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Optics Options for the Fighting Rifle

October 17, 2013

I’m old school, I still like to run my irons!

 

Optics break too often, I’ll stick with iron sights like Grandpa used!

 

Ten minutes after the lights go out, iron sights will rule the world!

 

There are a lot of reasons why optics of one sort or another have replaced iron sights as the primary sighting mechanism on the rifle of every serious gunfighter in the modern world. From actually being MORE robust than some of the iron sights available (The Magpul MBUS, for instance are complete pieces of shit), to the increased speed of acquiring a suitable sight picture, to more positive identification of targets, in the case of magnified options, the use of effective optics on a fighting rifle is not just the wave of the future, it’s the only serious option right now, today.

 

Iron Sight Deficiencies

Iron sights have been the choice of serious combat rifle shooters, and many recreational shooters for almost as long as rifles have existed. They have ranged from the extremely simple “buckhorn and blade” type iron sights of the blackpowder era to the rear aperture sights of contemporary American fighting rifles. Even today, there are countless shooters in the world who profess a distrust of the ability of anything except iron sights to withstand the abuses of a combat environment, despite well over a decade of the common issue of combat optics to most common troops, and over a century of optics issue to specialized troops like snipers in combat zones.

 

Nevertheless, while it will annoy the ever-loving shit out of the old fuckers and hidebound traditionalists of the world, there are several key deficiencies to iron sights that mean, if you’re not willing to join the arms race, you’re fucking yourself, your buddies, and your community. The most important deficiency of iron sights, when compared to modern optics, in the minds of many, is the speed equation. It is a categorical, inarguable, scientific fact that optics are faster than iron sights (I’ve heard all the old school arguments to the contrary too…they’re wrong). The necessity of focusing on a minimum of two different focal planes (three if you’re using “open” iron sights instead of apertures), with iron sights, versus the common focal plane shared by target and reticle of optics, makes it an obvious given that optics will be faster, from a biological PoV, than shooting irons accurately.

 

This need to shift focal planes also raises another closely related, but separate issue with using iron sights as your primary sighting system. The requirement to focus finely on the front sight post or blade, in order to make any sort of accurate shot, at any range, but especially at intermediate distance ranges increases the difficulty of maintaining observation and awareness of a realistic combat target. It’s relatively easy when both you and the full-size, completely exposed silhouette are sitting still on the square range. Add in movement, on the part of the target or yourself, such as tends to happen when people are shooting at one another, or the target being partially obscured by cover and/or concealment, which is also a common element in gunfights, and suddenly, at anything beyond reflexive fire “point-and-shoot” distances of 1-3 meters, using iron sights suddenly starts to feel really, really, really slow to the end user.

 

A lot of guys, as I mentioned above, fall back on the antiquated notion that iron sights are more robust than optics. While this was, undoubtedly true when iron sights were simple, largely immovable parts of the gun, soldered or welded to the metal of the action, it’s simply not true anymore. From the molded polymer with metal inserts of many modern “iron sights,” to the multiple, finely geared adjustment mechanisms of contemporary aperture sights, I’ve seen optics (and there are plenty of examples in different videos and articles on the internet) take hits and keep functioning that would have, at best, left the zero of a set of iron sights unknown, if not completely destroyed. There are countless readers of this blog who have attended rifle and patrolling classes with me, who have witnessed me do things as ridiculous as drop an EoTech mounted rifle, optic down, onto pavement and gravel, to grabbing a rifle, magnified optic mounted, by the barrel, and heave it across a meadow, before going on, in both cases, to engaging precision targets with the rifles in question with no ill effects. My current rifle, mounted with a Burris MTAC variable scope (details below), was actually ejected from a vehicle at 65MPH (long story, and not a subject for the blog for PERSEC reasons), and the optic not only survived, but maintained its zero, no less. This archaic idea that iron sights are robust, while optics are fragile is as obsolete as the idea that skin color is an indicator of humanity.

 

Optics Science 101: The OEG and BAC Methods

 

(Before we begin this section, I think it’s imperative to point out that the OEG label for the concept it employs is specific to the Armson sight and the BAC–Bindon Aiming Concept–is named for Gyl Bindon. Both are technically specific to Trijicon sights today, although the principles that make them work are biological/physiological functions of natural human, binocular visison, so it’s a matter of semantics and lack of a better label that causes me to use these terms)

