May 07, 2020
Firearms News Digital Contributor Neal Shera was peering through my old spotting scope as I reloaded the Howa bolt gun. With the magazine locked into place I fought with the bolt to get a round chambered. A Lee Enfield it is not. Settling in behind it I checked the wind one last time. I guessed it at 20-mph Full Value. 500 yards away hung a 10-inch steel plate spray painted white. Using the Horus’s reticle I held 2.9 Mils for elevation and then slid it 2 Mils to the left for windage. I was firing Hornady 6.5mm Creedmoor 120-grain ELD Match ammunition which is a pretty zippy load, but the BC is not that of the heavier .264-inch match bullets in their line. I’m pretty old school, an antique really, but this is my home range and I do this for a living. So, on a hunch, I added in a smidgeon more wind and broke the trigger.
The 120-grain Hornady is a comfortable load to fire and I watched through the Horus as a black dot appeared on the white plate before sending it dancing on its chains. “Impact!” Neal called out, “9’Clock on the plate.” The action on the Howa reminded me of running my old Plymouth’s 4-speed, before I rebuilt the worn out Hurst shifter. Like the Plymouth’s pistol grip shifter on a Saturday night, the Howa needed to be run hard, so I did. Slapping the bolt forward I added a touch of windage and fired. “Impact, 12 O’clock above center,” came the call. I worked the bolt three more times and scored three more hits. The last four shots measured 4.8 inches while all five came in at 6 inches.
The rifle in question is Legacy Sports’ Howa Oryx MDT chassis chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor. What makes it a bit more interesting is I was using a new scope, ballistic app, weather meter, and laser rangefinder system from Horus Vision. The laser rangefinder and weather meter connect via Bluetooth to your smart phone onto which you download the Horus Vision ballistic app. They all work together to provide an accurate firing solution you then input into the optic. It’s amazing just how far we’ve come from the days of the trusty Mil-Dot Master. With long range shooting gadgets and technology being so popular I was excited about giving Firearms News’ readers a look at the Horus Vision system.
Before we delve into the modern technology though, let’s examine the Howa Oryx MDT chassis rifle from Legacy Sports. In recent years a number of chassis rifles have become available, with many of them being very expensive. Expensive guns, optics, ammunition and gear are a real bummer for many blue collar workers excited by long range shooting and looking to get into PRS competition or other rifle matches. It was no different for me when I first became interested in competing in local matches many Moons ago. The high cost of gear is a real drag. Legacy Sports recognized this and responded with a chassis rifle which is quite affordable considering its features.
The heart of the Oryx MDT chassis rifle is the well-known Howa Model 1500 short-action receiver which is machined from forged steel. The standard length Howa features a bolt length of 7.4 inches while the short-action features a 6.9 inch bolt which speeds things up a bit. Examining it you’ll note the Howa features a rotating bolt with dual front locking lugs. The bolt face sports a plunger type ejector, claw extractor and the design cocks on opening. The forged steel receiver features an integral recoil lug. Plus, the action is designed with three gas ports for pressure relief in case of a catastrophic failure. These will vent gases away from the shooter. The bolt features a single-piece steel bolt handle and the entire bolt can be easily stripped without tools. A two-stage trigger is standard with an advertised pull weight of between 2.5 and 3.8 pounds. One feature I like is the inclusion of a 3-position safety. This locks the bolt closed or allows the rifle to be unloaded and cleared with the safety on. It is a practical feature, especially at a match.
Screwed into the front of the Howa 1500 action is a 24-inch long Hammer forged barrel. Of the different ways to manufacture and rifle a barrel, I have always kind of liked Hammer forging. It’s an interesting process where the barrel is literally hammered with a mandrel inside forming the rifling. Quality though varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and it should be remembered that while some of the best factory barrels in the world are produced using this method, so are military Kalashnikov barrels. This model features a one turn in eight inches rifling twist for optimum performance with a wide range of bullet lengths/weights. This twist allows use of very long 147-grain Match bullets to much shorter and more economical 100-grain pills for dusting coyotes and the like. The muzzle sports a recessed target crown cut at 45 degrees to protect the all-important lands and grooves at the muzzle. It also features 5/8-24 threads and came fitted with a three-baffle muzzle brake to reduce recoil to allow a rifleman to spot his own shots. If the owner so desires, the factory brake can easily be removed and replaced with a different design or a sound suppressor.
