Reports From The Range: Light Rifle Trials

When last we left Parvusimperator’s Rifle Works, we had a rifle built to a concept. Perhaps a somewhat vague and nebulous hodgepodge of a concept, but a concept nonetheless. So let’s get her to the range and talk Trials, see how she fared, and how we liked her.

But first, a name! Because the name seems to suit her, and for a bunch of personal reasons I won’t go into here, I’m going to call my light rifle Bridget. Say hello, Bridget.

Second, Bridget needs an optic. As built, she has no sights at all. So I needed an optic. I have a bunch of nice optics sitting around, but not one really suited to competition. Plus, I really like optics on my pistols. I usually carry one, and I almost always take a red dot equipped pistol with me to the range if I’m going to be shooting pistols. And a red dot puts me firmly into the Open1 division of any two- or three-gun competition. So, I shouldn’t really compromise on my optic in terms of close-in performance or performance at range. Which made my choice obvious: the SpecterDR 1.5x/6x.

Let’s look at this optic. It’s made by Elcan, a division of Raytheon. And it’s huge. It’s also unique in that it has a mechanically-operated prism system internally, giving it exactly two magnification levels. This is the bigger SpecterDR model, so those two levels are 1.5x and 6x. There is nothing in between, and switching between the magnifications is super fast. The conceit here is that for variable power optics, nearly all of the time is spent at either the lowest available or the highest available magnification. The SpecterDR gets rid of the others. It also features a massive 42mm objective lens, which is great for low light, or just getting a really clear sight picture. And if you’re a glass snob, the engineers at Elcan have you covered with some phenomenally clear European-grade glass. The reticle is a lot like a TA01 Acog: a big crosshair with bullet drop compensation markings for useful ranges. You can get a reticle calibrated for 5.56 or 7.62 as is your preference. Mine is calibrated for 5.56. The reticle also has a range estimator scale. You can illuminate either the center dot of the reticle or the entire reticle. If you’re illuminating the center dot only, you can get Aimpoint-grade brightness out of the Elcan. You won’t have an issue with that washing out. It’s rated for an average battery life of 3,000 hours, which is really good for a variable-power optic. Or, really, anything not made by Aimpoint. Plus, this thing is built like a brick shithouse. It’s not gonna break on me. It’s probably good for anything short of getting shot or having C4 strapped to it. It satisfies the MIL-STD-810F standards for durability, in case you like looking up technical descriptions.

Now for the downsides. Remember how this thing is built stupid tough? And it has a giant, Illuminati-approved, all-seeing objective lens? Well, it’s also a heavy beast of an optic, tipping the scales at 700 g (1.54 lbs.). This is a lot, but bear in mind that it includes a mount. So if you’re comparing it to a more conventional optic design, add in the weight of a mount and then get back to me. It’s a bit lighter than the super popular Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6x on it’s own, and rather lighter once you add a mount to the Vortex. Downside two is the price. MSRP is painful. And, downside number three is that Elcan is a division of Raytheon. They are a military contractor. This optic has an NSN. Having a super good warranty isn’t high on their features list. Nor is having a customer service department that can be there to hold your hand and reassure you that you are a special snowflake. They don’t care. If you object, feel free to take your business elsewhere. I don’t really care, so I ponied up the cash and bought one.2 Oh, the one other thing to be aware of is that the integral mount uses ARMS levers. Some people don’t like those because they’re not adjustable and don’t work if the rails on your upper aren’t in spec. There are better clamping designs now, but these work. Plus, I can’t change them out. Hardly a dealbreaker.

Enough of me babbling about the optic. Let’s mount it up! Even with the Elcan beast mounted on the rail, Bridget weights in at 7.53 lbs., which is lighter than Kat without her optic. It’s also about as much as Maryanne, my SCAR 16S, weighs without her optic.

Range trials proceeded without too much drama. That gas system runs great. No problems in rifle operation were found. Though, I didn’t run a ton of rounds through Bridget yet at this stage. In terms of handling though, I’m super impressed. Bridget isn’t front-heavy like most other ARs, and she’s not rear-heavy like a bullpup. The vast majority of the weight is concentrated right around the magwell, where your strong hand is. So she’s not tiring to hold up and maneuvers super easy. That long handguard is actually quite nice with the weight distributed this way. It makes transitions really easy.

What else did we notice? Bridget is loud. Very loud. And the blast is obnoxious. How obnoxious? Well, two lanes over, Fishbreath remarked “Holy cow that’s obnoxious!” And he’s not one given to profanity. Translating to something a bit more colloquial gives us “Fucking ow!” Fishbreath has also mentioned the sensation of getting blasted in the face with the particles that come out of the business end of a rifle is a lot like getting pepper sprayed.

That said, after understanding that Bridget is going to helpfully try to get you some extra shooting space so that you both can get comfortable, she’s a remarkably flat shooting gun. I’m no expert in recoil control, but that little M4-72 brake is amazing at keeping the muzzle where you pointed it. No jumping, no nonsense. Plus, even less recoil than you’d expect from a 5.56. Bridget feels like shooting a .22 that someone made heavy, but somehow is being magically supported. Oh, and you’re right behind a cannon that’s synchronized to you. Because roar.

In case it’s not obvious from the above, I like Bridget very much. She’s lots of fun to shoot. Having a light, well-balanced rifle is pretty awesome, and it’s a solid validation of my part selection. I’m quite happy with her as is. I was a little concerned that the heavy Elcan would ruin everything, but because of the balance, I don’t have any complaints. I might swap to something else in the future, but I’m happy with the Elcan for the time being. I’m also quite happy with my choice of stock and handguard. Thanks, BCM! I do need to remember a glove for sustained shooting, since the handguard heats up quick. The Geissele SSA-E is a good trigger, but I might like to try something different given my expected uses. We’ll see–I’ve got a match coming up on the 10th, and I’ll take note if any conclusions shake out of that match, other than I need more practice.

1.) Or “Un-Limit-ed” now, I guess. Name changes, ugh. Maybe I’ll call it Ultd. Anyway, same great nearly-no limits as Open, brand new name.
2.) I got mine from CS Tactical. They do have great customer service.

2 thoughts on “Reports From The Range: Light Rifle Trials

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