Arken Optics has been one of the fastest up-and-coming scope manufacturers in the country for the past couple of years. Their emphasis on accurate tracking and value-packed optics has left a profound impression on enthusiasts of every discipline. Arken also has the advantage of having a great affiliate system that includes smaller partnerships with credible and entertaining YouTube channels like Cyclops Videos and Texas Plinking. A scope that’s still relatively new on the market, the EPL-4 combines a lightweight design with excellent quality glass at a price that’s affordable to the consumer. Today’s review is on the Arken Optics EPL-4 6-24×50 FFP Scope.
The EPL-4 combines a lighter weight with Japanese glass to make one hell of an optic. The Japanese glass claim was confusing as the scope says “Made in China” even when they claim to utilize Japanese glass in the EPL-4. I could see a Chinese assembler using Japanese glass in their optics, but I did find it odd. With this scope, I also received a “30mm Combo Pack” with some cool Arken merch and great add-ons like a throw lever, bubble level, and flip caps.
This is also a great way to get Arken brand rings to mount your scope on, as they’re also included in the combo pack. Since this is all practical enough to stick into one box, everything is going to be under the microscope for this review. Before everything gets mounted and taken to the range, here are my first impressions of the overall package.
This optic was on my desk for a good week and a half before I could test it, and I’ve never looked through a scope that much without it being attached to a rifle. It helps that this is a lightweight optic for its features and magnification range. With a capped windage turret and the weight of this scope being under 25 ounces, this is a true hybrid optic.
The zero-stop system on the Arken was also one that I had never seen before. I loved that it was externally set, so I didn’t have to take off any turret caps or install any more parts. All I had to do was screw in 2 set screws with an Allen wrench and the zero stop was set. In terms of looks, the EPL-4 has the appearance and function of a $1,000 scope at the price point of $440. I hoped that this Arken Optic performed to meet my first impressions.
The rings in the combo pack were perfect and easy to mount the scope on, so we’re just going to skip the mounting part of the review and get straight to the features.
I won’t say anything to spoil my range tests, but for the money, you’re putting in some clear glass at a lighter weight, and that’s pretty impressive. Among those things are the following features:
- Japanese Glass
- 24.7 Ounces (WOW)
- High Magnification Range (6-24x)
- Comes With Sunshade
- Capped Windage Turret
- Illuminated Reticle
- First Focal Plane (FFP)
Companies can always claim the hybrid status of their scopes, but the weight comes into play more than people would think. Keeping a rifle rig under 10 pounds is ideal for hunters who may have to shoot offhand or hike for miles to get to their spot. Keeping this scope under 25 ounces while having first focal plane and illumination is a big deal.
Zero-stops are nice, and Arken’s system is more efficient than others I’ve tested in the past. It’ll be interesting to see how it tests, but if it can provide a solid stopping point for your zero, I’m all for it. No matter what, you must screw in the 2 set screws at some point. If you don’t, the screws can back out while you’re adjusting your turrets. As you can probably guess, I had to learn this the hard way.
The EPL-4 comes with a sunshade, which is one of my favorite features to come with a scope for review. I would prefer, however, to swap out the sunshade for some flip-up lens caps (you’ll see why later). The sunshade is awesome for minimizing mirage from a hot barrel, but in all honesty, it makes your whole setup look so much cooler.
Illumination and FFP capacity are two features that more and more companies are using in their scopes more frequently. If you’re unfamiliar, an FFP is a reticle feature that means your image and reticle will grow and shrink at the same rate when you increase or decrease your magnification. An illumination function is nice for low-light scenarios and will be very important for the hunters to use during dawk or dusk periods.
Speaking of hunting applications, I love that this scope comes with a capped windage turret. I hold for wind when shooting steel, so the windage knob is one of the least used parts of my scopes. For hunters, you can hunt knowing your windage knob won’t be compromised in the case that you bump into something. A capped windage knob paired with a zero-stop elevation turret makes for a great hybrid scope.
Finally, magnification and glass quality are some of the most important features a scope could have. What’s the point of having a 6-24x magnification if you can’t see your target? With Japanese glass, there was a visual difference when compared to my other scopes. And with a 6-24x magnification, I could use the whole range and see targets clearly at 1,000 yards. There were some visual effects seen at that distance like chromatic aberration and image warping close to the edge of the image, but it’s not noticeable under 1,000 yards and even then, it doesn’t take anything from the functionality of the optic.
