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  • My Impressions From SHOT Show 2004

    Members, customers, and patrons of SP,

    SHOT Show has been over for about a month now. As many of you know, I went for the first time, in order to become intimately familiar with the IOR line of scopes and to get my hands on every other make of scope I could find. I tell you, if you have never been to SHOT, I suggest you GO. It's quite the spectacle, with miles and miles of booths and the place just reeks of expended cash and resources. Tons of people, met Frank @ Sniper's Hide and Tactical Mike Miller. Tons and tons of products, it took me a week to recover. Vegas is pretty nasty, with dirty air and traffic and the most aggressive drivers I have ever seen, but I digress.

    This thread is designed to give my honest (even if biased) impressions for the various optics I handled during the four days I spent there. One glaring omission, I missed the guys at USO I covered lots of ground and didn't run into them (I was pretty helter skelter...next time, I'll have a plan). Anyway, my comments are not intended to diss or badmouth other manufacturers if they didn't impress me. If they didn't impress me, they didn't impress me. Not too many people get the opportunity to examine like twenty brands of scopes under one roof (optics dealers excepted). Of course, my impressions are just that, merely my impressions, during the examination of the scopes. I looked through them, I turned knobs, I examined fit and finish, and most importantly, I met and talked with the company reps. I didn't go to the range and give them a good T & E.

    Here is a "one page" manifesto of my thoughts as I embarked on this journey...


    Let's get one thing out of the way NOW; I am now convinced that German glass and coatings are the best in the world. SPROING, oops that was me poppin' a woody thinking about the S&B or Zeiss Diavari. The only thing that compared was a USO scope with Horus reticle. The best Japanese scopes/glass are exceptional, but there is just something about the German stuff that gives it that extra 2% edge over the Austrian, Czech, or Asian optics, IMO. It's not like things are just magnified, they are enhanced. Sharpness, color rendition, low light capability, and the abiltiy to see fine detail seem to go to the S&B and Zeiss over all others. The other difference in my opinion is the Asian glass seems more fussy when it comes to eye relief (as opposed to the forgiving non-critical eye relief of the best European scopes). It seemed to me the Asian scopes had more of a tendency to "shadow" if your eye wasn't placed just right, while the European scopes didn't have this tendency. The fit and finish were more appealing on the European scopes also, IMO. Anyway, let's talk "brand names," shall we?

    German optics:

    Schmidt & Bender: Hubba hubba. Me wants to sell these. Simply put, awesome. I saw none better. I know, I know, limited adjustment range. Hey, these scopes weren't designed to go on flat 1913 picatinny rails with HD rings. More like EAW type mounts with W&E adjustability. Get a 20 MOA base for long-range, or give the EAW a try.

    Zeiss: Zowee. Zeiss Diavari line is scary good, and the Conquest line ain't no slouch, either. Brilliant optics. Nice clicks. Hey, what'd you expect though. Need...to....carry.... these. One other thing, the rep at Zeiss was really, really nice. In fact, the Zeiss bunch just seemed more pleasant than any other "stuffy" European manufacturer. Some of the Zeiss binoculars were just sick.

    Karl Kaps: I heard someone say they bought three of these at SHOT because they were "the most awesome scopes they had ever seen." Huh? They had a couple of fixed powers, really neat, one a continuation of the H&K 4x Hensoldt scope. Nice scopes, but optically at least, they had nothing on IOR.

    Leica: Okay, this is going to sound strange, but I looked through some of their Geovid rangefinders, and a couple of binoculars, and I was not impressed. The clarity was not there, the sharpness wasn't either. Rather than risk insulting the guys at Leica asking as to why their offerings at the biggest event at the year weren't up to snuff, I quietly moved on.

    Austrian optics:

    Swarovski: Most of my experience in dealing optics is in IOR. IOR has very good glass. I've heard from my customers who own(ed) Swarovski that they couldn't tell a difference looking through the two. Neither could I. These are fine scopes, but they are geared more toward hunting purposes, and their binoculars are definitely marketed to the "birdwatcher" crowd. I felt the TDS reticle was kind of simplistic, and nothing special. For the money, I'll go S&B.

