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When you break your optic, you’ll appreciate those iron sights…………..

October 9, 2015

So, those who have been in a rifle class specifically, but pretty much any class that involves the use of a rifle, can tell stories about how John Mosby abuses the shit out of his rifles. One of the demonstrations I do to illustrate a) the robustness of the Stoner platform, and b) the robustness of modern optics, is to hold my rifle out, at shoulder-height, and drop it, optics down, onto the ground, before standing on the rifle, while I finish an explanation. After four-plus years of doing that, I had—until very recently—never caused a single bit of damage to a rifle.

A couple years ago, in Arizona, I bent the rear bell on a Burris MTAC 1.5-6X, just enough that it made it difficult to adjust the magnification. Not impossible, or even close, just not as easy as it normally is. Despite the damage, the optic retained its zero, and when I removed it from my fighting rifle and put it on a hunting rifle, it zeroed to the new rifle easily. So, really, minimal damage, and for practical purposes, no damage.

A month or two ago, I finally managed to fuck a rifle up. In a vehicle class, back east, someone asked about “protecting” the rifle from banging off stuff when dismounting the vehicles. I was a little—should I phrase it….”overenthusiastic”–in my demonstration. Instead of just dropping the rifle, I chucked it—hard–about 40 feet across the meadow that was our training site. I had an AmTac Precision 15” free-float rail on the rifle. The rail ended up bent into a slight S-curve, was torqued a good 20+ degrees in twist, and the holes along the bottom of the rail were split out, and the rail section that held my Streamlight TLR-1HL weapon light came off. That is NOT, in any way, shape, or form, a denouncement of the rail system. For a couple reasons, as we’ll discuss in the next paragraph, the rail performed flawlessly, considering the abuse.

So, what happened to the optic? Well, the same thing that happened to the barrel: fuck all. When I got a chance to test-fire the weapon again, on a known-distance range, at home, it still shot sub-2MOA, and the POA/POI remained exactly the same as it was when I left for the class.

What is the point of this? There are a couple, actually.

1) Considering the cost, the Burris MTAC is, despite the one minor drawback (I absolutely despise the weird ass size of the center dot. Seriously, Burris, make me one with a 1MOA center dot, or a 2MOA at worst!), an extremely robust, well-made piece of optic.

2) AmTac makes a hell for tough piece of rail. Sure, it took some damage, but considering the fact that it protected the barrel—and all the impact would have occurred right on the barrel nut, the fact that it didn’t damage the barrel or the barrel’s straightness, at all, is noteworthy. AmTac now has the rail sitting in their front lobby, at their shop in Garden City, ID, if you want to go in and see it for yourself….

3) I see lots of comments on blogs and forums, posts on Facebook, and everywhere else in the gun community, with dudes talking about “Optics are great until shit hits the fan!” or “Well, what about when batteries run out?” “What about when you break the optics?”

As I pointed out in The Reluctant Partisan, Volume One, the chances of breaking a QUALITY combat optic, without irreparably breaking your gun in the process, are so slim as to be remarkable. Does this mean you shouldn’t run iron back-up sights? Not at all. If that tickles your taint, or gives you warm fuzzies, by all means, mount them. It’s not going to hurt anything, and the weight is negligible. When some knucklehead troglodyte at the gun store counter starts harping on how fragile optics are though, don’t get buffaloed by his baffling bullshit. You’re not going to break your optic, unless it’s a) a complete piece of shit, designed for Airsoft, b) you do it intentionally, or c) you do something really stupid, like fall off a mountain, drop your rifle off a mountain, or throw your rifle across a range to prove a point.

I wish I were as robust as a modern, quality, combat optic….


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  1. Ben C permalink

    I have killed an EOTech during an 8 hour square range class. Sight died while I was shooting from prone. No abuse ever to that sight, bought 2 weeks before that class and zeroed; 800 rounds later and it was dead.

    That reticle made hits on targets out to 100 yards extremely fast and easy. With the sight broken, it was significantly less so.

    For a $450+ G**D*** optic, it should do better than that!

    • Did you contact EoTech, because yeah, that ain’t cool. At the same time, I’ve done the drop test with EoTechs a lot as well, with no harm. I’d say you got something that blew past QC. Fortunately, you trained with it before hand, so you discovered it. If someone suffers that lack of QC post-grid down, they fucked themselves for not getting trained and practicing with their gear beforehand, right?

      • Ben C permalink

        Yep, sent in for warranty repair and had it back in a couple weeks.

