There are more new shooters and more shooters on a tight budget than ever before. Fortunately, budget optics are better than they’ve ever been.
Atibal Optics is an American company that designs their scopes in the states and has them manufactured abroad. The result is they’re able to turn out optics with clear glass and features well beyond what most shooters would expect at this price point.
The Apex 4-14×44 FFP rifle scope is yet another example of the what this little company is capable of.
As always, the most important quality of any riflescope is the quality and clarity of the glass itself. Take a look at the image above. That red fence post is about 500 yards away. This photo was taken 30 minutes prior to sunset.
The image below was taken at the same time with the scope on the same magnification. The focus on the second image is 30 yards in front of the other image.
The first image is from the $500 4-14×44 Atibal Apex. The second image is from a $1,200 Nightforce 5-20×56 SHV. Yes, there is a difference in clarity, but not much. When it comes to image quality, the Chinese-made budget optic gives the Nightforce a run for its (considerably more) money.
One of the reasons for the good image quality is proclaimed right there on the box, “Lanthanum HD Glass.” I know lanthanum glass as desirable in astronomical telescope eyepieces. Lots of good companies use this rare earth glass there because it has a high refractive index and low dispersion. The result for the Apex series of scopes is an unusually clear, bright image, especially at such a low price point.
The only reticle offered in this scope is a milliradian based “Christmas tree” style that includes 20 total mils of elevation and 10 mils of windage. There’s a lot of space left on the left and ride side of the current hashes for space that could have included more windage hashes. Not that you’d ever need it.
As it is, a .308 Winchester rifle shooting M118LR ammunition won’t run out of windage hold marks for a full 2,000 yards, even with a full value 10mph wind.
The Apex 4-14×44 is a first focal plane reticle scope, meaning the reticle sizes along with the magnification. The big advantage to this is the shooter can use the reticle to range at any magnification. The downside is that sometimes the reticle isn’t as sharp, or that the reticle’s hash marks disappear from the field of view at the higher magnifications.
At 14X, the highest magnification on this scope, the reticle completely fills the field of view, but no portions of it are obscured. That also means the reticle is very small at 4X, and the numbers in the reticle can’t really be seen well until about 6X magnification, and I had to try really hard to make them out then.
I’m still a bit limited after my nephrectomy, and I also wanted to dial lots of adjustments over a short 300-yard range, so I mounted the Apex on one of the best guns I’ve reviewed in a long time, the Vudoo Sinister 22LR bolt action rimfire.
Zeroed at 50 yards and assuming a 10mph wind, there’s 41.6″ of drop and 15.3″ of windage at 200 yards. Zeroed at 100 yards, a M118 round fired from a 20″ bolt action .308 Winchester rifle has 41.6″ of drop and 11.3″ of windage at 400 yards. In short, you can learn everything about the Atibal scope with a .22LR at 200 yards that you can a .308 Win at 400 yards, save for recoil management.
If anything, you’ll need to learn wind calls even better. See the group above? That’s not a flyer on the far top left. That’s the result of thinking the wind was at 7mph when it was really closer to 4mph. Just 3mph difference at 200 yards makes that much difference.
The turrets on the Apex pull up to unlock and turn. They have audible clicks and a nice, solid feel to them. That said, if you are counting clicks, you’re asking for trouble. Use the well-marked numbers printed on the turrets for adjustments.
After setting my zero, I used a spent .308 Win casing to remove the caps and reset the turrets. There is no zero stop on the turrets and there are no markings to let you know how many times you’ve rotated the turrets. Reference marks are inexpensive to build and the lack of any on either turret is a real disappointment.
Resetting the turrets to zero on the Apex is particularly easy. There are no tiny set screws, just one big slot in the top of the cap.
After establishing a zero, I shot a single round at 100 yards. I then turned the elevation turret all the way one direction, then the next (carefully keeping track of my rotations) then back to center zero. I did the same with the windage turret, and fired a second round. The round ended up right on top of the other.
The rifle/round combination I’m using shoots 3/4 MOA. I did this test four more times, and each round landed so close to on top of the other one that, on a steel plate, I couldn’t tell they were two rounds.
One of the many things I enjoy about shooting the .22LR is the amount of adjustments you have to make at even 100 yards. I set up a box test at 100 yards. I shot this test several times, all with the same puzzling result. Something was a tiny bit off.
No scope turret that’s ever made tracks perfectly. That’s simply because, at some level of precision, everything fails. When I measure if a scope tracks, I’m doing my best to determine this based on a large amount of variables. Essentially, if the bullets land within the margin of error of the rifle/scope combination, it tracks.
Accounting for a 3/4″ group size at this range, my rounds landed ever so very slightly higher than I would have expected, but with the windage dead-on. My interest was piqued, so I moved back a bit.