    Kahles: The same comment above comparing these to IOR apply here. However, I've been told IOR is better. Poor Kahles. They sport the same reticle and hunting scope philosophy as Swarovski, and at a lower price. So, what's the point? They seem to be searching for an identity. If I were them, I'd beef up the scopes and go after the tactical market. I mean really go after it. Let Swarovski handle the Austrian optics for hunters.

    Czech Republic scopes:

    Meopta: The new Meostar scopes are aimed squarely at American hunters. I like these scopes, and they're a good value, but their dealer program has rather odd terms and conditions. Also, service promises to be slow ("usually 60 days.") Optics are very good. Very clear with a "3-D" effect. However, when aimed at the bright overhead lights at SHOT, I noticed some flare and a little purplish halo. I was told by another patron this was known as chromatic abberation. Any, these rate a solid "B." I told them - "make a tough tactical scope line." A couple of tweaks here and there and a continued moderate price, Meopta can be something.

    Romanian optics:

    IOR: The IOR line has been debated ad nausem on this and other sniper forums, so I won't go there. However, there WAS a lot of interest in Val's latest prototype offerings. Face it, a 9-36x56 DOES attract attention. The star of the show, however, was the 2-12x32. I've dubbed this the BTHP because it sorta resembles one. Somewhat odd looking, this is truly an all purpose scope that will do just about anything. It will sell. There was also a rough prototype of 10x50 roof prism binoculars on display, but I still prefer the 7x40s over anything.
    I still think the straight 4x32 is as good a scope for the money as anything out there. I bought one for myself.
    I'm also convinced, that IOR patterns itself after S&B in scopes and vintage Zeiss-Jena in binocs. I can elaborate later.

    Asian optics (I'm referring to the glass here):

    Leupold: If anyone offers a bigger selection of scopes than Leupold, I don't know about it. People think I'm anti-Leupold, but I really just think there are better scopes out there (but many pros will disagree). However, if Leupold doesn't have what your looking for, it's probably not made. Their new "index-matched" glass is very good, but still doesn't meet German standards, IMO. Eye relief was typical Asian fickle. They introduced some new hunting reticles that appeared pretty innovative, but I have not reviewed the literature on it yet. Very nice feel to the adjustments. You can't go wrong with a Lupy, excellent service, resale value, and performance. I'll probably find a way to sell 'em, because they are profitable and my customers want them, but I still don't think they are ALL that nowadays. *SHRUG*

    Burris: I didn't spend too much time with Burris, but they are kind of right in the pack with the other American made, Asian optic'd scopes. Decent. I think the Ballistic Plex is more gimicky tthan anything else. Nothing fires me up about Burris.

    Sightron: You know, I still have a couple of these for sale. Sightron sports the "Exactrack" adjustments and images that are clear and flat throughout the field of view. However, eye relief is fussy and resolution is just fair, IMO. I checked out with great anticipation their top-of the-line SIII series and was somewhat disappointed. Their "red-dot" sight was the best next to Aimpoint, IMO. I noticed their prices jumped way up in 2004. I mean, dealer cost now is what my retail is for current stock bought last year. I inquired about this and was told the biggest distributors get the best price. I asked how much for the best price. Alan at Sightron said "You can't afford our best price." I said, give me a figure. He said "$80,000." You know, he's right. 80K to buy a stack of scopes that may or may not sell? No thanks. Not even the European mfg. are that snooty. Whatever. Welcome to the big leagues, I guess.

    Trijicon: These guys were swamped. I looked through a few ACOGs. I'm going to be blunt, at the risk of the wrath of ACOG owners. Light and compact? Yes. Rugged? Sure seemed that way. Odd-looking? Yup. Optics? Optics? What is the big deal? I couldn't even center the reticle in the field of view on the ones I looked through. The image was not too sharp, like a soft TV camera lens. The BAC doesn't work for me, as I'm left eye dominant with a right eye sighting. I truly feel there is some slick marketing here, and a devout following, but my gut feeling is over-rated and over-priced.

