The Hermes 1 Spotting scope
Part I

22 October 2000
By Scott Powers

Spotting scopes are often one of the most overlooked and under-researched pieces of gear available to the shooter. The average man on the street has little idea of how useful a device the spotter is and will often forego owning one at all. Many hunters, if the urge hits, will simply buy the cheapest, least effective unit on the market in the hopes that they can cheat their way into seeing at long range. This often results in the purchase of one of those $45.00 Russian spotting scopes that are at best, usable and at worst, a boat anchor. Other low dollar alternatives have included equally poor offerings from Bushnell and Tasco. These scopes, to be blunt, suck. They are not worth the cardboard they are packed in. As in everything dealing with optics, you do get what you pay for and spotting scopes are a perfect example. Low dollar units perform exactly how you would expect. Poorly.

Investing in a spotting scope is not something to take lightly. If you are a trophy hunter who travels to distant places, you want the best you can afford because you will spend hours behind this thing, glassing potential game for quality and size. If you are a benchrest shooter, hand loader, target shooter or competitive marksman, the spotting scope becomes one of your most important tools. It is indispensable. It gives you instant feedback on wind corrections and characteristics and mirage, group dispersion, group size, and overall conditions at the target - as they change! Without a quality spotting scope, a high power shooter is at the mercy of the wind. As a tactical shooter, you know what a good spotter can do for you. Not only will it assist you in your wind calls, it is a must for target identification, intelligence gathering, low light observation, detail enhancement, identifying useful information ranging from hide selection, object identification, counter-sniper interdiction and identification, and good old fashion observation of terrain. Without a spotting scope you may never close in, visually, on that binocular target that may just be what you were looking for. A spotting scope is not only a must for calling long range shots, it can save you an immense amount of work, allowing you to get "close" to a target without ever having to leave the hide or move up to a dangerous physical distance to I.D. something.

For any of the above tasks, a low dollar, poor optical quality telescopic sight is more of a hindrance than help. Poor resolution and contrast plague bargain optics. Your $100 would have been better spent on a lobotomy because once you spend a few hours in the field with one of these things, that is what you wish you will have had. Only high quality optics will allow you to observe for any length of time without headaches and eyestrain. There is no getting around it. Do not cheat yourself where optics is concerned. Good money spent on good glass is always a good investment. Good money spent on bad glass... well... live and learn. I am still asked questions on a "good" $100 sniper scope. My first reaction is to reach through the email and smack the living snot out of the idiot on the other end. If you can't afford to buy something decent, save up till you can. If you are too cheap? Screw you.

Into this market steps IOR-Valdada. Long known for their excellent optical quality, IOR has stormed onto the American scene by selling high-end glass at mid range prices. They do this by taking advantage of the many top-end European glass manufacturers who, with the end of the Soviet Empire, have gone commercial to stay afloat. This has allowed Valdada, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to simply request a product with a certain specification and within a reasonable time, have that product on the market. They started with excellent quality binoculars and have since added tactical scopes, hunting scopes, high quality scope mounting systems and now a spotting scope.

IOR-Valdada's latest introduction is the Hermes 1 -a 70mm Spotting scope. Its goal was to compete with Kowa, Swarovski, Leupold, and other high-end brands, but at a price that a serious shooter on a budget could afford. By all counts they seem to have succeeded. A quick glance at a competition shooting supply catalog will prove the point. In the 80mm objective range, a Swarovski AT-80, without eyepiece, will run you $990 and an extra $250 for an ocular. The excellent Kowa TSN-821 without eyepiece, will set you back $465 plus another $136 for the eyepiece. Dropping down to one of my all time favorites, the versatile Kowa TS-611, with a 60mm objective - this will run you $310 sans eyepiece which will cost you an additional $136. By way of comparison, the Hermes 1, with a 70mm objective comes with your choice of either a 16x, 25x or a 40x fixed eyepiece. It retails for $599 but can be had for as little as $475. For those needing the versatility of a variable, it is now available with a 16-40x variable eyepiece for an additional $80 to $100.

Do not let this mid-range price fool you. This is no cheap commy rip-off. In recent and ongoing tests, the Hermes 1 has ranked equal to some of the best glass Europe and America has to offer. The Hermes has exceptional anti-reflection multi-coatings on all its optical surfaces. Its interior is a matt black/gray to further reduce glare. The four-element eyepiece is said to be of the apochromatic type which should help reduce incorrect color halos around bright nighttime objects (I have not yet been able to test this). The Scope itself is of the achromatic type. In side-by-side testing with my Kowa TS-611 equipped with a 25x LER (long eye relief eyepiece), the Hermes 1 easily equaled the Kowa's performance. The only noticeable difference was in the eyepieces themselves. The Hermes 1's 25x Wide Angle ocular, when viewed with the eye up close to the lens, provided a wider field of view than the Kowa 25x LER, by maybe 5 feet at 100 yards. Eyeglass wearers will lose a little of this benefit, but with the roll down eyecup provided they can make it up to some extent. Interestingly, when I backed off both eyepieces to the point where I could just make out the circle of the image area holding my target, both oculars gave similar performance in field of view and clarify, with the Hermes 1 providing a bit more contrast. As a high power competitor, you will not need to crowd the scope to see your target. Just center the bull in the field of view and sit comfortably back to observe your target from four inches away. Eyeglass wearers are free to move back off the lens to view their target also. At approximately four inches from the lens, on either scope, the central target was crisp and clearly visible.

