Gear Review: Sightmark Rapid AR 1-4×20 SHR-223 Tactical Riflescope

Sightmark Rapid AR 1-4x20 SHR-223 Tactical Riflescope

I was surprised and impressed by the Sightmark Wolverine red dot optic I reviewed earlier this year. Sightmark has now released a short to mid-range scope aimed at the tactical shooter, with a mind to quick magnification adjustments. With their Rapid AR 1-4X20 SHR-223 riflescope, the budget optics maker is changing my mind on what inexpensive optics can deliver . . .

Sightmark Rapid AR 1-4x20 SHR-223 Tactical Riflescope objective (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

That “Rapid AR” is what first sets this scope apart. The entire rear of the scope moves to adjust the magnification. You don’t have to find anything with your fingers or your hand; just grab anywhere behind-the-rear mounting ring and turn.

The Sightmark Rapid AR 1-4×20 SHR-223 Tactical Riflescopes is easily re-positioned with your fingers or a gloved hand but stiff enough to stay put once in place.

Sightmark Rapid Series AR Turrets (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The 1/2 MOA graduated turrets are large, exposed and well-marked. They unlock with a quick and easy pull. The turrets turn with a definite start and stop between each click.

Once you establish a zero, you can unscrew the top of the turret and unscrew the flathead screw or the rim of a case. Then alight the turrets with zero and you’re there. Easy peazy. What’s missing: something that let me know how many revolutions of the turrets I’d made. Instead, I have to write it down in my log book (because remembering is stupid).

The AR Series 1-4X20 comes with good overall dimensions, if a tad on the heavy side. It’s three ounces heavier than my 1-4 Viper PSTs — a difference I can’t feel on the rifle. On the positive side, the AR Series 1-4X20 is shorter than the Viper. That helps with mounting options; the more compact the better.

Sightmark Rapid Series AR reticle (photo courtesy of sightmark.com)

The Sightmark Rapid AR 1-4×20 SHR-223 Tactical Riflescope’s reticle is Sightmark’s own SHR-223 ranging reticle. There are no windage hash marks. Most of the reticle is simply four heavy bars coming from each cardinal direction, with hashes in the center and down.

Similar to the AGOC I used in combat, each hash is the width of an IPSC target (or less politely a human torso) at a specific distance out to 500 yards. Coincidentally enough, it’s also the average body length of a coyote.

With this set-up, you can range your target using the hashes. If you’re shooting M193 or M855 rounds, simply hold over exactly on that hash mark to strike your target. I tested the hash marks at the 200, 300 and 400 yard ranges. They were all right where they were supposed to be using both the 55 and 62 grain rounds.

Sightmark Rapid Series AR left (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The scope also includes a single pushbutton illuminated reticle. Push the button at the end of the left turret and the center crosshairs and hashes light up. The center posts remain dark. It is a 1-4 power scope so there’s no parallax adjustment.

Over the course of a few weeks, I ran the Sightmark Rapid Series AR scope on quite a few different ARs. I shot full-pressure rounds out of my lightweight .458 SOCOM SBR  to test of the scope and mount’s ability to withstand recoil.  Setting the little powerhouse back in the Caldwell Stinger rest, I shot 10 rounds quickly. I did that a few times.  All the rounds landed in the same place. I had no issues with the reticle moving or failing in recoil.

What really sets scopes apart: the quality of the glass.

If you’re shopping in-store for a telescopic sight, do so on an overcast day, or at dusk. Pretty much any scope looks bright and clear under the glow of artificial light across a Cabela’s. Ask them to walk you to the doors with the product on a darkened day. The delta between the value brands and the high end product becomes much more clear.

Vortex Razor vs Sightmark Rapid AR comparison (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Set next to a Vortex Razor HD turned to 4X on a bright and clear day, there was some image clarity difference between the Razor and the Sightmark Rapid AR at the same setting. But I had to look for it. Doing the same test on an overcast day changed things. A photo taken with a camera phone doesn’t really do it justice, but the Vortex image (top) is obviously much more clear.