    Hakko: These guys were a shocking disappointment. I mean it. No one could speak English, for starters. The scopes were very light and "tinny" feeling. Clicks felt horrible. Looking through one on display, I was amazed to see the reticle look like it was peeling. It resembled gold foil with black streaks and looked like it was becoming unglued right in the scope. I couldn't get much further with these guys. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Hunter Wicked Optics: Neat name. Cool brochure. Then the snake-oil salesman behind the counter said all Hunter Wicked Optics were made with Schott Glass from Germany. You don't say? He had my attention now! A buddy of mine remarked they resembled Burris scopes. He remarked "We've been making them long before Burris has." Really? Then I picked one up and looked through it. I've got one word for you. Run. Run like the wind.

    Millett: Very nice folks. So-so optics. Pretty bright and clear, but chromatic abberation and flare were quite noticeable. Decent scopes for those on a low budget.

    Pride Fowler Industries: Mickey Fowler and John Pride have combined forces to offer up a line of scopes featuring the RapidReticle Mini Mil-Dot. Here's a sneak pic ,308 RapidReticle Not a true ranging reticle, but designed as a precision aiming aid. It works in conjunction with a laser rangefinder. I thought this was cool, like a boiled down, limited Horus type reticle. The scopes, I won't comment where they are made, but they DO sport FFP reticles that are very dark and sharp. This will be an interesting product, but with likely limited tactical application (I have scope durability concerns).

    Horusvision: I spent a lot of time here. I know Thomas is partial to this system. I'll tell you, Dennis Sammut (sp.?) is a master salesman. He was like the Master of Ceremonies in the Big Top. He had everyone mesmerized with his sales pitch and straightforward style. Half of the audience had no idea what he was talking about, but it didn't matter. He convinced them Horusvision was the ultimate. With his visual aids and tactical "sniper town" target layout, he went about demonstrating the versatility of the system. I'm not denigrating him...I've never seen someone exhibit such passion and skill in promoting a product. I was impressed. He also doesn't like feral donkeys, but that's a bunny trail.
    Thomas, I agree. The reticle is a tad busy but I can see where focus on the proper hash is attainable with practice. It's really not THAT distracting.
    Dennis made it clear if any Horus scope fails the user, send it back to him for a full refund, or replacement (your choice). The Falcon scope I wasn't too keen on, it's made by Hakko. Even if to Horus specs, it's still made by Hakko. I did make it clear to Dennis I worried about the durability of the Falcon because I was none too impressed with Hakko (the S&B and USO scopes were awesome however) His response was telling, and a little discomforting. He stated, if you are ever in a position where scope failure would put you or others at lethal risk, you need the S&B or USO Horusvision on your rifle. Guess which one that leaves out? Interpret as you wish.

    Shepherd Enterprises: One of the surprises of the show (for me anyway). If you haven't looked through a Shepherd, you don't know what you're missing. These things are clear, sharp, and have super resolution. Their binoculars are also in the same boat. The FFP reticles are flat, jet black and are easy to pick up, even with backlighting. No these aren't tactical scopes. They lack finger-adjustable knobs and have one-inch tubes. However, they are heavy, with a rugged, attractive finish, and give the impression of being very well made, even with an AO. BONUS: Sally Shepherd is a real hottie. You should hear her talk ballistics. Ooooh baby.
    Downsides? Shepherd is pretty anal about retail pricing, and made it clear if I were caught selling at a discount, I wouldn't be selling them anymore. Bummer. Add 30 mm tubes and target turrets. Any feedback on customer service and/or field ruggedness would be greatly appreciated. Bottom line: I'd bet they are worth the money.

    Nikon: These guys were one of the clear favorites in terms of winning the contest of "Most Impressive Display." A friggin' two story log cabin with carpeting for crissakes. Unbelievable. Anyway, Dave Bahde (juroku) has written some very positive things in his evaluation of the Nikon Tactical scope. So, I had to see for myself. One thing I noticed, Nikon does not heavily market the scope. I had to actually search for it on the wall like a pair of tennis shoes at Athletic Attic. When I found it, well, my first impression was it was a tad homely. Yes, I know that means jack in a tactical optic. It's finish was dull, is all. The clicks were pretty mushy, like a "friction-click" hybrid. Optically, it was what I expected..98% as bright and sharp as a S&B or Zeiss or maybe even an IOR (of course, this is quite SUBJECTIVE, but it's my opinion, and I AM entitled to it. Get over it). The real impression of these scopes was that they were tough, and built to take it, at the cost of pleasing aesthetics. Nothing wrong with that!

