Successfully Hunting Spring Turkey in Oklahoma

Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

Every year in late winter, as cabin fever begins to set in, we start to think about spring turkey season. As Mother Nature allows, we gradually begin to disc plots, frost-seed our clover and chicory and use prescribed fire on our native warm season grasses. Fire, in addition to management practices such as food plots, timber management and predator control, can dramatically increase turkey activity on your property. Fire suppresses unwanted plants and weeds, increases the palatability by encouraging new tender growth and improves wildlife habitat. In early spring, turkeys find these areas to be a great source of food. While predators such as coyotes and bobcats are much easier to avoid in freshly burned warm season grasses, mature toms find these burns irresistible—they are incredible places to seek out hens and put on a show, fans out, in full strut.

Mature tom turkey in the distance in the woods
A mature tom seeks out a hen.

A few days into the Oklahoma spring turkey season, we found ourselves set up on an area we had burned several weeks prior. While driving into the property, we located a big tom strutting in the middle of the burn. He had a single hen with him but she was giving him the cold shoulder as she fed along the edge of a creek. Several fingers of mature oaks separated us from the birds and we used them to our advantage as we cut the distance using woodlots for cover. A small pond at the edge of the woods meant the end of the road for us. We had cut the distance as much as possible and now only a few hundred yards separated us from where we had seen the strutting tom just 30 minutes earlier.

turkey spurs
The tom’s spurs.

I crawled across the burned grasses to get the decoys in place—hen and jake decoys were now easily visible from nearly every direction. As I set up, questions began to flood my head. Is the tom still in this area?  Will he hear my calling in the wind? Which way will he come from? We settled into a large clump of partially burned cedars and began to call.  I was slightly forward of my buddy, Chris Walls, who had volunteered to run the camera that day. Several minutes went by with no movement and no response from the tom we had seen earlier.  After nearly 30 minutes of periodic calling, I heard a faint gobble in the distance. Chris and I shared a quick glance to confirm that we had both heard what we thought we had heard. The tom was a long way away and had quite a distance to cover. Yet, still he had answered my call and that alone boosted our spirits considerably.

After that first gobble, things happened fast. As I called, the tom would immediately respond and occasionally cut me off. All the while, we could tell he was getting close with each subsequent gobble. The bird had committed and, within just a few minutes, had closed the distance by several hundred yards. I had to shift positions slightly. The tom decided he was coming right over the top of the pond dam to look for the hen that was making all of that sweet racket.

I heard him before I saw him. Although the tom neared, he remained hidden—the unmistakable sound of drumming just over the lip of the pond dam meant that he was close…real close!

View through the Sightmark Wolverine red dot.
Scoping out that tom from the Sightmark Wolverine!

Finally, the glimpse of a patriotic red, white and blue head over the edge of the pond damn made my heart race even faster! One last gobble and the body language of the old tom completely changed. He had seen the decoys! The tom was now focused on fighting his competition.  He cruised into the decoys at a brisk pace, dragging his wing tips and puffing out his chest. He passed by the Avian hen decoy without a second look and immediately began to beat up on the poor jake with well-placed wings and spurs!

As he continued, I stared intently, directly down my shotgun barrel at the unsuspecting gobbler. The Sightmark Wolverine’s bright red-dot reticle followed the tom’s head as he danced around the jake. Chris whispered the confirmation I needed that he was on the bird and rolling. While Chris was ready, I was not. I needed to let him clear the decoy just a bit to avoid putting pellets in my plastic prizefighter!

The click of the safety and a slight squeeze of the trigger left the tom laying on the ground between the decoys. A quick high-five with my cameraman and I ran out to gather what turned out to be another incredible bird off one of our Oklahoma properties. Property management and the right equipment played a huge role once again in the form of another successful turkey hunt. They don’t always end with smiles and high-fives but they do always end in an education. Make an effort to learn something every time you are out in the woods or on the water and it is sure to make you more successful in the future.

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About Brian

Brian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has spent most of his life in the Oklahoma City area. He achieved a life-long goal of becoming a firefighter in 2003 and is now a part of the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a Lieutenant. His love for the outdoors, hunting and fishing began at a very young age thanks to a family who shared that same interest. He grew up with a fishing pole in hand and began hunting with his dad around the age of 6. At the age of 14, he received his first hunting bow for Christmas and his love for bowhunting was born. He has been bowhunting for over 25 years and has had the privilege of harvesting many animals. While he spends most of his time hunting and fishing, reloading also ranks high on his list of hobbies. He is married to a very understanding wife and enjoys every minute they spend together.

Do you have a successful spring turkey hunt story? Share it in the comment section.

Sightmark Introduces Revamped Ultra Shot RAM Series

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/05/18) – Sightmark is proud to announce the release of the latest generation of Ultra Shot reflex sights, ripe with upgrades and a fresh new design. With three available models; R, A and M-Spec, Sightmark has created resilient close-range optics perfect for everything from target shooting to law enforcement and military operations on both AR platform firearms and shotguns. All RAM series sights are now powered by a CR123A battery, which provides superior battery life (200-2,000 hours) over other red dots and reflex sights. A wide lens quickens target acquisition while helping to maintain a wide FOV.  Quick-detach models include an improved QD lever allowing a low profile to keep the sights from snagging on gear or unlatching during the heat of the moment.

Ultra Shot RAM series red dot sights mounted on an IWI Tavor, CZ Scorpion 9mm and AR-15
The new RAM series Ultra Shot red dot sights are upgraded and enhanced with a all-new design.

Ideal for target shooting and hunting, the Ultra Shot R-Spec (SM26031), or Range Spec, features four reticle options with red or green illumination and a new low battery indication which prompts the reticle to blink when the battery is low. The R-Spec boasts 10 brightness levels, from low light to sunny outdoors, and slotted windage and elevation adjustments, able to be changed with a flathead or common tool.

