Athlon Argos 20-60×85

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Athlon is known for being a top value brand in sporting optics; offering competitive performance at a lower price-point. A year ago I bought and reviewed an Athlon Talos 20-60×65 and found it easily outclassed other budget spotters under $150. This year, Athlon offered me an opportunity to test their next tier up: the Argos 20-60×85.

The Argos package comes with a soft padded scope case that is designed with zippered cut out to allow you keep the case wrapped around the scope even while it is mounting it to your tripod. Hunters and birders are able to move and carry the tripod without disconnecting the scope. With the case ads extra impact and weather protection around their optic when repositioning your glassing location.

The scope is well armored with textured plastic coating around the tube and body. External build quality appears excellent without the uneven seams and fitting found on budget scopes. The kit comes with rubber lens covers which seal almost too well.

The scope comes with an Arca/Swiss compatible 360º rotating mounting color, built-in sun shade and eye-cup. The optics focus ring is a large collar around the whole tube. Its large size allows for both fast and fine focus.

The scope features HD glass and a large yepiece with a 1″-2″ eyebox. Despite the almost oversized eyepiece, its eye relief is a somewhat disappointing ~18mm. At maximum magnification, my eye-glasses touch the eyecup.

Looking through the scope I was pleased with a bright clean image. Glassing objects over 1000yrds I found the image to be slightly less sharp than the cheaper Talos. But at the rifle range, glassing reference target at 100yrds, the resolution of the Argos was as good as scope that cost 2x or 3x more. Only the Argos’ chromatic aberrations, hazy cast and tight eyebox keep it firmly in a Mid-Tier performance class.

But don’t just believe me. Outdoor Life magazine choose the Argos as one of the Top 8 spotting scopes of 2022. While they were underwhelmed by its graininess and lack of brightness, they were still impressed enough to rate it a Great Buy. The Argos is a well built HD spotting scope with decent optical performance with a street price of about $340, which rates it a Great Buy to me too.

Purchase this on Amazon through my Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/3Am3wwv

UTG BugBuster 3-9×32

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https://youtu.be/9mDs_EtGc1E

When I bought my Ruger 10/22 TD it came in a neat compact range bag from Ruger that was designed fit both halves of the rifle when disassembled. But I discovered that when I tried to attach a normal sized 3-9×40 scope, not only did it look ungainly large on the rifle but worse still, it would not fit in the Ruger range bag while attached to the receiver half of the rifle. I bought at UTG Bugbuster, which at under 9″ long, perfectly fit on the rear half of the rifle and allowed me to pack it in my Ruger bag.

Up until I testing Leupolds and higher end Vortex’s and Athlons I was perfectly happy with the optical quality of the BugBuster. It had a MilDot style illuminated reticle (though the turrets are set in MOA), adjustable paralax focus, and had lockable exposed turrets.

Optically it is not much better than many no-name or budget Chinese brands under $100. It suffers noticeable chromatic aberrations, milky warm color tint, and isn’t terribly sharp especially around the edges. But it has a decent eyebox and kept it’s zero despite repeated detachments from my 10/22 to test other optics.

For it’s price tier (I bought 4 years before the pandemic) it’s a decent scope. Not great and not the best optically. But if you’re in need of the smallest 3-9x scope its hard to beat.

Available through my Amazon Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3P39JlS

RESOLUTION
Group: -2
Element: 2

OVERALL RATINGS (out 5)
Build: 4
Glass: 3
Reticle: 4
Holds Zero: 5
Box Test: 5
Turrets: 4
Eye Box: 3
Value: 4


Specs

Magnification: 3-9x

Objective Diameter: 32 mm

Eye Relief: 4.2-3.2 inches

Field of View: 37.1-14 ft field of view @ 100 yds

Tube Size: 1″

Turret Adjustment: 1/4 MOA

Turret Lock: Yes

Zero Reset: Yes

Reticle Style: MIL Dot

Elevation Adj. Range: 110 MOA 32 MIL

Windage Adj. Range: 55 MOA 16 MIL

Adjustment Per Revolution: 25 MOA

Parallax: AOE 3 Yds – Infinity

Illuminated Reticle: Red/Green

Length: 8.11″

Weight: 13.9 oz

Battery: CR1620

Oneleaf NV100 Night Vision

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Night vision (light enhancing) scopes have been used by hunters and soldiers since the Vietnam War but even today these devices can cost thousands of dollars. With progress of technology, these devices have shrunk in both size and price. The Commander NV100 is a digital video camera that is designed to mount directly onto a typical rifle scope and turn it into a night vision scope. Oneleaf technologies sent me an NV100 to test out.

