Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ATN X-Sight HD 3-12 Day Night Scope Review The Future of Optics?

ATN X-Sight HD 3-12 Day Night Scope Review The Future of Optics?

One of the more interesting items to arrive on my doorstep for review was the ATN X-Sight. At first glance at the incredible specs of this scope, I had to wonder if this was the future of optics.

The concept of the ATN X-Sight is pretty cool in theory - a purely digital 3-12 magnification scope meaning that there is an HD camera in the front and shooters are actually just looking at a high resolution screen instead of through a lens’ed optic.

Just last week at the 2016 SHOT show I saw the newest Gen 2 X-Sight and many of the complaints I have with this GEN 1 sight have been resolved. I did share the issues I have below with the ATN team at SHOT and the comment back was something like “Well that’s why we have a Gen 2, we heard a lot of great feedback.”

Before I jump into the coolness of the ATN X-Sight, I feel compelled to note more a few things which prevent the Gen 1 X-Sight from being initially reliable and user friendly. It should be noted that one cannot look through or use the X-Sight in any way with the power off. With the power off, you might as well be staring at a pitch black TV screen ½” from your face, because technically you are. Among the host of issues from a tactical and somewhat practical perspective, the need to power on the X-Sight was first on my list of things I found terribly inconvenient as a user of old fashioned glass lens optics.

It is a tad inconvenient that the X-Sight requires power to function at all as even a monocular, because this thing freaking eats four AA batteries at a time like a kid’s new RC car at Christmas. I found that even with the unit off, fresh batteries would be drained a few weeks later without so much as one boot up. Apparently there is some power consumption even while the unit is off. Once you fire up WiFi, my run times were reduced by approximately half. High dollar lithium AA batteries did deliver the approximate 20 hour run times noted by ATN without Wifi, but standard alkalines deliver around 10 hours of use and about 5-6 hours with Wifi on. If you are packing the X-Sight, pack a Costco sized pack of batteries.

The 2.25lb X-Sight is about twice (or more) as heavy as any other comparably magnified optic. Construction of the X-Sight was extremely solid. If you dropped the lardy X-Sight from your rooftop onto your driveway, I am pretty sure the X-Sight would survive and your driveway would have a dent in it. 

It seemed to me that ATN definitely error’ed on the side of durability and it shows and feels like it.  The quality of the included night vision IR illuminator on the other hand feels like a $2 flashlight from the Dollar Store. Mine fell apart while I was mounting it but I was able to reassemble it. Although the illuminator did a really excellent job of kicking out a 200-yard+ focusable IR beam to allow the ATN X-Sight electronics to do their job, most airsoft flashlights feel higher quality. ATN was clearly struggling to keep at the $629 MSRP of a night vision capable optic and the quality of the IR light apparently suffered.

The boot up is not particularly slow, but that 5-8 seconds seems like an eternity while you are attempting to shoot the racoon ransacking your trash can in the middle of the night. I can just imaging this on a hunt where you see that perfect trophy and need to wait for the boot up first.  Despite some pretty glowing reviews of the ATN X-Sight, upon my first boot up the resolution looked worse than a 1960s B&W TV and the night vision did not work at all. My out of the box perception was that the X-Sight was a total piece of junk, however I am glad I kept at it - that would not have been a fair assessment.

One of the initial problems was that I apparently had a bad initial load of a Gen 1 software pack. A quick call to ATN confirmed that I needed to do a firmware upgrade. OK just download the firmware and load it on the MicroSD card which after much searching I realized the required MicroSD was not included with purchase. Off to Best Buy I go. A few days later I had the time to move the ATN firmware from my Mac to my new MicroSD card. The update process was quick simple at that point. Power down the X-Sight, slide in the MicroSD with the firmware loaded and reboot the X-Sight. A few minutes later the X-Sight was transformed from junk to something that matched the manufacturers marketing hype.

