Optic of the week: Nightforce 2.5-10X24

For a long time the Trijicon ACOG was my favorite scope.  Transitioning from iron sights to 4x magnification was a massive force multiplier.  From there I tried some various optics and the Nightforce 2.5-10X24 became my new favorite scope.  (The Leupold MK6 eventually replaced this as my favorite).  Still I love these so much I own two of them.  Aside from the cost, I’d love to have a dozen.  I feel it is a great light little general purpose scope and would love to throw on each .22 rifle I have.

As always, all good things must come to an end, so Nightforce discontinued this scope.  But there was so much demand that they do little production runs of an updated model every so often.  They still command a premium.

There are two big draws to the NF2.5-10X24.  First is that it is quite small and feels right at home on smaller and lighter guns.  There is even a picture floating around of a Navy SEAL armory where they have one of these mounted on a MP5.  That leads right to the next reason for its popularity.  The major durability and reliability of the Nightforce scopes got them used by groups like SOCOM.  People seeing Navy SEALs running around with these scopes drove up the demand and price.  I paid about $1300 for each of mine, I’ve seen people try to sell them for over $2000.  At $1300 I think they are great, but I wouldn’t pay $2000 for one.

Adjustment were available in 1/4 MOA and in 1/10 MIL.  Some were made with 1 MOA elevation adjustments.  Most of these scopes have exposed turrets, but some have capped 1/4 MOA turrets.  I prefer the milradian adjustments with the mildot reticle.  Clicks are slightly spongy, but very clear and you are not going to accidentally miss one.  The turrets are plenty stiff so they are very unlikely to get accidentally moved.  Many of these scopes do not have any zero stops.  Some do.  I’ve read that the newer scopes have a different style(improved) zero stop.  The stop on this scope requires removing the elevation knob and using an Allen wrench to turn a physical stop into place.

The scope also offers illumination with multiple brightness including a night vision setting.  These settings are not daylight bright.

The small objective lens allowed this scope to be mounted over IR lasers such as the AN/PEQ-2 or a DBAL-A3 like in this picture.  Unfortunately this small objective lens limits the incoming light and makes this scope less than ideal for low light.  A 32mm objective lense was put on the 2.5-10X32 scope this model that replaced this one in production.  Later a similar model with a 42mm objective and adjustable parallax was made.  The 42mm model is still in production.

This scope, as great as it is, shows its age when you look at its features.  It is second focal plane, having been designed before 1st focal plane scopes became very popular.  It seems to have a mixed following in the gun community as people recognize that it is a very durable and reliable scope, but the combination of a unforgiving eye box and eye relief along with lower max magnification made it less popular.  People snatched these up to put on MK12Mod1 clones then found when they were trying to shoot tight groups on paper that they would prefer to have something else.

I think I would best describe this as a major step up from the ACOG for farther distance shooting, but in a similar use.  You use this to to hit targets that are smaller or at farther distances than an ACOG.  But if you are dedicated to one hole groups on paper you would be better suited by a scope with a parallax adjustment, greater magnification, and a finer reticle.

Oh, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tons of adjustment this scope has.  The 10.5 inch 5.56 rifle in the picture above was zeroed at 100 yards and I could reach a 1000 yards by dialing up and holding over with the reticle.  100MOA or 27.3 mils of adjustment on the respective models.

Here are a picture of the mil dot reticle.  The dots are hollow which I really love.  This scope was offered with a variety of reticles but the mildot seems to be the most common.  A mildot reticle with 1/4 MOA turrets may have been the most common configuration.

They did offer a 1-4x version of this scope that was slightly shorter but it didn’t seem to be very popular.  Of the various 1-4X power scopes the Nightforce version seemed to have none of the benefits and all of the downsides.

I hate to say it, but this is really like a more tactical 3-9x scope.  Unless there is some particular feature of you scope you need, you could get very similar performance out of a much cheaper more available 3-9x scope.  Much like the Unertls, these have become collectible.  But technology has surpassed them, and for pure cost to capability there are much better options now.  That said, I love mine and I won’t part with them.  I do wish that Nightforce would consider making a cheaper version that is just a fixed 10x.

