When it comes to original scopes used on classic sniper rifles, the market is very tight as there are not a lot of them left and the collectors are constantly on the look out. So when an original comes on the market, the price tends to be very expensive. If someone wanted to build a tribute rifle for their own collection, finding an appropriate scope would be difficult to match the project. Enter Hi-Lux Optics. Hi-Lux makes several reproduction scopes that include the William Malcom, M73G4, M82G2 and the USMC M40 Redfield scope, the latter being the subject of this review. We recently brought in a M40-66 tribute rifle for a review and as a part of that review we also brought in a Hi-Lux M40 USMC scope to complete the package and to also conduct a full review of that scope.
The Hi-Lux M40 scope is intended to be an accurate reproduction of the original Redfield scopes that were used on the original M40 rifles during the Vietnam war. Redfield created those original M40 scopes by taking one of their standard Accu-Range 3-9x40mm scopes and anodizing the tube green. We did not have an original M40 Redfield scope to use for a side by side comparison, but we did have the next best thing. We have one of the original Redfield Accu-Range 3-9x40mm scopes that was the basis for the M40 scopes. We picked it up from a reader of the page a number of years ago and have held onto it since. We also have a new redfield M40 commemorative scope that Redfield/Leupold made a few years back and will be using it for comparison also.
Because these scopes are from the ‘Old School’ world of sniper scopes, this evaluation will not consist of all of the normal tests that we usually do on a tactical scope intended for duty use as there are no target knobs on these scopes and their intended use is to reproduce a classic and not go to combat or on a call out. We will provide some overall quality assessments, but we will not be doing the normal battery of tests at short, medium and long range.
The scope comes in a normal Hi-Lux box with traditional markings indicating what the scope is, and it includes a set of instructions and a set of flip up scope caps. The caps are not Butler Creeks, but they are not horrible either. They are thick, but server their purpose. The one major issue that we have to draw attention to is the ominous label, “Made in China”. We have reviewed a good number of Chinese built scopes and we have not often been impressed with them. In fact, we reviewed a Hi-Lux scope before, but as a part of the Leatherwood ART 2.5-10x44mm system. We did not have great luck with the scope there, but this scope is more simple in concept and we approached it with an open mind hoping for good results.
First appearances show that the scope looks very similar to most of the 3-9x40mm hunting scopes out on the market today, and by all rights it should since that is exactly what the original Redfield scope was that the USMC selected. The tube body is a semi-bright green that has some shine to it. Unfortunately we have never seen one of the original 1966 scopes when they were new from the factory to determine how close the color is, but it seems like it might be a bit brighter than the original, but that is just a guess. The eyepiece is large and a bit stout with three knurled rings around it, and as you can see from the comparison picture below, it is pretty close to the size, shape, and design of the original. The scope on the left is the Hi-Lux, the one in the middle is the Redfield Commemorative, and the black scope on the right is the original Redfield Accu-Range.
It is not an exact replica as some of the details are just a bit off, such as the size of the knurling, the exact length of the eyepiece, etc. But it is a much more faithful reproduction than the Redfield Commemorative scope. The eyepiece itself operates in the old traditional style, meaning that the entire eyepiece rotates to adjust the dioptre setting. There is a lock ring in front of the eyepiece that is used to lock it down once the reticle has been adjusted to be sharp and in focus for the user. We noticed that when the lock ring has been twisted forward in order to adjust the eyepiece focus, some of the manufacturing sloppiness comes out on the scope. The entire eyepiece wobbles a decent amount from the loose tolerances in the threading. When we compared it to the 50 year old original, there was some wobbling on that one as well, but it was about half what the Hi-Lux scope was. Once the lock ring was set, on both scopes, there was no movement at all and everything functioned well.