The OEG–Occluded Eye Gunsight–concept and the BAC–Bindon Aiming Concept–are very, very closely related, but are also distinctly different methods of shooting with an optic. The OEG method, using non-magnified optics like the original Armsons used during the 1970 Son Tay Raid, or the more recognized, modern EoTechs and Aimpoint variations, is a simple matter of seeing the target and downrange with the non-dominant eye, and seeing the very bright, very obvious “red” dot reticle with your dominant eye. It’s a rather cool function of the human physiology that we see with binocular vision–the image of both eyes are presented to the brain as one image. So, if we’re looking at a target with one eye, and the reticle/aiming dot with the other eye, what our brain sees is the aiming point superimposed over the target. You can actually test this theory with your own EoTech or Aimpoint red-dot sight actually. Cover the front lens of your sight with a scope cap or piece of 100MPH tape. Mount the gun, looking at the target with one eye, and the aiming point/reticle with the other, and you’ll see that you have a usable sight picture. This of course, makes for an extremely rapid sight picture acquisition, if you use sound biomechanics in your weapons-handling, and mount the gun the exact same way every single time you mount the gun.

 

The Bindon Aiming Concept, named after Trijicon’s founder, uses the same basic principles of the OEG sighting method, but applies it to magnified optics. A long search was made to try and combine the speed of non-magnified optics with the numerous combat shooting advantages of low-power variable magnification optics. Much of the credit for these discoveries goes to the Trijicon company that seems to have not only discovered the concepts, but certainly were the first to make widespread use of it with the development of the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG). The use of some sort of brightly illuminated central image for the reticle, instead of the traditional cross-hairs reticle of hunting and sniper scopes makes it extremely easy to use modern low-power scopes with both eyes open. This is, at its foundation, simply using the OEG method, but with a magnified optic. Just as with the OEG concept, the brain merges the two images. While people often claim difficulty using the BAC, this generally stems from ignorance of how the method is supposed to be applied.

 

At most ranges, with movement of the optic, the image through the magnified optic is blurred, at least somewhat. The only image that the brain can see and identify is the brightly-lit, high-visibility reticle/aiming dot. The non-dominant eye, on the other hand, is tracking and seeing the target image. Just…like..the…OEG…concept. The difference arises when your brain superimposes the two images. With the BAC, you can then shift all of your attention to the dominant eye, as the gun and sight stops moving, and you have a magnified sight picture with the reticle where it should be, that allows for precision shot placement, quickly.

 

People often point out that this is, necessarily, slower than the OEG method used with non-magnified optics, at CQB ranges. This is only partially true (and when it is true, is largely a function of training and physiology. Inside of 25M, I’ve clocked my shot time differences at an average of .05-.10 between using a non-magnified EoTech, and using a magnified variable power at 4X or 6X). While it will take slightly longer for the brain to switch from binocular vision focus to a monocular focus, the time required can be significantly reduced through training the eyes to switch focal planes faster. More importantly, by far, is the fact that, at CQB ranges, you don’t need to switch to monocular vision, except in rare cases that require super-precision in your shots. Thus, it’s actually, if applied properly, absolutely no slower to use a low-magnification variable than a non-magnified optic, even at CQB ranges, assuming solid training (I do recognize however that for a very small percentage of the population, for whatever reason, the ability to force the brain to do this, without switching focus, and closing the non-dominant eye, is simply not possible. While it’s almost heretical to say so, there is a really simple solution to this: close your non-dominant eye to take the shot, and then re-open it. Sure, you’re going to “lose” peripheral vision for a moment. Reality check? If you’re actually focusing on the shot, you’re not going to have much peripheral vision for the duration of taking the god-damned shot anyway). This entire conceptual approach to targeting becomes extremely useful, particularly when dealing with targets that are moving, or are concealed, to one degree or another, in dense concealment.

 

1X Red Dot Sights (RDS) versus Variable-Power Magnification

I doubt that it is any great secret to regular readers of this blog that I am a big fan of low-power magnified optics, ranging from the classic ACOG to more modern variable powered optics. Rather than simply taking my advice that they are superior in almost every way to 1X RDS however, let’s look at some of the advantages of these optics.

 

