S&B CQB Short Dot Scope
This article is intended to fill in the blanks on the history and development of the Schmidt & Bender CQB Short Dot 1.1 – 4 x 20mm scope. I hope this answers some questions about the details of this optic.
A need for a milspec low powered variable optic came up after Somalia in 1993. Bad guys mixed with civilians were sticking their heads around corners 100 meters or farther down an alley or street in order to gain situational awareness on the whereabouts of US forces operating in that area. The Aimpoint setup being used at that time did not provide any ability for target discrimination. This was a real problem for those GI’s posted outside for external security.
A market search was done and at that time the closest thing that could be found was a scope called a Microdot; a 1.5 – 4 powered optic that had a red dot like a reflex sight. These were used for quite a while and served well considering they were made for civilian non milspec activities like sport shooting, hunting, etc. Shortly after these were fielded a major US scope company was approached about making a more milspec 1 – 3 or 1 – 4 powered optic with a red dot capability. This particular company makes milspec scopes but was (and still is) primarily a hunting/sporting scope company that has historically put little effort into the military/LE side of things – and was way behind the power curve on illuminated reticles or dots in scopes. After a couple years a prototype was seen that had allot of promise but still no red dot. It had other features also that were not applicable and after some T&E it went back to the factory with a list of things to change/enhance.
A few more years pass with no sign of a Gen II version when a phone call is received saying the scope is ready with good news and bad news; they are in production and can be received ASAP but you take what you get – no changes. This was not received well as the concept of this scope was brought to the attention of this company by a particular spec ops organization and it was finalized with no further input except for a T&E prototype years before. Once the final production sample showed up and was virtually the same as the prototype, flaws and all, except with a poorly executed illuminated reticle/dot, the die was cast – other vendors were going to be solicited for product. To say there was disappointment in this scope would be an understatement.
All the major scope makers were approached with none being interested in helping except for Schmidt & Bender. I had a S&B scope, knew of their reputation, and had heard they were very responsive to user needs. I also knew they made a hunting scope called a 1.25 – 4 x 20mm flashdot. After meeting with the CEO Hans Bender we decided the best approach was to modify the existing flashdot to suit our needs. A list of specs was draw up by me and presented to Hans. They were:
1.) 1 – 4 x 20
2.) External adjustments in 1/2 moa elevation and windage
3.) BDC cams for 5.56mm green tip, 75 gr Hornady, and 7.62mm M118LR for 16 and 20 inch barrel SR 25′s
4.) Detents between the red dot brightness adjustments to allow the user to turn the dot off between settings
5.) Make the first few brightness settings for NVG use then day light use for the settings after that
6.) Shorten the scope as much as possible
7.) Install the then new Zenith short throw variable power ring
8.) Keep the dot size of the flashdot – approx 5.5 moa
In a little over one month S&B had a prototype ready for me that was approx 80% of the Gen I Short Dot we know today. Additional testing and refinement occurred and approx one year after my initial contact with S&B a contract was let for several hundred Gen I CQB Short Dot scopes as it was now called. The final specs were as above with the following tweaks:
1.) The first 6 settings are for NVG use
2.) An 8 hour automatic battery shut off
3.) A ‘skeletonized’ mil dot reticle which means on 4 power it can be used as a mildot reticle for ranging but on 1.1 power it will virtually disappear allowing the eye to pick up the dot quicker. The downside to this is with no red dot on it can be hard to see on 1.1 power.
The minimum power setting was 1.1 due to the fact that the original flashdot was designed to be a 1.25 power – when you made it a 1 power it actually had a slight ‘ghost’ image (the inside of the tube at the objective end) when your eye got closer than normal for proper eye relief. 1.1 power made this go away with very little to no difference for up close reflex work. Also it is worthy to note that the reticle is in the first focal plane which means it grows in direct proportion to the target; in the real world this means you can mil dot at any power setting. Also it means your zero cannot shift during magnification as the reticle is not moving. I once thought this was critical but with a scope such as this ranging with the mildot reticle can only realistically be achieved at 4 power so I have changed my position on this point of discussion. What has turned out to be the great advantage the Short Dot has over other low powered variable scopes is the fact it is extremely forgiving in the areas of eye relief and eye positioning compared to other magnified optics. This allows it to be used much more like a reflex sight than other scopes. Most users would agree this more than anything separates the Short Dot from any competitors.
The Gen II Short Dot came about when some users complained about accidentally turning the external adjustment knobs during vigorous activities. In hind sight I wish I would have had the Gen I prototype made with a feature S&B offers for their hunting scopes; a low profile windage adjustment cover that houses a spare battery. The external click adjustments would go away but to me they are not a must have and a spare battery would be better. This may have prevented the Gen II development also as the windage adjustment is much more prone to accidental adjustment. Live and learn.
The Gen II Short Dot has only 2 BDC’s – green tip and M118LR. The knobs are larger also. The key difference is they are spring loaded and are locked into position when in the ‘down’ position and in order to adjust them you pull up all the way and adjust – release and they will spring back into the locked position. Very slick.
Mark Cromwell at the 2006 SHOT Show showed me a prototype Short Dot 2; not to be confused with a Gen II version (even though it shares the locking turret design). It is a second focal plane scope so the dot does not grow with the magnification (approx 5.5 moa at 1.1 power and 1.6 moa on 4 power) and a spare battery cap instead of external windage adjustment. In addition it had a German post style reticle (S&B type # 2 with flashdot) for better non red dot use on 1.1 magnification. In also had a 24mm objective instead of a 20mm of the Short Dot 1. Having received one from S&B for T&E, I think overall it is better than the first version. Reticle design remains tricky as the skeletonized reticle of the first version is still better for red dot use but the #2 style reticle of the second version is better without the dot. As of right now the verdict is out whether S&B will make the Short Dot 2 a regular production scope. I hope they will as in many ways it is a product improved Short Dot 1.
Regardless of the model the end result is a low powered variable scope that is without peer on the market today. It is rather large and heavy (particularly compared to an Aimpoint)and is admittedly very expensive but it offers features no other scope has; as far as I know the NVG intensity adjustments, the auto battery shut off and the new Gen II locking turrets are found on no other scope on the market. Another very unique feature that end users like is the intensity adjustments and the ability to turn ‘off’ the dot with one click, and turn the dot ‘on’ to your preferred intensity with one click. Despite the integration of cutting edge technology for a scope, problems have been very few (we all know about man made items) and S&B is very responsive when a problem arises. Amazingly this is being written approx three years after the introduction of the Short Dot and it still has no real competition regardless of price. I am very surprised at this unforeseen development to say the least.
What I find is if someone has the scope on their rifle, they love it; they have committed to it and have decided the features it provides are ones that appeal to them and their needs. If there is a better general purpose tactical rifle optic in the world today I don’t know what it is.
I will close this out plugging Schmidt & Bender and Larue Tactical. I now currently own a total of seven S&B scopes. In my opinion Schmidt & Bender makes the absolute best scopes that money can buy. PERIOD. No scope company is more responsive to user needs and the quality of the optics and execution is superb. They are very simply the finest. They are not cheap but the best never is; you get what you pay for. Experience has taught me there are very few exceptions to that rule; even less than most people think.
Larue Tactical mounts have become the mounts of choice in the tactical carbine market – he was the first on the market with a mount for the S&B short dot and after a couple minor tweaks his mount is THE way to go not only on the short dot but on many other combat optics. I use several Larue products and have been very pleased with their performance.
I hope this article helps clarify the development and thought process behind the excellent Schmidt & Bender Short Dot scopes. Enjoy.