent some time looking through them. At lowest power, all had serious vignetting and fuzzy edges and a narrowed field of view (much like the IOR scopes), which opened up slightly with increased magnification. Optics were OK. The regular fast focus eyepiece has been replaced with a coarse thread traditional style ("old school") eyepiece. The standard low profile knobs pretty much suck, while the new Custom Dial System is pretty decent with it's low profile exposed design, tailored tothe ballistics of your load. Another thoughtful touch is the rangefinding markings on the magnification ring for hunting. Still.....I am not impressed with the new VX-3 and the laundry list of features and matching hype do not live up to expectations, IMO. The new Northfork binos, positioned under the Gold Ring on the quality gradient, are OK. But we know what we have with the Gold Ring binos, which are decent, but over-priced optics. The new RXB-IV LRF is the lightest and most compact, with a very bright LED display, but I still couldn't figure out how to use it. The display is too busy and the function is not intuitive. Why doesn't Lupy take a page from the high end LRF makers? K.I.S.S.
After spending more time in the Leupy booth, I had an epiphany of sorts. Despite all the star power and endorsements and slick marketing and big-time budgets.....Leupold is irrelevant
. There is nothing they offer at each price point in any product that isn't exceeded by a competitor in quality for less money. That is a sad statement, but for Leupold 2009 I think it's true. The best thing going for Lupy is their Custom Shop, which truly sets them apart. But their production lineup lacks any good value, which is a bad thing IMO. Perusing their catalog the tactical lineup doesn't have any extensive new changes, big surprise.
Leupold needs some real leadership in their corporate structure, IMO.
While the new hunting scopes failed to impress, I've never really had an issue with the Mark 4 tactical scopes. They do have good variety in knob choices and two mainstay reticles, and can and do work. While the hired hands at the hunting booth were pretty helpful, the guys at the law enforcement booth were abysmal. One guy in particular was like a robot. No passion or knowledge at all. He handed me a SFP scope and insisted it was the new 4.5-14x50 FFP. "No it's not" I said. "Yes it is" he said. I handed him the scope and taught him "FFP 101" (look at the reticle......)
Sheesh. They also denied marking or making Mark 4 "Dark Earth" 3.5-10x40 TMR models for Uncle Sam, despite the markings on the scope and the box it came in....interesting, "plausible deniability" in action. Honestly, there was no interest in selling on their part. The sad thing is, this is not the first time I've experienced this, I've seen this in at least two of the last five SHOT shows. Maybe if the Leupold family got hit in the pocketbook, they would wake up and make the goods again, with employees/reps who had a clue. I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but the best Lupy has to offer isn't good enough anymore. The competition is eating their lunch and blind brand loyalty and the Custom Shop is all they have left in the tank....
A year ago I wrote on some forums that I was quite impressed with Sightron scopes, especially the SIII and SII Big Sky series, and for 2009.....nothing has changed. I am blown away by the overall execution of the Sightron premium scopes. The optical sight picture really jumps out at you inside the confines of the show, indoors. Color, clarity, sharpness, fit, finish, controls, they're really no wrong notes here. This is coming from a dealer who has never made a penny selling Sightron. The tracking and repeatability performance and reputation are second to none. Simply put, Sightron scopes are excellent gunsights that need to find a way into your arsenal. The only limitation are the options and choices, and perhaps price for some of you. But they worth the money. The service is excellent too.
: I've never been too excited about Meopta riflesscopes, neither fish nor fowl, never hitting on all cylinders, and this year is no different. The optics are quite fine but the finger adjustable knobs look similar to a Simmons or Bushnell Elite capped turret. On display was a 10x42 scope with 0.1 mil clicks on a BDC knob with 4 mils of travel..with a duplex reticle.....what the heck? :wacko: I asked the company rep what the deal was and the reply was this was just a display prototype for upcoming scopes. I think it was better left in the lab. The new M-RAD reflex red dot (isn't everybody making one?) had a "dot" that resembled a cross, airplane, whatever, it wasn't a dot. To be fair, Meopta is not alone with failing to create a nice circular red dot but for $300+ dollars, it better be right.
I did spend some time with the 1-4x22 K-Dot, and it is a very nice illuminated CQB riflescope, but heaven help you if the illumination goes down, as the reticle is fairly useless without it.
The new Meostar B1 binos
are exceptional. Very European and very well executed. Bright, clear, colorful optics and nice controls. These warrant serious consideration for European optics enthusiasts at a lower price. Do not be afraid to check these out, you might take them home. As always, I'm partial to the 42mm objectives, but 32mm, 50mm, and 56mm models are in the fleet. I think this is Meopta's flagship product.
I did not examine the Meopta spotters, I have before and they are decent but little has changed from models in the past.
