Falcon Optics Mil Mil Scope
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- Last updated: 16/12/2016
Mil-Dot reticles are now commonplace even in budget scope ranges but I’d bet most users only use the dots as a rough-and-ready guide to hold over: the reason being that estimating range and calculating holdover requires a bit of maths, and unless you’re doing the sums required so regularly that it becomes second nature, it can all seem just that bit too complicated.
What’s more, the majority of Mil-dot scopes have their reticles in the second focal plane (SFP). Scopes are easier/cheaper to build this way, but it means that the reticle will only be correctly scaled for measurement at a particular magnification –which may or may not correspond to the 10x usually specified - and at other magnification settings a conversion factor will need to be included in any calculations. More sums!
Things get trickier still if you compensate for drop and wind drift by dialling in your corrections, since, despite the fact that Mils, a.k.a. MRADS, or Milliradians (to give them their full name), are a metric measurement (1 Mil subtends 1 metre @ 1 kilometre), most manufacturers continue to install Mil-dot reticles in scopes fitted with legacy adjustment systems that are calibrated in non-metric, minute-of-angle (M.o.A.) gradations (1 M.o.A. subtends a whisker over 1” at 100 yards, but 1 Mil subtends 3.6” at the same distance). Thus, whilst the rangefinding/holdover system is metric, the adjustment system is Imperial, and another set of calculations is required to determine the number of M.o.A. clicks required to effect a specific adjustment in Mils. Yet more sums!
This is all too much for most of us, so we pass on using our reticle subtensions to determine the range to the target and use a laser rangefinder instead, and install ballistic software on our phones to do the maths and tell us how many clicks to dial in. Nevertheless, the quality of the firing solution provided by the software is only as good as the data you enter, and if that isn’t spot-on, then the result is a first-round miss. To get a second round on target quickly with a Mil-dot/M.o.A. scope the only option is to assess the position of the point-of-impact relative to the point-of-aim and aim off accordingly for the next shot.
OK, but what are you going to write down in your log? “16 clicks/4 M.o.A. UP plus 0.25 Mils”... is a bit of a dog’s dinner, appropriately enough for such a “mongrel” scope, and the alternative is yet more sums!
A scope with ‘joined up’ calibrations
There is an easier way: buy a riflescope that has both its turrets and its reticle calibrated in Milliradians. And if this scope also has its reticle in the first focal plane (FFP) then so much the better, since this will remain scaled to the target throughout the magnification range.
Once, you had to dig deep into your pocket for such common sense. For example, I have a very nice Vortex Razor HD 5-20x50 Mil/Mil FFP scope at home. The cost? Almost £2,000. Yet now Staffordshire-based Falcon Optics are offering a Mil/Mil FFP scope in a comparable 5.5-25 X 50 format for a staggeringly-reasonable £299, or £349 for a version with an illuminated reticle. The obvious question was “is this the bargain of the decade, or simply too good to be true?”, so I contacted Falcon’s Nick Watts, who kindly offered to send me an example to try out.
The test scope is the M25(50)B model, fitted with a non-illuminated B20 reticle. Truth to tell, it’s not the most elegant scope in the world, with a long saddle mounting tall, flared turrets, a degree of asymmetry in the positioning of the side focus and windage turrets, and a prominent plug securing the coil spring for the erector tube. But the scope proved easy to set up, with plenty of space on the 30mm main tube, and nice flat turret-tops to balance the bubble level on. In use all three turrets were easy to grip, as was the rubberised zoom ring; the windage and elevation turrets were clearly marked, with direction arrows and turn-indicator lines showing on the turret cores under the dials; the turrets were also positive in operation, with audible and reasonably tactile clicks, giving consistent, repeatable adjustments; and the dials are zero-able, albeit via a relatively basic system in which three grub screws spaced around the head of the dial are tightened against the knurled head of the inner core. Finally, at the rear of the eye-bell there’s a rubberised fast-focus ring that gives an ample - if unspecified - dioptre range.
The Falcon is well-built too, with a high standard of quality control that sees scopes dry-nitrogen-filled several times over, and factory tested to ensure they’re waterproof and able to withstand recoil forces equivalent to those generated by the potent .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge. Then, when they get to the UK they’re subjected to further inspection, and having passed this, they’re covered by a Limited 10-year Warranty for defects in materials and or workmanship. What’s more, Falcon also provide the best instruction manual I’ve seen, complete with an excellent troubleshooting section.
