Monday, March 17, 2014

Testing The New 3-9x40mm M40 Tactical Hunter Riflescope

Most days...I just love my job...especially the part that keeps me on the shooting range a lot.  Unfortunately, like most of the country, where I play in Western Montana has had more than its share of cold...windy...and snowy weather this winter.  Even when the weather began to break the first of March, getting to the range was pretty much out of the question as FEET of snow began to melt...turning my range and the dirt road leading to it into a muddy mess.

After a week of warm sunny weather and dry conditions, yesterday morning (3-16-14) I decided to go for it...and see if I could four-wheel myself into the old hay barn where my somewhat portable shooting bench is stored. I was more than a month behind in the testing of the new Hi-Lux Optics black matte finished 3-9x40mm M40 Tactical Hunter scope, which features the same ranging system as the company's recreation of the green anodized scope used by Marine Corps snipers in Vietnam, and which was mounted on the .308 Winchester bolt-action M40 sniper rifle.

Both versions of the scope feature a simple and easy to use ranging system.  All the shooter has to do is
zoom in on a known target of 18 inches, until it fits in a bracket incorporated in the reticle, then read the range on a scale that's inside the scope.  What sets the M40 USMC version of this scope apart from the new M40 Tactical Hunter model is that with the military version, the shooter still must know the drop of the bullet at 200 to 600 yard, and manually apply the correct amount of hold over.  On the other hand, the M40 Tactical Hunter model incorporates a bullet drop compensating reticle (shown above).  Once the shooter ranges the target, and knows the distance, it's just a matter of using the proper BDC aiming mark to consistently place the shot in "The Zone" - insuring a game taking hit.

While the BDC reticle of the M40 Tactical Hunter has been calibrated for the trajectory of the .308 Winchester or .223 Remington, to 600 yards, those same BDC hold-over aiming marks work extremely well with rifles chambered for many other popular cartridges.  It's now my job to determine which rifle calibers are most compatible with the longer range aiming point of this scope - and I figured I would begin with the .30 caliber cartridges.

The rifle on which the scope is shown mounted at the top of this post is one of my favorite rifles - it is a stainless steel Winchester Model 70 chambered for the .300 Winchester Short Magnum.  Using Accurate Arms 4350 powder, I have worked up loads for the rifle, shooting the same 168-grain Hornady .308" diameter boat-tailed  polymer-tipped spire-point A-MAX bullet, that will keep groups inside of an inch at 100 yards, at velocities the same as that achieved with the .308 Winchester (at 2,700 f.p.s.)...the .30/06 Government (at 2,850 f.p.s.)...and at the typical velocity of the .300 Winchester Short Magnum (at 3,050 f.p.s.).

The rifle, being a .300 WSM, had been sighted to print about 1 1/2 inches high at a hundred yards with the bullet at 3,050 f.p.s..  At the upper end velocity, the 168-grain A-MAX has been a stellar performer on deer and similar sized game.  For my testing, I began at the .30/06 velocity (2,850 f.p.s.).  Several shots were sent down range to see how much the 200 f.p.s. slower velocity affected point of impact - and I was surprised to see that it tended to print about an inch higher...probably due to the slight rise of the muzzle during recoil before the bullet gets out of the barrel.

Once the M40 Tactical Hunter sighting had been tweaked to adjust for the slight drop in velocity, the rifle was printing the .475 b.c. bullet right at an inch above the center of the bullseye.  Then, with a new target on the board, I went for a 100 yard group.  Much to my satisfaction, the three shots punched the .555" center-to-center cluster shown here.

The target board had two heavy magic marker drawn lines across it, the inside edges of which were exactly 18-inches apart.  I had a friend move the board back a little at a time, and each time I checked to see how the 18 inch bracket of the reticle fit to match that 18-inch grid on the target.  It took several moves of the board...and finally a minor move of the portable shooting bench before the lines on the target board fit perfectly between the brackets in the scope...with the scope zoomed until the range on the scale indicated 200 yards.

Before shooting at the distant target...I took a reading with a laser rangefinder...which indicated the board was at 203 yards.  The next three shots, using the 200 yard BDC aiming mark, kind of printed a little strung out vertically, at an angle (target at right).  Still, from the center of the lowest hole in the target paper to the center of the top hole, the three shots stayed right at 1.251".  That's a great 200 yard group - and as you can see, it is still near the center of the kill zone of any big game animal.

I was impressed with how closely the range could be determined using the ranging system of the scope.  Knowing that laser rangefinders aren't always exactly right on the money either, I feel comfortable saying that there's a very good chance, that a hunter zooming in on the chest cavity of a mature whitetail buck (appx. 18 inches from the top of the back to the bottom of the chest cavity) can fairly accurately determine the distance of the deer, using the M40 Tactical Hunter ranging system, to within +/- of 5 yards.

Next, the board was moved out to 300 yards, again using the ranging system within the scope to determine the distance.  A check with the laser rangefinder put the distance at 304 to 305 yards - depending on whether you leaned a bit forward or a bit backward.  Using the 300-yard BDC aiming mark, the next three shots printed an average of 1 1/2 inches above point of aim - and center-to-center all three shots averaged just 1.390" across.  Quite honestly, I think this very well may be the best 300-yard group I have personally ever fired.  One thing is for certain - any whitetail buck that had been ranged with the scope at that distance, with a center hold on the chest cavity, would have been pretty much anchored on the spot.

Some preliminary shooting has already told me that the M40 Tactical Hunter scope...the standard hunting rifle being shot...the Hornady 168-grain .308" diameter A-MAX bullet...and charge of Accurate Arms 4350 powder used to get that bullet out of the muzzle at 2,850 f.p.s. will definitely keep hits inside the 8 to 10 inch diameter kill zone of a whitetail deer out to 600 yards.  In April we will cover more shooting with the rifle, scope and cartridge at this velocity at the longer ranges, plus take a look at shooting the same rifle and M40 Tactical Hunter scope with the same A-MAX bullet at 2,700 f.p.s. and at 3,050 f.p.s. to see if the combination can "Keep 'Em In The Zone!"

My guess is that I won't be disappointed. - Toby Bridges, Hi-Lux Optics


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