In front of the eyepiece and the eyepiece lock ring is the magnification zoom ring that rotates separate from the eyepiece. Again, the shape is close to the original, but it is not exact. The lettering is a slightly different font and the exact dimensions are off just a bit. But at a casual glance it is very similar. The thumb nipple is present that makes it easy to grab and adjust and it is interesting to note that these were present on scopes 50 years ago and now they have become popular again with “throw levers” and other protrusions that are offered on high end scopes like Nightforce and others. The power ring rotates smoothly with a medium amount of resistance which keeps it in place once set, yet is not too stiff when the time comes to change it again.
There is a good amount of tube length between the magnification ring and the shoulder area where the adjustment knobs are located and this gives the user some flexibility for mounting, though there is not as much room between the turrets and the front bell. The turrets themselves sit on top of a rounded shoulder which is very similar in shape, if not exactly like, the original Redfield as well as the new Redfield. Unlike modern tactical scopes, the adjustments are capped. The caps are noticeably taller than the caps on the original scope and of a different shape. The new Redfield commemorative scope is also a different shape than the other two, which causes a contrast in all three scopes. Under the caps are finger adjustable elevation and windage controls. The original scope also has some semi-finger adjustable knobs with the old traditional slot where a coin can be used to make the adjustments. These old hunting scopes were intended to be zeroed and then left at that zero, which was how they were used on the M40 rifle as well. The sniper had to know their hold overs for each range and go from there.
The adjustments on the Hi-Lux have the slot for the coin as well, but they also have some slight knurling with just enough height for the operator to be able to move the adjustments with their fingers, if they can squeeze their finger tips around it. It is still much easier with a coin or screwdriver. These adjustments are also intended to be zeroed and then left alone, only to make slight adjustments when reconfirming zero in new environments or with ammo changes. One thing we do not like is that the knobs are marked 1 CLICK 1/4″, which would mean .25 inches at 100 yards, but when you look at the documentation it is clear that one click equals .25 MOA and not .25″ at 100 yards. Yes, there is a difference and yes, it is noticeable when shooting long range with lots of adjustments dialed in. But we will be fair and remind ourselves that this scope is intended to be zeroed, and then left alone, so the slight variation between the .25″ markings and what they really equal will not be an issue. We just like to see correct markings and consistency… as we always say, consistency equals accuracy.
The clicks are pronounced and not mushy, but without elevated target knobs, that typically is not a problem. The windage knob is the same as the elevation knob and both of them have a small dot to indicate where the adjustment is set, which can be used when adjusting the zero. Neither the documentation or the web page provides any information on the total amount of elevation adjustments, but we manually checked the scope we have here and there was 97 MOA of vertical adjustment with 15 MOA per revolution.
In front of the control knobs the tube is a faithful reproduction of the original Redfield. As is evident in the picture above, the new Redfield commemorative scope is significantly different than the original and the Hi-Lux. Inspecting the tube construction and noticing the different pattern on the anodizing finish, plus the additional clue that there is a lack of mention that the tube is a single piece, leads us to believe the bell is threaded onto the tube. This is not uncommon and if done properly can be very durable. Several high end scopes are done this way, but we have also seen some low end scopes fail at this juncture. We cannot determine by mere inspection if it is a good or bad design on this scope, but we wanted to make mention of it here.
The overall finish of the scope is okay. The anodizing isn’t thick and you can see that the finish is not as even or nice as the newer Redfield, nor the older Redfield, though the older scope does show some wear for its many years of use. The final finish of the aluminum machining is not as smooth and is what stands out the most in the anodizing. It is not horrible, but not to the same standard as other scopes of similar price.
We do need to mention the reticle. One of the reasons why the USMC chose the Redfield scope in 1966 was because they knew that range estimation was the single biggest reason for missed shots for snipers. The mil-dot reticle was not invented back then, we can thank the USMC for that about 20 years later. But Redfield had a clever system devised in their Accu-range scopes to help with range estimation. At the top of the reticle is two horizontal bars set at a very specific distance. All the hunter, or sniper in this case, had to do was zoom in with the scope until those horizontal bars covered 18″ on the target. For a hunter that is about the size of the brisket on a deer, for a sniper, that is about the distance from the belt buckle to the chin. As the zoom ring is changed, there is a “tombstone”, as it was called, in the scope that would grow and shrink. Once the lines covered 18″, the sniper would look at the bottom of the tombstone and read the distance. We have to give our props to Hi-Lux, they have done an admirable job reproducing this reticle. You can see in the pictures below how the reticle from the Hi-Lux (on the left) compared to the original Redfield (on the right). Both scopes were set at 6x for the photos.
