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IOR 4-14 Tactical Print
Product Reviews
Written by Dave Bahde   

IOR 4-14 Tactical

Illuminated Reticle / Side Focus

by Sgt. Dave Bahde

copyright© Sniper's Paradise 2004

 

Background

This particular review is going to require a bit more background than usual, as it was written for a somewhat different purpose. Due to all the perceived controversy surrounding the scope, and the line, it is really necessary that anyone that reads this start with a knowledge of the reasons for the review. Although I have used the IOR line extensively, I have not really reviewed any of their scopes. I have POSTED often using the moniker “Juroku” in their defense, and I have certainly expressed my experience, but nothing that resembles a review.

Format

I have had the information to put this together for a couple of months, but had until this point not decided how to approach it. Ultimately, this review is written from a different perspective. The truth is, I have yet to decide how valuable these kinds of reviews actually are, especially as it pertains to scopes, so I have been somewhat reluctant to continue the process at all. That reluctance has delayed this piece for quite some time ; as has my rather nasty schedule. I finally decided to actually shorten the review process quite a bit, and focus on the criticisms that many have leveled at this optic, and this line. So, what will follow are a step-by-step process where I address the most often criticized aspects of the IOR line in general, and the IOR scopes. Once again, please remember this is only my opinion, and my perspective, so take it for what it is worth.

History

I have a pretty long history with these scopes. They were brought to my attention by my friend Steve Palano about three (maybe four) years ago. Steve expressed his experience as to their ruggedness, clarity of glass, and his preference for the lined reticle. I was currently having fits with a NXS with a PR 2 reticle in it, and the concept seemed pretty good to me. I wanted a scope with lines, not dots, and the thought of a first focal plane scope for so little money was intriguing to me. I had extensive experience at that time with USO, and I liked the FFP reticles. I just did not have the money at the time for another USO scope. So a trade was in order. As part of the trade I was able to try my first IOR 2-10 power FFP tactical with an Illuminated MP8 reticle. I ended up owning three of them over time, I never could break any of them, and they performed without issues for me for years. I used them extensively in training, and on operations on several rifles. I gathered great enjoyment at knocking my rifle over, or picking it up by the scope, watching everyone else cringe, cause “scopes are fragile”. I would then proceed to nail the target with my “not so fragile” and ugly scope. I could always do that kind of thing with my USO scopes, but that was an expectation with that scope, not the “cheapo” IOR. It was at that point I became kind of an IOR convert. Steve also was the individual who acquainted me with the FNHSPR, and those rifles and that scope were often mated. It was also about that time I decided to try my hand at writing. I submitted a review of the SPR’s to Scott Powers at Sniper Country, and he and the staff graciously posted it. I authored a couple of others, and started to POST on Snipers Paradise, and Snipers Hide. I was given a couple of Nikons over time to test and evaluate, and I did so with those as well. It is about this time that the scope in question comes in to play. I had entered into some rather heated discussions about these scopes, and this line, on both boards. The culmination of those arguments was a request to review this scope and post the results. Mike Miller, a respected author, maker of cool gear, and long time poster at Snipers Hide, clearly had a very bad experience with this product several years ago, and he and I would rather gracefully go at it. I told him I would give him this new scope to test, and he asked that I test it as he felt his opinion would not necessarily appear un biased, based on that past experience. So that brings us to the review. One last tid bit, then I will get to the meat of the review.