  • The obvious factor at play is the magnification. The requirement for a combat-effective low-power variable optic came to the forefront of the collective conscious of the special operations community following the Battle of Bakara Market (Blackhawk Down!) in 1993. As numerous veterans of that fight have pointed out, in various places, when you’ve got hostiles intermixed with non-combatants at varying ranges from 25-100M or more, sticking just their heads out of concealment to figure out where your positions are, magnification starts looking really, really important both to positively identify targets, as well as to increase the chances that you’ll actually hit the dude. The ability to see into thick concealment to locate targets, the ability to more positively identify a target (whether seeing that he does, in fact, have a weapon, or to see his face to use facial recognition, even at short ranges like 100-200 meters, the magnification offers significant advantages). While there are a lot of guys out there who are still sold on the idea of mounting a magnifier behind their EoTech or Aimpoint, I personally feel this is a dead-end approach. You’re getting absolutely no advantage over a regular variable power telescope sight, other than the dubious one of losing some weight, when you remove the magnifier (For an example of the dubiousness of this claim: My Burris MTAC 1.5-6X weighs 14.1oz. The P.E.P.R. mount it came with is 8.0oz. Total weight then is 22.1 oz. My EoTech 554 is 10.9 oz. The EoTech magnifier with the flip-side mount is 16.5. Total weight then is 27.4oz–someone wanna check my math? Either way, it’s a pretty marginal difference, except I’ve got 6X magnification, versus the 4X of the EoTech. Even if you were to remove the flip-side mount and magnifier, you’re only saving 3/4 of a pound, but if you NEED the magnification, you’re going to have to go digging through pouches, rather than simply mounting the gun. I’d rather do a couple more reps at PT than have to risk missing a shot because I couldn’t get to my magnifier in time).
  • With the magnification of the variable, you’re also getting better light transmission in low-light environments, meaning you’re not only going to be able to positively identify targets, you’re going to be able to do so later into the evening, or earlier in the morning, without additional visible light. More importantly, because it improves the clarity of your vision, this increases your ability to ID targets as friend-or-foe, shoot/no-shoots at all times.
  • While magnification is often dumbed down to being a range/distance issue, it’s really not. It’s about precision of marksmanship, and being able to see what you need to get hits. You can train yourself to shoot a magnified optic faster; you cannot train to improve your positive identification with a 1X optic.

 

There are a lot of potential “drawbacks” to using a variable-power magnified optic on a fighting rifle. Most of them don’t really hold up, as we’ve seen above, when looked at objectively. In addition to the issues already discussed in this article, perhaps the one I hear most often that forces me to debate the merits of being a fugitive from justice the rest of my life, for throat-punching stupidity is:

  • I can mount my PVS-14 behind my RDS on my rifle: If you’re mounting your NODs on your rifle, except in extremely limited situations, you’re a fucking moron who is too stupid to continue contributing to the gene pool. This means that, in order to use the NODs, you have to a) hold your weapon up in a firing position at all times, and b) point your rifle at me, if I need to communicate with you visually….Do you like having your “buddies” point guns at you? Yeah, me neither.

 

I actually don’t care, as usual, what you run for an optic on a gun. Iron sights, 1X RDS, or magnified, variable-powered scope. I do recommend serious consideration–no scratch that–I heartedly recommend a switch to a magnified, variable-powered scope.

 

Do batteries die? Sure. Of course. Absolutely. So? Buy more batteries (seems like a “No shit?” solution to me…). By the time the battery stores of the world are completely deleted, we’ll all be either dead, will have gone back to iron sights, or the ammunition will be expended too, and we’ll be living out every nerd’s Dungeons and Dragons fantasy, fighting with swords and shields and shit. Keep track of your battery life, and discard/replace them before they die. Sure, I need to turn off my MTAC, or the batteries will eventually die, instead of being able to leave it on at full power for ten years, like the Aimpoint? So what? If I don’t have time to move a dial ONE FUCKING CLICK, to turn the illumination on, I’m probably too late getting to my gun anyway.

 

DOL,

John Mosby

 

 

(Editorial Note: I feel obliged to point out that, in last weekend’s Combat Rifle Course in Arizona, I did manage to finally, apparently kill my MTAC…sort of…after being ejected from a vehicle, dropped on the ground and thrown across meadows countless times, and stepped on, intentionally, by my 200+ pounds, while wearing 40-60 pounds of fighting load, the magnification dial ring, no longer seems to want to turn. I haven’t fucked with it a lot though. When I get through with the Patrolling Class this weekend, I may try a pair of channel-lock pliers to see if I can get enough torque to make it start turning again…)

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70 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Jesse Talks Back and commented:
    I am reblogging even before I finish reading, highly recommend this article- great stuff!

  2. And for an after action report, love it! Thank you- hard to get people to accept that just because daddy or granddaddy had issues doesnt mean you will TEST shit jeebus how damn hard is that😦 Eh loved the article!

  3. Osprey permalink

    200+ pounds. Getting a little chubby now aren’t we….🙂

  4. Dougwrench permalink

    John, like a dumbshit, I had Lasik done with monocular vision; left eye for reading and right eye for distance. My brain assimilates quickly from reading to looking out however being 59, focus is not real fast. I am looking to scope my new AR and was wondering if you have had any comments from people who have monocular vision and what scope works best? I was looking at the Aimpoint Pro. Now after reading your timely article, I am scratching my head with second thoughts. What say you?

