Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Range time with the AR180b and Eotech 512

It's the day after Christmas, and time is available to relax.
How best? At the range of course!

Todays adventure was sighting in and learning the ways of my new Eotech 512 holographic sight. This sight, the StormWerkz mount, and the AR180b have been written about before in this blog. This post just brings them together a bit more.


Sighting in with the Eotech is not particularly difficult. It has coin slotted adjustment screws recessed into the body of the sight, and they are quite positive in action. I found the adjustment settled better with a smack to the sight after each change. Not hard, but maybe about as shocking as firing the rifle a few times. With many optics that don't have reticle locks, this helps seat an adjustment quicker.

At 100 yards, it took 15 rounds to bring the point of impact to one inch above point of aim. After that, the last four rounds in the magazine fell into less than an inch, which is not bad for a zero magnification sight with a one inch dot at it's center. I was curious if precision shooting would be possible with this sight, and this target answered the question for me.


With the silhouette target at fifty yards, I ran through a few magazines practicing target acquisition with the new sight. It's fast to bring up, far faster for me than iron sights. With every few shots fired, confidence builds quickly. Unlike many optical sights, this one is used pretty much heads up, and with eyes focused on the target. That takes getting used to, but only to break years of habits learned from standard scopes and iron sights.

At fifty yards, shooting rapidly as in the video, I had no problems
keeping hits on center of mass. With more practice, I expect to do better.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Range review of the Eotech 512 sight on an AR180b

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As covered directly below, two days ago I mounted an Eotech 512 on my AR-180b.
Today, against all odds, I made it to the range to sight it in.

Scene: Lonely range on Sunday afternoon. Lonely, because there is a driving, freezing, rain. Water has pooled on the ground and is threatening to freeze.
Nobody in their right mind is at the range on a day like this.... so of course I was there. I parked in four inches of water. It was the best parking spot... on the hill.

I'd like to report on sighting in the rifle and it's new weapon sight. I really would.
I can't report on sighting it in... because I didn't have to.

My targets were sheets of paper at twenty five yards. I only wished to get it as close to zero as I could, considering the blowing wind and driving rain,

I fired offhand, as all bench positions were deeply soaked, despite the roof.
Dropping the center dot of the sight close to the center of the paper, I fired
one round. Even with my aging eyes I had no problem seeing a quarter
inch hole in the center of paper at twenty five yards. Using that dot as my target, I fired four more rounds. A group of five, exactly under the dot, no adjustments required. The group measured under an inch.

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Choosing the other target, I finished the magazine one shot at a time
Lifting it to sight line each time, getting used to the way the holographic sight works. Another fourteen rounds at twenty five yards, raise-sight-fire, one at a time. About one second per round. I was able to cover all the holes with my hand.

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This Eotech holographic sight clearly has the potential to make rapid sighting so easy, as to be almost boring.

Exactly as it should be with a rifle like this.

Damn, this is a good sight!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Preliminary review: Eotech 512 holographic weapon sight

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The day I bought my Armalite, I planned on a holographic sight for it.
Not a red dot, not a magnified optical, but holographic.

In that genre there are many competitors, but all are measured by one standard.

To make any optics mount on the Armalite requires a special base.
While I normally shy away from something that requires parts that are
nearly custom made, this optical sight base design makes sense.
There are several makers of these bases, Armalite included.
I chose the Stormwerkz, as it's review are very good. I was not dissapointed.

With the holographic sight, there are any number of choices. MidwayUSA
alone lists 38 as I write this. I chose the Eotech 512 based on features, reviews, and price.

The 512 takes AA batteries, something I appreciate. This means the bricks of 'film' we buy for our digital cameras will also serve the sight, although with over 600 hours run time on a pair of batteries I don't see this breaking the bank. Should I splurge for some more expensive lithium batteries, I can make that over 1100 hours.

The Eotech reticle is not quite a one-of-a-kind, but it might be the best I have seen. Walking a large gun show yesterday, specifically to seek out and try different sights, I must have picked up twenty distinct forms of red dot and holographic sight. The reticle on the Eotech is clearly heads above all of them.

I had the pleasure of being accompanied by a non-shooting friend. While not a 'gun' person, he is more than a little technically competent. He tried the sights as I did, listening to my explanation of different features. When I finally found the only vendor to have an Eotech in their case, my friend immediately exclaimed the difference was worth what it cost.

The Eotech circle/dot reticle is different in that the 65 MOA circle is 'fuzzy', while the 1 MOA dot is quite precise.

What does this mean to the shooter?

In trying the various sights, I found a Chinese knock off of the Eotech at about one half the cost. It had a very sharp ring, and a somewhat larger and less precise dot. I found the Eotech version, with the fuzzy ring, to be extremely quick to bring on target. Compared to the sharper ring, it was almost twice as fast depending on the back ground.

