[ 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
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.