  5. Eric permalink

    Sorry to see your optic might have died. Seemed to work fine when I saw it at the class after the initial event.

    What are your thoughts on “cat-tails” for variable magnification optics? I’ve thought about one for my Burris 1-4 just to change magnification easier if I had to, but maybe it just makes more sense to keep it on 2x all the time – if you need a higher magnification you probably have time to change it. I always seem to get hung up on the rail or the BUIS when twisting the ring though.

    • I actually like the idea, Eric. Turning the knob on that MTAC was kind of a PITA. It quit turning on the last day, remember?

      • Cat tails are awesome for speed, but not so much for optic longevity.

    • FWIW, a functional, low-clearance, and inexpensive option/alternative to cat tails is to use a hose clamp. Maybe even wrap it with tape if you don’t like the shiny stainless finish.

      I’ve found that these can help the shooter manipulate the magnification ring without putting having too much leverage or sticking out too far. Just an idea that I’ve tried and used before…

  6. Glen permalink

    Excellent post, as always, that brings up some new points to think about and echoes what my experiences have been with optics on fighting rifles. I switched to the Burris MTAC on my primary carbine last year and have been very happy with its performance, though I prefer the 1x-4x model based on my needs. I have found my best options to be the MTAC and the ACOG.

    I’m curious, though, why you hate the MBUS (being made of polymer not withstanding)? I’ve used a rear MBUS on one of my rifles for a while now, and use my equipment in a similar fashion as you, and haven’t yet had any issues.

  7. The Butt Pirate permalink

    I bought a vortex viper 1-4 mrad after eye fucking your scope. Hits at 250 are much faster now that my aiming point is not covering the target. Thanks again brother.

  8. Just found this site. I need to add that you left out one of the main reasons for optical sights: No matter how much I deny it, no matter how much my mind thinks I’m still 29, no matter how many hours I spend working out, my eyes really are on the high side of 50. Time for a little realism about iron versus optical sights.

  9. gm2011 permalink

    JM-

    Interesting article- thanks. I have no doubt that the variable magnification optics are superior at distance. reconsidering my aimpoint micro…

    A question for you: If your MTAC is actually crapped out enough to necessitate a replacement, would you go for the exact same optic or opt for a different brand (Such as leupold variables, which can get absurdly pricey the more ‘tactical’ you get)? is it worth the cost or is the MTAC sufficient?

    Also, since I’m unfamiliar with using variable powered optics, i would assume that you would keep the optic at its lowest setting unless zooming in for target identification/precision shooting is required?

    thanks

  10. I’m curious how my Primary Arms 1-6 will hold up after beating the hell out of it. In regards to your optic, it’s pretty impressive that after all of that hard use, it’s still useable with the exception of the magnification ring.

  11. Unreconstructedgordo permalink

    I concur ! I am into this 200 meter head shot thing having gone thru a humbling class last year by cops who were contract operators in both Iraq and ‘Stan. They told me that you want to keep at least 200 yards away from AK wielding guys to get the edge with your more accurate system. At 200 yards you want to be able to put it in the cabeza and folks a 1x 4 MOA Red Dot does not cut it for that trust me! A 2moa 1x can , maybe, but increase the optic power to 2x or better 4x and you can do it reliably with a good rifle. I gave up on swing away magnifiers too, although have a QD La Rue handy with one for the Aimpoints if I want it. Thing about ACOGs is the ones I bought 12 year years ago are getting dim and THAT is very depressing to me! Think batteries will be hard to find in SHTF ? Try Tritium capsules! However a good 3.5-4x ACOG is really hard to beat.
    I really like the new Leupold VXR firedot scopes ! I have a 2-7×33 one on my latest and greatest M-4 billet build and it seems the bomb.Half the price of an ACOG and more versitile .
    I like Troy BUIS, FWIW. I just bought a Leupold 1-4x VX-R Patrol for my shorter Noveske that had a 2 MOA Aimpoint Micro in a QD La Rue ( which is the heat for CQB)and Troy Buis which I removed and added Dueck Defense Offset iron sights for the up close stuff with the higher power scope in a PEPR mount.. This is a fast combo! I get 25 yard hits from low ready about as fast as with the micro by using the offset irons with an XS Tritium Big dot screwed into the front. After that it is all scope timewith the Leopold 1-4x in a Pepr sighted in at 50 yards (crosses at 200 !) and I can get a reliable head shot at 200 meters at 4x ! I think the non Patrol VXR which is $100 cheaper is prolly a better deal, IMHO you don’t need target turrets to screw with on a fighting rifle, and I say this as I do have a $2000 S&B Short Dot which is really not worth it over the Leupold which has a wonderful warranty for life.

