Test & Evaluation: Horus Blackbird Scope – Model 2000

Overview:  Horus vision LLC, a leading manufacturer of a patented precision reticle system, has designed the H58 reticle with the intended purpose of enhancing rapid engagements from close to medium range distances.  The H58 reticle as stated by the company “is an uncluttered, narrow grid that features moving target lead lines along the horizontal crosshair for moving targets”.  The targeting grid eliminates the need to adjust windage or elevation knobs.

Purpose:  The purpose of this evaluation is to determine the capabilities of the Horus Blackbird Model 2000 scope, and the H58 reticle for use in urban/rural/maritime operations, where multiple engagements of hostile targets present themselves across an area of unknown distances within effective small arms range.

Scope:

  1. In response to the requirement for a rapid engagement reticle during urban operations.
  2. Data reviewed as a baseline for the assessment, collected from after-action reports during operations in Fallujah.
  3. Additional data reviewed as a baseline for the evaluation, collected from after-action reports while conducting Ant-Piracy missions in Gulf of Aden
  4. Spurred by numerous training evolutions with both military and law enforcement officials, where antiquated engagement techniques, along with improper scenario-driven TTPs were used during the training exercises.

History:

  1. Currently, the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies have been identified through observation of existing TTPs, to have an equipment deficiency in the form of a rapid engagement reticle in their optics.
  2. The dependency to constantly adjust both the windage and elevation knobs reduce time to target engagements across unknown distances UKD as well as creating an uncertainty of established point-blank zero PBZ for the weapon system.
  3. Most optics utilized for precision engagements are still equipped with various Mil Dot framework, some with sub-tended stadia, and others without.
  4. This arrangement, although providing the shooter with the means to consistently place well-aimed shots on the intended target, fails to provide the shooter with the ability to limit the need for numerous turret adjustments, resulting in slower time to target engagements.
  5. The deficiency is observed when the shoulder fired scoped rifle is used in urban environments where ranges to targets can begin at 250 yards, and quickly extend to ranges of 850 yards or more.  Multiple engagements within an area that is “three-dimensional” and “channelized” create both opportunity and obstacle for the shooter which directly affects the decision to adjust the existing DOPE of the weapon.
  6. The shooter must be ready to constantly make these adjustments during engagements, creating a “Response gap” which can result in a missed opportunity.

Objectives:

  1. Determine accuracy, repeatability, and functionality of the H58 reticle.
  2. Determine what, if any, speed to target increases can be achieved while using the H58 reticle.
  3. Determine estimated amount of tutorial required to become functional while utilizing the H58 reticle.
  4. To better understand the Horus Vision reticle system, and its potential mission-added value on the battlefield.

Specifications:

Blackbird Features

  • 1.5-8×24 power
  • Illuminated Horus H58 reticle
  • Rapid engagement reticle features:
  • Moving target lead lines
  • Elevation compensation using Accuracy 1st
  • Speed markings
  • 18.5 ounces
  • 10.75″ long
  • 45 mils (155 MOA) elevation adjustment
  • 24 mils (83 MOA) windage adjustment
  • 1 mil (1 cm at 100 meters) click adjustments

Key User Controls:

  1. Rapid focus eyepiece
  2. Zoom / power adjustment ring
  3. Windage knob (capped)
  4. Elevation knob (capped)
  5. Rheostat knob / battery compartment (capped)
  6. One piece, 30 mm main tube
  7. 24 mm objective lens
  8. 6 brightness settings on rheostat control, with “off” positions between each setting
  9. Illumination powered by 1x CR2032 battery
  10. Water resistant to 3 meters

Testing Parameters:

The area selected to conduct the controlled test was located in Crane, Indiana at the Crane Special Weapons Assessment facility, area #3461.  A parallel test of the MK14 MOD 1 Enhanced Battle Rifle EBR was being conducted which provided a very measurable baseline for the weapon and chassis.  The ammunition used was M118 LR, and MK 316 MOD O-AB39 7.62X51.