As a second target, I chose a wood board at 150 yards. My goal was to see how much of the grain in the wood was discernible and use that as a way to gauge how the scope performed. I am happy to report that the Hermes 1 excelled at sharply defining the intricate detail of the grain. Contrast was excellent and outperformed the Kowa control unit by a small margin. I did however notice a slight imperfection of the image near the center of the field of view. It is hard to describe as it was practically invisible - nearly on the edge of perception and it did not interfere with the performance of the scope at all. Curious, I looked down the objective. I believe it was the crest of the internal prism that I was seeing. But it was there on the edge of perception so it is hard to say. When looking down the objective and into the scope body, you can clearly see the prism used to angle the image 45 degrees off the centerline of the scope body. The forward edge appeared to have a small chip in it where the two surfaces meet. I believe it was this chip that I was "seeing". It was so minor that I cannot really complain about it and it did not effect my usage of the scope at all, but I wanted to point it out so you know what to expect if your scope has a similar trait. The image area was crystal clear right to the edge in all views and distances, but did darken slightly at the very edge. I would rate the field of view and clarity on par with most every high-end spotter I have observed through with a similar sized objective.

The scope body is, I believe, aluminum. Knowing the Eastern European penchant for rock solid equipment, I was not surprised at the apparent strength built into the unit. The scope, with eyepiece attached, weighs in at approximately 40 ounces. It is 12" long with the sunshade retracted and the eyepiece detached. The eyepiece adds an additional 1.5" to the overall length. The integral sunshade extends two inches beyond the forward rim of the objective and totals 2.25" from the edge of the glass. With everything attached and extended, the overall length of the complete unit is 15.5" long. The body is painted in a very nice textured Olive Drag green and has matt black fixtures. The scope can be rotated about its axis via the integral tripod mounting ring, which has a friction lock. The foot of this ring attaches to your tripod via a 1/4" universal threaded hole. A second hole is provided in the foot for an alignment pin as is often found on today's tripod mounting plates. In use, the ring allows you to position the ocular at any angle required! Simply loosen the friction knob and rotate the scope body until the eyepiece is situated for maximum comfort. In a tactical environment, this is ideal as you can turn the scope "upside down" and view the target area with minimal exposure to yourself, or position the scope around a corner without exposing any of your body. The eyepiece is at a 45-degree angle to the scope body, so in effect you have a periscope if you need it! Of course, as many snipers and tactical shooter have learned, you can completely forgo any tripod at all, using a backpack or buttpack for a rest.

The four-element eyepiece is of high quality. Focus is attained by rotating the ocular until sharpness is achieved. The eyepiece drum screw mounts into the scope body. I much prefer this to the bayonet type mount found on my Kowa. While the Hermes 1 is sealed against dew and water, you could add an O-ring to the threads for extra security. On my Kowa, I had to purchase a drum that completely encased the eyepiece to get this kind of water resistance!

In all, the Hermes 1 is a simple, utilitarian spotting scope of excellent clarity. Its image is on par with anything I have tried to date. With its 70mm objective, low light situations will be a snap. In spite of the one imperfection I found due to the prism, this scope performed flawlessly at the range and in the field. Its excellent contrast made determining bullet holes easy and its clarity allowed me to distinguish fine detail at great distances. For the money, the IOR-Valdada offered Hermes 1 is an excellent buy, performing in the same league of spotters easily twice its price. While I have some quality issues with items coming from the east, they are usually minor in detail and seldom effect overall performance, especially when budget is a concern. Were I to have to choose between the Hermes 1 and the similar Kowa TSN-1, both 70mm spotters, I would be hard pressed to decide... that is until I examined the price tag. At under $500, with eyepiece, the Hermes 1 is the hands-down winner.

Apparently you can be thrifty, to a point, and still get quality optical performance. IOR has proven it time and again.

For part 2 of this article, I am sending the Hermes 1 off to PeteR for use in a tactical match. He will present his feelings after this match. My tests were all performed at the range or in the field, but under no pressure. Seeing how Pete has enough to think about in the match, I figured this would be a great way to get a real feel for just how user-friendly this scope may prove to be. If an old coot like Pete can perform well with it, it can't be half bad! Your gear should never require extra special handling or detail. The sign of something good to go for tactical use is how well it performs without you having to think about it. I will stick my neck out and say my guess is that in this case, we have a winner.



Specifications
Eye Piece Magnifications available :
16x, 25x, 40x , var 16-40x
Objective :
70mm
Field of View: 16x :
47m @ 1000 yards
25x :
38m @ 1000 yards
40x :
23m @ 1000 yards
Exit pupil: 16x :
4.3mm
25x :
2.8mm
40x :
1.75mm
Diopter Range :
+/- 5 diopters
Minimum focus distance: 16x :
3.9m
25x :
3.9m
40x :
4.5m
Weight :
390 grams
Length :
310mm
Sun shade :
2.5 inches, retractable
Tripod mount :
Standard 1/4" Thread
Operating Temp :
-15c to +50c
Nitrogen Filled
Water Resistant sealed body



Contact information of suppliers:

Manufacturer: Meopta Prerov, Czech Republic
Importer: IOR-Valdada, Colorado Springs Colorado. 970-879-2983
Discount Dealer: Sniper Country PX


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