Technical Evaluation: ELCAN C79 Scope

The ELCAN (Ernst Leitz Canada) C79 telescopic sight was adopted by Canada in 1989 and is currently in-service on the C7A1 rifle (Canada’s version of the M16A2) and C9A1 light machine-gun (Canada’s version of the FN Minimi). While this scope is not exactly a sniping scope in the sense that we are accustomed to seeing a fixed 10-power scope in this role, I think there has been sufficient discussion and interest in this scope to merit analysis. I own such a scope and have it mounted on a FN-FAL. ELCAN has also designed and marketed telescopic sights upon a similar platform in 6X and 10X called the Hi-Mag and night vision sights called the Blackcat. The ELCAN scope retails in the $850.00 vicinity. You can visit their website. ELCAN is a division of Raytheon, Inc.
The scope

The optical clarity of this scope is outstanding thanks to the following characteristics: High quality glass, a proprietary lens coating and an objective lens diameter of 28mm coupled with a magnification of 3.4X that produces an exit pupil of 8.23mm. The scope body is very robust, to the point of being somewhat heavy. The outside of the scope is rubber armor coated. “Fixed sights” are molded into the upper portion of the rubber armor coating for “close-in” work. There are no windage and elevation adjustments – more on that later; this minimizes the number of entry points wherein water, let’s say, could penetrate the assembly. There are no focusing or parallax adjustments. My overall impression is that the scope body is VERY sturdy and robust.
The reticle

The reticle, a picket type, is quite simplistic in design. The triangular portion at the very top of the picket illuminates in the dark thanks to a tritium coating. There are two horizontal hash marks, which are visible on the right-hand side of the picket, which subtend 76 centimetres at 300 metres; moreover, there are two longitudinal hash marks on each side of the picket. While I am not privy to the design specifications, I dare surmise that the Canadian Military wanted an idiot proof – pardon me, a user-friendly reticle and therefore opted for this very intuitive reticle. Imagine having to train EVERYBODY on how to use mil-dots? I think this reticle accomplishes what it was supposed to do, enable hits out to 300 meters, period. This is not a sniping reticle as there is no way to easily compensate for windage.
The mount

The mount clamps onto any MIL-STD-1913 rail. It is tightened via two thumbscrews on the left-hand side of the mount (See figure 1). Unfortunately, no torque specifications were provided, only “hand tight” is specified. I would have preferred hex nuts, such as those found on Badger and Leupold rings, which can be torqued precisely, but I’m picky. At worst, a slotted thumbscrew wherein a coin could be used to securely tighten the scope to the rail would have been appreciated. The curious thing about the mount is that it contains the windage and elevation adjustments (See figure 1). Ironically, windage adjustments are effected using a coin. The windage adjustments are located on the front left side of the mount. Unfortunately, even though there is a clock-wise arrow cast into the mount above the windage screw, there are no markings that indicate what direction (left-right) your group will move when you adjust the windage screw. This shortcoming has apparently been corrected. Elevation adjustments are accomplished thanks to one of two cams. You can buy this scope in either the 7.62 NATO or 5.56 NATO configuration. Naturally, I opted for the 7.62 NATO cam for my FN-FAL. The cam is graduated from 200 to 800 metres in 100 metre increments and raises or lowers the scope according to the elevation dialed. There are no intermediate positions between these 100 metre increments. Zeroing for elevation is accomplished by flicking a tab on the cam out of engagement such that it disengages the cam from the scope. Once weapon zero is attained, the tab is then flicked back into engagement. The mount is, in my opinion, the biggest failing of this sight. Because all windage and elevation adjustments are external, there is no way to prevent the ingression of dirt, mud, snow, ice, etc., which could jam the elevation adjustments. Furthermore, an external adjustment scope, by its very nature, will force a different stock to cheek weld depending on the elevation setting dialed. In my humble opinion, an external adjustment scope is a technological regression.
The big picture

This is NOT a sniping scope. Moreover, it is a marginal combat scope for the following reasons: As mentioned earlier, the mount allows the ingression of foreign matter, which can render the elevation adjustment inoperable. This, in my opinion, is not acceptable. Furthermore, the thumbscrews that secure the scope mount to the rail are on the left-hand side. Given that the FN-FAL (in my case) has the cocking handle on the left-hand side, an interference occurs, especially when wearing gloves or mittens, when you retract the cocking handle. A similar situation exists with the AR-15, albeit to a lesser extent. Lastly, as mentioned earlier, this sight is heavy. When you couple the weight of the scope with the externally adjustable mount you obtain a sight that modifies the center of gravity of the entire weapon to a considerable extent. In all fairness, I believe that this scope was designed for “in-line” weapons such as the AR-15 and AR-10. This scope could have been a real winner in my books if it had a fixed mount and ballistic corrections on the reticle itself or internal adjustments such as those found on the Leupold M3 or Kahles ZF-69/84/M/95.

The bottom line

Positive aspects
Superb optics
Very robust optical assembly

Negative aspects
Questionable mounting system
External windage and elevation adjustments

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