ELCAN SpecterOS4x fixed four-power Combat Gun Sight

[ This guest post was written by Timothy Yan ]

Ernst Leitz Canada or ELCAN has its origin in a German premium optic manufacturer. Back in 1869, a 26-years old Ernst Leitz founded his company in Wetzlar, Germany. The company growth rapidly in the industrial revolution and its main products were microscope and optical instruments. By the early 1900s, the son of the founder, Ernst Leitz II developed the first practical 35mm photography camera. He named the camera: Leica, it stands for Leitz Camera.

After WWII, the Ernst Leitz company was split into three: the camera and instrument divisions remained in Germany and eventually changed their names to Leica. The industrial division was moved out of Germany to Canada and became know as Ernst Leitz Canada or ELCAN. It was the beginning of the Cold War and by relocating part of the company to Canada, it ensured the company’s technology and documents will not be fall into the Soviet hand if West Germany was invaded. ELCAN became a separated entity when the last Leitz family member retired from the company in 1990.

ELCAN produces high-resolution optical lens for aural reconnaissance, night vision equipment and other optronics for many NATO militaries. It started in 1954, when ELCAN began supplying aircraft gun sight to the Canadian military. During the Vietnam War, the US Navy had used an ELCAN camera system based on Leica with specially made low-light Noctilux lens. By the 1970s, ELCAN had ventured into small arms optical sight development with a compact roof prism design. That eventually became the ELCAN C79 3.4x28mm that the Canadian Forces issue as the combat optic for their C7 and C8 rifles and C6 and C9 machineguns. In 1999, the US Army adapted a modified battery illumination version of the C79 as the M145 for their M240 and M249 machineguns. In 2003, ELCAN released their new Specter series with the dual-role 1x/4x SpecterDR and it was quickly adopted by the US SOCOM as the SU-230/PVS. The featured ELCAN OS4x fixed 4x magnification model was released in 2009 and it was selected by the British military as the replacement for the SUSAT sight on their L85A2 bullpup rifle.

The ELCAN SpecterOS4x

The latest ELCAN model can trace its roof prism layout back to the C79. The OS4x stands simply for Optical Sight and the fixed 4x magnification. The sight itself is based on the SpecterDR 1x/4x model’s housing design, external adjustment mount, lens size and optical formula, and the illumination unit. The SpecterOS4x is essentially a SpecterDR without the complex cam-driven corrective 1x magnification lens system and the rudimentary integral backup iron sight. Those changes had led to a weight reduction of 5 ounces, a more streamlined exterior and a substantial $600 lower price tag. The eye relief is a generous 2.75 inches or 70mm with an ample 7.8mm exist pupil. The ELCAN’s robust external adjustment mount features a 120 MOA windage and elevation adjustment with 0.5 MOA click. There’s sufficient height at the back to clear any flip-up rear sights on the market.

Optically the ELCAN SpecterOS4x is phenomenal and it can rival some of the best Euro optics. I found the resolution and clarity remains the same from the center of the lens to the edges on all planes with no noticeable lens distortion. There’s also no observable tunnel-effect from the sight picture. There are two reticles available and both feature BDCs for 62gr 5.56x45mm round fired from a 16-inch barrel. That was specifically designed so the BDCs will also work for 14.5-inch carbine length and 18 to 20-inch rifle length barrel. Reticle with 7.62x51mm caliber BDCs is available. I prefer the chevron reticle for quick target acquisition but the fine crosshair reticle, which is the British military’s choice, is good for precision shooting. The reticle illumination is daylight visible on the center chevron or fine crosshair. Turn the large illumination knob forward will light up the reticle center or backward to illuminates the whole reticle. Battery life is 300-600 hours on daylight visible settings or up to 2000-3000 hours on low settings. I left it on the daylight visible setting continuously and the battery lasted just over a month. For most daylight usage the reticle illumination is not needed.

ELCAN SpecterOS4x vs. ACOGs

No doubt that the new ELCAN is a competitor to the popular Trijicon ACOGs. The rivalry goes far back to the early 1980s in the US Army’s Advanced Combat Rifle program. An early version of the ELCAN C79 was used on the Colt’s candidate. While the submission by AAI has what later became the Trijicon ACOG TA01. The latest ELCAN SpecterOS4x model fits between Trijicon’s current ACOG 4x32mm TA31 and 3.5x35mm TA11 models. The ELCAN has the 4-power magnification and the wide field-of-view of the ACOG 4x32mm while also has the longer eye-relief of the ACOG 3.5x35mm. The ELCAN SpecterOS4x is slightly cheaper than both ACOGs at $1200 and an integral QD mount is included with the price. The ACOG QD base is $125-$200 extra.