    • sabasarge permalink

      Nice to see you here uncle!

      • Unreconstructedgordo permalink

        Yeah this forum is the real deal for those left over here after you move to Israel! Much love and respect to your brother!

  12. panajungla1984 permalink

    I’m jealous of the long range shots. They don’t exist here-unless you’re shooting down a road. Swamps,thick brush,and woods,50 meters is about tops. I have a dozen scopes and sights, but I find iron sights work just fine in the northern jungle.

    • The MG has a way of disecting,catagorizing,and pointing out intricate details in the abstract. And without a doubt modern sighting systems rule the battlefield. My kit contains every type of optic listed here. That said.. I can hit my target with fists, feet, rock, arrow, spear, or a rifled round without optics. In the bush where line of sight is more like 10-20ft it seems to me just another thing to get snagged,smashed,or trashed.

  13. Iron sights are for two things:
    1) Basic primary marksmanship training, so everyone learns and knows how to do it;
    2) for use when your optics go tits up.

    Otherwise, you put the best optic assist on the rifle you can justify.
    It’s usually a “Sturdy, high magnification, small, light, cheap – pick any three” sort of equation.
    No one sane ever said “Gee, I wish the target was smaller and harder to see.”

    And NOD goes on your head, not your weapon. If someone wants to hang something useful on the weapon for nighttime use, get an IR laser, and sight it in.

  14. I like it. I went with a 1×4 on my AR and don’t regret it. There are some times when I’d think I’d like to have a RDS instead, but I completely agree with you on the magnified, variable power scope recommendation.

    With some of the illuminated reticles (mine is the inverted horseshoe type), turning on the illum at 1x gives me an RDS anyway.

  15. Jackson permalink

    Great article. How about one on calibers. IN the AR any reason to go beyond the 5.56mm to the AR-10 platform in .308 or even the 6.8 SPC? I have guns in all these calibers, bet other readers do to. Similar issues with the AK series.

  16. Jerry permalink

    Thank you John! Great stuff. My son is currently serving in the Marine Corps – he said that he doubted the toughness of optics until he saw the abuses they endured everyday – he said those RCOs or whatever they call the ACOG in the Corps – take horrible abuse and still function. Us old timers need to face it, optics are the gold standard now, iron sights are for basic marksmanship training and in case your optic breaks/fails.

  17. Jeff B. permalink

    Speaking as a borderline “Old Fucker”, loved the article and agree. Times change as does equipment, not to mention as some did the changes we go through as we become “Old Fuckers”! My son who’s BTDT did a good job getting me somewhat up to speed, believing in and using optics (with iron bu’s). I’ve got an Aimpoint Comp M2 and 3x magnifier which I really like on my AR. I recently used an ACOG 4x that Junior picked up and like it a lot. In fact, once a few other things get done, I’ll be shopping…

    Not all “OF’s” are hidebound and inflexible (I sure as shit don’t bounce like I did, though) and stuck on iron sights.

    Good work and thnaks for the information and education!

  18. Another plus for the variable optic is the fact that in the event your batteries do fail, you still have a photo etched reticle to use. For example, the Vortex 1-4x has the eotech style 1 moa “dot-in-a-donut”, but it also has a standard mil style hashed reticle as well which does not light up.

    Might try spraying some Hornady One-Shot or some silicon spray around/in that adjustment ring before you reef on it John…..might just be a build up of dust & crap – happens to mine some times.

    • It’s not, bro. The rear end of the scope is bent as fuck. LOL. I guess I should stop dropping rifles, optics first, onto hard ground, just to demonstrate how robust they are….

      • Heh….gonna look funny running that thing with a set of vice-grips hanging off the adjustment ring, lol. Kinda what sold me on Vortex…..I can brutalize the thing and they will send a new one, no questions asked. Love the reticle too……

  19. Frank Ch. Eigler permalink

    What do you think about fixed medium-power optics?

    • John Rourke permalink

      I’m FAG enough to have started with fixed power scopes on tactical rifles and the USMC justification for the fixed 10X scope on our M40A1’s was 1X per 100 yards and the theory was that the 7.62 can be strung out to a K. I don’t run fixed power scopes on my carbines or LR rigs, IMO varitables are more versitile and hold up just fine if you don’t buy cheap shit.

      That said nothing has changed my opinion about the 1X to per 100 yards rule of thumb.