The new aluminum-constructed Ultra Shot A-Spec (SM26032), or Advanced Spec model, retains many of the same updates found in the R-Spec, but adds 6-night vision settings, allowing the sight to be used in conjunction with night vision devices. The R-Spec is shielded by a sturdy aluminum alloy housing and protective aluminum shield.

The most durable and advanced sight in the Ultra Shot line, the new M-Spec LQD (SM26034) and M-Spec FMS (SM26035) were designed for law enforcement, hunting and competition shooting scenarios. Waterproof up to 40′ and able to withstand up to .50 BMG caliber recoil, this fixed mount M-Spec features motion sensing activation (5-minute shutoff with motion activation, 12-hour auto-off) to conserve battery life but still keep the optic ready for when it needs to be. This cutting-edge reflex sight has an integrated retractable sunshade that reduces lens glare and protects the optic during rain or snow.

Sighting in With Sightmark

This article written by Bill Thomas originally appeared in the United Kingdom magazine Airsoft Action. Sightmark products were supplied by U.K. dealer Scott Country International.

In the UK we sometimes seem to be all the way “at the back of the bus” when it comes to firearms and airsoft accessories and although our distributors and retailers do their very best keep us up to date with the very latest developments it can take a while for things to reach us. Bill Thomas looks at Sightmark, an optics brand that has finally reached our shores!

It was back at SHOT 2009 (if memory serves me right) that I first encountered the Sightmark brand of optics and from that day forward I’ve been hoping that someone would give us proper access to a superb range of extremely well-priced optics here in the UK!

I was so impressed with what I saw all those years ago that I invested in an original Sightmark Ultra Shot Reflex Sight straight away. The Sightmark series of reflex sights, even back then, were designed to create a lightweight, yet extremely accurate sight. Not only that but they were very well priced too, under $100 in the USA. The Ultra Shot was Sightmark’s biggest and baddest sight in the reflex line and was incredibly lightweight for its size. It came with a built-in, integrated rail mount, which fitted all standard bases and was able to withstand even heavy recoil from larger calibers; no problems with airsoft then. This, with the ability to choose between four different reticle patterns, made the original Ultra Shot an unusually versatile sight. With a wider field of view than most other reflex sights on the market and a limited lifetime warranty, the Sightmark Ultra Shot was literally in a class by itself!

Sightmark Ultra Shot red dot sight in flat dark earth finish
Sightmark’s Ultra Shot is a very versatile sight.

But time moves on inevitably, and although there were some half-hearted efforts to bring the brand to the UK it was never made particularly available…until now! Luckily for us, Scott Country International has now taken over distributorship of Sightmark in the UK.

Eyes On!

Time and technology continue to move on unabated and luckily enough for us in the airsoft world, faster communication means even faster dissemination of information. Now as regular readers will know, I’ve been following the roll-out of some excellent Cannae Pro tactical gear (also courtesy of Scott Country International), and when Paul there spoke to me about their new brand, Sightmark, he was, of course, preaching to the converted.

What he sent me to try was a “combo platter” of the very latest Wolverine FSR 1×28 red dot sight along with a rather nifty flip to the side 3x magnifier, which makes an incredibly versatile package! Designed for short-range engagements, the Sightmark Wolverine FSR is specifically built for the AR platform. A digital switch controls the brightness of the 2 MOA red dot reticle with a 28mm objective lens that is specifically engineered for rapid target acquisition.

The durable FSR model weighs only 349g and is built for a lifetime of use. Fogproof and nitrogen purged, the Wolverine family of sights is designed to provide you with the ability to take aim in a variety of conditions and temperatures ranging from -22 to 122 F. The Wolverine FSR also has an IP67 waterproof rating and is submersible to three feet.

Sightmark Wolverine and magnifier mounted on an AR-15
The Wolverine and magnifier together give greater range.

The 3x Tactical Magnifier Pro offers versatility by increasing the magnification of both red dot and reflex sights to give greater range. In one swift motion, the new flip mount design makes it fast and easy for shooters to increase their magnification for accompanying sights creating a greater engagement range in any situation. This durable magnifier has been redesigned to provide increased eye relief, along with an upgraded rubber armor housing to give increased durability, providing 3.5 inches of eye relief. The Sightmark 3x Tactical Magnifier Pro is also EOTech and Aimpoint compatible.

Overall the standard of finish and fit is superb, and the glass itself is absolutely crystal clear on both optics. The feel of both models is one of durability and once rail-mounted they are locked 100% in place. Now personally I like to run a magnifier as close to the sighting optic as possible to avoid light ingress and potential “flare,” and the Sightmark version allows you to run it really close, a big plus. I also like to have my magnifier flip to the left so that it’s protected against my body, and once again this is easily achievable; the flip also means that you can still run and access “irons” should you need to.

Dark Vision

When I need to test optics at a greater distance than my own 30m range allows, I’m lucky to have Darkwater Airsoft just down the road from me and I’ll head on there to use their facilities. Jon (aka “Posh”) has also been testing some of the optics offered by Scott Country International so I asked him if he would like to contribute to this article, and this is what he had to tell me:

“Chatting away with our friends at Scott Country International I was asked if I’d ever heard of Sightmark? “Who?” Was my reply.

Paul there went on to explain that they were a real steel optics company based in Mansfield, Texas and how they produced high-quality optics at very reasonable prices. We were chatting about Darkwater Airsoft’s upcoming MilSim “Grey Slate 2” and how well the thermal imaging units they provided the Heresy Group has been received by the attendees at the first game. Paul said that I should try out the Sightmark Ultra and the Pulsar Challenger Optic combo. With that, the deal was done.

Sightmark Wolverine red dot sight
The Wolverine FSR is specifically built for the AR platform.

