CQB Short Dot Scopes In The Kill Zone

The first thing I liked about the new Schmidt &…

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The first thing I liked about the new Schmidt & Bender 1.1-4 x 24 Zenith Short Dot LE was the fact its locking illumination ring maxes out at “11.”

Not 10, but 11.

Movie fans know that feature was specified for amplifiers used by fictional rock star Nigel Tufnel in the 1984 comedy “This is Spinal Tap.”

“It’s not 10! You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at 10. You’re on 10 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on 10 on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?”

Beyond that perhaps unknowing homage to a funny movie about over-the-hill English rockers, this fine piece of German glass is all about business. That is the dead serious business of putting 5.56mm and 7.62mm heavy metal thunder downrange into hostile combatants.

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A Short History of Perfection
Here’s the thing about Schmidt & Bender. They just make riflescopes.
No binoculars, rangefinders, crystal goblets or paperweights. They take some of the best optical glass in the world, house it in hard anodized black bodies stuffed with precisely machined metal, tune them up and sell them to serious people who like to shoot things well. And the kicker is, they’ve been doing just that one thing for the past 50 years.

The LE model tested here is the third iteration of what is commonly called the CQB Short Dot, which is part of the company’s Police Marksman II product line. All three versions are currently in production.

My first experience was with a Gen. 1 version, properly called the 1.1-4 x 20mm Police Marksman II, mounted on a Barrett M468 12.5-in. barreled semi-automatic. This first scope was designed for, and with input from, the well-known but still seldom officially mentioned 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.

all-the-way-up.jpgA Special Scope for Special Operators
After the lessons learned in Clinton’s Somalian adventure of 1993, the men of Delta determined the excellent Aimpoint dot scope was great for fast shot placement, but what was really needed was a variable magnification optic that allowed both speed at a low power setting and enough power at the top end to make headshots at 100 or more meters. They needed a tool to make sure hostile “faces in the crowd” were no longer safe, but didn’t want to be packing a dedicated sniper rifle. The quick answer was a 1.5-4X red-dot variable called the Microdot and its use spread throughout the SF community.

I got to see and use one employed by an itinerant ex-SF/gunslinger/trainer who taught several classes for my department before 9/11. He went back to active duty after that and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s toting and M4 or M14 with a CQB on it right now.

While the Microdot provided yeoman service, this Tier One outfit desired Tier One optics to keep Mr. Murphy at bay in a wide range of operational circumstances, while making accurate hits at practical ranges. They first turned to a domestic optics manufacturer that quickly reworked an existing low-powered sporting optic for the unit to try. After beta testing, several modifications and upgrades were requested.

The silence was reportedly deafening from the manufacturer so the unit — specifically now-retired Master Sgt. Larry Vickers – reached out to Schmidt & Bender and asked them to take a run at the project.

The company enthusiastically embraced the ideas of Vickers and friends and applied them to a tough, existing hunting optic called the Zenith 1.25-4x20mm Flash Dot. The power at the bottom end was first reduced to 1X then boosted to 1.1 to correct an optical difficulty with the dot.

They also got a Bullet Drop Compensating feature in the form of four cams calibrated to let 5.56mm users select either M855 or Hornady TAP 75-grain ballistics, or M118LR20 or M118R16 for those with an M-14 or other 7.62x51mm on which to mount a CQB.

A skeletonized reticle was designed and placed in the first focal plane; the result being that the reticle was barely visible at 1.1, allowing the 5.9 MOA red dot to be the primary focus in the sight picture. Rolling the power ring upward, however, made the reticle grow thicker as power increased. There was also another reticle, the FlashDot No. 7, which provides a thin center crosshair and thick posts on the sides and bottom.

Reticles in the first focal plane are the norm for European optic makers, but can be disconcerting for American shooters whose crosshairs are usually in the second focal plane.

For the purposes of Army and other special operations forces, however, this resulted in the highly desirable outcome of an instant choice between a greasy fast dot scope or a cross hair offering sufficient precision and magnification to precisely zero an eye socket or ear at 100-plus meters.

field-adjustment.jpgThe Word on Magnification
The magnification race by scope manufacturers didn’t really begin until the late 1960s if memory serves. My father told me that when he bought his Winchester Model 70 with a 2.75X Stith scope at the end of the Korean War it was considered a superb piece of hardware for long-range hunting in the mountains and plains. These days, it would be considered a brush rig because of the “low-powered” scope.

I intend wringing the CQB’s abilities to the full extent of the BDC ring before returning this piece of kit to the importer. I have no doubt that it will be dropping .223-caliber pills way out yonder at 650 yards with some degree of predictability…even with me behind the trigger. A 4X magnification should be sufficient now as it was 60 years ago.

Gen. 1 Put Meat on the Ground
The Gen I CQB SD worked as advertised. I ran blistering fast drills with the 6.8mm shorty with the glass on 1.1X and the dot illuminated. With it on 4X, the little .270 printed MOA groups from the bench at 100 yards and put rounds into just a bit more at 200 yards on the head of a B-27 target.

My oldest son split the difference and ran the optic at 2.5X with the dot one morning in November ’05 and busted a young 8-point whitetail through the pump at about 60 yards, then minutes later a button buck at 35 yards.

It was just legal shooting time when Hunter shot the first deer and he said the superb glass let him see the steam and blood erupt from both sides of the deer, while the dot made shot placement fast and sure in the woodsy gloom.

Product Improvement
Further input from end-users led to the second iteration of the CQB in 2006.

