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ELCAN OS4x: Canada's ACOG nemesis.


ELCAN can best be described as the other guys. This is simply because the company isn't known as well as, say, Trijicon in the U.S. ELCAN is to Trijicon as Apple is to Android, Omega is to Rolex or print is to digital media. Just as Trijicon's famous ACOG has been widely adopted by the U.S. and other militaries, so have various ELCAN optical sights. ELCAN sights are standard issue with not only the Canadian and British Armies, but also with the U.S. In 1999, the United States adopted a modified ELCAN sight, the Ml45, for use on M240 and M249 machine guns. ELCAN continued R&D work and developed another design; the SpecterDR lx/4x sight, which was subsequently adopted and is currently fielded by U.S. Special Operations. Yes, that's right; a Canadian scope is fielded by U.S. Special Operations.

If you are unfamiliar with it the name ELCAN is an acronym for Ernst Leitz Canada, the founder of the company. One of Germany's premium optical houses, Leitz entered the North American market in 1952 and within two years was producing military optics for the Canadian Government. In the 1970s ELCAN began development of a 3.5x optical sight intended for general issue on combat rifles. Adopted by the Canadian Army in 1991, this beefy roof prism design put ELCAN on the map. Military sales to the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, UAE, Kuwait, Brunei and others soon followed. It was this early model optic which was modified to become the US Army's M145.


While the ELCAN 3.5x optical sight was interesting when it was introduced, it is a bit of a heavy clunker today. It's big, beefy and stands out from the crowd due to its external adjustments. ELCAN's research and development eventually led to a new, and much more interesting optical sight, the SpecterOS4x. It's is available commercially here in the U,S. through Armament Technology, Inc. of Nova Scotia which is the Master Distributor of Raytheon ELCAN Optical Technologies. Armament Technology, Inc.'s history reaches back to when it was founded in October 1988. The vision for this company was a simple one, to bring better products to long range shooters. Over time they developed a relationship with ELCAN and soon became the primary supplier to the Canadian Armed Forces and a reliable supplier to US and NATO forces through his distribution network.

Of interest to our story is when Armament Technology became a supplier to the British Army. The Brits wanted a modern, rugged, fixed-magnification sight with 4x magnification. The new optic was intended to be a replacement for their older SUSAT sight. After extensive testing they selected Raytheon ELCAN Optical Technologies'SpecterOS4x to be their next standard issue combat rifle optical sight. They are currently being fielded on 5.56x45mm L85A2 rifles.

While ELCAN's SpecterOS4x is almost unknown here in the U.S., Armament Technology is currently offering it to American shooters and collectors. This is a stroke of luck as the SpecterOS4x is an interesting and tough optical sight that is sure to appeal to many. The simpler SpecterOS4x may lack the sex appeal of the dual magnification 1x/4x SpecterDR, but it is impressive in its own right. A fixed 4x design, the SpecterOS4x is very businesslike in appearance. One glance will tell you it's not simply a dressed up hunting scope. Rather, it is a modern purpose-built military sight in regard to its appearance, design, features and performance. It was specifically designed not only to survive but thrive in an abusive military environment.

Optically the SpecterOS4x sports a 32mm objective lens which generates a large 7.8mm exit pupil. Field of view is quite wide at 6.5 degrees yet the eye relief is still a healthy 2.75 inches. Adjustments are in .5 MOA clicks and a cartridge case is all that's required to zero the optic. Once zeroed, ballistic corrections are made using an illuminated etched glass Bullet Drop Compensating reticle. There are two reticles options with this model. The C1 features a central crosshair with BDC marks and a choke-style rangefinder. The A1 has a chevron with Mil marks on the left and right horizontal stadia with BDC marks on the vertical stadia. Both enable the rifleman to range a shoulder width target and provide bullet drop compensation out to 800 meters.

Both of these reticles are calibrated to match the trajectory of 5.56x45mm 62-grain M855/C77 ball ammunition fired from a 16-inch barrel. This allows them to be utilized with either a rifle or carbine. The shooter can also choose to illuminate the center of (he reticle (for CQB) or the entire reticle (for lowlight). Reticle intensity is bright enough for use in sunlight yet is also night vision compatible. Power is provided by a common DL 1/3N 3-volt battery and runtime is a minimum of 600 hours on the highest intensity. If required, a short 1913 rail for a micro red dot sight may be piggybacked on top of the sight! Compact at only 6 inches long, it weighs 18 ounces. Keep in mind the weight includes the integral mount.