Additional testing equipment included the Spec-Rest™ Modular Sniper Optimization Platform MODSOP, which established a repeatable foundation in order to mitigate “human” inputs while evaluating the H58 reticle.

BETA #1: Zero Scope to Rifle

Task: Mount and zero the Blackbird scope to the EBR

Condition: On a 300 yard known distance KD range and using a steel target of 30 inches X 18 inches in size, with 20 rounds of ammunition and the MK14 MOD 1 EBR, supported by the MODSOP.

Standard: Establish a 300 yard Pont Blank Zero using the center reticle post as reference, and confirm PBZ by maintaining a 4 inch extreme spread group.

Observation / BETA #1: Although I have used the EBR during combat operations in Iraq, this is the first time that I have shot the MK14 MOD 1 EBR with the 18 inch barrel.  This will also be the first time ever to experiment with the Model 2000 Blackbird scope.  Using the scope rings sent with the Blackbird, and having already mounted the blackbird to the rings, I now attached the scope to the EBR’s M-1913 rail system.  After having torqued the ring nuts I placed the EBR inside of the MODSOP, establishing a balanced sitting position.  The MODSOP allows a shooter to place a weapon at eye level while sitting on the ground.  The MODSOP provides a very consisten platform, essential for conducting this level of BETA.

  1. Point-Blank Zero was established within about 10 to 12 rounds, and a confirmation group was established maintaining the criteria of 4 inches extreme spread.  What I found to be interesting is how quickly I established zero from 300 yards.  I was able to observe the impact of rounds within the dirt and quickly incorporate the milliradian scale subtended to .2 mils, which proved very efficient while making adjustments onto the intended point of aim.
  2. The next and last phase of this test was to evaluate the different lot of ammunition.  There was a concern of deviation that may cause a false-negative read in the repeatability of the reticle.  Both lots of ammunition performed without issues, with the MK 316 AB39 being slightly tighter.  As a reminder, this was all being conducted from a customized M-14 rifle modified action by Crane SWAF, having an 18 inch SEI barrel.

BETA #2:  Traverse 600 Yards, Engage Target

Task: Traverse and engage steel target at KD of 600 yards with Blackbird / EBR

Condition: From firing line, while aiming at 300 yard KD target, with established PBZ, traverse to 600 yard KD target, with 20 rounds of ammunition and the MK14 MOD 1 EBR, supported by the MODSOP.

Standard: Establish the exact “hold-over” from PBZ in milliradian to the intended point of aim at 600 yards.  Verify new “600 DOPE” with shot group engagement.

Observation / BETA #2: Beginning with a 300 PBZ as opposed to a 100 PBZ is to me, a more realistic test for urban interdictions.  That being said, my tests deviate slightly from the manufacturer’s recommendation of establishing 100 yard PBZ.

In addition, bullet, barrel, chassis, and platform are four of the five essential elements in this test equation which can affect the results.  The MODSOP is very steady, and truly optimizes the H58 reticle by maintaining a repeatable hold point prior to engagement.

After releasing the first round and spotting the impact, immediately I see the impact fall inside the reticle!  So, without a wind adjustment, without an elevation adjustment, I simply “LIFT and SHIFT” my impact up to the intended point of aim.  BANG-STEEL-BANG-STEEL.  Again, a quick PBZ of 300 yards (no initial 25 yard check on paper), and then a traverse to 600 yards.  Observe the splash, LIFT & SHIFT, and I am on target.  Of course, all things being equally consistent (fundamentals of marksmanship-wind call) it was that easy.

BETA #3:  Traverse 800 Yards, Engage Target

Task:  Traverse and engage steel target at KD of 800 yards with Blackbird / EBR

Condition:  From firing line, while aiming at 600 yard KD target, with established PBZ, traverse to 800 yard KD target, with 20 rounds of ammunition and the MK14 MOD 1 EBR, supported by the MODSOP.

Standard: Establish the exact “hold-over” from PBZ in milliradian to the intended point of aim at 800 yards.  Verify new “800 DOPE” with shot group engagement.