The ATN Obsidian Android app has been squirrelly to say the least, but it “usually” works.  My iPhone and iPad Obsidian apps have worked flawlessly. I would say that the clarity ATN shows on the website is highly optimistic from my perspective. It is useable, but not as good as what they are showing online.

Those are my gripes with the X-Sight, but if you can have some patience with the technology it is quite incredible what ATN has packaged into the sight.

You can go ahead an kill your visions of night vision like the high speed military Spec Ops guys have, this is a very useable night vision when used with the IR illuminator. Even then it is more like looking through a magnified toilet paper role - the peripheral vision is limited.

If you get all retarded excited that you can have a $629 night vision optic, then you should probably calm down a bit. The capabilities of this scope are amazing considering the price, however the X-Sight is not a replacement for a $2000+ MilSpec night vision scope. After the firmware updates the night vision functionality works pretty well “IF” you use the IR Illuminator and ATN notes just that in the instructions. The sensors do an OK job picking up ambient light or moonlight for environment illumination, however for any practical night vision use a separate IR Illuminator is required. With the IR Illuminator focused properly, the ATN X-Sight does a pretty amazing job of offering night vision out to 200+ yards. Actually amazing considering the $629 price tag. The screen capture picture included clearly shows the division between where the illuminator shines and where it does not. Unless there is a pretty bright moon light, the night vision is useless without an IR Illuminator.

The zooming feature is a digital zoom and my perception is that clarity suffered as soon as you moved the magnification above the lowest setting. My preference would have been a simple night vision equipped 1X unmagnified red dot without all the extra features. Beyond hog hunting, anything I would likely shoot in the middle of the night I can hit out to 200 yards with just a red dot. On the lowest magnification the resolution was decent for an all digital scope, however a $60 budget 3-9 scope would still deliver exponentially better clarity.

ATN is making giant leaps with bringing technology to firearms. Their Gen 2 was twice as good as this Gen 1 version. If you like gadgetry and technology, then you will love the X-Sight. Included on board is are HDMI, MicroSD and USB interfaces, GPS, digital compass, Wifi connection to your mobile devices, upgradeable firmware/features, multiple reticle choices, day night settings, digital picture and video capture capabilities, interfaces and programming via a mobile device, one-shot zeroing, and even bullet drop compensation. All of which actually work. I can only imagine that ATN will keep updating the software to add new features. It is an amazing piece of technology which I would absolutely use for the darkest hours of a hog hunt and for the first six hours of the zombie apocalypse.

One of the coolest features is the ability to watch exactly what a shooter is seeing via a mobile phone or tablet within the X-Sight’s WiFi range. I have found this to be a really handy training feature and if you have video running a handy tool for figuring out where your shots are going. I have even taken a few shots from cover using my cell phone as the sighting viewfinder - very cool.

We must make the jump from mechanical sighting into the realm of digital sighting without making comparisons between the two - these are two different animals. I caution readers that when they look at the ATN X-Sight or any other digital optic that they need to realize they are not getting a 3-9 variable scope with digital capabilities, instead owners are getting a digital scope with digital capabilities. I have no doubt that in as little as a decade that digitally magnified scopes will be a typical optic solution for firearms and the ATN X-Sight represents the first real “affordable” step in that direction and definitely represents the future of digital optics.

This is cool technology without question, however I am not sure I would recommend readers sprint out to buy the Gen 1 X-Sight just yet as a primary optic for a firearm. If you have the cash this is a really interesting shooting tool to play around with for training and hunting. It is a cool piece of tech, however I think the useful window on this sight is very narrow as a night vision optic and thus has become an optic I swap on an off my Tavor and Ruger 10/22 rifles. To be completely honest, after six months of reviewing the ATN X-Sight, it has become one of those odd ball accessories which I use occasionally, but when I do it comes in really handy.

