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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, [email protected]: 93-22.7
Field of view, [email protected]: 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
Maximum Recoil: 800G’s
Parallax Setting: 100
Reticle, Type: Etched
Weight: 19.2 oz.
Width: 2.9 inches
Windage Range of Adjustment: 100
CJRK Tactical Riflescope Mount
Mount Type: weaver/picatinny
Diameter, Ring: 30mm and 1inch
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)
Weight: 8 oz
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.