Wave of the Future: High-Tech Hunting Optics

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.

Luke Skywalker in Start Wars IV: The Last Hope using his MB450 macrobinocular
Luke Skywalker’s MB450 macrobinocular

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 Sightmark Wraith transitions from day to night vision smoothly.
The Sightmark Wraith transitions from day to night vision smoothly.

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 Ultra N455 jumped in with Gen 3 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 Sightmark Wraith allow you to hunt during the day and at night.
Have you hunted from the day into the night?

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!

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!

Dark Earth is Coming to the Ultra Shot Series!

(Mansfield, Texas 2019/02/06) – Introducing Sightmark’s new Ultra Shot RAM Series in Dark Earth finish. Inspired by the military, the RAM series is ideal for close-range target shooting and law enforcement, perfect for both the AR platform and shotgun. Sightmark will offer three different models with the new Dark Earth finish with the R-, A- and M-Spec.

Sightmark’s new Ultra Shot RAM series of reflex sights will soon be available in a dark earth finish
The new Ultra Shot RAM series reflex sights will soon be available in FDE

Suited for fast, accurate action at the range, the R-Spec Dark Earth (SM26031DE) delivers a clear field of view with an advanced, anti-reflective and scratch-resistant lens, along with four red and green reticle options.

The A-Spec Dark Earth (SM26032DE) features the same benefits as the R-Spec with the addition of six-night vision settings, allowing the optic to be used with night vision devices and goggles.

The elite sight of the RAM series, the M-Spec LQD Dark Earth (SM26034DE) and M-Spec FMS (SM26035DE) is designed for law enforcement, hunting and competitive shooting. A retractable sunshade reduces glare and helps protect your optic from inclement weather.

The new RAM series Dark Earth are expected to arrive Q1 2019.

MSRP:

SM26031DE – $155.99

SM26032DE – $179.99

SM26034DE – $299.97

SM26035DE – $239.97

Click here to purchase an Ultra Shot reflex sight.

Visit with Sightmark at the National Sheriffs Association 2019 Winter Conference!

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2019/01/28) – Grab your coats and join Sightmark at the National Sheriffs Association 2019 Winter Legislation and Technology Conference, scheduled for February 9 – 12 at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C. While in attendance, plan a visit with Sightmark at booth #92 to learn more about their law enforcement- and military-inspired optics and accessories like the Ultra Shot M-Spec and compact-sized Mini Shot M-Spec.

Ultra Shot M-Spec

The Ultra Shot reflex sight has a 2 MOA dot and 2,000-hour battery life.
The Ultra Shot reflex sight has a 2 MOA dot and 2,000-hour battery life.

The most durable and advanced sight in the Ultra Shot line, the new M-Spec, or Mil-Spec, was designed for law enforcement, hunting and competition shooting scenarios. Waterproof up to 40 ft. and able to withstand up to .50 BMG caliber recoil, this fixed mount optic features motion-sensing activation (5 min. shutoff with motion activation, 12-hour auto-off) to conserve battery life but keeps the optic ready for when it needs to be. Sightmark offers an LQD (SM26034) and Fixed-mount design (SM26035) while also featuring an integrated retractable sunshade that reduces lens glare and protects the optic during rain or snow.

Mini Shot M-Spec

The Mini

Sightmark’s most compact optic yet, the Mini Shot M-Spec, is designed for close-quarter combat, law enforcement, competition shooting and home defense. The Mini Shot’s versatility doesn’t end with the firearm it can be mounted to, either – 10 brightness levels allow the sight to be used anywhere from extremely low light situations to bright sunny conditions. This compact reflex sight’s aluminum housing with steel protective shield makes it one of the most durable reflex sights on the market. But the M-Spec wasn’t just designed to be rugged, it is also incredibly user-friendly due to ambidextrous digital switch controls that allow both left- and right-handed shooters to turn on its 3 MOA reticle.

About NSA

At the NSA Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., you can join high-level leadership from federal agencies, members of Congress, and active Sheriffs who come together to explore current legislation and trending technologies and products. For more information about the NSA Winter Legislative and Technology Conference visit www.sheriffs.org/calendar-of-events/2019-winter-conference.

 

Sightmark Adds to the Citadel Family

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2019/01/23) – Sightmark expands the Citadel riflescope family with the addition of the Citadel 3-18×50 LR1 riflescope. This premium riflescope is designed for hunters, medium-to-long-range shooting, competition shooters and law enforcement.

The Citadel 3-18x50 LR1 reticle features ¼ MOA click adjustments at 100 yards and a first focal plane reticle.
The Citadel 3-18×50 LR1 reticle features ¼ MOA click adjustments at 100 yards and a first focal plane reticle.

The Citadel 3-18×50 LR1 (SM13039LR1) features a 6x optical system giving you a wide magnification to shoot medium-to-long-range, fully multi-coated lens system, exposed pop-up locking turrets and a red illuminated reticle with 11 brightness settings for contrast against targets. The Citadel is IP67 waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, fogproof and comes complete with flip-up covers, throw lever and a sunshade cover.