SENSOR HD 1080p ATN L130 Sensor
FIELD OF VIEW @ 1000 YARDS 617 ft
CORE ATN Obsidian
IP RATING Weather resistant
MICRO USB External Battery Pack
RETICLES Multiple Patterns & Color Options
MOUNT Picatinny, Included
BATTERY LIFE (LI-ION) 8 - 12 hours
BATTERY PACK LIFE (16000MAH) 22+ hours
BATTERY TYPE 4 AA (Lithium Recommended)
DIMENSIONS 9.5" x 3.19" x 3.35"/242 mm x 82 mm x 86 mm
WEIGHT  LBS 2.25 lbs
WARRANTY Two years
MSRP $629


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ATN Corportation -

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Major Pandemic Doesn’t Get Recognized at Ruger… or anywhere else

Major Pandemic Doesn’t Get Recognized at Ruger… or anywhere else

As a writer in the industry, going to SHOT is one of those things that balances a heavy load of dread, annoyance, and exhaustion with those the positive emotions of seeing a rare new idea and shaking the hands of those you like in the industry. Unfortunately, I generally do not head off to toward the Vegas based SHOT show each year skipping through the airport but instead can be found scuffing my feet muttering “this is going to kick my butt.”

The KLAZ was a huge hit at show.
This year you could not take two steps without running into someone with a Gemini competition sport shirt loaded with logos.  I started wondering if there was anyone who is not competing. I think next year, I am going to just make up a shirt with a bunch of wacky sponsors like KY Jelly, MedlinePlus Catheters, Fox Run Fat Separators, Go Lightly, Trojan, & “Bob’s Proctology Shack - home of the 2 for 1 deal”. That will help me fit in a little better.

Fab Defense speed reloading magazine.
I go into the fray knowing that beyond some brand recognition of the Major Pandemic name and logo, I will slip through crowds unbothered. We do have some well known celebrities such as Ted Nugent and Jesse James. Then there is a big jump way down to the “D” list celebrities of firearms competitors and televisions “stars” who for the most part believe they are way more important and well known than they really are. Let's all take a couple reality pills here, there are only a few folks who would possibly recognize these firearms celebrities inside the industry and outside the industry these celebrities would get nothing more than a stern stare after telling someone “Don’t you know who I am?”  

The main hallway after the cattle call opening bell.
Yeah lots a room, just like a subway
This brings me to the very entertaining Larry VIckers. Though I like to watch Larry Vickers and respect his background, one of the things that put me on the floor balled up in laughter was seeing Larry Vickers not getting “recognized” at the Ruger booth despite his valiant attempts - some polite, some… well not so much. Setting up an appointment and getting blown off is one thing, however showing up with an entire video crew in the middle of SHOT to do an impromptu video and attempting to effectively close off the Ruger booth from SHOT show traffic for 30 minutes is something all together impolite. Though not a dramatic “Reese Witherspoon” freak out drama which some might imagine, it was still freaking hilarious to watch a D List celebrity get a blank stare back from the Ruger folks. Of course a social media rant by Mr Vickers followed. See the full meltdown article here on The only things more entertaining would have been seeing the long list of firearms celebs who were turned away from Wednesday's invite only Glock Customer Appreciation event and if Crisco and Fireclean would have booths next to each other. Come on guys lets not take ourselves so serious; we are just a bunch of rednecks with guns having fun. Right?

Meanwhile… can you believe that no one recognized me and asked for a autograph. I would rather be a ghost instead of getting stopped for autographs every two steps. Though my badge had a real name listed under Major Pandemic, most of my manufacturers mistakenly call me “Frank Underwood”, “Max Archer”, “Major” or “Pandemic” or “ohh you are that guy.. love your stuff”... that is how completely unfamous my face is. I have become a logo and a brand instead of a person in the eyes of manufacturers, so you can forget having to wait in line just to get an autograph and exchange witty banter.
Something for later...after drinks.

