Find out what new long-range shooting equipment former Marine sniper Frank Galli thinks is worth investing your hard-earned money.
What's The New Long-Range Shooting Equipment:
- X7 Riton Optics Conqueror
- Arken Optics 4-16x50mm FFP
- Hoplite Arms Rifles
- Genesis Ballistics Calculator
- Vectronix Terrapin X Rangefinder
- Really Right Stuff Ascend Tripod
In a normal year, our look at the future begins with SHOT Show. Typically held in January, we get to see what companies are preparing to release that year. Secret projects are revealed, and there’s always some interesting surprises when a company succeeds in preventing leaks.
SHOT Show 2021 was canceled. To make matters worse, many of the products from 2020 never made it to the market. We were teased last SHOT Show, then the lockdowns happened and everything evaporated. In fact, I ordered several new products last year, and they were never delivered. The supply chain is the biggest issue: You cannot build a new product if you can’t get the materials or the government has ordered your business closed until further notice.
With the model for new product releases changing, we’re seeing more incremental upgrades, at least at the moment. The shutdowns have allowed some companies to move forward in design and testing, and other companies are just trying to deliver. With the current political climate, demand has also increased, creating a double-sided problem.
It’s not all bad; demand is up, supply is down—but innovation moves forward. Let’s look at what we did see in 2021.
I’m starting with optics because this sector has had the most movement. An OEM scope is one build for a specific company. It’s not designed from a scope manufacturer, instead, a specification on features is chosen from a list, and the builder then brands that optic to the company.
It’s a great way to get into the industry, and often these scopes are less expensive than the original that inspired them. When a large manufacturer requisitions a design by an overseas builder, those designs can then be resold to others.
The most popular in this category is probably Athlon, who makes a solid product with a proven track record. Their entry into the industry has prompted several others to follow, and those companies are releasing new products and design adjustment upgrades to their existing lines.
X7 Riton Optics Conqueror
The X7 Riton Optics Conqueror is a 3-24x56mm Front Focal Plane scope, retailing for $2,250. There are several new models in the Riton lineup, the X7 being the top-of-the-line models. This scope features improved internals, 120-MOA adjustment and holdover-style reticle. With a 34mm main tube with illumination and choices in both MRAD and MOA, it checks all the boxes.
It’s a solid entry into the market—the right size, weight and specifications to satisfy most precision rifle shooters. There are plenty of magnification options to choose from, including 4-32x and 3-18x versions.
Get On Target With Frank Galli:
- Mils vs. MOA: Which Is The Best Long-Range Language?
- Buying the Perfect Precision Scope
- Shooting Positions: Variety Is The Spice Of Life
- Riflescope Tracking: Why It’s Crucial To Test It
- Long-Range Shooting: Becoming Your Own Spotter
Another company to look at in this market is Arken Optics. They’re different from most brands as they’re using lower-cost Chinese-built scopes. The difference is the reliability they’ve specified for their products. If you think of it as an à la carte menu, you can easily put your money in glass, internals or other features. Focusing on the internals is where Arken invested, and it shows.
I have the Arken Optics 4-16x50mm Front Focal Plane scope. This scope retails for the low cost of $399, and it’s a very good entry-level scope. I’d highly recommend it for those with budgets that fall into this bucket.
Arken Optics fills a very specific need, since not everyone has to spend $2,000 on a scope. In the past, the choices for sub $500 scopes were terrible. The reliability at this price range suffered. Putting the Arken to the test using our Sniper’s Hide Scope tool, we found it to track with 100 percent reliability. With the pandemic limiting supply, it afforded the company to change the reticle. They took end-user feedback and modified the reticle to something more popular, so moving forward you’ll have access to that upgrade.
There are several other scopes in this category. You have companies like Tract, Maven and Athlon (as noted earlier) all offering very good optics at a variety of price points. My advice for you is to look at the specs in the following ways:
- Budget: Determine your budget.
- Reticle: The reticle is a main area of focus; we interact with the reticle, so make sure it speaks to you.
- MRAD or MOA: Most modern optics offer both. Be sure to check point two as MOA reticle choices are often limited versus their mil-based counterparts.
