Marathon Hunting Never Looked So Good

Merriam-Webster suggests marathons aren’t just for runners; in fact, by the trusted source’s definition, a marathon is “something characterized by great length or concentrated effort.” Always one to box things up with labels, I had to take up marathon hunting. Of course, I’m also one to stir pots so responses to inquiries were immediate… and effectively repetitive, “What’s marathon hunting?”

The Sightmark Wraith digital riflescope provides full color images during the day and night vision at night for 24-hour hunting.
The Wraith transitions from daytime to nighttime hunting.

In the context of long stalks and even longer sits, marathon hunting is practiced by countless hunters, predominately during deer season and especially during the rut; even my own mother, while fighting stage-4 cancer, clocked 12 hours in a ground blind to take a bruiser 140-inch buck—now THAT’s marathon hunting!

That said, there is another side to marathon hunting most hunters have never considered—hunting from daylight well into the throes of the witching hours, maybe clear until dawn the next morning. Yes, it’s a thing and last I checked (2017,) 17 states even permitted this transition during deer hunting season; of course, it’s worth checking your state and local hunting regulations since those rules seem to change about as often as most people change their underwear!

As permissible marathon hunting relates to those 17 states, hunters could (perhaps still can) legally transition from hunting deer during daylight shooting hours to taking hogs, predators and varmints, or some combination thereof, at night. To this end, here in Texas, some of us take marathon hunting pretty seriously, turning hunting adventures into 24-hour pursuits—yes, we load up on energy drinks.

The Sightmark Wraith offers full-color digital image clarity during the day.
The Sightmark Wraith takes 1080 HD photo and video with a 1280×720 resolution FLCOS display.

Among 24-hour pursuits, the popularity of marathon hog and predator hunting tournaments has increased. Heck, some competitions even go a might further, clear out to 48 – 72 hours; of course, you do get to sleep, at least in your truck for a couple of hours here and there. To be sure tournament losers often are those choosing lazy slumber in real beds. Glory goes to those with the grit to stay at it—no rest for the wicked… or serious marathon hunters, competition or not.

In years past, hunters committed to hunting during the day and continuing into the night also had to change rifles from one with a traditional day riflescope to another topped with some type of electro-optic, i.e. traditional or digital night vision, or even thermal. For folks with limited firearm options, changing optics may be the only solution; of course, then you have to stop to sight-in or at least double-check accuracy before returning to the hunt—and work through such checks (perhaps including shooting) without blowing your hunt altogether.

The Wraith detects targets out to 200 yards.
The Wraith detects targets out to 200 yards.

Admittedly, optics suitable for handling a 24-hour task have been few, far between and expensive, until now. The Sightmark Wraith solves our 24-hour electro-optic problem once and for all without breaking the bank. At an MSRP of $599, hunters can jump into a digital optic providing true HD, full-color digital imaging by day and with the touch of a button, tried-and-true traditional green or black-white digital night vision for post-sunset pursuits. Even better, the Sightmark Wraith boasts up to 1080 HD photo and video capture with a 1280×720 resolution FLCOS display.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, 50mm objective lens, ¼-MOA windage and elevation adjustment values and SD card media storage compatible with up to 64gb cards. Photo and video files are self-contained in easy-to-use .jpg and .mp4 formats. The Wraith’s battery life is up to 4.5 hours and can also be powered with a micro-USB cable. The Wraith also includes up to 10 reticles in 9 colors for a customized display and can detect targets out to 200 yards with the included 850nm LED IR illuminator. All this to close with good news. Marathon hunting is hard work. It’s good to finally see a true 24-hour optic up to the task.

Watching the growing crop of videos showcasing the performance of the Sightmark Wraith gives a great perspective on what to expect. Moreover, the recent trend in night vision videos seems to be detection range. Watching some of these videos should not only support my estimation of detection range but also worthy of noting are the increased detection ranges with the help of third-party IR illuminators, even well past 300 yards. Honestly, it’s hard not to get excited about a digital night vision scope at the Wraith’s price point, making the inclusion of full-color HD imaging for daytime shooting a stellar bonus.

Click here to check out Sightmark’s newest technologically advanced digital day/night vision riflescope, The Wraith.

 

Digital Optics Rule—the Riflescopes of the Future are Here

Star Wars' Luke Skywalker with his MB450 macrobinoculars
Luke Skywalker with his MB450 macrobinoculars

My introduction to digital optics doesn’t seem so long ago… but it was. In fact, it was over 40 years ago. My feet barely touched the floor of the theater and I’m sure I was covered in popcorn crumbs—my lips and teeth rosy from Red Vines and Dr Pepper. My father may not have been excited to see Star Wars IV: The Last Hope (1977) but I sure was and since then I’ve often recalled the moment when Luke Skywalker uses his digital MB450 macrobinocular to observe Tuscan Raiders deep in Tattooine’s Jundlan Wastes.

Just a few years later, laden with popcorn crumbs with Red Vines by my side again, I watched young Skywalker use his Model 1000 macrobinocular to observe AT-AT Walkers on the ice-planet Hoth advancing across an open tundra toward Echo Base in Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back (1983.)

Heck, we even see a feeble attempt at thermal imagery through a riflescope in Navy SEALS (1990,) although it was simply over-exposed, sepia-filtered footage with no signs of heat signatures or a reticle. Of course, I was still in the Marine Corps in the early 90s and had heard of thermal imaging… but I had never seen the technology—it was rare technology for enlisted Jarheads to say the least.

Fast-forwarding to the past decade or so, we saw digital optics in multiple grades and forms leap off Hollywood screens and into the hands of wanting consumers who had more mad-money to blow in a month than I made in a year. Digital optics, more specifically traditional night vision and ridiculously expensive thermal devices were showing up in the hands of more law enforcement officers, predator hunters, contractors and even niche sasquatch and ghost hunting enthusiasts. Before people knew it, Hollywood was in the game again, this time with legitimate products and original footage. Soon after, outdoor television jumped on board and we began seeing isolated night vision footage on hunts.

The future is here. Digital night vision riflescopes are more affordable, higher quality and lighter weight than ever before.
Digital riflescopes are the wave of the future.

The trend continued and just five years ago, we began seeing massive drops in price points, stellar production improvements, and more compact product designs—technological advances that not only make digital optics more affordable but much more desirable, too. While traditional night vision seemed to maintain a higher price point than most people wanted to pay, say $5,000 – $10,000, digital night vision snuck in at a fraction of the cost with similar Gen 1 to Gen 2 detection ranges and image resolution performance—in 2015, the Sightmark Photon XT came in at about $600 with Gen 1+ quality while the Pulsar Digisight N550 jumped in with Gen 2 performance and a price point around $1,500. Thermal also became affordable with some thermal monoculars selling for as low as $3,500 with 240 to 384 microbolometer resolution sensors.