If you ever see a Nightforce labeled RECON, NAV-SPEC or ARMY-SPEC on the bottom it shows that it is a standard production scope that had a little more abusive testing than normal.  Those really command a premium.

Misc rambling on the A4.

I was looking at my notes and realized I hadn’t shot my AR15A4 in over a year, so I took it out last weekend.

The reason I keep an A4 configured rifle around is because I carried one in combat.  I actually carried the M16A2 more while I was in the service, but I had an A4 in Iraq.

I know that I write a post like this each year, and I’ll probably have another one for you all next year.

When we carried the M16A2 in the Corps we felt it could do everything we needed.  From CQB to 500 yards.  Now one could argue if we really could do what we felt we could do.

Ignoring what our actually capability might have been, we had no idea what we were missing.  Since our experience was only based around the A2, we didn’t know how much of a combat multiplier an optic would be, or how much handier a carbine would be, etc.

It was common knowledge in the Corps back then that the M4 was too unreliable, inaccurate, and didn’t have enough stopping power for military use.  Just like how it was common knowledge that the M14 was the best service rifle ever and it would one shot kill commies even if you shot them in the toe, and the .50 BMG created a super shockwave that would rip people to pieces even if you missed by three feet.  Then other things that were taught and believed started to get really silly.

Now I think going to the M16A4 over the A2 was as big improvement as suddenly we learned that we could customize our weapons to fit our mission.  Optics made for a huge improvement in hit ratios.  Story goes that there was a quiet investigation on the Marines during the invasion of Iraq because so many enemies were being shot in the head that higher ups thought that Marines were executing people.  Turns out it was just a massive increase in head shots due to the ACOG optic.

We could suddenly effectively mount lights, lasers, night vision devices, thermal, bipods, etc to our rifles.  Not that we couldn’t before but we couldn’t do it easily.  The old barrel mount for the AN/PEQ-2 IR laser required us to beg an Armorer to install it.  Now we could just slap an IR laser on anywhere.

I remember being in Iraq and seeing another unit that was issued Harris Bipods and Surefire M900 lights and being so jealous of them.  But their higher ups were worried about guys loosing the equipment, so they were required to have both on their rifles at all times.  That must have been so heavy and awkward.

The A4 got the job done, but the M4 would have done just fine.  Now it is clear that the future is all carbines.

I find it hilarious how the Marine Corps used to say that a 14.5 inch M4 barrel was not good enough for general use but then they decide that a 16.5 inch barrel is good enough for an automatic rifle.  I really think the adoption of the M27 IAR was the Corps trying to get a carbine with out buying the M4.

I spend a great deal of time to get my Colt AR15A4 set up exactly the way I wanted it, but each time I shoot it it is a reminder that the A4 just doesn’t excel in any particular area.  It isn’t a precision rifle, it isn’t a light handle carbine, it is just a sort of jack of all trades.  Using it is like owning many knives, but none of them sharp.

Optic of the Week: Leupold CQ/T

First time I used a Leupold CQ/T it was mounted on a friends M1A.  It seemed to me an impractical combination as it was mounted really high making it awkward on the M1A and I’d much rather have more magnification on a .30 cal.  That aside, I found the CQ/T rather interesting.

The Leupold Close Quarters/ Tactical is a real odd duck of a scope that really came out before its time.  Before the 1-X variable power craze of nowadays, there was the 1-3x CQ/T.  It is fast and easy to switch between 1x and 3x because the entire ocular section of the scope (up to the rail) rotates.  The Leupold CQBSS received rave reviews for this feature, but it was in the CQ/T long before it.

Most of the CQ/T scopes have a circle dot reticle (much like the Eotech) that can be illuminated in amber or red.  The circle dot is always visible.  Before it was discontinued Leupold did finally make some with their CMR reticle, an ACOG like bullet drop chart(BDC).

