By Alton P. Chiu
Magnified optics are no longer the exclusive domain of specialized snipers. With improved ruggedness and lowered cost, various armed forces have fielded low power, fixed magnification scopes such as the SUSAT and ACOG en masse. Along these same lines, Meopta has introduced the 3x20mm MeoAce (Aiming Compact Equipment).
Meopta, a Czech company steep in optical heritage more than a century old, delivers a lightweight product with excellent optical qualities. The low magnification and bold reticle make the scope effortless to use, despite the illumination being designed only for overcast conditions.
MeoAce 3x20mm is a compact and lightweight affair. At 123mm long, 57mm tall (excluding mount), 63mm wide and weighing 350g (sans mount and battery), Meopta’s offering is comparable in size and weight to carbine optics such as Trijicon ACOG and Aimpoint CompM4. With its diminutive size and petite weight, the MeoAce enhances target identification and marksmanship without hampering rifle handling.
Mounting is via the ubiquitous Picatinny rail: a single recoil lug engages the T slot, and a steel foot (tensioned by a torx screw) provides lateral clamping. The mount places the optical axis about 3.5cm above the Picatinny rail’s top edge; the Meopta representative indicated that alternative heights have been prototyped although not in serial production. The scope also features an integrated, non-removable, three-slot Picatinny rail section at the top position for use with accessories such as the MeoDot DF 2 mini red dot sights. Similar to the Trijicon ACOG and RMR combination, this “piggyback” configuration allows users to address both distant and nearby targets with a mere shift of head position.
Knobs and Adjustments
Zeroing is achieved via capped and recessed elevation and windage adjustments with retaining lanyards. Making adjustments requires a large flathead screwdriver such as the Brownells Magna-Tip bit #360-7 (1.5mm blade thickness) or a similarly sized coin. The 1MOA clicks feel soft but exhibit no discernible thread lash. During testing, the author did not experience any point-of-impact shift when used atop a 7.62x51mm rifle. To engage distant targets, a ballistic drop compensated (BDC) reticle is provided and is expounded upon in its own section.
A dioptre adjustment ring, used to focus the reticle, is situated at the ocular end of the scope. This ring felt too easily moved, and the sleeve of the supplied lens cap did not grip both ring and body tightly enough to prevent rotation. In fact, an opened cap provided additional leverage to facilitate inadvertent rotation when rubbed against other items. The author addressed this by securing the dioptre ring to the scope body with gaffer tape.
An AA battery to illuminate the reticle is housed at the lower left side of the scope. A screw-on cap with an O-ring seal provides access at the rear, while a front mounted knob provides brightness control. The 13-position knob (off and 12 brightness levels spread over a 270o arc) has a soft tactile feel, but the author did not experience accidental changes. The Spartan amount of knobs reflects the intended usage of this scope: engagement of typical service rifle targets and distances with minimal conscious thought and adjustments.
The bright, clear and distortion-free sight picture does the Meopta heritage credit. The scope renders scenes with a mild yellow tint which helps increase clarity in overcast and hazy conditions. The tint counteracts the blue light scattering due to airborne water molecules. When observing distant objects, the author noted a slight purple hue likely due to chromatic aberration; nevertheless, this does not detract from the primary purpose of the scope. Even when panning over a fence, the author failed to discern any notable optical distortions.
Although the parallax is fixed for simplicity, the sight picture is sharp and clear throughout a typical use case of 50 to 500 meters. Both the small 20mm front objective and low magnification minimize potential parallax error (see Chiu, Alton P. “The Schmidt & Bender 1-8×24 PM II ShortDot CC,” Small Arms Review, Vol. 22, No. 6, June 2018, p. 25 for further discussion). Furthermore, the sizeable depth of field kept both reticle and image sharply in focus for the author from 10 to 500 meters; although acuity perception may vary by individual. The fixed parallax design choice reduces complexity without compromising function.
MeoAce 3x20mm proved an easy scope to shoulder. The generous seven-degree field of view sped target acquisition and maintained situational awareness. The 65mm (2.6 inches) eye relief provided ample standoff to accommodate use with heavier calibers (e.g., 7.6x51mm) and from unconventional positions. The theoretical exit pupil of 6.7mm felt slightly more sensitive to lateral and vertical eye position in comparison to the 10mm of Trijicon 3×30 ACOG and 8mm of ELCAN Spectre 3x, but the author did not find this to be an insuperable challenge even during falling light. On the other hand, the author noted a rapidly shrinking image circle when moving his head further back than the optimal eye relief.
With a manufacturer-claimed 87% light transmission during daylight and 83% during twilight, the author found the image to be bright and useable even into dusk, rendering a bright image than with the naked eye. However, it is somewhat dimmer than that from a 32mm front objective variable power scope set at 3x. In keeping with the excellent optical heritage of the company, Meopta delivered a brilliant and easy-to-use optical package that aids in finding and discerning targets.
