Sightmark Wraith Digital Night Vision Scope Review

The new Sightmark Wraith digital night vision scope's black and white logo features a an ominous skull-faced figure bearing a scythe standing behind it.
The newly designed Sightmark Wraith logo.

It started with a private email to Sightmark ProStaff notifying us of an upcoming and yet unannounced product simply called “Wraith.” Attached to the message was a newly designed red and black logo with ‘WRAITH’ splashed across the bottom and an ominous skull-faced figure bearing a scythe standing behind it. The description of the logo is what most people would associate with the Grim Reaper…..and for many hunters, the Wraith is exactly what they will become.

The Sightmark Wraith is a digital riflescope designed from the ground up for both day and nighttime use.  This means that in nighttime mode there is black and white or traditional emerald green night vision, and for daytime use images are displayed in full color.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.
The Sightmark Wraith is a digital riflescope designed from the ground up for both day and nighttime use.

The primary focus of this product is predator and hog hunting. Sightmark has brought numerous products to market prior to the Wraith that were night vision and low-light based, such as the Photon series of scopes I’ve reviewed previously. As good a product as the Photon is every generation of optics released stands on the shoulders of the optics that came before. If a company is to succeed in the industry, they must continuously work to enhance features with each iteration of product AND listen to the wants and needs of its customers. The Wraith is the physical embodiment of Sightmark’s desire to bring the wants and needs of its customers to them at a price point that puts it within the reach of the average consumer in this market.

White phosphor provides great contrast.
The Sightmark Wraith has a removable IR illuminator.

The Wraith digital night vision scope has a 1920×1080 HD sensor for high-resolution imaging and video recording in 1080p with 8x digital zoom, 10 tactical and hunting reticles with 9 color options and a battery life of up to 4.5 hours on 4 easy-to-find AA batteries. For extended-use situations, the Wraith also accepts Micro USB power input. There is also an included detachable 850nm IR illuminator that mounts on the side of the Wraith allowing for target detection in darkness up to 200 yards. The transition from daytime to nighttime mode comes with the push of a single button and if you have more than one weapon, it allows up to five weapon saves in the internal memory so moving from one to another is nothing more than swapping the Wraith from firearm to firearm, selecting the correct weapon profile and confirming zero.

Wraith Digital Night Vision Scope Unboxing

Unboxing the Wraith, as with any of the other Sightmark scopes that I have had the opportunity to review, is impressive. The products are shipped in boxes that are designed to get them into your hands just like you had picked it up at the end of the assembly line. Sightmark takes pride in their work and products, and you can see that from the moment you open your shipping box or pick up your scope from your local Sightmark dealer.

One-Shot Zero

The transition from daytime to nighttime mode comes with the push of a single button. Photo by Brad Korando
The transition from daytime to nighttime mode comes with the push of a single button. Photo by Brad Korando

The battery holder pops right out of the side of the scope and after placing the four AA batteries in the holder and locking it back down in place, you can power up the Wraith and go through the menu to get it set up. Once you do that, mounting is easy via the Picatinny rail mount and then it is off to the range. Zeroing is easy, just like Sightmark’s previous digital night vision riflescopes. Aim the crosshairs at the bullseye, shoot, and then using the zeroing settings, adjust the digital crosshairs to the point of actual impact. Once that is set, shoot again to confirm your settings and then your scope is zeroed. That’s the beauty and simplicity of the One-Shot Zero.

The Wraith digital night vision scope has a 1920x1080 HD sensor for high-resolution imaging and video recording in 1080p with 8x digital zoom
The Wraith digital night vision scope has a 1920×1080 HD sensor for high-resolution imaging and video recording in 1080p with 8x digital zoom

The wonderful thing about the Wraith, in comparison to the previous Photon RT that it improves upon, is that Sightmark took notice of those minor details and improved them. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Photon RT, and had I not been introduced to the Wraith, it would still be my recommended digital night vision scope. The Wraith is just honestly that good.

Now, as good as the Photon is, it’s not in the same category, at least to me, due to its lack of full-color daytime mode. So, to be fair, it is best to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges so you, the consumer, can decide if the juice is worth the squeeze—(it is.)

The scope closest to the Wraith is the ATN X-Sight 2 3-14×50 and is the one compared in the chart below.

Product Name ATN X-Sight 2 3-14×50 Wraith 4-32×50
Magnification 3-14 4-32
Lens Diameter 50mm 50mm
Digital Zoom 4.6x 8x
Field of View at 100 yards 46 21
Eye relief 2.5” 2.4”
Resolution 1920×1080 1920×1080
Number of Reticles 7 10
Reticle Colors 7 9
Range of Detection 100 yards 200 yards
Battery Type 4xAA 4xAA
Battery Life 3 hours 4.5 hours
Material Aluminum Aluminum
Length 11.5” 10.5”
Waterproof Rating Water-Resistant Water-Resistant
Weight (oz) 34.4 36.3
Price $479 $499.97

 

For me, especially after reviewing the chart above, the Sightmark Wraith is the easy choice. The $20.97 price difference is a non-issue for the extra advantages that the Wraith offers.

