High quality scopes have always been expensive. High end variable magnification scopes are extremely expensive. Front focal plane designs – with the zooming reticle–even more so. If the wide end of the zoom is a true 1X, we can safely up the price and the weight by another 50 percent. For example, Leupold Mark 8 CQBSS first focal plane scope, retails for about $3,000. That’s about what Trijicon’s excellent 1-6X FFP VCOG cost as well.
At lower prices, at least up to now, either zooming first focal plane reticle or higher end magnification or optical quality usually go away. But the new Primary Arms 1-8×24 mm FFP scope is hardly the usual optic. Designed from the start to be Primary Arms flagship option, this first entry into the premium category, this scope is also the first PA product manufactured in Japan alongside other premium brands.
The scope is compact for a 34 mm tube, but fairly hefty at two pounds counting the mount. For that weight, it brings an advantage over increased strength over the thinner 30 mm competitors. The full feature list is quite impressive:
- Bright and sharp glass that doesn’t flare in back light
- Forgiving eye box, even at 8X
- Simple but informative illuminated range-finding FFP reticle
- Night vision compatibility with two brightness settings
- True 1X at the wide end with sufficient daylight illumination to be used as a red dot
- Zero-lock adjustment turrets
The ACSS reticle provides for accurate drop compensation from 100 to 800 yards. It also shows windage and sideways target movement compensation. Front focal plane reticle means that it zooms right along with the field of view and the angular measurements are the same at all magnifications. Since this is a hunting scope produced in neutral Japan, the rangefinder scale is predicated on a standard upright deer. At lower magnification, the detailed ranging information becomes too small to be visible while the illuminated double horseshoe shape permits quick reactive fire. Since the reticle is marked .223/5.45mm/.308, I asked how that works and discovered that 5.45x39 mm and 7.62x51 mm ball trajectories match almost exactly at 800 yards, and so do 5.56 NATO 69-grain match loads. The actual trajectory will vary slightly based on the barrel length, specific load, and atmospheric conditions, but the BDC will help get that bullet onto a man-sized target pretty far out. The greatest variation at that point would be the group size and the de-centering of that group due to wind.
The scope is also available with mil-graduated reticle that's not tied to any particular caliber. That's helpful for use with slower or faster dropping bullets than the three previously listed. For example, on a .45-70 Gov't. brush gun, you could leave it unmagnified for stalking dangerous game but still have the detailed ranging and drop compensation “ladder” when zoomed in for deliberate long range shots.
At 100 yards, set on 8X the scope will resolve high-contrast details just over 3 mm in ideal lighting conditions–that resolution is scaling down greatly but still remaining adequate for the low-contrast, low-light condition in which most careful varmints are found. For larger game, details under an inch would still be visible in good light at the 800 yard reticle limit. These calculations only hold true for truly exceptional apochromatic glass, and this scope comes pretty close to the ideal.
Due to the high quality of the optic, the image it projects is far brighter than I expected for the size. Since the exit pupil of a 24 mm scope is a physical limitation in low light, the true 1X magnification with illumination comes in very handy for defensive use. This scope also works very well for three-gun competition, giving rapid sighting for close-in targets and fine detail for the more distant steel plates. The shooters might be able to get a little of the weight back, as a separate red dot sight becomes unnecessary.
To test the durability of this scope, Primary Arms built a desktop rig simulating the repeated recoil of a .338 Lapua Mag. bolt action. This optic survived the ordeal just fine. At an MSRP of $1,299, this high quality optic is priced pretty much at the minimum Primary Arms could afford to sell it in order to get into the premium market segment. The scope comes with flip-up covers. Although the zoom and focusing rings are properly dampened, I would recommend adding a cat-tail lever for quicker zooming. Aside from that one accessory, the 1-8X is ready to go straight out of the box and represents a substantial upgrade over any similarly priced glass.