    Nightforce: I was quite eager to check these out, as I have heard tons about them on these forums and they do indeed have a following. There was a guy at the booth with an Aussie accent who spent a lot of time with me on the dissected model, going over the parts and systems and features. These things have amazing adjustment range, and are built tough enough to frame a house with, so it seems. But you already knew that. I met Jeff Huber, VP of Nightforce, and he was a confident fella, almost to the point of cockiness. Fine by me, it's good to see a corporate executive fiercely loyal to his product. Jeff's view of the German manufacturers reminded me of the view some people had of Tom Landry or have of Joe Paterno near the end of their careers - that of legendary icons which show evidence that the game has passed them by over time. I dunno if this is true or not, but it is an interesting point.
    Looking through the Nightforce, I see the eye relief is probably the most forgiving of any Japanese manufactured optic I have seen. All other optical qualities - well, I'll put it this way. Put the Nightforce and Nikon in a "generic" package each, go to the range, and work them out. Then tell me if you can see a difference. I can't seem to. One difference is the price. And Nightforce look MUCH cooler than the Nikon. But image brightness, clarity, and sharpness seem almost identical. Cest la vie!

    Chinese optics:

    I generally abhor the cheap Chi-Com stuff, and feel sorry for those who have no choice but to by the NcStar or other knockoffs. Better to get proficient with the iron sights, IMO. Hey buddy, those cool 12x56 Chinese binocs? With the orange-yellow mirror coating on the objectives? If that much light is reflecting off of the lenses, how much light is going in??

    Having said that, I'll relay a quick story. I was with a friend at the Clearview Investments booth, and while he was talking about some type of mount or stock with the reps, I idly picked up a 3-9x40 chinese scope on the counter and examined it. It did not have a single marking on it, no country of origin, nothing but "3-9x40." Out of boredom, I looked through it, and nearly fell over in shock. I could not believe how high the quality of optics were, nothing I have ever seen from a Chinese optic. I handed them over to my friend and challenged him to find flaws in the image. He was also quite impressed. I begged the guy in the booth what brand they were and he responded "Leapers" but we couldn't tell for sure.
    Fast forward to a gun show I was exhibiting in a week after SHOT. This one regular vendor sells the NcStar scopes like hotcakes for breakfast all across north Fla. Most of the scopes in this lineup are a joke. However, I shared my story with him and he nodded his head in recognition. "Was it like this one?" he asked. He proceeded to pull a 3-9x40 illuminated generic scope out of a generic purple box. No manufacterer indicated. Bringing it to my eyes, yup, that was the one. He smiled knowingly and wouldn't divulge any info, but something is going on. For $99, you can get a scope that will let you see as well as scopes costing 3-4 times as much. Now, durability and adjustments may be quite suspect, but the optics battle is the toughest one, IMO. Somewhere in China there is a "secret" manufacturer who is building optics that significantly close the gap with nearly any other Asian manufacturer. You heard it here first.

    That's all for now. My name is Scott Berish, owner of Liberty Optics. I hope you found something useful to you in this thread. At the very least, I hope you percieve me as an honest man, even to his own detriment.

    Thanks for visiting my forum!

    Scott
    Scott Berish, Owner
    Liberty Optics LLC
    An Official Vendor of Sniper?s Paradise
    "See Better, Shoot Better"
    www.libertyoptics.com

    Phone: 406-890-2714
    If no answer: 352-572-1469 (cell
    Fax: 763-431-5015
    Email: Scott@LibertyOptics.com

    Secure snail mail payments:
    Liberty Optics
    PO Box 2554
    Kalispell MT 59903

  • #2
    Good write up. Without writing a review of your review that would end up being just as long as your original reviews, you hit on many things that I agree with on several different levels. I am glad that many of the same things that are important to me in optics also peaked your attention.