Click here to get your own Wraith.

Then the next time you’re out in the field on a dark night, silently slipping out of the darkness to take down a hog, you might just become the Baba Yaga to all of the swine are there.

Sightmark M-Spec Mini Red Dot Sight Review

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

The M-Spec mini dot has 3 MOA dot perfect for close-up to mid-range work.
The M-Spec mini dot has 3 MOA dot perfect for close-up to mid-range work.

At one point in time, people used rocks and spears to hunt. Then, according to historians, way more knowledgeable than I, gunpowder was invented in ancient China. The earliest written reference to a mixture of three powders possibly describing gunpowder was found in the 142 AD Cantong Gi text Book of the Kinship of Three written by alchemist Wei Boyang.

The first firearms, like basic designs such as the fire lance, were developed long after this text was written. The oldest surviving firearm is the Heilongjiang hand cannon dated to 1288, which centuries later developed into the matchlock, and later, the flintlock and eventually cartridge-based firearms.

Despite many other issues, the Achilles heel of the first firearms was the smooth bore and lack of sighting systems. Eventually, some of these problems were remedied with the invention of the first primitive sights circa 1450 and rifling in 1498 in Germany. Although not commonplace until much later, the ideas were there.

Fast forward to 1975 to the birth of the red dot sight when the first electronic sight was marketed by Aimpoint AB in Sweden. That’s the humble beginnings of the modern red dot sight. It was large, it was bulky, but since then, red dot sights have gone micro.

Now, let me introduce you to one of the smallest red dot sights on the market—the Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec. Don’t let the size fool you, it’s designed to take a beating and keep on going.

Here is what the people at Sightmark have to say about it:

“Built for law enforcement officers and professionals, the compact Mini Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight is the perfect optic for competition shooting, hunting and LE applications on shotguns, pistols and AR’s. The kit includes a low-profile mount for shotguns and pistols along with a riser mount for AR platform rifles. This rugged optic is 100% waterproof and features a durable aluminum housing with a steel protective shield. Doubling the battery life of the competition, the Mini Shot M-Spec’s extremely low-power consumption provides 300 to 30,000 hours of battery life on one CR1632 battery, while its 12-hour auto shutoff prevents the unit from running out of batteries while you’re not using it. Easy windage and elevation click adjustments make zeroing the 3 MOA red dot reticle a breeze, even without any special tools. Ten brightness levels give shooters perfect reticle options from low-light situations to the brightest days. An ambidextrous digital switch allows the M-Spec to be easily turned on and off by both left- and right-handed shooters.”

The primary features are:

  • 100% waterproof and dustproof
  • Up to 30,000-hour battery life on the lowest setting
  • Steel protective shield
  • 3 MOA red dot reticle
  • 10 reticle brightness levels
  • 2-night vision brightness settings

I received the Mini Shot as a part of the Wolfhound 6×44 HS-223 Prismatic Sight with Mini Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight combination unit. With the removal of a couple of screws, I was able to remove the Mini Shot M-Spec from the Wolfhound and mount it on my GLOCK 17 within a couple of minutes. The M-Spec mini reflex sight mounts easily, the buttons feel perfect and the red dot is bright and crisp.

The Mini Shot M-Spec is the perfect size for the GLOCK 17 and the weight isn’t noticeable.
The Mini Shot M-Spec is the perfect size for the GLOCK 17 and the weight isn’t noticeable.

On the range, the weight of the Mini Shot isn’t noticeable, and the small size mates easily with my issued GLOCK 17. Speaking of mounting—one of the questions that I had when these first came to market was the mounting system. It is the same mounting pattern as the Docter optic, which is Plate 01 on the GLOCK MOS system. 

I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to sighting in a red dot on a pistol. I don’t use a sandbag or a rest to dial it in—which for me is at 10 yards. Shoot, adjust, shoot, adjust…. until the round hits the mark. While it’s not the most technically proficient method, it’s more fun—at least for me with 9mm being as cheap as it is now.

Once the sight was set, and the brightness of the dot was adjusted where I wanted it, it was time for a few drills. One of which a red dot equipped pistol excels at is the infamous Dot Torture originally designed by David Blinder. The version I typically use is the variant designed by Todd Green, which provides the directions below each dot…. much easier for me to follow.