Reviews / Internet

This will seem kind of self destructive, but since I get to write this, and I truly am no one important, I get to say what I want. I have since become a Moderator for Snipers Paradise, and I see that as a challenge and a responsibility to those that post and read posts on that board. I often wonder at the value placed on my opinion, or anyone else’s out there that write these. I have a few people who know me, and my level of experience, but that is limited to those I have actual contact with. I look at these articles mostly as entertainment, with an eye towards experience, so I hope you do as well. When I ask peoples opinions about my writing, I never ask if they liked what I said. In truth, whether they agree with me is of no concern . I ask if they gathered useful information, and did they enjoy reading it. Neither me, nor anyone that POSTS on these sites or writes these articles are all that special. For every one of us who have time to do this, there are a dozen guys out there too busy doing the job, to write about it. They don’t get anything “given to them” , and they get little to no recognition for what they know. I have the luxury of working a couple of jobs to pay for my habit, and a primary job that allows me to do what I do. Not everyone is in that position. As an example in my little world I will mention Troy. Troy was an officer in this area for many years, and an operational SWAT team member for most of these. He has more been there, done that, than I will ever have. He has hundreds of deployments as a sniper, and as an entry guy, but he is mostly known to a few who have the privilege of knowing him, or training with him. I mention him, because he is using a scope like the one being reviewed, and I will share that with you. Yes he teaches for a very respected outfit in his spare time called CTI (Countermeasures Tactical Institute), an outfit run by a man named Doug Pechtal , who has tremendous experience on the military side, and is still doing that job. But, he mostly just quietly goes about doing his job, and teaching others how to do it. I am certain there are many, just like Troy, all over this country. This profession is mostly comprised of quiet professionals, who simply do their jobs, and don’t have anyone reading what they write, or listening to what they say. Most often these are the experts, not those of us who write this stuff, so I would ask that you take this into consideration when reading what follows.

The Scope

 

The subject of this article is the IOR 4-14 Illuminated MP8 reticle / side focus scope. It is a tactical scope, designed to be used in the tactical / precision rifle market. It uses glass that is fully coated, for clarity, and anti-reflective properties. The glass is made in the Schott Glaswerk Factory in Germany. The scope measures 15” in length and weighs in at about a pound and a half. It uses 1/4 MOA adjustments and has an advertised total elevation adjustment of 82MOA. It uses a 30mm tube, and the lighted reticle adjustment is at the rear of the scope. It is attached off to the side so as to allow access to the elevation knobs while sighting. It also has a side–focus parallax adjustment on the opposite side of the scope in relationship to the windage adjustment knob. It allows for parallax free sighting from 50m to infinity. It is waterproof, shockproof, and is equipped with the “magnum lock” support system that “locks” the reticle in place. It lists for $1033.00 and you can generally get them for closer to $900.00 if you check around.

How I used this Scope

My original use for this scope was for the 300WSM SPR I had just purchased at the time. I wanted a 4-14 power scope, and I was extremely pleased with the IOR. I called up Steve, and had him order the scope. It started life on this 300WSM rifle. It went through the break in process, and some pretty extensive shooting. Those details can be found in my review of the rifle on Sniper Country. It went on a few deployments, and was fired every week, and on that rifle at least out to 500 yards. It also spent some time on a 20” barreled FNHSPR but that was pretty limited, just break in. It went from there to my office at the PD until the discussions on the board. Truth is, it was on the auction block at the time. I dragged it back out, and started messing with the knobs, and put it on another couple of rifles so I could perform some drills and tests. I did not abuse this scope, as I generally do my IOR’s but it saw most likely the normal abuse anyone would provide.

Clarity

I always find this portion of the scope review to be completely subjective, so I will let you know exactly how I test a scope for clarity. Clarity to me is the ability to see stuff, with clarity, and DEFINITION. What that “stuff” is depends on who you are. For me, that is a human, at ranges from 0-300 yards. It is also the ability to pick out objects in a yard, or area where the team may enter, and identify those articles. I am not certain of the best way to describe this, so I will put it in context with all the other scopes I have done this with.

The side focus on these scopes (and others), lends itself to this kind of work, but if the glass is crap, all the side focus knobs in the world won’t help you clearly identify what you are looking at. I did not look at any series of lines, or some chart, so others will have to help you there. As I have yet to have to identify an eye chart on an operation, I never have bothered with that method. Once again, I don’t sell scopes I use them, so how I use them is what matters to me. With this scope I was able to clearly identify facial features and identifiers at operational ranges with ease. The glass seems to lend itself to gathering light, so even in low light conditions I was able to get very good clarity on targets, and objects. I did some work at 300 yards trying to clearly identify small objects placed in the fields at the range (k.i.m.s. games), and his scope performed with the best of them at this job. I place this scope between the Nikon tactical / NXS (I think these are about identical) and the USO / Schmidt Bender crowd. For this aspect of the scope at least they are right up there with the big boys, but priced closer to the middle of the pack. This is one of the strongest aspects of this scope in my opinion.

