There are many options when it comes to your choice of riflescopes. It is often difficult to decide which optic is best for you. What differentiates one from another? What makes the brand “a” superior to brand “b”? In our case, “why should I choose an ARKEN Optics scope over any of the other brands on the market?” You’re right to be curious. After all, the scope is at the heart of your shooting experience. It’s what connects you to your target. The poor quality glass will nearly always ruin even the best shooter’s best rig. Below we’ll discuss a few factors to keep in mind while choosing an optic.
A few things to establish a baseline, when choosing an optic, are:
• What focal plane do I want to use? First or Second focal plane?
• What type of glass is in my optic? HD, ED, etc.?
• What diameter tube should I choose?
• What type of reticle should I use?
• Mils or MOA?
• How accurate are the turrets and what are the adjustment intervals?
• What is the warranty and what does it cover?
• How much does it cost and is this optic a good value?
While some of these choices are subjective, some are significantly more technical. We’ll start with a few basics. What are the differences between the first and second focal planes? Which is right for me? In simplest terms, these refer to the location of the reticle lens within the scope tube itself. A second focal plane optic places the reticle lens closer to the eye and maintains a constant reticle size at all magnifications. This system works best for simple reticles such as crosshairs, but not as well with more complex reticle designs. Many reticles such as Mil-Dots will require the optic to be set at a specific power in order to properly measure the specified increments. A first focal plane (FFP) optic places the reticle lens closer to the objective lens. As you change magnification, the reticle will “shrink” or “grow” based on the magnification level. This allows the user to use the design of the reticle at any magnification. 1 Mil in the reticle will always equate to 1 Mil no matter the power setting. Which is best is up to the user and how they intend to use the optic/reticle combo.
This brings us to reticle choice. Reticles vary widely across the spectrum of optics available. They vary from a simple crosshair to bullet drop compensation (BDC), to the latest trend of gridded reticles. While complex and “busy” at first, these reticles all become much simpler as the user understands the intended implementation. A grid (or Christmas tree) style reticle eliminates almost all dialing of the turrets. The reticle is etched in the lens and has markings that are constant. This type of reticle is great for all types of shooting but really shines in a tactical and competitive shooting where quick adjustments to windage and elevation might be necessary. Another popular type of reticle is a simpler, Mil-Dot or Mil/MOA based crosshair. The ARKEN SHR Mil is the first of several options for the 4-14x FFP line. This reticle takes advantage of being in the first focal plane with a simple horizontal stadia with Mil and half Mil subtensions. It also has a vertical line that extends partially above the horizontal plane and fully below it. This design allows for easy viewing at low magnification as well as detailed markings and hold over reference points at higher magnification. This is a great reticle for those that prefer a “less cluttered” view but still want more advanced features in their optic.
In discussing reticles, you may ask “What are Mils and what is MOA and which should I use?” The answer to which you should use is entirely up to the user. Both Mil (Milliradian or MRAD) and MOA (Minute of Angle) are units that measure an angle. MOA is a measure of degrees, specifically, 1/60th of 1 degree. This equates to approximately 1 inch at 100 yards. This unit of measurement is incredibly common in the US and when assigning value to the accuracy of a rifle. You will often hear someone describe a rifle as being a “sub-MOA” gun, meaning that rifle is capable of consistently placing groups of shot within a 1-inch circle at 100 yards. Mils are very similar but measure in a slightly different manner. Mils measure 1/1000th of 1 radian. A radian is a measurement of an arc on a circle. What this translates to in the real world is a measurement of 1cm at 100 meters. Many think of this as a Metric vs. Standard. While not completely accurate, that is a close approximation. The easiest way to use these measurements in the field is to try not to think as much about what they equate to a particular distance and, rather, use the measurement itself at the range. Using the reticle, you can say “I need to come left .3 mils or 2 MOA,” rather than “I need to come left 1.5 inches.” What is critical when choosing between the two is that your turrets in the optic MATCH the measurement system in the reticle. The ARKEN Optics SH 4-14x44 SHR Mil uses a Mil based system and 1/10th Mil turrets. This ensures that any adjustment made in the turrets will match the intervals in the reticle without having to convert or approximate their values.