Click here to download your free TDA Dot Torture drill target.

I didn’t run the drill for time, I ran it at 4 yards (12 feet) and ran it clean, which proved the accuracy of the sight for me.

All said and done, the Mini Shot M-Spec will find a permanent home on my duty GLOCK.
All said and done, the Mini Shot M-Spec will find a permanent home on my duty GLOCK.

Without a doubt, this sight is a steal at $199 MSRP, and its closest comparison in the market is the Vortex Venom. However, the Mini Shot M-Spec comes in at 13% lower price point and offers double the battery life on the highest setting over the Venom. That’s more ammo for more trigger time and training, which is one of the most important things in the shooting world.

I have previous experience with the Trijicon RMR, Burris Fastfire 2/3, Vortex Venom and now the Mini Shot M-Spec. What I can tell you after finally getting my hands on the Mini Shot, is that you shouldn’t fall for some of the other companies’ hype. That isn’t Sightmark. Sightmark designs the same products, giving you the same features, if not more features, at a lower price point.

All said and done, the Mini Shot M-Spec will find a permanent home on my duty GLOCK. Unfortunately, just not the one I had for review. After a few days on the GLOCK, it had to get put back on the Wolfhound and sent back home to Texas.

That reminds me, it proudly wears the stars and bars on its left side with “Designed in Texas, USA,” which I think is neat as half of my bloodline hailing from the Lone Star State.

Author’s note:

One thing to emphasize. The Mini Shot M-Spec also has a 12-hour auto-shutoff feature to help with that wonderful battery run time. When you find your optic turned off when you know you’d left it on, don’t panic and start looking for another battery—Sightmark has you covered.

Click here to check out and buy the Mini Shot.

Sightmark Wolfhound and Mini Shot M-Spec Kit Doesn’t Compromise!

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

In this world, there is always a compromise. You can’t have this without giving up that. An item usually does one thing brilliantly and so-so at the others. Thanks to the forward thinkers at Sightmark, they’ve come up with several ways to combat this problem. Sightmark gives you three ways to attack this issue—a fixed red dot sight with a separate magnifier, a 1-4x or 1-6x variable magnification optic, or two fixed optics mated together such as the Wolfhound 6×44 with Mini Shot M-Spec Kit (SM13026LQDK.)

The Wolfhound and Mini Shot M-Spec are the best of both worlds.
The Wolfhound and Mini Shot M-Spec are the best of both worlds.

With this kit, you have a CQB sighting system up top with the Mini Shot M-Spec red dot sight and an extended range fixed magnification optic below with holdovers out to 900 yards via its advanced horseshoe reticle and holdovers. Truly, the best of both worlds.

Admittedly, this type of setup is not proprietary to Sightmark, as Trijicon has a similar setup with its 6×48 ACOG paired with their own RMR mounted up top. The ACOG is battle-proven from conflicts around the world and comes with a price point to reflect that—being more than double what the Sightmark’s Wolfhound/Mini Shot M-Spec kit. With the consumer in mind, Sightmark designed a combo unit that is rugged and user-customizable. They do this by having the Wolfhound’s reticle being user-adjustable with the shooter’s choice of either a red or green reticle via battery-powered illumination as opposed to the ACOG being fiber optic/tritium based which, in certain lighting conditions, may wash out. The Wolfhound is also submergible to 10 feet which means that unless you are SCUBA diving with your AR-15, the amount of water that the average person comes in contact with is absolutely no problem for this optic combo.

To quote Sightmark:

“Together, the Wolfhound 6×44 prismatic sight and Mini Shot M-Spec reflex sight kit are designed to keep shooters on target no matter the situation. Ballistically matched to .223 (55 and 62 grain ammunition) the Wolfhound 6×44 features an advanced horseshoe reticle with holdovers from 300 to 900 yards while the Mini Shot M-Spec provides an easy to find 3 MOA reticle and parallax correction for effortless transitions between short- and long-range targets. Both optics also boast impressive battery life:  Upwards of 4,000 for the Wolfhound and up to 30,000 hours on the Mini Shot M-Spec. The combination offers quick target acquisition from either sight and is truly a multi-tasking optic setup ideal for professional use, competition shooting, hunting and recreational plinking.”

I can tell you, my first impression upon opening the box was that this thing is rugged and robust as everything it promises. The rubber armor on the Wolfhound offers protection from impact and helps prevent zero loss for the optical prism system. The LQD mount is solid and has zero movement when mounted on my rifle. In addition to the Wolfhound, this was my first time getting my hands on the Mini Shot M-Spec which I have been patiently waiting to test out (that separate review will come later).