Two days later a very well-presented package arrived. The SIghtmark Ultra Shot comes in a very generic looking box with branding. So far, so samey. The charm is found when you get through the security seals and remove the lid. Inside you’ll find a neoprene pouch stitched to the shape of the optic and zips firmly along the bottom. You’ll also find the quick release mechanism, adjustment tools, cleaning cloth and instruction manual. The Pulsar Challenger isn’t quite as exciting, a branded box, the unit and instruction manual.

On first inspection, the Ultra Shot is a weighty but not heavy, solid well-constructed bit of kit. I have the all-black version but there is also a Tactical Tan version. The two simple operational buttons are on the left side of the optic and comprise of “Power and Brightness.” Nice and simple. The rear of the unit has the reticle selector which, unlike Airsoft replicas, has a stiff lever and sturdy “click” feel when swapping. When activated the brightness levels cover all light conditions and are red/green switchable. The reticle is clear and bright with excellent target marking. In night vision (NV) mode, the reticle is clear and crisp with minimal glare when on low and viewed through the Pulsar Challenger NV optic. I thought this was pretty cool; the fact that you can mount it to a J-Arm and make it helmet compatible is just an added bonus!

The real selling point for me though was that whilst chatting with Scott Country, they told me about the “no quibble warranty.” Essentially, if the lens gets shot out during airsoft games, they’ll replace or repair. What more could you ask for?

The Pulsar Challenger NV is a Gen 1 optic so not the best available on the market, but it performed really well when combined with the Sightmark Ultra Shot (mounted to my rifle) and the pricing of the unit is excellent for those wishing to take the plunge but not having to re-mortgage the wife! Once I had figured out the focus, I was able to hit a target 40m out using the inbuilt IR light and using an external IR torch (flashlight), I was hitting 60m targets with a degree of accuracy. A perfect set up for beginners to night vision.

I would strongly recommend the Sightmark Ultra Shot to any airsofter or target shooter. It’s a solidly built bit of kit with a lifetime warranty, all for the cost of a good replica.

Posh Out.”

So, there it is in a nutshell! Scott Country International have shown a great willingness to be involved in the airsoft community and thanks to them we in the UK can now access the entire range of Sightmark products. In addition to some (for “real steel” world) keen prices there’s a whole new brand to explore. Sightmark has proved globally that they are here to stay and with an upgraded lifetime warranty (designed to “keep you in the field with products that are built to perform; in the event of defect in materials or workmanship, Sightmark will repair or replace your product immediately”) choosing one of their optics is a total no-brainer!

UK customers can find out more at www.scottcountry.co.uk/sightmark.

How to Use the Sightmark Pinnacle TMD Reticle

Sightmark Pinnacle riflescope mounted to a rifle at the gun range
The advanced Pinnacle riflescope is designed to perform flawlessly in competition and at long ranges.

While there is quite a bit going on inside a riflescope’s tube to get you on target and keep you there, the Sightmark Pinnacle’s TMD reticle is designed to help you successfully use holdovers, determine appropriate windage and elevation adjustments, range targets and even acquire zero or sight in.

The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash reticle, also known as the TMD reticle, is made of referencing points—including crosshairs, subtensions, subtension or referencing lines, numbers along the vertical and horizontal axis and a grid pattern in the lower half of the reticle some people refer to as a Christmas tree.

Let’s look at each reticle element and learn how they can be useful.

Crosshairs

The first and most obvious element of the TMD and most other reticles are the crosshairs. Crosshairs are comprised of the primary vertical and horizontal axis referencing lines that intersect at the reticle’s center point. You may see optics sometimes that consist of only crosshairs. Crosshairs create an initial point of reference for all other referencing information on the reticle and serve as an integral part of the point of aim when sighting-in a firearm or shooting at a distance where a bullet’s trajectory change is negligible. Of course, crosshairs also become the point of aim at greater distances when mechanical windage and elevation adjustments are made, at least until you run out of adjustment—possible even with the Pinnacle when shooting extreme distances.

Subtensions and Subtension Lines

Subtension is the distance a reticle covers at a certain range. Subtensions are the spaces between the subtension lines, also known as referencing lines or hashmarks. Just to the right of the vertical axis line and below the horizontal axis line to the right of center, there are numbers 2, 4 and 6. Each number references the corresponding hashmark’s distance from center. On the Pinnacle 3-18×44, each subtension is 0.5 mil, at least until you reach the top of the vertical and far right of the horizontal axis. The subtension lines for those final 3 mils reference 0.2 mil. These subtensions and hash marks are vital to using holdovers and ranging targets, especially on first-focal-plane optics.

Pinnacle TMD tactical mil-dash reticle illustration
The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash TMD reticle gets you on target and keeps you there.

Hash Marks

As examples, if you held the reference line on the horizontal axis above 2 on the bullseye, you would be holding 2 mils left—the reticle’s crosshairs are now 2 mils to the left of center mass. If you place the hashmark referenced by the number 4 on the lower half of the vertical axis line on the bullseye, you are now holding over 4 mils. As a final note, if you held between 2 and 4, your holdover would be 3. More finite vertical holdovers in this example might position you at 2.5 or 3.5 mils. The same applies for windage.

Remember, each subtension line is 0.5 mil. Of course, this is only true through all magnification ranges on a first focal plane riflescope. As they relate to second-focal-plane riflescopes, subtensions and subtension lines are only accurate representations of standard mil, or MOA on other scopes at a single power of magnification. This is the primary reason why long-distance shooters prefer first-focal-plane riflescopes like the Pinnacle 3-18×44.

Subtension Grid

The further we move from the crosshairs, the more difficult it becomes to acquire precise holdovers. Holdover is when you must aim above your intended point of impact to compensate for bullet drop. Since the lion’s share of holdover aiming occurs below the horizontal axis, the Pinnacle’s TMD reticle includes a subtension grid that widens as you move further down the vertical axis. If you were to use 4 up and 2 left as holdovers, you would hold the mark in the grid located 4 mils below the horizontal reticle and 2 mils to the right of the vertical axis on the bullseye.