- Features: The features are often very similar, as many OEM scopes are based off a specific model to begin with; look at the tube size, turret design and ocular adjustments.
- Glass: Glass is the last thing I consider; current specifications have improved over the years. HD glass is quite common.
Rifles are a tough call for 2021. Gun sales surged in 2020; the previous record was 2016. More than 15 million background checks were completed in that year; 2020 exceeded 17 million background checks.
Supply is difficult, so companies are focusing on that with research and development taking a backseat. It seems that the only long-range rifles being released are ones that were in the pipeline prior to 2020.
I spoke to Hoplite Arms about their new rifle systems to be released in 2021 that were poised for SHOT Show: “Initially, Hoplite Arms will offer complete weapon systems and will not be offering actions alone,” said a member of the Hoplite R&D team. “By offering a complete weapon system from the onset, we can ensure that our design is not left vulnerable to issues that have plagued certain sectors of our industry. Hoplite Arms criteria and performance targets for these new projects (Kopis, Aspis and Phalanx weapon systems) has been aimed at not only adding value and increasing reliability, but also to enlarge and exceed the current performance envelope. We are achieving unheard of action strength via the alloy choices of critical components, such as the bolt and the breech cylinder. Both of those alloys are Aermet 100, which has great strength—without brittleness.”
Hoplite Arms is also releasing a new version of Patagonia Ballistics ColdBore 2.0 via smartphones. Patagonia Ballistics is one of the oldest ballistic solvers on the market. In fact, they were right there with CheyTac’s ABC system and Gerald Perry’s ExBal. The issue with it was that it used a Windows mobile-based system. Many of us consider ColdBore the best ballistic software on the market, if we only didn’t have to deal with Windows. We use it with Trimble units, but they’re big and heavy devices. Porting the software for iPhones and Androids is a welcome upgrade.
Enter Genesis Ballistics, a full-featured ballistic app that’ll run on your smartphone. Genesis builds off the Patagonia software; it has tools and features not found in other solvers, like the Scope Tracking Utility.
We see a lot of companies offering small incremental updates to products, especially around ballistic software. One area where a company can grab attention is connectivity … linking one product to another.
Vectronix Terrapin X Rangefinder
Vectronix is very good at this, especially with the Terrapin X rangefinder, a consumer-based unit that doesn’t include propriety software, but rather focuses on feeding the different programs data. Recently, they added connectivity to a host of new products, including the Garmin Applied Ballistic smartwatch.
Setting the watch to your Applied Ballistic profile, you can easily range a target, flip your wrist and the solution is presented to you. Connectivity across multiple devices means you’re future-proof versus investing in proprietary solutions.
The Garmin Tactix Delta with Applied Ballistics is a fully featured ballistic solver; it’s not a lite version as found in devices of the past. I’m huge fan of the Garmin smartwatches. The Tactix Delta is very similar to the Fenix 6; it includes the solar glass for charging and with that option, the watch will stay charged for more than 25 days.
Tripods And Bipods
Really Right Stuff Ascend
Really Right Stuff has several new products dropping this year. Sticking with what works—tripods—they’re releasing a small, compact hunting tripod called the Ascend. It’s the pinnacle of a modern shooting tripod in a lightweight and compact design.
Along with the Ascend, Really Right Stuff has two options for mounting binoculars to include laser rangefinder ones that have those odd-shaped housings. The Cinch Elite is the aluminum version, and the LR is the polymer model. The polymer model has been priced for the everyman. Many people lament the cost of Really Right Stuff products, but we pay them because they work.
Really Right Stuff has a host of new products and accessories designed to bridge the interface between shooter and tripod.
Long-Range Shooting Equipment Doldrums
The pandemic really threw a curve in our supply chain. Combine this with an election that’ll hold big consequences for the gun industry, and it’s just a recipe for disaster in terms of new product releases.
However, it’s not all bad news: The change in strategy we’re seeing, with companies not focusing on a specific release point but instead bringing the products to market when complete, is going to work out well in the long run. Staggering releases may mean more opportunity.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and we'll send your print-at-home target pack right away. Just enter your email address below.