When it comes to high end glass for use on tactical sniper rifles, the name US Optics is usually one of the first to come to mind. US Optics (USO for short) actually took over the Unertl USMC scope contract a few years before the replacement of that scope all together with Schmidt & Bender. There has been some controversy about the USMC scopes and replacement, but USO is still a player, and when it comes to custom tactical scopes, USO is pretty much the only game around if you are going REALLY custom. Leupold and others have some custom options, but the USO scopes are truly a custom scope with different knobs, reticules, features, colors and other options available. A loyal SC friend had recently provided a KMW rifle for review and it came topped with a USO SN3 T-Pal, so we figured we would give it a run through to see how it does.
The first thing I will mention is that the US Optics website is a little rough around the edges, at least at this time. There is some info, but there are several errors and bugs with broken images and it makes it hard to get some detailed info at times. It was worse a few days ago so it looks like there is at least some work being done on it and while this does not reflect on the quality of the scopes and some may argue that they would rather they build quality scopes and not quality web pages, but to me, it seems a customer facing portal to your company should be looking sharp and putting a good foot forward. But anyway, moving beyond that…
The scope itself appears to be excellent with a good design. The tube is rugged and looks nice with its green anodized finish. It is matte and tactical in nature, which makes it a little strange that they would put their US Optics logo so large and in white. Why not a subdued black color and a bit smaller? Just seems odd and out of place on a scope designed for purely tactical use.
The knobs on the scope are worth mentioning, as this scope comes with the metric EREK knob with its 90 clicks of adjustment per revolution. The neat thing about the metric version is that it is very nicely suited for the mil reticules out there. This scope has the nice GAP Mil reticule that allows for the ability to measure 10 mils below the horizontal. The reason the metric knobs work so well is because each click is 1cm, and if you remember that a milliradian is 1 measure of unit at 1000 measures of unit and doing a little bit of math, you come to realize that each click of the metric knob is 1/10th Milliradian, and the knob is conveniently marked as such. So if you need to go 1 mil high at 100 meters, dial in 10 clicks, or a full decemeter, and you are there. It is different than the traditional MOA method, but the concepts are the same, you are just using a reticule that is compatible with the knobs. It is a smart idea and has been growing in popularity.
I have been mentioning it on other scopes, so I’ll need to do it here as well, there is no indicator showing which way is up or down when viewing the knobs while positioned from behind the scope (shooting position). I prefer there to be a visual reminder, though you can tell by the direction the numbers are counting. I just like to eliminate as much thinking as possible during stessful situations.
The T-Pal portion of the scope is the side focus adjustment knob. The normal SN3 has a fixed objective or optoinal adjustable objective located up on the objective of the scope, but the T-Pal moves it to a side focus and it works as one would expect. It is precise and allows for good focus on targets. Having the focus on the side is a much desired feature, though you do have to pay for it on the SN3, which is a bit odd for a scope in this price range. This scope was also ordered with an illuminated reticule which illuminates the entire reticule and not just the center portion as some others do. There are several steps of brightness and there is no leaking light anywhere I could detect. Though the knob is placed extremely close to the windage adjustment knob, in fact, the caps actually will touch each other if you go to pull the cap off of the illuminated controls while the windage cap is still in place. It can use a little extra room there. The illuminated reticule knob is also directly behind the windage knob so you cannot see any markings or anything while behind the scope, but that is not too critical for the illuminated controls, unless you accidentally put it on a low setting which may not obviously show the user it is still on. The windage knob does have markings indicating L & R direction that are visable while in the shooting position behind the scope.
The power ring is nicely placed and large when compared to the likes of Leupold or others. It does not have a protrusion for helping grip the ring like those others, but it is large enough and has nice checkering on it to easily allow the operator to grip it firmly and adjust the power. The ring rotates around the tube and does not rotate the eyepiece like the Burris scopes and it accomplishes everything it needs to. The numbers are well marked with large numbers and a dot on top to indicate what power the ring is set at.
The reticule is the GAP mil-reticule that expands on the normal mildot reticule concept and is similar to the MP8 reticule from IOR. It is nicely numbered to help prevent having to count down or up to determine where you are at, which is especially helpful on the 9 mils that extend below the horizontal stadia. I would recommend, to reduce some of the clutter and obscuring less of the target, perhaps half as many numbers would probably provide the same effect (just 3 & 6 for example), and the numbers along the horizontal are probably not needed, as there are none above the horizontal and it is the same 4 mils. The half mil marks are only marked on one side of the stadia and this works well to clearly identify them as the half mil marks. The best part about the scope/reticule is that it sits in the first focal plane meaning it is always accurate no matter what power the scope is set at. The picture below was taken while the scope was set at 3.2x while the picture at the top of the page was taken at 17x. You can compare and see the reticule shrinks and grows to always allow it to stay accurate. The crosshairs themselves are thick at the higher magnifications and it makes for difficult precision shooting at a small target, but it also allows for very good visibility of the reticule in tactical environments where the reticule can sometimes disappear against the background. The lighted reticule is good for those scenarios as well.
At the range with the scope mounted on a .260 built by KMW, the scope performed very well as you would expect. The knobs were precise and adjusted easily and with definitive tactile clicks. Shooting through the box was very accurate with good repeatability. All of the other mechanical funtions of the scope performed well with no real stories to report. I did like the feel of the EREK knob as it is easy to grip even with gloves on and has a nice adjustment feel for the clicks.
Of course, everyone wants to know about the optical quality, which is the hardest thing to compare. This scope has the honeycomb filter used as an anti-reflective device (ARD) and it is indicated to enhance low light target detail and allow you to see into shadows better, but honestly, I’m not sure I can say I notice a difference and as with all ARDs of this design, it hinders light gathering and brightness during normal conditions. Without the ARD the scope has good optics, about on par with other higher end scopes, but I would also say it is probably not better either, and not quite up to the very high end scopes such as the Schmidt & Bender, Premier, Kahles and others.
The scope is a very good scope and if you need a custom scope with specific features, USO is the way to go. I like the power ring and the EREK knob is nice, though S&B is able to get just as many adjustments (actually more) per revolution with a standard size knob, but the EREK knob offers some unique and innovative zeroing capabilities to adjust where the bottom of the adjustment range is in relation to the knob. I prefer the more compact shape and design of the S&B but the USO does have all the options you could want and you can get some very unique scopes that fit your specific need, and for that, the USO is hard to beat.