When it comes to scopes for long range shooting, I tend to not stray away from the brands and models I'm used to, and I can imagine there are more than a few of you that would feel the same. Admittedly, I usually turn my nose up at anything thats not a higher tier Leupold, Vortex or Nightforce. However, my snobbery may have just been put in check, because I've given a completely different brand a test drive, and so far I really like what I see. Pun intended.
I've never really heard of Athlon before, but a good friend (and Athlon dealer) convinced me to give their Argos BTR scope a try. I happened to be in the market for a new scope to sit atop a .300 Win Mag, a Remington 700 LR that I built for my father. Initially I had mounted a Vortex Viper with a BDC reticle on this rifle, but my old man had trouble seeing the fine crosshairs when looking at anything that wasn't a white wall. So I was looking for a thicker reticle that would be easier for his aging eyes to pick up, but also fully capable of taking pokes out to 1,000 yards and further.
Having exclusively used Vortex optics on my rifles for the last 5 years, I had thought they were the reigning champions of "best bang-for-your-buck" in the optics market. Their scopes had introduced me to higher quality glass and high end features, and as long as I was shelling out less than a grand, I was happy. I was, until I found out this Argos BTR had some of the same features and damn near comparable glass, for under four hundred dollars. I wish I had known about them sooner, then I could have budgeted my build for other higher quality parts like a slicker bipod setup, trigger, etc.
I'll start off with the glass itself. The Argos BTR has two coatings on the lenses, a multi-coat to increase image brightness and clarity at dusk and dawn when the light is dimmest, and a XPL coating to protect the lens surfaces from dirt, grease and other gunk. The multi-coating treatment is supposed to reduce reflected light and increases the transmission of light, resulting in a brighter image compared to a normal single coated lens.
With a magnification range of 8-34, I was pretty skeptical at the performance at the higher range. Trust me, it was the first thing I had to check for myself. It's not as good as an actual spotting scope, but with 34x you could just about leave the spotting scope in the truck. I found that at 34x colors and edges did degrade to a slight degree, but backed down between 20-24x images returned to what I expect. The Argos BTR also has side parallax adjustment, a feature I insist on having on all my riflescopes, that lets you dial the focus to the distance you are scanning, so details are as crisp as can be.
The reticle itself is called the APMR FFP IR MIL reticle, and besides being a mouthful its actually one of the easiest to digest MIL reticles I've seen. Most manufacturers use some sort of MILRAD reticle thats so complicated and busy, you feel like you need to take a special forces sniper class just to understand it and really "know it like the back of your hand." I believe thats what deters a lot of new rifle shooters from learning the MIL system and instead go with MOA since it can be easier to wrap your mind around for a civilian who is used to shooting at fixed distances at the range. The Argos BTR 8-34x56 is available in MOA configuration, but for the sake of the review I will only discuss my scope in hand which is MIL.
The IR of the aforementioned mouthful stands for illuminated reticle, and it's become a standard feature on many higher end scopes over the past several years. While it may seem like a gimmick to the traditionalist, I have taken two blacktail deer, two years in a row, and both times I had switched the illumination on to get better contrast off the dark, wet fur of October bucks. The contrast is a big benefit to instantly turn on, especially if the distance of the shot requires use of drop marks and legibility is critical. The IR turret was a little stiff for my liking right out of the box, but it did get smoother over time with use. Obviously this would be a crucial area for moisture to penetrate the optic, so tight tolerances are fully appreciated.
The APMR FFP IR MIL reticle is etched on the glass, a common practice that allows for a complex reticle design as well as much higher shock resistance to recoil. The numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 are marked thick enough to read easily. There are half mil hash mark increments between the center and 7 mil marks, and finer 0.2 mil hash marks between the 7 mil to 9 mil marks on the left, right and bottom lines. That make using hold-overs a snap, as well as using more accurate hold over adjustments at longer ranges where small errors lead to larger misses. The whole reticle spans 18 mils... well, until you zoom in past 20x magnification. Being a first focal plane scope (FFP) means the reticle gets larger as you zoom in. After 20x the reticle begins to crop, and at the highest power setting of 34x a span of 9 mils is left within view, leaving 4.5 mils usable for left, right, up or down holds.
Excuse the camera focus on the following images, photographing through a scope is harder than it looks.
The benefit to first focal plane is the subtensions remain true at every magnification range. After getting into FFP scopes a few years ago, I definitely prefer them over SFP (second focal plane) where the reticle's drop measurements are only true when you're zoomed in on the maximum magnification. If you are hunting, and need to take a long shot on an animal that requires using the reticles ballistic compensation system, the subtensions should be accurate no matter what power the magnification is on, for an ethical attempt to be made. Even if your at the range or in a competition where time and score matters, the same remains true. If you need to engage a target quickly. the lower magnification power offers a shrunken reticle with finer detail that still retains precise holdover marks.
