I never was that interested in ATN scopes until maybe a two years ago. I was at the range fiddling with something and a fellow pulled in and set up a varmint AR with a big blocky optic on a Bog Deathgrip tripod. I could not help myself – I had to go over and ask what the optic was.
Thankfully, he was a good old boy and liked shooting and talking. He was having a coyote problem and wanted to get the rig sighted in. He told me it was an ATN night vision optic and the tripod was to help him keep it all steady. I looked it all over and headed back to my area. The ATN looked better in person than it did in the ads that I had seen in catalogs that made it look “gimicky”. Between my assumption about the quality and the price, I was never interested but after seeing it in person it was filed under “who knows – maybe someday” category in my head for future projects.
Fast Forward to 2021
I was researching high end airguns and some of the of guys were running various ATN scopes. I wanted to up my game on the computational ballistics front – yeah the calculation of trajectories – and I wanted a computer to do it for me. I really wanted to get surgical and modern with my new .25 caliber FX Impact Compact pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle. This desire brought me to ATN and their latest generation of digital X-Sight 4K optics because they have an internal computer that can crank the numbers.
An Auxiliary Ballistic Laser (ABL) good from 5 to to 1000 yards could be added that interfaced with the scope to provide range to target data to the computer. The computer can take the muzzle velocity of your round, the ballistic coefficient of your bullet (in my case pellet), distance of the optic from the center of the bore, angle and the distance to the target and automatically adjust the recticle. Whoa…. that’s pretty amazing.
Just a quick note on the ABL – based on my experience with laser rangefinders, usually maximum range comments by vendor are a bit of hype because it depends on how reflective the target is. In my case, virtually all of my shooting will be within 50 yards with a possible stretch to 100 but I doubt I will ever shoot beyond that.
Another feature that attracted me was the night vision capability. I’ve not had the capability to eliminate pests at night or at very low light levels.
The X-Sight scopes have a host of other features like taking photos and movies, recording just before and after sensing recoil, etc. Those are nice but not really features I cared about.
I shopped around and ordered an ATN X-SIght 4k 5-20x optic, Auxiliary Ballistic Laser (ABL) 1000 rangefinder, and a quick release mount. It came to just over a $1,000 plus I bought a SD memory card. The optic and rangefinder were from Brownells and I sourced the quick detach mount direct from ATN. A lot of vendors carry ATN products so you can shop around.
In case you are wondering why I would go to such expense for accuracy in a PCP airgun that will mostly be used within 100 yards, I can sum it up with the saying “aim small – miss small.” It’s one of my favorite lines from American Sniper but it is true. If you focus your aim on a very small part of the target then you will either hit it or miss by a small amount. This requires discipline and knowledge on your part combined with a capable weapons system to deliver the bullet or pellet.
The Scope, ABL and Mount Arrived
When the boxes came and I started reading the manuals, I had the same feeling when I read something that says “some assembly required”. I really hadn’t put much thought into how different a digital optic is from a traditional scope. Wow. This thing has a series of setup menus and then you need to learn your away around the scope. So right out of the box there was a lot of fumbling, swearing and my changing things.
So here’s my first recommendation – be sure to watch ATN’s videos about setting up the optic and using it. The manuals help but I found the combination of videos for the overview and the documentation to refer to as a very handy combination. Click here to go to the ATN page with all of their videos and/or click here for the manuals – it actually has links to PDFs videos and guidance on the page itself.
Now let me give you hope – once you start using the scope, it gets easier and faster each time. I turn on the scope so it has time to boot up as I am setting up – not at the last minute when I need to take a shot. Most of the time I am shooting at 14 yards so I dont need to range the target and the scope remembers the last range used. Instead,I zoom as needed, acquire the target and take the shot. That’s it – not a billion menus. So, stick with it – you will probably find it frustrating too at first and then it will get better with time.
Setup and Zeroing In Tips
When you are entering the info for the ballistic coefficient (BC) and the muzzle velocity, try and be as exact as possible, I obtained the BC from the manufacturer of my .25 pellets and the muzzle velocity was the average of 10 rounds fired through a chronograph.
I carefully measured out the range from the muzzle to the target. When I entered the range into the optic, I was precise and not guessing. I was being very careful due to the desire for accuracy.
Set your rifle up in a firm stand and fire a group then adjust the recticle. Their marketing comment of one shot zeroes is something they even mention is “in theory”. Repeat this until you have your zero consistently. This will all go faster and be easier if you have a solid stand – notice I mentioned this twice now 🙂 I used a Bog Deathgrip Carbon Fiber model to help me get the job done.
I’ve been using the X-Sight since late-April 2021 and like it. If I have a new distance to shoot, I range it, take the shot and then reset to my most common distance. I have made a few 35-50 yard shots that would have required some calculation, or at least experience, and hit less than quarter sized targets (squirrel head and heart shots) accurately.
One thing I had to get used to was looking at a small monitor vs. glass. I’ve been shooting nice glass scopes for a number of years now – notably Vortex scopes – and looking at a monitor with a resolution lower than reality is different. I must admit that I prefer the clarity of good glass but it dawned on me that it was not fair to compare them at this point. I bought the ATN for the ballistics calculation capabilities and the potential for low-light/night-use — I did not buy it to be just another scope, That set my mind more at ease about the image difference – it is what it is with the current level of technology in these scopes.
The combination of scope and ABL is a bit bulky and the ABL’s head is asymmetrical for the laser transmitter and receiver units. I set the Impact Compact on our tall kitchen table and it fell off onto the hardwood floor about three feet. It definitely made my stomach drop to hear all that money hit the floor. I’m actually happy to report that the rifle and optics system survived without any problems at all.
I was wondering how long the battery would live but that has not proved to be a problem. I fully charged it when I first got it and then again a few weeks ago. Now I don’t leave it turned on all the time. I’d say it runs maybe 5-10 minutes every 2-3 days and it’s not been a problem. I think I will just always charge it when it gets half way down or so plus I could always charge it from a powerbank/portable battery if needed. ATN even sells an extended battery if you need it.
The ABL is still on its first battery so I can’t tell you much there – I only use it as needed for longer shots so its had minimal use. I do have a spare battery just in case.
I wish the menus were a bit easier to navigate with very clear “back” or “cancel” options immediately available on every screen. For example, if you get into the manual ranging section or the part of zeroing the recticle by accident. For the most part they are pretty straight forward but I am not wowed by them from a user design perspective.
I opted for the ATN quick connect scope mount and it is okay but does not have locks on the throw levers. In hindsight, I could have used any 30mm rings I wanted including my preferred American Defense mounts. You have plenty of flexibility because one of the menu options lets you specify how high the scope is mounted.
Last comment – I had the scope freeze on me twice. I found that turning the ABL off first, if I turned it on, seemed to cause the problem. Now, when I do use the ABL, I turn the scope off first and then the ABL. I’ve not had it freeze since powering down in this order. By the way, if your scope does freeze, hold down the power button for 10-15 seconds and it will shut off – kind of like notebooks where one push does a controlled power down of the laptop but holding it down does a forced immediate shut down.
I’ve been using the X-Sight 4K 5-20 and ABL 1000 laser for about three months and several times per week – sometimes several times per day depending on what is going on. I really feel like the combination has improved my actual accurage in terms of precisely hitting the target so I am happy with the purchase.
I’d recommend the setup for anyone looking for this type of optics system with similar intentions as I outlined at the start. It’s different from traditional glass lense optics but it brings a different set of capabilities to the table also. Let me put it this way,I would buy it again for my intended use.
I hope this helps you.
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