Shooting at 300 yards, the math says there should be 11.1 mils of average elevation adjustment. That got me a little high, about 1 mil on the first try. I put the gun away for the day, and tried it again the next day.
I shot over a chronograph, confirming my round was leaving muzzle at 1,220fps. Over 50 rounds total, shot in 10 five-round shot strings, I averaged .8 mils high. If that sounds like a lot, with this round, that’s the difference between an impact on a 2.25″ square at 300 and 310 yards.
Considering all of the potential variables, it’s difficult to say if the turrets “perfectly” track. They definitely track close, probably around a 5%-8% error. At the low end, that’s the same as my Nightforce SHV scope we were looking through before, when measured the same way on a Remington 5-R with 3/4 MOA capable ammo.
Since a .22LR bolt action rifle has such light recoil, I pulled the scope off the Vudoo Sinister and mounted it atop a SCAR 20S on the same carbon fiber mount from Black Collar Arms. I was just testing recoil management, so I simply stuck the mount right over the ejection port (which you should not do) and let 50 rounds fly as fast as I could from the two 20- and one 10-round magazines I had. I noted no adverse effects on the scope in any way.
I then took the dismounted scope and put it in the deep freeze overnight. The next day, I wiped the glass clean and noted the image was just as clear as before.
Finally, I dropped the scope in a bucket of water and forgot about it. I don’t mean I walked away for a while, I literally forgot it and went about my day, not remembering that I put it there until I walked by the bucket on my way out for work the next day. I pulled the Apex out and shook it off. Zero issues.
Finally, I held my breath, and simply dropped it on the hardwood floor from shoulder height. Again, nothing went wrong at all.
I have to say, I was pretty sure something would go wrong. I mean, this is a scope with a sub $500 MSRP. I was not expecting robust. But there you go. Dropped, frozen, and dunked, it did just fine. Plus, I shot it on a .308 Win chambered SCAR, which are notorious scope busters. (Which I have never experienced and am becoming suspicious of such reports.)
The Apex comes with a screw-in sun shade as well as bikini style rubber lens caps, and a cleaning rag.
Other than the lack of turret markings and a zero stop, one of my few disappointments with this scope is the parallax adjustment. It works just fine, and once the reticle focus is complete during the initial set-up, the yardage markings were very close to where the image focused and parallax was eliminated.
The disappointment is in the feel of adjustment. At the ends, the lowest range and highest range, the knob has a sluggish, sticky feel, but moves well through the middle. I’m hoping this inconsistent feel will even out with extended use.
Also included in the box were no less than nine different screw-in knobs for the magnification ring. Nine, in three different colors and sizes. Those colors are black, bright gold, and bright red. The sizes range from reasonable and useful to stupid big.
The magnification ring already has a raised rib for an easy grip, and the ring itself moves easily and stays in place. There’s no need for the knobs in the first place. Not only is the inclusion of nine different knobs in three sizes and colors just plain goofy, but it’s in the wrong place.
With any of the magnification knobs attached, they get in the way of the bolt fully opening when the magnification is fully dialed up. With the small knob installed, Atibal would have just needed to move the attachment point slightly to the left, and it would have still cleared the left side of a bolt action rifle as well as allowed the bolt to lift and cycle.
As it is, all of the nine different knobs need to stay in the package, because they’re all useless. Well, some of them are big enough to make decent ornaments for the Christmas tree.
The Atibal Apex 4-14x44mm scope is offered in three different colors, black, tan and grey. They all feature the same 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum 30mm tube.
The folks I’ve spoken to at their headquarters in Mesa, Arizona have been very professional and responsive, and other people have told me they are nothing but pleasant to deal with. This scope also features Atibal’s lifetime warranty. It’s pretty simple. According to their website, “If your Atibal product becomes defective, broken, or is no longer working we will get it repaired or replaced.”
I’ve reviewed a couple other Atibal scopes for TTAG. The little company continues to impress me with how much they are able to offer for such a small price tag. The Apex line is great all the way around, and this 4-14x44mm FFP model covers the basics well, giving the shooter crisp glass and a solid feature set.
SPECIFICATIONS: Atibal Apex 4-14X44mm FFP
Objective Lens Diameter: 44mm
Eye Relief: 4 inches
Field of View: 26.1-7.8 ft
Tube Size: 30mm
Turret Style: Target Turret
Adjustment Per Click: 1/10 MIL
Horizontal Adjustment Range: 22 MIL
Vertical Adjustment Range: 22 MIL
Weight: 25 ounces
MSRP: $499.99 (actual price on Atibal’s website.)
Rating (out of five stars):
Overall * * *
The glass is excellent, and it’s clearly robust enough for the field. That’s what’s most important. The lack of a zero stop or turret markings are real disappointments, and the weird magnification knobs are nothing but a distraction.