Almost all digital video cameras can see in IR light but most have a built-in optical filter that block out most IR light which can distort and fog an image in normal light. Using the NV100, you are looking at its built in digital display viewfinder much like you would with an old-school video camera. In fact, when using the NV100 in normal light, the image looks slightly blown out with a glow on objects, a side-effect of IR light.

The NV100 can record 1080p videos and photos onto a micro-SD card. It runs of a rechargeable CR18650 battery which can be recharged using a micro-USB cable. The unit can also record sound and output though a 3.5mm headphone jack, though the audio sounds compressed and low fidelity.

In practice the NV100 is equivalent to a Gen 1.5 night vision monocular. To a small degree it can passively enhance low-light images but in reality, it does require IR illumination to function as intended. The unit has a built-in IR illuminator and visible red laser to light up and aim at targets.

The NV100 can be used as a hand-held Night Vision monocular. It has a standard 1/4(20) camera screw mount at its base to allow the unit to be mounted on photo tripods. OneLeaf does not offer any type mounting system or adapter to attach it to a helmet or headband.

Where the NV100 shines is its ease of mounting to a rifle scope. The packing includes a 42mm, 45mm, and a 48mm adapter collar to allow you to mount it to your scope (some spotting eye-pieces may be too large even for the 48mm adapter). The NV100 attaches to the collar via bayonet style locking ring; the package also includes a roll of electrical tape to assist in shimming your eye-piece to provide a more secure fit for the adapter collar.

When mounted to a rifle scope, the image you see in the NV100 appears like a low-resolution videocam viewfiender. The unit’s menu system is accessed through the viewfinder and the buttons on the unit function like a D-pad for navigation through the menu system. Adjustments in focus are made through the NV100 large physical focus knob.

I could get a decent focus of an object 100yrds away but I could not get both my target and the reticle in the same plane of focus, despite adjusting the scope’s paralax focus, ocular focus, and the NV100’s focus. I could get both somewhat in focus at my scopes lowest magnification (4x) but found it impossible at magnifications greater than 6x.

I was easily able to see objects 100yrds in low light and even faintly in pitch-black in its full-color video mode. Switching to B&W mode activates the unit’s built-in IR illuminator, an IR LED flashlight with a lens that allows you to adjust the beam from flood to focused. Oneleaf claims it can illuminate objects up to 300m away.

In B&W IR mode, the issues with depth-of-focus were even more pronounced. The reticle was blurred to the point of invisibility when my scope was at 20x magnification. Given that IR illuminators are far shorter range than visible light flashlights, long range engagements using a scope and the NV100 may be a moot point though some users have posted varmint hunts at ranges out to 200yrds or more.

The NV100 does have two shortcomings, the first one is a potentially a deal-breaker for some hunters. In my testing the NV100 has a short 1.5″-2″ eye-relief from the back of its eyepiece (OneLeaf claims up to 2.75″). This is fine for shooting 22LR or even 5.56mm AR’s. But on a large caliber rifle this short eye-relief could easily cause scope bite. OneLeaf does include some larger eye-cups which could provide more padding but a real solution would be to design a viewfinder eyepiece with a minimum of 3″ of eye-relief.

The second issue is minor but annoying. The image the NV100 displays is distorted, with the vertical proportions appearing shorter than the horizontal giving you a squashed image of your target. This is also evident in the movies and photos you take with the NV100.

Overall the Commander NV100 works as advertised without breaking the bank (though the latter is relative the cost of higher-end NV systems costing hundreds more). On my wish-list of improvements would be a firmware update to allow adjustment of X/Y proportions of the image, a lanyard loop to attach a wrist or neck lanyard for handheld use, and an adapter arm to attach it to a GoPro or PVS-14 mount.

The OneLeaf Commander NV100 is available through this Amazon Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3fD1JfB

Athlon Midas 1 Mile Laser Rangefinder

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Years ago I bought a cheap $50 golf laser rangefinder. It does the job, measuring distances out to 500-600yrds but I’ve always envied the hunters and shooters who had laser rangefinders that could call out distances to +700 yards. That’s why I was excited when Athlon sent me their Midas 1 Mile Laser Rangefinder to test out. And I’m sure with the start of hunting season in much of the country, others are eager as well.