Now that we understand the Focal Plane, Mils/MOA, and Reticles, we can discuss adjustment turrets. A big measure of a scope’s quality is the turrets. You can have a great scope with incredible glass, but if the turrets don’t adjust properly, it becomes incredibly difficult to makes your shots on the 1st try. One way to deal with this is a gridded or BDC type reticle. These style reticles etch the image into the lens and don’t move. This means your turrets don’t factor in as much since you don’t move them once you’ve zeroed the optic. You’ll also want to consider the adjustment interval of the turret. For MOA scopes this is usually 1/4 MOA or 1/8 MOA. Some optics are even larger adjustments such as 1/2 or 1 MOA. For Mil based scopes, this is usually 1/10 Mil. The finer the adjustment interval, the more precise you can be with your adjustments. Instead of moving half an inch at 100 yards, you can move an 8th of an inch. For comparison, 1/10 Mil is about 0.36 inches at 100 yards where 1/4 MOA would be 0.25 inches. Most scopes measure their turret’s tracking (the ability to move up and down or left and right in the increment specified, precisely) in percentage. An average scope might have a tracking deviation of up to 4% meaning you might move more or less than your intended distance by up to 4% in either direction. At short range, this will be fractions of an inch, but at 1000 yards, you’re looking at some significant distance from where you intended to be. Even high-end, high-dollar optics can be measured in 0.75 to 1.5% deviation. At ARKEN, we decided to prioritize our turrets. We still use high-end glass, quality material and coatings, and all the quality features you ask for, but we wanted to make sure that our turrets had tactile clicks, and that they tracked with a precision beyond the competition. We have tested these to 0.5% or less deviation. We’ve done this in addition to providing an etched reticle to ensure that if you miss a shot, it won’t be because of the optic.
This brings us to glass and scope tube selection. There are a lot of manufacturers calling their lenses all sorts of things. HD, ED, XD, etc. but what are these terms and what do they mean? When it comes to HD glass, there is no real industry standard. Most manufacturers, including ARKEN OPTICS, use this term to mean a high-quality glass that provides better edge-to-edge clarity, light transfer, and color. Cheaper lenses will often distort toward the outer edges of the lens, reduce the amount of light transmitted through the optic, and can wash out or distort the color itself. ED glass, however, does have a more measured standard. ED stands for “Extra-Low Dispersion” meaning the lens is able to better allow the light (and image) entering the optic to be focused and transmitted through the optic to your eye. This glass is the highest quality and will give you the most clarity and light. While this model scope is equipped with HD glass, it is some of the highest quality glass in this tier. We’ve used HD glass to keep the price of the optic reasonable without making major sacrifices in quality. ED glass will almost always result in a larger scope tube diameter (usually 34mm) and an increased price of almost double in most cases. Scope tube diameter generally doesn’t change the function of the scope much, but a larger tube can transmit more light simply due to the slightly larger lenses contained within the optic. We’ve chosen to use the most common tube body for this model optic, which is the 30mm tube.
The final questions are “What is the warranty and what does it cover?” and “Is this scope a good value?” Arken Optics offers a Lifetime Warranty on all of our products. This means that if your scope breaks for any reason, other than intentional damage, we will repair or replace it. If you choose to “torture test” your optic by beating it on a tree (I’ve seen it happen) you’re on your own. But if you drop your rifle from the deer stand and break your optic, we’ll take care of you. Whether or not this optic is a good value is entirely subjective. Compared to other scopes in this style and price range, you will be sacrificing in one or more of the categories we’ve discussed. We feel that we have produced an incredibly high-quality optic with a First Focal plane reticle, excellent coating, incredibly high-quality glass, industry-leading turrets, and a highly functional reticle while keeping the cost incredibly competitive. All with a Lifetime Warranty.