It’s not that long ago that optical sights were reserved for snipers and some crew-served weapons, and the infantry soldier fought his battle with iron sights not that much different from what his great-grandfather used in 1917. That’s all changed now. The British made the first move in 1985 when the controversial L85A1 assault rifle started replacing their version of the FN FAL; support troops got it with an M16-style carrying handle and foresight, but every infantryman was issued with a 4x SUSAT optic. The Canadians followed their example in the early 1990s with the C7 rifle and its ELCAN scope, but they went a step further and gave the optics to everyone. Now most US infantrymen, both Army and USMC, have a Trijicon ACOG mounted as standard. It’s a massive capability increase. As well as allowing accurate engagement out to the full effective range of the M16 and M4, the scope’s light gathering properties and illuminated reticle make for better vision and aim at dawn and dusk.
The ACOG is a great scope, especially for mid-range engagements between 100 and 300 yards – where most infantry combat takes place in close or urban terrain. It’s also proved itself in Afghanistan, where the scope itself is useful way beyond the effective range of most of the weapons it’s mounted on. As an all-rounder it’s hard to beat, as shown by the long list of export customers – Britain, Israel and Australia, among others. There’s no such thing as a tool that’s perfect for every job, though, and the standard ACOG – the M150 or AN/PVQ-31 – is no exception.
Choosing a Rifle Sight
The M150 is a relatively small sight with 4x magnification and a 32mm lens. That’s powerful and bright enough to operate effectively at out to around 500 yards, but for designated marksmen and snipers, higher magnification is required – and, to stay effective in low light, that means a bigger lens too. There’s a 6×48 ACOG available, as well as some zoom models, and the bigger version is ideal for designated marksmen. For snipers, though, a traditional zoom scope is usually still a better deal.
The ACOG is better than most optics for close quarter battle because it’s possible to shoot through it with both eyes open, but it’s still not as responsive as a reflex sight. In fact, Trijicon offers some models that have one of their own reflex units mounted on top. That’s a great solution, giving you a combination sight package that can handle any conditions, but it’s expensive and adds weight and bulk to the weapon.
If you expect to be mostly doing CQB or combat out to around 200 yards, a reflex sight on its own could be all you need. EOTech’s range of holographic and red dot sights are very popular and highly recommended – they’re small, light, rugged, and have great battery life. They’re also capable of 1MOA accuracy. If you do want the ability to engage at longer ranges if required, EOTech also produces swing-up magnifiers which sit on the 1913 rail in front of your sight. When you need more precision, just move it up into position and the sight instantly gains 3x magnification. These are available as hybrid or standalone units.
Fitting the right optics will improve your rifle’s performance so much you won’t believe it. Iron sights still have their place, but for fast, precision fire you can’t beat a modern optical sight.