Category Archives: Optics

Scopes, binoculars, cameras, night vision, thermal, and spotting scopes.

KAHLES K318i 3-18X50 REVIEW

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Kalhes, they are the oldest optic manufacturer in existence. Based in Austria they have been in the game since 1898. They have never been a huge name in the US due to the lack of a consistent US distributor. That all changed a few years ago when Swarovski Optics, who is their sister company became the US distributor and service center.

This is a first focal plane tactical scope with a 3-18 zoom range, 50mm objective,  tactical turrets, illumination, etc.. in a very compact package.  I have used this hunting in very low light and shooting matches out to 1k.  It has performed flawlessly as expected.  Kahles is the oldest optic manufacture on the planet and are made in Austria.

I will fully admit to have a positive bias towards Kahles scopes.  I got turned on to them like 15 years ago when I was frequenting the OpticsTalk forum. They had a great reputation for having incredible glass and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a CL 3-10X50 hunting scope with the turret that allowed you to preset zeros at different yardages.  This was before the big FFP “tactical” scope thing really came in to play. I was amazed at how much better in low light that scope was in comparison to the common hunting scopes of the day, Leupold, Nikon Monarchs, etc.. In fact I vividly recall hunting with my dad late one evening and I was on a big buck out in the field at 300 yards and had him dead to rights so to speak.  My dad was looking through a Nikon Monarch which as decent scope and a big step up from his trusty old Leupold.  He was saying he couldn’t find the deer.. I switched rifles with him and he went “oh wow, there it is!” Suffice it to say he “got” the need for great glass that evening.

Fast forward a few years and I got a Kahles 3-12×50 FFP tactical scope and was again, blown away by the optical performance.  I recall having a competitor, a USO 3-17 out at the 1k range and how the Kahles resolved the targets, even at the distance better and make shooting easier, despite having less magnification.  I coined a phrase that day “glass trumps magnification”.

If you read those older reviews you can see they care clearly some of the absolute best scopes on the market at any price. 

Now to the details of this optic.

Highlights

  • Ultrashort and lightweight riflescope for demanding shooters
  • Absolutely reliable repeat accuracy and precise, clearly defined click mechanism
  • Wide field of view and exceptional high contrast image
  • Innovative TWIST GUARD windage (patented)
  • Parallax wheel integrated into the elevation turret (patented) (25 m to ∞)
  • Precise illuminated reticles in 1st focal plane

Technical Data

Magnification:3.5 – 18
Eye relief:36 in
Field of view:27.8 – 5.5 in/100 yds
Diopter compensation:+2.5 / -3.5 dpt
Twilight factor (DIN 58388):13.2 – 30.0
Impact correction per click:0.1 MRAD
¼ MOA
Adjustment range (E/W):30 / 20 MIL 102 / 69 MOA
Parallax adjustment:25 m till ∞
Length:123 in
Weight:33.2 oz
Focal plane:1
Illuminated:Yes
Warranty:10 years  

A few standout features:

Clockwise or counter clockwise elevation adjustment.

I got the CCW as being a right handed shooter and using my left hand for elevation adjustments means that for me, it seems more natural to “wind up” by rotation my wrist towards the front of the rifle for longer shots.

I have done extensive testing on tracking. I have a .1 mil (.36″) grid on a large poster sized target. Placed in ranges from 100 to 750 yards. Given that the host rifle will shoot damned near one hole groups if I do my part it makes for a great tracking platform. All my elevation and windage adjustments went exactly where I expected them to go and always returned to the same zero. I always do a box test where start with a round in the dead center. I go right 10 mils, then up 10, then left 20, down twenty, over 10, and back up 10 to get back to my zero. Shooting out to 1k my rounds impacted where I expected them to based on previous data. Good to go. I am generally a dial for elevation and hold for wind but I do sometimes dial for windage correction.

Kahles K3-18i turrets

Left side windage adjustment with Twist Guard

Again, being a right handed shooter having the windage be on the left side of the scope makes so much more sense than being on the right.  I maintain a positive grip and rifle mount with my right hand.  It also features the “twist guard” which is essentially a plate that rotates freely on the outside to prevent it from getting accidentally bumped off center

Elevation turret location for parallax adjustment.

The parallax adjustment is located under the elevation knob and is easy to read and very convenient to use.

Turret mounted parallax adjustment

Zero Stop

Like most tactical scopes, it features a zero stop and this one was easy to setup.

Reticle Illumination

Located on the right side of the scope is the illumination control. Being mil based reticle with a center dot, what gets illuminated is the center dot and the reticle out to the first mil hashmark along with the .5 stradia marking. It is capable of being extremely dimly lit making it actually useable in very low conditions unlike scopes that can’t get dim enough and are actually counter productive by being too bright and causing your pupil to constrict and making matters worse.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it “daytime bright” like a red dot but it is bright enough to make the rather fine reticle easier to find, especially at low magnification settings on a dark target.