As mentioned, mounting the setup was a breeze and then it was off to the range. I used a 36-meter zero for the Mini Shot and a standard 100-yard zero on the Wolfhound for the holdovers to be accurate. I used the Sightmark .223/5.56 NATO boresight (SM39001) to get me nearly there and then dialed it in with live fire. Using 62-grain Remington Premier Match (R223R6) ammo, an MOA sized group was easily accomplished from a bench. Due to my range limitations, I was unable to push it past 200 yards. I have absolute confidence in the optic’s ability to do what it says via the holdovers, but remember ammunition and skill have a lot to do in the long-range shots this reticle is designed to accommodate. If you’re going out there and using target/plinking budget ammo, you can’t reasonably expect to make 600-, 700-, 800- or 900-yard shots using a holdover. The glass is nice and clear due to being fully multi-coated to provide the highest light transmission across the visible spectrum. In addition to the quality of the glass itself, the rear diopter is adjustable for the individual shooter’s eye enabling it to be perfect for YOU. The Wolfhound’s center aiming dot is a 0.5 MOA enabling the pinpoint accuracy out to 300 yards. For anything close quarters, the horseshoe also allows quick target acquisition in the event you do not choose to transition to the Mini Shot.

Now, the Mini Shot M-Spec is the business. The dot is crisp even on the highest setting which, for some red dot sights, causes issues, but not on this one. The transition from the bottom-mounted Wolfhound to the top-mounted Mini Shot is about an inch of eye movement. It is nearly seamless moving from one to the other and using the top-mounted Mini Shot, such as in a building clearing type environment, allows a comfortable head position as you’re moving through the structure. It really is the best of both worlds neatly packaged together.

The overall length is 2.3 inches shorter and over a 1 pound lighter than its competition and provides more comfortable eye relief. It comes with a separate mount for the Mini Shot, rubber lens covers, a honeycomb filter (kill flash) for the front lens of the optic, a battery and a limited lifetime warranty.

If this type of setup has been something you’ve been looking for, go to www.sightmark.com and check this kit out. You owe it to yourself to check it out before looking at the competition. There’s a LOT of training ammo available for purchase with that extra cash you will be saving.

 

 

 

Sightmark LoPro Green Rifle Laser Light Combo Review

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

The distinct sound of glass breaking.

The thundering boom of your door getting kicked open.

A weapon-mounted tactical light and laser combo is your best defense when things go bump in the night.
A weapon-mounted tactical light and laser combo is your best defense when things go bump in the night.

For a split second, you think you’re dreaming. Then, it hits you—this is real and your body dumps adrenaline into your system.  Before you can fully open your eyes, your feet hit the floor. If you opt to use an AR-15—or any other modern sporting rifle or pistol caliber carbine—you retrieve it and make it ready as you rush out of the bedroom. Your job as the protector of your family is to find the intruder intent on during harm and you want it done as quickly and safely as possible. Your shots must be precise because any stray round poses a danger to your family.

In the pursuit of helping you protect the ones you love, in addition to the myriad of sporting uses, Sightmark released the second generation of its LoPro flashlight and laser combo models. This generation, as with just about every other product on the market, is a modernized model that fixes the shortcomings of the first edition. You owe it to yourself to look at these because the first generation is no comparison to the product out now.

Directly from Sightmark.com:

The Sightmark LoPro Mini Combo Green Laser and Light replaces SM25004 (LoPro Combo Laser and Light) and features a more compact design, high-output white LED illumination (up to 300 lumens) and Class IIIa laser with a range of up to 600 yards at night (50 yards in daylight). Perfect for close quarters and low-light environments, the lightweight LoPro Mini Combo Laser and Light features IPX5 weather-resistant and shockproof reliability, digital switch operation, push-button or pressure-pad operation, hand-adjustable windage and elevation, and up to 23 hours of operation from a single CR123A battery (38 min. on max light and laser.) The LoPro Mini Combo is recoil rated up to .308 and mounts perfectly to Weaver and Picatinny rails.”

The model I tested was Model SM25012, which combines a 300-lumen LED white light and 520nm Class IIIa compact green aiming laser. The tactical light has three settings for low and full power along with a strobe feature. Lighting adjustments are made by rotating the bezel, which has clearly marked settings. The laser and light can be operated independently or used in conjunction with one another to blind your adversary with the white light, disorient him with the strobe, and provide a distinct aiming point. There are ambidextrous activation switches mounted on both sides of the unit and the pressure pad.

A light and laser combo like the Sightmark LoPro is the ultimate AR-15 accessory
A light and laser combo like the Sightmark LoPro is the ultimate AR-15 accessory

The advantages of having an aiming laser and light in one compact package are without question. In my residence, due to the floorplan, 35 feet is the farthest shot point to point that I would have to take. No doubt, there are some of you out there that could easily double that inside your home. The point is, in my opinion, while a handgun could be used to make that shot, a carbine is capable of a much more precise shot. With a properly zeroed laser, you can be practically surgical at that range.

