SHOT Show 2019: Best New Optics
These are the best scopes, red dots, reflex sights, and binoculars we found on the floor of SHOT Show in Las Vegas this year.
If he were around today, legendary USMC sniper Carlos Hathcock, who used a fixed-power 8x scope for his entire prolific career, might scoff at a modern deer hunter utilizing a ballistic app to calculate adjustments for a 400-yard shot. Its hard to imagine what he’d think of some of the most high tech options out there today, like a digital scope controlled by a touchscreen with a ballistic calculator built in.
But times change, and shooting optics are advancing in unprecedented ways. Here are a few of the new, thoroughly modern, optics at SHOT Show 2019, a few of which we had the chance to test with live fire, plus some really interesting new binoculars. —Eve Flanigan
Crimson Trace 5-Series Riflescopes
When you hear Crimson Trace is launching a new line of riflescopes, it’s difficult for one’s interest not to be piqued. CT is a respected accessories manufacturer in the gun industry; over the years I’ve used a wide variety of their products for both hunting and tactical applications. Their products are manufactured to exacting specifications, durable, and made with an eye for precision. This is why the new 5-Series Riflescopes are such a welcome addition to the optics world.
The Crimson Trace 5-Series Riflescope, as pictured, is the 3-24x56mm model but the scope is also offered in 1-8x28mm, and 3-18x50mm. It is a first focal plane – FFP – scope with an etched LR1-MIL Advanced Illuminate Reticle and fully multi-coated glass.
A quick look through the scope at SHOT showed what I’d expected: stellar clarity, a broad field of vision, and a reticle I love (if you enjoy the Christmas tree reticle, you’re in luck). Other features include a zero stop, zero reset, and clearly marked holdovers for windage and elevation. MSRP $1999. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
SIG Sauer Ballistic Data Exchange (BDX) System
SIG Sauer’s Ballistic Data Exchange (BDX) system is more than a ballistic app customized for the company’s scope. It’s a set of products that communicate with each other and act accordingly using Bluetooth.
First, the binoculars. The Kilo 3000 is currently the only one that’s BDX-enabled, including range-finding capabilities. It’s a 10x, 42mm set with a MSRP of $1,440.
The Kilo can “talk” to the scope independently regarding elevation adjustments. An environmental conditions-reading device, like a Kestrel or Garmin, can add data like density altitude to make elevation changes more precise.
Sig currently has four BDX-equipped scopes, equipped for mid- and long-range shooting. In the test at Sig Sauer Range Day, we fired a Sierra A380X 3.5-10×42. This is a brand new breed of scope, with the reticle set somewhere between the first and second focal planes, so that the reticle itself “grows” along with scope magnification, but there is not as much loss of the far reaches of the milliradian “tree” or crosshairs as the reticle itself zooms into clearer view for longer shots.
Looking through a BDX scope, a dot glows at the x/y intersection of the crosshairs. When the connected range-finding binoculars focus on a new target at a new distance, the scope responds in less than two seconds, visibly moving to re-center the dot at the intended point of impact. It’s nothing short of amazing. What’s more, several BDX systems on a single firing line won’t interfere with one another. Prices for BDX scopes vary depending on range capability, plan on an MSRP of about $1,200. —Eve Flanigan
Sightmark Citadel 1-10x24mm
This one isn’t just a rugged, reliable optic, it’s a sexy one. The Sightmark Citadel 1-10x24mm is a well-constructed, carefully-designed optic fantastic for use on your home defense carbine but would be equally at home on the range ringing steel at a variety of distances. It has a 30mm tube and is manufactured using aircraft grade aluminum which is a precipitation-hardened alloy.
Taking a look through the Citadel gave me a clear, sharp view of the SHOT Show floor and a view of the red horseshoe reticle with its eye-catching aiming dot. Not only is the illuminated reticle excellent for low-light scenarios but it’s fast and easy to get on target. Other features include flip-up lens caps and a throw lever. The latest from Sightmark is a good option if you want one do-it-all scope for your favorite rifle or carbine. MSRP: $479.99. Check out the Citadel line here; this particular model is not yet online but will be soon. —Kat Ainsworth
Brownells Retro Colt 4x Scope
Brownells has done a great job with their retro rifles. They paid attention to detail and began offering retro accessories – like the waffle mag – to accompany the guns. Now, they’ve introduced an optic to their lineup.