It is not 100% exactly the same, but it is close. The stadia lines are a bit different in thickness and the tombstone is not a perfect match, but the general idea is close. Both of the scopes read 400 yards when set at 6x. This ranging method was somewhat accurate from 200-600 yards and was clever and worked pretty good and was fast. The tombstone in the original Redfield scope was made of plastic and some snipers had the misfortune of leaving their rifles with direct sunlight hitting the optics which would often times melt the tombstone. The Hi-Lux tombstone is actually etched into the glass which eliminates that concern. The new Redfield scope has a mil-dot reticle, so it is not even in the conversation here.
Optically the glass is okay. It has a fixed parallax so there is no focusing the scope and while the scope seemed to have good light transmission, we noticed the picture wasn’t as crisp as other scopes of the same price range and magnification.
To test the scope we left it mounted to the M40-66 using the Leupold one piece mount that came attached to the rifle. If you read the review of this rifle it is a .5 MOA rifle that shot well for us. We took the scope out to the range to perform some operational tests to see how the internals of the scope stacked up. Again, this scope is not intended to be used like a modern tactical scope where we dial in lots of adjustments on target knobs, but the adjustments did track well and were repeatable in our tests. When we tested the click measurements we fired a nice tight group, then adjusted the windage 20 MOA to the right and fired a 2nd group. We then moved the windage back 20 MOA to the left and fired a third group. The third group was right on top of the first with one big ragged hole, which showed good initial repeatability. We then measured the distance between the first/third group and the second group to get a measurement of the clicks. 20 MOA at 100 yards equals 20.94″ which is what we would love to see with a scope. The distance between the groups with this scope measured 21.75″. This gives us an error of 3.9%. We allow for some error in our test due to group sizes effecting a true measurement, so we consider 5% error to be acceptable, and under 3% to be good. So this scope passed the test, but we don’t consider it to be a “good” result.
One last test we have started doing recently on our scope reviews is to check reticle shift when adjusting parallax as well as when changing the magnification. A lot of things happen internally in a variable power scope when the magnification, as well as focus, are being changed. Modern scopes have a decent amount of moving parts. For a long time this was why most hunting and sniping scopes were fixed power to improve durability and consistency. As the quality of manufacturing went up and new techniques were discovered, a lot of the error can be eliminated, but there is still some potential movement evident in modern scopes. This scope does not have an adjustable parallax, so we only tested the magnification. To do this, we use an optical boresighter when the scope is mounted on the rifle and monitor the reticle shift while we change the magnification. From 3x to 6x the reticle is pretty solid with nearly no shift at all, but from 6x to 9x, there is a full 2 MOA shift up on our test scope. So in theory, if you fired a group with the scope set at 6x, and then changed it to 9x and fired another group, your group would shift about 2 MOA down (because the reticle moved up). Due to manufacturing tolerances on mass produced scopes, some minor shift is to be expected, but a full 2 MOA is probably excessive.
So what do we have with this scope? Well, it is a Chinese made scope which traditionally have not been of the highest quality, and we see that again here. But the tracking isn’t bad and the optics are okay. What you DO get is a pretty good reproduction of the orignal M40 scope. It is not 100%, but at casual glance it is really close and most people might be hard pressed to tell the difference. Unfortunately the $400+ list price is higher than the quality of the scope is worth, but if you wanted to top your M40 replica rifle with a scope that properly matched it, then this is a decent option, especially if you are just shooting it casually. In regards to a faithful reproduction, compared to the Redfield Commemorative, it is a much better choice as the Redfield really is nothing like the original scopes. But for serious tactical work, we would steer you to different options other than the Hi-Lux for the same price.