These two photos were taken with the same camera within one minute of each other, sitting on the same table pointed in the same direction. That trash can is about 600 yards away.

Of course, the Vortex is five times as expensive as the Sightmark, and probably twice as much as most of you are paying for your rifle. When it comes to optics, adding features is fairly inexpensive. But quality glass costs money.

That higher quality buys you more than a sharper image; it buys you time to hunt. Even if it is still legal, when you can no longer make out a crisp reticle on a sure target, it’s time to stop hunting.  I’ve found it buys me about 15 minutes or more of light on each side of the day.

If you’re hunting, those are awful valuable minutes. Those of you who have hunted for a while have probably noticed all the older males tend to wait as long as they can to come out and chase the ladies. The biggest deer I’ve killed have always been right at the last moment of legal shooting light.

When comparing the Sightmark AR to the Vortex Razor, both on the 4x setting, I could see the gap between that recycling bin and the trash can next to it with the Vortex Razor at 600 yards away a full half hour longer than I could with the Sightmark AR.

I ran a few different tests on the turrets to see if they tracked right. I did a few small box type tests at 100 and 300 yards. For these tests I mounted the gun on top of my standard hunting AR, an Underground Tactical AR in 5.56 NATO. It shoots right at 1 MOA with surplus M193 ammunition.

Shooting off a bench with the rifle in a Caldwell Stinger Shooting Rest, I put one round on a steel target at 100 meters. I then dialed 12 clicks up and shot a round, 12 clicks right and shot a round, 12 clicks down and shot a round, and 12 clicks left and shot a round. I ended up with a square box on my target and the center divot of my last round still in the halo on the steel from the first.

I then moved the target back to the 300 meter mark and did the exact same thing and ended up with an 18″ square with the last round within 4″ of the first.  Considering it was only a 4X optic that’s still within the margin of error for the rifle and my eyes. Back at the 100 meter mark, I tripled the clicks and ended up with a square of shots just inside the edges of my 19″ target.

For one final test, I wanted to make sure the scope tracked well throughout the entire range of its adjustment. Normally that would take either a fairly long-range or a very large target. Instead I measured off 45″ on a tape from my 100 yard target and moved another target there, with a dot where the center of 45″ should be. I dialed all the way left and zeroed the gun there. Then I dialed a full 90 clicks from and shot a round.

It landed within an inch of the dot. I then zeroed on that dot, and dialed all the way back to the original target, and shot, ending up with another round in my original zero point. Windage tracked just fine, and I left it at that. The turrets track as they should, with accuracy and precision.

All in all, the Sightmark Rapid AR 1-4X20 is a great value in a short to mid range optic. It’s feature filled, with many aspects taken from much more expensive optics. All of the basics are covered, with solid recoil management and turrets that track where they are supposed to. The thing that separates this scope from much more expensive models is glass that is good on bright and sunny days, but lacks clarity of the more expensive glass when the light gets dim.

Sightmark Rapid Series AR mount (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)Sightmark Rapid Series AR mount (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I’m not as big of a fan of the CJRK Tactical Riflescope Mount that this particular scope came with.

The biggest problem: the levers. They are massive and set well away from the base of the mount itself. They just beg to be grabbed by anything passing by the rifle. They also wobble a bit, even when tightened against the frame. To make matters worse, they have no locking mechanism, so if they do end up getting grabbed by passing branch, expect it to at least completely loosen the mount, maybe knock it off entirely.

There are also no less than an even dozen screws required to lock the scope in the rings. That’s just wasting my time. I did find it nice that the way-too-big levers can be locked to the front or the rear, and that the cantilever mount did in fact hold zero. I mounted and shot a group at 100 yards, then unmounted the scope on the top rail of the rifle 10 times. I then reshot the group. It was less than 1 MOA away from the original group, right at the margin of error for the rifle and scope.

[It should be noted that a set of 1″ plastic reduction rings are included with the mount. It’s standard configuration is 30mm. The ring dimensions are listed nowhere on the outside of the packaging.]

