Low power variable magnification scopes are the rage on ARs and other general-purpose utility type rifles these days. This makes a lot of sense because a compact variable provides a nice blend of flexibility and performance.
They can be dialed down to 1x for lightning fast work close in or dialed up for observing and making a precise shot at longer distances. While the 1-4x remains the standard, engineers—through a great deal of sweat and toil—have steadily increased the magnification range to 1-6x, 1-8x and even 1-10x.
While more seems better, I believe a 1-6x provides the best combination of size, weight and performance for general use. With that in mind, I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the best of the breed, the Kahles 1-6x24mm K16i.
I suppose what attracted me to the Kahles K16i are the features it offers, as well as those that it does not. The Kahles K16i is a practical design meant for hard use by serious rifleman. It has a host of useful features a rifleman will appreciate.
It is also devoid of clutter, bells, whistles and excess weight. The little things add up to separate the good from the great. Kahles understands that. While the K16i may be simple in form, it punches far above its weight.
Before I jump into the K16i’s features and specifications, let’s consider why a 1-6x variable is desirable on a general-purpose or utility rifle. Traditionally, military scopes, both fighting and precision, were fixed power. The reasons for this are pretty simple.
Fixed power scopes tend to be more robust, easier to make water and fog proof, have fewer lenses (so theoretically can be brighter than an identical variable power model) and tend to be less expensive. The downside to a fixed power scope is its lack of flexibility.
With a variable magnification scope, you can power down to increase field of view and/or to enlarge the exit pupil to brighten the image. Or you can increase the magnification to take a look at something at distance.
With recent improvements in design and manufacture, variable power scopes can be robust enough for serious professional and military use. I feel the days of a fixed power scope on a precision rifle have come to a very definite end.
On a carbine, the case can still be made for a rugged fixed power scope. Something bombproof in the 3-4x range is preferable. To optimize performance, however, fixed power scopes are typically teamed with compact red dot sights.
This provides the rifleman with both a magified optic for distant shots and an unmagnified reflex sight for rapid shots at close range. The drawback to this system though includes the need for two optics and having to change/adjust your hold depending upon which optic you are using.
Some don’t mind a two optic system while others do. With a compact variable power scope, such as the K16i, you get everything a fixed 4x and red dot combo offer and then some.
You can dial it down to 1x and shoot with its daylight illumination like you would with a reflex sight, Plus, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x or 6x is just a flick of the wrist. Better still your cheekweld and hold on the rifle remains consistent. I like that.
Concerning magnification, you need relatively little to shoot effectively. On full-size silhouettes in good light, 4x does well at 500+ yards, 6x at 700+ yards and 1Ox works well at 1,000 yards.
Low profile capped finger adjustable turrets provide .1 Mil of adjustment per audible and tactile click. Note the elevation turret cover stores a spare battery.
Keep in mind that it’s one thing to hit a white LaRue on a Known Distance Range at 500 yards with a 4x scope. It’s another to locate and identify a target that doesn’t want to be seen at the same distance in the field. Higher magnification is a useful aid for locating and identifying targets.
In this case I do feel 6x is a valuable step up from 4x. Kahles introduced their 1-6x24mm K16i in late 2012, meaning this is not a brand new design. Over the past few years, it has proven to be both rugged and reliable.
You’ll note it lacks the superfluous eye-candy of many optics developed for the commercial market. There are no huge finger adjustable turrets, it’s not built on a 34 or 40mm tube, there are no buttons to be seen and it’s not stupidly heavy.
Rather, the Kahles K16i is a utilitarian looking piece developed to put bullets on target in field conditions. It was designed to be: robust, simple to operate and versatile. It very clearly shows where the future lies for magnified optical gunsights.
Kahles made its name building riflescopes and stands as the oldest manufacturer of scopes in existence. They have been producing riflescopes since 1898. Not only that, but they have been building true military-grade optics longer than the majority of their competitors have been in existence.
Kahles was “in the garden” at the very genesis of modern sniping. As such, much is expected of a modern Kahles optic. The K16i was designed to follow in those footsteps, and it does not let the family name down.
A pronounced cattail and very smooth rotation allows the rifleman to quickly zoom from 1 x to 6x and back again.
Pulling the K16i from its distinctive white, blue and gold box you’ll note the body is robust, machined from a forged alloy and handsomely finished. The body features a tube diameter of 30mm, which I prefer.