: Of the "Big 3" optics manufacturers (Lupy, Nikon, Bushnell) Bushnell seems to be most aggressive in moving "forward and upward" in the marketplace. They have many new offerings in spotters, binos, and scopes. The new buzz in the Elite series of riflescopes is the new "DOA" reticle, which resembles an upside down Swarovski TDS, used in estimated range on deer based on the average span between their ears, with MOA dots used for holdovers. There is a lot of science, both ballistic and biological, that went into the development of the reticle. Here's a link for more info:
Also, an email from the riflescope product manager for Bushnell, Millett, Simmons and Tasco:
"The average whitetail has ears that span 17" eartip-to-eartip. While the common mule deer has a 24" spread between eartips. So at each ballistic holdover dot there is a horizontal intersecting line that extends out to subtend 24", with vertical hash marks on it that measure 17" at each respective yardage. Now a hunter has a tool that they can utilize to estimate the width of the rack of which they are viewing, no matter whether they are hunting whitetails or muleys. I always thought that the hardest thing to do was to gauge the size of antlers when looking through magnification and you had no reference for size
It will be interesting to see how the hunting public responds to this new reticle.
The Elite 4200 and 6500
are solid scopes in nearly all aspects; mechanics, optics, fit, finish. All seem to feature wire reticles exclusively, even in the illuminated models. I feel the "brassiness" evident upon light entering the ocular of the scope (such as reflecting off your face) is more pronounced than it should be. These are still a safe choice, even if they are not the "sexiest" of riflescopes.
The biggest surprise was the new Excursion
spotting scope, folded light path compact models that are similar to the Lupy Gold Ring and Mark 4 models. A 15-45x60 (including a tactical version with FFP mildot reticle
) and 20-60x80 are the two offerings. ED glass is standard, and these spotters feature a hard case and soft case and a tripod!! They looked quite good in the show and the focus was smoother than the Lupy Gold Ring HD I tested, but real testing outdoors is needed ;+)
I did not examine any binos but was told to try to check out the new high end models including the new Legend Ultra HDs and the new spotting scopes. Bushnell has a huge product offering!
: Bushnell owns Millett now, and I was told the Millet name would continue. After having been on the forums and hearing about the value of the Millet tactical series of scopes, I had to check them out for myself.
All I can say is, the 1-4 DMS-1, 4-16 TRS-1, and 6-24 LRS-1
are the best Chinese-made tactical scopes I've seen. The DMS-1 has a splendid reticle and very even illumination. The knobs aren't anything special but for a CQB scope once it's zeroed, knobs are irrelevant. The finish on the scopes is quite good, smooth and evenly applied. Optics are much better than I expected. The TRS-1 is a good budget tactical scope with a great QC record. The LRS-1 has very large and easy to see mildot reticle and from what I understand the "bugs" have been worked out. It's hard to argue with the Millet as viable low dollar scopes. One Bushnell employee showed me an African lion he had taken with his rifle topped with a DMS-1.....that's
confidence in your optic!
The big story for me was a lesson on the Millett Zoom Dot
tube-style reflex sight. The Millett Zoom Dot 30mm reflex sight is a non-magnifying 1-to-1 ratio red dot illuminated aiming system that can be used in all lighting situations with one or both eyes open. The dot size can be zoomed down to 1 MOA for a long-range accurate shot, or up to 10 MOA for super-fast target acquisition under close quarters battle, by simply turning the knob. I spent some time with one of the designers of the sight and this thing is quite the technological marvel. Currently made in the USA, this thing has no wires to wear out, it's controlled by a microprocessor and an optical glass sphere sensor or some sort, i.e., if you have it turned down for viewing in near darkness and swing your rifle to a sunny window, the dot is supposed to self intensify to a visible level. Wow. The Zoom Dot has integral flip up caps that will turn the dot down to a battey saving level if you snap them on but forget to turn the reticle off. The caps remain flexible in subzero weather.
Simple, rugged, affordable, I wasn't crazy about the greenish tint to the glass or imprecise dot, but the plusses definitely outweigh the minuses. There was a a sample there that had been frozen to 40F below zero, repeatedly dropped on concrete and run over by a truck, and it kept on ticking. I keep reading about the desires of many shooters (especially over on CalGuns.net) for a lower cost alternative to Aimpoint for a "SHTF" red dot......I sincerely believe the $299 Millett Zoom Dot is it....consider this, the military has taken an interest in this rugged and affordable technology and are currently working up a RFP and have begun the process of buying up oodles of them, which means 1) less future availability and 2) higher prices.....consider this too, the 400 or so still in Bushnell's inventory are US made but future assemblies will be made in Mexico....there is also a trick Picatinny clamp rail attachment that you can get that tightens and loosens with a finger adjustable star-shaped nut.
Anyway, the 8 ounce, 5.5 inch Zoom dot was the biggest surprise to date for the 2009 SHOT. I WOULD GET YOURS SOON.
This may be old news to some of you but this is new to me and my job is to give you the scoop.
to be continued....