I found the optical quality of the ELCAN SpecterOS4x is superior to any ACOG that I had used. That’s partly because of the ELCAN’s huge 34mm ocular (rear) lens presents a larger and clearer sight picture to the user’s eye. The reticle illumination is also better in that the illumination brightness can be controlled and it has the choice of light up either the center or the whole reticle. Furthermore, it has a true night version mode that is without the issue of tritium blooming found in some of the ACOG models. As for the battery cost, for the ELCAN is a $4 DL 1/3N lithium battery and the ACOG’s tritium lamp replacement after 10-12 years is usually half the cost of the sight’s purchase price. The ACOGs have the advantage of more reticle choices, the always-on illumination, and its modular base design has the option of much better QD mounts from LaRue, American Defense Mfg, GG&G or the surprisingly good Bobro made Trijicon TA98 QD base. I also prefer the ACOG’s simpler internal adjustment and lighter weight.

Model: ELCAN SpecterOS4x
Magnification: fixed 4x
Objective Lens Size: 32mm
Ocular Lens Size: 34mm
Exit Pupil Size: 7.8mm
Eye Relief: 70mm/2.75 inch
Field of View: 6 degrees, 31.5 feet at 100 yards
Reticle: Fine Crosshair or Chevron with BDC stadia line
Reticle Illumination: red color, daytime visible, night vision compatible
Power Source: 3 volt Lithium DL 1/3N
Battery Life: 300-600 hours on daytime visible, 2000-3000 hours on low
Adjustments: 0.5 MOA per click
Elevation Adjustment Range: 120 MOA
Windage Adjustment Range: 120 MOA
Ballistic Compensation: 200-800m
Overall Length: 6 inches
Weight: 18 ounces
Price $1,199

Armament Technology Inc. (902-454-6384) handles the commercial sale and support of all ELCAN Specter gun sights.

UPDATE: Article updated at author’s request.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Lance

    The ELCAN was fine for US GPMGs like the SAW and M-240B Never cared for it with US AR type rifles. The ACOG I think is superior because its small and light weight and always had a back sight like a iron Sight on TA-01 NSNs to Doctor sights on the TA-31 ECOS model. Its easier to adjust and is more reliable then a ELCAN. I prefer the ACOGs bullet drop compensator in the reticle also.

    But the ELCAN for the Canadians was a good scope and I hope they do well internationally.

    • 18D

      Funny how SOCOM uses the SU230 Elcan on their M4A1’s religiously these days. It’s probably because they are far superior to the ACOG. The majority of SOCOM units are using the SU230 Elcan as their primary optic for ALL operations in Afghanistan. Check the SOPMOD kit BlockII (the most recent). The new SOPMOD kit DOES NOT include the ACOG, nor is it mentioned anywhere in the new SOPMOD requirements. SOCOM has replaced the ACOG with the SU230 and SU23OA Elcan optics.

      BTW, the Elcan Spectre DR does have the BUIS as well as the same ability as the ACOG to mount a RDS like the DR optic. As a matter of fact, if you look at the Elcan’s on SOCOM rifles overseas, you’ll notice that most operators are running a DR optic on top of their Elcan. Check your facts Lance.

      • Other Steve

        He said in the other thread he’s running a CAA polymer rail on an AR. He clearly has no first hand experience with either.

        IMO, you can tell when someone has used an ACOG but doesn’t have to justify the purchase. First thing they’ll say is the eye releif is WAY too short (on most models to be fair). Otherwise it’s ACOG iz teh BEsT!1

      • Lance

        Too bad everyone ive seen or know uses a ACOG or AIMPOINT ELCANS are NOT used on US Rifles/Carbines for infantrymen.

      • W

        for viewing pleasure of the SOPMOD block II


        I would argue against the opinion that the ACOG is superior. Elcan optics are certainly more rugged and easier to zero from my experience.

      • Other Steve

        W: Re-read the statement… “Too bad everyone ive seen or know”

        You know what happens when you multiply by zero.

      • W

        Other steve, wtf does that have to do with my post? The SOPMOD II kit was mentioned and I provided a linked diagram to it. That’s it. There’s no ulterior motive or secret encryption in my post…

      • fw226

        W: I think that was actually aimed at Lance’s post right before yours.

    • Andy from West Haven

      Way to jump on someone for an OPINION. He said “The ACOG I ‘think’ is superior ” not “The ACOG ‘is’ superior”.

      If someone states an opinion as fact, then by all means. But he didn’t so try being a little less snarky and insulting.

    • mosinman

      i have to agree, i think its just what he prefers and not what is Teh great-ist Combatz optikz , i think both look good and have tradeoffs, id be willing try them both and id accpet either if it was given to me lol : ) somepeople just do better with different stuff, so id offer both sights to my troops (if i ran anything) and let them pick what works for them.

  • There’s two small mounting holes on top the Elcan for a $60 adapter that you can mount a small red dot sight on it.

    Also you don’t need a red-dot for the SpecterDR. It has a build-in true 1x view and a daylight visible reticle. The SpecterDR is cheaper than an ACOG + Doctor red dot sight + QD base.

    • 18D

      Actually, its a good idea to mount a MRDS atop the Elcan Spectre DR if your operating in an environment like Afghanistan. Many operators overseas are using issue MRDS on their Spectre DR. A true 1x is not the same as a 0x. With an optic like the Spectre DR there is always going to be eye relief and scope shadow issues to overcome and depending on your operating environment this may be a disadvantage.

