2010 SHOT Show Optics Report

So, I was going to go over all the nifty optics introduced at the 2010 SHOT Show, until I found out that the fine gentlemen at Tactical Hunting Review have already done it.

A few thoughts of my own:

  • Meopta has introduced an updated model of the classic 1-4x22RD, with brighter illumination and a 500-yard BDC reticule.  This is a great update, and really addresses my only complaint about the 1-4×22 – no way to hold over at long range.  I’m going to try to get a loaner to wring out.
  • Vortex Optics.  Prior to the 2010 SHOT Show, I knew Vortex Optics only as a mid-tier distributor of inexpensive red dots.  Now they’re, for my money, one of the most exciting optics companies in the industry.  The Viper 1-4x, in particular, looks like a great 3-gun optic.  Daylight-visible illumination, MRAD or MOA reticule, true 1x, and an MSRP of $500.  There are a couple of features I don’t much care for (in particular, target knobs have no place on a 1-4x scope…) but for $500, I would put one on my primary and backup 3-gun rifles, another on my AR-22, and keep one around for a spare.  Another one I’d like to demo.
  • Leupold, Premiere Reticule, and Schmidt und Bender are all releasing 1.1-8x tactical scopes with multi-focal plane reticules, daylight illumination, BDCs, first-rate glass, and price tags to match.  As cool as these optics are, $2500 is probably a little much for glass for a game gun.  If I every clear $2500 over expenses shooting 3-gun, it’ll be the greatest day in my life.  The cops and military shooters will likely buy these things by the truckload, tho…

Handgun Sighting Systems, and Magic Swords.

So Dad just got back from the 2010 SHOT Show in Vegas.  I’m sorting through about a cubic yard of literature, dealer catalogs, and assorted schwag, and should have some interesting reviews shortly.

In the meantime, I’d like to talk about handgun sights.

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen quite a few new, non-traditional handgun sights designs come down the pike.  Most recently, we have the Tactical Aiming Solutions pistol sights, which appear to be a funny-looking ghost ring with a fiber-optic front post and a very short sight radius.  There have been others – pistol ghost rings, ‘express-style’ sights with a shallow rear V-notch and a bead front, Advantage Tactical’s pyramid sight, and many others.

Iron sights for a handgun (really, for all weapon systems) require some balance between acquisition speed, precision, and durability.  The problem I have seen with most of the non-traditional sight systems, is that they swing too far in the direction of speed, giving up any pretense at precision.  They make it easy to get hits on close, wide-open targets, while making it more difficult to get consistent hits on smaller targets at longer ranges.

This is, IMO, wrongheaded.  A competent pistol shooter can get fast hits on close, wide-open targets by using one or more of the common point-shooting techniques (body index, meat on metal, etc.), and transition to a more traditional front sight focus as circumstances require.  If the sighting system on your weapon cannot support making precise hits at longer ranges, you’ve just sacrificed an important capability.

All in all, the whole non-traditional handgun sights market reeks of “Magic Sword-ism.”  I’ve long been of the opinion that the Patridge-style iron sight system for handguns is the pinnacle of its intended function – no real improvement is possible without a major categorical change (see: RDO, laser designator, etc.)

ESP Elite Analog Ear Plugs

At Rocky Mountain 3 Gun this year, they had a raffle during the shooter’s BBQ . The money was designated to go to the junior program. Feeling magnanimous, I tossed $40 in the pot with no real expectation of winning anything.

After an excellent bbq beef brisket dinner, they started calling out ticket numbers for the prizes.

I was, frankly, shocked when they called the number of a ticket I was holding.

Even better was the prize: a set of custom-fitted ESP Elite Analog ear plugs.

After winning the prize, I spoke with Jack, the ESP rep. He sat me down, took a mold of my ears, and had me fill out contact info. He said the turnaround time would be about ten days.

Lo and behold, a few days later, a package showed up in the mail containing my new electronic earplugs, two sets of batteries, a foam copy of the molds of my ear canals, instructions and a small pouch to store it all in. As an added touch, my name is printed on both plugs.

My set of ESP ear plugs

Two plugs, cleaning brush, and spare batteries.

I initially put a post up about the ear plugs over at THR, and have since had the opportunity to wring them out a bit more. I still remain impressed with them.

I’ve worn them for various shooting events, including our inaugural tactical rimfire match, the centerfire tactical rifle match, IPSC matches, various plinking sessions, and opening day of dove season last year.

The only situation I’ve found that I don’t care for them is at our local indoor IPSC matches. They don’t quite offer enough protection when someone’s banging away with an Open-Class blaster, so I’ve tended to keep with my habit of wearing standard earplugs under electronic muffs.

Other than that, these things are great. They’re light, easy to put in and maintain, and, most importantly, have an NRR of 25. While dove hunting, they were fantastic, allowing me to carry on conversations with everyone without having to remove them or having them get uncomfortable.

The biggest downside to these is the cost. They are spendy, but then again, hearing ability is worth protecting as once you’ve lost it, it’s gone for good. For more information, check out the website for Electronic Shooters Protection.

Red Hot SMLE Pr0n.

I recently snapped a few photos of a friend’s SMLE. Enjoy. 🙂

Rifle Cases: Starlight vs. Pelican

For Christmas, Santa was cool enough to leave me a brand new Starlight 061352 rifle case under the tree. A friend of mine has a comparable Pelican case, so a head-to-head comparison seems the order of the day.

First off, a note about Starlight’s customer service. It’s outstanding. I had a couple of minor questions about the case before having it ordered, and Starlight was prompt in returning phone calls with answers.

Starlight case next to Pelican case.

On the outside, the cases appear very similar, made of high-impact plastic, and with fairly robust clasps as well as pressure equalization valves. The main differences are in the handles and clasps; the Starlight case’s handle has a spring in it that causes it to snap up against the side of the case when you’re not carrying it, which is a neat feature. The clasps on each case are different, as well. On the Pelican case, the clasps themselves have a hinge on them that makes it somewhat easier to shut the case.

Where the Starlight case really shines is on the interior. The Starlight case is a bit thicker than the Pelican, and interestingly enough, comes with more than just the standard two or three layers of foam. The case actually has alternating layers that are thick enough to allow you to have two separate layers, each one containing a firearm. I wanted to use this case as a way to transport my rifle and shotgun for 3Gun, as well as some of the ancillary gear that goes along with it. So the top layer was cut to fit my rifle, and the bottom layer fits my shotgun.

The top layer is cut to fit a rifle and some accessories.

The top layer is cut to fit a rifle and some accessories.

The bottom layer is cut to fit a shotgun and some accessories.

The bottom layer is cut to fit a shotgun and some accessories.

To my mind, this is the biggest advantage that the Starlight case offers. By allowing the case to fit multiple guns on two layers, the case becomes much more versatile. There is a bit of a tradeoff in weight, however. But even with the case fully loaded, it’s still not hard to carry.

As someone who’s constantly struggling to keep track of all of the gear that 3Gun requires, I think that the Starlight case offers a useful and robust solution.