They really hit this one out of the park, too, because they used the same Japanese company that made the original Colt 4×20 scopes. Designed to attach to the carry handle, it has the same features as the original, like the bullet drop compensator on the elevation turret.
Because of the connection to the original manufacturer, it really doesn’t get any more “period-correct” for your setup. The only real difference is the logo. Of course, the originals said Colt, and these say Retro in the signature Brownells font. This is the ultimate retro companion optic for your BRN601. For more info, visit www.brownells.com. —T. Logan Metesh
Crimson Trace CTS-1000 Electronic Sight
The Crimson Trace CTS-1000 Electronic Sight is another good example of the company’s solid design capabilities and manufacturing process. It’s a compact tactical red dot with a 2.0 MOA red aiming dot and a housing made from aircraft grade anodized aluminum. The company designed it specifically for CQB use on rifles and carbines with an eye for durability and task-specific performance. The dot is sharp, clear with ten different brightness levels; target acquisition is rapid and precise. It’s powered by a high-efficiency LED and comes with Crimson Trace’s usual Batteries For Life plan.
If you’re looking for a red dot to use on your home defense rifle, check this one out. It’s lightweight and tough; banging it against door frames and tables is highly unlikely to shake your zero. In fact, it’s made to be shock, impact, fog, and vibration resistant. The optic mounts to your gun’s M1913 Picatinny rail using a quick-disconnect mount and sits at a good height for co-witnessing. MSRP: NA. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Shepherd Scopes DRS Sniper 6-24x50mm S-Series
Shepherd Scopes launched a line of scopes with retired Navy SEAL Craig “The Sawman” Sawyer, someone whose expertise isn’t only the result of his time in the teams but the result of decades of hard work and constant training. His credentials are impeccable, yes, but his skill is what matters most. Craig is a fantastically nice guy and it’s great to see him design and launch this line during SHOT.
The Shepherd Scopes DRS Sniper 6-24x50mm is, of course, meant for longer range shooting. What makes it worth including in a more tactically-aimed list is its dual reticle system and overall quality. This optic is designed for moving-target acquisition and superior overall performance and at first look does appear more than able to get the job done.
Features include the aforementioned range-finding, ballistic-drop compensating reticle, locking turrets, and multi-coated extra-low dispersion glass. The tube is 34mm. A look through the glass delivered crystalline clarity and a good field of view. I’m looking forward to doing a more in-depth review in the near future. MSRP: $1399. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Aimpoint Acro P-1
It’s small, but mighty. Aimpoint’s Acro P-1 is the smallest completely enclosed red dot system on the market. This little sight comes in at just 1.9” X 1.2” X 1.2” and only weighs 2.1 oz. The 3.5 MOA dot is super crisp and makes for precise, fast shots on target.
When mounted on a pistol that has suppressor-height sights, the Acro P-1’s dot will co-witness with them. That could come in handy if the battery dies, but that shouldn’t happen for quite some time. If the Acro is left on at position 6, it will stay on continuously for 1.5 years. Positions 1 through 4 will provide more than 8 years of battery life.
It’s also built super-tough. The one at Industry Day at the Range certainly got put through its paces, but showed no signs of stopping. It is the only sight in its size category fully tested for shock, vibration, temperature span and other environmental stress. For more info, visit www.aimpoint.com. —T. Logan Metesh
Shepherd Scopes BRS 1-8X28mm
On the tactical side of the new optics line from Craig Sawyer is the BRS 1-8X28mm. This is a more compact, first focal plane (FFP) optic featuring Shepherd Scopes’ patented ballistic drop compensation and range-finding only in a single-reticle model. The optic has a 34mm tube and ML-1 reticle with clearly delineated hashmarks and clear glass. The lenses are multi-coated for excellent resolution and designed for solid performance even in low-light conditions. It’s a carefully manufactured optic, nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed, and is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof.