Subtensions are also great for rapid zeroing or sighting in. For this example, we will use 100 yards as our distance. Shoot the target and note the shot placement. Now, place the crosshairs on the bullseye again and determine how many mils your bullet hole is away from dead center.

If the subtension lines revealed your shot was 2.5 mils below and 2 mils to the right, you would adjust your elevation turret up 25 clicks and left 20 clicks, considering each click is 0.1 mil of adjustment. Take another shot and you should be on the bullseye or left with only fine-tuning. If you’re zeroing, don’t forget to set the Pinnacle’s zero stop now, which guarantees an instant return to the original zero. You can find that video tutorial on Sightmark’s YouTube channel.

Ranging targets using subtensions can be a quick, relatively accurate way to acquire distance data without the use of a laser rangefinder or other technology; of course, to do so really requires a first-focal-plane scope like the Pinnacle 3-18×44 or, perhaps a second-focal-plane scope set on a single power of magnification. Again, the beauty of a first-focal-plane system is that the incremental values represented by subtensions, lines and numbers, never changes at any magnification. Subtensions mean the same at 3 power as they do at 18 power, whether the target is right in front of you or 1,000 yards away.

Windage and Elevation Axis

Remembering the Pinnacle 3-18×44 is based on mils with 0.1 mil turret adjustments helps us understand some quick math. 1/10th mil, most often referred to as 0.1 mil, moves your point of impact 0.36 of an inch at 100 yards. This is equal to 1.8 inches per .5 mil and 3.6 inches at 100 yards per full mil of adjustment. Simplified, because subtension lines on the Pinnacle’s reticle are based on 0.5 and 1 mil increments.

This means a 36-inch tall by 18-inch silhouette would span the vertical height of 10 mils and the horizontal width of 5 mils at 100 yards. So, an adult figure that filled 10 vertical mils and 5 horizontal mils of your reticle, would be an estimated 100 yards away.

Since 0.1 mil at 100 yards is 0.36 of an inch, we know 0.1 mil represents 1.8 inches of adjustment at 500 yards. Extended out from 0.1 mil to a full mil, we then know a full mil represents 18 inches at 500 yards. Since the target is 36 inches tall by 18 inches wide, we know it should fill 1 horizontal mil and 2 vertical mils. If so, that target is 500 yards away.

At 1,000 yards, we can double that. We know 0.1 mil is 3.6 inches of adjustment at 1000 yards and a full mil is 36 inches of adjustment at that range. So, the target we’ve been looking at would fill 0.5 mil on the horizontal axis and 1 mil on the vertical axis. Understanding the adjustment values of 0.1 mil, 0.5 mil and 1 mil at 100 yards and then extending out over yardage, coupled with identifying your target and possessing basic estimation knowledge of its size, means you can range any identifiable target with some degree of accuracy simply by utilizing the subtensions and hash marks in the Pinnacle’s reticle.

Click here to purchase a Pinnacle riflescope.

Do you have questions about using the TMD reticle? Leave them in the comment section and our product experts will answer them!

Sightmark Citadel Riflescopes: Making the Performance Mark

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/05/09) – Sightmark’s new Citadel line of premium riflescopes are on-target when it comes to affordable precision performance. Designed as a perfect optic solution for demanding, cost-conscious law enforcement and competitors, Citadel riflescopes are packed with the kind of features traditionally sought after by professional-level shooters. The Citadel riflescope line is comprised of three variable magnification models: 1-6×24 CR1 (SM13038CR1,) 3-18x50LR2 (SM13039LR2,) and 5-30x56LR2 (SM13040LR2.)

three riflescopes
The Citadel line of riflescopes is designed for long-range precision shooting and competition.

All models feature a fine-etched, red-illuminated reticle with 11 brightness settings; premium, fully multi-coated glass for razor-sharp clarity; single-piece, 30mm, 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum tube; throw lever for rapid magnification changes; IP67 waterproof, dustproof, fogproof and shockproof reliability; flip-up lens covers and Sightmark’s lifetime warranty.

Citadel First Focal Plane Riflescopes

Sightmark Citadel 3-18×50 and 5-30×56 riflescopes boast the highly sought after first-focal-plane lens system and illuminated LR2 mil-dash reticles extended-distance competitors desire for consistently precise holdovers at any magnification. Both optics also feature an adjustable, locking diopter, exposed locking turrets, 0.1 mil windage and elevation adjustments, and adjustable parallax. Citadel 3-18×50 and 5-30×56 are great options for long-range recreational plinking, bench rest and F-class competition and PRS matches.

Citadel 1-6×24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope

Perfect for law enforcement, competitive shooters and close- to mid-range hunting, the Sightmark Citadel 1-6×24 Riflescope is built for quick-target-acquisition from up close and personal to hundreds of yards out. The Citadel 1-6×24 features an illuminated CR1 (BDC) reticle calibrated for 55-grain .223 ammunition, capped low-profile turrets and ½-MOA per click windage and elevation adjustability with a total adjustment range on each axis of 120 MOA.

Click here to buy a Citadel riflescope.

Media members interested in learning more about Sightmark products are encouraged to stop by or schedule an appointment by emailing mediarelations@sightmark.com.

Take the High Road with Keith Warren at the NRA Show!

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/04/30) – Iconic hunter and host of The High Road, Keith Warren, will be at the Sightmark booth during the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits. Keith has hosted seven award-winning outdoor shows since 1984, appearing on numerous television networks including Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, Pursuit Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. His latest show, The High Road with Keith Warren, currently airs on Pursuit Channel and is one of the network’s most popular programs. To watch the latest episodes, log on to www.highroadhunting.com.

Host of The High Road, Keith Warren with a deer he hunted.
Keith will be at booth #12146 on Friday and Saturday from 3-5.

