October 21-27 2018
It had taken me 3 years to make the stars align and actually get myself to this course, and as I would find out very quickly, this one is no joke. Gunsite Academy’s PR7 Course is an introduction to long range shooting in its purest form. That means very little tech. You learn to range targets using your scope, and engage out to the limits of your weapon systems capabilities. Like any good training, it felt like drinking from a firehose.
I arrived with a pretty basic, but well tested set up. My Remington 700 chambered for .308 and dropped into a McRee G-7 Chassis. I was topped with a Lucid Optics MLX 4.5 x 18 x 44mm Precision Rifle scope.
When I arrived and finally got to take a look at the other students set ups, I was impressed, but not really surprised. I saw what I had expected. Savage, Remington, Leupold, Steiner, Nightforce. All were well represented. All costing thousands of dollars each. I felt a bit like the little kid on the baseball team that had the hand me down bat and glove. I was relatively certain my entire system cost less than some of the glass I was looking at.
One advantage I knew I had was intimate familiarity with my equipment. I had used it. I had maxed it out, and I had beta tested the DOPE. In short, I knew exactly what to expect when I pressed the trigger.
For the first couple days the MLX shined. In bright sunlight and known ranges I barely even had to work to get my hits. Admittedly I was not dialing, other than to confirm my ranges, but even out to 1000 yards I was getting first round hits. I had no issues with clarity even though I was using and Anti-Reflective honeycomb to mitigate glare. The parallax and magnification adjustments worked perfectly. I did notice that I had to turn the parallax knob all the way to one end or the other, and then adjust to my focal range. When I tried to adjust from a previous setting, I had trouble with getting sharp focus. After asking some of the other students, I found that this is quite common. I am biased towards the first focal plane magnification of the MLX because for me, it is easier to only develop one DOPE sheet rather than multiple settings dependent on what magnification I am set at.
Where the MLX really shines is when we were shooting multiple targets at known ranges. The clean reticle makes holdovers an absolute breeze. Especially having number references on the side. You don’t waste time or “get lost” counting mil marks. This makes it incredibly fast when there are multiple targets at different varying ranges. On our final exam, this ability had my spotter and I effectively engaging targets inside of 30-45 seconds.
I was also super impressed at the box test. With the exception of a software (i.e. shooter) malfunction. The box was absolutely perfect at 100 yards. The clicks were crisp, and even counting in the dark, I had no issues with scope adjustments. It returned to zero every time, and the locking turrets made sure I didn’t have to worry about any accidental changes to my settings.
Remember I said I pushed the MLX to the design limit? I did have some equipment issues, and to be fair, they weren’t all with the optic, but I did bring them up with the good folks at Lucid Optics and they jumped right on making notes and planning upgrades..
First was ranging. Inside of about 600 yards I found that the MLX did fantastic, however beyond 600, especially on the smaller targets, it becomes more difficult due to the fact that the reticle is only in ½ Mil marks. Now take into account that at longer ranges a mistake of .01 Mils is enough for a miss this becomes an issue. One could easily argue that all the measurements are available in the reticle, but for anyone that has ever ranged targets under time, this becomes impractical. However owing to the fact that the vast majority of shooters don’t know how to range with the reticle, and if you are with a spotter using a mil reticle spotting scope, this becomes a purely academic, and somewhat trivial thing.
The second thing that had me concerned from the day I sighted in the scope was the tooless turrets. A really awesome idea, but caused me some headaches. The way the turrets work is that you lift up to unlock the turret, and push down to lock in place. This function I really like, as it helps mitigate the danger of your turrets moving when you have your rifle slung, or in a bag. In this course we were moving constantly, and knowing my turrets weren’t going to get haphazardly turned was a real piece of mind. The issue is that to free spin the turrets and set zero, you simply pull up past the unlock space. It is very easy in the heat of the moment to pull too hard, and now you have slipped the turret with out making an adjustment, your indexed zero is completely lost. At some point when we were dialing our targets I must have pulled a little too hard, because after 3 days my zero had changed nearly a half mil at 100 yards. I certainly don’t blame the scope for this, as I knew better, but it is something you have to be hyper aware of. NOTE: I am told that this turret system is being replaced in the new models for this very reason.
Lastly was low light shooting. Even after removing my ARD I had difficulty with low light and night shooting. The 44mm objective just doesn’t let in enough light, when the only illumination is coming from the target. Some kind of reticle illumination would have been helpful in this situation as well. To be fair, the target itself was easily visible, and after having some time to ponder the situation further, adjusting the diopter may have helped. We used mostly holdovers during the night shoots and when the target only had enough size to silhouette a Mil or less in the reticle, it was difficult to be sure of your exact reticle placement. However I believe that with a larger objective lens, both of these problems would be mitigated. * - See NOTE Below
One thing I want to touch on is the absolute ruggedness of this optic. At $800.00 I had no compunction about rough handling. The PR7 course will test everything. If your equipment isn’t up to the task, be prepared to cry a river when it breaks, because it will. Even the most expensive equipment is no guarantee, as I watched a very expensive, and well known optic fail on day 3. As for me I only had one catastrophic failure.
It was the very first round of our final exam, when I experienced the first squib of my life. Here is where the ruggedness comes in. I threw my rifle a good 4 feet into a pile of tree and rocks as my spotter handed me his rifle to finish the stage. After clearing the squib, the scope and rifle continued to function perfectly landing us a 3rd place finish. No single piece of equipment is going to perform perfectly at everything, and the MLX is no exception. What it does, and does very well, is tackle the mid to semi long range shooting problems every bit as well as optics costing 5 times as much, and if it can survive me, I promise it can survive just about anything. At the end of the class, what I had was an optic that performed very well in a pretty harsh test, beating out some of the biggest names out there, and doing it for a quarter of the price. I wouldn’t hesitate to put the MLX on any rifle I was going to shoot. Knowing it will do the job, and is available for a sane price. It proved to me that a solid optic doesn’t have to bankrupt you.
NOTE (*) part of the issue is magnification range…in low light lower magnification is VERY beneficial for “light gathering” it’s physics, more magnification, less light…less light lower resolution.