The BRS 1-8x28mm is a nice option for closer-range work and affordable, too. It’s made to out-perform its price point with features such as precise sub-tensions and tactical-style turrets and judging by its obvious quality I’d say this one is well worth a closer look. As with all the optics in Craig Sawyer’s new line the BRS 1-8x28mm is made to withstand hard use and can be used for bench-rest shooting, CQB work, and closer-range hunting. MSRP: $729. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm F1
An optics list wouldn’t be complete without Nightforce and this year the new model just happens to be one made for more extreme magnification. The Nightforce ATACR 7-35X56mm F1 is designed for use from up-close shorter ranges to extreme long range; this is a larger optic, yes, but it is truly versatile. It has a parallax adjustment to 10 meters and up to 100 MOA elevation travel, so if precision is your thing – PRS shooters, I’m looking at you – this optic is a nice choice.
This is a first focal plane – FFP – optic with a 34mm tube, .250-MOA per-click value, and 3.26 to 3.58-inches of eye relief. It has an overall length of 16 inches and is offered with either a MOAR, MIL-R, MIL-C, or TreMor3 reticle. The ATAC-R 7-35x56mm delivers as expected with beautifully clear glass, a wide field of vision, and quality construction. Nightforce is marketing this optic as one that will “push the boundaries of even the most capable of today’s long range cartridges” and it appears the optic really is up to the challenge. MSRP: $3600. Check it out here. Shipping end of January 2019. —Kat Ainsworth
Another unconventional optic being demonstrated was the NiteSite Viper. The goal was to create an affordable, high quality night vision system for short-range distances. The Viper is perfect for the up-close and personal hunter.
Using 850nm infrared illumination (invisible to people and animals) to literally illuminate the target area immediately in front of where the rifle scope is aiming, the Viper allows clear target identification up to 100 metres (110 yards) away.
What if you’ve got a favorite scope and don’t want to switch to something new? No problem! In fact, that’s perfect! The infrared image is captured through the rifle scope by a camera attached to the scope’s eyepiece. That image is then transmitted and viewed via the uni’s integral 3.5” LCD screen in realtime.
Shooting without any kind of cheek weld to the stock was very weird at first, but it became natural very quickly and was a lot of fun to use.
The NiteSite Viper is the base model, with 100-metre capabilities. The Wolf is 300 metres and the Eagle is 500 metres. For more info, visit www.nitesite.com. —T. Logan Metesh
Riton RTS MOD 7 1-8X28mm IR Tactical
Although Riton is not yet a gun-household name it’s well on its way. The glass I’ve used from the company has been consistently well-made and has performed beyond expectations for the price points involved and this latest offering is no different. For 2019 they’ve launched the Riton RTS MOD 7 1-8x28mm IR Tactical, a tactical optic created for use in close quarters such as you might find in a home defense situation.
The Riton RTS MOD 7 1-8X28mm IR Tactical was designed in conjunction with retired Navy SEAL Charlie Melton, a man perhaps best known for his ties with the men of Operation Red Wings. Melton gave his input regarding exactly what CQB involves and how an optic used in such a scenario not only should but must perform. So, does it look like it will meet expectations? Not only do I think it will meet them, I think it will far exceed them. Riton’s newest optic has bright, clear glass with good light transmission – something owed to its High Density/Extra Dispersion glass and multi-coated lenses – and a good field of vision. When using this optic in close quarters your view will not be obscured by unnecessary materials or hampered by design flaws.
Features include a CNC-machined, one-piece 34mm tube, tapped turrets, and 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum housing. Per-click value is one-half MOA and there is a zero reset option. The optic facilitates rapid target acquisition and has half a dozen daylight-bright settings for superior clarity. I’m looking forward to running it in a close-quarters class; I was impressed by its potential the moment I shouldered the rifle and took my first look. MSRP: $1300. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Holosun Red Dots
Holosun is rocking the optics world with a gold reticle option on their latest red dot optics. The new color is said to be more visible for shooters with color blindness. The updated version of their updated aluminum-housed long-gun optic, the 512, has a choice of red, green, or gold reticles. The new reticle will also appear this year in their popular 510C model. Both have “shake awake” motion-detecting technology and solar backup power for their batteries. The 512 has a suggested retail price of $350.