Keith will be at the Sightmark booth (#12146) for photos, autographs and to meet attendees, from 3 – 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 4 – 5. Stop by, say hi and check out some of the best red dot and reflex sights, spotting scopes, binoculars, riflescopes and digital night vision devices this industry has to offer.

The Annual NRA Meeting & Exhibits is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased on-site and NRA members enjoy free admission.

Thinking Outside the Law Enforcement Budgetary Box—the Case for Value-Priced Digital Night Vision

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

Over the years, we have all heard the same thing. Night vision costs an arm and a leg. Reliable, night vision and economical are three terms rarely, if ever, used in conjunction with one another. Typically, you are forced to pick only two of them since the three attributes simply are not available in one package.

Sightmark heard this and said, “Hold my drink. Watch this!” (Completely in jest, the only drinks that should ever be involved with anything firearms related should be HYDRATING beverages and NEVER alcoholic based.)

That life lesson out-of-the-way, let me introduce the new Sightmark Photon RT series.

Night vision riflescope
Updated features on the Photon RT include a 768×576 CMOS sensor, 40% higher resolution, and integrated built-in video recorder.

Directly from Sightmark.com:

Delivering unmatched performance day or night, the revamped Photon RT 4.5x42s digital night vision riflescope features an upgraded 768×576 CMOS sensor with 40% higher resolution over the Photon XT series, crisp 640×480 LCD display, built-in video/sound recording and integrated WiFi via the Stream Vision App. Available 2x digital zoom and a built-in 850nm LED IR illuminator allow shooters to hone in on targets up to 220 yards away in total darkness. The scope has 6 reticle options with 4 different colors and boasts a one-shot zero function, making zeroing the Photon RT a breeze. Shockproof and IP55 water resistant, the Photon RT also offers an additional weaver rail for accessories and a power input that works with power banks via microUSB. The Photon RT works with most aftermarket 30mm rings and includes carrying case, user manual, USB cable, spare battery container, battery container pouch and lens cloth.

Whew! Now, that you’ve read all of that, let me break it down to you in a cop’s easy-to-understand terms. The Photon RT series is a digital night vision riflescope that, for under $1,000 allows you to observe and report in complete darkness at typical “law enforcement engagement distances” of 100 yards or less.

HANDS ON  

The Photon RT model I received was the 4.5x42s. The optic comes nicely packaged inside a padded box proudly bearing the Sightmark logo. Upon opening the box, you find the scope comes with a soft carrying case for those times you choose to remove it from your rifle. You will be as impressed as I was by the size of the scope when pulling it out of the case. With the flexible eyecup, it is 16.57 inches in length, 3.93 inches in width and 3.62 inches in height. The weight is 30.7 ounces—1.92 pounds for those not good at conversions like myself. Thanks, Siri!

Now, you may be thinking “Man, that seems like a lot of weight on the top of my rifle.” Looking at it on paper, you may think so but then consider the power nestled in its compact body. The Photon RT 4.5x42S is a battery-powered digital night vision riflescope that not only allows you to see in the dark but also includes recording capability with audio. The Photon RT allows you to stream video to YouTube, update firmware, download footage and even allows the display to be viewed on a wirelessly connected smartphone or tablet using the device’s integral Wi-Fi along with the Stream Vision App. Doesn’t seem all that heavy now does it? And yes, you read right. It records video and audio and allows you to stream it. Wow! It comes in tactical SWAT black. Get you some of that.

MOUNTING

Sightmark Photon RT digital night vision riflescope mounted to a police officer's rifle
After two weeks of riding inside a case in the trunk, the Photon didn’t shift from zero.

Mounting the scope is no different than other scopes. It mounts quickly and easily with standard 30mm rings. Sightmark offers various types of optic mounts and is more than happy to help you make the right choice. This particular test and evaluation (T&E) model did not include rings, so I rushed out and sourced a high set locally. The rings locked up and once torqued into place with a FAT wrench, kept the scope locked down and set with no issues. That said, just get the suggested mounts from Sightmark—they’re better than what you’ll find at a moment’s notice like I did.

INITIAL ZERO

One thing to remember about the Photon RT is that it is truly a digital riflescope… including the reticle. There are no traditional crosshairs to adjust. Adjustments are done inside the menu settings of the scope’s software. The Photon RT features “One Shot Zero.” Essentially, you lock the rifle into position and eliminate movement while on target, fire a round and then enter the zeroing mode in the menu—a second crosshair appears. Using digital controls, move the second crosshair to your actual position of impact. Once the adjustment has been saved, that’s it. The manual suggests a 100-yard setup; however, I began at 25 yards. Once I confirmed my shot placement, I sighted in again at 100 yards. Honestly, perhaps I should have just gone to 100 yards as the manual suggested and saved some ammo… but Nah! That would be one less reason to stay at the range longer.

Since the Photon RT is a day- and night-compatible digital riflescope, I performed my zero at about 3 p.m. on a slightly cloudy day. With the zero set, the change in light made no difference to my position of impact when I double-checked accuracy that evening, at roughly 8 p.m. (Author’s note:  This was during standard time, so it was actually dark at 8 p.m.).

DAYTIME RANGE SESSION/FIRST SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS

The rifle and Photon RT combo consistently shoots MOA at 100 yards with Federal 168-grain BTHP Match ammo with no performance deviations between day or night shooting. What did take a little getting used to was adjusting to a black and white sight picture on the 640×480 digital display. Moving around with helmet-mounted NODS is completely different than the Photon RT, at least for my eyes. One additional note related to sight picture, the Photon RT features two magnification settings: 4.5x optical zoom and 9x digital zoom—there is no variable zoom; it’s one or the other.