The barreled action is installed into a rugged full-length chassis system. The action is a flat flush fit into the chassis reducing stress. The chassis is machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and anodized flat black. The flat bottomed fore-end features M-LOK slots along its bottom to facilitate easy mounting of a bipod, tripod mount or other accessories. An AR type pistol grip is fitted which can easily be replaced if it doesn’t meet a rifleman’s needs. Length of pull is 13.5 inches out of the box, but the buttstock is adjustable for length via spacers. The cheek rest is also adjustable and has 1.3 inches of travel for height to ensure a correct head position. The butt is contoured to both provide a place to grasp with your non-shooting hand and to ride on a bag. A soft rubber pad helps to reduce felt recoil and prevents the butt from sliding around on the rifleman’s shoulder. One nice feature is the chassis color can be easily changed using different bolt on polymer pieces.
A feature contemporary shooters demand is its method of feed, a detachable box magazine. The polymer magazine holds ten rounds and features central feeding. This is enough for a PRS stage if things don’t suddenly go bad. If things do, a fairly large magazine release lever is fitted to help speed reloads. The magazine locks securely into place with a simple straight-in push. The rifle’s overall length is 43.5 inches and it weighs in at 11.3 pounds. This model is available in a wide variety of other calibers including 6mm Creedmoor, the old standby .308 Win. and in .223 Rem, 6.5mm Grendel, 300 BLK and 7.62x39mm in Howa’s mini-action.
Howa offers both individual rifles as well as rifle packages. The rifle seen here has an MSRP of $1,099 without accessories and has a lifetime warranty.
Onto the Howa Oryx MDT I mounted a Horus Vision 5-20x50mm HOVR scope. This is built on a 30mm tube and features Mil/Mil adjustments and a Front Focal Plane reticle. The large easy to turn elevation turret features .1 Mil adjustments with 5 Mils per full turret revolution. Total elevation adjustment is 17.5 Mils. The windage turret is capped, so it cannot be accidentally rotated. Plus, this scope is really designed for windage/lead holds to be performed on the fly using the Tremor3 reticle. The reticle is not illuminated on this model which shouldn’t be an issue for gun games but may be something to consider if you are also coyote hunting in low light. Magnification runs from 5x to 20x which is a pretty useful range for field shooting. The scope is 13.4 inches in length, so fairly compact for the magnification range and weighs in at 28.8 ounces. MSRP is $1,499.
The scope itself is fairly straight forward. It’s a nice piece of Japanese craftsmanship, has good glass and reliable mechanics. What have always set Horus Vision scopes apart from the crowd though are their reticle designs. These were originally designed by Dennis Sammut. An avid long range shooter and hunter, Sammut came to feel conventional scope and reticle designs offered less than optimum performance when shooting from 500 to 1,500 yards under field conditions. His practical experiences and exhaustive testing led him to believe what was needed was a reticle that:
- Allowed targets of various sizes to be accurately ranged
- Provided useful elevation holdover points no matter what caliber or load was being used
- Allowed corrections for windage and/or lead
- Enabled the shooter to instantly correct if his first shot was off
- Was simple to use
- Was not dependent upon the mechanical integrity of the riflescope for repeatable shot placement at long range
Now, our younger readers need to understand this was very forward thinking in the time period he was putting his ideas together. Looking back, the scopes of the 1990s were ruled by either the simple Duplex crosshair reticle or the new and exciting Mil Dot. American thinking towards rifle scopes was very primitive compared to today. It was a different world. Sammut slowly refined his concept over 6 years of extensive testing in the Australian Outback. During this time he dispatched approximately 600 feral animals, some at distances exceeding 1,350 yards, validating theories. The result of his work is a family of reticles, all slightly different for their specific applications, but all based upon one simple system, a Target Grid. Utilizing the proven Mil system (where 6283 Mils = 1 circle and 1 Mil equals 3.6 inches at 100 yards) the reticle features a Targeting Grid of aiming points rather than only one central aiming point or a few strung vertically.
I am not new to Horus Vision, their scopes, reticles or their system. My introduction to the Horus Vision system came back in 2002 via their H25 reticle and old PDA with ballistic software. So, I have been using them in competition and in the field for some 18 years now. In my humble opinion the three greatest influences on modern rifle scope design have been The Global War on Terror, Industria Optica Romana S.A.’s pushing much wider magnification ranges (up to 10 fold increase) and Sammut’s reticle designs and theories. All three, whether people realize it or not, have significantly impacted the features shooters now demand in rifle scopes.
Today the Horus Vision reticle is just one part of a complete package developed for serious rifleman. Intended to simplify the process of making first round hits at long range the current system consists of a scope, special reticles, app for your smart phone, pocket weather meter and laser rangefinder. The weather meter and laser rangefinder both transmit data via Bluetooth to the app on your smart phone. All of these items are intended to work together to provide a ballistic firing solution allowing targets to be rapidly engaged at long range with both speed and precision.