Today’s a good day to be in the digital optic game. While law enforcement and consumer use of thermal imaging optics has exploded, so has usage of seriously affordable digital night vision and more recently digital riflescopes offering crisp imaging around the clock. Costs of thermal riflescopes, monoculars and binoculars, Pulsar branded optics as examples, have dropped to between $1,800 and $8,000 while features have continually and dramatically improved, including 640×480 microbolometer sensor resolution, picture-in-picture, built-in video and WiFi, stored rifle and load profiles, rangefinding technology, customizable reticles, multiple color palettes and more. Even devices costing 4 times as much just 5 years ago did not include these features.

For most hardworking folks with smaller budgets, digital riflescopes have taken their place among the most popular options for affordable, multi-tasking optics with similar user-friendly features as today’s thermal devices. Their recent unveilings capitalize on the advanced technology showcased in recent digital light vision offerings. While thermal and digital night vision can certainly be used during daylight hours, imaging is generally pared down to hues of like tints and colors like blacks, whites and grays. Thermal may offer color palette options but digital night vision has always been the vanilla black and white you see today. Digital riflescopes give you much more than a black and white world. They give you full color.

When it comes to the latest technological advancement of digital riflescopes, color imaging, the Sightmark Wraith goes yet a step further, offering full-color 1080 HD imaging. From dawn to dusk, see the world in your field of view as it was meant to be, clear, crisp and vibrant. When the sunsets, the Wraith makes transitioning to black and white imaging, and even green imaging, as simple and immediate and pushing a single button. If you have ever hunted during the day and had to change optics or rifle systems altogether to continue night hunting, you understand just how valuable and convenient a feature like this can be.

The 4-32x50mm Wraith digital night vision scope can be used to hunt and shoot day or night with removable IR illuminator.
The technologically advanced Wraith is a digital day and night vision riflescope.

Of course, the Wraith offers more, including features only recently added to today’s higher-priced digital optics like multiple reticle types and colors, built-in video, durable water-resistant construction, manual and distance focusing, a weaver and Picatinny rail mounting system and upgradeable firmware. The Wraith also boasts 4x base magnification, up to 32x, and a detachable infrared illuminator. A third-party illuminator, like stand-alone IR illuminators from Pulsar, can be mounted easily to stretch your night vision detection range out to seriously respectable distances—skilled nighttime predator hunter, Bob Abbott recently shared footage to social media of a clearly visible fox milling around a field in the dark over 420 yards away—not too shabby for a $500 digital riflescope!

Click here to check out the Wraith digital night vision scope.

And this is where we are in 2019—a great time to be alive and amazing time to jump into digital riflescopes. Are digital riflescopes going to rule the world? Considering the many iterations of digital now at play in the world of optics, I would have to say yes. Digital technology has effectively invaded virtually every optic type available today—this doesn’t mean every model from every manufacturer. This means we see digital reflex sights, prism sights, red dots, low-powered fixed and variable magnification scopes, high-powered precision rifle scopes, rangefinders and spotting scopes, monoculars and binoculars and yes, most obviously, the optics considered in this article.

As these optics relate to more niche use, including low-light, nighttime and 24-hour activities, many of us agree digital optics, in some form including illuminated reticles, most certainly due rule the optic world. And yes, I do believe it won’t be long before enthusiasts willing to jump into the digital fray find out these optics absolutely do rule!

Do you use a digital optic? Do you think digital optics will rule the world? Comment below!

Accudot Laser Boresights: How to Sight In With a Laser Boresight

Long-range precision shooting takes accurate tools. Accudot laser boresights makes sighting in your rifle quicker and saves ammo
Precision work takes precision tools like Sightmark Accudot boresights.

I don’t know if I would call myself a big-bore guy; I like ‘em small, too. Perhaps “centerfire guy” is more representative of my affinity for larger cartridges of all shapes and sizes, for a multitude of tasks, from personal defense to precision long-range shooting—admittedly, I don’t even spend much time in the .300 Magnum arena although I’ve built a few and am now madly in love with Hornady’s .300 PRC cartridge.

As a gun writer, running the gamut on centerfire cartridges does not come without challenges. Ammo is expensive when you spend quality time on the trigger, especially with new firearms. Out of the box, I spend quite a bit of time sighting-in, seasoning, gathering ballistic and rifle data, and running rigs through whatever paces I feel they are capable of achieving, near or far; as an example, not long ago I took a Lead Star Arms Barrage 9mm Carbine to task at 300 yards, then 400, achieving a 5-inch group at 300 and scoring impacts with 3/5 shots on a 3-MOA steel gong at 400—certainly not the norm but the type of work I subject firearms to when reviewing.

This type of work doesn’t happen within just a box or two of ammo. To be honest, my work generally requires a couple of hundred testing rounds, sometimes exponentially more if I’m really working to achieve true performance results, pushing limits and yes, battling environmental conditions like high winds. Either way, with a lot of lead heading downrange, I can ill afford to blow ammo on incidental tasks like getting on paper and dialing in optics. For initial shots, I depend on true view-through-the-barrel boresighting and optic adjustment and then move immediately into a laser boresighting device.

To be honest, I do occasionally skip the physical look down the barrel and go straight for the laser boresight, depending on time, whether I’ve used the optic on similar rigs and my environment. What do I mean by environment? Sometimes I try to “jump the gun,” so to speak, on range preparation. I’ve been known to install the optic in my home the night before and use a laser boresight on a target across the house—remember, boresighting (and shooting) at 25 yards generally gets you close at 100 yards—the same can be said for 50 yards and 200. If I can achieve a 25-yard boresight the night before, I’m generally on paper with first shots at 100.

One of Us is Not Like Most

While the juice is generally worth the squeeze as a gun writer, in terms of expenses, every expense definitely cuts into my ability to make a living doing what I love. To that end, using fewer materials to complete a project means greater profit—this is Business 101. Of course, I don’t cut corners either. So, saving on ammo, cleaning and maintenance materials, etc. makes both good sense… and cents!

And although I do write about shooting and firearms, most folks do not. There is no profit to be made, only expenses and shooting, whether testing, plinking, hunting or going extreme distances, can be expensive. Of course, expensive is subjective, too. Some might say .22 LR plinking is expensive while others won’t be deterred by the cost of .338 Lapua (and more expensive ammo—take a gander at .50-cal BMG and what it costs to run Cheytac and Tejas cartridges).

Accudot boresights are an improved design which save you money on ammo, batteries and time at the range sighting in your optics.
New Accudot Boresights help you sight-in faster!

At the end of the day, for the vast majority of hardworking folks, expensive is clearly defined when it comes to one cartridge or another, and volume of shooting and I have yet to meet a fan of simply wasting ammo they paid for with cold hard cash. Yes, pretty much EVERYBODY likes to keep cost low. If for nothing else, boresighting reigns supreme when it comes to keeping your shots productive. After all, it doesn’t matter who you are, taking shots with no calls and no splash is no fun, even downright maddening.