A reticle widely used in shooting sports across North America, a first focal plane reticle means the dimensions of the reticle are true to any magnification, thus range finding and performing holdovers can be done at any magnification. The Citadel 3-18×50 LR1 reticle features ¼ MOA click adjustments at 100 yards.

Unveiling the New Standard in Digital Riflescopes: Wraith

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2019/01/22) – Sightmark introduces the Wraith Digital Riflescope: the future, in high definition. The 4-32x50mm Wraith digital riflescope is a revolutionary, new high-definition optic designed in Texas by hunters, for hunters.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.
The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.

The advanced 1920×1080 HD sensor provides full-color clarity in daytime; simply hit the left arrow to enable night mode with classic emerald or black and white viewing options. An included 850nm IR illuminator provides enhanced image brightness and accurate target acquisition to an astounding 200 yards. Notably, the IR is removable for hunters who live in states where emitted light is illegal.

The Wraith allows (and Sightmark encourages) onboard recording and video export so your favorite moments can be shared with your friends and family on your favorite social media platform.

The Wraith also includes:

  • Memory slot for up to 64GB storage
  • Customizability, with 10 reticle options and 9 color choices
  • 4 hours of battery life from 4 common AAs
  • MicroUSB port for external power
  • 4-32 optical magnification; 1-8x digital zoom

Sightmark to Make Its Mark at the Great American Outdoor Show 2019

Stop by Sightmark’s booth #647 at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Shot 2019(MANSFIELD, TX 2019/01/21) – Sightmark is ready to make its mark at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show 2019! Enjoy the Great American Outdoor Show with your family and friends, scheduled for February 2 – 10, at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Stop by booth #647 where Sightmark will display their top-of-the-line optics, attachments and accessories at this year’s show at like the new Core Shot A-Spec reflex sight and Latitude riflescopes.

Core Shot A-Spec

The Core Shot A-Spec bridges the gap between a full-sized and mini reflex sight while bringing precision and reliability to your AR and SBR. The mid-compact sized optic features a scratch-resistant lens coating, wide lens for quick target acquisition, eight reticle brightness levels with digital switch controls and night vision compatibility. Sightmark will offer two models, an FMS and LQD mount, while both will include an AR riser and low-profile mount.

Latitude

Designed specifically for long-range competition shooting, Sightmark’s Latitude line includes five long-range scopes with robust 4:1 zoom ratio, fully multi-coated scratch-resistant glass, green/red illuminated reticle options, locking fast-focus eyepiece, external zero-stop ring and oversized turrets. The five models are 10-40×60 F-Class (SM13044FTR), 10-40×60 Benchrest (SM13044BR), 6.25-25×56 F-Class (SM13042FTR), 6.25-25×56 PRS (SM13042PRS) and 8-32×60 F-Class (SM13043FTR).

 About GAOS

The Great American Outdoor Show celebrates outdoor traditions enjoyed by millions in the United States of America. Over 1,000 exhibitors will showcase their products, ranging from guided hunts and fishing gear to firearms and accessories, all in a 650,000 square foot exhibit hall. Apart from the trade show, GAOS will also host country concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events and many more fun events! For more information visit greatamericanoutdoorshow.org.

Open or Tube Reflex Sights—Which Type of Red Dot Sight Should I Buy?

The red dot sight is extremely compatible with AR-15s and other Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR) and is the optic of choice for most MSR owners. These sights are the fastest way to get on target accurately and for AR shooters, this is exactly what we need. Unless you are precision shooting at longer ranges, fast target acquisition and a shot that hits where you aim are all you need in competition shooting, plinking, home defense and even predator and varmint hunting. The reflex or red dot sight is the way to go for close quarters (CQB) to medium ranges, where speed is your top priority.

Before we continue, we need to get something straight—a “red dot sight” has become the term most used when referring to a non-magnified electronic sight that projects an illuminated dot (or other shapes) reticle on a target. However, the term is used incorrectly.

The Core Shot A-Spec is not a red dot sight. It is an open reflex sight.
The Core Shot A-Spec is not a red dot sight. It is an open reflex sight.
After 1,000 rounds, the Wolverine holds zero and didn't malfunction once.
The Wolverine is a tube red dot sight.

Both open and tube sights are reflex sights, but an open reflex sight is technically not a red dot sight.

Now, most people aren’t going to make fun of you if you refer to either as a red dot sight and will know exactly what you’re talking about, but since we (Sightmark) make both reflex and red dot sights, we’re nerdy about them and use the correct terms.

Open and tube reflex sights operate the same way. This is how they are set apart from holographic and prismatic sights—which aren’t actually red dot or reflex sights at all.

Reflex sights are called so because of the way they work. They work by using a reflective glass lens to align light from an LED to project an aiming point on a glass objective lens. Due to a special reflective coating on the lens, the illuminated red dot is visible only to you and does not go through the other side of the lens. The dot is never actually projected on the target, it only appears that way to the viewer.

The internal operation is the same for tube red dot and reflex sights; however, when you put a tube red dot sight and a reflex sight next to each other (as shown above,) they look nothing alike. Both are excellent optics with very few disadvantages, yet they do have slightly different specs and features that might make you prefer one over the other.

