A new product arrived the other day for review. Valentine at IOR-Valdada Optics wanted me to do a review on their new Close Range Tactical scope. I get offers like this on a semi-regular basis from any number of manufacturers and have a back-log of items needing put through their paces. Not enough time in the day it seems to get to them all but I try to get to one whenever I find down time. He sent two other scopes along with the CRT. They look good but my personal interest is low in them so I claimed an SC staff prerogative and promptly put them on the bottom of the pile for a future review.
The CRT caught my interest because of a recent conversation I had with a troop familiar with our current situation overseas. He made mention of the fact that some soldiers have been having issues with the optical device that is mounted on their M4 carbines. While an awesome tool for close range work, if your target finds itself lucky enough to be beyond 200 yards or so the standard zero to 2x magnification dot sights tend to make for some less than ideal shooting. Leave it to government to issue a CQB sight on a combat weapon used in the desert! Worse, as shown during the Mogadishu festivities of a few years past, the 1:7 twist of the rifle renders, to some extent, ineffective an otherwise excellent rifle by over stabilizing the bullets. The 5.56 round in any of its given weights is far more effective, in terms of terminal ballistics, when fired at a slower rate of twist. The old 1:12 twist rate left horrendous wounds that had some folks all atwitter with the horror of it all. Course, the soldier inflicting those wounds was plenty happy because his target tended to fall down and not get up. Still, 1:12 was a bit too unstable so improvements could be made. However, the 1:7 twist required to stabilize the very long 64 grain tracer is a bit too tight a twist to allow the shorter 62 grain FMJ to do its grisly, but necessary work, thereby rendering it less effective at range. Beyond a certain range, while the bullet can certainly penetrate a target due to its three-part design and steel penetrator, it does not do as well at stopping the target cold in his tracks. If you are listening Uncle Sam, how about equipping our troops with a slower twist and to hell with what certain Humane organizations think. It's about winning wars and keeping our troops alive, not appeasing doctors from Sweden. Another topic for a different article, I'll leave it at that.
What has all this to do with this particular scope? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. Either way it got me thinking. The idea that soldiers are being required to shoot with a Dot site, at long range, while limited to 1x or 2x doesn't give me a warm fuzzy. While I do not see this particular CRT ever being adopted by the military (Foreign Design compared to Local), the concept is a good one, or can be with some improvements. At 1.1x, you can use the scope like a normal dot sight in a CQB environment. Heads-up, both-eyes-open, situational awareness is what it delivers. But if you are required to take a longer shot the ability to dial up to 4x is there. Many a Russian soldier fell to German snipers using 4x riflescopes. An equally vast number of Germans fell to Russian 3x scopes. While neither power is ideal to the Desert where ranges of 400 yards or more are the norm, it's a step up from a zero magnification CQB sight. Particularly a sight that was never really intended to be used at long range.
Two riflescopes now exist that fit this need. Scopes that can allow a soldier or police officer to keep a CQB ready rifle, but still retain some method of long distance marksmanship. The 1-3x14mm Leupold Mk4 CQT is the first example. At 14mm the objective is rather smallish for the amount you will pay for this sight. When it first came out, it was a bit cost prohibitive but as I understand it, the price has come down a bit and one can now get one for anywhere between $800 and $1200 depending on how you equip it. Still, it is no small bit of change and that little 14x objective just doesn't impress. The IOR CRT is not exactly cheap either. Its listed retail is $695. Like the Mk4 1-3x14, you can find it on the Sniper Country PX and other retail web sites, for a good bit less than listed retail, but its still not a small amount of cash. But for the money it offers a fair bit of value. As soon as we can procure a 1-3 Mk4 for review, we hope to do a comparison with them side by side.
For now I can give you the essentials of the IOR 1.1-4x26 CRT. As stated, the objective is 26mm and it comes with a 30mm tube. The objective end is not belled. No need with the 26mm lens. The scope is hefty at 15.6 ounces. It feels good mounted to the AR15 carbine and maybe helps the rifle feel a bit more settled under rapid fire. The field of view is 79 feet at 100 yards at 1.1x and 23 feet at 100 yards at 4x. At a room entry distance of 20 to 22 feet, the field of view at 1.1x is roughly 72 inches. At low power and using the both-eyes-open method of sighting, the scope feels similar to the Aimpoint Comp M and ML I reviewed back in 1999. At low magnification the exit pupil measures 23.6mm. A very generous figure and very bright in low light. At max magnification the exit pupil is 6.5mm, still more than most normal-length riflescopes by two to four millimeters! Which just goes to show why small compact scopes of moderate magnification have been so popular in the hunting community as well as recommended by several well-known LE marksmen. Bigger is not necessarily better. Usually bigger is just heavier, with little more to offer in real terms.