My first impression of the unit was that it felt lighter than my golf rangefinder, while feeling far more solid though both have plastic bodies. The Athlon has a textured brown body with thicker rubberized panels at your handholds to provide a more secure grip with wet hands or wearing gloves.

The viewfinder has a fixed 6x power magnification. Sadly not to the level of Athlon’s 6x scope optics but par for the course for a range finder (or a dirt-cheap budget binocular). The image is clear-ish and I was able to differentiate car sized objects about a mile away.

The unit comes with a single CR2 lithium battery housed in a battery compartment with a coin slot screw cap. The cap has a rubber o-ring to keep it water tight. The manufacturer claims it is “rain resistant” which means it is not “water proof” or submersible. But remarkably it is covered under Athlon’s No-Fault Lifetime Warranty.

The menu options are visible through the viewfinder in a projected display. You can choose measurements in meters or yards, and it has a golf or hunting mode (the later displaying the distance in a furthest of target in a group). The unit can also be set to display vertical, linear, and horizontal distance to your target.

Available on Amazon through my affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3f9b12D

G35 Laser Designator

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Raytice sent me their G35 Laser Designator to test and evaluate. In function this is similar to weaponlights with a scope ring style mounting system. Like a EDC weaponlight, the unit comes with a tail clicky button to activate the 5mw green laser

It comes with a Picatinny ring mount, 18650 Li-Ion battery, USB charger, and optional wired activation switch. Switch pad has an off/on button and momentary-on pressure pad and can be mounted via Pacatinny or M-Lok. The manufacturer claims the unit with a fully charged battery, can operate for up to 1000hrs.

Mounting is similar to a weaponlight. The unit has dials/turrets to adjust windage and elevation of the projected beam. The dot is visible in daylight at 50yrds and much further at night.

Shooting free-standing, I was able to shoot a 4″ group at 25yrds using the laser as my aiming device. Functionally it’s similar to aiming with a red-dot but with the added benefit of having your aim point visible to others. While this may be a liability to some, it would be useful to firearms instructors, as it easily reveals where their student was aiming when they took the shot.

Available on Amazon through our Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3y08YUG

M40 Red Dot Magnifier

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https://youtu.be/SqZzFaYCHnw

Feagle sent me their new M40 3x red dot magnifier to test out. I was a but hesitant because I’m not a big fan of red dot magnifiers. I don’t think they have enough magnification for the weight they add to a firearm and their eye-relief is less than I’d like for anything larger than a 5.56mm or other light-recoil rifle. That said, I was impressed with the build quality and features of this magnifier.

It came in totally plain brown cardboard box. Inside is an owners manual, Picatinny side-flip mount, 1/3 co-witness riser plate, and a bag of screws and an allen wrench. The tube/body design looks like an oversized red dot. Even including turret caps with adjustment tools in the cap, which function like flathead screwheads. This allows adjustment to recenter visual position of the red dot in the magnifier’s field of view.

The 3x magnified image seen through the M40 was good with no noticeable color shift, though the image was not sharp from center to edge. The extreme outer edge of the image was soft with slight distortion. While I would not consider this durable enough for LEO duty or combat use, for action shooting, this should be perfectly usable.

M40 3x magnifier: https://amzn.to/3fkMA1U

RDS-22 red dot: https://amzn.to/3rab296

UTG 1” riser: https://amzn.to/3BOipaR

M40 Specifications

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 21mm
  • Field of view (FOV): 7°
  • Exit Pupil: 7 mm
  • Eye Relief: 62mm
  • Diopter Range: +/- 3
  • Weight: 10.5 oz
  • Length: 2.85 in / 72 mm

Sunwayfoto SM-86 Tripod Saddle Mount

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The SM-86 is Sunwayfoto’s top-of-the-line ARCA/Swiss compatible saddle mount. This rifle clamp features all metal construction and an eye catching mattalic green finish. An unusual feature is Picatinny accessory rail mounted to the clamp head opposite to the lever/knob. You can mount a simple red dot, flashlight or even a small scope to act as a spotter though I’ve not seen any shooter try this.

Its tri-lever lock knob allows for excellent leverage when clamping down heavy or high recoil rifles. The clamp’s interior sides are lined with rubber pads to provided extra grip while reducing marring on wooden or polymer stocked rifles. The saddle can open up as wide as 3.4″ allowing for clamping of extra-wide chassis or even spotting scope tubes.