Tracking & Accuracy
I took a different approach for the tracking and accuracy test this time. Instead of doing a box test, I decided to get my 100-yard zero and then crank the turrets extensively before returning to zero and seeing if the impact had shifted at all. Going crazy on the turrets and seeing if the scope would return to zero seemed like the only other alternative to a regular box test.
After getting zeroed in at 100 I worked the turrets two separate times. Each time, I went to the very top and the very bottom of the adjustment to make sure I gave every chance for this scope to show any inaccuracies. The EPL-4 returned to zero both times with zero issues. My groups were all on the same spot on the steel target I was using. Precision is a big deal for optics like the EPL-4 so I was glad to see the results were perfect and without compromise.
The last thing worth noting before moving on to the durability test was the zero-stop function. While I was setting the set screws after the tracking test, I noticed that there isn’t a solid stop when you screw in the set screws. This is where you have to be very careful about how tight you screw in your set screw. When working the elevation turret, I could feel the zero stop partially engage a few clicks earlier than where I set the zero stop. The easiest way of explaining this is that the stopping point in the zero stop was mushy, and it felt like it was engaging too early when getting down to my zero mark. With this in mind, I tested the tracking and accuracy and was ready to move on to the durability test.
It’s mentioned in other articles, but if my optics come with flip-up lens caps, I drop them onto concrete with the lens caps on to represent an accurate scenario. Arken sends their scope with rubber bikini lens covers, so if you want actual flip caps, you’ll have to purchase those separately.
That being said, I dropped the Arken onto concrete without any lens covers at all. If you think about it, a bikini lens cover would be tough to get off in the heat of the moment while you’re hunting. In the case you only have moments, flip caps are much faster than taking off a bikini lens cap. Most hunters would probably hike in and hike out with the bikini cover off if they don’t have conventional flip caps. This was the thinking that led to me dropping the scope onto concrete with no lens protection.
I always drop the scope on the elevation turret. If a scope is mounted to a rifle, then the underbelly of the scope should never be the point of contact with the concrete. That being said, the drop did a number on the EPL-4. I took off the sunshade for the drop, and it looked like I dented the objective lens inwards, keeping me from using the sunshade anymore. The concrete also did a number on the eyepiece, though it did not compromise the functioning of the scope. This is why you put flip-up lens covers on your optics. It’s because of these results that I would consider the combo pack from Arken a worthwhile investment as I’m not an avid fan of the bikini-style covers.
So did the EPL-4 pass the durability test? It scarred all the metal well, but at the end of the day, it didn’t impact the overall function of the scope. I’d give it a passing grade, but with a strong recommendation that you try not to drop the scope onto concrete without some sort of lens cover.
Pros & Cons
I can tell there’s quality glass used for this optic. For other scopes in the price range, I honestly can’t believe they fit this quality of glass in the body and kept the price down under $500. Glass quality is at the top of the list, but here’s the rest of what I’ve found to be positives for the EPL-4:
- Very clear for the price point
- Can get a Combo Kit for rings and other equipment
- Very audible turret clicks
- Insanely lightweight for its class
- Usable and not-busy reticle
The value from the combo pack and the scope are pretty evident. The turrets are easy to work, they’re audible, and all the lines even match up. Even if you don’t want the merch that comes with the combo kit, you need to add either flip caps, rings, or the throw lever to your cart before you buy. It’s nice that Arken gives these features as a kit to add to your cart, but I would almost prefer the option to buy everything in one box as one product.
Additionally, this scope is extremely user-friendly. The reticle is simple and doesn’t take up much space and the light weight means you can put this on any rifle you want. And with the glass clarity, you’d be able to burn down anything out to 1,000 yards and beyond. There will be a point where the image goes blurry, but speaking from experience, you won’t run into that until you’re past 1,000 yards.
Now we can talk about the list of cons that came with the Arken.
- Low magnification is only 6x
- Reticle illumination has a smaller coverage
- Terrible eye box space
Normally when an optic has illumination, the part it covers is the entire reticle. On the EPL-4, only the middle dot and the first MIL are illuminated. This is fine if you’re not going to use any of the reticle holdovers, but if you are, you won’t be able to use the illumination past 1 MIL worth of holdovers. If I had to guess, Arken probably had to limit the capacity of the illumination to keep the weight so low. The two features that usually add the most weight are illumination and being a first focal plane, so I can see why they limited the illumination since this scope has both of those features.
