As a competitive shooter, we often hear the question of which optic is best. While there are many components of an optic that contribute to the overall quality and its ability to perform, this review only focuses on optical clarity/resolution. The definition of clarity and resolution for the purpose of this review is the ability to resolve the most amount of detail possible on your intended target. This can mean the difference between knowing you hit the target somewhere, or your ability to identify exactly where your rounds are hitting. Was that dark spot your impact , someone elses, or are you able to see multiple impacts within a single location on a target.
This review focus's on some of the newest and most common optics being used in PRS/NRL. All optics were loaned or personally owned that were used in the review.
Many times, shooters are looking through someone else’s optics at the range when trying to compare them but tend to forget that the diopter has been set for that shooter. Additionally, certain optical elements will seem to “pop” to each person differently based on what their eyes are drawn to. Each persons eyes will be drawn to different aspects of the image especially for things such as color, brightness, etc. and many times this is what a shooter bases their initial response on for optical quality when in fact its because you're paying the most attention to the wrong things. It is very important that you look for the things that matter most when trying to determine which optic has the better glass. When looking through an optic, you should be attempting to determine which optic resolves more detail in the image and doing it at the right distance. At 100 yards almost everything looks good. When you start looking at the same things at 600, 800, 1200 etc. the optical clarity differences start to become more evident. Some simple examples of things you can look at and compare are:
- Targets – Try and determine how many shots are in a specific dark spot on steel.
- Trees – Look at the bark, limbs, leaves and see which optic allows you to see the most amount of detail. Is that 1 limb or a cluster of limbs? How many leaves are in that cluster. Can you make out detail in the bark better with one optic vs another>?
- Buildings / Barns / Signs – Can you identify or count the lines on boards, shingles, etc. How clear/blurry is any writing that you see. Do you see knots on boards? Can you make out the edges or does it blend in or become harder to see when looking through a different optic?
- Pay attention to the fine details in the image!
All optics were setup as follows.
- Diopters where set to the reviewer’s eyes
- Turrets were set to the middle of their travel to help align the erector to the mechanical center for image quality
- Magnification was set equal on each optic. Reviews were performed at 20X.
Resolution Chart Setup
Resolution charts where placed on a 10ft tall post and placed at 100 yards to reduce the effect of potential mirage and get them a reasonable distance off the ground. Optics were then reviewed from a second story position to also reduce the effect of potential atmospheric conditions on the reviewer.
This review used 3 different optical resolution charts to determine the amount of fine detail that could be resolved with each optic
- ISO12233 Chart – The sections highlighted in red were used to determine how many individual lines could be identified horizontally and vertically
- USAF 1951 – The sections highlighted in red were used to determine which grouping was able to be seen where all the 3 individual horizontal and 3 vertical lines were able to be identified.
- Modified Finn Accuracy Chart – The Finn Accuracy chart was modified to use grey scale instead of colors in order to more closely represent what a PRS/NRL shooter may see in an event where painted steel targets are used and get shot up during the course of the event.
Results / Scoring
Scoring was kept as simple as possible for ease of results consolidation. The numerical values that were able to be counted during the review were used as the scores. Scopes were each reviewed 3 different times in two different environmental settings
- Setting 1 – Optics were compared when the sun was on the backside of the review target. i.e. Backlit
- Setting 2 – Optics were compared with the sun was directly lighting the review target. i.e. Direct Sunlight
Clarity per $ spent
Within this review there is a fairly substantial range of prices for the optics being reviewed. In order to provide the reader with a better reference in their optics search, we have assigned a points per $ spent. This is a simple calculation where the street price of the optic was divided by the total points earned in the Backlit, Direct Sunlight and Aggregate scores.
As you'll see by the results, there were many optics that were very close to each other in the scores. In the end, I think most shooters would be happy with any of the optics in the list.
Hopefully this review helps to provide some additional context as you’re thinking about your next optics purchase.
Direct Sunlight Results
Combined Results Averaged (Backlight+ Direct Sunlight)
Cost $ per Clarity Point