Many companies offer 34mm tubes on comparable sights, but I don’t care for them. Larger tubes typically add bulk and weight, which is the opposite of what I want on a modern sporting rifle. I don’t think a huge tube is needed or desirble in this specific application.
Size wise the K16i is 10.9 inches in length and it tips the scales at just 16.9 ounces. I have to say I was bit surprised at how light it is considering it is a 1-6x and not a run of the mill 1-4x.
You’ll note the Kahles K16i features a 24mm objective which provides an exit pupil running from 24 to 4mm. Dial the magnification to 4x and you have the textbook 6mm exit pupil. The 24mm objective lens diameter keeps the optic compact yet provides excellent performance.
Bring the optic up and you’ll note it has 3.7 inches of eye relief. I feel this is a good balance. It’s neither too long nor too short. At the ocular, you’ll note a fast focus diopter eyepiece. This provides correction from +2/-3.5 dpt and ensures a clear crisp image.
Rather than large and easy-to-rotate “commando” turrets, the K16i is fitted with low profile capped turrets. This keeps the turrets protected from the elements and abuse by sealed caps. With the caps removed, you have very nice low profile finger adjustable turrets.
These provide precise tactile and audible clicks. Each click provides .1 Mil of adjustment at 100 meters. These allow the optic to be easily zeroed and then the caps are screwed back on and left in place. Once zeroed, ballistic corrections are made using the Kahles K16i reticle, not a spinning turret.
The K16i features an impressive illumination system for the reticle, which is plainly visible in bright sunlight. Power is provided by a common CR2032 3-volt lithium battery.
One nice feature I appreciated is that no special tool or screwdriver is required for resetting the turrets to zero. All that’s needed is a cartridge case or coin. Better still, the elevation cap neatly stores a spare battery. A conventional rheostat knob is located on the left side of the mechanism block.
This has a distinct “off” position, and then rotating it clockwise increases the intensity of the reticle. Power is provided by a standard CR2032 3-volt lithium button battery. These are readily available, reliable and inexpensive. The Kahles K16i reticle is daylight bright when turned up.
It was clearly visible on a bright sunny day viewing my old white F-150 pickup. It was easy to see even on a bright white background. Nice. At the same time, it smoothly adjusts down for use in low light conditions.
The magnification ring also adjusts very cleanly with little effort. I particularly like how Kahles has designed it with a prominent “cattail” for quick manipulation. It rotates 180 degrees from 3 to 9 o’clock.
The cattail walks the fine line between being too long and snagging on things and being too short and difficult to manipulate in a hurry. It’s just big enough to be very fast, but not annoyingly big.
This allows a rifleman to quickly snap the scope from 6x to 1x and back, even when wearing gloves, Kahles offers three different reticles in the K16i and the one I tested was their SI1 which is delineated in MOA.
Located in the Second or Rear Focal Plane it consists of tapered horizontal stadia to prevent cant, a large outer and small inner segmented circle and a center aiming dot. Below the center aiming dot is another dot, a small chevron and then a large chevron sitting on top of a segmented vertical stadia.
When set on 6x the Kahles K16i large outer segmented circle is 18 inches in diameter at 100 yards, the small inner segmented circle is 18 inches at 200 yards and the center aiming dot is 1 MOA in diameter.
The distance from the center aiming dot to the lower dot is 5 MOA with another 5 MOA to the small chevron and another 5 MOA to the large chevron and the vertical stadia is delineated in 5 MOA segments for a total of 50 MOA.
The reticle is designed to allow a rifleman to quickly apply holdover without getting lost. In use it is very fast up close on 1x where the large illuminated circle stands out. Snap it to 6x and it provides both precision and ballistic compensation.
Optical performance? Excellent! The first thing you will notice is the color rendition is accurate. It’s not slighty cold or slightly warm, but looks spot on. The field of view is very wide, especially on 1x.
It runs from 20.1 feet at 6x to a whopping 126.9 feet at 100 yards. It is noticeably wider than Leupold’s Mk6 1-6x20mm for example although not quite as wide as ELCAN’s Specter DR 1x/4x32mm.
The most common response heard when someone first looked through it was, “Holy crap that’s a wide field of view!” Resolution is very good for a scope with a 24mm objective and better than the Specter DR The eye box is also very forgiving.