This one, called the “1.1-4 x 20mm Short Dot with Locking Turrets,” is self-explanatory. The locking feature was added to keep everything in the same place during the hustle and bustle of war; but only the CQB reticle is available on this variant.

The newer Gen. 2 version “1.1-4 x 24 Zenith Short Dot LE” has three new features: a larger objective lens, the Posicon system and a new reticle for the CQB line.

The FlashDot No. 2 reticle has been available in other scopes and features an intuitive and fast tapered post and thin crosshairs (my kids say it reminds them of the German sniper scopes in the Medal of Honor video game) placed in the second focal plane, just for we stateside shooters who like our crosshairs to stay the same size no matter where the power ring goes.

The FlashDot No. 7 from Gen. 1 CQBs is also available, but the CQB reticle itself isn’t on this model. That’s too bad. As a lifelong picker of nits, I would like to try the original CQB reticle in a second optical plane format.

The unique Posicon control provides a graphic representation of where the reticle lies within its 26 MOA (elevation) by 13 MOA (windage) adjustment range. This makes for easier mounting and sighting in.

The size of the objective lens also jumped to a 24mm, which should add a bit more useable light to your eyeball during those exciting times that usually make your vision restrict somewhat.

Only three BDCs come with this optic: the M855, 75-grain TAP and M118LR.

roll-out-two.jpgBDC Cams and Choice Scope Mounts
My T&E version came with only the M855 ring, but that’s OK. I’m shooting primarily Federal 69-gr. BTHP and Hornady 55-grain practice ammo; close enough for my government work.

By the way, both times S&B sent me CQB SDs, they came already mounted in the excellent SPR 1.93-inch mount made by LaRue Tactical. There are no finer mounts (or other gear) being made today than those coming from Mark LaRue’s shop.

This is clearly a symbiotic relationship. When you go to the LaRue Tactical website and click on the optic mounts page, guess what scope is pictured with the SPR/M4 1.93-inch Mount QD LT-135?

There’s a reason for that, according to the website: “This is a continuation of the SPR mount, except it is 1.93 inches above the rail in order to get the S&B ShortDot up above a PEQ-2… It is as simple as that.”

After popping the removable carry handle off a spanking new Colt LE 6920 from our armory, it took all of three seconds to mount the CQB SD LE with the precise LaRue mount. Not surprisingly, the scope was dialed in close enough that three-shot groups from my two brands of test ammo overlapped in a near 2-inch group right at the top of the poster at 100 yards.

The red dot on the LE model is much smaller at 1.57 MOA than those of previous CQBs, but that adds to the accuracy potential at longer range, while not seeming to make it slower up close.

No surprises in the actual trigger time. Blazingly fast up close, and quite accurate enough out to 200 yards, while shooting groups from a bench rest.

And the glass is simply stunning in its optical quality.

As far as the dot itself goes, the first three power settings are for use with night vision gear, the 4 to 6 settings are for low light such as dawn or dusk (or inside a crackhouse at noon), and settings 7 to 11 are for bright, bright, sunshiny days in the snow or desert sand.

And did I mention that between each number on the illumination dial there is a notch that cuts the light off to preserve battery power?

Speaking of batteries, the whole Short Dot family runs off standard CR2032 batteries, which provide about 100 hours of service. The illumination also cuts off automatically after six hours to preserve the battery.

No, it’s not 100,000 hours, but between the power-saving feature and the handy off switch detents, you probably will have enough battery life for most missions.

If you are cautious, and you ought to be, simply put in a fresh battery before each mission and carry a spare battery or two with you.

Price and Weight
Two issues which may give some pause are price and weight. If you are an airsofter just now venturing into the exciting world of gunpowder, the CQB SD’s MSRP will likely give you a case of the chilblains. Think $2,000 street price.

On the other hand, if you’re a military or law-enforcement guy that needs the very best gear in order to ensure mission success, start schmoozing hard with your quartermaster or supply clerk in order to obtain one of these pieces of perfection from Biebertal, Germany.

A lot of guys like that aren’t waiting for the supply to catch up with their demand. They’re buying them commercial off the shelf (COTS) out of their own pockets.
The weight of the LE, at 20.1 ounces, may also give pause, considering an Aimpoint Comp2 weighs 7 ounces and a 4X ACOG runs just under 10.

We hang so many geegaws and whizzies on our carbines these days they weigh more like a BAR than an original, feathery M-16. Every extra ounce must be considered.

The CQB, however, supplies twice as much utility at the twist of a ring.

We don’t always have time to determine mission essential configuration before the fecal matter hits the fan, so it’s impractical to carry a second optic in your rucksack or patrol car. You must “run what you brung.”

In my opinion, one should consider ditching other accessories in order to save weight—and money—for a CQB LE. The really cool guys aren’t the ones with the most toys on their carbines; they’re the ones who can make the hits under pressure. That’s where this optic shines.

A Guilty Pleasure
Having this scope mounted on my issued 16-inch Colt’s HBAR is one of my guilty pleasures. Mark Cromwell and staff loaned the optic to me for 120 days and that, friends, equals six months of bliss for yours truly.

I am a great believer in using my issued weapons to hunt Tennessee’s fauna. With any luck, I’ll soon be building confidence in my new patrol carbine by training with it on crow, groundhogs and coyotes this spring and summer.

And it also gives me time to start saving shekels so I can buy a scope that costs four times more than my first car…to put on a rifle loaned to me by the county. Yes, it’s that good.
Besides, I like cranking the dot up to 11 on a bright summer day and rocking out with my heavy metal axe.

All the way up! All the way up! All the way up!

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