      As far as 10X goes a full K is opitimistic for a 7.62 rig and while obiously workable 10X is over power for a fixed scope on a 7.62 LR rig. In the late 80’s CNND was selling Iranian contract Steyer SSG’s that came with a military 6X Hensholt that at the time seemed too funky for my gung ho USMC taste and I practicaly gave the the scope away to a bro in a lopsided trade. He put it on a HK91 in a claw mount, that looking back was a very practical rig. I rescoped with a Leupold Ultra fixed 10X mil-dot with 1/4 minute knobs, the Leupold tactical scope that predated the Mark 4 series. IMO they have it figured out with the supressed SASS.

      I wish I had given the 6X scope a chance, the reticle with Euro funky stadiametric range finding and hold overs was actually pretty useful at the ranges and circumstances a 7.62 rifle get’s used. At the time though the hold overs were too course for my USMC taste and I hadn’t been to war yet. I really just had a head full of USMC dogma of the day and couldn’t think past that.

      These days my 7.62 DM rig is a gas gun and carries a Leupold MK4 2.5X8x32 with 1/2 minute knobs and mil dots and my carbine a Leupold MK4 1.5×5 with SPR reticule. I’ve deployed with ACOG’s and while they certainly don’t suck I much prefer the varitable Leupold even considering the ACOG is probably more rugged. The only ‘weakness’ of either scope IMO is the reticule illumination, the bats don’t last all that long.

      If i had to go fixed power on a carbine I would go 3X, 6X on my 7.62 DM rig and I would put my sister in a whorehouse before I considered anything by Burris🙂

      • See? I LIKE these kinds of posts. I agree with the effectiveness of 1X/100M as well. As far as the Burris, had the first one not been given to me, I’d have never taken that ginormous leap of faith either, for pretty much the same reasons. It’s fucking Burris, after all! Now? I don’t think there’s a soul in the world who could, without making a conscious effort, fuck an optic up as much as I do in classes, intentionally. Considering the abuse that MTAC took before it shit the bed (and it still held its zero, it just wouldn’t magnify without a pair of channel lock pliers), I’m comfortable recommending it as a GP optic still. I’m going to see if Burris will warranty it (doubtful), or at least not rape me to repair it. My only complaint about it remains the 2+MOA center dot.

  20. RobRoySimmons permalink

    Aimpoint Patrol Optic but only because Larry Vickers pimps them. IMO better than irons, but of course. Bought a RDS thinking of needing only Minute of Man and not the small target opportunities that magnified optics afford. Then again in a moment of adrenaline rush accuracy seems to be more technique than optic, or at least first priority.

  21. Jim permalink

    Spot on! Can’t wait for your book.

    RLTW

  22. John, I keep my MTAC at x1 as it currently pulls house long gun duty. Out in the woods I would probably keep it at 3xish. Honestly the reason I sold my ACOG was because the rifle serves house gun duty far more than hypothetical SHTF field duty so I wanted that capability.

  23. I am a big fan of mastering irons in BRM as the foundation for your rifle training. That being said, a RDS with 1x and the capability to get to 3 or 4x makes a huge difference. I was practicing F & M from 100 to 25m the other day, both with irons and RDS. One of the big differences was when I proned out, I didn’t have to get so far down on the stock, or close one eye, when using the RDS. Because my head is higher up, and both eyes were open, I had much more situational awareness and was able to track hits and switch targets much easier. As an added bonus, when you get older, the RDS is much easier to focus in on.

    • Diamondback permalink

      With you head higher up???????????????????

      you might not be in the fight very long.

      • If this is a serious comment, a difference of 1/2″- really? Between being down on the irons and centered in the RDS.

        If I can put out faster, effective fire than my enemy then it’s worth “the risk” of my head being slightly higher.

        If you are using night vision gear in conjunction with a rifle-mounted IR laser, you head is even higher, with a chin weld on the stock, looking over the optic (a good 1 1/2″ higher). If I can see better than my enemy, and again put out faster, effective fire, then that is worth the extra risk of my head being higher up.

        Kinda depends on what position you’re in and what kind of cover/concealment as well. In this case I’m discussing prone, but it could be kneeling or off-hand as well.

        Anyways, I would think how long I’m in the fight is dependent on a lot more variables than how high my eye is above the bore.

  24. While I agree generally, optics in cold climates means fogged lenses, particularly if you’ve been moving and breathing hard. Possible remedies are a rear scope cap, or a forward-mounted scout scope. Maybe other things to take care of it, can’t think of any at the moment.

    Should be easy to test – pick a cold, humid day, run up and down over a couple of hills, then see if you can avoid fogging the scope while getting into position.

    I got an OEG sight once. It was too weird for me so I sent it back.

