Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Combat Grade Ballistic Reticles at Bargain Prices

Ever since I did my stint as weapons master for "Top Shot" people send me things to test out. Most of it I politely try and give back. But I love unknown distance rifle shooting and I confess products that make it easier impress me. The Pride-Fowler RR-Evolution 5.56/7.62 3-12X scope has.

If you've never shot an extended session with one of these types of calibrated ballistic ranging reticle scopes and realized after half an hour that you've been hitting everything and never took your eye out of the ocular, you need to find a friend that has one and try it. No milling. No range card. Ranging is done by using marks built into the reticle that are the width of a reference target such as a person's shoulders or head at a given distance.  Other combat grade day-optics that work this way are the ACOG/RCO's that also have ranging reference marks built into the reticle.  You don't actually try to determine the range with these scopes.  At full engagement speed it's about intuitively bracketing the target between markers and sending rounds downrange. Trust your zero, trust your dope.  These kinds of optics are the epitome of that concept within the well regulated confines of mil-spec approved lot numbered ammunition. This PFI scope is first focal plane so the reticle works at any magnification setting.  It's point, shoot and hit.  It's a smile maker.

The Evolution generation PFI reticle contains a number of enhancements including milling marks on the horizontal and upper vertical axis.  The ranging marks are calibrated for reading distance on the right with 20 inch barrels and have additional offset numbers on the left calibrated for 24 inch barrels. The typical muzzle velocity difference due to 4 inches of barrel length is around 80 to 100 feet per second which changes the drop at each distance more and more as the range extends.  That is a lot of math to figure out that's replaced by just looking through the scope.

You think that's impressive?  There's a PFI reticle designed for the FN-SCAR that has a bifurcated reticle with calibrations for the same bullet at two different density altitudes.  It's the only scope I've ever been able to interpolate hold over/under changes by eye for different heights above sea level.  That reticle sits inside the much more expensive U.S. Optics/PFI SR-8C.

This RR-Evolution is no slouch in the advanced mental gymnastics interpolation game either.  While calibrated for two different barrel lengths to make is as flexible as possible for the various tactical and varmint rifles it might be used with, you ballistics savvy types should have already started the gears in your noggins figuring out that with a 20" barrel rifle that left side is an interpolation tool for hot day shooting conditions.  There's 100 fps of temperature rise speed shift taken out of tables galore right there in front of your eyeball.  Entertain yourself twiddling with that ballistics calculator to convince yourself and then trust your dope.  Dude! No batteries.

Much Improved Quality of Construction

I'd previously tried the military grade Pride-Fowler RR scope and the lesser civilian model. I liked the original Japanese made RR 900-1.  It's made at the same factory that manufactures NightForce scopes. It's rugged, accurate, easy to use.  Soldiers love it.  It's the scope that caused me to perk up and pay attention to PFI.  The one I have refuses to come off the Mk14 EBR it is mounted on because it's about as perfect a long range designated marksman system as it gets.  But it's also expensive.  At the time PFI also offered a lower priced Chinese made "civilian hunter" model but I truthfully had little interest in it. It was one of those scopes you really needed to set up once and never touch the turrets again.  The concept was good but sadly the tube and glass quality was sub-par vs. the reticle's potential.  Unlike it's military grade cousin, it wasn't a keeper.

Then in early 2014 John Pride said a new civilian model had replaced it and asked if I'd have another gander at his "civilian" line.  This new RR-Evolution is a whole other animal. A new Chinese factory that's heard America's call for quality responded producing a tube at 1/3 the price point of comparable hardware.  That's a remarkable $350'ish price tag; a testament to improvements in Chinese OEM mass production.  It boggles the mind that you can buy three of these for the price of an ACOG.

It doesn't skimp on optics.  This scope's glass is clear and the colors true.  The turrets are repeatable albeit they are of the Chinese mushy rubber seal variety instead of the definite click metal contact type people like from Japanese factories. Movement is precise. You see a 1.5 moa change, dial it and it moves that distance on the target.

The rear end of the scope has Euro style adjustments to sharpen the reticle. Very user friendly.  The reticle illuminator - yes it has that too - glows in red, green and blue.

The adjustable objective parallax is effective and very clear. It's everything the last generation wasn't and badly needed.  You'll find other brand scopes from the same Chinese OEM factory in the same price range at the same quality. But you'll be buying PFI's for what the reticle does to aid your shooting.

Practical Impression

I put it on a particularly accurate Remington 788 in .308 Winchester and zeroed it a 200 yards then ran steel from 200 to 1,000 yards with ease using ammo built on 175 gr. Sierra Match Kings loaded to U.S. M118-LR specifications never touching the knobs. Then I tried it with 168 gr. Barnes TSX's for California lead-free hunting. It worked as it should with these loads as well out to about 400 yards, up to 600 under the right conditions.  Lead-free ammo has different ballistic coefficients and tends to fall out of the sky sooner than traditional ammo of the same weight.

Serious Use

I would not hesitate to put this scope on a police spotter rifle. Construction is sufficient for that application and the ease of use is a boon as most SWAT teams under train with their standby spotter guns. A hostage standoff is not the time for an officer to re-learn about mil-dots and clicks.  A qualified marksman/armorer can calibrate the gun twice a year and confirm it's on target with a collimator in between.  For military use, I'd stick with the higher grade RR line.

Picking Nits

There are a couple of nits. The supplied rings aren't worth using. Get a set of 30mm Leupold QRW's and mount it right. The turrets require the use of a teeny little allen key to re-zero. I'd have specified a more common wrench size because the geek side of me wants to see the dial at zero-zero once initial set up is done.

I did not magnum recoil test it. I leave that to others with stouter shoulders to explore.  Besides, the reticle ballistics are calibrated for service rifle ammunition.

Bottom line.  This one's a keeper and definitely on my short list to buy for another rifle that needs a field shooting friendly scope. The price is good when you consider USO has a similar PFI reticle in one of its much more expensive tubes and neither it or the ACOG have over 10X magnification and parrallax adjustments.

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