I zeroed the LoPro laser within a handful of rounds by cheating a bit. I adjusted it to match the central red dot of my reticle prior to going to the range and then did fine-tuning from there. Several mag dumps later, the laser held zero with no issues.

Now.  There’s a couple of questions I know everyone is asking.

First, 300 lumens?  You’ll see the hashtag #allthelumens mentioned on social media in reference to weapon lights if you follow that type of thing online. There are several pistol lights in the 800, and now 1000, lumen range on the market. I came up in law enforcement in the days of the old polymer Insight M3. It was a game-changer compared to using handheld lights and it only had 90 lumens. This combo has 300 lumens and being LED-based, is a pure white light compared to the yellowish haze of the incandescent 90-lumen light.  Is this a lightsaber?  No.  Does it get the job done?  Without a doubt.

Second, how good is the laser? This was designed to comply with the power restrictions placed upon laser manufacturers in the United States. As with everything else, the government regulates exactly how strong the laser units can be.  In any low-light situation, the green laser, at least for my eyes, dominates the red laser.  Outside at night, the green laser is visible well beyond the range in which one would zero their weapon.  In testing, I found the laser to be visible over a ¼ of a mile away which is well outside my range of usefulness.  As with every other laser that I have used, daylight was its Achilles heel.  In bright daylight, the laser was nearly washed out at approximately 7-8 yards.  In its defense, I don’t think this unit, you know the one with the integrated FLASHLIGHT, was designed to be used in daylight.

All in all, especially in the price range, you cannot go wrong with this tactical light and green laser. The mount issues of the previous generation have been completely eliminated.  Take a look.  I think you’ll like it.

Click here to shop the new LoPro series of lights and lasers. 

 

 

The Sightmark XT-3 Magnifier: A Game Changer

The Sightmark Ultra Shot Pro Spec NVG QD and new XT-3 Tactical Magnifier are a great combo for aging eyes.
The Sightmark Ultra Shot Pro Spec NVG QD and new XT-3 Tactical Magnifier are a great combo for aging eyes.

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

It eventually happens to us all.

One day, your range day just doesn’t go right. One day, you miss the shot on that deer you’ve been seeing on your game cam.

One day………

It may be your life, the life of a loved one, or the life of a stranger you are trying to help that hangs in the balance of the shot you don’t trust yourself to take.

The common denominator? Your eyesight. It may be low-light vision loss, or it may be just a loss of clarity in your vision itself. Vision impairment can present itself in a myriad of ways and is specific to each one of us.

Luckily for us, we live in a time of rapidly advancing technology in the field of firearms and firearm optics—like advanced red dot and reflex sights—and have companies bringing products to the market to help us fight back against our eyes as they betray us.

According to the American Optometric Association, adults between 19 and 40 typically have healthy eyes and vision and only suffer from visual issues due to visual stress and eye injuries. When it comes to vision, 40 is where we tend to hit the wall. The odds aren’t in our favor and eventually, nearly every one of us will need to fight back against our aging eyes. That help is just a few keystrokes away at Sightmark.com.

Let me introduce two products to you that the folks at Sightmark have that may alleviate those problems. First up is the Ultra Shot Pro Spec NVG QD (SM14002.)

Directly from Sightmark.com:

“One of the most feature-rich members in the Sightmark® Reflex Sight line, the Ultra Shot Pro Spec Night Vision QD provides shooters accuracy and durability to enhance any shooting experience. Equipped with a night vision mode, shooters can mount the device in front of a night vision monocular to create a co-witnessed riflescope set up. Its four reticle patterns allow for maximum customization and precision accuracy day or night. The featured double-pane glass lens system eliminates parallax and retains accuracy when fired from the periphery of the lens. Users can quickly and effectively adapt their firearm to the situation at hand with the included quick-detach mount. Its Interlok™ internal locking system holds zero extremely well, so the shooter does not have to continually re-adjust the sight in the field.”

I chose this model for two specific features—night-vision compatibility and the quick-detach mount.  This model has two NVG settings (Gen 1-2 and Gen 3+) in addition to three standard brightness settings. It has four selectable reticles, and I opt for the circle/dot configuration. That’s home sweet home for me. The LQD (locking quick detach) was not yet released when I purchased my Ultra Shot. For my specific use (tactical law enforcement), I would have opted for the ability to physically lock the QD lever. I’ve had over 50 entries (with it mounted) between real-world missions and training and the non-locking QD has not been an issue.