    Just add some price ranges or price points of interest for each (or most) of the categories, throw in a couple of pictures and I would like to throw this up in the articles section of the website.
    Knowledge comes from retaining what is learned,
    Thomas

    Comment


    • #3
      Great post!
      I don't mind people knocking this, or touting that, as long as they show a basis for their opinion (no, "I just hate it, don't know why"). That's the type of new product review I like to read, especially when the writer has a basis of knowledge.
      www.precision-applications.com

      It's knowing that when I get up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, the Devil says, "Shit! He's awake!"

      Shortly before World War I, the German Kaiser was the guest of the Swiss government to observe military maneuvers. The Kaiser asked a Swiss militiaman: "You are 500,000 and you shoot well, but if we attack with 1,000,000 men what will you do?" The soldier replied: "We will shoot twice and go home."

      "There are so many Russians, and our country so small, where will we find room to bury them all?" - anonymous Finnish soldier

      Comment


      • #4
        Scott,

        Great write up!! You named scopes I have heard of and some that I haven't and I am greatful that you wrote about them. I think one of the biggest people make will building a rifle is the inattention they give the glass they are going to put on the rilfe. They (the owner of the rifle) will get a scope their friends use or get what is "Hot" without looking at others.

        Thank you for your attention to detail. I wish I could go to the shot show.

        Carbon
        "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear"
        Ambrose Redmoon

        "To the American soldier, whose fidelity, patriotism, and valor have made this land the last best hope of earth."

        Comment


        • #5
          Great write-up! As a member of the less experienced group of readers, this type of information is a goldmine.

          These days it is difficult to get comparatie information about hardware in a format indicating "these are the facts, and this is my impression/opinion about the product as a whole".

          (from someone up at this time of day, trying to choose a scope)
          He who does not seek to control his own destiny has it controlled for him.

          Comment


          • #6
            Scott, good write up..sakofan..Thanks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Scott, thanks for all the great information. Sounds like an incredible experience. If I can pick your brain for any added details - 1) Were there any noticeable differences between the Zeiss and the S&B optics in the rifle scopes and binoculars? 2) Did you check out any of the spotting scopes in these various brands? 3) Did you examine the Bushnell Elite models? Thanks.

              Comment


              • #8
                Scott,
                Ditto the other posts! Thanks for your work in getting the info out to the rest of us.
                The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

                Comment


                • #9
                  Gentlemen,

                  Thanks for the generous feedback, and for realizing my offering "is what it is," just a condensed optics infomercial (subjective of course).

                  JimQ,

                  S&B does not have binoculars, but the Zeiss ones were very nice. Some I preferred over the others. I'm partial to 7-8 power with 40-50mm objectives.

                  The optics between S&B and Zeiss were practically indistinguishable within the poor artificial lighting confines of the SHOT show. They would have to formally tested for low light performance and resolution to see who has the edge. Optically, you just can't lose with either of them.

                  I did look through a variety of spotting scopes, and the images were pretty much out of focus and fuzzy. This was no doubt due to the extreme magnifications used at such a short usuable range. Indoor trade shows are piss poor "laboratories" for trying out optics. However, if a scope doesn't work to well indoors (assuming sufficient range to focus), you better believe it won't improve outdoors (with the exception of perceived brightness. of course.)

                  I goofed on the Bushnell Elite series. I believe these are/were Bausch & Lomb made scopes, and I've heard nothing but good things about them. I avoided the Bushnell booth because my experience with the line (specifically the Trophy series) has been less than stellar, and I had no intentions of offering them at Liberty Optics. The Elite series are worth further investigation, though.

                  Thanks for your time.

                  Scott
                  Scott Berish, Owner
                  Liberty Optics LLC
                  An Official Vendor of Sniper?s Paradise
                  "See Better, Shoot Better"
                  www.libertyoptics.com

                  Phone: 406-890-2714
                  If no answer: 352-572-1469 (cell
                  Fax: 763-431-5015
                  Email: Scott@LibertyOptics.com

                  Secure snail mail payments:
                  Liberty Optics
                  PO Box 2554
                  Kalispell MT 59903