Reticle is 2nd focal plane.  It is eteched At 1x the Dot is 3 MOA and the circle is 18 inches at 25 yards (~69 MOA), at 3x the Dot is 9 MOA and the circle is 6 feet at 200 yards (~34 MOA).  The math is much simpler if you round to 72 and 36 MOA which I think was the intent.

Illuminated reticle is bright, but still somewhat lacking outdoors.  The adjustment has 12 positions including OFF and night vision modes.  The reticle will blink if you have a low battery.  I couldn’t get a good picture outdoors of the illuminated reticle so here is an indoor one.

Adjustments are a simple 1/2 covered turrets.

The “battery pack” is easily removed or secured with less than a quarter turn.  

Weirdly, you have a removable container to put the battery in.  If you had several you could do quick battery changes, and this also would protect the optic should the battery leak.  It doesn’t slow down battery changes, but makes the process different from other optics.

The mount is rather weird.  The CQ/T has a narrow section so that it can mount to an AR15 carry handle.  Unlike other scopes that can do that, this one has 3 threaded holes to give different eye relief options.

The rail mount is two piece and pinches the scope to your rail.  Solidly mounts the scope but makes it annoying when you are taking it off or moving it.

I am really impressed by the CQ/T and I think it is a good scope, but it is just shy of a great scope.  Leupold seemed to make some odd design decisions regarding it.  For example the rails on the scope, they should have either gotten rid of them, or gotten serious with low profile adjustment so that there would be a usable amount of rails.  The circle is huge, I think they would have been better off with a 1 MOA dot and a 19-20 MOA circle.  A mount that doesn’t get all loose and floppy when you are removing or attaching it would also have been an improvement.  The battery pack was an interesting idea but could be replaced with a simpler cap.  I think the biggest possible improvement would have been an illuminated horseshoe reticle with an ACOG like BDC.

I went and read some old reviews of this scope and the complaints were generally about cost, weight, size, and eye relief.  I think this came out in a time when people were not used to spending a good bit of money on an rifle optic.  Now people gladly spend large sums for AR optics.  This scope is 17.5 oz, so it is heavy, about twice the weight of an ACOG.  But to put it in perspective it is a 1/3 pound lighter than the similar Elcan Specter DR.  To me it doesn’t feel overly large or heavy on an AR.  Eye relief seemed fine to me, but unlike a reflex sight, you still have strict limits on where you can place your head to use it.

I put this scope on my 5.45 AR (pictured in the first picture) and did a little bit of rapid fire and shot some clay pigeons at 50 yards.  I found the CQ/T to be very fast and easy to use.  I like it, but I feel it is just shy of being a great optic.  I would not recommend it because it has discontinued, not to mention there are now 1-6x scopes that are similar size, weight, and MSRP.  I think that is a shame because I think with just a little work it could have been exceptional.  Lastly, there are some being sold really cheap lately, if you want one, now might be the time to get one.


Optic of the week: AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Scope

The bottom optic in that photo is an AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Sight.

The PVS-4 is a 3.6x scope, usually Generation 2 but there are Generation 3 PVS-4 scopes out there.  While considered obsolete in the U.S. the PVS-4 still gets used around the world.

This scope is sizable, 4 pounds and over a foot long.

The PVS-4 comes with a mount that can be attached directly to an AR15/M16 Carry Handle.  A variety of other mounts, including the pictured rail grabber are also available.  The PVS-4 also has a variety of mounting options for grenade launchers and crew served machine guns.

Operation is pretty simple, everything is clearly labeled.

The PVS-4 originally used a weird battery (BA-5367/U) generally unavailable anywhere.  Adaptors exist allowing you to use 2 AA or 1 CR123 batteries instead.  Many PVS-4 scopes have two places, on the top and on the right side, where you could install a battery.  Only one battery is needed to use the optic.  These scopes have been made by many companies in many places in the world, some have omitted the side battery compartment, others were built or rebuilt to only use 2 AA or 1 CR123 batteries.