A trademark of ELCAN optical sights is their integral base with external adjustments. This enhances the integrity of the tube and aids in preventing the ingress of moisture. Compared to previous ELCAN designs, the SpecterOS4x features an improved system regarding adjustments and zero retention. The base is designed to mount onto a standard 1913 rail and features A.R.M.S. QD side-levers for easy mounting/removal. Plus, durability has been enhanced through the use of an improved alloy.

I began by testing its optical performance. Here I noted its color rendition appeared accurate being neither warm nor cold. Resolution was quite good. I could clearly read a street sign 200 yards distant. Plus, resolution didn't appear to change from the center of the image to the edges in either the vertical or horizontal plane. During testing I detected neither barrel nor pin cushion distortion. I also noted no internal reflections from piercing counter-light. The ocular lens is noticeably larger than that mounted on a 4x32mm ACOG, and it provides a nice, big image. The eyebox is also fairly forgiving to head placement. However, its FOV is slightly narrower than a 4x32mm ACGG. All in all, optical performance was very good.



Next, it was time to see how the SpecterOS4x held up to a bit of abuse. I began by submerging the OS4x in 18 inches of water for 12 hours. There were no leaks, so I subjected it to a steam bath for 30 minutes. Again it passed this without issue. So I placed it, still wet, into a freezer for 10 hours. I then removed it and exposed it to another 30 minute steam bath. No issues were encountered.

Following this I zeroed it on a 5.56x45mm AR and then fired a 10-shot group removing and reinstalling it between each shot. Any shift in impact was within the capabilities of this rifle/ammunition combination. Impressed, I moved to my range and put the SpecterOS4x to work engaging steel silhouettes from 200 to 550 yards. Here the Canadian sight performed well providing rapid hits all the way out to 550 yards. I will say that I liked the C1 reticle and found it very easy to use. I actually prefer it to Trijicon's similar design. Next I ran it through a variety of drills engaging Action Target B-27 silhouettes from 5 to 70 yards. Although slower than a lx magnification red dot, the OS4x performed well. I next tested it by putting it to work in low light conditions. Performance here was very good but not exceptional. As this was a long term test, I also tried it on a variety of platforms in a variety of calibers. No issues were encountered.

Throughout testing the illuminated reticle performed well. With a fiber optic/tritium illuminated ACOG you have the advantage of not needing batteries. However in bright sunlight the reticle is often too bright requiring part of the fiber optic to be covered, such as with tape. In certain low light conditions, when using a white light for example, the ACOG's Tritium reticle is not always bright enough. Another thing to consider is tritium has a useful life of about 10 years or so. After that an ACOG needs to be sent in to have it replaced. With the OS4x battery-powered system, you can easily adjust the reticle intensity for use in bright light or with a white light. Plus, you can illuminate the entire reticle for use during low light conditions or with a night vision device. The down side is the OS4x requires a battery, which is not the optimal solution in extreme cold conditions. Both systems have pros and cons. Which is the better solution is a question only you can answer given your individual needs. Personally, I prefer a battery-powered illumination system. With a battery-powered system, I set it for what my particular needs might be.

While my review sample is not so equipped, a small mount for piggy-backing a micro red dot sight can be added. Installation is simple, the body has two threaded holes specifically for this purpose and mounts are readily available through Armament Technology. Personally I like the option of having a micro red dot sight piggybacked and available for instant use. The optic is also designed to clear most folded back-up iron sights.

I liked ELCAN's OS4x. While not perfect, it is a tough military-grade optical sight with some excellent qualities. It's compact, packed with features, yet priced in line with its competition. Pricing is competitive with the ACOG, and the OS4x is available directly through Armament Technology Incorporated. Unlike many companies offering military grade optics, they welcome working with individuals and local dealers. Better still, they back up their product with excellent customer service.


Armament Technology Incorporated


Magnification:          4x
Field Of View:          6.5 degrees
Entrance Pupil          32mm
Exit Pupil              8mm
Eye Relief:             70mm
Reticle:                Crosshair or Chevron with
                        BDC compensation
Illumination:           Daytime visible,
                        NVD compatible
Power Source:           3 volt Lithium DL 1/3N
Battery life:           3,000 average claimed
Adjustments:            External, .5 MOA
Elevation Adjustment    120 MOA
Windage Adjustment      120 MOA
Ballistic               200-800m
Overall Length:         6 inches
Weight:                 18 ounces
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Author:Fortier, David M.
Publication:Firearms News
Date:Apr 20, 2016
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