Every so often, I go through what I refer to as an “upgrade cycle”, where I make a bunch of similar upgrades to my guns. In this case, it was optics. The sighting system is a major component of every weapon system, especially rifles. As I develop as a shooter, I am starting really understanding what I need to make my guns perform at the level I need them to. I’m also trying to divest out of Chinese optics to the greatest degree I can; sometimes it’s hard, but I’m slowly making progress.
In this case, I decided to replace the optic on my 5.45×39 AR-15. This is a 16″ rifle built on the Adams Arms piston system, with Magpul SL furniture. It’s not a precision rig – the handguard isn’t free-floating – but it’s always worked reliably for me, and the ammo’s cheap even when other ammo isn’t.
After sorting through my options, I found an interesting recommendation from the folks at the BrianEnos forum: the C-More C3 1-6×24 scope. C-More is not well-known for their scope line, but the reviews were quite emphatic that it was about 95% of a Razor Gen II-E for about 2/3 the price. This seemed like a great value proposition, so I decided to buy one and see if it measured up!
I bought the C-More C3 off of C-More’s website for $815 (code “rudyc3”). Shipped, it was about $840. It has a limited lifetime warranty; not quite as expansive as Vortex’s, but it does seem to include the electronics in the scope, which is what’s important. The scope itself is made in Japan, presumably by LOW.
The C3 comes in a plain white box. Inside, there’s the scope, bikini caps (see-through), a microfiber cloth, and some instructions describing the scope and reticle. It’s not all that impressive compared to the rather more extravagant box and flashy manuals you get with the Razor and other high-end scopes, but then again, the scope is what matters here.
Aesthetics: The scope looks good. Not exceptionally different than anyone else’s, but C-More adds a little brand flair by adding some red around the magnification adjustment ring. In terms of weight and size, it is essentially identical to a Razor Gen II-E – 22oz in weight, 10.5″ in length, with a 30mm tube.
Controls: When we get to controls, we start to see some interesting design decisions. The adjustments are in 1/2 MOA increments – a bit coarse, but this isn’t a scope designed to dial. What is very interesting is that the elevation and windage turrets are exposed, locking turrets. These seem to work as expected, but I just found it interesting they didn’t go with the capped turrets that most other LPVOs use these days. The illumination control goes from 0 to 11 (with off settings in between each setting), and the eyepiece has the usual focus/diopter adjustment.
I think the biggest ergonomic strike against the scope is that the magnification adjustment ring has no protrusion to aid in turning it quickly. I would consider a throw lever to be a requirement for the scope if quick magnification adjustment is a necessity. The level of resistance to turning seemed about right. I ordered a Switchview SV1966 lever to resolve this, and it worked perfectly.
The zero reset is simple – unscrew the turret cap with a quarter, pop the cap off, lift the outer part of the turret up, and then put it back down on zero. Then reassemble. I don’t love having to use a quarter for this versus just unscrewing a screw, but it works.
Optics: Optically, the scope is fantastic. Edge to edge clarity was near perfect, and resolution was very good at all magnification levels. The eyebox at 1x actually felt more generous than the Razor Gen III’s. At 6x, they were similar, but I think I’d probably give the nod to the Razor. Overall clarity was very similar to the Razor as well; I had to remind myself that the Razor Gen III’s 150yd fixed parallax was causing slightly more fuzziness at very short ranges than the C3’s 100yd fixed parallax. As a result, I did find the C3 somewhat easier to use with both eyes open at very short ranges (like 7yds). In fact, the C3 is one of the easiest scopes to use both eyes open with no illumination that I’ve encountered yet.
Illumination: Illumination was an area that the C3 fell short compared to the Razor Gen III. The C3 illuminates the 1.5 MOA center dot of the reticle using “traditional” technology. The 11 (max) setting on the C3 is about the same as the 7 or 8 on the Razor. Basically, the only illumination worth bothering with outside is 11, unless you’re really late in the evening. Oddly, the only illuminations settings that really seemed to do anything at all were 6-11. Setting 5 was barely visible even in near-total darkness, and the rest were even dimmer. I changed out the battery just to make sure that wasn’t the problem, but it didn’t change the behavior. There was also a fair amount of tube spill / “doughnut’ing” if you overdrove the illumination (eg, turning the illumination to max in an indoor environment). This wasn’t a problem if you used the appropriate illumination for the environment and was not even noticeable during outdoor testing. (When I contacted C-More, they confirmed all of this behavior was normal for the product.)
In real-world use, is the C3 daylight bright? Yes, but not to the same degree as the Razor Gen III. I couldn’t make it wash out on a bright sunny day, even on a white target with the sun shining directly on it (the worst case scenario), but you could definitely see the red start to dull a bit, even if it didn’t turn black. However, when the C3 starts getting washed out, the reticle has a very easy to use etched 1.5 MOA dot to aim against, so it does not live and die on illumination like some scopes. If you are looking for that “Aimpoint on max” experience that the Razor has (so you can shoot into the sun at a glinting target on a scorching day in Afghanistan), the C3 isn’t going to provide it. Whether that’s worth $400-$500 more to you is a question you’ll have to decide for yourself.
(If you are looking for some points of comparison, it’s not as bright as my Sig Whiskey5 w/ Hellfire reticle, but it’s brighter than my Bushnell SMRS. Traditional LED illumination schemes just don’t seem to be able to keep up with fiber optic and whatever system the Razor Gen3 is using.)
Reticle: The reticle, on the other hand, is a decided improvement over the JM-1 reticle on the Razor Gen II, and compares quite well to the MOA reticle on the Razor Gen III. The C3’s TJ1I reticle was designed by the famous competitive shooter Todd Jarrett. It’s a second focal plane BDC reticle calibrated to 55gr .223 running at 3150fps. The elevation hashes are at 50yd increments, starting at 300yds. You zero at 200yds.