The author ran his red dot and magnifier set up at a instructor class and a training day.
The author ran his red dot and magnifier set up at a instructor class and a training day.

For those with weakening eyes, you can rest assured that the bright red circle will enable you to put the bullets where you want them. No more squinting and eye strain to focus on that front sight. The circle/dot reticle that I use is a 50 MOA circle with a 3 MOA dot. It is also parallax-free, so once it’s zeroed, wherever the dot is in the lens, is where bullet impact on the target will be.

Now on to the newest product in this combo—the XT-3 Tactical Magnifier. It is a 3x magnifier with a locking quick-detach mount that flips to the side. Neat, right?

In their own words directly from Sightmark:

“Designed to mount behind a reflex sight or red dot to increase magnification, the Sightmark XT-3 Tactical Magnifier allows shooters to engage targets at further distances with a 23mm objective lens and 3x magnification. Compact and lightweight, the Sightmark XT-3 features a flip-to-side mount, providing rapid transition between your gun’s optic system, and 4-inch eye relief, improving overall comfort for shooters. External adjustments eliminate the need for tools for reticle alignment while fully multi-coated optics and rubber armored housing increase the XT-3 Magnifier’s image clarity and durability. EOTech® and Aimpoint® compatible, the Sightmark XT-3 is quickly mounted and removed via a locking, quick detach mount.”

So, even if I haven’t sold you on the Ultra Shot, Sightmark has designed its magnifier to be compatible with the optics from other manufacturers that you may already own. Sightmark is here to help us, the end-user. By bringing down overall costs, enjoying our lifestyle and hobby doesn’t break the bank. Just because something costs more doesn’t necessarily make it better.

I had the XT-3 mounted on my rifle for roughly three weeks. During that time, it was used on several tactical incidents—an 8-hour range training day, and a 3-day advanced firearms instructor class. During the tactical incidents, the magnifier was mounted and flipped to the side during residential entries as it was not needed. On the range day, the magnifier was used in a limited capacity but at the end of the day, I was able to take a comparison photograph to show you the difference between the standard view through the Ultra Shot and then with the XT-3 flipped down into position. The photograph speaks for itself.

The Sightmark Ultra Shot Pro Spec NVG QD and new XT-3 Tactical Magnifier
The Sightmark Ultra Shot Pro Spec NVG QD and new XT-3 Tactical Magnifier

My time during the three-day instructor class is where I was able to push the magnifier, and myself, during training drills. In one drill, we began at the 50-yard line with an empty weapon and 3 magazines. One magazine was loaded with 10 rounds and 2 were loaded with 5 rounds each. On the beep of the shot timer, the shooter loaded the 10-round magazine and then 5 shots were fired standing from the 50-yard line. The shooter then sprinted up to the 25-yard line and fired 5 more rounds while utilizing cover. At that point, the shooter dropped to a kneeling position while reloading and then fired an additional 5 rounds from cover before reloading a second time. The shooter then sprinted back down to the 50-yard line, assumed a prone position behind cover and fired an additional 5 rounds. On my first run, I ran this drill in roughly 30 seconds with a slight miss. I was switching between the magnifier and non-magnified optic during positions. I account my miss to rushing shots for the timer. On my second run, I ran the optic with the magnifier the entire time and ran the drill quicker in just under 28 seconds with zero misses.

I will be the first to admit that a 3x magnifier was not 100% necessary at 25 yards, however, the magnifier didn’t slow me down when acquiring my target and getting hits on paper where they needed to be.

In the end, you will have to decide as to whether the magnifier is for you. This was my first experience running a magnifier on a red dot type sight. It’s definitely a game-changer, and for under a pound of added weight to your rifle, it’s hard to beat.

The XT-3 is something to think about. With more time, I think I would’ve been pushing myself to run the XT-3 full time, except for engagements 25 yards and in.

Get out there, make your mark, and enjoy the rights granted to you by our Second Amendment. Stay safe and happy hunting.

About Jamie
Jamie Trahan is a career law enforcement officer with over 17 years of experience and works for a Sheriff’s Office in southern Louisiana. His full-time assignment is as a Detective in the Crime Scene Investigations Unit where he holds the rank of Lieutenant. He is also the entry team leader for the SWAT team, a member of the department’s Honor Guard and an LA POST Firearms Instructor. He is a member of the National Tactical Police Officer’s Association and the Louisiana Tactical Police Officer’s Association. First and foremost, he is a husband to his wife, Tara, and a father to his two sons, Luke and Liam. He is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights for all law-abiding citizens of this great country. He plans to pass the love of shooting on to his sons in the hopes that after he is gone and they are spending time with their own children, that they will reflect back upon the memories of what Jamie taught them as they are teaching their own, just like Jamie’s father taught him.