Specifications: Rapid AR 1-4X20 SHR-223 Tactical Riflescope

Adjustment Value: 1/2 MOA
Battery life, hours: 35-350
Battery Type: CR2032
Body Material: 6061-T6 Aluminum
Diameter, Exit Pupil: 11.8-5
Diameter, Eyepiece: 1.6/41
Diameter, Objective Lens: 20mm
Diameter, Tube: 30mm
Diopter Adjustment: +3 to -3
Elevation Range of Adjustment: 100
Eye Relief: 4.5″/114.3mm
Field of view, ft@100yd: 93-22.7
Field of view, m@100m: 31-7.6
Finish/Color: Matte black
Focal Plane: 2nd
Height (in/mm): 2.2/55
Illuminated: Black and red
IP Rating (waterproof): IP67-waterproof to 1m/3ft for 1 hour
Length (in/mm): 8.7/221
Magnification: 1-4
Maximum Recoil: 800G’s
Parallax Setting: 100
Reticle: SHR-223
Reticle, Type: Etched
Weight: 19.2 oz.
Width: 2.9 inches
Windage Range of Adjustment: 100
MSRP: $359.99

CJRK Tactical Riflescope Mount
Specifications
Mount Type: weaver/picatinny
Diameter, Ring: 30mm and 1inch
Material: aluminum
Finish/Color: matte black
Centerline Height: 38.1 / 1.5 mm / in.
Distance Between Rings: 76 / 2.98 mm / in.
Length: 175 mm
Length: 198 mm (includes QD lever)
Width: 45 mm
Width:55 mm (includes QD lever)
Height:58 mm
Weight: 8 oz
MSRP: $95.99

Ratings (out of five stars):

Glass Quality * * *
Like most at this price range, you’ll have a hard time noticing any deficit in bright light or indoors. But overcast and dim, and the differences come out.

Durability * * * * * 
I couldn’t shake it loose.

Precision * * * * * 
The turrets tracked exactly as they should, throughout their full range.

Features * * * *
Packed with just about everything. A turret turn indicator is all that’s missing.

Overall * * * *
Budget scopes are getting better and better. The glass quality is pretty good, but the higher than average score is for meeting all of the standards for precision and durability while packing this model with features from higher priced optics.

comments

  1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

    The 12-screw quick detach mount screams mall ninja.

  2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I don’t know, how ‘tactical’ c an it be for $360. I’d be afraid some of my bearded brethren at the ra nge might pick up on that. Wouldn’t want to be a poser. Do they make one with another zero?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Cerakote it in multiple colored geometric shapes and put an Erath3 logo on it. No one will be the wiser.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Honestly, with anything AR related, the first thing I do is scroll down to see the price of what’s being reviewed. I was fully expecting something in the $2000-2500 ran ge. No sense reading a whole review on something you’d never buy.

        Personally I prefer something in the 2-7x ra nge, but I make no pretense of being tacti cal.

      2. avatar neiowa says:

        Why don’t you disclose the country of origin in your reviews? Is this scope Chicom/PLA or made in the free world? Hint – see the fine print on the package

        Unfortunately, too many optics today, budget or upscale, come are made by the enemies of the US. There are other options mfg can chose to patronize, Phillipines (as Nikon), Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea. Hell even today Vietnam. The Chicoms NO. Financing the PLA R&D and production base for military equipment is unacceptable

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Because I do not know and I do not care. I can’t find anything on the scope or packaging that says where the scope is made, but the mount is made in China. Zero fux.
          I shoot Israeli made ammunition through guns made in both Russia and Germany.
          If Jeffrey Dahmer made quality steak knives, I’d pony up for a set.
          I’ve spent too much of my life fighting with our nation’s former enemies against our former allies to believe either are absolutes.

        2. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

          It’s not always a question of who you support, but rather who you leave behind. I’ll make sure and pass on your message to the Americans who build American versions of the products China is ripping off.

