[ This guest post was written by Timothy Yan ]
The 1-4x variable magnification rifle optic had become very popular with the tactical shooters. The 1x magnification allows the shooter to use it like a reflex sight at the close range. While, the higher magnifications offer greater hit probability and target identification at the longer ranges. During last year’s Big 3 Event hosted by David Fortier and Dillard C.J. Johnson in Kansas, I was introduced to the Hi-Lux Leatherwood CMR 1-4x24mm scope in one of the presentations. Afterward, I had a chance to try it out on the range. Some aspects of the CMR that had caught my attention are its reticle design, the optic performance and its price at just $300.
Normally, when other shooters ask me for optic purchase advises, I generally tell them this: you get what you pay for it. Good optics is never cheap. There rare exception to that rule and the Hi-Lux Leatherwood CMR 1-4x24mm is one of them. Its optic performance is easily the best in its price range. The lens distortion is not noticeable and there’s no issue with chromatic aberration or color fringing. Other reviewers agree with me that the CMR has better resolution and clarity than some of the 1-4x scopes that are at twice the price.
I met John Wu, the owner of Hi-Lux Leatherwood at his booth during the 2011 SHOT SHOW and he loaned me a CMR sample for T&E. I didn’t have a chance to really talk to John about the CMR in detail until this year’s Big 3 Event and afterward. He told me that he used a special lens element in the CMR to achieve the low distortion and high optical resolution. When I asked him about why he chose the second focal plane for the CMR’s reticle, John said for a low 1-4x magnification scope there’s really no need for a first focal plane design (FFP). Most of the shooters will use either 1x or 4x magnification and seldom use anything else in between. It’s not practical to use the 1x magnification for BDC or range finding.
On the topic of daylight visible reticle illumination, John said there’s two ways to do it: the cheap way is by using very bright LED. The downside of that is the internal reflection from the overpower illumination is hard to control and the battery life will be very short. If he would design a daylight visible illumination system, he would use the much more expensive combination of LED lit fiber optic and microprocessor control circuit like those found on the Schmidt & Bender Short Dot, the ELCAN SpecterDR and the Swarovski Z6. However, such system would add a considerable $200-$300 to the price of the CMR. Instead, John said the CMR’s unique reticle design works sufficiently in most of the daylight condition without the need for illumination.
The reticle on the Hi-Lux Leatherwood CMR 1-4x24mm is another area that makes it stands out from the rest of 1-4x scopes on the market. The CMR’s unique reticle is the work of Alex Sergeev, a brilliant Russian optical engineer working for Hi-Lux. His reticle design features dual stacking open-circles that assists targeting by centering the shooter’s eye onto the middle 1 MOA dot. At the closer ranges, the outer circle fits over a torso target area at 100 meters and the smaller inner circle will fit over a head size target at 75 meters. The bottom openings of both circles are a match for a shoulder width target at 300 meters. There are additional BDCs on the vertical stadia line and the hash marks on the horizontal stadia lines are in Mil for use with more precise range finding. The center 1 MOA dot and the inner reticle circle can be illuminated in either green or red for lowlight condition. Noted that two colors are not found in the same scope. There two separate CMR models for each of those color illumination.
There are few shortcomings in the Hi-Lux Leatherwood CMR. The main one is its relatively small exit pupil of 11.1mm at the 1x magnification. Which requires the shooter to have a consistent cheek weld when using it for the CQB type drill. Next, the adjustment turret is not lockable. While the CMR’s turrets do have a neat zero-locking patented feature but that’s only useful for return it to the user’s preset zero. The turrets really need to have either a locking mechanism or be capped. Also, the CMR’s 1x zoom setting doesn’t represent a true 1x unmagnified view. There’s slight magnification to it that makes more of a 1.1x or so. To be fair, the majority of the 1-4x scope under $700 does not have true 1x either. Like what John Wu has explained to me, optical design is the attempt to have the best compromise on a set manufacturing cost.
As for the mount option for the Hi-Lux Leatherwood CMR 1-4x24mm scope, I’m recommending use a one-piece SPR style 30mm scope mount with moderate front offset for the AR15 flat-top. The best QD type mounts are the LaRue LT104, American Defense Mfg. AD-Recon or AD-Scout and Bobro’s Precision Optic Mount. If you are on a budget and can do without the QD function, check out the Burris AR-P.E.P.R. and the Weaver Tactical’s US-made SPR 30mm Optic mount. Both of those are under $80. For those that needs low-profile mount for a piggyback rail system like the Vltor or to use on a non-AR type rifle, Tactical Rifles’ Chimera titanium alloy rings offer the high-strength of the steel rings with the lightweight of the aluminum rings. The more affordable Weaver Tactical 6-Hole Picatinny aluminum rings come in at under $40 a set.
Model: Hi-Lux Leatherwood CMR 1-4x24mm
Magnification: 1x to 4x variable
Objective Lens Size: 24mm
Ocular Lens Size: 33mm
Lens Coating: Diamond Tuff14 multi-coat
Field of View at 100 yards: 1x: 94.8 ft. and 4x: 26.2 ft.
Eye Relief: constant 3 inches
Exit Pupil size: 11.1mm at 1x and 6mm at 4x
Tube Size: 30mm
Adjustment: 0.5 MOA per click
Length: 10.2 inches
Weight: 16.5 ounces
Reticle: Double open-circles with 1 MOA center dot, stadia lines with BDC.
Reticle Illumination: Green or Red color, 11 levels with Night Vision setting.
Power Source: 3-volt Lithium CR2032
Warranty: Limited Lifetime