Reflex sights, due to their heads-up display (HUD) design allow for a wider field of view.
Reflex sights, due to their heads-up display (HUD) design allow for a wider field of view.

Reflex and tube dot sights are non-magnified (as mentioned above,) have an unlimited eye relief—meaning you can mount it anywhere along your rail without the worry of scope bite—and work on the Bindon Aiming Concept, meaning you shoot using the sight with both eyes open.

What ‘s the difference between a reflex sight and a red dot sight?

One of the biggest differences between a reflex/open sight and a red dot is the field of view. Reflex sights, due to their heads-up display (HUD) design allow for a wider field of view. The field of view is how much of the image you can see in the window or objective lens. Reflex sights let you clearly see the target as well as what’s around it, giving you a tactical advantage by allowing you to retain your situational awareness.

Reflex sights are also just a hair faster at target acquisition because the dot isn’t as confined in the head’s up display as in the tube style. Some might find, especially competitors or those hunting birds, that peripheral vision is obstructed or limited using a tube red dot sight when transitioning targets.

Reflex sights are more susceptible to the elements, though. Red dots have an enclosed housing protecting the internals. Also, reflex sights have an exposed light path so if anything blocks that path, you lose the reticle. To compensate for this, we’ve added an extendable hood on our new M-Spec reflex sight to help reduce the risk of losing your reticle.

Where the tube red dot has the reflex beat is how bright the reticle is compared with reticles on open sights.

For which one is better, I can’t tell you. Our military uses both tube and open sights, so both have their place. Depending on your usage and firearm, you will find that you prefer one over the other. As a general rule, most people put a tube red dot on their shotguns, a mini reflex sight on their handguns and either on their AR-15.

Which type of sight do you prefer? Tell us which one and why in the comment section.

Click here to shop Sightmark reflex and red dot sights. 

Sightmark is Set to Make its Mark at SHOT 2019!

SHOT Show logo(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2019/01/11) – If you’re planning to attend SHOT Show 2019, stop by booth #11924 and visit with Sightmark! SHOT is scheduled for January 22 – 25 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Don’t miss out on your chance to see the superior optics Sightmark will be unveiling at this year’s show!

Experience Sightmark products like the Ultra Shot RAM Series reflex sights along with the Citadel and Latitude Riflescope series. While visiting, you’ll have the opportunity to win some cool swag like can coolers, hats and pens through an air gun challenge featuring real recoil.

RAM Series Reflex Sights

Sightmark Ultra Shot RAM Series reflex sights feature three available models: R- (SM26031), A- (SM26032) and M-Spec (SM26034 & SM26035), creating a resilient close-range optic for target shooting, law enforcement and military. A broad lens speeds up target acquisition while maintaining a wide field of view with an advanced anti-reflective and scratch-resistant lens system.

Accudot Boresight

The next generation boresight is coming to a dealer near you! Sightmark Accudot Boresights are more efficient when zeroing your firearm. Simply place the boresight within the chamber for more precise sighting than your normal barrel-attached boresights. Accudots are built from durable brass while featuring a calibrated diode for increased accuracy and include an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Latitude

Sightmark’s Latitude line includes five long-range scopes with robust 4:1 zoom ratio, fully multi-coated, scratch-resistant glass, green/red illuminated reticle options, locking fast-focus eyepiece, external zero-stop ring and oversized turrets. The five models are 10-40×60 F-Class (SM13044FTR), 10-40×60 Benchrest (SM13044BR), 6.25-25×56 F-Class (SM13042FTR), 6.25-25×56 PRS (SM13042PRS) and 8-32×60 F-Class (SM13043FTR).

About SHOT Show

SHOT Show is the largest trade show and exhibit for shooting sports, hunting and outdoor accessories. This is your best opportunity to explore manufacturers product lines in addition to their latest product from over 2,000 exhibitors. Talk with suppliers and customers to expand your business and knowledge to improve your sales.

 For more information about SHOT Show 2019, visit shotshow.org.

Sightmark is set to Make its Mark at DSC 2019!

Come see Sightmark at booth #4153 the DSC 2019 and get hands-on with our new optics! (MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2019/01/07) – Sightmark is excited to attend the 2019 Dallas Safari Club Convention and Sporting Expo, scheduled for January 17 – 20, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center. Sightmark will turn heads with its continuous growth and innovative sights, lasers, night vision and accessories.

If you plan to attend the 2019 Dallas Safari Club Convention and Sporting Expo, please take the opportunity to stop by booth #4153, visit with the staff and learn more about Sightmark products which enhance professional and recreational users in hunting and shooting sports.

About DSC

Active since 1972, the Dallas Safari Club has been the union point for hunters, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. The international organization offers members a variety of options: annual conventions and expos, annual sporting clay events, monthly meetings, world-class publications and a grant-in-aid program that contributes millions of dollars each year to programs and projects that promote their mission to conserve wildlife and lands while educating the youth and public and protect the rights and interest of hunters worldwide. For more information visit www.biggame.org.

 

 

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.
Using Sightmark’s bubble level ring helps with cant.

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 skillset 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 Sightmark bubble level ring has a highly visible center line for accuracy.
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.