The ocular is as large as a normal tactical scope, measuring just over 38mm. Eye relief is 3.75 inches. That is somewhere between a long eye relief scope and a typical 10x tactical scope. Some will be happy to know that the reticle is mounted in the first focal plane, so that it grows in size as you increase magnification. There are pros and cons for this method but I personally do not feel this is necessary or wise in a scope with this small magnification range. Naturally some will feel otherwise. In this case, it's a detriment due to the thin reticle which we will discuss below.
This is not a mil-dot scope but one can still use the gap between the heavy outer posts and the thinner inner cross wires to range at any power. I am not certain there is much need for ranging on a scope of this design with the current reticle. With the generous field of view you'd definitely be at 4x for anything over 100 yards so whatever advantage is gained by a changing reticle seems lost on a low power scope with what amounts to a hunting type reticle. After discussing it with IOR, it appears that product planning for 2003 includes the CRT with a fixed reticle of a larger size. This is good news because the current reticle, at 1.1x, tends to get totally lost against vegetation and dark backgrounds. Which means it may not be visible against dark clothed perpetrators in need of a change in their physical disposition.
I feel that the shrinking reticle, in this particular case, appears far too thin at 1.1x. It is certainly a very crisp and clear image and the reticle stands-out well enough at 1.1x in decent light, but for close range CQB style work in lower light, the reticle nearly vanishes. However, as designed, the case can be made that you use the illuminated dot in that situation, which this scope has, and not the non-illuminated cross hair. Still, every time I look through this scope I still feel that the cross wire is too thin at 1.1x and worry that they would be lost in the clutter of vegetation or dark clothing. I also felt that on the dot equipped site, the dot was too small and too dim at 1.1x where you'd use it the most. It needs to be much larger and brighter. At higher magnifications I feel you would use the reticle more than the illuminated dot, so at 1.1x, the dot should be large enough and be adjustably bright enough to stand out well on target. It is not. With this in mind I called Valdada and was informed, thankfully, that in 2003 there will be a much larger illuminated dot available as well as a thicker reticle in the CRT. Apparently I was not the only one to complain about the overly fine duplex and dot.
The GLASS ETCHED reticle is a three post design known as the 4A in reticle vernacular. It's your basic duplex reticle without the thick upper post. Very popular in hunting circles and in Europe, as well as increasingly popular here in the States. The 4A reticle can be had two ways: either with an illuminated dot in the middle, or the more popular and slightly more visible illuminated circle. If you plan to purchase the current 2002 version of the 1.1-4x26 CRT I would suggest you get the illuminated circle. As stated above, I found the dot to be far too much on the small side at 1.1x. It was fine at 4x, but still not very large and not nearly bright enough. That was a surprise because generally, IOR illuminated scopes run from very dim at low setting (dim enough for NODs I believe) to sufficiently bright at the high setting. Overall, I felt that the 4A with the circle provided a better sight alignment at the lowest magnification. As an aside, during my conversation with Valdada, they mentioned that a tactical reticle will also available in 2003 CRT. Something along the lines of the MP-8 or Mil-dot. In addition, the dot will be much brighter at its higher settings. This is a MUST for this product. The current illumination level is too low. Am I repeating myself? Good. You get the point.
Illumination levels are controlled by a third turret on the left side of the scope. It is numbered from 0 through 7 and can be rotated to either extreme by turning the turret in any direction. You can go back to 0 illumination from 7 or skip from 1 to 0 to 7 without having to reverse direction. While each setting has a solid detent, there is no final stop to prevent you from going around the clock. Rotating the turret just like you would a normal tactical turret changes the illumination level from very dim to bright. At the setting of 1 while on 1.1x I believe you could use night vision glasses with this scope without a problem. It's that dim. I cannot test that theory, as I do not own any NODs. But it's a very dim dot at setting 1 and at 1.1x it's nearly impossible to see, just like the Aimpoint ML, meant for use with night vision goggles. The 4A Circle is larger and stands out better in comparison to the dot. Both the dot and circle versions are currently illuminated in a green color and both are powered by a standard 3 volt calculator battery, the CR2032 (the one about the size of a nickel and found at your local Department store). For 2003 the reticle color will be changed to red and the brightness boosted drastically at the higher settings. Battery replacement is a simple matter of unscrewing the end cap from the third turret to expose the battery, which can then be flicked out with your finger. It's very user friendly in terms of maintenance. No tools required.