Observation / BETA #3:  The next distance to confirm my hold-over was for the 800 yard target.  At this point, I will provide some idea as to how much hold-over in milliradian that was used, but keep in mind that the ballistic calculations will vary when verifying the information against the computer.  Again, the barrel (SEI 18 inches), the bullet (MK316), the chassis (SAGE Intl), along with standard environmental conditions are variable in the equation.

What I believe to be my actual hold-over in mils was 6.8 milliradian.  Check this against a 300 PBZ, and depending on your data, it falls somewhere within 178.55 inches low which would be closer to 6.20 milliradian.  Because of the shorter barrel, I estimate it to be closer to a 220 yard PBZ in the BDC with the same load.  This would bring the actual hold-o ver as fired in alignment with 6.83 milliradian.

More importantly, my ability to observe the splash of the round inside of the H58 made it very easy to quickly LIFT & SHIFT, placing the rounds on the intended target.  At this distance and according to the Crane engineers, this particular MK14 is at its limit of effective fire.  But the ease at which I was able to accurately and quickly engage the target was a fraction of time when compared to the other shooters who were using typical Mil-Dot reticles on the MK 14-RI-NM EBR with a 22 inch barrel.  My ability to OBSERVE-LIFT-SHIFT & ENGAGE demonstrated that the H58 reticle when used properly, can optimize the shooter’s time to target.

BETA #4: Traverse 950 Yards, Engage Target

Task: Traverse and engage steel target at KD of 950 yards with Blackbird / EBR

Condition: From firing line, while aiming at 800 yard KD target, with established PBZ, traverse to 950 yard KD target, with 20 rounds of ammunition and the MK14 MOD 1 EBR, supported by the MODSOP.

Standard:  Establish the exact “hold-over” from PBZ in milliradian to the intended point of aim at 950 yards.  Verify new “950 DOPE” with shot group engagement.

Observation / BETA #4:  This particular distance certainly tested  my ability on the MK14 EBR, even with the MODSOP as my platform.  While 950 yards is really a “walk in the park” for precision shooting, the 18 inch barrel on the gas operating action and caliber was peaking in ability to perform.  At this point, the descending (falling) branch of the bullet was at a critical angle to the target.  You will notice that the dispersion of the shot group is growing, and that the long axis line of flight experienced more impacts than on the target.  Acquiring the target with this angle of incidence was “hit or miss” at best.  My actual hold-over was 11 milliradian which doesn’t match the computer.  I believe that the H58 reticle assisted in distinguishing the rifle / caliber limitations, while increasing potential hit ratios.  Again, this is the big advantage to utilizing the H58 in a battle space, where time is limited to stop, think, adjust the turrets and re-engage.  If a war fighter is involved in an operation, whether urban, rural or (most likely) a combination of both, time is counting against him.

Keep in mind that throughout this evaluation, I never allowed myself more time between shots than about three seconds maximum.  I chose to establish a realistic rhythm because I wanted to replicate a scenario similar in high stress battle space environments.  Also, during the course of fire, I was unaware of the exact range to the 950 yard target, and did not verify this distance until I completed the evaluation.  In my opinion,  this fact also validates how efficiently and quickly one could learn to apply the principle behind the Horus reticle.

In fact, no other shooter that day using typical Mil Dot optics came close to engaging targets across the entire KD range as rapidly as did I.  Not because of my skill, and not because of theirs.  But simply, because it takes more time to estimate multiple distances, stop and get off of the weapon, adjust the optics, re-acquire and re-engage.  The timer does not lie.  I believe too, that I was at a slight disadvantage as opposed to the other shooters.  I picked up a weapon, attached the Blackbird scope and zeroed for effect, without having any DOPE from which to evaluate.

The beauty in the H58 is that with all of these variables, and having a very good understanding of precision shooting, I quickly and efficiently delivered well-aimed fire onto targets of opportunity out to a distance of 950 yards with only minimum adjustments.  This BETA was proof positive that the Horus H58 reticle optimizes a shooter’s advantage when multiple engagements across unknown distances are required.