The AA battery adaptor shown above can only be mounted on the top of the scope, the CR123 adaptor shown below can use either mount.

The objective lens cap for the PVS-4 gives you 6 different options for varying the amount of light let in.  This lets you use the scope during the day, even during the brightest day in the deserts.

The downside is that your view through the scope becomes somewhat obstructed.  I’ve read that people saying they had zero shifts from zeroing with the cap on then shooting with the cap, but I haven’t had the chance to test that.

Reticles are interchangeable if you can find the relevant reticle cell.  The one pictured above is the M16-M203-M79 reticle.  Other options include a cross hair, M14-M60, M2 Heavy Machine Gun, and some assorted rocket and missile launcher sights.

Unfortunately due to the combination of the illuminated reticle, tube brightness, and the daylight apertures makes initially using the scope a little more complex.  When I went to take some photos, I initially got the tube brightness and focus set up so I could see the target clearly but then when I turned on the illuminated reticle it was too dim to see, even at max brightness.  So I had to reduce the amount of light coming in and put the reticle brightness on max to get the photo above.

The photos really don’t do the optic justice.

Much like with the Darkstar, when I tried shooting clay pigeons at 50 yards offhand I found the optic slow and awkward.  It is really best employed from a stationary position and some sort of rest.

Side note, I found on this PVS-4 someone had cut out the flaps in the eye piece.  Normally these eye pieces have 2 flaps to prevent light from spilling out when the optic is on.  Most people find them annoying because you have to press your face into the eyepiece to be able to use the scope.  Most of this style eye piece that I saw in the military had this same modification.

The PVS-4 is perhaps one of the best Gen 2 night vision optics available, and was quite popular compared to the early 3rd Gens due to how well it handles bright lights.  Early 3rd Gen Nightvision would have large halos around bright lights while the 2nd Gen PVS-4 does not have that issue.  That is why you may find some old recommendations where the PVS-4 is recommended for urban use over Gen 3.  That said, newer Gen 3 is far superior to the PVS-4.

It is a good optic, and still works well, but there are far smaller and better options available to us now.

Optic of the week: NV-224 Darkstar Night Vision Scope

The top optic is a Darkstar NV-224 night vision scope, below it is a AN/PVS-4 for comparison.  The company that made it, Tactical Night Technologies is long out of business.

This scope uses the same image intensifer tube as the PVS-4.  While these tubes were made as Gen 2 and Gen 3 models, as far as I know all the Darkstar scopes are only Gen 2s.  I’ve heard people claim that the PVS-4 tubes are some of the best and most capable of the gen 2 night vision devices and I believe them.  That said, these are a product of their time and are large and heavy.

At 4 pounds and nearly 12 inches long this is not a small optic.  I tried doing some rapid target acquisition and firing at 50 yards and I found the scope very slow and awkward for that purpose.  Usable, but far from ideal.  It would be better for use in a stationary position off a rest or support.

It runs off two AA batteries.  On this particular one the plate for the batteries has broken loose and has to be popped back in place for the scope to work.  Battery life is suppose to be 20 hours, but I didn’t get the chance to test that.

An Elcan mount provides the ability to attach this scope to a Picatinny rail and all zeroing is done on this external mount.  Once zeroed, the dial for elevation and be adjusted for 300-800 meters.

Operation is simple.  If you are using it during the day, you leave the protective cover on the objective lens.  At night you remove it.  There are a couple of brightness settings on the power switch.  By the objective lens there is a focus for target clear, and by the eye piece there is an Eyepiece focus.  I was able to clearly see the target and the environment.  Unfortunately the pictures above do not do the sight justice.

The Darkstar objective lens.

The rubber eye piece cover has a shutter in it that opens when you press your face up against it.

Overall I like the Darkstar NV-224, but it is old and obsolete.  If you can find one cheap I think it is worth while, but it just is not competitive with more modern night vision devices.

A copy of the manual and some additional information is available here.