Immediately beneath the illumination turret is a fourth turret. This one is unobtrusive and small, about 10mm wide. It is a MagLock system similar to the Posilock found on the Burris Scope line, to assure zero reticle-shift under the heaviest recoil. IOR has been equipping most of their Tactical line with this feature. You never need to adjust the screw under the cap. It is factory set for the proper tension. Don't screw with it. Better yet, ignore it completely. It's one of those nice features that work that you need never think about.
The Maglock system is probably unnecessary on this particular scope. The CRT seems well designed for carbine shooters in the CQB role who are looking for some extra magnification when needed. However its still a good feature to have if you plan on mounting the CRT on a large caliber hunting rifle or tactical rifle used for close range work. This particular scope would be especially well suited to a 416 Remington Magnum meant for hunting dangerous game, where the ranges are medium to damned short and very exiting. If you are considering a hunt in Grizzly country, think about a scope of this type in ANY brand. Small and quick to target are what you need. Long range reticules aren't much good when a pissed off grizzly is in your face. Same thing goes for nice "friendly" little critters like Cape Buffalo. That 4-20x 80mm tactical boat anchor you are so proud of isn't going to be pleasant when you have a Volkswagen-sized piece of beef charging you from 30 yards. The same can be said for a nutcase on crack or your ever-friendly Taliban maggot. A case can and has been made that riflescopes of this size are all that is needed for Police work in the urban environment. Used in that way, the Maglock may actually prove advantageous when mounting the CRT on medium to large caliber rifles for medium/close range work.
Focus is typical. The ocular housing can be rotated from -4 diopters to +4. Getting the scope focused is pretty basic and eye-glass wearers will have no problem. With almost four inches of eye relief anyone can shoot this scope without worrying about a black eye during recoil. The tube, as stated above, is 30mm. This allows a good bit of extra light through compared to your typical 1" tube of this design and is a favorite feature on most tactical quality scopes today. A 30mm tube allows more internal adjustment and in the case of the CRT, you have 80 moa of adjustment overall. While this scope is not really designed for true long range shooting due to the limited magnification, you have the ability to dial up if needed. The scope is 10 to 10.5 inches in length (varies depending on where you set the diopter ring) and very robust. It has a one piece STEEL housing, which contributes to its 15-ounce weight. As I said, it's a tuff little package. The lenses are coated with the Carl Zeiss T-3 patent coatings and are made in Germany by Schott. The tube is o-ring sealed and nitrogen filled. Internally it is water, shock, and fog proof.
Magnification changes are quickly affected by turning the large ring just forward of the ocular bell. Elevation and windage changes are typical of tactical turrets. Each click equals ½ moa at 100 yards. For you hunters that means ½" per click at 100 yards. Plenty sufficient for setting a zero but also a little faster than ¼moa clicks in the field. The clicks are very solid in feel and nicely audible. Jumping past your intended setting will not be an issue. The low mounted turrets are housed under removable caps. One thing I did not like about the turrets was the lack if any numbering system other than the numeral 0. This is just like your average hunting scope and I feel that a tactical scope deserves indications at specific clicks. You do have the standard tall and short tick marks found on every tactical scope from Leupold to Schmidt und Bender, but in this case there are no numbers to indicate how far you have clicked. Again, just like a hunting scope. Unlike a hunting scope, you still have good markings every half-minute, excellent click feedback and a visual reference for the clicks but no numbers. This is an early version of the CRT and obviously, the final production version for 2003 is already under a product improvement schedule.