    • PJ-

      I haven’t had much of a problem in the cold with optics. I’ve run Aimpoints down past -50°F, and variable power stuff in conditions nearly as cold.

      You’re right- rear covers help, and if nothing else, can be taken off if they fog. Mainly, one just has to watch his breathing (don’t breathe on the lens), and consciously direct it away from the glass. When using a squad tent (Army SOP and in some cases, critical for survival in the Arctic), the weapons stay outside. That seems counter-intuitive, but it beats having the entire weapon collect condensation and then freeze up when you take it outside.

      This is, of course, based on my experience. YMMV and all.

    • Unreconstructedgordo permalink

      I too played with an Armson OEG on my newly acquired Colt CAR-15 in 1979, it worked for me to about 15 yards, then blew donkies. When I first showed up at API and had it along in my kit for the 250 pistol course, the Blessed Colonel made it a class display and I dropped it in a 55 gallon drum trash can rather than demonstrate it’s use to the class.🙂

      • John Rourke permalink

        Ha! I had one of those things on my SP1 but soon replaced it with a 3x Colt carry handle mount. Bought with the coupon that came in the box.
        All in all it was a pretty good way Arcarry handle

  25. blue10 permalink

    Irony: This morning I was over at the in-laws’ house for breakfast and was telling my father-in-law about last week’s class with John and yesterday’s 2-Gun Action Challenge match with engagements from 25-200m, and how all that combined got me to wanting to try out a 1-4x telescopic. He says, “I got one you can try”, turns to his gun safe, and pulls out a brand-new, still-in-box Burris MTAC! My first reaction was that he must be a DHS plant, how the fuck would he just happen to have this particular scope lying around? But then I remembered that he just loves to buy gun shit on the chance that someone in the family will find a use for it.

    It’s mounted and I’ve played a little dry fire today. It’s a big departure from almost ten years of Eotech, so I’m gonna have to be patient and let the jury remain out for longer than usual. More to follow in the next month or so.

  26. Blake permalink

    I have a question regarding your preference to ACOG’s.

    From what I can see, the 3 most popular models are the TA31, the TA11, and the TA33. It looks like they all have advantages/disadvantages. the 31 seems to have the widest field of view, the biggest magnification, but the worst eye relief. The 11 has good eye relief, decent field of view, but is the heaviest. The 33 is light, has good eye relief, but has the narrowest field of view. I’m trying to choose between them, basically I feel the 33 is out simply due to the least magnification and the limited field of view. I’m leaning more towards the 31, but how bad is the eye relief? Does it make that much of a difference, provided you train with it getting your head in the same spot every time?

    If you had to pick between the 31 and the 11, which would you choose?

    • Unreconstructedgordo permalink

      I have a 12 YO TA11 and I like it very much all those years but it is getting dim and they want alot of $ to refurb it. I used an Afghan “returned” TA31 until my son grabbed it and it seemed very bright and sharp during the day, overall a product improvement I guess.The eye relief is optimized for flat top ARs BTW. I bought Leupold VX-r s lately for the variable power wonderful warranty and I can all ways get a battery, I hope. If I can’t they are better optically than any ACOG!

  27. Reblogged this on Contra.

  28. Unreconstructedgordo permalink

    Good write up on the 3 here:
    http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=654467

  29. David Trotter permalink

    John,
    You say don’t mount a PVS14 to my rifle. What’s the best head mount? Best aiming device for nvd? I run a 4x ACOG with a 1X Dr Optic on top of the 4x and own a PVS-14.

    Thanks

    • Run an IR laser, and I just run my 14s on a helmet mount. The problem with mounting it on your rifle is you can’t look at anything through the NODs without pointing your weapon at it….I tend to get pissy when people point weapons at me…especially when they’re ostensibly on my side…and I can use visual signaling, like hand-and-arm signals, if the other team leader has NODs on.

  30. Bobfrommosinee permalink

    Yep, Fully qualified as an OF, But this old dog likes new tricks, Discovered optics a long time ago, And I can’t think of a situation where they were not an advantage.

    Right now I have 2 AR platforms, These are my go to guns, One is my car gun, sometimes referred to by prepper’s as a bailout gun, It generally rides in the trunk, it is fitted with Magpul furniture, an MI SS-Series Carbine Length rail, 7 20 round Magpul mags, and a Trijicon ACOG TA01-M4A1 4x 32mm, Any thing out to 300 meters I own, and light enough that if I have to I can carry it all day and then some.

    My choice was predicated on the fact that if I am out when TSHTF, My mission is to get home, Not take on the hordes of John Kerry, Gengisis Khan, but to E&E back to my home and join up with my neighbors and mutual support and aid.