Some reviews mentioned this 'fuzzy' ring as a flaw. I think it is very carefully designed to be what it is. The so-called 'fuzz' looks to be an artifact of the projectors design, and done on purpose. Whichever way it's there, it works very, very well.

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The controls are simple. On this model, only two buttons control all the features. They are rubberized and recessed, protected from rough handling.
Push the right one, it turns on. Push it again, the red reticle gets brighter. Push the left, it gets dimmer. Push both a moment, and it goes off.
The sight also has an 8 hour automatic turn off feature if left on and undisturbed.

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Mounting the sight took less than five minutes. One tough recessed allen headed
screw and one wrench, installed it on the Picatinny rail in moments. The sight also comes with an extra screw, having a large knurled head for thumb mounting, with a coin slot in it. I chose the recessed allen head as the sight will not be coming off the rail anytime soon.

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This sight radiates 'tough'. It has a very thick shield around the works, and I think that accounts for a good part of it's weight. I had no qualms about handing the sight to the carpet sharks inhabiting our home, to satisfy their curiosity. The children in this house could destroy an Abrams tank armed with nothing but rubber mallets, yet this sight seemed proof against their magic.

Mounted on the rifle, the impressiveness does not end. It takes only moments to get used to the sight picture, as it's as natural as can be. Simply focus on the target and bring the rifle to your line of sight. Don't actually look through the sight, just let it slide into the field of view. Once there, the reticle floats into space between shooter and target. Place the dot on the target...

I am beginning to understand why this holographic sight is so popular with our troops in battle. It's fast, very fast. Easy to use and seems almost bullet proof.

The price... is steep. More than half what I paid for the rifle it's on. But, you get what you pay for, and in optical sights that's more than true.

Photos to follow...............

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

New camera!

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Now this is going to take some time to learn.

I tried some test shots using my old Fugi, comparing it to the new Canon.
The Fugi is far simpler, more limited, but does a good job. It's getting replaced because I have finally worn down the lens motor gearing, after many thousands of photos. The Canon is far more complicated and is forcing me to relearn my old 35mm skills. That said, I expect some really good things from this camera.

You know, it can actually take photos of things that are touching the lens?

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None of these photos are photoshopped any more than cropping. No color or lighting correction at all. I have found the Canon S3 takes images that require almost no work at all to be usable. Cropping, sure, but little or no color correction.

This going to be fun!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Range review: StormWerkz AR-180b scope mount

The weather fairies looking upon today favorably, I was able to make it the
range and try out the Armalite AR-180b with it's new StormWerkz scope mount base.

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I'd like to start by making something clear. I'm not proud of my shooting today.
With this rifle, using metallic sights and generic Federal ammunition I have regularly shot 100 yard groups under two inches.

(Excuse mode on)

That said, I was shooting plinker ammo today thrown together with
mixed components, and doing so in weather cold enough that I was forced to wear
gloves or lose feeling in my fingers altogether. The twenty mile an hour
variable breeze did not help much either.

(Excuse mode off)

One major goal for the day was getting it sighted in properly on the paper an inch or so high at 100 yards giving me a reliable 200 yard dead on shooter. The other project was to explore the function of the mount itself. Since it's an easy on / easy off mount, I was curious what removing and reinstalling the optics would do to the rifles zero.

Towards that end I did a fairly simple test. Once sighted in and on the paper, I fired a ten round group from the bench taking care to follow the best procedure I know. Doing the same with my varmint rifle yields steady half inch groups at 100 yards.

After firing the control group, I fired another ten round group using exactly the same procedure with one large difference. In between each round (and before the first one) I dismounted the scope and reinstalled it by using the scope base. The base is spring loaded and dovetailed to the rifle, as described in a previous writing.

It should be noted that after firing even one round the scope and base is wedged quite tightly on the rifle's bracket. It requires a rather hard smack with the palm of the hand to dislodge it. I was concerned that this constituted mistreatment of the optics and fired another group when I was finished to make sure I wasn't damaging the scope. There is clearly no danger of the scope coming off during normal use.

The results are pretty clear. The control group measures right around two inches and is centered one inch to the right of the bull. The group fired while removing the scope after every round is about four inches and slightly over two inches to the right of the bull.

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As mentioned, another group was fired after the testing to check the scope once again. It was shot with a more accurate load using a different bullet, but not the rifles favorite. As shown, it centered nicely just above the bullseye and measures just under two inches.

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My conclusion: I need to test more, especially when I am not shivering. I suspect the mount settles in after a few shots and remains rock steady after that. I still intend to mount a holographic sight on this base, and of course I'll have to play some more once that's done.

Right now I see that removing and installing the optics with the base mount clearly changes the zero a recognizable amount. I will explore techniques for minimizing that tendency. Perhaps a settling smack with the hand after mounting the base will help.

I still like this mount set up, a lot, and I still intend to get at least one more.