With all the hub-bub about upcoming Front Focal Plane (FFP) riflescopes from Nightforce and Premier Reticles grabbing all the chat forum headlines, I think it's important for you to know that a viable option is available for purchase right now, for much less money than those other guys. Awhile back on this blog I mentioned the impending debut of the Ellis Optics MK-7 line of riflescopes (http://www.ellisoptics.com/). I am pleased to announce I had a chance to review the very first production MK-7, the 4-16x50 FFP illuminated riflescope. It is worth paying attention to.
Here's the specs on this "durable fire control optic":
- 16.5 inches long
- 39 ounces
- 4-16x50, side focus
- Fast focus eyepiece
- 1/4 MOA exposed tactical knobs
- Mildot/Milbar reticle, etched in glass
- Dual red-green illumination, 5 position rheostat
- FFP reticle
- Super thick 35mm alloy tube
- Hard mil-spec anodized finish
- Oversized erector lens assembly
- Three (that's "3") erector springs
- Generous eye relief for hard kicking firearms.
Upon handling this scope for the first time, the things I notice are its heft, fine machining and excellent finish. Ryan Burrowes, Director of Ellis Optics, spec'd a super thick tube that is at least 5mm thick at the turret housing. All elements of the scope (except the optics) are made in the USA and precision machined to +/- .002 inches. The components were assembled in Japan and the finished product was re-imported into the USA. The one-piece main tube houses an assortment of knobs and covers that give the scope a unique profile. Let's take a look.Top view of turret housing of MK-7 Tactical. In front of the elevation knob is the rheostat for reticle illumination. On the left is the parallax adjustment knob, and tucked under it is the cover for the windage erector spring.
Bottom view of the MK-7 Tactical, showing the massive elevation erector spring cover (next to the website etching), and the "normal" 45 degree erector spring cover (a la IOR, Burris, Pentax and many others). Note the "muscular" profile of the seamless turret housing.
Another view of the turret housing, from the bottom left profile. Both the elevation and windage knobs, parallax knob, and three erector spring covers are visible in photo.
As you can see, the MK-7 is designed for hard use. The stout maintube is designed to resist flexing and torque and the three erector springs (the most I've ever seen in a scope) are designed to HOLD the erector TIGHTLY in place, no matter what you throw at it. The MK-7 prototypes were extensively tested on 50 cal, 14.7mm, and 20mm guns and the resulting data compelled Ellis Optics to engineer in the massive springs for extremely long life and rock-solid durability.
The exposed, resettable (more on that later) 1/4 MOA knobs are quite audible and have a feel reminiscent of the old Nikon Tactical riflescopes. The rheostat houses a CR2032 camera cell and has 5 position settings for both red and green illumination.
Close-up of the MK-7 Tactical elevation knob and rheostat knob. The 1/4 MOA knob features 15 MOA per turn (same as the Leupold M1 knob) and the rheostat has a removable cap that houses the CR2032 camera cell.
The reticle is a modified mildot (Ellis calls it a "mil-bar" reticle), which features bars located at the 1/2 mil locations in-between the mildots. I like this reticle style and feels it enhances ranging and holdover precision as opposed to a standard mildot.
View of MK-7 Tactical reticle at 16x. Feel free to download and expand to study detail.Operator's view of the MK-7 reticle at 16x. The scope features a measured 3.5-4.0 inches of eye relief, plenty for most any rifle it could be used on.
Now that we have covered the "X's", it's time to discuss the "O's".
The MK-7 features Japanese optics with a Chinese etched reticle. This may not sound too appetizing at first, but unlike Nightforce, Ellis Optics over-sized the internal erector assembly to fill the 35mm tube (What I call the "IOR-principle" of optical design). While this does limit reticle travel (same as the IOR, use a canted base to help your .308 reach 1000 yards), in theory, the larger erector lens assemblies offers a less-restrictive path for light to travel before reaching the ocular lens, thus resulting in a brighter and clearer sight picture.
All theory aside, I took the MK-7 out on the farm and compared it to a Trijicon 3-9x40 mildot Accupoint and Leupold MR/T 2.5-8x36 for optical performance. Wait, I can hear you now, you're crying "You're comparing apples to oranges". Perhaps. But, I wanted to see how the MK-7 stacked up to commercial offerings so as to establish a baseline. I mean, if the MK-7 can't beat these scopes out, then it's "game over".
To make things as equal as possible, I set each scope at 9x (the Lupy's true max magnification is 8.7x, so close enough).
I'm going to end all suspense right now. The MK-7 had a shockingly good optical performance. On my infamous "Sign #2" at 800 yards, the 5-inch tall letters were very easy to read at 9x. This was day or night (sign illuminated). The MK-7's light management was superb and the parallax knob worked to utter perfection. It was amazing to see how the other two scopes appeared handicapped compared to the MK-7. The field of view was excellent and scanning a string of houses at 1200 yards at 16x was pure joy. The brightness, clarity, and (surprising) resolution of the optics were an eye-opener to me. Before I published this article, I talked to a few friends and told them the MK-7 was "just as good" as a Nightforce upon initial impression. Boy, did I shortchange the MK-7 with that statement. The MK-7 takes any Nightforce I've ever seen to the woodshed.
Before you start thinking that I'm "on the take", I will say I have a few criticisms of the MK-7 Tactical. Here goes.
- First and foremost, the knobs are the weak link in this current offering. The 1/4 MOA adjustments, while not a handicap, would be better set to 0.1 mil increments to appeal to a wider number of shooters who are looking for "matching" reticle subtension /turret increments. Also, while the knobs are technically resettable, the three hex screws that are used to secure the cap are too tiny and wimpy to withstand repeated rezeroing. I believe they are 1mm, and the metal they are made of is too soft. I stripped one screw on each turret without really trying. Ellis Optics is aware of this criticism and Ryan Burrowes agreed with my assessment.
- The green illumination is worthless. Even at the lowest setting, the illumination fills the entire field of view with green light and washes out any sight picture. The red illumination is much better, but is best used at low setting at 12-16x. At lower mags it too will wash out the FOV (much like an IOR).
- Under certain conditions, the sight picture is washed out by back reflection (internal flare). The conditions this occurred was after sunset, but before dark. Pointing the scope to the brightest part of the post-sunset sky and trying to get a sight picture was a futile endeavor. What happens is the light reflecting off your face hits the reticle and bounces back. While this is a phenomena that occurs with any etched reticle scope, the condition was particularly acute with the MK-7.
Overall, I am quite impressed with the MK-7 Tactical. The only hurdle left is seeing how it performs at the range! To this end, Vern Harrision, owner of Central Virginia Tactical http://www.centralvirginiatactical.com/ will be putting a MK-7 through its paces, and the scope featured here will be passed around among select members of Sniper's Hide http://www.snipershide.com/ and Long Range International http://www.longrangeinternational.com/ It won't take long for field data to start trickling in, so stay tuned and check back here!
Or, alternatively, you can buy your own and put yours to the test! The MK-7 features a lifetime warranty, and is available for purchase from Liberty Optics or Ellis Optics for $1299 delivered with rings or $1229 without rings. This would be a "market leading" price for the features, folks.
I am going to see how the MK-7 compares optically with the IOR 3-18x42 FFP, and I'll post my impressions here.
Any questions, contact Ryan Burrowes at 646-872-7014 or drop us a line.
As always, thanks for stopping by.