Ruggedness

What I mean by ruggedness, is the ability of the scope to get knocked around, knocked over, and dropped, and still hold its zero. I do this with every scope I deploy, too include the Schmidt Bender I now have. To me, if knocking over, or dropping your rifle, causes you to “worry” about where the bullet will go, you need a new setup. Tactical guns get used. You climb fences and ladders and crawl into holes. You carry it in your trunk, on your back, and drag it along the ground. In short “crap happens” and if you drop your rifle, and are now out of the fight until you test it, you should have never been in the fight in the first place. This scope went through all of those tests, and held its zero every time. I have had this experience with every IOR I have ever deployed. They always seem to hold their zero. However they are built, they hold up. Since the knobs are covered, they do not get knocked out of whack, or turned in the bag. I have used this scope, and other IORS in the rain, snow, sleet, and mud and they never seem to get affected. The friend I mentioned ( Troy) just took one to a competition in the South. It was cold and raining the entire time. His scope was one of the few that did NOT fog up, and he was shooting next to every scope you can imagine. He also expressed the same level of clarity I talked about before. The only scope out there that I have used, that comes close or exceeds the ruggedness of the IOR is the USO. I have just started to test my S&B, but to date, the IOR and USO are the ONLY two scopes I have not been able to make fail. Once again, this is amongst the best strengths, in my opinion, of the IOR line.

Repeatability

 

This is for all of the knob turning types out there. Although not to the same extent as I did with the Nikons, I did some pretty serious turning of these knobs. One of the criticisms of these scopes was that the knobs would lose their tracking over time. Many changes have been made since they came out, so to me at least, this problem has been fixed. In truth, mostly because I paid for this scope, I did not take it apart to see if the changes have occurred since Mike’s problems a few years ago. I trusted Steve at Tac Weapons, and Scott of Liberty Optics, that the internals have been changed. I needed to be able to sell this thing, and I find that taking your scope apart tends to make them hard to sell. What I expect a scope to do is be consistent. That means that when I put four clicks in, it moves the same amount every time. Whether that is 1MOA or 1.1123456 MOA matters to me not at all. It just has to be the same. So, rather than shoot that monstrosity of a target I developed before, I just fired a series of larger, then smaller box drills. I essentially went up the scale, down the scale, and then fired for zero retention. What I found was that a 4” box, when shot, measured 4 inches to the center of the group. I did the same thing with 8” and 12” and all the same, up then down three times. I fired it at various ranges, and returned it to zero. Once there I fired a shot at 100, and it ended up back on the zero. For me, the scope was as repeatable as any out there. I am sure it is not as “precise” as others, but that is for lab testing. I have yet to hear of anyone testing the precision of the scope, after a deployment that resulted in a shot fired. To me, that is a product again of personal preference, and is made not for typical operational needs. I need to know that when I put the knob on spot “B” it impacts in spot “A” every time. This scope seems to do that without issues.

As for the knobs, well if you cannot get past the friction knob thing, don’t buy an IOR! If your world has never consisted of anything other than a Leupold or Nightforce; get ready for a surprise because it is different. If you cannot handle different, than you will have issues. Once you get passed that crushing blow, the knobs and clicks are very positive. There is no mush here, because once again, it is different. With the exception of my new Schmidt Bender, these are the most “positive” clicks I have used.

Reticle

 

There are a couple of things I like about this reticle, and a couple I do not. Lets go with the ugly stuff first. The first thing I do NOT like is that it is in the second focal plane. For those that are not aware of the differences, here is a VERY brief description. There are essentially two places to put the reticle in a riflescope. They can either be in the first, or second focal plane. On scopes that use variable power, when the reticle is in he first focal plane, the reticle appears to change size as the power is changed. The more power the bigger the reticle, and vice-versa. Scopes using that design are typically USO, Schmidt Bender, Zeiss, etc. It is as a general rule more typical of European scopes. One of the things it allows you to do is range using the reticle at any power. There are other advantages depending on your point of view, but that is an article in and of itself. When a reticle is in the second focal plane, the size of the reticle appears static. I say appears in both cases because the reticle in fact never changes size, it is all in how we see it, based on the construction of the scope. With these scopes the ranging feature of your reticle is only accurate at one power. Which power level depends on the builder. The often-held myth being it is always on the highest power. That is not always the case, and you need to be certain before you start ranging.