The next step was to get the Falcon zeroed in on my new HS Precision Lightweight Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor. A fortuitous bit of bore-sighting put my first shot just high and right of the point-of-aim at 100m, so all I had to do was measure the drop (13cm) and offset (6cm) with the reticle and dial in the corrections. Each click is 0.1 Mil, which equals 1cm at 100m, so no sums were required, just 13 clicks down and 6 left. Gratifyingly, the second shot was right where I wanted it, so I left the turrets where they were and shot two more rounds, which formed a good ¾” group.
As well as indicating the accuracy potential of the rifle and ammunition, these first shots with the Falcon suggested that the Mil/Mil reticle/clicks were matched in more than name only and were true to specification.
To confirm this, having zeroed the turret dials, I mounted the rifle securely on a workbench, and aligned it with a board placed 50m away and marked with an array of dots at 10cm intervals. After first dialling in a couple of clicks to centre the reticle on the nearest dot, I dialled in sets of 20 clicks to see how accurately the scope tracked from dot to dot, and also noted how the Mil subtensions on the reticle corresponded to the spacing between the dots. Interestingly, the scope tracked very well, but the reticle, while constant in scale across the magnification range, seemed slightly oversized, with each pair of dot centres being bracketed rather than overlaid by the relevant hash marks. This could lead to some over-estimation of range, and under-correction for impacts, but is less important than the precision and consistency of the adjustment, and overall my somewhat Heath-Robinson testing gave me confidence that I could take the Falcon varminting and dial back and forth all day without it shifting zero.
The B20 reticle is easy to use, with ample gradations below the centre for shooters who prefer to aim off rather than dial in. Framed by a chunky 1-mil-thick solid outer cross, the centre section has fine lines and stadia 0.07 Mils thick; with a full-size hash marks 1 Mil wide at the end of the 9, 12 and 3 o’clock scales and every 2.0 Mils on the 6 o’clock scale; half-size hash marks 0.5 Mils wide every other Mil; and quarter-size hash marks 0.25 Mils wide every other 0.5 Mils. There are a total of 5 Mils on each of the 9, 12 and 3 o’clock scales, and 10 Mils on the 6 o’clock scale, which is also numbered every 2 Mils for ease of reference.
Zoom right in and you can see only 7.5 Mils of the lower 10, however, so if you want to see the full 10, you’ll need to back the magnification off to 16X. This is actually a more useful level to work at, with a more forgiving exit pupil and a brighter image. At 5.5X, meanwhile, the central section is too small to apply the gradations effectively, but as minimum magnification is essentially an emergency, close-range, point-and-shoot option, this hardly matters, especially as the bold outer bars let you intuitively confirm the position of the cross-hair.
Optically, the Falcon performed well, though unsurprisingly the image wasn’t as big, bright, sharp, or vivid as the one from my Vortex. Nevertheless, at practical ranges the difference wasn’t enough to prevent me identifying targets or spotting impacts, even if it was a bit harder to get perfect eye alignment with the Falcon. In low-light conditions, the reticle can be hard to see, especially with the magnification wound down to obtain a brighter image, but this you expect to do this regularly I’d advise spending a bit more and getting the IR version.
[To be fair to the Vortex, its 5 Mils per turn is easier to keep track of than the Falcon’s 6, and it offers a total adjustment range of 36 Mils on each axis as compared to the Falcon’s 18 Mils, and a wider field of view at 22’/5.76’ at 100 yards to the Falcon’s 19’/4.8’.]
Nevertheless, all in all, the Falcon 5.5-25x50 Mil/Mil FFP scope is an exceedingly practical and capable optic for long-range shooting, whether at targets or vermin, that gives little away to a similarly-configured scope costing over six times as much. I’m really looking forward to trying out the IR version, and also fancy giving the smaller 4-14x44IR FFP model a go on shorter-range rifles such as my .204 Ruger or .17 Fireball. Come to think of it, at even shorter ranges, the 4-14x44 would make a great airgun or rimfire scope too. Whichever you choose, the bottom line is that the Mil/Mil + FFP formula makes rangefinding and trajectory compensation child’s play in comparison with “mongrel” Mil/M.o.A + SFP systems. It reduces both errors and engagement times, and now, thanks to Falcon, you can enjoy the all benefits without breaking the bank. GM
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