Low light performance, despite the small 24mm objective, is also very good, especially at 4x. For all practical purposes this scope’s optical performance is very impressive. The Kahles K16i mechanical performance during testing was flawless with zero issues.
It adjusted consistently and zeroed without issue. Performance on the range was excellent from 3 yards to 600 yards. It’s very quick when engaging close-range targets yet gives nothing up at distance.
K16i sports a very wide field of view, impressive optical performance, reliable mechanical design and a practical reticle design.
The wide field of view, generous 3.7-inch eye relief and forgiving eye box all contribute to its performance. Running drills inside 50 yards with it set on 1x gave excellent results. Targets were acquired quickly and engaged easily.
Running from 2x to 4x worked well from 50 to 200 yards. Switching to 6x provided consistent hits from 200 to 600 yards using the reticle for ballistic compensation. I found the reticle to be very user friendly and the optic is built like an anvil.
Without a doubt it’s an impressive optical instrument. During testing I noted at longer ranges the K16i’s 6x top end easily trumps the traditional 4x. It provides a very real advantage over lower magnification optics.
While the Kahles K16i six-fold magnification increase design offers a definite advantage compared to the traditional four-fold, it is also less complex, troublesome and lighter than wider systems, such as a 1-8x or 1-10x.
The downside to scopes with very wide magnification ranges is the reticle system. If the reticle is located in the rear focal plane then it greatly diminishes its usefulness for ballistic corrections at anything but the highest magnification setting.
If the reticle is located in the front focal plane it becomes so small it becomes hard to use at 1x. Kahles made the decision to go with a reticle located in the rear focal plane.
This ensures you have a large and easy-to-see reticle at 1x for shooting at speed. Then if you need to use the reticle for ballistic compensation shooting at distance you crank it to 6x.
If you are shooting at a magnification less than 6x, you need to be aware that the dimensions the reticle subtends will change as you decrease magnification. For some, a rear focal plane reticle is no good as they want to be able to use the reticle at any magnification.
On a 1-8x or greater magnification scope, I would agree. On a 1-6x, the magnification range isn’t so wide that I feel a front focal plane reticle is a must on the calibers I shoot.
THREE KAHLES FIRSTS
- 1904:Kahles introduces the first riflescope with adjustable ballistic drop compensation.
- 1960:Kahles introduces the first waterproof scope using O-rings.
- 1972:Kahles introduces the first multi-coated riflescope in series production.
Inside 300 yards with a 5.56x45mm, 6.5mm Grendel or 7.62x51mm NATO, holdover isn’t a huge deal to me. I can eyeball it no matter what magnification I’m on. At 300 yards and beyond I’m likely just spinning it straight to 6x anyways.
More important to me personally is a large and easy- Objective Lens Performance on the range was excellent from 3 yards to-see even if the battery is dead. On some scopes with front focal plane reticles, they have brightly illuminated aiming points that are easy to see.
However, if the illumination is off or the battery is dead, the non-illuminated reticle is very hard just to see, especially in low light, never the less to pickup at speed.
Is the K16i perfect? No, of course not. An optical sight, by its very definition is a balancing act of compromises. Some will wish it was shorter, others that it is lighter and while Kahles could do that, optical performance would suffer.
Some will gnash their teeth on the Kahles K16i rear focal plane reticle. While I fully understand their argument, I don’t think it holds water for the vast majority of shooters. Someone will raise their hand and say it’s too bloody expensive.
I will agree, with a MSRP of $2,250 it is expensive. Some readers just choked reading that last sentence, For the majority of blue-collar workers with families to support and bills to pay, the K16i is a bridge too far.
If you can pay the entry fee, the Kahles 1-6x24mm K16i is a wonderful instrument. It is not very often any more than I come across an optic that really strikes my fancy, but this one did.
|Kahles 1-6x24mm K16i Specifications|
|Magnification||1 x to 6x|
|Objective Lens Diameter||24mm|
|Field of View||126.9 to 20.1 feet at 100 yards|
|Eye Relief||3.7 inches|
|Exit Pupil||24 to 4mm|
|Adjustments||1 Mil at 100 meters|
|Adjustment Range||6.6 feet|
|Recticle Types||SM1, SI1, G4B|
|Power Source||CR2032 3v Lithium battery|
|Battery Life||Approx 500+ hours on medium setting, 700 hours at setting 4 with Lithium battery|