Dark Lord of Optics
Location: United States
SHOT Show 2010Now that I am back from SHOT and safely ensconced in the comfort of my extensive collection of single malt scotches, I sprawled out in a Lazy-Boy armchair surrounded by my not-so-copious notes from the show last week.My notes and observations are not very copious because this year's show was relatively sedate. Still, there are enough things to report on. I will first go through a list of optics companies I visited (in no particular order) and then offer some general observations in the end. Over the next few days (after I post the first draft), I will look over the various brochures I brought back from the show and add whatever additional information that provokes. I will also add a few pictures that I took.
Minox is entering the rifle scope market with some 3x and 5x erector scopes. They told me that the glass is German, the mechanicals are from Asia (China, I think) and assembly is done in the US (I am not sure by whom). There are four models: 3-9x40, 2-10x40, 3-15x42 and 4-20x50. Optically, they looked all right. I did not like the knobs. I will ask the Minox guy I talked to for a loaner to run against the competition. Given a choice, I would like to evaluate the ZA-3 3-9x42 scope since it is likely to be the biggest seller.Some of Minox binocular production has been moved from Japan to Germany, but most product lines continue with the same design, so do not expect major changes. However, APO HG and HG binoculars went away from using aspheric lenses in an attempt to gain some field of view. Field of view is indeed wider than it used to be, but still not quite as wide as that of the similarly priced competition. It is good glass though and Minox' competitive advantage is light weight. HG with 52mm objective lens weighs about the same as a competing 42mm designs. If you are looking for light weight low light binocular, HG 8.5x52 is probably worth looking at. If they make APO HG at some point, it will become even more compelling. I am not sure whether the price will be effected by the manufacturing location. I was told that the labor costs in Germany and Japan are similar right now. There are also a couple of new BL binocular models with split bridge design.
Meopta had a small booth over in the corner of the show floor, so I made it out there fairly late in the show. It was definitely worth the walk. I always liked Meopta glass, but their scopes traditionally have had short eye relief and been fairly heavy. This year Meopta is introducing a line of 1" tube scopes called MeoPro. All the components are made in the Czech Republic and the assembly is done here in US by Meopta USA. Optical quality is supposed to be similar to the 30mm MeoStar scopes but there is a bit more eyerelief (3.75" or thereabouts). Knobs are also, ostensibly, redesigned for better accuracy. These scopes are priced to compete against Zeiss Conquest and, I think, Minox. I'll try to set up a scope comparison using a 3-9x42 version (4-12x50 and 6-18x50 are the other configurations).Also new is a line up of assembled in US MeoPro binoculars that are substantially cheaper than Meostars. Most welcome is a roof prism 6.5x32 that should retail in the $350 range. It will be interesting to see how it fares against Vortex Viper 6x32. Other models are 8x42 and 10x42.One of the more interesting scopes in Meopta's original line-up is the 1-4x22 K-Dot. There is now a second version of that scope, which is slightly shorter and lighter with a new reticle and brighter illumination. This reticle is similar to the original K-Dot, but has three chevrons for holdover calibrated to match 5.56 round at 300, 400 and 500 yards (assuming 200 yard zero).
This was the most exciting booth on the show floor (for me). There was a fair amount of new stuff and most of it is right up my alley. Most of these products were announced a bit earlier, but this was my first opportunity to see them.Viper PST scopes offer 30mm main tubes, 4x erectors and interesting reticles. The models are 1-4x24 (SFP), 2.5-10x44 (SFP), 4-16x50 (FFP and SFP) and 6-24x50 (FFP and SFP). All models are available with matched Mil reticle/Mil knobs or MOA reticle/MOA knobs configurations (a concept of matching reticles and knobs is finally gaining some ground with many manufacturers). Al models have ~4" of eye relief and reticle illumination controlled by a small knob on the eyepiece. I really liked 1-4x24 and 4-16x50. I think these two models will do exceptionally well. 6-24x50 was very good as well. 2.5-10x44 was a bit of a let down since the tunnel vision is quite pronounced That is quite a shame since this is easily one of my favourite allround configurations. It is a decent scope, but to be blunt, is not up to the standards of the rest of the Viper PST line. These scopes should be available some time in the spring and will retail in the $500 to $900 range depending on the configuration. If you are looking for a scope to put on your M4, 1-4x24 Viper PST should be high on your list. With more than 200MOA of adjustment range available this is very versatile scope. For a precision rifle, I think 4-16x50FFP with good glass, solid mechanicals and 75MOA adjustment range rocks. A slightly larger 6-24x50 has 65MOA of adjustment available if you lean toward higher magnification. All of the PST scopes also allow you to set zero stop by means of stacking a series of washers to limit knob movement. It is not perfect, but it works well enough.Razor 1-4x24 (along with the 5-20x50 model that debuted last year) is also available now. This scope is superb in every way possible. It only comes with 1/4 MOA knobs and two reticle choices, one designed for generic use and another calibrated for 5.56 round. Both are FFP reticles. I prefer the second one since it is a little faster. The reticle is illuminated with the control knob sitting on the left of the turret box. This scope has 200MOA of adjustment and excellent glass. With good glass quality even 4x is suitable for shooting fairly far out. It is about 4 ounces heavier than 1-4x24 Viper PST and is a little longer. I expect Razor 1-4x24 to retail for around $1200, but time will tell what the street prices are. Honestly, I think Razor is a better scope especially for precision shooting. However, it is also a lot more expensive and I suspect Vortex will sell a lot more Viper PSTs. However, the two Razor scopes are squarely aimed at the market segment dominated by Nightforce, and I like them quite a bit more than I do Nightforce. There is a new red dot sight called Sparc (I think it is an acronym of some sort, but I did not bother memorizing it). Essentially, it is the old Strikefire that went on a serious diet, lost green illumination and added a bit more brightness to red illumination in the process. It is going to be a bit more expensive than Strikefire with retail price of ~$200. Unfortunately it has retained Strikefire's worst feature: itty-bitty control buttons. Their feel is a bit better than on early Strikefires, but the whole design leaves me cold (to put it mildly). Red illumination became a little brighter and I welcome smaller form factor, but those buttons useless if you are in a rush. That having been said, I have owned a Strikefire for about a year now and it has held up without any problems. Whether I like the controls or not, there is something to be said about durability. For those who like to use red dots with magnifiers, Vortex offers a 3x VMX3. It is a same type of
Those who are merciful to the cruel, are cruel to the merciful. Talmud