Ahh the stuff you see at SHOT that has nothing to do with firearms. I know, I know it "sounds" like a lot of fun to get the first hand look at the newest gear, but the reality is more like a commuter train experience of getting elbowed in the face every time you want to enter a booth with the certainty of returning home sick after shaking a plethora of unwashed hands and being sneezed on hundreds of times.

Woven carbon fiber frond... very light.
There is of course Vegas itself which is not my favorite city as a loyal non-gambling Christian husband of 20'ish year. I am not in my twenties and single, so most of the city is a 24x7 annoyance to me beyond the stellar food. I must profess I usually have a negative attitude about the SHOT, but I must go if I want to write about this insane industry.

The SHOW is massive with an enormous attendance second in size to the the big electronics and auto shows and this year’s traffic was freaking insane. This of course means that with two large main floors and usually five secondary show floor areas you literally have approximately thirty seconds at each booth if the intent is to spend time at every booth even if you stretch your time out over the five days. Unfortunately you have to omit and sprint past what could be some really amazing products just to have the time to spend on your "editorial focus areas".

A typical isle at SHOT show.
Yeah lots a room, just like a subway
The SHOT show is semi-organized meaning that you cannot walk down the suppressor, barrel, finishing, stock, case, and Bullet isles, but there are a few logical product groupings... sometimes. Thus, you can expect your poor FitBit to deliver your peak steps for the year - I did a little over 20 miles of walking in just two days.

Range Day is awash of people being muzzle swept. Add in the massive SHOT show crowds, physical exhaustion, and of course we have some entertainment value on the floor. Then it happens. You find that series of amazing products that you will cite as the most important innovation in the industry for the year and you shake some familiar hands which fill your sole enough to drudge through another few miles of the show. In some ways these little moments make up for the pains of travel, the rude crowds, the convention food, and throbbing feet, but the Vickers show was definitely my highlight. Thanks for the entertainment.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Billet Precision Chassis Buyers Guide - Tactical Retailer Magazine

Billet Precision Chassis Buyers Guide - Tactical Retailer Magazine

Check out my article on various Billet Precision chassis for bolt action rifles printed in Tactical Retailer Magazine magazine here

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Debrief with Barnes Precision Machine - Tactical Retailer Magazine

Debrief with Barnes Precision Machine - Tactical Retailer Magazine.  A big thank you to the amazing photography courtesy of

Check out my article and interview with Barnes Precision printed in Tactical Retailer Magazine magazine here

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How Target Master .308 Rifle Review - Shooting Sports Retailer

How Target Master .308 Rifle Review - Shooting Sports Retailer

Check out my article on the How Target Master printed in Shooting Sports Retailer magazine here

Shop the complete selection of Howa Rifles at

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Tavor Turns Three - Shooting Sports Retailer

Tavor Turns Three - Shooting Sports Retailer

Check out my article on the Tavor printed in Shooting Sports Retailer magazine here

Shop the complete selection of Tavors at

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tac Shield Gun Belt and Mag Pouch Review

Tac Shield Gun Belt and Mag Pouch Review

There are a number of reasons to invest in a high quality external tactical gun belt and I am not talking about the kind that just keep your pants up or hold your CCW holstered gun. This article focuses on an extremely high quality gun belt from Tac Shield which can be worn over clothes and your clothing belt or used as a high strength rigid belt for your pants.

Gun belts have become fashion in 3Gun but are just as handy in the tactical and defense world where having a gun belt ready to strap on at a moment's notice could deliver benefits. This type of external Tac Shield gun belt setup is also about 1000x more comfortable to move with and wear when you need more gear off the same belt holding your pants up. Another benefit is that once all your personalized accessories are added to the belt, the belt and gear can be easily clipped on or removed without having to partially disrobe.

From a training perspective it is really quite nice to arrive at the range and just clip on your gun belt with a holster and magazines pouches already attached and placed and start training, versus spending ten or fifteen minutes getting your holster and magazine pouches in the right spot.  