MSR/Ki Reticle

This is a mil based reticle featuring a center dot that is .04 mil with .5 and 1 mil hashmarks along with two different ranging reticle features.  Below is the detail on the reticle substensions.

Conclusion

This is an incredible scope and would be ideal on either a competition PRS type rifle or a “tactical” precision hunting rifle and it can certainly serve dual purpose.  I have it on a custom 6.5 Creedmoor with a 22” barrel and it makes for a extremely capable dual purpose rifle.  I like that the glass is outstanding of course, great resolution and clarity.  Works very well in low light.  It has generous and consistent eye relief in all power settings.  I find it very easy to get behind so to speak. It doesn’t exhibit any tunneling (fisheye effect) at lowest magnification settings like some FFPs I have used.  The elevation turret is easy to see where you are at, it has a very positive click and there is a button that pops up when you go into the second revolution making it very easy to know if where you are at.  I love the compact size and for what you get is on the lighter side for a tactical scope.  I can’t recommend the Kahles K3-18 strongly enough.

For more details.

https://www.kahles.at/us/sport/riflescopes/k318i-3_5-18x50i

Leupold LTO Tracker HD Thermal Viewer

The new Leupold LTO Tracker HD is their second generation thermal viewer.  Designed to detect heat signatures up to 750 yards away it should be an essential part of everyone’s kit.  From tracking downed game to finding your way back to camp a small handheld thermal is a worthwhile investment.  Handheld thermals around this price point are a hot market.

First impressions are of a high-quality aluminum flashlight, complete with crenelated bezel.  It feels substantial and solid in hand.

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Unlike many thermals, there is no rubber eyepiece like on the FLIR Scout line.  Instead, you simply hold the LTO Tracker HD out 8-10 inches within your line of sight.  I find this to be a more natural viewing experience and  less tiring than pressing against an eyepiece.   The one downside is that it therefore produces more of a visible light signature – which generally isn’t any big deal but would be a consideration in a security or home defense environment.

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Continue reading Leupold LTO Tracker HD Thermal Viewer

FLIR Scout TK Thermal Vision Monocular Review

The FLIR Scout TK is the most affordable thermal monocular in the Scout product line.  Thermal vision has become more affordable in recent years and every outdoorsman should carry one.  Thermal is one area where you get what you pay and the FLIR Scout TK, with an MSRP of $599, is a competitor to the Seek Reveal XR and the Leupold LTO.  It can detect a man-sized target at about 100 yards. Someone needing a long-distance camera must step up to the Scout II or Scout III and pay a premium price.

The FLIR Scout TK is simple to use.  The menu system is logical and easy to operate in total darkness.  A built-in camera allows you to capture images and videos to download to your PC. Continue reading FLIR Scout TK Thermal Vision Monocular Review

Trijicon Electro Optics Thermal Riflescopes

Trijicon purchased IR Defense last year and is aggressively moving into Thermal night vision devices.  The first four products include the IR-Hunter and REAP-IR thermal riflescopes, the IR-Patrol thermal monocular, and the SNIPE-IR thermal clip-on.  One of their target markets is hog hunting.

We know hog hunting!  It is one of our favorite activities.  We were fortunate enough to receive one of the first IR-HUNTER thermal riflescopes to hit the field.  It is impressive to say the least.

Read the full product review and hunting report here on our sister site Tactical Gun Review.  

Trijicon IR-HUNTER
Trijicon IR-HUNTER

Trijicon IR-HUNTER
Trijicon IR-HUNTER

Thermal Scopes Heat Up!

Trijicon’s recent acquisition of IR Defense is an interesting development coming on the heels of FLIR purchasing Armasight last summer.  We have field experience with night vision / thermal products from all of these companies and they are all amazing.  To be able to spot a wild hog 200 yards away in total darkness is very cool.

Trijicon recently launched their new Trijicon Electro Optics website to promote the new line of IR Defense based thermal scopes.  We should have two in for testing in the next couple of weeks.  Can’t wait to take them hog hunting!

What do you think?  Are you planning to add a thermal scope this year? Continue reading Thermal Scopes Heat Up!

Armasight Zeus Pro Thermal Weapon Sight

Armasight makes some of the best thermal rifle scopes available.  These are high-end units – professional grade.  The Armasight Zeus Pro is simply a superior solution for hog hunting.

I have taken the Armasight Zeus Pro hog hunting at night but did not have the DVR available to record the video.  As you know, deer hunting past twilight is a criminal offense.  The video taken here is intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the thermal scope – we were not deer hunting at night!

Thermal is different from traditional night vision devices in that the subjects really jump out at you.  On one occasion, we had both a Gen 3 NVD and a thermal out one night hog hunting.  We had spread corn down a long road, parked up on a rise, and were waiting on the pigs to arrive.  Scanning down the road with the NVD, I didn’t notice anything moving.  I then picked up the thermal and wow – a doe was standing about 60 yards away!  Because she wasn’t moving I did not notice her with NVD.  However, with the thermal she just popped!

