SIGHTING IN ON: Traditions Firearms Tactical Scopes
Scopes For The Patrol AR And The Swat Sniper
By The Police Marksman Staff
Traditions Performance Firearms has just introduced their line of tactical, police-oriented scopes for the AR-platform patrol and SWAT rifles. The AR Patrolman is a compact, 1-4x24mm scope intended for patrol rifles. The AR Marksman is a full-size scope available in 3-12x44mm or 4-16x44mm. This is intended for the SWAT sniper-observer team and patrol in rural areas.
Traditions is legendary for their line of black powder, muzzleloading rifles and pistols. However, they also have an extensive scope line that includes a series each for muzzleloading rifles, pistols, rimfire rifles, airguns and shotguns. With variable power up to 10X, these scopes are available in Duplex, Mil-Dot, Red Dot, Circle and Range Finding reticles. All are designed to withstand their 50-caliber rifles.
Their Tactical-series scopes are of a different design with unique features, and not just blacked-out versions of existing muzzleloading scopes. While they have AR in the name, these scopes are designed for any AR-platform or bolt-action police rifle.
The AR Patrolman is a variable power scope with an Illuminated Dot reticle. The power is adjustable from 1X (no magnification) to 4X. At 1X, the Illuminated Dot reticle performs like any other two-eyes-open, red dot optic. With the AR Patrolman, you also have the option of a green dot—and green is six times easier to see than red. Since the dot is small enough to fit inside a Duplex crosshair, the option of a high-visibility green dot is a tactical advantage. Just turn the knob.
When magnification is needed, the heavily knurled power ring easily adjusts up to 4X without changing the point of impact-point of aim. Unlike some AR-platform scopes that use a 1-inch tube, the AR Patrolman uses a full 30mm scope tube. This allows more light gathering and a wider field of view.
The flagship of the Traditions Tactical scope line is the AR Marksman. This top-of-the-line, full-feature scope is available in two versions: a 3-12x44mm and a 4-16x44mm. We mounted the more powerful 4-16x44mm scope on a Rock River LAR-15 Coyote 20-inch Heavy Barrel, the most accurate of all the RRA patrol rifles.
The 4-16x44mm AR Marksman we tested allows 8 to 10X for police sniping and 16X as a spotting scope for the sniper/observer. It is better to have the option to go to that higher power and not need it than to need more magnification and not have it.
The AR Marksman is a serious, full-size riflescope. It has a 44mm objective lens (front), a 30mm tube, and a 35mm ocular lens (rear). A 44mm lens is about as large as you can go without having the scope mounted so high to clear the barrel that it affects a proper cheekweld. Larger objective lenses transmit more light than smaller objective lenses, especially at higher powers and under dimmer light.
The police sniper certainly wants the most light gathering (light transmission) under all conditions. The 44mm lens does just that. Of course, the 30mm tube allows both greater image resolution and a greater range of elevation adjustments. Big lenses and big tubes are the keys to a dim light-tolerant police scope.
The elevation and windage is adjustable for zeroing, distance and range conditions with two large, knurled turrets. The knobs lift to make firm click adjustments and they lower to lock the turret. The adjustments are the industry-standard ¼-inch at 100 yards. However, the AR Marksman is more clearly marked than most scopes on which way, and by how much, to rotate the turrets.
Once the scope is zeroed, Allen screws can be loosened and the numerically etched knobs can be zeroed to the scope tube zero reference point. These turrets are marked into 14 different ¼-inch click adjustment brackets.
The power adjustment ring is knurled, of course. However, on this scope, every other knurl on the magnification ring is a raised, enhanced lug. The designers at Traditions have obviously listened to feedback from riflemen using a scope under field conditions while wearing gloves.
The AR Marksman uses an Illuminated Mil-Dot reticle. The first thought about any illuminated optic in police use should be battery life and Plan B for a dead battery. In this case, Plan B is built right into the scope. The default black Mil-Dot reticle is hard-etched into the glass, so a black Mil-Dot crosshair will always be available. In addition to being a backup in case of battery failure, the non-illuminated black Mil-Dot is the better choice in bright light.
The battery life on full illumination is 30 hours of continuous operation. In tactical use during overcast or dim light conditions, one of the five lower illumination levels will probably be used, further extending battery life. That said, there is no automatic or timed shut-off for the illuminated reticle. The battery is easily accessed in an O-ring sealed recess in the color selection knob.
The AR Marksman gives the officer a choice between red and green illuminated reticles. Again, green is six times easier to see than red against most backgrounds. The option of having two colors of illumination is a tactical advantage. In some cases, red is the better choice. In other cases, green is the better choice.
Both green and red illuminated reticles are adjustable in five different brightness levels. One of the complaints about illuminated reticles under dim/low-light scenarios is that the reticle is too bright. Not so with the AR Marksman. In fact, from the lowest level of red to the highest level of green, the police sniper has 10 different brightness choices. The fact that Red Level 1 and Green Level 5 are just one click from one another shows how well this scope is designed.
This illuminated reticle, dim light feature is critically important for police snipers. According to the American Sniper Association’s Police Sniper Utilization Report, 45 percent of documented shooting took place in low-light hours. Simply turn the heavily knurled rheostat adjustment turret located between the ocular (eye piece) and the power change ring. The colors and illumination levels are etched into the adjustment turret, each with a firm and positive detent stop.
Only the center section of the Mil-Dot reticle is illuminated, i.e., the center wires and the four dots in each direction. The outer sections of the crosshair remain black. By the way, Mil-Dot means milradian not military. In simple geometry terms, a milradian is 3.6 inches at 100 yards. Overall, the illuminated reticle, especially the option of green illumination, is one of the best features of the AR Marksman scope.