What makes TJ1I reticle better than the JM-1 reticle is the 1.5 MOA dot in the middle (which makes it very usable without illumination), and 5/10mph wind holds at each distance hold. Interestingly enough, the Gen III MOA reticle has (drum roll)… a larger center dot at 1x and wind holds. It’s pretty clear that C-More had the right idea here. At worst, you could nitpick that a 15mph hold would have been helpful in really bad conditions, and that maybe the center dot should be 1 MOA instead of 1.5 MOA. This is minor stuff for a very well-designed reticle, and this is a competition scope, not a scope for shooting tiny groups at a hundred yards.
There’s also a ranging scale at the left-hand-side of the reticle, for ranging USPSA/IPSC targets. This isn’t going to help you much if an enterprising match director throws up A-sized steel at 300yds, but for normal-sized targets, it could help make a faster ranging determination. In any event, it’s out of the way, so if you don’t need it, you can pretty much ignore it.
Testing Platform: As mentioned in the lead-in, I mounted this scope for testing on my 5.45×39 AR-15 with Adams Arms piston-action upper. The mount was an ADM AD-RECON cantilever QD mount. The rifle is a general use carbine, albeit the use of 7N6 ammo with its mild steel core does make some people nervous when you start slinging it at steel targets (note: it does no more damage than M193 against AR500).
My preferred 7N6 ammo is 52gr , which is not quite as fast as M193 (3030fps out of a 16″ barrel) but has a much better ballistic coefficient to make up for it. This tends to make it a little less The commercial 60gr ammo tends to run 2750-2800fps, which produces an OK solution, especially at the upper end. Golden Tiger 59gr (2870fps velocity in my rifle) is almost spot-on the BDC tree through 500, and pretty damn close at 600 (~615yds).
Testing: My ability to get to a 200yd+ range is currently very limited, so my testing was limited to 100yds and in. I will note that I ran the reticle and chrono’d ammo through Strelok Pro and the numbers matched up toughly as expected out to 500yds with a 200yd zero. Therefore, I am not terribly concerned about the BDC not working, unless there was a reticle etching/sizing error. While this closer-range testing is not ideal, I think it still provides a reasonable insight into the user experience. I’ll update this post as I try longer-range shooting with the scope.
My testing regimen was simple enough; I took the rifle and scope out shooting a few times. I zeroed the rifle at 50yds, and found punching out small 1MOA circles from a rest to be boringly easy with a bit of zoom (to compensate for the larger 1.5 MOA dot). Mixing it up a bit, I did some standing offhand drills and found the eyebox to be generous, making it simple to do “up” drills quickly.
The range I was shooting at didn’t allow for multi-target transitions, so I practiced these at home. The C3 was remarkably easy to use – again, the eyebox seems pretty good, especially on 1x. As I noted earlier in the review, even on an overcast day, I found it necessary to crank the illumination to 11 to be able to make it genuinely bright. But, to its credit, the C3 really did present a bright reticle that was very eye-catching.
My final test for the C-More C3 was at the TOC Tactical Carbine II class. The shooting was done close up (25-50yds), but there was a heavy emphasis on transitions, quick up movements, and so on. I found the C3 was able to easily keep up with the reflex sights in the class.
What it had trouble with was the scorching bright summer sun on a partially cloudy day. The dot dulled considerably several times, threatening to even wash out once or twice on newly-painted steel directly reflecting the sun. Thankfully, the reticle was more than capable of standing up on its own, and I had no problems sighting and shooting at speed.
EDIT (8/9/2020): I had a chance to use this scope at a match today. All shots were in the 50-100yd range, so the C3 was used entirely in 1x mode. It performed as well as I expected, and I had no trouble at all making hits on A-zone plates and other small targets.
- The C-More C3 has about 75% of the Razor Gen III’s brightness on settings people actually use. It is marginally daylight bright, but definitely on the brighter end of daylight visible and does not wash out easily. It is not nearly as bright on maximum as a Razor.
- The C3 has ~100% of the optical quality of the Razor Gen III.
- The C3 has a MUCH better BDC/multi-gun reticle than the Razor Gen II-E or III (at 1x), especially for use without illumination.
- The C3 is about the same size and weight of the Razor Gen II-E.
- It’s 2/3 the street price of the Razor Gen II-E (when new and using discount code).
For $815, the C-More C3 is a very hard multi-gun scope to beat for the money, especially when we’re comparing new scopes to other new scopes. There is a big gap between the Burris RT-6 and the Vortex Razor Gen II-E in terms of good multi-gun scopes, and the C3 fills it pretty nicely. Its nearest competitor is the Steiner p4xi, which only has a 1-4x magnification capability. C-More would be well-advised to send some review scopes out to influencers like Ilya Koshkin and BigJimFish and get the word out. Unfortunately, I suspect the C3 suffers somewhat from the number of used Razor Gen IIs on the market, but even those tend to run at a $100-$200 premium to the C3. (At $600, this scope would be a no-brainer entry level 3gun scope choice.)
Of course, it’s not a perfect scope. Illumination could have been implemented better, and a magnification throw lever should have been standard. But these may have been limitations of its price point and 2013 design. C-More has told me that they will be moving on to a better illumination system in the next generation of scopes, which appear to be coming in the next year or so. I’ll see if I can get a T&E scope to try out!
As an interesting aside, I had my dad test this rifle/scope combo side-by-side with my tricked-out multi-gun AR/Razor Gen III setup. Even after I showed him the Razor’s crazy illumination and 10x magnification, he told me he still preferred the rifle with the C-More C3 overall. I’m not sure I agree, but I definitely wouldn’t feel under-gunned at all if I had one on a competition carbine.