Another feature I appreciate is attention to eye relief. The Photon RT’s eye relief is generous and different from a traditional scope. Remember, when it comes to digital night vision scopes, you aren’t looking through a lens system. You are looking at a digital display manufactured by the information coming in from the objective lens and through multiple light manipulating processes, including converting gathered light into an electrical signal displayed on the device’s digital display. You can imagine how different it might be transitioning from an optical field of view to a digitally manufactured one. But, once you’re on the trigger, you forget about all the fancy processes it takes to make your sight picture happen. To that end, target acquisition is the same—place your crosshair on the target and squeeze the trigger.

Black and white photo of Sightmark Photon RT digital night vision riflescope and Sightmark logo hat
Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member recommends the Photon RT for hunting and law enforcement.

Nighttime shooting was done under only moonlight conditions and on a standard police silhouette-type target. At 100 yards, IR setting six offered an optimum easy-to-engage target. On higher IR powers, the IT flashback was too bright against the target face. That’s not a knock on the IR, it simply means the IR is pretty good.

A second daytime range visit confirmed that two weeks of riding in the case on my rifle had not caused any shift in zero.

Recordings are easy to produce with a dedicated button. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here because the videos available online speak volumes about the Photon RT’s content quality. (Editor’s Note: Jamie’s videos are evidence and cannot be published.) What I can tell you is recording is simple and reviewing footage is just as easy. The Photon RT also boasts onboard memory, not an SD card, so there’s no need to worry about video quality or buying SD cards. SD cards have also proven to be pretty unreliable under recoil conditions—another great benefit of the Photon’s integrated storage. Nice feature, Sightmark!

Author’s Note:  Now writing this, I realize I have failed to explain that my rig included a suppressor, effectively eliminating muzzle flash. So, I can’t tell you to what degree muzzle flash may momentarily affect field of view. I can only assume it’s minimal based on the numerous Photon RT shooting videos I have watched online.

ONE FINAL SHOT

The Photon RT I tested was used in a way it is not truly intended. It was used as a spotting scope by a narcotics surveillance unit engaged in true LEO observation in an area believed to be a storefront operated by a “street level pharmaceutical engineer.” I can’t go into further detail, obviously, but I can tell you it has performed admirably. And remember, what it sees, it can record. Even in the dark.

If you are looking for a way to help clear your property of feral hogs, protect your livestock from predators or need a riflescope to assist you in your duties—even limited, cost-conscious law enforcement—give the Sightmark Photon RT line of digital night vision riflescopes a solid look.

My time with the scope was limited since quite a few folks are still waiting to get their hands on the small supply of test units. As with any law enforcement product, you may want to test it out for yourself to make sure it meets your needs and performs to your expectations. I accept and respect the opinions of others, but I ALWAYS must do my own testing, and I expect (and hope) you do the same.

If you are in law enforcement, contact Sightmark. Their law enforcement division is always willing to answer questions and discuss night vision options. They also offer courtesy discounts to individual officers, as well as departments.

Stay safe and happy hunting.

To reach Sellmark’s Law Enforcement team with questions about products and ordering, call 817-225-0310 extension 288.

Click here to purchase a Sightmark Photon RT digital night vision riflescope.

Jamie Trahan is a career law enforcement officer with over 17 years of experience and works for a Sheriff’s Office in southern Louisiana. His full-time assignment is as a Detective in the Crime Scene Investigations Unit where he holds the rank of Lieutenant. He is also the entry team leader for the SWAT team, a member of the department’s Honor Guard and a LA POST Firearms Instructor. He is a member of the National Tactical Police Officer’s Association and the Louisiana Tactical Police Officer’s Association. First and foremost, he is a husband to his wife, Tara, and a father to his two sons, Luke and Liam. He is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights for all law-abiding citizens of this great country. He plans to pass the love of shooting on to his sons in the hopes that after he is gone and they are spending time with their own children, that they will reflect back upon the memories of what Jamie taught them as they are teaching their own, just like Jamie’s father taught him.

 

Alaska Caribou—The Hunt of a Lifetime

Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

In 2015, Pulsar and Sightmark Pro Staffer Brian Magee and his friend and business partner Chris Walls from Fired Up Outdoors went on a drop-style hunt of a lifetime near Deadhorse, Alaska— an unincorporated community in North Slope Borough, 495 miles from Fairbanks. Here is Brian’s story.

We spent a great deal of time planning and preparing for our Alaska Caribou hunt! Well over a year in the making, we headed to Alaska to hunt Caribou north of the Arctic Circle. We chose to do a drop style-hunt—no guides, no knowledge of what to expect and no experience on the tundra.  It was sure to be an adventure and a learning experience.

We packed and repacked everything we would need for the trip—checking our gear and then checking it again. To keep weight down, we chose to take only one rifle with us. We headed to the range the day before our departure to double check the accuracy and zero.  Everything was in order and our excitement and anxiety were high.

A snowy, long, lonely stretch of the isolated road Dalton Highway in Alaska.
The Dalton Highway is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It ends at Deadhorse, Alaska.

We arrived in Fairbanks without incident.  Baggage and weapons were accounted for—our first obstacle overcome! We looked forward to the long but scenic drive along the Dalton Highway to our destination near Deadhorse, Alaska. The drive was amazing as we crossed numerous types of terrain and habitat. The Brooks Range was absolutely breathtaking. No picture taken could ever do this place justice.

Stopping at several river and creek crossings to stretch our legs, we caught grayling and saw bear and moose tracks in the mud. I was having the time of my life and we were still making the journey north. Upon arriving at the Happy Valley airstrip, we met with our pilots and began condensing gear to fit in the small compartments of our bush planes.  In Alaska, you are not allowed to fly and hunt on the same day, so we were anxious to get into camp, set up and begin to glass and scout our area for caribou. As always anytime we travel, double checking the rifle and bows is a top priority. There was a target and bench set up next to the airstrip for exactly that.  Despite the best efforts of the commercial airlines, the .270 WSM was exactly as we had left it in Oklahoma!

