Elcan SpecterDR – An Overview

elecan specterDR right sideelecan specterDR right sideelecan specterDR optics

From Ernst Leitz CANada:

“SpecterDR represents a revolution in optical sight design. The world’s first truly dual field of view combat optical sight that combines the best of close and precision fire ranged combat features. SpecterDR switches instantly from 4x magnified sight to a 1x CQB sight at the throw of a lever. Unlike zoom sights, the SpecterDR offers an optimized optical path and identical eye relief in both 4x and 1x modes. Depending on the situation, the user may adjust the sight to illuminate the entire crosshair or just a 1.5 MoA dot in the center. In 1x mode, the SpecterDR has by far the largest field of view in the industry. In 4x mode the SpecterDR offers a generous field of view, long eye relief, and ELCAN’s legendary crystal clear image. Situational awareness in both magnifications is improved with ultra-wide viewing angles and unmatched viewing in low light conditions. SpecterDR is half the weight and twice the capability of carrying two scopes, without compromise to mission effectiveness or reliability.

The SpecterDR offers the best single solution for both CQB and Long Range engagements and is designed to withstand the rigors of modern professional use.”

Animated .gif of the red dot settings.

Elcan Specter Dual Role Optic

I was given the opportunity to borrow an Elcan SpecterDR with a reticle calibrated for the 5.56 NATO 62gr FMJ cartridge.  A model calibrated for 7.62 NATO 147gr FMJ is also available.

elecan specterDR rear flip up sightelecan specterDR mounted on ar15

It uses an AA 1/3, CR-1 3N, DL 1/3N battery; common to the Aimpoint M2 and M3 models.  It’s also a common battery for dog shock collars.  For example, PetSafe’s RFA-188 battery is the same as a CR-1 3N battery only that it’s housed in a plastic button that twists in a collar unit.  I had a difficult time finding replacements, but your experience may differ.  On another note, don’t be too shy to screw on the battery cap by hand.  A lose battery cap will interrupt power to the red dot or reticle illumination.

elecan specterDR rear sight

Handling the Elcan SpecterDR for the first time, I noticed the weight.  There seems to be a consensus about the weight being out of the ordinary.  Weight with the ARMS Lever mount is 650g or 1.3 lbs.  It is a red dot sight with a magnifier in one unit, after all.

elecan specterDR arms mount

There are four methods for targeting:  1X magnification with a 6 MOA illuminated red dot, 4X magnification with an illuminated 1.5 MOA red dot, 4X magnification with an illuminated BDC reticle and iron sights located on top of the SpecterDR.

elecan specterDR reticle

Illumination adjustment is made with a large turn knob on the left side of the unit; counter-clockwise for red dot illumination, clockwise for reticle illumination.  For red dot illumination, there are five settings.  The first two settings are for night vision.  If it’s dark enough, you might be able to see the 2nd setting.  On 3rd, 4th and 5th settings the red dot is crisp, distinct and bright.  As it is for the red dot, the first two settings for the reticle are for night vision.  The reticle on the brightest setting is very clear as well.

The lever on the left side allows the user to switch from 1X to 4X magnification.  For me, it is very easy to find, without any question if the lever is fully seated.  This can be confirmed tactility or visually through the scope.  One will also notice the reticle does not move with the rotation of the magnifier.  I found that even in 1X mode, the perceived image is marginally magnified.

elecan specterDR x1 reticle

The reticle features a BDC designed to be zeroed at 100 meters.  Marks have been made for the BDC at 300m, 400m, 500m and 600m.  The horizontal line at each mark represents 19” on the target at 4X magnification.  Looking through the optic on the left side, one will notice additional lines and marks – the VSOR or Vertical Subtention Optical Rangefinder.  Each hash line is calibrated from the primary horizontal line to measure 30” or 76cm at their respective distance.  I did not have the chance to try it out, but it’s a very cool feature.

