Sightmark Rapid AR SHR-223 scope review

Looking for something tactical? Stuart Wilson assesses a £400 compact 1-4x scope from Sightmark

Sightmark have been producing solid quality optics, lasers and sighting systems for a few years now, I have first-hand experience of their extensive range and have used many of their products. The research and development team tirelessly go through the rigours of taking concepts from the drawing board to the somewhat unforgiving shooting world in all its guises, tactical, hunting and competition – this is where their ‘triple duty’ label derives from.

It was no surprise to see Sightmark enter the market with a range of tactical scopes with calibrated reticles for specific calibres, I know from a cursory glance of the range available that they will be put to good use on rifles here across the ‘pond’, in 1-4×20, 2.5×20, 2-7×32, 3-12×32 and a 5-20×40. Some will obviously sell better than others, and I would be quite interested in trying out the 5-20×40 as it features a .308 Win calibrated reticle for 150gn bullets – useful for stalking perhaps?

The crisp knurling of the ocular bell offers superior grip and size

The review model is the 1-4×20 variant with the .223 Rem calibrated reticle, and while using a short dot scope is not my usual choice of optic (I have never shot driven game – it is on my bucket list after a session at shooting cinema and compact range in Germany – and haven’t really got into range-based tactical shooting either), I have been involved in development projects for specific optics just like the Sightmark AR series and am fully aware of the solution they are trying to provide for military application, how well they cross into the civilian recreational shooter’s world, and how diverse the potential applications are from airgun and rimfire through to a multitude of centrefire rifles.

First impressions

The Rapid AR 1-4×20 is a compact unit measuring less than nine inches, but it has that confidently reassuring heft to it, it is solid, twisting and button pushing reveal a superb feel, from zoom ring to turrets onto the reticle illuminating button – aside from the scope the box contained a lens cloth and rubberised bikini lens covers.

The design

A 20mm objective lens is slim, clearly made for fast pointing at close targets

The scopes main body tube is 30mm with just less than two inches of tube between the ocular bell and the turret saddle, and just over two inches forward of the saddle, so ample room for whatever mount solution you decide on. The eye relief is longer than usual at 4.5in, so you will not ‘scope’ yourself inadvertently due to heavy recoil, and the added benefit of longer eye relief gives a clearer view for the shooter with both eyes open. In essence the Rapid AR presents a small black ring around your sight picture, barely impeding any view, the scope all but melts out of view delivering a clear and quick ability to draw the crosshairs on to the target.

To my mind a well-designed short dot scope should be used with both eyes open, with the shooter looking at the target then raising the firearm and mounted optic to the eye for precise target selection. If the target is moving, both eyes inevitably provide a better and safer result when the loaded firearm is swung in any direction. The ocular bell is neatly and fully knurled, and functions as the zoom ring with the whole eyepiece turning through the zoom range, the fine focus ring is also knurled for tactile adjustments but features a rubber cushion ring to avoid damage in use or to the shooter eyebrow from excess recoil.

The top cap screws off to reveal the turret release screw to reset zero

The scope is constructed using rugged, lightweight, hard anodised 6061-T6 aluminium. The finish is superb across all component parts, and all markings are crisply etched and inlaid with white, whether this is branding or, more importantly, on the zoom ring and turrets to enable precise repeatable adjustments. The turret adjusts by pulling the ring up from the locked position, then allowing the shooter to click round in clearly marked 0.5MOA clicks, with a full turn offering 30MOA. Be careful not to lose track of which rotation you are on! That said, I think the ballistic reticle somewhat negates the need to dial.

When on the rifle, the ballistic turret pops up from the locked position to adjust

To allow the scope to be zeroed, once mounted on your chosen firearm, the turrets have a cap that screws off revealing a stainless slotted screw, which when unfastened allows the turret to fully lift off and then be replaced at the zero mark. The turrets are knurled for tactile adjustment and are fully sealed with o-rings leaving the scope with an IP67 rating throughout. The scope is also backed by a comprehensive lifetime warranty – enough said.

The third turret houses the battery for the illuminated reticle, and the cap of this turret also houses the toggle switch. Press it to turn the illumination on full, with further presses dimming the reticle progressively until finally turning it back off after the eighth press.

The illuminated part of the reticle is like a crucifix, with four holdover stadia beneath the central crosshairs, this central crucifix sits separated from the thicker four lines, it’s a cleaner illumination, which cleanly guides the eye centrally for the shot.

All round

The illumination button – simple and clean

The optical quality is excellent: fully coated lenses, fogproof and shockproof. Clarity is superb even at low light – the magnification is low anyway, and perhaps it would be better to judge the light gathering abilities on some of the higher magnification models in this range.

The Rapid AR series of scopes from Sightmark certainly has a place on rifles in the UK, perhaps even on some practical shotguns, or slug-fed variants for driven disciplines Within the range the 5-20×40 SCR-308 is very interesting, and if I can get my hands on one, a field review may show how versatile these scopes could be in a hunting situation.

Sightmark are a forward-thinking company and I am sure that with some feedback their ballistic reticle scopes may just find a following over here. From personal experience they are well built, designed and rugged. If they produced a .22 rimfire and a .17 HMR version that would certainly be well received.

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