When I was first interested in testing optics on the AR, before I even put out the feelers or any requests for scopes to test, a friend at US Optics emailed me offering scopes to try out. There was no special request for coverage or anything like that. It was just a “hey, want to try out a few scopes?” Does the bear use the restroom in the woods?
He sent me two US Optics scopes, the SR-8c and the SR-4c, which is a 1-4. Curiously, he also sent a Swarovski 1-6 and an Aimpoint Micro, which both seem like interesting scopes and good points of reference. A little bit later Ilya sent me the SWFA 1-6, and the 3-15×42, which I will be trying on the FN.
I started with the SR-8 because something with the potential flexibility of a 1-8 power scope really seemed to be the ticket. For a rifle that has a likelihood of being used at close range, I think that having the low end of the magnification be as low as possible is more important than having a lot on the high end. 1x seems about as low as one would want. I’ll be very surprised if negative power optics become the next big thing. On the high end, I’ve been using 9 and 10 power optics to do most of my shooting for the last several years, so moving my top end down to 8 is not really that big a sacrifice. Also, this is a scope that I can’t afford, so it had a certain lure right off the bat.
Compared to the other 1-‘x’ optics currently in my possession, the SR-8 is set apart by its size and weight. All by itself it looks fairly innocent, but in contrast to other scopes, on the AR, or just picking it up, it is really a big, heavy thing. The US Optics website lists the weight at 25.6 ounces and the length at 12 inches. My rifle without an optic was quite svelte, but also quite useless (no irons as of yet). It was a nice feeling to put an optic this rifle. It did make the rifle noticeably heavier, but I have never felt like it was at all detrimental or too much. The balance of the rifle wasn’t really affected meaningfully. The rifle balances right at the magwell. I wish it were just slightly forward, as I don’t mind a slight bit of muzzle heavy-ness..
This scope was sent with a Larue extended cantilever mount already on it (all the scopes from my friend at USO were sent with Larue mounts). This was a good thing because this scope is also different than the others, in that it really needs to be mounted quite far forward in order to get the eye relief correctly accounted for. I have it mounted as far forward on my upper receiver as it will go and the eye relief is right on for me. Even with a quality receiver and handguard such as this Noveske, bridging the mount from upper receiver to handguard just seems like it would invite trouble, so a mount like this is the only way to go without having a monolithic upper.
Part of what could make this scope difficult to set up correctly is that the area forward of the turret saddle where the front ring attaches is quite small (see above photo). There is not much leeway as to where the ring can go. With a conventional upper a mount like the Larue is the only way to get it to go. In my case the standard AR sight height is just a bit too high, so while the Larue works, I would rather have something lower. I think that for me to find an option that would really fit me better with this scope, I would probably need to have a monolithic upper so I could put it farther forward with a lower mount or conventional rings. Having used the keymod handguard for some time now, going to a monolithic, especially a one with a quad rail would be a huge step backwards to me. I believe the height of the scope will be to its detriment in comparison to the other scopes in the test, but it’s part of the scope and I can’t do anything about it, so there ya go.
I was really interested in how the scope would perform at the bottom of the magnification level. I have read a lot about these scopes but have not handled very many or very extensively. When I first received the scopes I spent a lot of time comparing them at low power. What I found out was that when the scope is set to 1x to some degree they all show an image that appears to be smaller than what the naked eye sees. The SR-8 seems to show the smallest image at 1x of all the scopes I have on hand to try.
In most ways this is an objectively bad photo. It is useful here because you can see the actual size of the most excellent Toyota 4Runner just outside the scope image, just off to the right. This should give you a good indication just how much smaller the scope image appears at 1x.
At first it seemed as though setting the scope at approximately 1.75x yielded an image that was the same size as the naked eye. Later I noticed it was smaller at that setting than as viewed with the naked eye. Later still I noticed it was larger. What I found out was that the apparent size of an object in reference to the object as viewed with the naked eye changes depending on what distance the object is viewed through the scope at. Objects closer than a yard or so always appear larger than as viewed with the naked eye, even at 1x. Step back a few yards and the scope needs to be turned ‘up’ slightly to make the image the equivalent size of the naked eye. I found that leaving the scope at approximately 2x seems to be a good compromise close range setting. This started me questioning the necessity, or even the utility of a “true 1x” scope.
The scope is set at about 1.5X in the top part of the photo (the illumination is on as well). The vehicle is approximately 15 yards away (distance to door handle). I did my best to retain the camera position with the zoom exactly the same and to crop the photos to precisely the same dimension. After some trial and error with the scope I got them to appear the same size at ~1.3x. To do the same thing with a target at 9 yards I needed to set it at 2x.
I’ll continue elaborating on my subjective impressions of the scope next time. Thanks for reading.