Laser Boresights: A Journey

So, what’s the buzz on laser boresights? Looking back at my earliest experiences, the first boresights I used were barrel mounted and troublesome to say the least, even at the high-end of costs. Back then, you-get-what-you-pay-for was still frustrating. Soon after I dabbled in barrel-inserted laser boresights. With a tapered bore rod, these boresights were effectively universal; however, I also fought poor construction—expecting the laser to be installed straight and at center-mass was too tall an order. On the flip side, I also worked with some inexpensive fly-by-night models that seemed to perform well.

Now, years later, I’ve been using in-chamber boresights with great success. Among my personal boresights are Firefield and Sightmark, with Sightmark being the premium option. While in-chamber boresights are caliber specific, many cases are certainly similar enough to cover more than one cartridge with a single in-chamber boresight model—cases in point are .22-250 and 6.5 Creedmoor, as well as .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester, to list a couple.

In-chamber boresights have certainly changed the sight-in landscape for those who have elected to employ them, and certainly as a total, have saved shooters a jaw-dropping wad of cash—there’s no question. With daytime visibility beyond 25 yards, these boresights are sure to get you dialed in close to center-mass and still close to the mark at a 100 sight-in, as explained earlier.

In lower light, if your optic can take it, boresights can certainly stretch out quite a bit farther, say to 50 yards, to close in on that 200-yard zero—100- or 200-yard zero is more or less subjective and one or the other can certainly be beneficial in terms of precision accuracy, depending on factors like load, target distance, etc.

Although Sightmark in-chamber laser boresights have built a solid reputation for accuracy, as evidenced in first-round impacts countless times for shooters at every experience level, there is always room for improvement. As a point of interest here, in-chamber boresight battery life has been a bone of contention for many a shooter. Batteries die at inopportune times and can be cost prohibitive to an annoying fault. Also worthy of mention, depending on your surroundings, fresh batteries may not be the easiest to find. Of course, there’s a light at the end of the Sightmark tunnel and it’s worth talking about.

Click here to learn how to laser boresight your rifle.

 

Accudot laser boresights come in popular hunting calibers, 12 gauge and 9mm.
Accudot laser boresights come in popular hunting calibers, 12 gauge and 9mm.

Accudot Boresights: Sight-in and Save More

The Sightmark Accudot Laser Boresight System, unveiled at the 2019 SHOT Show, was introduced with problem-solving in mind. While the Accudot holds fast to Sightmark’s precision-machined brass case and premium internal components, the device’s internal rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery is definitely a buzzworthy game-changer. In a device where battery life is notoriously short (and batteries are always more expensive than they should be), eliminating the need for replacement batteries is sure to amount to significant savings—for many, the savings are certain to result in recapturing the cost the Accudot entirely.

Even better, since battery life is still battery life even in a rechargeable system, the Accudot features an auto-activation, meaning the laser only activates while the boresight is chambered. One last notable feature is the Accudot’s calibrated diode. The diode ensures precise laser accuracy and doubles up on Sightmark’s boresight commitment to helping people achieve first-shot impacts on paper. No matter how the numbers work out—ammo or batteries—the Accudot’s aim is simply to save you time and money; for some of us, those two words are all too often one in the same.

The Sightmark Accudot Laser Boresight System includes a recharging dock, USB cable, wall adapter and carrying case.

Click here to learn more about Sightmark Accudot boresights.

 

 

 

Citadel Riflescopes: Task Oriented Accuracy… Elevated

The Citadel 1-10x24 features a second focal plane CR1 reticle calibrated for 55-grain .223 ammo.
The Citadel 1-10×24 features a second focal plane CR1 reticle calibrated for 55-grain .223 ammo.

Picking the right scope can seem pretty daunting, especially when the folks around you offer their “expert” opinions, and downright scary when you see some of the price tags. Sticking to a budget is a no brainer. My Pop always quipped, “I don’t care if it’s 20 bucks. If you can’t afford it, it’s no deal… might as well be $2,000.” He said this more than once, in fact, often. While truth certainly lies in “you get what you pay for,” you can get awfully close to unaffordable with very little difference in performance if you pay attention to features, warranty and, of course, the purpose for your purchase.

Riflescopes come at quite a range of pricing, reliability and features, the latter being key. Operating from within your financial arena as foundational to your options, the purpose your prospective riflescope should be the paramount concern. Do you need magnification? What distances do you expect to shoot? Do you expect to use holdovers? Do you prefer MOA, MRAD or perhaps IPHY? Will your riflescope be used for up-close-and-personal target engagement, long-range challenges or mid-range fun? Maybe a bit of a mix?

Sightmark Citadel long-range riflescopes give you more than you pay for in features, quality and clarity.
You get more than what you pay for when you buy a Citadel riflescope.

A perfect example of affordable riflescopes with all the features of high-end optics and a lifetime warranty is the Sightmark Citadel lineup. Citadel riflescopes rise above get-what-you-pay-for optic performance like a fortress on a hill; even better, Citadel scopes deliver big on peace-of-mind with Sightmark’s lifetime warranty and are available in five models, 1-6×24 CR1, 1-10x24CR1, 3-18x50LR1, 3-18×50 LR2 and 5-30×56 LR2, that run the gamut of shooting distances for the lion’s share of recreational plinkers, competitive shooters and long-range precision marksmen.

Citadel 1-6×24 CR1 and 1-10×24 CR1 are tactical-inspired scopes with 24mm objective lenses on 30mm tube platforms. As the Citadel name implies, 1-6×24 and 1-10×24 models include a base magnification of 1x and max of 6x or 10x. With 6x, I can get on target out to 500 yards, even a bit more, quite easily and at 10x, close to 1,000 yards—that may be a stretch for others but, to each their own, as they say. Citadel 1-6×24 and 1-10×24 also feature fine-etched, second-focal-plane, red-illuminated CR1 reticles complete with 11 brightness settings and bullet-drop-compensation, calibrated for 55-grain .223 ammunition with a 100-yard zero, out to 600 yards. Adjustments are MOA with ½-MOA per click windage and elevation, up to 120 MOA total range.

Citadel 3-18×50 LR2 and 5-30×56 LR2 riflescopes are identical, save the magnification ranges and objective lens sizes. Both feature mil-dash first-focal-plane reticles and .1 Mil windage and elevation adjustments. The Citadel 3-18×50 LR1 Riflescope is identical to the 3-18×50 LR2 with one exception, instead of MRAD, the LR1 model is based on MOA, including MOA reticle subtensions and ¼ MOA-per-click windage and elevation turret adjustments.

Click here to shop Citadel riflescopes.