At first glance, it appears to be a very durable optic with features that many look for in separate units such as EOTech or Trijicon.  The glass is clear, the reticle is not cluttered with information and magnification adjustment is fast.  With this optic; however, opinions and experience seem to vary.

There appears to be a love/hate relationship with the Elcan SpecterDr; the difference between the two extremes likely varies on their personal use of the optic.  Through research, those who have actually used a SpecterDR often had more positive comments than negative.  Individuals who claim that the SpecterDR has no purpose to justify its’ existence are likely those who are preaching the words of a few who indeed had a bad experience with early Elcan models.  There is a possibility that the degree of abuse their weapon and optic was taking is far more than any reasonable person would place on their lifeline – I believe there is a difference between rugged use of a weapon and neglect.  There’s also the difference between the casual use of civilian users and military personnel.

Reading around, most individuals were critical of the following:

–    ARMS mount with no after market option

–    Zero shifting

–    Cost

Though I’m only a casual shooter with no combat experience, I can at least relate my experience to those are just the same.  I don’t throw my rifle around, but I don’t necessarily baby them either.  At the range, I wanted to preliminarily address the ARMS mount and problems associated with it.

I played around with the SpecterDR and found that it’s a piece of equipment worthy of praise.  It was mounted on a Noveske N4 upper with a 14.5” barrel, pinned with an SEI Vortex flash hider.  In both 1X and 4X magnification, there was little variation in eye relief – if any.  Parallax appeared to be minimal at 1X and 4x.

Adjusting for elevation or windage ½ MoA is easy.  Windage is adjusted by using a coin or screw driver to adjust the screw on the left side.  Elevation is adjusted by unlocking the elevation dial below the main body of the optic, just above the ARMS mount.  Windage clicks are easy to determine; however, I found the tactile feel on the elevation dial were subtle.  After some minor adjustments I was zeroed at 100 yards with .223 Rem. Prvi 69gr BTHP.  I was consistently grouping with no apparent shift – granted it was only 200 rounds.  Surprised so far?  I doubt it.  The Elcan SpecterDR is an excellent optic setup and many individuals seem to agree.  I suppose the primary concern for some folks is the quality of the mount – an ARMS lever mount.

Depending where one looks, animosity for ARMS is very apparent.  ARMS has a reputation not favored by many as a result of broken mounts, law suits, contests, etc.

From what I’ve read, there has yet to be a substantial report of an ARMS mount failing on an Elcan SpecterDR.  Any other failure is usually related to the manufacture of the upper receiver since the ARMS mounts are designed for mil-spec picatinny rails.

The ARMS securely mounted on the Noveske N4 basic upper.  The levers can be secured down with a zip tie, but do not appear necessary.  Pulling the unit off and on did not require a tool either.  Granted, it took some work and my fingers are smaller than most.  On few occasions, I used a spent casing to release the levers, but nothing that required a screwdriver or hammer.

I removed and mounted the unit at least 25 times.  18 of those times I shot five rounds at one 1” Shoot n’ See target.  I removed and mounted the unit in the same spot after each group, looking for zero shift.  Pictured are my final nine strings – only because the first nine were embarrassing (haha).  I was shooting prone with the rifle rested on a bag.  My non-dominant hand was positioned under the stock to maintain rifle elevation.  Nothing fancy.

Looking at the target, I’m under the impression that the Elcan SpecterDR traveled little – if at all.  The target likely displays my shooting capability more than the scopes’ ability to maintain zero.

ARMS mounts do not necessarily have the best reputation.  I will not argue that alternatives do not exist in the market, but these mounts aren’t bad.  There are horror stories associated with ARMS mounts in general, but I have yet to see, or hear convincing evidence that the ARMS mount on the Elcan SpecterDR is an issue.  Perhaps one must mount the optic several hundred times to notice a zero shift?  For the general public, I doubt many will experience this problem.  Below is a video provided by Mike Cecil of CS Tactical.

