Red-dot alert

Chris Parkin has the H34L red-dot sight from Aimpoint on test, and finds it a quality performer that’s easy and comfortable to use, too

Aimpoint has become synonymous with red-dot reflex sights, thanks to their optimised performance for moving game; specifically the excitement of driven boar, popularised hugely by the “Wild Boar Fever” videos that whet all our appetites. The H34L is the peak performer from the range, offering unusual looks akin to a 1-6×24 mounted backwards that seemed to encourage some funny looks at the range when zeroing. The sight is a reflex collimator design that projects a red LED forward onto an internally mirrored lens, which then projects back toward the shooter with unlimited eye relief. The “L” model is for use on long-actioned rifles and magnum calibres that can accommodate its 229mm overall length but an “S” model is also available for short-actioned rifles (197mm). This is the largest 34mm tube to give a clear rear-end aperture of 29mm from the frontal 39mm objective lens, for the greatest possible field of view. A smaller, 30mm tubed version is also a possibility to save a little weight, but at 238g rather than the 263g for the 34mm version seen here, I wouldn’tworry too much since it also reduces the rear lens aperture to 25mm, which is 25 per cent less area. Aimpoint’s patented technology, using an angled front lens/mirror and specific techniques for cutting the glass from its billet, means no parallax error is presented, and therefore if you can see the dot, that is where your bullet goes (providing the range and zero are correct, of course). You can see the angle by which the objective is tilted back into the tube’s frontal aperture, but don’t worry, this is how it’s supposed to look.

You can easily adjust the dot brightness on the top of the Aimpoint H34L to suit your surroundings – at dusk, for example

I used Aimpoints on Sauer 101 and Merkel Helix rifles over the course of the winter, both of which had inbuilt or added Picatinny mounting systems for which Aimpoint supplied a set of ultra-low 34mm aluminium scope rings. These lift the tube only 5mm above the upper surface of the rail, allowing the 34mm tube’s additional 17mm (half the diameter) to allow just 22mm spacing of the optical centre above that base’s surface. With intuitive ‘point, swing and shoot’ action required for driven game, good gun fit is distinctly beneficial so this low height, combined with a good cheek weld on the comb, limitless eye relief and a broad field of view, makes the task a lot easier. Compared to the smaller Micro H-2 sights, the proportion of external aluminium tube shrouding the glassware present in your field of view, from the aiming eye, is improved in my opinion – this makes acquisition and tracking easier in the larger overall picture presented. This is particularly important and helpful when obstructions are encountered through which a boar might be travelling, and you need your non-shooting eye and aiming eye to compensate.

I’m also not a fan of squashing my head down too low on the stock, so the larger H34L suits me far better. Squashing your cheek too hard into position and looking too ‘high’, almost through your own eyebrows, is detrimental to normal forward vision, especially when balance and spacial awareness are concerned.

Adjustment is via two small pins set into the elevation and windage turrets, which are clearly marked for direction

A two-MOA red dot and 1x magnification is never going to be a long-range scope, and I found a boar just beyond 100m was difficult (but not impossible) to place a shot into. The comfort limit for what I could see and aim at easily was about 75m, but capturing and tracking the animals with the sharp dot was smooth and relaxed. Depending on how far from your eye the sight is mounted, the dot’s resolution and crisp detail will diminish slightly, but you must push this to the extreme to really be flustered by it. A single press to either tactile intensity button on the top of the tube turns the dot on to the previously specified level of the 12 possible brightness settings available to cover low light all the way though to fully sunlit conditions and/or bright backgrounds rather than dim, close woodland, where low is the way to go before you dazzle yourself. The CR2032 battery is rated to 50,000 hours depending on intensity, so don’t worry too much about leaving it on; pressing both buttons simultaneously extinguishes it.

The tough matt black anodised aluminium housing is built in three sections, with 34mm tube fore and aft of the large central saddle that carries the slotted cap battery compartment to its right side. Capped windage and elevation adjustments are clearly marked for direction on the inside of the cap toward the front of the tube, around the larger diameter of the objective bell. Each cap has twin pins on its outer surface to engage with these small dials when reversed, with each click altering the point of impact by 20mm at 100m, 10mm at 50m or 5mm at 25m for example. A wide range of operating temperatures from -30°C to 60°C is reassuring for cold winter boar shoots.    

Though I have more experience with the Micro H-2, translating the requirements between the two Aimpoint products would definitely have me chose the larger H34L or S for my own rifle. The more vertical head position is preferable to me over the H-2, and that greater percentage of glass to aluminium in the cross-sectional area of the field of view is easier to use, certainly more similar in perspective to the conventional 3-12x or 4-16×50/56 optics we are so accustomed to.

Cold temperature capability in the UK only went down to -3°C for me this winter, but the 5m submersion guarantee is reassuring when mounted to a rifle you dare not cover up or have away from your hands for any number of seconds throughout your day. Flip-up lens caps are now supplied with the H34L to fend off the droplets that will cover the multicoated lenses as an extra reassurance, and since the lens caps are clear, they can be used in the down position if it is a washout.

Shooting from a well-supported position allows surprisingly accurate zeroing targets on paper from a 1x optic that many may expect will be intrinsically inaccurate, but 50mm groups were possible at 100m on a large target – the eye is very good at centring concentric circles if you don’t make life hard with a target too small.

The dot does sparkle a little and is not as truly circular and sharp as a 1x conventional optic, but with zero parallax issues that are tricky to defeat on lesser ‘red dots’, at a fraction of the price of a comparable 1-6x or 3-12x optic with similar capability and durability in poor conditions, you can certainly overlook that. For fast-moving targets at closer ranges, this really works, but if you are likely to encounter mixed quarry beyond 75m, especially smaller animals, I would stick with that 1-6×24. 

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Posted in Optics, Reviews

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