Up until this point, many IOR scopes were in that first focal plane. For some reason IOR has moved from the niche they had occupied alone, and decided to convert, become mainstream, and “appease” the American market. What I liked about IOR was that it was not a European Leupold. It was bold, different, and rugged. It was something other than everyone else’s scope. Now, to me at least, it is just a rugged Leupold with German glass. In a second focal plane scope, in 4-14 power I have choices up the rear. That same choice in a first focal plane scope amounted to the USO or S&B, or other high dollar scopes. At least Premier gives you a choice, and they are comparably priced now and getting closer every year. Put this reticle in a FFP scope, and you have something there. As it sets, it is just one of the crowd, and will fall to personal preference. But hey, who am I, I just use these things, I am no marketing genius. Of that I am sure, because I still work three jobs, and am not rich!

My second issue is the very wide stadia lines. It takes up quite a bit of my field of view, and I am not certain why it is there, other than to look like the other scopes out there. I hear that they have since changed that. In looking at the same reticle in the new 6-24 / 35mm scope, that has been fixed, so I hope that is the case with all of them. If not, that is a problem. If you pick up an older scope, you may want to make sure of which reticle it has. The lined reticle thing is again something I really like, but mostly because it was in the first focal plane. What I liked having was the ability to “bracket”. You can still do that, but since the reticle is in the second focal plane, it changes at different powers. I was able to use my FFP 2-10 almost like an old ART II scope. My usual threat fit right in between the first lines allowing me to bracket that threat, maintain a field of view, and have the bullet impact in the middle. No matter what range I was at, it was the same. Now that is not the case. For ranging, I still find the lines easier to use, as long as you need only Mil down to 1/4 mil. Anything lower than that, and you probably should become expert with the ovals or dots. The lighted reticle in these scopes is one of the best, out there. It lights up the entire reticle, and it has a very good rheostat to control the brightness. The Nikon is right on its heels though, and can be had for the same price or less, so that niche is going away as well. The Leupold flat out sucks in this arena, but the NXS is pretty good. The change to the reticle I really like is the dot in the middle. Probably not of much use to the military guy, but for the police sniper it is very cool. You can really just put that dot on where you want it to go, and it is easy to hold. I found it very useful for shooting groups, and cold bores.

Mounting

All the things that contribute to the mounting of the scope are pretty user friendly. The tube has plenty of length so getting it set up on your rifle, short or long action, is not a problem. The tube is very strong, and they have always been true for me. The eye relief is pretty forgiving, unlike some of their other stuff, and it is easy to get a solid picture in the scope. The 50mm objective presents all the same issues that any large objective does. I like that their knobs are pretty short by comparison, and make the scope more compact than the Leupold, or other scopes with those tall target knobs. I mounted this scope on several rifles with no issues.

Conclusions

As with all of these things, it depends on what you want. My experience with IOR has been extremely positive, others has not. My experience with most others has been terrible, most have exactly the opposite experience. The IOR is an excellent scope, and currently at least is priced competitively. To me, most of the criticism is personal preference, and has nothing to do with the actual operation of the scope. That being said, it will also never change. We seem to be an industry more interested in bashing the other guy, than making our stuff better. It is a great scope, and for now at least it is reasonably priced. It used to be a buy, but that seems to be changing. There are a bunch of scopes in that power and price range anymore, and they are closely approaching the high end Leupolds, and the Nightforce Extreme in cost. I have seen them priced at a little over $900.00. That puts you less than $200.00 from a NXS scope (still lighted), and you can come pretty close to a Gen II Leupold (no lighted reticle). Those are very solid markets with a pretty loyal following. I guess time will tell how successful they will be, but for now, if you want a rugged scope, with very clear glass, that for me at least has been about flawless, than the IOR is a great choice.

 

Acknowledgements  

Steve Palano
Troy Seibert

Tac Weapons USA Countermeasures Tactical Institute
Salt Lake City Utah Logan Utah
(801)967-8005 (801) 435-245-2464
http://www.countermeasure.com