          By the way, I hear the Chinese version of TTAG has far fewer ads and no need to fake an identity just to comment.

        3. avatar CalGunsMD says:

          There is some high quality glass (and s4!t ton of other products) coming out of China.

          We’ve passed the inflection point where the old SNL sketch with Belushi in Samurai barb breaks his sword and curses that it was made in Japan holds true.

          They will soon be making a lot, if not most, of our desirable high-end goods.

        4. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I’ve conceded that probably well over half the parts in my new Ford truck were either made in China or Mexico. The Bushnell scope I bought last year says made in China but I’ve heard the glass is ground in Japan. It’s hard to find any product anymore that was made in just one county and it’s been that way for quite a while.*

          Another aspect to think about is what happens if we did cut off all trade with China. China came out and said that if Lil’ Kim starts something they’ll stand aside and let us spank the little bitch and his 4th world country. Without trade, China could be much more belligerent.

          *

        5. avatar CalGunsMD says:

          Your comment made me think of the pencil story told by Milton Friedman. Then I saw that you included the video.

        6. avatar Felix says:

          My sister gave me grief for getting her kids some chocolate Thomas the Tank Engine lollipops for stocking stuffers, because Disney supported gay spouse benefits.

          ALL such bigotry is misplaced. I bet a paycheck someone in the UPS chain of delivery is gay, or born overseas. Does she refuse to watch TV shows or movies where any of the cast, crew, financiers, or anybody else is gay? How about buying clothes that had any gay people involved in the production or sale of them?

          You can whine about Chinese stealing American jobs, and you will be wrong. It’s called comparative advantage. Look it up sometime. When they make stuff cheaper than us, that leaves our workers and investors free to make more expensive stuff. Would you rather we made the cheap stuff and they made the expensive stuff? Would you rather we made everything?

          Selling exports is the price we pay to buy imports. Too many people think it’s the other way round, but they are wrong. You sell your brain and body (export it) so you can buy food and shelter and clothing and toys (the imports).

          People lose jobs and industries go out of business all the time. Did you complain about the lost jobs when ATMs came into general use? Buggy whip manufacturers? Would you have complained if they had been made in China but not when they were made in the US? The same people lost their jobs, and I can guarantee you that fewer people got jobs making ATMs than lost jobs.

          Learn some basic economics. Read “Economics in one lesson” and keep an open mind, because just about everything you think you know about economics is wrong.

  3. avatar CalGunsMD says:

    $359.99?

    Primary Arms sells their ACSS-equipped variable-magnification scopes for under $300

  4. avatar Montana Dan says:

    Since TTAG doesn’t seem to want to cover it I’ll give you the link for GOA

    https://gunowners.org/alert12112017.htm

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Use the search function. TTAG has done at 4 articles and 2 podcasts about the “Fix the NICS” bill in the last month alone.

    2. avatar Anymouse says:

      Pay you’re F’ing parking/traffic ticket, and you won’t be a “fugitive” any more. The bill isn’t adding to the definition of prohibited persons, and nothing would stop an antigun administration from the suggested abuses.
      They even listed what Obama did under the current law. On the good side, we get reciprocity. Seems like a small win for our side. If NICS fix were terrible, the antis would be screaming that it needs to be passed despite reciprocity.

  5. avatar doesky2 says:

    $360 on Sightmark….I think not.
    Heck you can get 1-6 Strike Eagles for $250 if you keep your eyes open.

    Or….
    1-4 Cabelas branded rumored to be alliance with vortex
    Lifetime warranty
    go on sale often at $112 including mount
    CQB ring and BDC reticle
    https://gun.deals/product/cabelas-ar-riflescope-12499-installed-wmount-free-boresighting-store-lifetime-guarantee#comments

    1. avatar Jonathan says:

      So why don’t you compare this scope to a Strike Eagle?

  6. avatar Mike says:

    I can see the difference between the much more expensive Vortex glass – I that isn’t surprising. What would be more interesting is a comparison between this and some of the other budget glass mentioned by other commentators.

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