I tested the SM-86 on a Sunwayfoto T3240CS tripod. The tripod comes with a replacement 23mm high-rise ARCA/Swiss base which is required to provide clearance for the T3240’s quick-release lever. In testing the setup with my polymer Savage Axis .308 hunting rifle. the SM-86 performed perfectly. After 15 rounds, the clamp kept the rifle firmly attached to the tripod. 

This saddle mount was sent to me by Sunwayfoto for testing. This is available on Sunwayfoto’s website. Use this link and get 5% off using code: MOONDOG https://sunwayfoto-store.com/?ref=pwwCNnfb

Availabe on Amazon through this affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3E5Xcw5

SunwayFoto T3240CS Shooting Tripod

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Sunwayfoto is known for making high quality photo and video tripods. Their feather light 1.6lb carbon fiber tripod is now my go-to tripod for vlogging. Recently, Sunwayfoto entering into the hunting/shooting market with a heavy-duty carbon fiber tripod with a built-in ballhead that together weighs only about 3.5lbs.

The T32340CS’ carbon fiber legs are 32mm with twist-style leg locks that are environmentally sealed; you can hear the air whoosing out of the top of the tripod when you collapse the legs. The legs locked easily with beefy ruberized locking rings and wide rubber feet which can be replaced with spikes.

The ballhead is recessed in the leg base to “lower its center of gravy”, though how that helps a tripod that already has variable angle legs is questionable. This recessed height does limit the tilt angle of a mounted rifle to 35º; still quite usable for high angles of engagement. The ballhead is topped with an excellent quick-release Arca-Swiss compatible mount.

UPDATE: RRS DESIGN
US tripod maker RRS (Really Right Stuff) originated the unique design of the Picatinny/Arca-Swiss clamp. Chinese brands like Sunwayfoto copied it (shocking!). RRS holds the US patent https://rrssoar.com/patents, which is why the T3240CS that are sold in the US have tripod heads replaced by standard Arca-Swiss mounts.
Here are a few legit RRS products that utilize the dual clamp patent:

https://rrssoar.com/tfct-anvil-30-arc

https://rrssoar.com/anvil-30

https://rrssoar.com/bh-scr

https://rrssoar.com/sc-arc

https://rrssoar.com/ta-lbsc/

https://rrssoar.com/ta-2u-sc/

https://rrssoar.com/btc-pro

The box comes with the tripod, padded case, replaceable foot spikes, and Allen keys. The strapped padded case is almost too compact, lacking extra room for add on accessories like Sunwayfoto’s Saddle Clamp head. If this tripod was aiming for the hunting/shooting market, the kit lacks a built-in level, stone hammock, and hook; all of which much be purchased separately.

Firing a heavy DMR style 5.56mm AR style rifle, the tripod provided more than adequate stability for quick follow up shots. I managed a respectable 3.5″ 5-short group at 100yrds in rapid fire. But testing it with a .308 bolt-action hunting rifle, the tripod left a lot to be desired.

The tripod’s light weight of 3.6lbs is ideal if you’re trekking to an upland hunting site but it is also a weakness. Without added weight, its difficult to be repeatable with a .308 or harder recoiling calibers. Furthermore, the ball head also shifted necessitating readjustment after each shot.

To add weight and stability its almost mandatory to purchase an after-market stone hammock for this tripod. It’s inexplicable that Sunwayfoto did not include this inexpensive cloth accessory in their kit or even a simple metal weight hook. I believe they include a hammock with their Explorer series of hunting tripods.

If light weight is a paramount concern with your hunting tripod, this may be the best choice on the market. Just be prepared to purchase a few more upgrades and accessories.

This tripod was sent to me by Sunwayfoto for testing. This is available on Sunwayfoto’s website. Use this link and get 5% off using code: MOONDOG https://sunwayfoto-store.com/?ref=pwwCNnfb

SPECS
Number of Leg Sections4
Max Tube Diameter 1.25″ (32mm)
Folded Height 21.7″ (55cm)
Max Height: 56.7″ (12-144cm)
Tilting Angle: 35º
Load Capacity: 55 lbs (25kg)
Leg angles: 23º, 55º, 85ª
Weight: 3.6 lbs (1.65kg)

EZshot Scope Level

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There are many reasons that your shots can go amiss. When you’ve zoned in, concentrating on your target, your horizon isn’t often visible in your scope. Or your paper target isn’t posted up perfectly square in the first place and you are subconsciously aligning your reticle to your target. It’s all too easy to “cant”, slightly turning your rifle so your scope above it is leaning slightly left or right to the center line of your bore: this is Scope Cant.