For others, it comes down to price and it’s absolutely understandable.  It will depend on the intended use and practicality.  Is it necessary to have a red dot and 4x magnification?  Perhaps either a red dot or magnifier isn’t necessary – but not both.   Spending $550 – $1200 is much more appealing than $1700 – $2100 for an Elcan SpecterDr.  Two units to act as one SpecterDR is an option, like an EOTech holographic sight with a L3 magnifier.  Another possibility would be an Aimpoint CompM2 Red Dot with a 3XMag.  Either option is less expensive than one Elcan SpecterDR unit.  It absolutely varies on what is necessary and isn’t.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to deal with the clutter and feel absolutely confident than an Elcan SpecterDR will meet my needs.  I argue that the additional money is worthwhile to maintain the K.I.S.S. doctrine.  Then again, I’m not an operator – I can’t argue against “experience” that has found the Elcan SpecterDR unreliable.  As mentioned earlier, a love/hate opinion for this optic does exist.  It’s absolutely up to you to determine if the Elcan SpecterDR will meet your needs.

I must reiterate though, it’s likely you won’t be disappointed spending hard earned cash in an Elcan SpecterDR.  The optic is superb: bright and clean.  Controls are placed ergonomically and it’s simply rugged!

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Categories: Firearms, Guns


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12 Comments on “Elcan SpecterDR – An Overview”

  1. Shenaniguns
    February 10, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Nice review!!!

  2. Armageddon Rex
    February 10, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    How would you compare the Elcan to the Leupold Mark 4 CQ/T 1-3x scope?

    I know the Leupold is only 1-3x and doesn’t have a ballistic compensated reticle, but it’s also less than half the cost, and most everyone who have used them I’ve spoken with have praised the absolute reliability.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

    • February 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

      If I get the opportunity to hold one and evaluate it, I’ll be able to relate my experience to you. For now, I’m as uncertain as you are =)

  3. David
    February 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    I played with one a bit at SHOT and I was impressed. I was imagining and end to my rail clutter with 3X magnifiers on my Aimpoints, etc. and then he told me the MSRP.


    That was the end of that.

  4. Murph
    March 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    I am in the military and have used the elcan specterDR in combat and on my personal weapon. I love this site, this review is very accurate and informative. To all the people who think the sight is too pricey or too heavy – just remember your weapon is only as accurate as your sight and the weight of the sight is something you get used too very qucikly. It is the best of both worlds in the 1x and 4x, for military applications this sight is a must have especially in todays urban applications. I put my life in the specterDR’s hands, hasn’t let me down yet 🙂

    • March 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm #


      Thank you for your service and your real world input regarding the Elcan SpecterDR.

      I’m glad you found this review informative and your overall experience. I’m happy that you took the time to share your perspective with me.

  5. Dave
    April 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    I absolutely agree with Murph. I used to use the ACOG TA01 in combat before the Elcan became the new SOPMOD issue and everyone else was using the Leupold CQ/T with Larue Mount. I say “used to” because after we started using the Elcan we were sold on it. An example of what it’s capable of: On a known distance range we engaged man-sized targets with the Elcan and our individual 5.56 weapons. We could routinely (across the board) get first round hits at 550 and 600 meters. Some of us were using 10.5″ barreled CQB M4’s! One guy hit a target at 800m with his 14.5″ M4. These are distances that are usually reserved for the SPR or M110 with 10x power scopes or more. We deployed back to OEF with this sight almost universally on every weapon and these sights took everything that deployment had. If you have a high end weapon like Derek has and you know how to use it, this optic has no equal. Our SPR now has the new Elcan 1.5x-6x mounted on it.

  6. a
    September 28, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    Good write up.

    Whats wrong with your mag release?

    • September 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

      It’s a CA legal magazine release – or otherwise neutered so that I may not release the magazine without a “tool.” Fun times in CA!


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    […] For the full written review, see it here. […]

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