Picture of Sightmark's CR1 first focal plane reticle on the Citadel riflescope.
The Citadel’s CR1 reticle is a first focal plane reticle.

Citadel LR models are designed to take you long-range, even to extreme distances, while base magnifications of 3x or 5x are still comfortable at closer yardage. Designed, however, with long-range shooters in mind, Citadel 3-18×50 and 5-30×56 LR model riflescopes include enhancements most precision marksmen simply won’t consider going without. Those features include hard-anodized 30mm tubes and fine-etched, red-illuminated, first-focal-plane LR1 or LR2 reticles complete with 11 brightness settings, subtension lines and lower-half “Christmas tree” style reference grids, perfect for elevation and windage holdovers. Glass is exceptionally clear and offers razor-sharp fields of view on all Citadel models. Citadel LR model riflescopes are designed to help you get on target out to 1,000 yards and well beyond. Some of that help also comes from fine-tuning your sight picture with adjustable diopter and parallax.

When it comes down to it, you can’t hit what you can’t see—common sense advice I’ve heard, essentially from day one, from parents, mentors and even drill instructors and primary marksmanship instructors alike. With Sightmark Citadel riflescopes, you won’t have that problem; in fact, you’ll even have some extra cash for ammo. What could be better?

Don’t know what type of riflescope you need? Click here to learn more about MIL-Dash vs. MOA

What is the farthest distance you’ve shot? Share your long-range experiences below.

 

Cant IS a Word in Long Range Shooting

When it comes to long-range shooting, luck is most decidedly not in the cards. Lobbing hundreds of rounds down range and employing some semblance of Kentucky is sure to result in a hit or two somewhere in the mix—it certainly doesn’t demonstrate one’s ability to tackle precision shooting…or maybe it does—but not in a good way. At the risk of raining on someone’s parade, using volume of fire to ring long-range steel does nothing to showcase marksmanship unless that volume is put into practice, not raining lead hoping something hits.

Long-range shooting takes skill and practice but also the right rig. Using Sightmark’s bubble level ring helps with cant.
It takes skill and practice to shoot long-range. A Sightmark bubble level ring helps, too.

To be clear, a shooter’s skill, rig, ballistic and environmental conditions either combine to score a hit at distance or not. Some latitude may apply, good or bad, in any of those long-range shooting elements; however, where weaknesses reside, greater strengths in other areas must compensate—weather conditions may be worse one day while the rig and ammunition capabilities are essentially fixed variables. This means a stronger skill set is required to compensate for the weakness in environmental attributes, i.e. wind, rain, etc.

Fortunately, while some elements like your rig and ammo may be unchangeable on the firing line, they certainly can be strengthened to enhance your skill set and overall accuracy, the use of a cant indicator as an example. Cant is a silent long-range killer, responsible for lack of accuracy more than people care to talk about… and more often than not, people don’t talk about it at all. In a world of cause and effect, perhaps they don’t talk about it because they’ve never been talked to about it and now, here we are talking about it. At close- to mid-range, including those gangster kill shots you see on TV, may not make much of a difference but stretch your shooting to respectable distances and it can quickly become a problem.

Marine Corps snipers not only talk about cant, but they are also trained to understand its effect and correct it; in fact, the Marine Corps sniper addresses it pretty directly, stating just 1 degree of cant shifts point of impact as much as 6 inches at 1,000 yards. Six inches may not seem like much but it can easily mean the difference between success and catastrophic failure at long-range, especially when you consider those other pesky variables like wind, humidity, altitude, spin drift, the shooter’s skill set and yes, the capabilities of both rifle setup and ammo.

The bubble level rings provides cant information to help you be as accurate as possible.
The Sightmark bubble level ring has a highly visible center line for accuracy.

Six inches may just be six inches or compounded with other issues that take you off target altogether (and may be have been a hit given the shooter got those six inches back.) Precision military shooting aside, ask a competitive long-range shooter chasing points on a target face if six inches matters—believe me, it does. There’s a reason Scott McRee, owner of McRees Precision and the producer of world-class precision rifle chassis, embeds a patented M-Lev cant indicator in each of his stocks. It’s important stuff.

Fortunately, somewhere between going without and buying one of McRee’s chassis, a much more affordable option can certainly be had in rail or optic-mounted cant indicators. The Sightmark Bubble Level Ring is a perfect solution, offering precision cant-indicator accuracy, rugged reliability, simple installation, a lifetime warranty and a price point you simply can’t ignore.

Sightmark offers the aircraft-grade aluminum Bubble Level Ring in 30mm and 34mm sizes for quick, single-bolt attachment to your riflescope with evenly disbursed pressure. At the heart of this simple, effective cant indicator lies an embedded horizontal bubble level complete with a high visibility center-line. When mounted, the Bubble Level Ring provides instant moment-of-truth cant information to ensure your shots are as accurate as your skill, environmental conditions, ballistics and the rest of your rig’s capabilities allow. At 1,000 yards, the value in getting six inches back can be, well, invaluable—quite a trade-off considering MSRP on the Sightmark Bubble Level Ring is just $23.99 and includes a lifetime warranty. But what do I know? I’m just an aging Devil Dog with a passion for going long with lead.

The Bubble Level Ring is available in 30mm and 34mm.

Click Here for the 30mm and Click Here for the 34mm.

How to Use the Sightmark Latitude F-Class Reticle

Running long-range optics like the Latitude 8-32×60 F-Class doesn’t take rocket science but it does take practice. Long-range reticles come in two focal planes, first and second, and in all manner of design from more complicated layouts with subtensions, reference grids and other etched ballistic data to simple, traditional crosshairs. The Latitude features the latter reticle on a second-focal-plane. While some precision shooters may argue the need for subtensions and/or a first-focal-plane system, this is not necessarily the case in F-class shooting and honestly, for those who know how to run an optic, the Latitude’s simpler reticle is easier to employ—set your crosshairs on center-mass and squeeze the trigger. Adjustments are made via windage and elevation turrets rather than using holdovers.

The author shooting long-distance with a Sightmark Latitude riflescope
Running long-range optics like the Latitude 8-32×60 F-Class doesn’t take rocket science but it does take practice.

What the Latitude’s reticle system does mean, however, is that you must become proficient at making effective turret adjustments and making such manipulations does require more time; fortunately, F-class is a slow-fire game—you have plenty of time for adjustments before stages, and even during, if you know what you’re doing behind the optic. That is to say, understanding fundamental optic attributes like MOA or MRAD and first- or second-focal-plane, and how they work for or against you in a given shooting environment are vital to your shooting skill set.

Sightmark’s Surprisingly Simple F-class reticle

Sightmark Latitude riflescope F-Class crosshair reticle.
The F-Class reticle is a basic crosshair design.