Coker Tactical is our preferred supplier of thermal imaging and they are an authorized Armasight dealer.

www.Armasight.com

Night Vision requirements for hog hunting

I see it is time for me to render a comprehensive NVD evaluation for you guys. I am happy to do that.  Let’s start with requirements:

1) Do you really need high resolution…enough so that you can tell the difference between a small pig and a raccoon, or a huge hog and a calf, at 100 or even 150 yards?

2) Do you need a variable gain feature? Will you be entering widely varied light fields? I.e, will you go quickly from the pitch blackness of the woods to the lights of a street or house?

3) Will you need magnification?. Will you need a reticle in the optic, or just a viewing device? Do you have experience with lasers? Are you familiar with infrared technology?

Let’s now supply some answers to the above:

1) If you need fine resolution, enough to tell the difference between small animals at ranges of around 100 yards, you need Gen III. If you are going to be looking around your yard, or walking around your deer lease, simply navigating in the dark, then Gen II will work fine. However, be aware that in very dark conditions, even Gen III usually also requires that you use some sort of IR illumination. The bottom line? If you can even remotely afford it, get the Gen III.

2) Variable gain is my favorite feature of the PVS-14. I lament the fact that my D-740 does not have it, and that cost me $4300  However, my D-740 is “auto-gated.” This means that when I suddenly enter a high light field, the tube cuts the receiving intensity by a sufficient amount to protect from damage to the reflector plate. This also means that you can zero the night optic at daytime without damaging the tube. The newer Gen III ITT Pinnacle model PVS-14’s are all autogated, and have a single battery. They are fantastic units, and can be purchased from Victor Dicasola at Tactical Night Vision company. I would not now buy a new PVS-14 if it were not autogated. Again, the bottom line is that Gen III is the top of the line in performance and if you can find a way to afford it, that is the way to go.

3) A D- 740 is a dedicated 4x or 6x (the D-760) night scope and has a reticle built in. You really cannot effectively move if from gun to gun, because no QD mounts are being made yet. You simply switch it on, and use it like a traditional scope. You can also get a Gen II SHP D-740, and this might be a good option for some of you. A PVS-14 is a monocular. The D-300 is a less expensive monocular. The MUM is a monocular of high quality with no variable gain feature.

There is no reticle in a monocular. There is no magnification. You will also need to buy the 3X magnifier separately. This means that you still need a sighting device to use it for a weapon. Take your pick. You can add the Aimpoint or Eotech NV compatibles for an extra $4-500. You can also go crazy with PEQ’s, and other such laser devices in the $1000-2000 range. Some of these setups require that you also buy a monolithic rail handguard so that you can move everything forward sufficient to get the NVD behind the sight. Again, if you buy a D-740, you simply strap it on the gun, zero and kill, kill kill.

IR illuminator. Do I need one?

If you hunt at night as much as I do….YES. About %70 of your hunts will be with extreme low light. Either a waning moon phase, or cloudy nights. If there is no moon, and low ceiling, no NVD performs very well, without some sort of IR illumination. MY D-740 is amazing in these conditions all things considered, but I still have to use the Torch IR (basically an IR LED flashlight). A Gen II with no IR illumination renders you blind on at least 50% of the nights you will choose to hunt, unless you never go out with anything other than full moon and clear skies…..yeah right.  a Gen III with an IR illuminator gives you near impunity from dark conditions.

Some other things to consider:

1) if you put a NV compatible Aimpoint or Eotech on your rifles, and sight them in in the daytime….as long as you put them far enough forward,….you can now use the Eo in the daylight, then simply strap the PVS-14 on the gun behind it once the sun goes down and you don’t have to re-zero anything.

2) there is a UNI-mount which will adapt a PVS-14 to a dayscope / glass optic. This can work pretty well in certain circumstances, such as, when you don’t want to use an AP or Eo on a rifle for its daytime use, or, when you have high light (full moon) and you can get away with using high magnification.

2) Newer designs like the PVS-22 are generally restricted to LE sales right now, and are almost impossible to get. Cost is around $8000 if you get lucky, $10,000 if you buy retail. Yes, they are incredible and even beat the D-740 and PVS-14, but they are mounted in front of the optic so you don’t lose resolution and light transmission the way you do when the NVD has to be viewed through the glass of another optic… usually one that is not designed to “gather” light.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to email with specific questions, or book a hog hunt, and I will take you out and let you use my devices and my guns to kill a few pigs. Then you can decide what to buy.

For the purchase of new units: I highly recommend Victor from TNVC. He is a consummate professional and my dealings with him have been a pleasure. He has outfitted my operation with the best equipment money can buy.

For those inquiring about used / surplus/ refurb units, I can recommend Amerisurp, and American Electro Optics, Inc.

By: Chris Lucci

Wild River Ranch, LLC

http://wildriverranchtexas.com