Karl Kaps TLB 3-12x50 FFP Illuminated
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- Last updated: 22/05/2018
Karl Kaps’ factory is in Asslar, Germany, 6 km from Wetzlar where Zeiss, Leica and Minox have optics factories. Founded in 1946, starting with cine projectors and microscopes, they produced their first rifle scopes back in 1955. This interested me. As a 3rd generation, family-owned business, surely German quality would be evident in this Kaps offering? Billed as a ‘classic’ scope, Kaps source their glass from Schott, so all is looking good. The price is keen at £1100; could this be another example of a low-key company producing a quality, solid product for a good price?
I mounted the Kaps on my Mauser M03 and took the set up to the range for zeroing. It was shooting just 2 cm off to the right from the start, so I didn’t have the opportunity to dial in and check the accuracy of the windage and elevation. I did a quick box test instead; 10 clicks up, shot, 10 right, shot,10 down, shot, then 10 clicks left, another shot. That last one was back on zero, so all good!
Of course, this gave no indication of long term repeatability, but my confidence in the scope was high. It was finished in a S&B sort of way, and felt very robust, solid and well made. The zoom ring was smooth but took 3/4 of a complete turn to get from 3 to 12x. This means you must reposition your fingers when zooming and keep turning, which I found somewhat inconvenient. In comparison, most other scopes zoom their full range in 1/2 a turn, which can be completed in one wrist action.
The scope tunnels a little at 3x, surprisingly, requiring an adjustment of the eye position aft a little to get a full sight picture at the lower zoom end. The reticle is a standard German No.4, with 3 thicker posts at 3, 6 and 9 narrowing in the centre. Set in the first focal plane (FFP) here, the reticle changes size when the scope is zoomed, it’s is perfectly sized for hunting. Most stalking scopes are second focal plane (SFP), but anyone changing to this FFP scope need have no worries.
It is an excellent all-round hunting reticle, not lost at 3x or too thick at 12x. An advantage of a FFP scope is the constant distance between the reticule posts, enabling range estimation, at any magnification. However, this information was not given with the instructions that came with the scope. No doubt most stalkers have a laser rangefinder for exact distance measurement, but I would have liked the span of the thicker reticule posts to be included in the instructions to enable estimations.
The red dot is fine and bright, dimming to an imperceptible glow as required. The operation is a little quirky. Turning the left-hand control on the middle saddle a few degrees up or down from a centre indent adjusts an infinitely variable rheostat. A further turn up and brief hold turns it off. It works very well, but is needlessly complex, more simple systems are available. It will, however, turn off after 6 hours automatically to save the battery if inadvertently left on.
Rifle owners nowadays are accustomed to repositioning the graduations on the turrets back to zero for ease of reference. It is achievable on this scope, but a fine screwdriver is needed to loosen two screws holding down the circular locking ring, then a sharp tool is needed to ‘encourage’ the graduated flat disk to turn. This should be updated to a finger-resettable design, as seen on many scopes at a lower price point.
Glass, as mentioned, is from Schott and excellent in low light with good contrast. I was disappointed to find some dust/debris when looking through it at 3x though. I queried this with the importers. They said it wasn’t that unusual and would be happy to return it back to Germany for cleaning and resealing. Meantime, a scope would be offered temporarily if a new one of the same spec wasn’t on the shelf. Perhaps I was unlucky to receive this example, dust is merely cosmetic I know, but was distracting.
No doubt the odd one gets past quality control, so it’s good to see the importers are on the ball.
Some of my observations make the scope sound old school, but it is billed as ‘classic’. I take it to mean it is of a proven, reliable design and uncomplicated, hence no finger resettable turrets, Mil- Dot reticle or bullet drop compensation for example, which is fine with me! I’ve written before that if zeroed 1” high at 100m, most modern rounds (through a standard-length barrel) would print no more than 2.5” low at 200m, covering 95% of stalking situations, so requiring no complicated additions to the glass.
In the field, this was the case. I took a late autumn fallow spiker at 105m in a dimly lit wood. Zoom set at 12x, the view was clear and bright, no red dot needed. The following week two roes received a neck and heart shot respectively at the start of the doe season. I then had a very productive day, taking six fallow does. By the 3rd, I had forgotten about the scope, which I believe is a testament to it. Set at 7x to match the sight picture of my binoculars, I zoomed a little as necessary for each shot, which were between 80 and 155 m. No drama, the Kaps quietly doing its job, which is exactly what I believe the manufacturer intended it to do, year after year. This is another scope I would be happy to keep permanently on my rifle.
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