While many precision shooters, especially those running long-ranges on dynamic stages with varying distance targets, including scenarios where rapid distance changes are required, F-class shooting is not that game. Sure, shooting is timed but match-fire is slow. Thus, the Latitude’s basic crosshair reticle is a solid choice. Moreover, without subtensions or a reference grid, there is absolutely no need for a first-focal-plane reticle (FFP optics are generally quite a bit more expensive).

Good D.O.P.E. – The 411 on MOA, Clicks and Adjustments

The Latitude’s turrets adjust your position of impact (POI) ¼-MOA at 100 yards, or ½-MOA at 200, 1-MOA at 400, 2-MOA at 800 and 3-MOA at 1,200 (the farthest target distance you’re likely to see in F-class shooting). To assign values to these movements in easier to understand language, MOA is 1.047 inches at 100 yards. So, at 1,200 yards, MOA would be 12.564 inches. To that end, simply consider an MOA as an inch. Extending elevation and windage math out over distance, based on load data and environmental conditions and recording that information creates your “Data On Previous Engagements,” also known as D.O.P.E. (DOPE)

The term DOPE is used pretty loosely to include real D.O.P.E. info collected over time as well as ballistic calculators; I routinely have gone the way of high-tech-redneck and now use ballistic calculators often—sure I can do the long-hand math to determine adjustments, but why, if I can the get same data from a cell phone app that actually works? Of course, even then, a calculator’s ballistic chart may be called DOPE, it’s not really… but for many of us, it does a decent job. True DOPE would actually be a collection of info from these ballistic charts, but I digress.

By and large, the key to making effective adjustments is to assess distance from Point of aim (POA) to POI. This information tells you how many clicks on the turrets you need to find your mark but since we’re often talking about ¼-MOA clicks, as is the case on the Latitude 8-32×60, it’s easier to think of MOA only, not clicks yet at all; moreover, it’s easier to begin with considering 1 MOA as 1 inch and move on from there.

Elevation Adjustments

Adjustment target turrets on Sightmark Latitude riflescope
By and large, the key to making effective adjustments is to assess distance from Point of aim (POA) to POI.

If 1 MOA is effectively 1 inch at 100 yards, then 1 MOA is 10 inches at 1,000 yards. That means it’s 2 inches at 200 yards, 3 inches at 300 yards and so on. To determine the value of a click simply divide the distance value by 4. For example, at 1,000 yards, we know 1 MOA is 10.47 inches. Dividing this number by 4 tells us each click moves the POI 2.6 inches. To further simplify to say 1 MOA is 10 inches and 1 click then moves us .25 inches. Even at the extreme range of 1,000 yards, considering 1 MOA as simply 1 inch only leaves a deviation of just under 5/8-inch at 1,000 yards—an incredibly minuscule deviation.

Windage: The KISS Method to Wind Calls and Adjustments

Windage, including spindrift and wind drift, is a bit more complicated, especially since there are forces working against bullet flight at varying velocities and equally varied angles. You’re essentially lucky if you’re only dealing with the effects of consistent head, tail or crosswind. For wind, I generally use a ballistic calculator. Absent of somebody, or something, doing the math for me, as a stubborn Jarhead, I revert back to my Marine Corps training with a decent degree of success. While my instruction was 30 years ago, little to nothing, I suspect in terms of Marine Corps marksmanship training, has changed; in fact, a retired Army major, John Plaster, also summarizes this information pretty eloquently in his article at RifleShooterMag.com. The information can also be found in the publicly available Marine Corps coach’s course on wind call, published August 2008.

In a nutshell, we took distance, divided it by 100, multiplied it by the wind speed (determined by range flags or other environmental elements affected by wind) and divided it by wind constant of 15 to determine MOA of adjustment, then made those adjustments based on the same distance-to-target per-click values we already know. Of course, there are two issues, first, this is more specifically accurate (if that’s even an appropriate term when it comes to wind) to 500 yards. Maj. Plaster (and the Marine Corps) asserts that the wind constant (15 up to 500 yards) is decreased (roughly—pay attention to 700-800 yards) by value of one per 100 yards. i.e. 14 at 600, 13 at 700 and 800, 12 at 900 and 11 at 1,000 yards—many long-range shooters simply use a wind constant of 10 with the expectation of at least minute-of-man accuracy in consistent wind.

Here is an example of a 10 MPH wind at 900 yards in MOA, using a reduced constant of 11:

Woman adjusting a Sightmark riflescope
The Latitude riflescope with F-Class reticle is easy to learn.

Distance of 900 yards / 100 = 9

Wind speed of 10 mph

9×10 = 90

90 / 11 = 8.2 MOA adjustment

If you were shooting in mils, you would divide 8.2 MOA by 3.4377 (the conversion of MOA to MIL) to arrive at 2.4 mils of adjustment

*Even using a wind constant of 10 would have resulted in 9 MOA or 2.6 mils. When you’re talking about a sub-MOA variance at that distance, which is wrong, the adjustment or the wind call? It’s hard to say.

Of course, remembering that wind values are made up of full, half or zero, if your “clock” observation of wind direction falls into the half value, you simply cut the adjustment in half. You certainly could compensate even further, say ¼ value or ¾ value but doing can make your head explode and isn’t as friendly to work out on the fly when you’re on the range. Considering full value and half value, the half value ranges, as they relate to a clock face, are generally between 12.5 – 2.5, 3.5 – 5.5, 6.5 – 8.5 and 9.5 – 11.5. Using the example, everything equal except wind direction at half-value, the MOA adjustment would be 4 MOA rather than 8 MOA, or 1.2 mils rather than 2.3 mils.

Final Shots

With a grasp on elevation and windage adjustments, the only remaining manipulations to be made are to the Latitude’s variable magnification, fast-focus eyepiece (AKA: diopter), reticle illumination (0-5) and parallax (AKA: side-focus).

Adjust the magnification to your desired level. Adjust the diopter ring until your sight picture is crisp—this is often done at closer range (100-200 yards for me) and lower magnification to minimize mistaking mirage for lack of optic clarity. Thread the locking ring toward the scope tube to lock the diopter in place. Adjust the parallax (side focus) knob to closely match your target distance. Begin rocking your head up and down while continuing to hold your crosshairs on the target. At first the crosshairs may sweep across the target. As you continue to slowly adjust your parallax, the reticle will lessen its movement over the target center. Adjust the parallax until the reticle rests at center-mass even while continuing to rock your head up and down. Not only is your parallax set, you should notice your sight picture is now even more crisp. Adjust reticle illumination to off or to the lowest setting comfortable for your sight picture and identification of the reticle against the target.

Click here to check out the Latitude series of riflescopes.

 

Mil-Dash V. MOA Riflescopes

What Happens in a Riflescope… MATTERS

Years ago, I learned (the hard way) just how important the features on your riflescope really are when it comes to long-range shooting. Granted, when you’re shooting just a few hundred yards, you have some leeway when it comes to the reticle plane, the reticle itself, tracking, return to zero, chromatic aberration, etc.; however, there isn’t much room at all for a compromise on any of these features as you extend your distance game.