Thinking Outside the Law Enforcement Budgetary Box—the Case for Value-Priced Digital Night Vision

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

Over the years, we have all heard the same thing. Night vision costs an arm and a leg. Reliable, night vision and economical are three terms rarely, if ever, used in conjunction with one another. Typically, you are forced to pick only two of them since the three attributes simply are not available in one package.

Sightmark heard this and said, “Hold my drink. Watch this!” (Completely in jest, the only drinks that should ever be involved with anything firearms related should be HYDRATING beverages and NEVER alcoholic based.)

That life lesson out-of-the-way, let me introduce the new Sightmark Photon RT series.

Updated features on the Photon RT include a 768x576 CMOS sensor, 40% higher resolution, and integrated built-in video recorder.
Updated features on the Photon RT include a 768×576 CMOS sensor, 40% higher resolution, and integrated built-in video recorder.

Directly from Sightmark.com:

Delivering unmatched performance day or night, the revamped Photon RT 4.5x42s digital night vision riflescope features an upgraded 768×576 CMOS sensor with 40% higher resolution over the Photon XT series, crisp 640×480 LCD display, built-in video/sound recording and integrated WiFi via the Stream Vision App. Available 2x digital zoom and a built-in 850nm LED IR illuminator allow shooters to hone in on targets up to 220 yards away in total darkness. The scope has 6 reticle options with 4 different colors and boasts a one-shot zero function, making zeroing the Photon RT a breeze. Shockproof and IP55 water resistant, the Photon RT also offers an additional weaver rail for accessories and a power input that works with power banks via microUSB. The Photon RT works with most aftermarket 30mm rings and includes carrying case, user manual, USB cable, spare battery container, battery container pouch and lens cloth.

Whew! Now, that you’ve read all of that, let me break it down to you in a cop’s easy-to-understand terms. The Photon RT series is a digital night vision riflescope that, for under $1,000 allows you to observe and report in complete darkness at typical “law enforcement engagement distances” of 100 yards or less.

HANDS ON  

The Photon RT model I received was the 4.5x42s. The optic comes nicely packaged inside a padded box proudly bearing the Sightmark logo. Upon opening the box, you find the scope comes with a soft carrying case for those times you choose to remove it from your rifle. You will be as impressed as I was by the size of the scope when pulling it out of the case. With the flexible eyecup, it is 16.57 inches in length, 3.93 inches in width and 3.62 inches in height. The weight is 30.7 ounces—1.92 pounds for those not good at conversions like myself. Thanks, Siri!

Now, you may be thinking “Man, that seems like a lot of weight on the top of my rifle.” Looking at it on paper, you may think so but then consider the power nestled in its compact body. The Photon RT 4.5x42S is a battery-powered digital night vision riflescope that not only allows you to see in the dark but also includes recording capability with audio. The Photon RT allows you to stream video to YouTube, update firmware, download footage and even allows the display to be viewed on a wirelessly connected smartphone or tablet using the device’s integral Wi-Fi along with the Stream Vision App. Doesn’t seem all that heavy now does it? And yes, you read right. It records video and audio and allows you to stream it. Wow! It comes in tactical SWAT black. Get you some of that.

MOUNTING

After two weeks of riding inside a case in the trunk, the Photon didn’t shift from zero.
After two weeks of riding inside a case in the trunk, the Photon didn’t shift from zero.

Mounting the scope is no different than other scopes. It mounts quickly and easily with standard 30mm rings. Sightmark offers various types of optic mounts and is more than happy to help you make the right choice. This particular test and evaluation (T&E) model did not include rings, so I rushed out and sourced a high set locally. The rings locked up and once torqued into place with a FAT wrench, kept the scope locked down and set with no issues. That said, just get the suggested mounts from Sightmark—they’re better than what you’ll find at a moment’s notice like I did.

INITIAL ZERO

One thing to remember about the Photon RT is that it is truly a digital riflescope… including the reticle. There are no traditional crosshairs to adjust. Adjustments are done inside the menu settings of the scope’s software. The Photon RT features “One Shot Zero.” Essentially, you lock the rifle into position and eliminate movement while on target, fire a round and then enter the zeroing mode in the menu—a second crosshair appears. Using digital controls, move the second crosshair to your actual position of impact. Once the adjustment has been saved, that’s it. The manual suggests a 100-yard setup; however, I began at 25 yards. Once I confirmed my shot placement, I sighted in again at 100 yards. Honestly, perhaps I should have just gone to 100 yards as the manual suggested and saved some ammo… but Nah! That would be one less reason to stay at the range longer.