Analysis:  Before acquiring equipment for any specific reason, one should emphasize the importance in identifying operational requirements which must drive decisions to select the type of equipment which will be needed to accomplish the mission.  Often, many assumptions are made as to what is required, but is not properly identified as whether the equipment chosen was due to a personal preference, or because it has a unique / special application.  Quite often, assumptions are made as to the selection of the equipment, never having truly researched its capabilities.

For instance, it is quite common to see law enforcement units on special response teams utilizing bolt-action rifles with high magnification scopes, when many of their “mission sets” actually call  for something quite different.

The same goes military units as well, when a rifle possesses capabilities inferior to the magnification of the scope.  Or, we see a scope specifically designed to accommodate a certain caliber and load (bullet drop compensation ) affixed to a weapon of a totally different caliber. 

Ultimately, having proper equipment that performs multi-purpose roles, and complements other essential equipment may reduce expenses as well as enhance mission performance, leading to its success.

EXAMPLE:  Several optics on the battlefield include ranging reticles that were designed for a particular load of ammunition (BDC), which are highly effective and lend added-value to the war fighter.  As long as the war fighter matches equipment accordingly, the net result will be well-aimed precision fire against known hostiles.

However, my own personal experience imbedded while conducting COIN operations has demonstrated that when you must stop and “Re-fit”, the ammunition (linked belt, M-80) may not match the BDC reticle on your weapon.  This can be common especially when distributed operations are draining immediate resources and the war fighter finds himself having to “plus-up” his magazines with M-80 ball ammo because M118 LR has been depleted.

ARGUMENT:  The number of variables which may become uncontrollable by the war fighter can hinder the equipment’s ability to deliver the expected level of performance.  Ammunition is only one variable and does not include weather or weapon performance.  If the established constants factored into a BDC reticle are impaired, then the equipment may not deliver the desired expectations.  The result is a missed opportunity on the battlefield.

H58 PROS/CONS

Advantages:

The following is a statement used to discern the difference between “dialing” and “hold-over”.  The conclusion is based upon the existing limitations of the equipment but is not stated as such.

“Sometimes there isn’t time for correction using the scope’s adjustment mechanisms.  In these cases, holding over the target and using the reticle’s markings as an aiming point are useful.  It must be remembered that holding over is not as exact as dialing elevation.”

The assumption “holding over” si “not as exact” as “dialing on minutes”, is because the Mil system referenced here is antiquated.  If the milliradian system has the ability to capture data (shot impact) and the shooter can quickly assess that data (graduated targeting grid), then this would potentially eliminate the need to adjust windage or elevation knobs in most circumstances.  This is not to imply that a graduated grid even as precise as the H58 can solve every shooting solution, but for close range and out to medium distances, it can certainly speed things up quite a bit.

Disadvantages:

As with all equipment, strengths are also shadowed by limitations, but one has to truly and objectively grade “risk versus reward” before deciding if it possesses added mission value, or if it is a liability.  The first notion when you look through many of the Horus scopes for the first time is clutter of the lens.  The grid reticle can be very intimidating at first glance as well as frustrating.  Like any piece of equipment through, there has to be a process of lecture/laboratory work, followed by practical application.  As with all equipment there is a curve of comprehension and proficiency that follows with repetition.  The reticle is easy to master once these steps are applied.

The H58 reticle operates in the first focal plane consequently, can accurately range targets in all magnification settings.  But after using the H58, my observations lead me to believe that it is of little value in the lower settings (1.5 to 5 power) due to the size of the reticle as projected in scale.  At 6 power and beyond, the H58 demonstrates its killing potential and how rapidly one can deliver multiple precision shots over unknown distances.

CONCLUSIONS:  The H58 reticle was designed for close to medium distances as a rapid acquisition optic bridging the gap between reflex sites and high-powered scopes.  It has demonstrated through multiple phased BETA that it is truly a force multiplier in the arena of precision shooting for multiple mission profiles.  The Horus reticle scores high marks for innovation and practical application.

Respectfully,

Jimmy G. Thompson

CSM-LLC

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