Also emerging into the market is Holosun’s new reflex sight for pistols, the 507. It also has Shake Awake and solar charging, as well as a shooter’s choice of display color. It also has a choice of a 2 MOA dot with 32 MOA circle, or the circle only. It will have an MSRP in the mid-$300 range. —Eve Flanigan
Nikon Black Force 1000 1-6x24mm
Nikon did it once again with the creation of the Black Force 100 1-6x24mm, the company’s newest scope is versatile, high-quality, and clearly made with superior attention to detail. The optic was designed with not just rapid, but extreme-speed target acquisition in mind and is meant for use in close-quarters engagements and on moving targets. It’s a reasonably compact model packed with king-sized features.
The Black Force 100 1-6x24mm has lenses that are fully multi-coated with anti-reflective compounds and a rugged housing made to withstand serious use and abuse. It has a 30mm tube and one-piece main body tube construction. One of the wonderful things about this optic might sound small, but it isn’t: the windage and elevation adjustments click crisply and precisely without any slippage or mush. I do love truly well-made turrets.
The scope has an overall weight of 20.8 ounces, overall length of 11.6 inches, and generous eye relief. The view through the optic delivers clarity, field of vision, and an easy-to-focus-on glass-etched FORCEMOA reticle. The FORCEMOA reticle is made for continuous momentum firing and is precisely marked for wind and holdover. This is a stellar tactical-use optic from Nikon designed for close-to-mid-range use. MSRP: $649.95. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Sensight Digital Scope
One of the more unconventional optics on display at Industry Day at the Range was the Sensight.
The Sensight uses a dual camera system with 5MP and 13MP high resolution sensors on the front of the unit. This setup allows Sensight to provide 1.3-20x zoom with no manual focusing and real-time results.
The screen used for sighting, which has a resolution of 1280×720, is mounted directly in front of a touch screen panel that allows you to take complete control of the sight. This includes WiFi, Bluetooth, livestream capabilities, instant playback, full 1080HD video recording with 32GB of memory, and even a built-in ballistic calculator.
I was a bit skeptical at first, but it was incredibly intuitive, very user friendly, and actually delivered on everything it claimed to be able to do. For more info, visit www.sensight.co.il. —T. Logan Metesh
The Trijicon MRO Green Dot is the perfect example of awesome things coming in little packages. The MRO Green Dot is a reflex-style sight designed for lightning-quick target acquisition in tight spaces. It has a 2.0 MOA dot and can be used with both eyes open. For those of us with astigmatism, which interferes badly with red dot use, the green dot version of Trijicon’s MRO delivers clarity without the pulsing, blurry halo red dots tend to create. And, of course it’s fantastic even if your eyes are astigmatism-free.
Features include ½-MOA per-click value, a 25mm objective size, and waterproofing to 100 feet. The MRO is 2.6-inches long and weighs in at 4.1 ounces; eye relief is infinite. I actually have this green dot mounted on a recent home-defense AR-15 I built using multiple Aero Precision components. The Trijicon MRO runs on a single CR2032 lithium battery and has a battery life of one year with continuous use on the day setting in 70-degree Fahrenheit weather. It’s reliable, durable, and made to exacting specifications. If you prefer a green dot over a riflescope, try this one (it’s also offered as a red dot). MSRP: $749.00. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Lucid Optics Red Dots and Binoculars
Lucid Optics is rolling out three new choices this year. In February their new 8×42 binocular, the B8, will be ready for market at $679. These mid-size binos are ideal for hunting.
Also on the horizon for Lucid is a reflex pistol sight, called Little Mo. It will have an industry standard (read: Trijicon RMR) mount and a 3 MOA dot. Its round profile makes it perhaps less likely to catch on clothing and seatbelts, but it’s still plenty big to see through. In a departure from the company’s other illuminated optics, the Little Mo dot is red not blue, for visibility in all light conditions. It will be priced at $349, with availability anticipated in spring 2019.
Farther ahead in Lucid’s production calendar is a brand new long gun optic, the HDX. A prototype was on display at their SHOT Show booth. This compact tactical model is so new, the reticle type is still undecided. The HDX will be available no earlier than this fall, at an approximate price of $299.
