I wanted to share my experience thus far with the PFI RR-Evolution 5.56/7.62 optic. In short, this is a review, but also an essay into why I think this is such a great optic.
First off, I want to define the role that this optic fills in my weapons systems. It is essentially a designated marksman’s scope, designed to allow quick hits on a man-sized target out to 900 yards; while being carried as part of a patrol; on a rifle capable of not only shooting to 900 yards or farther, but also one that is capable of being used to clear rooms; or fight at intermediate ranges in a fire fight.
Where I envision (I’m not the only one, ask the Peshmerga) this scope to really shine, is as a force multiplier for a trained rifleman. With a suitable weapon and ammo, and this optic, you have a very simple system to extend the range of your average rifleman. If you can shoot and qualify with an M-16 with an ACOG on it, you can use this rifle system. If you can put 3 rounds under 3 inches with a deer rifle at 100 yards any day of the week, you can use this rifle system.
For a person who only wants to practice long range target shooting and that is all you work on, you won’t be as happy with it as you might with other optics. But, for the guy who has a limited amount of training time available, which has to cover a broad spectrum of subjects, not just long distance shooting, it is a great scope. It allows you the ability to train with it, then jump to other subjects, and in a month or two when your schedule comes back around to it, it’s a very simple system to get back up to speed on.
Now, if you only focus on the distance that the system is required to shoot, you might think “Hey, a bolt action Remington 700/ Savage/ Custom with a 6-24 x 55mm scope ought to do the trick!” and I would agree with you, if that were the only criteria. You see, when you start to add the other criteria together, my “needs”, a bolt action rifle with a high powered (read: heavy) optic suddenly doesn’t seem so attractive. Its high level of inherent accuracy does nothing to compensate for its low rate of fire, heft, or lack of usefulness at closer ranges.
Now, don’t tell me what the big army does, because frankly I don’t care. A lot of big military practices are the results of compensating for inferior equipment or techniques to begin with, so I wouldn’t recommend them as the gospel. I’m sure there are a lot of professional snipers/ shooters who can run a bolt action like none other, and there are all sorts of gadgets and bolt on’s that will help to compensate for a bolt actions short comings, but the fact of the matter is, you can’t polish a turd. And I only have one word to say to that: M-110
Now, if you are tracking thus far, or have read any of my other writing on rifles, you’ll know that my rifle of choice for fulfilling this role is my DPMS G2 (modified) Hunter. It is a .308 with a 20” barrel. The exact caliber and barrel length that the PFI RR-Evolution ballistic drop compensator (BDC) was designed for. I like to refer to it as my “American SVD”.
Now PFI based the BDC off of the 175 grain Sierra Matchking going about 2600 feet per second (FPS), but it also works very well with other bullets with roughly the same ballistic coefficient as the 175 SMK. I was recently out shooting with a friend who has this same optic, and out of his 16” .308 AR, shooting M80 ball, he was able to get hits at 400 yards and 600 yards using nothing more than the BDC. At 400 yards he was easily hitting the gong every 2-3 seconds, definitely what I would consider rapid fire, and most definitely what I would call effective suppressing fire. And that was in a gusting 10-25 MPH wind.
So what other rounds might work with this optic? Basically anything with a BC in the ball park of .4 – .5. Straight out of the manual, this is what PFI says:
- 7.62NATO BC: 2430-2700 ft/s
- 7.62 NATO (.308WIN) 175gr Sierra Match: BC = .505 @ 2,600 ft/s
- 7.62 NATO (.308WIN) 168gr: BC – .462 @ 2,700 ft/s
- 5.56 NATO (55gr, 62gr, 75gr) and 7.62NATO (147gr, BC: .401) (up to 600 yards)
- Other ammunition with similar BC (ie. 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, .375H&H, .Sierra 284)
That pretty much covers a slew of defensive rifle and carbine loads.
So let’s talk about the reticle a little bit. It really is the main reason why this optic is so effective in its designated marksman role. On 12 power, at first glance, it looks like a pile of spaghetti on a plate. There’s lines and crosses all over the place. Unless you are used to really busy reticles, this may seem really complicated, but trust me, it isn’t. Like anything complicated, let’s break it down into smaller digestible parts.
The top, left, and right stadia are marked in ½ Mil increments, so if you are used to a milling reticle at all, this shouldn’t be anything new to you. If you aren’t familiar with milling reticles, you can check out a good page here that will get you up to speed on how to use this portion of the reticle.
So now the juicy part, the bottom. This is the BDC portion of the reticle, and it is somewhat busy, but every part of it is useful and important, and if you give it your attention, you’ll get a lot back. There are 7 horizontal lines that correspond to the numbers going vertically down the right side (3-9). Each one of those lines is the holdover for the corresponding range (300-900). So, if you have a target at 400 yards, simply put the line marked 4 on the target, and go to shooting.