A well-appointed reticle adds to the utility of this MeoAce 3×20 scope. A chevron forms the main point of aim; this is then bracketed by a T-shaped reticle similar to a German No. 4 reticle. The chevron tip is designed to be zeroed at 100m, with the inner inflection point for use at 200m with 5.56x45mm ammunition (i.e., put the “hat” atop the target). Despite the illumination not being daylight bright, the author could easily acquire the sight picture even against cluttered background due to the bold T shape.
The vertical portion of the T is comprised of a thin inner section with BDC marks and a bold outer section that speeds up sight picture acquisition. This interesting BDC has the left half calibrated for 123gr 7.62x39mm while the right half is used for 55gr or 62gr 5.56x45mm (also coincides with 180gr 7.62x51mm trajectory). This arrangement surely appeals to those utilizing both ammunition types. The start of the thin section is used for 300m with 5.56x45mm and 200m with 7.62x39mm. As one marches down the BDC, the horizontal hashes denote holdovers for distances in 100m increments. They also serve as a stadiametric rangefinder where the length of the hash corresponds to the shoulder width of a standard human torso at that distance. The horizontal portion of the T is similarly comprised of thin inner sections with hashes spaced 1 MRAD (miliradian) apart and bold outer sections to assist sight picture acquisition. However, the author found the labelling and hashes to be overly fine. While he can read the markings against a clear sky, they prove difficult to discern against rocks and vegetation.
An additional height-based stadiametric rangefinder is provided at the bottom to supplement the aforementioned shoulder width method. Assuming a 1.8m tall person, the user would fit this silhouette inside the various bracket to determine distance. For example, a 400m distant silhouette would snugly span the “4” bracket. Additionally, the brackets and their spacing are 2.5 MRAD wide and provide another ranging method if the object size is known. The markings “0, 5, 10 …” are measurements in MRAD starting from the left edge.
This feature-packed reticle offers a multitude of rangefinding methods and compensates for popular small arms calibers. Its bold T-shaped reticle expedites sight picture acquisition while the chevron provides a fine point of aim.
Only the chevron portion of the reticle is illuminated. Although it is not daylight bright, it more than suffices under overcast conditions and inside a well-lit structure. Moreover, the user can close the front lens cap with the illumination set at maximum to utilize the scope like an occluded eye gunsight (OEG) in close quarters.
There are 12 brightness levels in addition to the “off” position. Meopta claims a minimum battery life of 300 hours at the 11th (penultimate) brightness setting when using a 1.5V AA with a minimum of 2400mAh capacity at 20oC. After eight hours of continuous operation, battery life is preserved by an auto shutoff which warns the user with a flashing reticle. Changing brightness setting resets the timer.
The chevron is coated with a special layer to scatter light from a red LED for illumination. The author observed minute forward-light emissions only at the brightest illumination level and only across a very narrow view angle at very short distances against a pitch-black background. This should not be a concern under most conditions.
The MeoAce can be utilized as an OEG by closing the front lens cap and shooting with both eyes open. The illuminated chevron contrasts against the now pitch-black background to provide a point of aim. The brain then superimposes the reticle image from the dominant eye atop the world view from the other eye together to give a red-dot-like effect. However, the scope is not parallax free and shutting the front lens cap makes it difficult to center one’s eye in the ocular lens. The two images (reticle and world) are also rendered on different planes, forcing the user to only focus upon one. The author found it hard to transition from focusing upon the world to the reticle when bringing up the rifle from low ready and found that the reticle image moved laterally depending on how hard he concentrated. Instead, he found it easier and more reliable to retain focus upon the world and let the chevron blur into a blob. Using this method, he observed a 0.3m lateral shift in point-of-impact at a 5m distant target between OEG and standard through-the-scope use (e.g., hold at edge of torso for a center mass impact). Meanwhile, another tester reported a vertical shift. The effect would seem to vary by individual.
The lack of daylight-bright illumination may seem a “deal-breaker” given the plethora of similar offerings that offer this feature, but the author did not find it to be overly constraining. Conversely, he found over-illuminated reticles to be a detriment for accuracy, as the reticle blooms to obscures the target or shift the point-of-impact. The author found the MeoAce illumination arrangement adequate and could utilize it as an OEG at room clearing distances after learning the offset.
By virtue of clear optics and easy-to-acquire sight picture, the 3x20mm MeoAce positions well with the trend of magnified combat optics. The feature-packed BDC and bold T-shaped outer reticle (supplemented in overcast conditions with AA illumination) allow quick acquisition and engagement of targets at various distances. Aided by the minimal amount of knobs and adjustments, the author found it easy to use for typical service rifle use cases; although adding a mini red dot sight atop the integrated Picatinny rail would greatly help close quarters use.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N4 (April 2019)|