The Argos BTR is constructed of a 6061T6 aircraft grade one-piece aluminum tube. I'm told the tube is heat treated to give the body extra strength. The one piece design is used to keep the scope mechanically strong, as well as "proofed" against the conditions that will ruin a scope and your day just as easily. Athlon argon purges their scopes to push any moisture out of the tube during manufacturing, which helps with waterproofing in case the scope is exposed to rain or even accidentally submerged. The purging also helps give the scope stability in different temperatures, preventing a buildup of fog when you emerge from a toasty truck or wall tent into the brisk morning air.
On the bench, sighting in the Argos BTR on the .300wm test rifle was a breeze. I did have to go out and get taller rings, I usually run mediums with 50mm scopes to get the bell really close to the barrel, but for the 56mm of the Argos BTR, high rings were needed. The turrets have tangible detents you can feel as your turning them, and the "click" of each turn is audible. The turrets are engraved with hashes, however they didn't quite line up with the engraved reference lines on the scope if your eye is lined up perfectly down the tube. Have no fear, its an easy fix. Once your rifle is zeroed at the range, loosen the screws atop both turrets and pop the caps off, realigning the "0" on the engraved reference line, and reinstall the screws. The lines should be lining up correctly if you did your job right. I love this feature on rifle scopes, because if you use your turrets to make adjustments for wind and elevation conditions, you can return to zero afterwards. There is no zero stop however, so you will have to mentally keep track of how many rotations of the turret you made in order to return to zero.
Overall I would say this is a fantastic scope for a precision rifle budget build, or even on a hunting rifle thats capable of longer ranges. It does have some weight at over 32 ounces, so I wouldn't recommend it on a featherweight mountain rifle or a range toy like a sporter AR-15 or other carbine. If you are wanting to learn the milliradian system and get the right scope to learn on, this scope is a great candidate. If you are wanting an iron clad warranty like the other big optic brands, rest easy because Athlon products are lifetime warranted against defects and workmanship. They guarantee to repair or replace your optic for no charge if it is damaged through normal use, with no receipt or no registration needed. So while that doesn't mean you can deliberately run it over in the parking lot, you can be confident they'll back their products should you have an issue.
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
Claim to Fame: For those of you that are just getting started in the PRS or are looking to start, take a close look at the Argos BTR family of scopes.
Target Market: Precision / Long range shooters
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
- 8-34 Magnification
- 56 mm Objective Lens Diameter
- 30 mm Tube Diameter
- Reticle APMR FFP IR MIL, Glass Etched
- First Focal Plane Reticle
- Illuminated Reticle
- Matte Surface Finish
- Wide Band Fully Multicoated Lens Coating
- Xtra Protective Coating Extra Coating
- 6061 Aluminium Tube Material, Heat Treated One Piece Tube Construction
- 7-1.7 mm Exit Pupil
- 3.3 inches Eye Relief
- 12.5-3 feet Field of View @100 yards
- 0.1MIL Click Value
- 5MIL Adjustment range per rotation
- 13 MIL Total Elevation Adjustment
- 13 MIL Total Windage Adjustment
- Exposed Turret Style
- Side Focus Parallax Adjustment – 15 yards to infinity
- 15.5 inches Length
- 32.2 ounces Weight
- Fog proof
- Argon Purged
- Athlon Gold Medal Lifetime Warranty
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: MIL or MOA reticle / turrets
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?:
"I have it mounted on a 6.5 Creedmoor and have shot out to 1018 yards. Overall I am pretty happy with my purchase, I did not expect anything special as a high quality scope with this kind of magnification would be almost 10X the cost.
Descent glass with etched reticle and FFP (Means you can use the MOA or MRAD hash marks at any magnification level). You get a clear picture out to about 24X.
Illuminated reticle that works well. Have not tested much in low light.
Adjustable turrets that seem to hold zero.
Low cost for that much optic.
Image starts to get a little fuzzy and color distorted past about 24X magnification, but still visible. I like to shoot with it at about 2X and zoom in to see my shots with the 34X.
The turrets have very soft clicks and are sometimes difficult to feel. At least on mine the lines on the turret and on the scope do not match up. It stops about half way between the two.
For all you who are looking to do some serious long range shooting here is the biggest problem. It is a 30mm tube, which is fine for most shooting but when you get out at 800+ yards the recoil of the gun throws the scope off target and because the FOV is so small with that 30mm tube it is difficult to get back on to see your hit. I have done it at 1018 yards but it is a fight. If you want something for really long range you'll want to look at a 40 or 50mm tube. But those scopes are very very expensive.
Good purchase, just understand that it is a cheap scope. I feel like you get more than what you pay for but you really are not getting even an $800 Vortex, let alone a Swarovski." - Amazon Review
I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILITY:
- Finish is tough and wear resistant
- Magnification ring turns smooth with not too much resistance
- Magnification ring has a raised nub for leverage, not too big to snag like a throw lever
- Turrets can be re-zeroed
- Clarity gets slightly hazy past 24x
- No zero stop for returning to zero
- Built in magnification lever can impede aftermarket bolt knobs (zoomed to 8-9x)
SCORE: 8.0 GREAT
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