Rifle Optics Must-Knows

Many shooters hold true to the belief that optic sights are not only necessary, but vital to their success in any situation.

And, to be fair, it’s not difficult to understand why. Technology surrounding optics’ capabilities has been ever-increasing, and it seems as though these highly technical (and highly expensive) additions are the end-all be-all for many people, whether on the range or in the forest.

However, like with anything, it isn’t wise to depend solely on one piece of gear in any situation. After all, no firearm accessory has the capability to do everything you need in every single circumstance.

According to The Truth About Guns:

John Farnham writes [via ammoland.com]: Last weekend, a student brought an H&K MR762A1 Rifle to my Armed Response to a Terrorist Attack training course last weekendIt’s the commercial version of H&K’s 417, a gas-piston, autoloading, military rifle in 7.62×51 (308) with an “AR profile.” My student fitted his long gun with a 6x ACOG optic (6×48) mounted on the upper receiver.

Like all ACOG optics, the 6×48 is rugged and thoroughly militarized. It’s also bulky, heavy, and pricey ($2,500.00). The reticle is a glowing, orange triangle with assorted other aiming points, designed around the 308 round. Reticle illumination is self-powered, so the optic doesn’t require batteries.

I’m sure the combination of rifle and optic would turn-in a superb performance at 300m-600m, but we were shooting in heavy brush, in the rain, in low light, at targets from twenty to thirty meters. Targets were steel silhouettes, ensconced within fall foliage.

Guess what? My student could not find the targets in his scope!

Trijicon ACOG 6X48mm recticle
He cast about for long seconds, alternately squinting and moving his head back and forth, trying with scant success, to determine where targets were. When he tried to illuminate targets with a high-powered flashlight, it only made matters worse. Flickering glint from glistening foliage made the task of locating targets in the brush through the ACOG all but impossible.

Offset iron sights (courtesy theprepperjournal.com)

To be sure, the task was challenging for Aimpoints and EOTechs too, not to mention the best iron sights. But the rest of my students (so equipped) were still able to do it with significant success. The second day, my student removed the 6×48 ACOG from his rifle, and ran with iron sights. He did slightly better. At least he could find targets.

High-magnification optics are convenient for making out downrange detail. As Jeff Cooper put it, they don’t improve your shooting, but they do enable you to see better than would be possible through iron sights or zero-magnification red-dots.

Through high-magnification optics, you get to see “a lot of a little.” For that privilege, you inherit considerable bulk and weight. Plus, all such optics are eye-relief-critical, and thus must be mounted so that they are just a few centimeters in front of your sighting eye.

Bottom line: the rifle and optic combination described above, wonderful though it was, proved itself unsuitable to the close, rapid, 100-meters-and-closer, low-light-in-the-cold-rain shooting that we did.

AR-15 sight alignment (courtesy youtube.com)

According to John Farnham, red-dot sights did much better. In addition, iron sights (both Western-style and Soviet-style) also worked well, particularly for younger shooters.

So what are the lessons shooters can glean from all this? There are a few.

For one, this story proves that you absolutely must use your gear under various circumstances (including harsh weather) before you can be confident in how well it will serve you in any given situation.

Second, this story goes to show that no piece of gear does everything well, or can do everything for you in any situation. The truth is that, like everything else, there are pros and cons to every piece of gear.

Lastly, highly-specialized gear is typically not the best to use when you can’t predict the challenge ahead of you.