Range estimation is easy with a Mil-Dot reticle, but seldom necessary. The vast majority of police sniper shots are under 100 yards where no range estimation is needed. However, it is there just in case. Simply match the range estimation to your dope (data on previous engagement) book.
The AR Marksman has features not found in many police riflescopes, and some features found only in the most expensive scopes. The one feature on some police scopes that the AR Marksman lacks is bullet drop compensation. According to the ASA’s Police Sniper Utilization Report, and based on 218 police sniper shootings between 1984 and 2004, the average police sniper distance is 51 yards.
Of these, 95 percent took place between 5 and 100 yards. Of the rest, just over 2 percent were between 100 and 150 yards and just over 2 percent were between 150 and 250 yards. Clearly, a bullet drop compensation feature is not needed for a police sniper scope. Sighted in for 100 yards, both the 223 Rem and 308 Win shoot flat to 200 yards.
External Parallax Adjustment
Of much more importance to the police sniper at these common engagement ranges under 200 yards is the parallax adjustment. An external parallax adjustment is on the left side of the AR Marksman with a knurled knob even larger than the elevation-windage knobs.
Parallax is a bit hard to understand. It is the apparent movement of the reticle with respect to the target when the shooter moves his head up or down, left or right behind the eye piece. Parallax is the difference in the apparent position of an object viewed from different lines of sight. In other words, parallax is a definite sighting error where the reticle is not aligned with the scope’s own optical axis.
External parallax adjustments are important on scopes of more than 10X power—the AR Marksman runs up to 16X power. These parallax adjustments are also critically important on scopes used at “close” ranges. By the wide spacing of the hatch marks on the external adjustment knob, “close” clearly means anything less than 200 yards. Remember that more than 97 percent of police sniper shootings are under 200 yards.
On a police scope, having an external parallax adjustment is a definite advantage over an internally corrected fixed parallax. The clear need for an external parallax adjustment over an internal fixed parallax will be obvious when you rotate the turret almost 180 degrees to adjust from 15 yards to 200 yards. This is an outstanding feature.
Like all high-end scopes today, the AR Patrolman and AR Marksman use multi-coated lenses for clarity and are nitrogen-filled. Coatings reduce glare. Since less light is reflected away, multi-coatings increase light gathering and provide a sharper contrast. Multi-coating also increases scratch resistance. These scopes are shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof. Both have a fast-focus eye piece. Both are anodized matte black.
The best description of the Traditions Tactical scope rings is oversize. The rings fit any Picatinny or Weaver rail mount. Importantly, the rings come in three heights: Medium, High, Extra High. This allows them to be precisely mounted low enough for the best cheekweld and just high enough for the lenses and mag ring to clear the barrel and action.
Most of the rings are 4-screw designs. A 6-screw ring is available in the Extra High version. The 4-screw version had plenty of holding power for the High rings we tested. In some cases, the Extra High rings may allow for the use of backup iron sights with the AR Patrolman but this depends entirely on the rifle.
The rings are well-made with smooth and radiused corners; perfectly drilled and tapped; an exact fit on both the 30mm tube and the Rock River’s Picatinny rail. The rings are much wider than normal for a sturdy mount. The oversize hex nut is cross drilled to allow the rings to be tightened or loosened two different ways—hex wrench or any Allen tool.
Down on the Range
Repeatability is the mark of a quality scope. That means you can move the click adjustments up and down, left and right, and when you return the dials to zero, the rifle shoots to the original zero.
To test the AR Marksman, we zeroed the Rock River LAR-15 Coyote at 100 yards and then conducted the standard “box” drill. We moved the elevation 16 clicks up, shot a group, moved the windage 16 clicks right, shot a group, moved the elevation 16 clicks down, shot a group, moved the windage 16 clicks left, and shot a group. The final group did indeed overlap the original zero.
Then we shot a group at 4X, changed the magnification to 16X, shot a group, changed the power back to 4X, and shot a group. All three groups overlapped one another. The AR Marksman is an excellent police scope, rivaling those costing four times as much.
The 1-4x24mm AR Patrolman has an MSRP of $180. The 3-12x44mm and the 4-16x44mm AR Marksman have an MSRP of $200. The AR Marksman has the most police-relevant features for the least cost of any optic we have ever tested. PM
Steve Tracy is a 26-year police veteran with 24 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Traditions AR Marksman has all the right features for the way law enforcement uses a riflescope.
- The Traditions AR Marksman is a serious, full-size, 30mm tube riflescope with a 44mm objective lens and a 35mm ocular lens.
- The Traditions AR Marksman has the most police-relevant features for the least cost of any optic we have tested.
- The Traditions scope mounts are available in three different heights and two different fastener patterns for the exact mounting height.
- In addition to the AR Marksman, Traditions also makes the AR Patrolman. This is a 1-4x scope with an Illuminated Dot reticle, red or green.
- Repeatability test is the mark of a quality scope. Make major elevation and windage adjustments and shoot. The AR Marksman did indeed return to zero.
- An external parallax error adjustment is extremely important for a police scope considering that 95 percent of police sniper shots take place between 5 and 100 yards.
- The AR Marksman is adjustable from 4-power to 16-power. A 3x-12x version of the AR Marksman is also available.
- The Illuminated Mil-Dot reticle has five brightness levels for green and five for red. The battery life during full-bright illumination is 30 hours.
- The AR Marksman uses an Illuminated Mil-Dot reticle hard-etched into glass. You have your choice of non-illuminated black, illuminated red, or illuminated green.