Numbers on the turrets will be my suggestion for the product-improved version. I want to see numbers ever 5 or 10 moa. Next to the too fine reticle, this is probably my biggest complaint. The size of the reticle at 1.1x is an issue that can be debated based on personal preference. But numbers on the turret are something I expect on a tactical scope, even if it is intended for close range. I am sure the logic went something like this: The scope is intended for combat style AR15 use and short-range large caliber hunting rifles no come-ups needed once set to the rifle's zero. But since the turret is well marked otherwise, in the same manner as all other tactical scopes, I personally think the addition of numbers every 10 moa makes sense, particularly for users who will take this scope afield and who want to dial up for longer range shots. This being said, as an owner, you can easily add markings (either moa clicks or the actual range the clicks represent for your cartridge) but this should have been provided on the scope from the factory. I feel it's a shortcoming easily fixed and I plan on suggesting it. One thing I have learned about IOR, they are happy to improve their products for our market, once they understand what we are looking for.
Finally, one rotation of the turret is equal to 26 moa. Using my own rifle data for my 700P in .308 win, shooting the Fed GM2 cartridge with the 175 grain Sierra HPBT Match projectile, that means one revolution of the turret will get me to 830 yards! Not too shabby I must say. It means that, unlike my ¼ moa scopes, I need only go one and a-half times around the dial to get to 1000 yards or meters. This is a feature I particularly like since I have experienced one or more interesting incidents using ¼ moa turrets with only 15 moa per revolution. When you are in a hurry it's: "Hmmm let's see, was that two revolutions or three? Oh bloody hell, back to zero and start over." Not so with riflescope's like this. One of the great features of the Leupold LR M3 is its ability to go the distance in one turn. The IOR 1.1-4x26 CRT does require an extra half turn but unlike the 3.5-10x40 LR M3 the 1.1-4x26 CRT can actually reach out to 1000 yards without needing a tapered base. That being said, the CRT is not really intended for those kinds of ranges. I feel that 4x scopes are best employed under 300 to 450 yards - but there are plenty of WWII snipers who would argue with me in no uncertain terms! For hunters, this type of scope is probably all any big game hunter needs in terms of construction, magnification and size. We Americans all like more of everything, but the reality is that, given realistic ranges and skill levels, short, bright scopes with moderate magnification make a lot more sense than large scopes with gobs of magnification. Varmint shooters on the other hand need read no further. It's not the scope for you.
Now, what had all that to do with the issues going on overseas? Not exactly sure, but it seems to me that our troops need a better system on their carbines and rifles if they are going to be expected to effectively use optics in desert or mountainous terrain. While every troop cannot be issued a high power tactical sniper scope (nor should he) if they are going to be issued optics as is the current trend, they should be issued optics that will allow them to do the job in the terrain they are expected to fight. I would never expect to see this IOR used by our troops, but in some ways it's a better system then what some have told me they are currently using. While all this has no bearing on this scope review or this particular scope's performance, it was in my mind enough to put this device on top of the pile of material awaiting a review. The CRT, or small scopes like it, could easily fit the bill for a CQB to medium range rifle scope to equip units deploying to areas where you may be engaged from zero feet to all the way across that ugly gorge back yonder. The Aimpoint and ACOG systems work for what they were designed to do. CQB fighting and a little beyond. But beyond that? More magnification please.
As far as this scope in particular, while not inexpensive, it compared extremely well to other short tubes of this design and it offers a bit more brightness than most. Combined with its illumination feature for those needing a dot sight at close range, the CRT, once the improved version arrives stateside in 2003, will be an excellent little package. I have hunted over Nikon, Leupold and other brands of long eye relief scopes and appreciated all their abilities. The CRT goes three steps further, tactical turrets, illuminated dot and tons of internal adjustment. While I really disliked the missing numbers on the turrets, the scope's performance on the AR15 carbine and .308 rifle both impressed me and made me think I may need something like this for my short action, short barreled Remington 700 for deer season. In the CQB role it felt very quick -- like the Aimpoint in employment, yet it offered far more magnification when needed. Repeatability was as expected of this brand. Very accuracy in terms of tracking and it shot the "box" with no outstanding anomalies. With phenomenal glass and good repeatability this will be a popular scope considering the price of the competition, primarily the Mk4 1-3x. If IOR rectifies the missing turret numbers in addition to the planned improvements for the new year (Brighter Dot, thicker reticle), I could see myself getting one of these and using it between the AR15 for CQB training and/or the .308 for hunting. At low magnification, this scope operated just like the Aimpoint Comp M dot sight. Only it has the ability to be cranked up for long range work. I like it. Or I will once the improved version arrives. But I have to say, until these improvements are made, I can not fully recommend the scope as it currently stands. The current reticle is just too fine in width for use against a wide variety of backgrounds.