Now I am going to complicate things a little, but stick with me. If you were looking closely, you may have noticed some numbers along the left side of the reticle (6-9). You see, this reticle actually has two scales for the BDC based on your elevation above sea level. The left side is used for elevations above 3000’, while the right side is sea level up to 3000’. So if you are at 2500 feet above sea level, you would use the right side scale, and if you are at 4500’ you would use the left. It’s pretty cool for a BDC to take this into account and build it into the reticle.
Now, one other note. The left scale does NOT correspond to the horizontal lines, but rather to the round dots just above each one. This is because as you go up in elevation, the air gets thinner, and thus you need less hold over. So if you are using the right side scale, use the horizontal lines, and if you are using the left scale, use the dots above the scale.
So how about range estimation? Well, you can do it the same way you do with a milling reticle by using the top, left, and right side scales, or you can use the BDC’s built in ranging system. This is similar to other BDC’s out there and shouldn’t be too confusing.
Basically, the first vertical tick mark from center on each range line going right and left are the outer edges of an 18” target at that range. This happens to conveniently be about the width of an adult males shoulders. But, what if they are moving sideways or turned? Well, just use one half of the scale and it will be 9” at that range. About the thickness of an adult male torso. Pretty simple, right? If you look closely, you’ll see that these ranging tick marks only extend downward from the range line. This is so they don’t get confused with the windage holds that I’ll talk about next.
So, the windage holds are the next thing I’ll discuss. Now, these are a little trickier to describe, but the manual does a good job of breaking it down. Basically, assuming you are using a .308, for a 10MPH full value wind, use the outer edges of the horizontal lines, except for the 500 and 600 line, and then you use the outer most FULL line. This would actually be the second tick from the end. The reason that it isn’t the outer most tick is because they used that one for a 10MPH wind with a 5.56. These ends are still usable for a 12.5MPH wind with your .308. Personally, I wish the windage marks went out far enough to compensate for a 20MPH wind, since I got my butt kicked trying to shoot in the wind last weekend.
So that covers the reticle’s uses for longer distance shooting, but what about closer ranges? Well, this optic has a first focal plane reticle, meaning as you turn the zoom up or down, the reticle shrinks or gets bigger. Now, when you zoom out to 3 power, you will notice that the BDC portion of the reticle has shrunk a lot, and it basically looks like a fuzzy up arrow. But if you look to the right and left of the reticle, you will now see two large “F” shaped crescent shapes that sort of frame the entire reticle.
This is what PFI calls their “Rapid Guide” and it is meant to frame the entire image, and help get on target quicker at close range. I think it is ingenious and it works very well. At 3x with the illumination on it is a very quick and instinctive reticle. One thing to note, the “crescents” represent an “object” 6’ tall at 100 yards. Now don’t cream your pants because it’s not a “true 1 power”. The only time I would worry about that is on a dedicated room broom. IF that is your rifles role, then just get a red dot and be done. Other than that, anything 1-4x is very useful at anything out to 250 yards. So far, I haven’t had any issues at close range with the reticle on 3x.
So that concludes the reticle portion of my essay, now I will get to the rest of the optic. Like I said before, it is a 3-12 x 42mm first focal place scope with a 30mm tube. It has finger adjustable turrets, and after zeroing at 100 yards I still have enough adjustment to dial out to 1000 yards if I wanted. That’s the beauty of this optic; you can use the BDC, or dial for long range shots. So if you know your dope and want to/ have the time to dial, go for it.
I would put the turrets on par with my old Vortex Viper PST. The only difference being that these are harder to turn because of the lack of surface area to actually grab. But the good thing is that your gear will not rub and turn them either. There is no zero stop and the little ring with the hash marks on it is a little awkward to get moved because of its size, but it’s not that big of heart ache. The turrets are 1/4 MOA and are only about 1/4″ tall, and have knurling on the top to aid in turning them.
The glass is just as clear as my Vortex was (I know, the PST line isn’t exactly known for its glass, but for $349 versus $850 I think that is pretty good). The reticle is very usable, it may sound like it would be really busy, but it’s actually really crisp and the details all stick out nicely. I’ve shot at 425 yards a full 30 minutes after sunset with this scope. The illumination has 3 brightness settings per color, and it is plenty bright enough. It is still not daylight visible (neither are iron sights apparently?), and when the illumination is on high it does wash out the image some in pitch dark (like a closet). Also, the illumination is visible through the front of the scope. I would have to say that is the worst part of this scope that I have found thus far. But to be honest, it’s very hard to shoot very far in the dark without any external illumination or night vision, and you can only see it when directly in the line of fire, so…
Like I said before, I cannot recommend this optic enough. It fills a very wide range of applications and is a great force multiplier, especially considering the lower price point compared to most optics. It’s sort of a cross between a target optic and a combat optic, kind of how my G2 is a cross between a target rifle and a combat rifle. Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments..