Sun Optics 4-14X44 Tactical Hunter First Focal Plane scope: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sun Optics 4-14X44 Tactical Hunter FFP scope
Sun Optics 4-14X44 Tactical Hunter First Focal Plane scope.

This report covers:

  • What is a first focal plane scope?
  • Second focal plane scopes
  • First Focal Plane
  • So what?
  • Last comment before we look at the scope
  • The scope in question
  • Clear optics
  • Focus
  • Parallax adjustment
  • Windage & elevation
  • I am impressed
  • First test

I saw this scope at the 2016 Texas Airgun Show. It was on the Sun Optics table, along with that mainspring compressor I have already shared with you. Duane Sorenson from Sun Optics told me his company had this line of first focal plane scopes that were being made for them in Japan, and i really should look at one. When I looked through the scope I’m reviewing for you today, I knew I had to tell you about it. The optics were stunning! That’s why I’m reviewing it — not because it is a first focal plane scope, though I have wanted to review one of those for a while, but for the sharpness and clarity. But let’s talk about that first focal plane feature first.

What is a first focal plane scope?

This is a feature we are starting to hear a lot about, but what does it mean? It refers to where in the optical package the reticle is placed. Reticle placement affects how the reticle appears at differing magnifications in a variable scope.

Second focal plane scopes

To explain first focal plane scopes I have to first explain the second focal plane scopes that are so common to us. Americans are quite used to second focal plane scopes in which the reticle always appears to the user to be the same size, as the magnification of the scope is changed. BUT — now stay with me here, because this is a big deal, but it’s also a little confusing — if the reticle always appears to be the same size regardless of the scope’s magnification, it actually covers more or less of the target as the magnification changes. It therefore grows and shrinks as power is changed. It doesn’t appear to, but in reality, it does.

When the target appears small because the scope’s magnification is low, the reticle covers a certain amount of it. If you increase the magnification the target grows larger in apparent size, but the reticle stays the same size as it was. When the target appears larger, the reticle that never changes size covers less of it. Let me illustrate.

second focal plane
The second focal plane reticle remains the same apparent size as the magnification changes. That means when the target appears larger, the reticle covers less of it.

First Focal Plane

In a scope where the reticle is placed in the first focal plane, you will actually see the reticle change in size as the scope’s magnification changes. Since the target also changes in size that means the reticle stays the same size, in relation to the target, at all magnifications.

first focal plane
With a first focal plane scope, the reticle appears to grow in size (thickness of the lines) as the magnification increases. It is actually remaining constant, relative to the target that’s also increasing in size.

So what?

What’s the big deal, you might ask? What is the benefit, if any, of the first focal plane scope? You understand that the reticle grows and shrinks as the magnification changes, but why is that a good thing?

Maybe it’s not a good thing at all. But that’s not the advantage of this kind of scope. The big advantage of a first focal plane scope is that, as the magnification changes, the scope’s zero remains constant. With a second focal plane scope the zero can wander a little as the power is adjusted.

Last comment before we look at the scope

There is a lot more more to say about first focal plane scopes, but I will save that for later. The last thing I’ll say today is that if you own a second fiocal plane scope — and most of them in this country are second focal plane — all you have to do is keep it set at one magnification and the problem of a wandering zero goes away. There’s no need to throw all your scopes away — they still work fine. Now, I want to look at today’s scope

The scope in question

I told you I was impressed when I first looked through this scope at the show. That hasn’t changed. This is an expensive scope, at nearly $500 retail, but all first focal plane scopes tend to cost more. Actually, in terms of the market, this scope is a bargain! It runs about half of what other similar scopes cost.

Clear optics

The optics in this one are as clear as crystal. In fact, I doubt that even Meopta could do much better than what I see here!

The reticle is one I haven’t seen before. It has a lot of ways to measure things downrange.

first focal plane reticle
This is the reticle in the scope I am testing.

Focus

The focus looks sharp to me, but it’s difficult to tell without mounting the scope on a rifle. The exit pupil is fairly critical and if your eye isn’t aligned well the image goes dark — especially on higher powers. That is usually the sign of a high-quality scope.

Parallax adjustment

The scope adjusts for parallax from 10 yards to infinity. The adjustment is a side-mounted knob located on the left side of the turret, opposite the windage knob. Over half the adjustment range is given to 10-50 yards which makes this a great scope for airgunners.

Windage and elevation

The windage and elevation adjustments are clicks in 1/10-mil increments. Think 1/10-inch at 100 yards. That’s not exact, but pretty close. The adjustment knobs are target knobs (meaning tall knobs with markings on their exterior) and they pull out to unlock.

I am impressed

Given the price and quality, I am impressed with this new scope. Would you be interested if they were available here?

First test

I think I will mount this scope on the Walther Parrus rifle that has been sitting patiently, awaiting my 25-yard accuracy test. As strong as that springer is, it will give this scope a good test! I may even give it a dose of Tune in a Tube to mellow the powerplant more.

So, you are going to hear more about this scope!

36 thoughts on “Sun Optics 4-14X44 Tactical Hunter First Focal Plane scope: Part 1

  1. B.B.

    Quality FFP scope at a realistic price. I would still be worried putting a $550-650 scope on a $300 springer…
    It does not even say air gun rated…How about using a using a BullsEye ZR mount?
    Does Sun have a grrreat(think Tony the Tiger) return policy?

    Thanks,
    Yogi



  2. FFP scopes are meant for military or law enforcement use because they keep the mil dot ratio regardless the power (1 mil is always 1m@1000m if the true mildot is at 10x) so the user can do rangefinding without paying attention at the power the scope is set.
    Actually 1/10th of mil is 1cm (0.4″) at 100m (109yrds) and not 1/10th of an inch (0.25cm) at 100yrds (91.4m) so this scope will need about 3 clicks to move the poi just over 1″ @ 100yrds.


    • Bullseye,

      Thank you for that explanation. And I will add that these adjustment numbers are never exact. The user will have to work with the scope until they know the real amount of adjustment. However, on a scope that is this precise in other ways I suspect the adjustments will be pretty close.

      B.B.


      • Just remember the 1:1000 ratio–either when dialing or estimating range. If you like yards rather than meters, at 100 yards 1 mil subtends 100 yards/1000 = .1 yards = 3.6 inches). One click is .1 mil on this scope so it’s worth .36 inches at 100 yards.

        Work the other way for ranging. If a 3.6 inch object is 1 mil tall in the reticle, then it is 1000 x 3.6 inches away (3600 in. or 100 yards away). If a 6 foot tall man is two mils tall, then the man is 2 yards x 1000 /


        • Arghh..I hate smartphone typing…. I didn’t finish, as follows

          If a 6 foot tall man is two mils tall, then the man is 2 yards x 1000 / 2 (must divide by two for 2 mils tall) away (1000 yards away). Simply use an object of known height or width, multiply by 1000 and then divide by the number of kids you measure in the reticle. Units don’t matter but you’ll need to convert to yards or meters up front or in the end for the result to be useful, of course.

          Of course a SFP varible power scope with a reticle calibra
          ted at 10x can easily be used to range using the zoom ring markings too.


  3. BB,

    Alright! Three tests in one! First we get to see if Tune In A Tube will smooth out a new uber magnum sproinger, which I already know the answer to. Also, we get to see if this scope is up to an uber magnum sproinger, which I am indeed curious about. And lastly we get to see if the Parrus is accurate for an uber magnum sproinger and worth possibly opening a spot in my collection for.


  4. BB,

    I forgot to mention in my above blurb. That reticle is similar to one I saw in a Hawke scope. I really like a reticle like this with fine lines instead of huge dots on tree trunks. I also like that it does not have dots or grids or tree limbs all over the place making for a busy view.


  5. BB,

    The problem is not the price of the scope, but that most of the time it is wedded to one rifle only. When I change I have to go through the tedious work of taking out the allen wrenches, do some tinkering and sighting the scope in again on a new rifle. And if that rifle has a considerable droop it can take some time. Keeping notes will help but not that much.

    Can this not be helped by redesigning the scope rings? First they need to have a fast lock and unlock arrangement for the scope itself as clamping them down with allen screws is a bit old-fashioned. Secondly they need to be able to rock the scope down and up and preferably sideways although I only bother with that when it is really necessary.

    Probably there is some technical point which will invalidate this solution, or some else has already tried it or it will be too expensive but I would really like the proposition of swapping my scope fast an easy among my rifles. And for a scope of 500$ I would not mind five sets of rings costing 40 $ especially as I can use different scope for different occasions.

    If I was Sun Optics I would do some research in that direction.

    I would love to hear from the other airgun fanatics what technical points I have overlooked in this solution.

    Regards,

    August


  6. B.B.,

    I’ve had an inexpensive Sun Optics scope on one of my air rifles for a while now. I had never heard of them, but it had what I was looking for, was new, and I got it at a blowout price. It has held up well. I had no idea they also made higher-end optics such as this.

    Michael


  7. Hi BB,

    This scope is the spittin image of the BSA 4-14X44-30 FFP that I have always been impressed with. The reticle is identical and the outer dimensions appear to be as well. However my BSA does say “made in China” on the bottom. Nonetheless the clarity is very good as is the price.

    Mark N


  8. Augustus,

    RE: quick change scope. While the glass is not exquisite, a B&L Balvar 8A with externally adjustable bases may meet your requirements. By strange coincidence, it also is First Focal Plane. As a fellow fanatic, I will say having only one scope for multiple rifles, however, is not all good. Only one rifle at a time can be used – no inviting a friend to shoot with you. Scope always seems go be on the wrong rifle. Elevation and windage adjustments require tools. On the plus side, it allows a medium quality variable scope for multiple rifles at a nominal cost.

    To my knowledge, these scope / base / rings / springs are only available used.


  9. BB and Fellow Airgunners
    Thank you BB for your clear, concise explanation of the differences between a first, and second focal plane scope. Your use of diagrams were especially useful. One other explanation I referred to about a year ago, went into such detail using mathematical equations, and scientific wording it seemed more mumbo jumbo then a simple explanation. I’m not putting down those people who demand, and understand a highly technical explanation. Both explanations have their place depending on how far you want to delve into the subject. It will be interesting to see how this scope delivers at different magnifications and distances.
    Ciao
    Tutus


  10. August, Belgrath04——In the 1960,s Bausch @ Lomb made scopes that had no windage and elevation knobs. The adjustments were in the scope mount. In theory, you had several rifles , each with its own scope mount. You could switch one scope from one pre-zeroed rifle to any other pre-zeroed rifle without needing to re-zero the rifle . The problem was that the adjustments (in the scope mount) were not precise. They were hard to zero, they would ping pong . If you wanted to move the poi 3″ left, it would move 4″. Now you had to move it 1″ right, but it would move 2″! After you finally zeroed the rifle, you had to use that particular load, because it was hard to re zero in the field. You needed a steady rest and lots of ammo to re zero. If someone designed an adjustable mount with adjustments like those found in scopes, or target peep sights, It would it possible to switch a scope from one rifle to another. The adjustments in the scope would be used to fine tune the zero. This mount would have to have a quick, no tools method of making the switch. Those B&L scopes were rugged. The salesmen would go into gun stores and drive nails into a block of wood, using the scope for a hammer! If B&L had designed a better mount, we would be using their system today. ED—–PS– The B&L mount prevented the use of open sights. If for many reasons, you had to use one of your rifles ( without the scope) , you had no sights !


    • I wish they would have perfected have the adjustments in the mounts today with computers doing the machining it would be easy . think how rugged the scope would be and cheaper also without having fragile adjustments built in


  11. August, Belgrath— The obvious solution would have been to use a conventional scope in the B&L mounts. Then you could use its adjustments to fine tune the zero and eliminate ping-ponging. This could not be done because the B&L mount was designed for a scope without a turret and knobs. Only a B&L scope would fit in the mount. —ED


  12. The problem is not just to use technology to achieve a goal, but also to make sure your goal is the right one. I can see how in theory having a scope that never changes zero at different magnifications is valuable. But given that you generally change magnification for different distances where you will often rezero anyway, I wonder how big an impact this will have. Moreover, some people are sensitive to the thickness of the reticle, so changing this may not be worth maintaining zero beyond a point. But the reticle is cool-looking and you can never complain about clear optics. It will be interesting to see how this does.