      Many operators using this setup are leaving their SU230 on the 4x setting when operating in an open environment. This allows them to engage quickly at area and point targets in open terrain and still have the ability to go to their MRDS for close in work. If they know they are going into a CQB situation, they may then switch the SU230 to the 1x setting to optimize cheekweld for increased precision. Whether or not you feel you “need” an MRDS atop your SU230 is more a product of your mission profile. Shooters have to be careful when choosing so called 1x optics because they do not work like traditional 0x RDS.

  • Arifonzie

    As a side note,Elcan also makes the glass for PANAVISION Lenses used on movie cameras

    • Jon

      And to continue the history, in 1990, they were bought by Hughes, and in 1997 were sold to Raytheon, where they remain a division of today.

  • Andy from West Haven

    Personally that is the sexiest battle optic out there. You know, in a strictly military grade sense.

    I just wish I could afford one. And isn’t there an Elcan that can switch from 1x to 4x? I thought someone mentioned it in the post for the Leupold HAMR. If so I can just imagine how much more those cost.

    But yeah, the Elcan to me is the Victoria Secrets model of combat sights. Makes me wish I made fewer poor life choices.

    • fw226

      The internets say the Spectre DR is a 1x / 4x with a lever to flip between them. Apparently it’s favored for 240s/GPMGs more than carbines for various reasons.

    • Timothy Yan

      The Leupold HAMR is $1400 w/o QD mount.

  • Other Steve

    As an aside… I love the $1100 4x optic and bipod vs a 16″ M4 profile, non-freefloated rail, with weapon light.

    Confused gun does not know what it’s purpose is.

    Other than that, good article, nice history lesson.

  • Tahoe

    I’ve used both ACOGs and Elcans; I currently have a SpectreDR on my carbine. It’s bulky but as noted, not much more so (and no heavier) than an ACOG w/ QD mount and RDS; and fills those functions as well. The glass is, IMO, superior, and you can use the same cheek weld for 1x and 4x, unlike an ACOG.

    That said, I’m not crazy about the exterior adjustment or the ARMS mount. But you can’t have everything!

  • charles222

    I’ve used both, and I think I generally prefer the ACOG-especially to the older version of this, the M145, which was completely useless in anything besides broad daylight (yes, it had a lit reticle, but it was dependent on a battery and the battery case was fragile, to put it kindly-I found literally one working battery power supply in my platoon’s eight M145s). I got to use one of these on the fabled trip to the range where I got to shoot a SCAR-H and both myself and the weapon’s owner agreed that we liked the ACOG over it; he shrugged and said “…but this is what’s issued.”

    The main thing is that the ACOG is far, far more versatile; it’s simple to use at close range (the M145 and this are not from what I’ve determined) and offers equally good long-range performance. As for which is more rugged…what? I’ve seen ACOGs work perfectly fine over 47 months of combat time. They’re plenty rugged.

    • W

      I believe the M145 was developed as a machine gun optic, which differs it from the ACOG. From my experience, a M240B with the M192 tripod and M145 MGO is accurate up to 1,500 meters (1,800 meters maximum effective range in that configuration according to the SAMG blue book). I haven’t seen the M4 reticle for the M145 but apparently it exists.

  • Zermoid

    One comment, could you label the retictile pics so we know what each one is?

    • Timothy Yan

      The first three feature the chevron reticle. The last two are the fin crosshair reticle use by the Brit mil.

  • 18D

    The fixed power 4x optic is starting to fall by the wayside IMO. As a consultant for the SOPMOD program I can tell you that the search for more versatile optics is on the way and fixed 4x is not in the current requirements. As a matter of fact, the ACOG has been removed from the latest iteration of the SOPMOD kit. Operators are quickly finding out that a 4x optic severely limits your capabilities.

    I’ve never understood the mass issuing of the ACOG. For shooters with very specific duties it can be a good option, but for a general purpose optic (which is what it’s used for these days) it limits the shooter. Understand, that 4x isn’t a lot of magnification, so making Target ID’s and precision shooting at long range isn’t really the 4x optics strong suite. Neither is CQB a strong suite of the 4x. For a general purpose assault rifle, a 0x RDS is a much better choice. With a 5.56 M4A1 a good shooter can easily make hits out to 500m yet he is still setup for CQB and close in targets. Close range should be the soldiers priority unless he is a SDM or a sniper. Even the SDM should look at close range fighting as his priority.

    What it really comes down to is training! The military needs to start making shooting a priority. Weapons manipulation/shooting skills and tactics need to be looked at as 2 different categories of training.

    • John Doe

      I like a 3-4x zoom, but not enough to have it alone. They ought to include a 3XMag in the SOPMOD kit.


    I’ve used this optic on the FN FAL and on AR15 … it is amazing at how clear things look from a quarter mile away with the 4x magnification. I would definitely get one if it was in my price range.


    That’s a nice looking USMC K-BAR in the 2nd picture!!!

  • Timothy Yan

    I had been told by Armament Technology that the 7.62mm BDC is not available yet for the ELCAN SpecterOS4x as of 2012 SHOT Show.