The author, Kevin Reese shooting a precision rifle long-range with a Sightmark first-focal plane riflescope
My money is on a first-focal-plane system for long range… and for me, the Mil (MRAD) adjustment and reticle system.

I was asked to field-test an optic from 100 to 1,000 yards. The problem was, the optic was completely ill-prepared to handle any long-range work and barely accomplished mid-range shooting at just 600 yards. While the riflescope was touted as a long-range optic on a 6-24×56 and 30mm tube platform, the nuts-and-bolts features included a red/green illuminated mil-dot second-focal-plane reticle and 1/4-MOA per click windage and elevation turret adjustments, as well as adjustable parallax and diopter.

I assure you, it’s easy to create a mess when you begin with messy parts. There was little (actually nothing) to like about an optic that, itself, was a contradiction. Some things should never be mixed—beer and whiskey, water and gasoline… MOA and milliradian. Consider the latter. In our shooting world, while minute-of-angle (MOA) is 1.047 inches at 100 yards and usually adjustable at 1/8- or 1/4-MOA per click, a milliradian (Mil or MRAD) measures 3.6 inches at 100 yards and is most often adjustable at increments of .1 Mil. As examples, we’ll consider the most popular—1/4-MOA and .1 Mil.

Adjusting ¼-MOA per click moves you approximately .26-inch. at 100 yards while .1 Mil shifts your position of impact (POI) about .36-inch. The important takeaway here is obvious, the incremental values of MOA and Mil are not the same. Again, at closer distances, the problem won’t matter much. Unfortunately, at longer distances, reticles, their subtension values and their focal plane really do matter. Make sure, on a fundamental level that your turret adjustment type (Mil or MOA) actually match your reticle (Mil or MOA). Moreover, determine whether you need a first- or second-focal-plane optic.

Green and red illuminated mil-dash reticle by Sightmark
With mil-dash, precisely identifying the center of one line to the next for accurate, reliable and repeatable holdover is quick and easy.

The difference in focal planes is easy to understand in terms of magnification. On a second-focal-plane system, adjusting magnification does not change the size of the reticle. Increasing or decreasing magnification does not change your reticle size. The problem? The incremental measurements of the subtensions are not consistent. Generally, the appropriate MOA increment (1.047-inches) is only true at one magnification, either at the highest setting or at a power annotated by a mark.

Conversely, first-focal-plane reticles do increase and decrease commensurate with the optic’s full range of magnification. As a result, the subtension values on a first-focal-plane reticle are consistent no matter the magnification power setting. The result is reliable adjustability at all known distances, as well as the added benefit of stadiametric-type ranging based on the target size and fact that subtension values never change. For this difference alone, my money is on a first-focal-plane system for long range… and for me, the Mil (MRAD) adjustment and reticle system. To that end, however, there is another critical reticle feature when considering milliradian-based optics—Mil-dot and Mil-dash. So, which is better?

While some might suggest it depends on your shooting, my take is—not so much. Unless you’re trying to find that sweet spot of balance between speed and precision, or have trouble identifying fine subtension lines, mil-dash is a better option every day of the week and twice on Sundays, especially as you extend your distance game and, depending on the focal plane, increase magnification. When it comes to accuracy, the greatest threat to precision shot placement, as it relates to this topic, is a mil-dot covering more of your target face. At best, your potential accuracy is only as small as the area of your target covered up by the obstructive black dot while a fine mil-dash subtension line essentially leaves your entire target face unobstructed. The area a mil-dash covers is essentially negligible.

three riflescopes
The Citadel line of riflescopes is designed for long-range precision shooting and competition.

Subtensions also are used for holdovers and are measured from the center of one line to the next. With mil-dash, precisely identifying the center of one line to the next for accurate, reliable and repeatable holdover is quick and easy. With mil-dots, the shooter is left with estimating the center of a mil-dot to the center of the next mil-dot, leaving room for error; moreover, even if you’re using a first-focal-plane reticle, the mil-dot increases in size as you increase magnification—a rather annoying reality when you’re trying to keyhole shots at 100 yards or beat up a 10-in. steel plate at 1,000. Good friend, Sightmark Pro Staff shooter and winner of History Channel’s Top Shot, Season 2, Chris Reed, said it best when he quipped, “You can’t hit it if you can’t see it.”

Unfortunately, while many top competitive shooters and snipers alike prefer first-focal-plane riflescopes with premium glass and mil-dash reticles, they often are quite expensive, running from $2,000 – $4,000. Fortunately, in January 2018, Sightmark introduced two first-focal-plane riflescope lines boasting illuminated mil-dash reticles, Latitude and Citadel. While Latitudes turn heads with an average price point of $800, the new Citadel lineup includes two FFP riflescopes–a 3-18×50 and 5-30×56, both with .1 mil adjustments and red-illuminated mil-dash reticles–averaging a jaw-dropping price point of $479-$516.  Citadel riflescopes even include Sightmark’s lifetime warranty.

Are you a mil-dot/mil-dash type of person or MOA? Tell us which one and why in the comment section.

Laying Today’s Optic Foundation—A look at Sightmark’s New Tactical Cantilever Mounts

As an outdoor writer often ridiculously busy working with and writing about rifles, I routinely work with more than one rifle at a time. That said, I’m often working with only one or two optics, depending on the content type, distance and other factors. As an example, I may write about long-range shooting but only utilize a single long-range scope. By the same example, I may employ a close- to mid-range scope to rapidly engage targets at shorter distances. Still, I do exponentially more complete optic-with-mount swapping than traditional optic mounting when it’s time to shift gears.

I’m not alone in this practice. The truth is, optics can cost quite a bit, some may cost two or three times what one might pay for the rifle. With a problem like that, who wants to break out the torque driver and optic leveling set every time they need to move a scope from one platform to another? Past experiences have been time-wasters, even a bit frustrating when you realize you don’t have the right tools with you; moreover, who wants to carry tools everywhere? Honestly, as a gun writer, I carry more than I should already. Sometimes, I have so much gear to carry, I look more like I’m headed out on a duck hunt than an afternoon on a shooting range—I need one of those little off-road wagons!

Man shooting a WMD Guns Big Beast rifle long-distance with a Sightmark Pinnacle riflescope and tactical Cantilever mount
Using the Sightmark Tactical Cantilever Mount

Fortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a pretty significant push in the world of single-piece mounts and in the realm of such mounting systems, serious innovation. Cases in point—the new Sightmark 30mm and 34mm Tactical Cantilever Mounts. While single-piece mounts look decidedly similar, they often are not. First and foremost, you have junk and then you have quality mounts. More than cost, a solid indicator of quality and performance is the warranty. Sightmark’s Tactical Cantilever Mounts include a lifetime warranty—not bad for a sub-$100 product. Yes, a willingness to back a product for a lifetime says a lot about the product and the company.