The Tac Shield Gun Belt is very similar to many of the other top quality gun belts on the market with a high strength sturdy webbing, double clasp buckle and a flexible velcro adjustment system to accommodate changes in clothing and …  well, let’s face it weight change.

There are some aspects of the Tac Shield belt I like a bit better than other belts I have tested. The quality is exceptionally high with a quality Heavy-duty 2,000 lb. aluminum buckle with Double Release Levers, tough 1.5” double-wall 7000lb Mil-Spec webbing, and the velcro adjustment was easy and secure to use.

The Tac Shield Gun Belt is not a glorified EDC (Every Day Carry) belt for your pants.  One feature I like is that the entire belt is reinforced with a special polymer stiffner which greatly increases the load capabilities of the belt. The stiffener is also one reason I would not wear it daily as an  EDC belt. It could serve that duty, however from my opinion after testing is that the Gun Belt is just too stiff and thick in addition to screaming “shoot me first I am the tactical guy with a gun”. 

If you are the type of person wearing 5.11 pants while grocery shopping, then you might love this belt to hold your pants up. Instead, my perception is that this is an awesome light-medium load bearing belt which might have a holster and a few AR and pistol mag pouches hung from it as are typical with 3Gun matches. This belt would be great option for those who may plan on doing some sporting competition in addition to using this belt for defensive training and use.

I highly recommend everyone with an AR15 and pistol complete some type of “extra” training each year to keep your skills sharp. On of my annoyances on my first training was that I was not particularly comfortable with a holster and two pistol mag pouches and a rifle pouch hanging from my tactical riggers belt laced through the loops on my 5.11 tactical pants. 

Breaks in the training require all that crap to be removed which requires reversing the ten minutes of wiggling it to get the stuff on the belt in the first place. Plastic holsters and nylon pouches start to irritate and chafe your skin because they are sitting too tight to the body… plainly put it sucks if you don’t have a dedicated gun belt which you can just clip on and off as the training schedule dictates. An external belt pushes all those attached pouches and holsters out a fingers width away from your skin which delivers a world of improved comfort. Bottom line, if you do any training, buy a freaking gun belt.

LAG Tactical Battle Buddy - Mag Carrier
What is a Gun Belt without holsters and pouches. I tested the belt both with just my LAG Tactical “The Defender” holsters for my H&K VP9 and Glock G17 pistols along with LAG’s “Battle Buddy” Single pistol and AR rifle mag carrier. The belt with only the LAG holster and Battle Buddy configuration netted a simply and easy light weight tactical pistol and AR15 rig which could support single reload drills or perhaps a hunting trip into the field.

For more comprehensive support of multiple firearm magazines, Tac Shield also manufactures some very high quality Universal Magazine Pouches. My Tac Shield Double Universal Rifle Pouch will hold (4) M16 Mags, (2) AK47 Mags, (4) SMG Mags, (2) M14/FAL Mags or (2) SF 60RD Magazines so that if I want to train with my AK47, I can all without changing the pouches. The same goes for the Tac Shield Double Universal Pistol Pouch which will hold pretty much any typical single or double stack magazine. 

My thought was that with an investment of only $75 in these two Tac Shield Universal holsters that I would have support pretty much any typical magazine requirement I could have. I know high speed kydex or polymer mag holsters are all the rage, however I liked the idea that the legacy Mil-Spec flap pouch style offered more magazine retention security.

I did add Tac Shield’s 5" x 5" x 2" Gear Pouch which I typically stuff with, my wallet, cell phone, a small medical kit and usually a couple power bars. Honestly this is the handiest pouch on the belt.

The Tac Shield pouches are all bar tacked for extra durability at stress points and all feature extended pull tabs for use with gloves. Attachment is via a simple and adjustable MOLLE style loop system which I found delivered accommodating positioning of the pouches. My only little complaint is that the Milspec MOLLE attachment slots deliver a little loose fit on the belt, however as we all know the MOLLE system itself is a compromise solution far from perfect on on anything except attachment to another MOLLE grid. Adding adjustable MOLLE belt clips would be my preference to tighten up the pouch and pack from moving around.