This is why almost all competitive long range shooters mount bubble levels on their scopes. This allows them to quickly and easily visually check when they’ve accidentally canted their rifles and correct for it. EZshot sent me a sample of their 30mm bubble level to test and evaluate. EZshot makes these levels in common 25mm (1″) and 30mm tube sizes, as well as larger 34mm, and 35mm.

Upon first inspection, I was bit surprised at how much larger this level was compared to the Arken levels on my EP5 and SH4. Despite its beefy size, the entire rig weighed 1.63oz (46.3g). The bubble tube is twice as large as typical bubble levels, which should make its measurements more physically accuracy, as well as making it easier to visibly read.

It mounts very much like a scope ring with two hex screws on opposite sides of the mounting ring. The kit comes with an Allen wrench. I chose to mount mine forward my turrets to allow me clear views of my scope controls and turret markings.

EZshot Scope Levels are available on Amazon through my Affiliate LInk: https://amzn.to/3xInW1s

Athlon Midas Tac HD 6-24×50 FFP

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Athlon is known for making excellent quality scopes nearly on par with big brands such as Vortex and Burris but at a more reasonable price. Case in point, the Midas Tac has a winning combination of sharp and bright optics, a solid build, and quality turrets, and a transferable life-time warranty.

The “Tac” in Midas Tac owes to its inclusion of ‘tactical-style’ exposed elevation turret for quick drop adjustments (with zero stop). And unusually, it has a different ‘hunting-style’ capped windage turret. This is to address a complaint among hunters and some competition shooters, that an exposed (non-locking) windage turret can be too easily, accidentally adjusted when grasping a rifle by the scope or simply resting your palm on the scope while manipulating the elevation turret.

The turrets were clear and simple to read. They had nicely loud clicks and were tactile positive. Both could be zero-reset by lifting the turret using a coin screw

The elevation turret has Athlon’s brass zero-stop which forms a ring around the inner turret pillar. The ring can be rotated into position and is locked with 3 worm/set screws after the user has set their zero. This engages with a fixed gear tooth at the base of the turret providing a solid and reliable stop. A small Allen key is included in the box.

I should also mention, not much is included in the box aside from the turret lock set screws kit, user manual, and scope. This is in line with many “high-end” scope models which eschew accessories like lens caps, sunshades, and throw levers; but a simple rubber lens bra would have been nice.

Concerning throw levers, the magnification dial has a small thumb fin but no screw hole for an optional lever. Nor does Athlon sell a slip-on throw lever as an accessory. Athlon should consider this feature as throw levers have become nearly standard for many competition shooters; if this model is to appeal to that market.

Optically, the Midas punches above its weight. While it did exhibit some slight chromatic aberration, it is bright, with good contrast and excellent resolution. I was able to make out Element 5 in Group -1 on my 8.5″x11″ USAF-51 optical resolution chart at 100yrds. This puts it on par with the more expensive Leupold Mk3 or Vortex Viper FFP.

What the scope lacks is an illuminated reticle, which may be one of the reasons it is hundreds less than Athlon’s Ares. Lacking one may be a deal-breaker for hunters in dusk/dawn situations. This omission is odd if this scope was intended for the hunting market (remember that capped turret). For the range shooter who doesn’t need or use reticle illumination, this scope is a step up in image quality from budget scopes in the $500-$600 price tier.

This Midas Tac HD 6-24×50 FFP was sent to me by Athlon for testing. It is available on Amazon through my affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3dYNfG6

SPECS
GLASS TYPE: HD
OBJ. LENS: 50 mm
TUBE DIAMETER: 30 mm
GAS PURGED: Argon
EYE RELIEF: 3.7″
FOV @ 100 YDS: 17.8 – 4.6 ft
PARALLAX: 10 YDS – ∞
CLICK VALUE: 0.1 MIL
ADJ/ROTATION: 10 MIL
TOTAL ELEV ADJ: 25 MIL
TOTAL WIND ADJ: 25 MIL
LENGTH: 14.6″
WEIGHT: 26.3 oz

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