    Matt61


  13. BB & Fellow Air gunners,

    Thanks for the comments. Basically then it is possible, but the design of this base has to be done well (as always). That does not mean it has to be expensive to make. The problem is naturally, time to design and make a prototype. And, as with every solution it needs to be thoroughy field tested.

    I agree with Zimabweed that we still will need the adjustments on the scope as small corrections for the scope itself will still be necessary.

    Jumpin I will check that scope and look how they did the base.

    Ridgerunner, maybe I am better in buying than in selling as most people are.

    More serious, Ridgerunner: I tend to use one or two guns the most during a certain period, but during the year the favorites change with the weather and the possibilities. Scopes are not my main concern, but I want to be able to change quick from a scope handy for shooting at dusk at 50 mtr. to one for bright sunlight at 10 mtr.

    August


  14. B.B.

    Just read yesterday’s report. I have a few minutes before my class and wanted to express my thanks and delight of your findings with the tune in a tube. This is perfect to smooth out my hw30 with. It doesn’t buzz enough for me to want to pound it apart and risk any handling scratches but just enough to bother me a little. I think the tune will keep it in good shape until I need to tear it down due to age/shot count. I haven’t read this report yet, hopefully tonight before bed. Well I’m outa here, gotta make hay when the sun is shining. 🙂


  15. BB,

    See comments above under MarkinJ’s post. It looks like there are a lot of copies, or just variations in sellers, of these scopes. At $249, the scope sound reasonable, even if made in China, but $500 for unknown origins but what appears to be a made in China scope, is not as reasonable. If PA could get these at a price somewhere between $250-300, I think they could have some sales. Interested in seeing how the scope holds up to springers.

    – BenT



  16. The big advantage of first focal plane scopes is that you only need 1 dope sheet.

    With all scopes, you zero the rifle at some range – say 30 yards for a springer. Then you shoot targets at 35, 40, 45, 50, 25, 20, 15, and 10 yards – and see how many mildots lower the pellet impacts at each range. Record this in your dope sheet – is: hold 1/2 a mildot high at 35 yards, 1.25 mildot high at 40 yards, 4 mildots high at 50 yards etc.

    With a 2nd focal plane scope – that dope sheet is only good for 1 magnification. You need a seperate dope sheet for each magnification.

    With a 1st focal plane scope – that first dope sheet is good for all magnifications.

    If you are using mil dots to determine the range to the target when hunting, it’s even more important. Ie: – rabbit sized object that measures 1.5 mil dots high is 20 yards away – at the one magnification for a 2nd focal plane scope, and at all magnifications for a 1st focal plane scope.

    My strategy is to use 2nd power scopes but only set them to 2 magnifications (5x and 12x) and 2 dope sheets. Prey that moves around needs a low power to keep it in the scope. Prey that stands still for a minute gives me time to look at the 2nd dope sheet.

    I like this better than 1st focal plane scopes, because the mildots are teeny tiny itty bitty at low magnification. To the point where I can’t count how many there are when trying to hold over or range the target.


    • John,

      Very nice and clear explanation. It would be interesting to know what the high end March and Sightron scopes are. The 2 Sightrons that P.A. offers, do not mention if they are 1st or 2nd. And, at 10-50 magnification, you would have to wonder what the reticle would look like on a 1st focal plain scope, on 50.

      Like you, I only use 2 or 3 mag. levels and have dope sheets for each. Mine tends to be a mix of 7@ 30-60, 9@ 70 and 80,… and 10@ 90-100. Although, I find myself just leaving it at 9 mag. for all ranges.




      • Great. You may find it to be interesting. Don’t get too caught up in using the 2nd reticle for zeroing, B.B. because, as you’ve always advocated, zeroing is really a simple.task. Rather, the 2nd reticle is nice for detecting some kinds of reticle shifts, like.the one you mentioned here with the zoom. You can also set the second FFP reticle wherever you want it for a special holdever.

        I just now went to the website and see the Shepherds sold the family business. It looks like the new owners are moving the products toward mil/tac markets now.


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