When Bushnell sent us one of their AR Optics 1-4x24mm PCL, I had mixed first impressions. The market is flooded with choices for low-magnification variable AR scopes. However the more I looked at (and through) the AR Optics 1-4x, the more I liked it. The scope lists for $418 on Bushnell’s online store, but can be found for as low as $230 from online retailers like SWFA. It offers a pile of features for the price point.
The AR Optics 1-4x24mm PCL weighs in at 17.3 oz and is 9.4″ long. While not exactly compact, it does not add substantially to the bulk of the rifle when compared to other 4x magnification options.
The most visible feature of the AR Optics 1-4x is the “PCL” or Power Control Lever. This is a foldable metal handle that flips out to give you better control when rapidly going from 1x to 4x. With an optic like this, it is highly unlikely that you will use the 2x or 3x magnification setting. Most shooters will use the PCL like an on/off switch to quickly go from lowest to highest magnification and back. Usually shooters will add some type of “cat tail” to their magnification ring. This scope already has you covered. You can also purchase a non-PCL version of this scope. I would advise against that. The PCL lever can be quickly removed if you find it getting in the way.
Bushnell realized that many shooters will roll the power ring with the PCL in the down position. To avoid the knurled metal PCL from damaging the aluminum ocular housing, Bushnell added a groove and O-ring on the PCL. This gives just enough room that the two shall never meet.
The turrets on the AR Optics 1-4x are exposed and finger adjustable. There are no locking features and no zero stop, so care needs to be taken that they are not inadvertently dialed off-zero. In a scope such as this, I much prefer capped turrets. The turrets are graduated in 0.1 mRad clicks. You generally don’t see that on scopes of this type. Once you start using mils on other scopes, you don’t want to have to switch back and forth.
The quality of the clicks is one point where the “budget” nature of the scope shows through. The clicks are distinct, with tactile and audible feedback. However there is a ton of lash in each click. Since this is designed as a short range carbine scope and 0.1 mRad equates to just over 1/3″ at 100 yards, it is not a massive shortcoming.
The reticle in the AR Optics 1-4x is Bushnell’s BTR-1 reticle. This is a ballistic reticle calibrated for the .223 cartridge. The top dot is intended for 0-200 yard engagements. 300, 400, 500 and 600 holdovers are also marked. There are no numbered marks, but it is easy enough to keep straight. This also allows you to determine what the holdover points are for your system if you are running something other than the “average” .223 AR. We found the holdovers to be close enough for center-mass shots with a 16″ barrel and Federal XM-193 ammunition.
The reticle was bold enough to be used in a wide range of daytime lighting conditions without illumination. At night, on 1x the reticle disappears. Thankfully the AR Optics 1-4x is equipped with reticle illumination. I am not bashful to admit that this is the best illumination I have seen in a scope at this price point. The illumination turret is marked from 0 to 11. Zero denotes off. The first position is too dim to be seen with the naked eye, but is perfect for use with rear mounted night vision devices. Position two to eleven are nicely spaced and cover wide range of lighting conditions. Position eleven can been seen in bright daylight against a white target. That is how illumination should be done. I have scopes at twice the price that don’t have this quality of illumination.
In use, the AR Optics 1-4x24mm PCL worked very well. I was able to engage targets rapidly at close range. I could then crank the PCL over and use the BTR-1 reticle to hit 300+ yard targets with accuracy.
We used the scope quite a bit and only found two negative points. The first is the lash in the turrets. The second is that the 1x magnification setting is not truly 1x. The setting is close enough that you can still shoot with both eyes open and have great situational awareness, but attempting to use a backup iron sight through the scope would not work well. This is really a non-issue because the eye relief of the scope requires it to be mounted too far back to be able to shoot with a BUIS up. If you are in a situation that requires a backup iron sight, you will need to use a folding BUIS and remove the scope before deploying it.
The AR Optics 1-4x24mm PCL would work well for a Police Officer on a budget or a casual “Three Gunner”. It is a great all around 1-4x optic and would even be a good choice for a “truck gun” as long as you could protect those turrets when not in use.
If you are shopping for a low-magnification AR scope in the $300 price range, we can definitely recommend the Bushnell AR Optics 1-4x24mm PCL.
Alamo Four Star was nice enough to provide us with one of their high quality DLOC mounts for the AR Optics 1-4x24mm PCL. The DLOC has a ton of holding power and is quick on and off. They retail for $279, which may be a little expensive for this level of optic. However if you choose to go this route, you will have piece of mind that your optic isn’t going anywhere. If you have to remove it, when it goes back on you will be back on your zero.