A large serving of cutting-edge tech in the shape of the HIKMICRO Alpex gets Phill Price excited about the future of digital optics
I’ve tested lots of night vision kit, and none of it ever made me put my hand in my pocket and part with the cash to own it. I’ve got by with a lamp for decades and it would take something special to get me excited, so when I saw the HIKMICRO Alpex my interest was aroused.
The first thing we all notice is that it has the same form factor as a normal optical scope, so mounts in the usual way on its 30mm tube. This means that no adaptors or extra parts are needed. Further, it sits at the same height as a normal scope, so the handling of your rifle isn’t negatively affected, which means a great deal. Instinctive gun handling saves time and helps us shoot more accurately.
This is a large, heavy scope, weighing over 1kg, but HIKMICRO makes the point of saying that the greater mass of metal ensures that the image quality will remain stable at any temperature.
The Alpex is also guaranteed to be dustproof and waterproof to a high standard, so we have no worries about taking it out in bad weather.
Importer: Elite Optical Distribution (eliteoptical.co.uk)
Tel: 01803 658369
Model: HIKMICRO Alpex
Type: Day and night digital sight
Extras included: IR illuminator, mount, 2 x 18650 batteries, charger
Perhaps I should mention the name at this point. The Chinese pronounce it more like Hike-Micro, while most British folks seem to be saying Hick-Micro. Either way, I think we’ll be hearing this name for a long time to come. If you’re wondering how I know, HIKMICRO offered me a one-to-one training session online from China, which I gratefully accepted.
The Alpex comes in a very fancy carrying case which protects it in transit, but will serve little purpose once you’ve mounted the scope to your rifle. Inside the case there’s a stack of extras to unpack, including an infrared illuminator (850nm) with a dedicated quick-release mount that looks really slick.
A single CR123A battery that you need to supply sits inside the scope and you get two 18650 batteries and a charger to fit the illuminator. I was stunned to find that the scope will run for 12 hours continuously with a large internal battery backed up by the CR123A offering that much more run time. There’s no excuse for running this one flat while you’re out hunting.
The reason that HIKMICRO stopped including the CR123A battery is that despite the many warnings, customers put the non-rechargeable batteries into the charger and caused problems. So you should either buy a rechargeable one or load non-rechargeable batteries as needed. You have been warned. Please don’t damage your new scope for a lack of understanding.
Although this looks like a conventional scope, inside it’s anything but. It offers a full-colour daylight image allied to night vision, making it truly 24-hour. On top of that, you can shoot video and take pictures to your heart’s content.
The set-up and zeroing process is like nothing else I’ve tried, and it took me a while to get my head around the controls, but once I understood them, progress was swift and easy.
Please don’t think you’re going to unscrew the windage and elevation adjuster caps and get your zeroing done, because this scope doesn’t have any. The top cap uncovers the battery compartment, the right one hides the charging port and the left one is the control for the menus! You see it’s nothing like any other scope you’ve seen before.
Two features are familiar, however, and are instantly used as we normally would. Up front we find a focus ring to get the image nice and sharp, while at the back the dioptre adjuster lets us get our reticle just right.
From there we dip into the comprehensive menu screen where you can have fun selecting the reticle of choice in a range of colours to suit both your eye and the conditions of the day, or for that matter the night.
During the test, I learned that a software update that should be out by the time you read this will have increased the choice of reticles from four to 10. Add the different colours available and you’ll find yourself really spoilt for choice.
Perhaps the most fascinating feature of this scope is the one-shot zeroing system that I’ll try to explain. To begin, you fire one shot at your target card, which should be placed at close range to ensure that it hits the paper. You then select the reticle menu and place your crosshairs back onto your aim point.
From there, select the ‘freeze’ option and the system takes a picture of the target card. You then use the X and Y axes controls to move the reticle to the pellet hole on the paper and save the data. Just like that the scope is zeroed. OK, I did tweak it a little more to satisfy my perfect zero itch, but it really was quick. It’s such a clever system and a real benefit of the digital technology being used here.
The left-hand turret control lets you quickly change all the way from 3.4x to 14x mag, and it feels a little bit funny as it zooms on its own but whatever, it gets the job done. I think this is a really useful range of magnification for the British airgun hunter, so top marks for that choice.
At night I found the image quality truly impressive, delivering clean, crisp detail that made precise aiming perfectly possible, even in deep darkness. The supplied IR illuminator has lots of power and I found that I could turn it down quite a long way and still get a great image.
In fact, I found the full-power setting was too much and running at lower power will extend the battery life while still giving top performance. This scope will be used by people shooting foxes at long range, which explains why the illuminator is so powerful, but at airgun ranges we can easily turn it down and save battery power.
In daylight I found the sight picture totally usable. Unsurprisingly it cannot compare with high-quality glass lens day scopes, but that’s not any drawback. The idea of the Alpex is that you can have one gun/scope combination that can do everything and allow you to transition from day to night with no drawbacks at all.
To build my confidence with the Alpex, I did some night-time target shooting in my garden, and it was time well spent and a very useful exercise. The reticle I chose is bold and clear, but quite fine, which allowed me to shoot pretty much the same group sizes in the dark that I would in the day.
Often, when shooting at night, a bright reticle obscures the target, but not with the Alpex. This seems like another area in which the digital image technology has overcome an old problem with night shooting and is another big plus for this scope. I had huge confidence that I could place my shots precisely if I could get onto some rats.
Oddly, after ringing all my farming friends and some other ones who have horses, not one was complaining of rat troubles. You just can’t find a rat when you need one… The ones that show their whiskers in my garden get dealt with promptly, so I had none to target there either.
I found it simple to download pics and video via a cable to my laptop which made taking them all the more fun. The very same USB cable you use to charge the onboard battery can be plugged into your PC, from where it appears as just another folder you can collect the pictures from. Easy! You can also download a wireless app to remotely view the scope’s image on your smartphone, which is great if you’re hunting with a partner, as they can see exactly what you’re seeing in real time.
A deal to be made
To begin I’ll confess that I found the menus confusing because there was no manual in the box. You need to go online to bit.ly/AGM171Alpex
I think that it’s the way things are now in that the manufacturers don’t want to print the manual because the technology moves on so quickly that by the time it’s printed it’s out of date. By keeping it live online they can update it at any time and in that way we have access to the very latest information at all times. Speaking of support, I was interested to learn that there is full warranty support here in Britain where any repairs can be made, so there’s no need to return any broken products to China.
Looking online, I’ve seen retailers discounting already to around £800, so it seems that there are some deals to be had if you shop around, making the already modest price even more inviting. So in summary, there’s no doubt that this is a very impressive scope and the fact that it lives up to all the promises is delightful.
It does deliver day and night options, and does allow precision shooting because the image quality supports it. It’s just a shame that I haven’t got any rats to try it out on at the moment…
To find your nearest dealer visit eliteoptical.co.uk and look at the map of the UK, which is a quick and simple tool to use.
It’s quite clear that this innovative scope lives up to all the promises, and its remarkably reasonable price makes it even more desirable