Day 1

After a quick but very beautiful flight in the bush planes, we landed on a small gravel bar in the middle of a river. During the flight, I couldn’t help but notice several caribou and even a grizzly in the immediate area.  We thanked our pilots and began to set up camp. The area we were in seemed to be perfect. Several peaks with large bowls fed down into the river bottom where we had set up camp. Our optics would be able to do a good deal of work right from where we were. Tents went up, water was gathered, and the spotting scopes came out. Several small groups of cows and calves worked their way through the area that afternoon and anticipation was high for the next morning.

Day 2

We woke to heavy fog and less than desirable conditions. Visibility was reduced to the first few hundred yards from our tents. Mountain House biscuits and gravy and several cups of instant coffee broke the chill in the air and really tasted good. Despite the fog and drizzle, spirits were high, and we were just enjoying the entire experience.

Days 3-5

Days passed, and we experienced every possible weather condition from fog and drizzle to snow and even had a bright sunny day mixed in.

Day 6

Day six started out pretty much like most of the others, fog and light drizzle. However, the fog quickly lifted, and we were excited to see several bulls feeding in the bowl about two miles from camp. There were several good bulls in the group and we decided to attempt a stalk on the group in hopes of getting within range of one particular bull. The tundra is tough walking, especially uphill! The bulls casually fed across the tundra and it seemed like we needed to jog just to keep up with them. We worked a small drain that was bordered by blueberries on both sides and eventually found ourselves within rifle range of the group. I was running the camera and allowed my friend Chris the opportunity to put the .270 WSM to work. The wind was right, the distance was right and there was a bull in the group that Chris really liked.

Chris worked to a position where he could clear some of the leaves and limbs from the blueberry bushes and eventually settle on a tundra hummock that offered a good rest. He pressed the stock of the .270 WSM down into the tundra to give himself a solid rest and eased his cheek into position. He went over all the little details of the bull aloud: “good tops, good mass, big shovel.” The next question was, “Are you on him?” I quickly replied “yes,” and the deafening muzzle blast almost caught me off guard.

A hunter with his dead caribou in Alaska
Chris Walls and his epic caribou.

We watched as the giant bull only took a few steps and then fell over dead. We were celebrating and swapping high-fives in some of the most beautiful country we have ever set foot. Two point-of-view cameras captured Chris getting settled as well as the look right down the barrel. The big bull lay motionless in the viewfinder of the main camera.  What an amazing hunt in some amazing country! I recommend trying a drop hunt on the North Slope of the Brooks Range if you love adventure and beautiful scenery.

What is your most memorable hunt? Share it with us in the comment section.

Brian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has spent most of his life in the Oklahoma City area. He achieved a life-long goal of becoming a firefighter in 2003 and is now a part of the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a Lieutenant. His love for the outdoors, hunting, and fishing began at a very young age thanks to a family who shared that same interest. He grew up with a fishing pole in hand and began hunting with his dad around the age of 6. At the age of 14, he received his first hunting bow for Christmas and his love for bowhunting was born. He has been bowhunting for over 25 years and has had the privilege of harvesting many animals with a bow. While he spends most of his time hunting and fishing, reloading also ranks high on his list of hobbies. He is married to a very understanding wife and enjoys every minute they spend together.

 

Top 10 Reasons to Own a Gun

There are countless reasons why people choose to own guns. In my book, as long as it’s legal, any reason is a valid reason. Protection, competition and hunting are the top reasons gun owners cite for why they own a firearm, but there are also collectors, people who have them simply because they were inherited or just because they can.

I own my firearms for various reasons, not just one and I can say that all the above reasons are included.

As a woman, knowing how to safely and confidently use my firearms empowers me. In a world where women are often victimized by criminals, because we are seen as weak, knowing my firearm is by my side assures me that anyone who tries to do me harm isn’t getting away without a fight. Guns really are the one true equalizer.

Besides self-defense, I thoroughly enjoy the shooting sports and am proud that I can put fresh, 100% organic meat on the table—now that’s true field-to-fork.

Gun ownership isn’t just about hunting or the right to defend yourself. Gun ownership is a symbol of freedom. And fortunately, we have the Second Amendment to back up that inherent right.

My reasons might be different than yours for owning firearms, but I believe the following ten reasons should be at the top of your list:

  1. Preserve your liberty.

The Pew Research Center did a survey in the Spring of 2017 and found that 74% of gun owners associate gun ownership with their personal sense of freedom, stating, “Whether for hunting, sport shooting or personal protection, most gun owners count the right to bear arms as central to their freedom.” America’s founding fathers felt that firearms were so central to our freedom, they made the right to bear arms the second most important thing on the country’s Constitution. If it weren’t for firearms, Americans wouldn’t have won their independence from England. Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States wrote, “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

  1. Protect your life and the life of your family.

Seconds matter and the police take minutes. Feeling safe is a basic human need. Polls from Rasmussen, Gallup, the Pew Research Center, ABC News and the Washington Post find that 68% of Americans report feeling “safer in a neighborhood where guns are allowed.”

  1. It’s your right.

The right to self-defense is an inherent right and the Second Amendment guarantees that right.

  1. Guns keep America safer.

The Crime Prevention Research Center reports that states with the highest number of concealed-carry permits have the biggest reductions in homicide rates, consistently concluding that “allowing concealed carry leads to a reduction in violent crime.”

  1. More guns equal less crime.

Two million people a year stop crimes with a gun. Guns are used 80 times more to prevent crimes than they are used to commit murder.

  1. Criminals will never give up their guns.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 80% of criminals obtain their firearms from private, illegal sources.

  1. Be a responsible, law-abiding citizen.

Concealed carry permit holders are safer than citizens who don’t have a license to carry. The Crime Prevention Research Center finds that concealed-carry permit holders are the most law-abiding demographic in our country.

  1. Feed your family.

Wild game is the only truly organic, grass-fed, and sustainable meat. It is lower in fat, cholesterol, calories and saturated fat, as well as high in protein, iron and vitamin B and contains no antibiotics or growth hormones.