Lucid Optic’s founder/owner Jason Wilson said this of the company’s slogan, “on target; under budget”:
“It’s not the case that you need to give away the kids’ college fund to get a high-quality optic. We are responsible to customers. We all shoot; we all use this gear. There’s not a clone of another company’s product here, we’re not a ‘me too’ company that has to make the same thing the others are. We cut the fluff. Here’s an example: Look at the one- to sixes- (sic: referring to magnification) out there. You look at them with both eyes open, you get seasick. Ours are a true 1.0. You won’t trip over yourself at a match, and when you need to rip it from 1.0 to 6.0 and reach a target at 400 yards, you need it to deliver.” —Eve Flanigan
Bushnell Nitro 2.5-10x44mm
Bushnell’s entire Nitro line is worth closer examination but when it’s time to select just one for close-to-mid-range use it has to be this: the Bushnell Nitro 2.5-10x44mm. This model is durable and made to last thanks to EXO Barrier Protection – a molecular-bonding glass coating that repels debris and prevents scratches – and IPX7 Waterproof Construction. It also has Ultra-Wide Band Coating to cut glare and enhance light transmission. Yes, this is a second focal plane – SFP – optic. Although first focal plane – FFP – optics tend to enjoy the greatest popularity, SFP’s offer a variety of benefits.
The Nitro gives the shooter a clear view with good field of vision and 3.6-inches of eye relief. It has a 30mm tube, an overall length of 13.398 inches, and weighs in at 23.9 ounces. Turrets are capped, eliminating concerns of losing zero due to accidental bumps, and the housing is durable. The Nitro has a gray finish and classic Multi-X reticle. This is a good choice for shooters interesting in an affordable, quality optic capable of more than only close-quarters work. MSRP: $349.99. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Carl Zeiss Conquest V4 3-12x44mm
The Zeiss Conquest V4 line is designed not only for the traditionalist but for the tactician looking for a rugged, superior-quality optic. It’s offered in a variety of models including the pictured 3-12x44mm, 1-4x24mm, 3-12x56mm, 4-16x44mm, 4-16x50mm, and 6-24x50mm. This family of Zeiss optics has a 4x zoom ratio and 30mm tube and has light transmission percentage to-the-eye listed as 90-percent which is excellent. The pictured model ships with capped turrets and has the ZEISS Ballistic Stop feature, ensuring a positive return to zero.
The Conquest V4 3-12x44mm has amazing clarity and a broad field of vision. It’s offered with either the Z-PLEX or ZBR-1 reticle, both of which draw your eye to the aiming point quickly and efficiently. This is a well-made optic with a rugged housing and impressive durability. Per-click value is 0.25-MOA. The optic is nitrogen purged and has a six-layer lens multi-coating. Needless to say incredible attention to detail and dedication to quality goes into these optics. This optic – this family of optics – is a wise choice if you’re interested in longer-distance work (and remember, not all tactical engagements take place in close quarters; these aren’t only for hunting). MSRP: varies by model. Check it out here. —Kat Ainsworth
Leupold Long Range and Night Optics
Leupold showed off new and updated long range and night hunting optics. Among the new offerings is the RX-2800, a 2,800-yard rangefinder. The stamp on this product reads “TBRw,” with the “w” indicating the addition of wind-reading capability to their former 1600 model rangefinder. The RX-2800 TBRw model is priced at $600.
Also for the long range shooters is the BX 3000, the company’s new range-finding binoculars made to be accurate out to 3,000 yards. The 10×42 binos will retail for $3,000 and are available now or very soon.
The biggest leap forward in combining optics and technology is seen in the company’s new HD Thermal range finder monocle. It has digital magnification up to 3x, and though it looks remarkably like a rifle optic, it has no reticle—current technology does not offer a way to adequately stabilize the heat-sensing optic through recoil. However, representatives joked that some customers have sent photos of having rigged up the monocle as a shooting optic.
This is an improved version of Leupold’s older infrared-reading model, in that certain temperatures can be programmed to not be read, thereby reducing visual noise and offering a truer picture of the desired target, most commonly feral hogs.
An interesting example was given of observing SHOT Show attendees through the device, which was set to “ignore” temps up to 98.6F and thus not highlight every member of the throngs passing by and through the Leupold booth. “I think one guy who came here must’ve had a fever,” said Shawn, the company rep. “He was the only one who really lit up.” The HD Thermal monocle is sure to be a hit with night hunters. MSRP is $699. —Eve Flanigan