I had the luxury of spending quality time with Sightmark’s latest and greatest prototype Tactical Cantilever Mounts during a long-range shooting demonstration with Green Top in Ashland, Virginia. Event attendance was bursting at the seams with a longer line than I expected of folks hungry for long-range shooting, up to 600 yards—a chip shot for some of us here in Texas but in Virginia, I understand, distance shooting like that is anything but commonplace. Still, we shot steel, starting with a large square plate and ending with what appeared to be a 1-MOA steel gong. Top shot of the day was an elderly woman hitting the 600-yard steel plate no her first shot. She listened to my coaching, squeezed the trigger, I saw the splash and called her hit, and then she smiled wide, saying, “I’m telling my friends I’m never shooting at 200 yards again!”

Experiences like hers, or for that matter, the similar experiences of hundreds of shooters that day on two amazing rifle systems, a McRees Precision BR-10 and a WMD Guns Big Beast, both world-class match rifles in their own rights and both chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, generally don’t happen with shoddy rigs, mounts and optics. The shooters and rifles did their parts, the optics—for these rifles, Sightmark Pinnacle 3-18×44 TMD and Sightmark Latitude 6.25-25×56 PRS first-focal-plane riflescopes—delivered razor-sharp sight pictures and the precision-machined Sightmark Tactical Cantilever Mounts ensured the optics were rock-solid throughout the shooting experience. After a full day of long-range shooting, the optics still held zero—a testament to the scopes and the mounts.

Sightmark’s new Tactical Cantilever Mounts feature vertically-split rings with four retention screws each, aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum construction, a durable matte black finish and, as mentioned previously, a lifetime warranty. Sightmark Tactical Cantilever Mounts are available in both 0 and 20 MOA platforms, for 30mm and 34mm optics, with fixed or locking quick-detach mounting systems perfectly compatible with Picatinny rails.

Click here to check out the 34mm Cantilever Mounts.

How to Use the Sightmark Pinnacle TMD Reticle

Sightmark Pinnacle riflescope mounted to a rifle at the gun range
The advanced Pinnacle riflescope is designed to perform flawlessly in competition and at long ranges.

While there is quite a bit going on inside a riflescope’s tube to get you on target and keep you there, the Sightmark Pinnacle’s TMD reticle is designed to help you successfully use holdovers, determine appropriate windage and elevation adjustments, range targets and even acquire zero or sight in.

The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash reticle, also known as the TMD reticle, is made of referencing points—including crosshairs, subtensions, subtension or referencing lines, numbers along the vertical and horizontal axis and a grid pattern in the lower half of the reticle some people refer to as a Christmas tree.

Let’s look at each reticle element and learn how they can be useful.

Crosshairs

The first and most obvious element of the TMD and most other reticles are the crosshairs. Crosshairs are comprised of the primary vertical and horizontal axis referencing lines that intersect at the reticle’s center point. You may see optics sometimes that consist of only crosshairs. Crosshairs create an initial point of reference for all other referencing information on the reticle and serve as an integral part of the point of aim when sighting-in a firearm or shooting at a distance where a bullet’s trajectory change is negligible. Of course, crosshairs also become the point of aim at greater distances when mechanical windage and elevation adjustments are made, at least until you run out of adjustment—possible even with the Pinnacle when shooting extreme distances.

Subtensions and Subtension Lines

Subtension is the distance a reticle covers at a certain range. Subtensions are the spaces between the subtension lines, also known as referencing lines or hashmarks. Just to the right of the vertical axis line and below the horizontal axis line to the right of center, there are numbers 2, 4 and 6. Each number references the corresponding hashmark’s distance from center. On the Pinnacle 3-18×44, each subtension is 0.5 mil, at least until you reach the top of the vertical and far right of the horizontal axis. The subtension lines for those final 3 mils reference 0.2 mil. These subtensions and hash marks are vital to using holdovers and ranging targets, especially on first-focal-plane optics.

Pinnacle TMD tactical mil-dash reticle illustration
The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash TMD reticle gets you on target and keeps you there.

Hash Marks

As examples, if you held the reference line on the horizontal axis above 2 on the bullseye, you would be holding 2 mils left—the reticle’s crosshairs are now 2 mils to the left of center mass. If you place the hashmark referenced by the number 4 on the lower half of the vertical axis line on the bullseye, you are now holding over 4 mils. As a final note, if you held between 2 and 4, your holdover would be 3. More finite vertical holdovers in this example might position you at 2.5 or 3.5 mils. The same applies for windage.

Remember, each subtension line is 0.5 mil. Of course, this is only true through all magnification ranges on a first focal plane riflescope. As they relate to second-focal-plane riflescopes, subtensions and subtension lines are only accurate representations of standard mil, or MOA on other scopes at a single power of magnification. This is the primary reason why long-distance shooters prefer first-focal-plane riflescopes like the Pinnacle 3-18×44.

Subtension Grid

The further we move from the crosshairs, the more difficult it becomes to acquire precise holdovers. Holdover is when you must aim above your intended point of impact to compensate for bullet drop. Since the lion’s share of holdover aiming occurs below the horizontal axis, the Pinnacle’s TMD reticle includes a subtension grid that widens as you move further down the vertical axis. If you were to use 4 up and 2 left as holdovers, you would hold the mark in the grid located 4 mils below the horizontal reticle and 2 mils to the right of the vertical axis on the bullseye.

Subtensions are also great for rapid zeroing or sighting in. For this example, we will use 100 yards as our distance. Shoot the target and note the shot placement. Now, place the crosshairs on the bullseye again and determine how many mils your bullet hole is away from dead center.

If the subtension lines revealed your shot was 2.5 mils below and 2 mils to the right, you would adjust your elevation turret up 25 clicks and left 20 clicks, considering each click is 0.1 mil of adjustment. Take another shot and you should be on the bullseye or left with only fine-tuning. If you’re zeroing, don’t forget to set the Pinnacle’s zero stop now, which guarantees an instant return to the original zero. You can find that video tutorial on Sightmark’s YouTube channel.

Ranging targets using subtensions can be a quick, relatively accurate way to acquire distance data without the use of a laser rangefinder or other technology; of course, to do so really requires a first-focal-plane scope like the Pinnacle 3-18×44 or, perhaps a second-focal-plane scope set on a single power of magnification. Again, the beauty of a first-focal-plane system is that the incremental values represented by subtensions, lines and numbers, never changes at any magnification. Subtensions mean the same at 3 power as they do at 18 power, whether the target is right in front of you or 1,000 yards away.