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You know, I just re-read the title thread and got a good kick out of it. For the record, I will not be attending 2005 SHOT (I'm still basking in the warm afterglow of 2004 SHOT). However, 2006 SHOT is a "mortal" lock. I wonder if Thomas has any plans to have SP purchase a booth in any future SHOT Shows? By then, Liberty Optics might be able to offer a "pitch-in" for show fees to help let the world know about Sniper's Paradise, HD rifles, or the other fine vendors/supporters/staff that make up this outstanding resource. Just a thought....
                    Scott Berish, Owner
                    Liberty Optics LLC
                    An Official Vendor of Sniper?s Paradise
                    "See Better, Shoot Better"
                    www.libertyoptics.com

                    Phone: 406-890-2714
                    If no answer: 352-572-1469 (cell
                    Fax: 763-431-5015
                    Email: Scott@LibertyOptics.com

                    Secure snail mail payments:
                    Liberty Optics
                    PO Box 2554
                    Kalispell MT 59903

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Excelent write-up.

                      I am currently considering an IOR w/MP8, but still a little pricy for me.

                      I would like to see at least a clear photo if not realtime MP8 view.
                      David Lauck's NF scopes have an interesting reticle, that seems to be tilted philosophically on personnel being present for range finding, great idea, but I would like to see a combination of Lauck/mil-dot or Lauck/MP8, and the whole system bassed either on metric or inch/foot systems.

                      SP's Review of the Tasco SS series initally inclined me to reinvest in an SS10X42.
                      If you could reinconfigure your review with pirce ranges and a rating system: scale of 1- X w/ 1 being acceptable for the price range, I believe you would have a very helpfull article.

                      Rating systems are some times confusing: i.e.: Olimpics: Gymnastics. The compeditors keep getting scores like 8.9 - 9.9. If their going to use a 0.0 - 10 scale use the whole scale, otherwise it takes a trained eye to see the difference in performance. On a scale of 1-5 as I saw in the SP review the SS series rated a total of a low 4.x, but on the verbal side seemed to indicate compeditive with scopes 3 - 4 x the price. Granted, in 1984 my first personal scope, a Tasco 6x18x40 TR was easily recognized as inferior to the Leapolds, but never failed to complete a mission because of the "inferior" equipment. Especially for first time buyers on a budget, I we need to give examples by the manufacturer & model of a BAD scope so customers can go to wallmart and know where the scale starts.

                      Like you said about indoor testing. One local shop carries only $xxxxxxxx.00 scopes. The only differences I can see are turrets, reticles, and illumination.

                      Sincerely
                      SSG

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Scott,

                        Good stuff! Did you get a chance to look at Weaver or Bushnell?

                        Hawk

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hawk,

                          No, I did not due to pre-conceived biases. Since I originally wrote this article, my thoughts have much improved on the Burris. The Bushnell Elite 4200 series are very fine optics, and examining the Weaver is next on my list.

                          Scott
                          Scott Berish, Owner
                          Liberty Optics LLC
                          An Official Vendor of Sniper?s Paradise
                          "See Better, Shoot Better"
                          www.libertyoptics.com

                          Phone: 406-890-2714
                          If no answer: 352-572-1469 (cell
                          Fax: 763-431-5015
                          Email: Scott@LibertyOptics.com

                          Secure snail mail payments:
                          Liberty Optics
                          PO Box 2554
                          Kalispell MT 59903

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Scott,

                            Whats the cost of a booth at ShotShow?
                            "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear"
                            Ambrose Redmoon

                            "To the American soldier, whose fidelity, patriotism, and valor have made this land the last best hope of earth."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Carbon,

                              Last I checked it was about $22.50 a square foot, minimum 100 square foot purchased for $2250. My understanding is the vast majority of spaces have already been sold for 2006 - current vendors can prepay like a 25% deposit to hold their spot for the next year.

                              We need to make it happen for SP!

                              Scott
                              Scott Berish, Owner
                              Liberty Optics LLC
                              An Official Vendor of Sniper?s Paradise
                              "See Better, Shoot Better"
                              www.libertyoptics.com

                              Phone: 406-890-2714
                              If no answer: 352-572-1469 (cell
                              Fax: 763-431-5015
                              Email: Scott@LibertyOptics.com

                              Secure snail mail payments:
                              Liberty Optics
                              PO Box 2554
                              Kalispell MT 59903

                              Comment

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