Being from Missouri, most of the deer shot down there are within 200 yards. I would wager that most are taken at double-digit distances. For a scope that has a low power of 6x, I would be concerned about things like shot follow-through and keeping your target in the scope at distances under 100 yards. If I’m picking an optic solely for hunting, I would prefer something in the 3-18 range so I have a 3x magnification to fall back on if a deer comes out at 25 yards. The 6x magnification shouldn’t be a big deal though, it’s just something to consider.
Finally, my biggest heartbreak with this scope is the eye box. For those that don’t know, the eye box is where your eye has to be to see the full image coming through the glass. If you’re too close or too far away from the eyepiece, you start to see a black ring that keeps you from seeing the entire picture. Normally, manufacturers give you an average of 3-6 inches depending on what magnification you’re on to get into the sweet spot of being able to see everything. For the Arken, there are probably one and a half inches or less no matter what magnification you’re on for you to see everything clearly. This is a very narrow window that can be annoying when mounting the scope. I’ll be able to live with this when shooting steel, and I may be able to get through a hunting season or two with it, but I can see this being a big nuisance in the future.
I will most likely end up putting this onto a rig that I shoot both steel and animals with. I see no issue with using this as a long-distance steel-shooting scope due to the glass clarity but I do have some reserved thoughts about using it in hunting applications. If my ability to ethically shoot an animal relies on my ability to be in the eye box of this scope, I would have to practice a lot with it because there is very little room for error.
Training is the key to an optic like the EPL-4. This optic will spend most of its time shooting steel plates at distance until I can gain the proficiency and comfort of getting my eye into the right spot. Once I do that, there’s no doubt that the clear glass and accuracy in adjustments will take care of what I need the rig to do.
Overall, this scope could be very useful in competitions that require shooting at longer distances. Anything that’s steel or paper I would use this scope immediately. While I do have optics that are more toward the hunting side of things, I could use the EPL-4 and come back with an animal if the need arose. You wouldn’t be wrong if you wanted to buy the EPL-4 for a do-all optic. As long as you put in the training to use the scope to its full ability, there wouldn’t be any issues with using this scope in most shooting applications.
Cost vs. Value
To purchase this optic, you would have to dish out $440. With the combo pack, you’re looking at another $237 which includes rings, a bubble level, a rear bag, flip caps, a hat, a shirt, a patch, and a couple of stickers. If you price out all the items individually, you’re only getting a patch and a sticker for free if you go with the combo pack. So for $677, you get some cool Arken merch, an Arken optic, and the ability to mount it on your rifle. If I just had the optic and wasn’t told how much it cost, I would have guessed that it was a $650 scope without anything from the combo pack.
At the total price of $677, you’re getting a really good deal on some Japanese glass and an accurate optic. If you want to reduce the overall cost in your cart, you can take out the combo pack, add the flip caps and rings individually or any other items you specifically want, and save money by not buying the merch that’s included in the combo pack. Whichever way you cut it, I wouldn’t blink twice in purchasing the EPL-4 for almost any and every shooting discipline that requires a high-magnification scope.
I’ll be keeping up with Arken in the future. Not limited to the EPL-4, but Arken’s website seems to have some great-looking optics at prices that don’t break the bank.
If you need a lightweight optic for whatever reason, Arken needs to be on your list as a potential solution. The eye box is the worst part about the scope, but if that’s the worst part about the EPL-4 I would still consider it a fantastic bang for your buck. It’s such an easy-to-use platform that doesn’t require taking off any turret caps or any busy reticles to use it to its full ability.
It was easy enough to get on target at 1,000 yards and while I could see the image start to get blurry at that distance, there isn’t much I’m shooting past 1,000, so this optic works perfectly for me. That also means it would work fantastic for any hunters taking shots at ethical distances. If you’re hunting for a company that holds value in their products, take a look at Arken Optics and see what kind of scopes they have for your applications.
Growing up, Buck was taught about firearm history and appraisal. Getting to know so many different firearm platforms eventually lead to his long-distance shooting exploration. While his main hunting past time is coyotes, he still find just as much satisfaction punching steel at distance. Every shot taken is with the purpose to become a better shooter.