        Never did seem to work right after that though. Batteries would only last about a day even with the thing off. Sold it off after about a year of dicking around with it and went through a variety of other options since. Red dots and astigmatism don’t get along well though, so not much luck with Aimpoints or other dot type sights.

        Currently running a Burris 1.5-6 MTAC on one gun based in no small part on you beating the hell out of yours for the last few years, and a transverse battery EOTech on the spare. No real troubles on optics since.

        100% agree on testing your kit out before the balloon goes up. Nothing like showing up to a shooting match without your gun sighted in. Games are like real life sometimes, you can’t miss fast enough to win.

  2. Sick permalink

    I remember when you chucked your rifle downrange and broke the forward grip off at the East Iowa class. I think it’s still in that field somewhere…;)

  3. papagrande310 permalink

    My Nikon p-223 took a few tosses from JM and still shoots great! That was one of many great take-aways for me… Don’t baby the damn thing. It’s a robust tool

  4. aaron permalink

    I throw on back up iron sights just for the case of “oh shit”! I am not worried about dropping it, smacking it on the ground or throwing it. I’m worried it taking a round (I survive) but then have a screwed up optic. Probably will never happen but at least I can rip it off and flip up the iron sights and still be in the fight. That scenario is slim to none of ever happening but maybe it jest makes me sleep better.

  5. sabasarge permalink

    Still using the tape you stuck on top of my Trijicon Reflex to mute the dot John. I’ve been fairly abusive with it on my own in training since, and still love that glass. But as I never had a scope on my service rifle over years in combat, I still train plenty with just irons. Hope to see you soon for another go ’round brother.

  6. Jon Martin permalink

    You left the part out about after you chunked it 40 yards you ustood on it for a minute and kind of bounced.

    Great class ….great demo!!! Thank you

  7. Andrew E. permalink

    Just for general interest on optic durability, here’s a post about how optics have fared on rental MGs at one of the high-volume places in Vegas.
    BLUF: impressions of optics that have spent 360+ days/year on the line, fired exclusively on full auto, many with over 100k rounds fired.

  8. BJJ permalink

    Moshe, I am curious what weight ammo do you like for 5.56? I would love to be zeroed for 77 grain but it becomes a lot more expensive to feed.

    • SEH 45 permalink

      BJJ, I don’t know if you’re a reload or not, but if you ever find yourself driving through Missouri on I70, stop at Sierra bullets. You can buy factory seconds bullets by the pound! The overwhelming majority of the bullets have cosmetic imperfections. With 77s I found a few with a misplaced canneular.

      They’re great for the range. I wouldn’t feel at all worried using them for social purposes either. With the investment of a Dillon 650 / 750 / S1050, some 8208XBR or H322 powder, and your favorite primer you don’t wince as much sending 77s down range.

  9. BJJ permalink

    Sorry that was supposed to say Mosby not Moshe. Damn autocorrect got me again.

  10. David permalink

    This is one of many reasons I’m looking at making my “poor man’s sharpshooter rifle” from one of the surplus WWII bolt-action rifles (looking at the Yugo M48 for now). Not only are they a bit more robust than the more numerous civilian hunting rifles, but they seem to be the only bolt-action rifles out there with both iron sights and the ability to mount a scope.

    • Oldfart permalink

      David, I made one from a Turkish M-98. Added a surplus Parker-Hale .308 barrel. a Timney trigger and some sort of a surplus British target rifle stock and topped it off with a Weaver scope. Total cost under $400 and most of that was for the scope. It shoots well – under 1 MOA after about 5K rounds. That Yugo would be great!

  11. WL M permalink

    ever run anything with a Mako brand optic? they make claims… and would like to know if they stand up.

  12. I’m with you on the center dot on the Burris MTAC. Here’s what I do – For precision, I zero using top-dead-center of the dot as my aim point.

  13. 55six permalink

    I am using a SWFA SS1-4HD on one rifle and like it.

  14. Alfred E. Neuman permalink

    Reblogged this on The Dixie Traveler.

  15. caleb permalink

    If the MTAC got switched to the hunting rifle — and then many months later you threw your rifle again and busted the rail but the optic and barrel survived — what’s the new optic that was on there?

    P.S. I am already running an MTAC 1.5-6x basically because of reading your earlier work about how durable it was surviving your abuse. Wondering about what other scopes you consider to be a “QUALITY combat optic”?

  16. Jeff Fisher permalink

    Fixed Troy Backups with an XS Big Dot in the front along with my Trijicon MRO. When you’re aiming into bright lights (Headlights?) at night and your dot washes out, it’s nice to have an immediate backup option.

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  1. Mosby: On Optics & BUIS | Western Rifle Shooters Association

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