Since the Photon RT is a day- and night-compatible digital riflescope, I performed my zero at about 3 p.m. on a slightly cloudy day. With the zero set, the change in light made no difference to my position of impact when I double-checked accuracy that evening, at roughly 8 p.m. (Author’s note:  This was during standard time, so it was actually dark at 8 p.m.).

DAYTIME RANGE SESSION/FIRST SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS

The rifle and Photon RT combo consistently shoots MOA at 100 yards with Federal 168-grain BTHP Match ammo with no performance deviations between day or night shooting. What did take a little getting used to was adjusting to a black and white sight picture on the 640×480 digital display. Moving around with helmet-mounted NODS is completely different than the Photon RT, at least for my eyes. One additional note related to sight picture, the Photon RT features two magnification settings: 4.5x optical zoom and 9x digital zoom—there is no variable zoom; it’s one or the other.

Another feature I appreciate is attention to eye relief. The Photon RT’s eye relief is generous and different from a traditional scope. Remember, when it comes to digital night vision scopes, you aren’t looking through a lens system. You are looking at a digital display manufactured by the information coming in from the objective lens and through multiple light manipulating processes, including converting gathered light into an electrical signal displayed on the device’s digital display. You can imagine how different it might be transitioning from an optical field of view to a digitally manufactured one. But, once you’re on the trigger, you forget about all the fancy processes it takes to make your sight picture happen. To that end, target acquisition is the same—place your crosshair on the target and squeeze the trigger.

Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member recommends the Photon RT for hunting and law enforcement.
Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member recommends the Photon RT for hunting and law enforcement.

Nighttime shooting was done under only moonlight conditions and on a standard police silhouette-type target. At 100 yards, IR setting six offered an optimum easy-to-engage target. On higher IR powers, the IT flashback was too bright against the target face. That’s not a knock on the IR, it simply means the IR is pretty good.

A second daytime range visit confirmed that two weeks of riding in the case on my rifle had not caused any shift in zero.

Recordings are easy to produce with a dedicated button. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here because the videos available online speak volumes about the Photon RT’s content quality. (Editor’s Note: Jamie’s videos are evidence and cannot be published.) What I can tell you is recording is simple and reviewing footage is just as easy. The Photon RT also boasts onboard memory, not an SD card, so there’s no need to worry about video quality or buying SD cards. SD cards have also proven to be pretty unreliable under recoil conditions—another great benefit of the Photon’s integrated storage. Nice feature, Sightmark!

Author’s Note:  Now writing this, I realize I have failed to explain that my rig included a suppressor, effectively eliminating muzzle flash. So, I can’t tell you to what degree muzzle flash may momentarily affect field of view. I can only assume it’s minimal based on the numerous Photon RT shooting videos I have watched online.

ONE FINAL SHOT

The Photon RT I tested was used in a way it is not truly intended. It was used as a spotting scope by a narcotics surveillance unit engaged in true LEO observation in an area believed to be a storefront operated by a “street level pharmaceutical engineer.” I can’t go into further detail, obviously, but I can tell you it has performed admirably. And remember, what it sees, it can record. Even in the dark.

If you are looking for a way to help clear your property of feral hogs, protect your livestock from predators or need a riflescope to assist you in your duties—even limited, cost-conscious law enforcement—give the Sightmark Photon RT line of digital night vision riflescopes a solid look.

My time with the scope was limited since quite a few folks are still waiting to get their hands on the small supply of test units. As with any law enforcement product, you may want to test it out for yourself to make sure it meets your needs and performs to your expectations. I accept and respect the opinions of others, but I ALWAYS must do my own testing, and I expect (and hope) you do the same.

If you are in law enforcement, contact Sightmark. Their law enforcement division is always willing to answer questions and discuss night vision options. They also offer courtesy discounts to individual officers, as well as departments.

Stay safe and happy hunting.

To reach Sellmark’s Law Enforcement team with questions about products and ordering, call 817-225-0310 extension 288.

Click here to purchase a Sightmark Photon RT digital night vision riflescope.

About Jamie
Jamie Trahan is a career law enforcement officer with over 17 years of experience and works for a Sheriff’s Office in southern Louisiana. His full-time assignment is as a Detective in the Crime Scene Investigations Unit where he holds the rank of Lieutenant. He is also the entry team leader for the SWAT team, a member of the department’s Honor Guard and a LA POST Firearms Instructor. He is a member of the National Tactical Police Officer’s Association and the Louisiana Tactical Police Officer’s Association. First and foremost, he is a husband to his wife, Tara, and a father to his two sons, Luke and Liam. He is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights for all law-abiding citizens of this great country. He plans to pass the love of shooting on to his sons in the hopes that after he is gone and they are spending time with their own children, that they will reflect back upon the memories of what Jamie taught them as they are teaching their own, just like Jamie’s father taught him.