  1. Teach firearm safety and pass on the tradition of firearm ownership to the next generation.

Currently, only five percent of Americans hunt. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts that number will decline in the next ten years. This is extremely problematic because the money made from hunting licenses and the excise tax on guns, ammunition and fishing equipment provides 60% of the funding for state wildlife agencies and conservation systems.

  1. Guns help increase your sense of responsibility, discipline, concentration, and confidence.

Samir Becic of the Health Fitness Revolution says the shooting sports increases your strength, stamina, focus, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and relieves eye stress.

As you can see, not only are there good reasons to own a firearm, but there are also positive consequences to responsible firearm ownership that benefit our entire country!

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Why do you own a gun? List your reasons in the comment section.

First Time Hog Hunt, Lifetime of Memories

I remember the first time I set my gaze upon feral hogs like it was yesterday. Dense morning fog had just lifted to reveal an unruly sounder rooting under an oak tree on the edge of a steep finger well off the beaten path in California’s La Panza range. It was my first hog hunt and while I did not kill that weekend, the hunt stayed with me, gnawing at me like a tick to get back out there. Seriously—and not from experience mind you—I liken hog hunting to crack or some other stranglehold drug—you absolutely can get addicted your first time out. I didn’t kill on my second, third or fourth time out either. Even my fifth, sixth and seventh time were exercises in futility; however, my addiction stayed. Every hog I saw fanned the fire.

Thermal image of a hot gun, hog is down
Writer Kevin Reese recalls his first night time hog hunt, made even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.

To be honest, I don’t recall how many hunts it took to drop my first hog, but I do remember the experience well. It was an early morning rifle hunt and I was walking to the corner of a wheat field when I heard the grunts. I had seen pigs from afar but this was the first time I heard them. I froze and scanned to my right to see a half-dozen rooting up a soft patch of dirt at a tree line some 50 yards from my position. I shot a large sow and learned quickly how little they sometimes bleed. With virtually no blood trail to go on, I conducted a methodical sweep of the area. After a solid two hours of combing, I had to laugh silently to myself. While I thought she had made good distance before she expired, I found her less than 15 yards from where she was shot; she had bolted out of sight then circled back.

I also remember my first night hunts—first with a bow, then with night vision and thermal. What is spooky to some, simply added excitement to my nighttime experience. New sounds shattered the silence in every direction—locusts, the intensified volume of lulling cattle, even the shrill scream of a cougar rose the hair on the back of my neck on that first dusk ‘til dawn hunt. And, of course, the screeches, barks and grunts from agitated hogs crashing into a freshly rooted area had my heart beating out of my chest. Admittedly, I bow hunted hogs for years before stumbling upon the thrill of night hunting with digital night vision with a Sightmark Photon.

While my firsts have been many and decades of chasing critters and filling freezers in the making, nowadays, my favorite pursuits are those spent with new hunters and reveling in their firsts, especially those late-night experiences where an entirely different outdoor world is busy playing out. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing a first hunt. The hunter was equipped with an AR-platform rifle and Photon RT Digital Night Vision Scope as we scouted on freshly planted crop fields just south of Waxahachie, Texas. With amazing folks at Three Curl Outfitters at the reigns, we rolled down a handful of farm roads, scanning with thermal monoculars. As the night rolled on, we continued glassing fields and adding to the collection of empty energy drink cans on the truck floor. The time was right, the weather was right… but our timing had not been right at all. I laughed to myself several times as I imagined large sounders of hogs dropping down into the fields we scouted just seconds after we passed—who knows? They may have. Just as we began to tucker out it happened. “Pigs!” Our guide stopped the truck and glassed with his thermal monocular to confirm. Yes, finally, they were there, a half-dozen or so near a tree line on the opposite side of a field nearly 1,000 yards out. We parked the truck, slid out onto the road, then quickly and quietly filed out onto the field.

With the wind in our favor, we closed the distance pretty quickly—especially given the trek across uneven terrain was over a half-mile—the last few hundred yards in stalk-mode. When the guide finally stopped us, we were no more than 75 yards away from the few remaining pigs—half had ventured back into the trees during our stalk. We quietly fanned out side-by-side, lowered the handguard of the rifle down into the into the cradle of the monopod and settled in.

Two men dragging a dead wild hog through a field seen through the view of digital night vision
My first hog fell 15 yards from where I shot it.

I stood close by. Instead of a rifle this time, I had my smartphone. Amazingly enough, the Photon RT, Sightmark’s latest model, includes built-in video and Wi-Fi. Most importantly at this moment of truth, the Wi-Fi had allowed me to connect to the scope and to watch the first-time hunter’s display remotely on my device. The beauty of it was obvious—I was better able to coach him quietly while maintaining a shooter’s perspective of his reticle, overall field of view and the small sounder of pigs completely unaware of our presence.

Once we were set, the guide asked us to confirm when we had “eyes” on the targets. We confirmed and I watched his reticle on my phone lower and settle onto a sweet spot just behind the largest pig’s ear. The guide counted down, “three, two, one.”

At one, the first shot shattered the deafening silence, dropping the first pig where it stood, it never budged an inch. As hog hunting sometimes goes, especially with new hunters, the rest of the hogs made it into nearby trees, disappearing instantly under the cloak of a tangled thicket.

It was his first kill ever and on a wily old sow. I smiled to myself in the darkness as a flurry of high-fives and hugs made a quick round. Decades later, I still recall the sudden rush of adrenaline, when my emotions suddenly were not my own… and a mix of tears and laughter, perhaps best described as elation, reverence plain old uncontrollable jitters. I had been a mess and now some of those feeling had rushed back being fortunate enough to share this defining moment with him. There, on that field trimmed neatly in hues of midnight blue and silver, another hunter was born.

We would love to hear your first hunt stories. Share them with us in the comment section.
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