The heart of the entire system is a series of rather eye catching reticle designs. For this review I chose their Tremor3 reticle. This is an evolution of the Tremor2 which is a Mil based design intended for long range speed shooting. To the Tremor2 they added HORUS Rapid Range Bars above the main horizontal stadia, more holdover dots for an expanded uncluttered grid, and extra Speed-Shooting Guides along the 1-mil horizontal stadia. The Tremor3 reticle also features Moving Target Holds, patented Wind Dots and "chevrons" found in the Tremor2. For the uninitiated, or those used to basic reticles the Tremor3 can look a bit overwhelming and cluttered. There is a lot going on with it.
Looking at the Tremor3 reticle you'll notice that in addition to the conventional crosshairs it incorporates a grid system in the lower half of the FOV. This numbered grid system provides both elevation holdover and windage/lead compensation points. Rather than using military type dots, the stadia are delineated with Mil hash marks. Each Mil is further subdivided by four finer hash marks delineating .2 Mil. A total of 33 Mil are visible for elevation adjustment at 5x and 8 Mil at 20x. To use the reticle you simply apply the required elevation and windage/lead and hold using the reticle rather than dialing it into the scope using the turrets. For example, if you need 7 Mils of elevation and a 1 Mil of right wind, you simply hold up 7 Mils and over 1 Mil using the marks on the reticle.
Now, I know many of you are thinking, "Boy, that sounds complicated and difficult to use!" However, in actuality once you understand the concept the Horus Vision system is fairly simple and can be very fast. I've taken a few shooters who were totally unfamiliar with how it worked and spent a couple of minutes explaining it to them. I then handed them a range card and they were able to make first round hits on steel silhouette targets at 400, 550 and 700 yards. With a little practice it is surprisingly fast on multiple targets set at various distances. You simply hold on the correct Mil line for the range you are shooting at, and then scoot to the left or right to compensate for windage or lead. If your first shot misses and you spot the impact, you can instantly correct by using where the impact was on the reticle as your new point of aim.
As I see it, the positive features of the Horus Vision reticle system are as follows:
- Simple to learn and easy to use.
- No more 'knob spinning', counting clicks or being 'one full rotation off'.
- Not caliber specific, will work equally well with any caliber or load.
- As all ballistic adjustments are made using the reticle, repeatability is not based on the mechanical integrity of the scope.
- As no knob spinning is required, shooter can instantly go from 100 to 1,000 yards and back.
- First Focal Plane reticle allows use at any magnification setting.
- Reticle is designed to be part of a complete system.
By delineating the target grid in Mils Horus Vision also incorporated a rangefinding feature into the reticle. To range a target using the Mil system you must:
- Know the size (height or width) of your target
- As accurately as possible measure how many Mils the target subtends through the scope
Once you have these two numbers the range can be determined through a mathematical calculation. The formula is as follows:
Range (in yards) = Height (or Width) of target (in yards) X 1000 divided by Height (or Width) of target in Mils
While ranging a target using the Mil system is an excellent skill to have, and I suggest learning it, there is a faster way. Horus Vision offers their HoVR 1.0 BT 2000 laser rangefinder. This has an advertised ranging capability of 2,000 meters (2,187 yards) and Bluetooth connectivity allowing it to connect to, and communicate with, your smart phone loaded with the free Horus Ballistic Calculator app. The laser rangefinder is compact and weighs 7.2 ounces. It is powered by a CR2 battery, features a built-in tripod adapter, 6x magnification and a 26mm objective lens. It provides both the range to the target, in yards or meters, and inclination. Plus, it can operate in scan mode to provide continuous range readings of a target. The HoVR BT is easy to use and is a useful tool for quickly finding the range to a target AND getting that information directly to the Horus Ballistic Calculator app. MSRP is $429.99.
Working in conjunction with the HoVR 1.0 BT 2000 laser rangefinder is Horus Vision’s HoVR 1.0 Weather Meter. Like the laser rangefinder, this features Bluetooth connectivity allowing it to connect wirelessly to your smart phone and communicate with the Horus Ballistic Calculator app. Rather than being a complex weather station better suited for a meteorologist, the HoVR 1.0 Weather Meter is tailored for use by a rifleman. It measures wind speed, temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure and altitude. To make it very fast and simple to use, you simply hit a button to access the data you need. You don’t need to scroll through screens or look here or there. It is powered by two AAA batteries with a runtime of around 20 hours. Weight is 7 ounces. It features rubber armor to shrug off impacts and rough handling. This unit will provide environmental conditions and wind speed at the rifleman’s firing point. MSRP is $114.99.