Windage and Elevation Axis

Remembering the Pinnacle 3-18×44 is based on mils with 0.1 mil turret adjustments helps us understand some quick math. 1/10th mil, most often referred to as 0.1 mil, moves your point of impact 0.36 of an inch at 100 yards. This is equal to 1.8 inches per .5 mil and 3.6 inches at 100 yards per full mil of adjustment. Simplified, because subtension lines on the Pinnacle’s reticle are based on 0.5 and 1 mil increments.

This means a 36-inch tall by 18-inch silhouette would span the vertical height of 10 mils and the horizontal width of 5 mils at 100 yards. So, an adult figure that filled 10 vertical mils and 5 horizontal mils of your reticle, would be an estimated 100 yards away.

Since 0.1 mil at 100 yards is 0.36 of an inch, we know 0.1 mil represents 1.8 inches of adjustment at 500 yards. Extended out from 0.1 mil to a full mil, we then know a full mil represents 18 inches at 500 yards. Since the target is 36 inches tall by 18 inches wide, we know it should fill 1 horizontal mil and 2 vertical mils. If so, that target is 500 yards away.

At 1,000 yards, we can double that. We know 0.1 mil is 3.6 inches of adjustment at 1000 yards and a full mil is 36 inches of adjustment at that range. So, the target we’ve been looking at would fill 0.5 mil on the horizontal axis and 1 mil on the vertical axis. Understanding the adjustment values of 0.1 mil, 0.5 mil and 1 mil at 100 yards and then extending out over yardage, coupled with identifying your target and possessing basic estimation knowledge of its size, means you can range any identifiable target with some degree of accuracy simply by utilizing the subtensions and hash marks in the Pinnacle’s reticle.

Click here to purchase a Pinnacle riflescope.

Do you have questions about using the TMD reticle? Leave them in the comment section and our product experts will answer them!

First Time Hog Hunt, Lifetime of Memories

I remember the first time I set my gaze upon feral hogs like it was yesterday. Dense morning fog had just lifted to reveal an unruly sounder rooting under an oak tree on the edge of a steep finger well off the beaten path in California’s La Panza range. It was my first hog hunt and while I did not kill that weekend, the hunt stayed with me, gnawing at me like a tick to get back out there. Seriously—and not from experience mind you—I liken hog hunting to crack or some other stranglehold drug—you absolutely can get addicted your first time out. I didn’t kill on my second, third or fourth time out either. Even my fifth, sixth and seventh time were exercises in futility; however, my addiction stayed. Every hog I saw fanned the fire.

Thermal image of a hot gun, hog is down
Writer Kevin Reese recalls his first night time hog hunt, made even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.

To be honest, I don’t recall how many hunts it took to drop my first hog, but I do remember the experience well. It was an early morning rifle hunt and I was walking to the corner of a wheat field when I heard the grunts. I had seen pigs from afar but this was the first time I heard them. I froze and scanned to my right to see a half-dozen rooting up a soft patch of dirt at a tree line some 50 yards from my position. I shot a large sow and learned quickly how little they sometimes bleed. With virtually no blood trail to go on, I conducted a methodical sweep of the area. After a solid two hours of combing, I had to laugh silently to myself. While I thought she had made good distance before she expired, I found her less than 15 yards from where she was shot; she had bolted out of sight then circled back.

I also remember my first night hunts—first with a bow, then with night vision and thermal. What is spooky to some, simply added excitement to my nighttime experience. New sounds shattered the silence in every direction—locusts, the intensified volume of lulling cattle, even the shrill scream of a cougar rose the hair on the back of my neck on that first dusk ‘til dawn hunt. And, of course, the screeches, barks and grunts from agitated hogs crashing into a freshly rooted area had my heart beating out of my chest. Admittedly, I bow hunted hogs for years before stumbling upon the thrill of night hunting with digital night vision with a Sightmark Photon.

While my firsts have been many and decades of chasing critters and filling freezers in the making, nowadays, my favorite pursuits are those spent with new hunters and reveling in their firsts, especially those late-night experiences where an entirely different outdoor world is busy playing out. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing a first hunt. The hunter was equipped with an AR-platform rifle and Photon RT Digital Night Vision Scope as we scouted on freshly planted crop fields just south of Waxahachie, Texas. With amazing folks at Three Curl Outfitters at the reigns, we rolled down a handful of farm roads, scanning with thermal monoculars. As the night rolled on, we continued glassing fields and adding to the collection of empty energy drink cans on the truck floor. The time was right, the weather was right… but our timing had not been right at all. I laughed to myself several times as I imagined large sounders of hogs dropping down into the fields we scouted just seconds after we passed—who knows? They may have. Just as we began to tucker out it happened. “Pigs!” Our guide stopped the truck and glassed with his thermal monocular to confirm. Yes, finally, they were there, a half-dozen or so near a tree line on the opposite side of a field nearly 1,000 yards out. We parked the truck, slid out onto the road, then quickly and quietly filed out onto the field.

With the wind in our favor, we closed the distance pretty quickly—especially given the trek across uneven terrain was over a half-mile—the last few hundred yards in stalk-mode. When the guide finally stopped us, we were no more than 75 yards away from the few remaining pigs—half had ventured back into the trees during our stalk. We quietly fanned out side-by-side, lowered the handguard of the rifle down into the into the cradle of the monopod and settled in.

Two men dragging a dead wild hog through a field seen through the view of digital night vision
My first hog fell 15 yards from where I shot it.

I stood close by. Instead of a rifle this time, I had my smartphone. Amazingly enough, the Photon RT, Sightmark’s latest model, includes built-in video and Wi-Fi. Most importantly at this moment of truth, the Wi-Fi had allowed me to connect to the scope and to watch the first-time hunter’s display remotely on my device. The beauty of it was obvious—I was better able to coach him quietly while maintaining a shooter’s perspective of his reticle, overall field of view and the small sounder of pigs completely unaware of our presence.

Once we were set, the guide asked us to confirm when we had “eyes” on the targets. We confirmed and I watched his reticle on my phone lower and settle onto a sweet spot just behind the largest pig’s ear. The guide counted down, “three, two, one.”

At one, the first shot shattered the deafening silence, dropping the first pig where it stood, it never budged an inch. As hog hunting sometimes goes, especially with new hunters, the rest of the hogs made it into nearby trees, disappearing instantly under the cloak of a tangled thicket.

It was his first kill ever and on a wily old sow. I smiled to myself in the darkness as a flurry of high-fives and hugs made a quick round. Decades later, I still recall the sudden rush of adrenaline, when my emotions suddenly were not my own… and a mix of tears and laughter, perhaps best described as elation, reverence plain old uncontrollable jitters. I had been a mess and now some of those feeling had rushed back being fortunate enough to share this defining moment with him. There, on that field trimmed neatly in hues of midnight blue and silver, another hunter was born.

We would love to hear your first hunt stories. Share them with us in the comment section.
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