Is This the Fu­ture?

Phill Price looks into the fu­ture at some in­cred­i­ble scope tech­nol­ogy

Airgun World - - Contents -

Phill Price looks at some new tech from SIG Sauer - Bal­lis­tic Data Ex­change - soon to be avail­able for air­guns?

One of the big­gest chal­lenges all ri­fle shoot­ers face is com­pen­sat­ing for the cur­va­ture of our pro­jec­tile’s flight, and that doesn’t mat­ter if you’re shoot­ing a .338 La­pua Mag­num sniper rife or a 12 ft.lbs. air­gun. How­ever, our pel­lets have a very curved tra­jec­tory com­pared to firearms so we need to be dou­bly aware and be­cause they have so lit­tle strik­ing en­ergy, we need to be ul­tra­pre­cise as we hunt. A great aid to our sport is the wide avail­abil­ity of laser rangefind­ers so that we can get pre­cise in­for­ma­tion about the dis­tance our tar­get is in front of us, and with some sim­ple field test­ing we can cre­ate a range card that tells us the pre­cise aim cor­rec­tion we need for ev­ery dis­tance.

What would be bet­ter is a con­nec­tion be­tween the ri­fle and your scope that took the laser range in­for­ma­tion and dis­played it in your view, and this is pre­cisely what SIG Sauer Elec­tro-Op­tics has achieved with its BDX range. BDX stands for Bal­lis­tic Data Ex­change and it works like this: You up­load the BDX app to your phone, then pair the scope and rangefinder to it and each other. Next, you in­put the bul­let weight, bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cient, ve­loc­ity and zero dis­tance to your phone, which it then shares with the other two de­vices. Your phone is not needed fur­ther as you go shoot­ing be­cause the rangefinder talks di­rectly to the scope.

As you range your quarry, the Kilo rangefinder sends data to the Sierra scope, which il­lu­mi­nates one of 78 hold points on the lower ver­ti­cal sta­dia of the ret­i­cle, show­ing you the pre­cise aim point you need. This takes far less time to do than to ex­plain. As you’d ex­pect, this sys­tem is far more pre­cise than es­ti­mat­ing by eye. With first fo­cal plane scopes, the holdover mark changes its value as you change mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, and SIG have over­come this by cre­at­ing a ‘dig­i­tal fo­cal plane’ which elim­i­nates the prob­lem. In other words, no mat­ter which mag’ you choose, the il­lu­mi­nated hold point will be cor­rect.

TRULY SU­PERB

An­other real-world aid is that the scope will warn you if you cant it. If you tip the ri­fle away from the ver­ti­cal it will cause in­ac­cu­racy, yet it’s re­ally hard to de­tect whilst you’re on aim. You can buy bub­ble lev­els that you bolt on, but they re­quire you to take your eye from the scope to view them. With the BDX scopes, there are

“a well de­signed and in­te­grated sys­tem that shows the fu­ture di­rec­tion of scope de­sign”

lights at the three and nine o’clock po­si­tions that come on if you cant the ri­fle, and go off again as you re­turn to the cor­rect ver­ti­cal po­si­tion. I think that’s truly su­perb and a tool that will im­prove our ac­cu­racy with­out ques­tion.

Part of the brief to the de­sign­ers of the scope was that it should look, mount and feel just like a con­ven­tional scope, a chal­lenge that they have achieved. The Sierra 3BDX on test weighs 590 grammes and is 12¾” long, so is in fact quite com­pact and light by mod­ern stan­dards. The Kilo 1400 BDX rangefinder is also very light and com­pact, fit­ting into a jacket pocket with ease. You zero the scope just you would any other, with the low pro­file, yet fin­ger-friendly windage and el­e­va­tion drums. These have screw-on metal cov­ers to keep then se­cure. On the left of the sad­dle is a com­part­ment that holds two bat­ter­ies, and a ro­tary drum to ad­just bright­ness and to switch the sys­tem off. To al­low the Blue­tooth data trans­fer into the scope’s body, a syn­thetic panel was built into the bot­tom of the sad­dle. The data could not pen­e­trate the alu­minium body with­out this ad­di­tion.

WELL DE­SIGNED

I spoke to an­other jour­nal­ist who has tested the BDX sys­tem on a full-bore ri­fle and he con­firmed the sys­tem worked ev­ery bit as well as promised. He found that he was able to en­gage steel plates at vary­ing ranges with great speed and pre­ci­sion, and had come away very im­pressed. Some ver­sions in the range can also con­nect to high-tech anemome­ters to re­ceive wind speed data, and then il­lu­mi­nate dots on the hor­i­zon­tal sta­dia to show the windage cor­rec­tion you need to hold.

This is clearly a well de­signed and in­te­grated sys­tem and one that shows the fu­ture di­rec­tion of scope de­sign. Quite nat­u­rally, it’s not cheap be­cause you need two de­vices and some pretty clever tech­nol­ogy to make it work, but it’s an hon­estly prac­ti­cal sys­tem to use in the field, with no trail­ing wires or other en­cum­brances to get in your way. As it stands, the soft­ware isn’t able to ac­cept air­gun data so it’s not ap­pli­ca­ble to us yet, but surely an air­gun ver­sion could be de­vel­oped, and I ex­pect it to hap­pen soon. For now, I’m just en­joy­ing a look at the fu­ture of aim­ing sys­tems as I be­lieve they will be. I

Scope and rangefinder work as a team.

This il­lu­mi­nated blue dot flashes to show the data be­ing trans­ferred.

The rangefinder is tiny and light.

The il­lu­mi­nated dot shows your ex­act holdover point.

Your phone is used to in­put bal­lis­tic data.

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