The last piece of the puzzle is the Horus Vision Ballistic Calculator app. You can download this for free from the Google Play store or the Apple App store. I downloaded it to a Samsung Note smart phone and set it up without issue. During set-up, you will notice it requires you to give it permission to access your phone’s camera, location and storage. Once the app is set-up it is pretty straight forward as far as loading data into it regarding your rifle(s), loads and reticle(s) you will be using. The Calculator displays four main sections: Gun, Target, Atmospherics and Solution. The Solution section also shows your reticle with a red dot indicating your hold mark. I had no issues getting the Horus weather meter and laser rangefinder to link with their ballistic calculator app. The app is easy to understand, quick to learn and straight-forward to use. It has all the features a serious long range rifleman will look for, and will be a useful tool if utilized properly.
After mounting and zeroing the Horus Vision 5-20x50mm HOVR scope I got to work seeing how the Howa Oryx MDT chassis rifle performed. I began by checking accuracy shooting off the bipod at 100 yards. Here I noticed a few things. The trigger is quite good, the rifle comfortable and the overall layout is pretty good. On the negative side the action on this example took a bit of force to run, and feeding was not as smooth as I would like. The rifle was reliable, but you had to run it like it belonged to someone you didn’t like. Recoil of all the 6.5mm Creedmoor loads was mild and the Howa Oryx MDT proved quite pleasant to shoot.
Accuracy of this particular example was a bit strange. It showed a marked preference for lighter/shorter bullets. The review rifle just didn’t like heavier bullets, but did well with Hornady’s 120-grain ELD-X load. Four 5-shot groups at 100 yards averaged .75 inch at 2,810 fps. Browning Ammunition’s 130-grain Long Range Pro TMK averaged .9 inch at 2,889 fps. 140 and 147 grain loads opened up to an inch plus, so I didn’t bother with them.
With the 100 yard testing out of the way I moved to shooting on steel at distance. This was done prone off the bipod from my shooting tower. Conditions were frankly not that great, with a full value wind running 20+ mph. However, I looked at it as a great opportunity to collect data and see how it compared to what the Horus Vision Ballistic Calculator app generated for a firing solution. Firing at 500 yards on steel plates showed the app to be dead on. Here the Howa Oryx MDT and Hornady 120-grain ELD-X hunting load proved capable of making fast consistent hits on steel. I typically had my follow-up shots ready before I had feed-back from my spotter. Recoil was mild enough to spot my shots. Groups were about 5 inches at this distance, which wasn’t too bad for the conditions. At 700 yards I engaged a Revolution Targets’ Portable Long Range Torso Frame Target. Here the firing solution generated by the Horus Vision Ballistic Calculator again matched my actual range data. The hardest part, of course, is trying to correctly estimate wind to input into the app. Keep in mind, while the weather meter will read wind at your point, what it is actually doing downrange at various points could be very different. The wind was a bit more than I initially thought, but the Tremor3 reticle quickly had me spinning the center plate at 700 yards.
Are there downsides to the Horus Vision system? Of course, there are downsides to pretty much everything in life. The main one here being it is possible to “get lost” on the reticle under speed if you are not careful. I’ve seen it happen to others over the years and it has happened to me. This only happens if you are not paying attention though. Another is the fine reticle can be hard to discern in lowlight.
I like the Horus Vision free Ballistic Calculator app, and had no issues with it. It’s simple to use, worked well during my testing and I had no issues with it. My only comment here is, consider it a tool which should be utilized to its potential without it becoming your “exterior ballistics god”. I regularly see younger shooters who rely entirely on the ballistic app of the week and would be rudderless without it. I may be a bit long in the tooth, but I still believe the old fashioned data book still has a valid roll, as does time spent collecting real world data with your rifle and load on the range. The Horus Vision Ballistic Calculator app, weather meter and laser rangefinder can be incredibly useful aids. Use them as such while expanding your skills and knowledge as a rifleman and you will be ahead of the game.
Legacy Sports International
Howa Oryx MDT Chassis Specs
- Action: Manual turn bolt with dual opposed front locking lugs
- Caliber: 6.5mm Creedmoor
- Barrel: 24 inches
- Muzzle Threads: 5/8x24
- Rifling: 1-8 inch twist
- Overall length: 43.5 inches
- Trigger: H.A.C.T. Two-stage
- Sights: None
- Feed: 10-round detachable box magazines
- Length of Pull: 13.5 inches, adjustable via spacers
- Weight: 11.3 pounds without optic
- Stock: Aluminum chassis system
- MSRP: Starting at $1,099