I do have other gun belts which are more tactical dress belts that I have been using as external gun belts, so I have been thrilled with the quality of the Tac Shield setup. Aside from the LAG Tactical holsters and carriers, the Tac Shield Tactical Gun Belt, Universal Double Pistol and Rifle magazines only totaled around $164 which I consider one of the better accessory investments I have made which has increased my comfort, and improved the quality of my training. What I like most about this setup is realizing that it can transition and be used for everything from entry level competitive shooting, to serious defensive and tactical training, to even supporting your CCW firearm and hunting firearm magazine needs. Cool high quality set up for not a lot of cash.

- MSRP $59.99
- Small: 30"-34" (SM) $59.99
- Medium: 34"-38" (MD) $59.99
- Large: 38"-42" (LG) $59.99
- Colors - Black
- 1.5 Inch width
- Easy Open Heavy-duty 2,000 lb. Aluminum Buckle with Double Release Levers
- Low-profile design includes tapered edges for snag-free comfort
- The buckle locks the webbing to prevent slippage with even the heaviest loads
- Double-wall webbing is reinforced with a special poly stiffener system.
- The patent pending design provides extra support in the holster/mag case region, while offering softer edging in the spinal area for additional comfort and protection.
- Offers four inches of adjustment with the hook & loop tail lock design
- Can be worn in traditional pant loops or tactical pant loops
- If sized correctly, it will fit over your pants for convenience in removing holster/mag case as a unit

- QR double lever buckle
- 1.5" double-wall 7,000 lb. Mil-Spec webbing
- Low-profile stiffeners improve carry comfort

- Double Universal Rifle Pouch
- MSRP $43.99
- Available in Coyote (#T3502CY) and Black (#T3502BK).

TAC SHIELD® MOLLE Rifle Magazine Pouch is designed with durability and ease of use in mind. The tough 1000 Denier Nylon with special liner protects your magazines. The Mil-Spec 3” webbed flap is double thick, with a security strap ensuring vigorous dependability. Blackened grommets serve as convenient drain holes.

The heavy duty elastic retention strap and hook/loop holds your loaded magazines tight, while the handy pull tabs ease deployment with or without gloves. Special reinforcements with double stitching and bar-tacks in high wear and stress points deliver exceptional performance.

The Universal Double Rifle Pouch fits rifle magazines in either a double or single carry. It holds (4) M16 Mags, (2) AK47 Mags, (4) SMG Mags, (2) M14/FAL Mags or (2) SF 60RD Magazines.
- Double Universal Pistol Pouch
- MSRP $29.99
- Available in Coyote (#T3602CY) and Black (#T3602BK).

TAC SHIELD® MOLLE Pistol Magazine Pouch is designed with durability and ease of use in mind. The tough 1000 Denier Nylon with special liner protects your magazine. The Mil-Spec 1” webbed flap is double thick ensuring vigorous dependability.  

The heavy duty elastic retention strap and hook/loop holds your loaded magazines tight, while the handy pull tabs ease deployment with or without gloves. Special reinforcements with double stitching and bar-tacks in high wear and stress points deliver exceptional performance.

The Universal Double Pistol fits popular pistol magazines either a double or single stack. It holds (2) Double or Single Stack Magazines.
- Compact Gear Pouch
- MSRP $29.99
- Product #: #T4101CY (Coyote) or #T4101BK (Black)
- Dimensions: 5" x 5" x 2"

TAC SHIELD® MOLLE Compact Gear Pouch offers a non-abrasive liner providing additional protection for important gear. Blackened grommets serve as convenient drain holes in case of access during downpours. Double zipper cords with easy "grabber pulls" work well with tactical gloves. The #10 heavy duty industrial zipper extends over the corners and down the sides for dependable opening and access ease. Mil-spec webbing offer additional hanging options for other gear.


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Heckler & Koch -