    My Home gun is a AR 15, heavy barrel mid length, Yankee Hill free floating rail, Magpul furniture, a bipod borrowed from Uncle Sam made for a M-249, with a Leatherwood 1 to 4 CMR, The reticle is fairly simple to use, Illuminated, Provides all the information needed to shoot out to 800 meters and from a defensive position of a small town, Will do everything I need to keep safe and sound.

  31. koldsteel762 permalink

    How do you guys feel about QD mounts for your optics? Seriously considering changing to the Burris MTAC but didn’t know if I could co-register my iron sights through the glass if it went ass up in me. Do I need to get a QR mount to remove a damaged scope to stay in the fight w iron sights or use a solid mount for reasons of being stronger ? What are your thoughts ?

    • I run the Burris PEPR mount on my MTAC. It’s a QD. I don’t know that it really matters. If the QD locks up solid, you’re not going to have wiggle, but if you are concerned about the optic going tits up, then the QD is the only way to go.

      • Koldsteel permalink

        Thanks for your answer. I appologise for my multiple posts. Im a techno retard.

    • Agreed.
      In my experience, the LR QD mounts have maintained their zero after being mounted/unmounted many times. Probably boils down to cost for most folks…….get what you pay for though

      • Koldsteel permalink

        Thank you

      • Bobfrommosinee permalink

        Yes, I use QD’s, Most of my dot sights came with them and for my scopes I only uses QDs after I found a few that work and didn’t cost a arm and my left nut, Inside the $65 to $120 range there are multiple QDs that are lite reliable and look like they belong on a rifle.

        So yes, I do believe that any fighting rifle should have low profile BUIS on them, and that QD either should come with the optics or be added when you mount any optics on a fighting rifle.

  32. koldsteel762 permalink

    Since we are talking optics. Do you guys run a QD mount so you can get a damaged scope off the rifle quickly if damaged ? Or do you run a regular mount because it’s more robust ?

  33. Koldsteel permalink

    What is best, a QD mount or a regular mount ? At least for this low power optic on a non-precision rifle.

  34. Great article, I am a huge fan of iron sights for a variety of purposes, but for pure effectiveness you need to have a scope on your rifle. You’ll just flat out be able to shoot better.

  35. Not a critique merely an observation. In your conclusion said that by the time the battery stores of the world are completely deleted (sic)…I’m assuming you meant to type depleted. Either way, really good write up, thoroughly enjoyable and funny.

  36. I agree with James, the iron sights are great if the proverbial shit hits the fan, but realistically, Im not sure if the “lights go out” that a standard rifle scope is then rendered useless…. In fact a night vision scope might become even more useful….. Anyways, thanks for posting!

    • koldsteel762 permalink

      It’s my thoughts that NV scopes and thermal might be the only game in town in a SHTF situation, at least until batteries die or wear and tear shuts them down.

      • Yeah, there’s lots of mythology surrounding the fragility of optics and the “short” lifespan of batteries in optics and NODs. I have the original battery in my scope, and it still works, three years later, because I rarely turn it on, since it has an etched reticle. My PVS14s, despite a LOT of use, have been through less than a half-dozen AA batteries in the last two years. Wanna guess how many AA batteries there are in my house? Wanna guess how many there are in my neighborhood? Iron sights are better–even grid-down–only in the minds of people too chickenshit to actually put it to the test by doing the work.

      • This is why I have quick release optic mounts and steel backups on EVERYTHING!

  37. Alfred E. Neuman permalink

    Reblogged this on The Dixie Traveler.

  38. Came here via Tam’s blog.

    I must say that your views are eye-opening (you will pardon the pun). My shooting is almost always limited to the “square” indoor range and I regard proficiency with iron sights to be a requirement for a good marksman (plus, EVERYBODY knows that scopes break all the time…).

    However, there’s a helluva difference between hitting a very small, non-moving bullseye in a leisurely manner on a range and hitting a dangerous, moving, get-him-before-he-gets-me target in real life.

    Your arguments in favor of a scope for the latter seem unassailable.

    Thank you for taking the time to put them out.

  39. Joe permalink

    When the lights go out, and all the batteries are gone, my Leupold VX-R 1.25-4 will still work just fine. No, the optional red dot in the middle of the crosshairs won’t turn on, but I can make do with just the cross hairs, no problem.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Night Vision - Page 3 - M14 Forum
  2. Mosby: Optics | Western Rifle Shooters Association
  3. Optics Options for the Fighting Rifle | Posted by Brock Townsend at Free North Carolina |via Mountain Guerrilla | Jericho777's Blog
  4. Optics Options for the Fighting Rifle | Local Shooting Ranges

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