Flashback to 1970. Colonel Bull Simons ordered live fire rehearsals for his rangers in preparation for the attempted rescue of U.S. prisoners of war held at Son Tay Prison in North Vietnam. After the night-time rehearsal, Colonel Simons is not amused. According to the book, The Raid by Benjamin F. Schemmer, “Simons found to his dismay that at night even his best shooters were getting only about 25% of the rounds fired at 50 meters into torso-size targets which simulated enemy soldiers…”
New infrared technology was sought out, but only six of the devices could be obtained. Simons’ supply personnel found the Armson OEG (Occluded Eye Gunsight) Singlepoint sight. By keeping both eyes open and looking through the tube of the sight, the OEG allowed the shooter to view a red dot, illuminated by Tritium at night, on the target.
The results were impressive, “…target hits increased dramatically; shot groups from every burst were much smaller; his soldiers felt more confident of their weapons. At 25 meters, even the poorest marksman could fire all rounds into a 12-inch circle at night…the sight improved speed in engaging a target…”
Due to the illuminated Tritium dot, night time shooting was improved dramatically. Although the Son Tay raiders did not recover any POWs, since they had been moved prior to the raid, they did engage in a heavy firefight with Russian, Chinese, or North Korean troops. According to after action reports, Simons 22 man team killed 16 enemy.Proven in Combat
Optical sights are not new. They have proved themselves in combat operations long ago. However, the conventional military was slow in accepting these sights despite the obvious advantages. In present day Iraq, U.S. Marines and Army personnel perform their duties with optical sights mounted atop their M-16s and M-4s. And for the same reason that Bull Simons and the Son Tay raiders looked to gain an edge.
Optical sights allow faster hits and in some cases provide magnification which increases an operator’s ability to hit at a distance. Unlike some older optical scopes, which could not stand up to the rigors of infantry or street police work, these new sights will take serious abuse and still perform as designed.The Trijicon Sights
My experience with telescopic sights was limited to my time as a sniper using a 10X variable. Although I had read about these red dot sights over the years during their development, I had not had the chance to spend much trigger time using them. I was looking forward to this project as a chance to expand my knowledge and learn more about these sighting devices.
First of all, I had heard the terms: collimator, reflex, occluded gun sight and holographic. All these gun sights are to be used with both eyes open. The Singlepoint and the Armson OEG version still sold by Trijicon
today are occluded gun sights. Using binocular aiming one eye remains focused on the target, the other eye looks through the device, which superimposes the red dot.
According to Trijicon’s Curt Monnig, the Trijicon Reflex sight is a collimator sight. A collimator sight has its reticle projected onto the front objective lens much like a movie projector. This is unlike a Holographic sight, which uses an LED to project the image like a Heads Up Display (HUD).
All of the Trijicon sights tested use the radioactive isotope Tritium to provide low-light illumination and a fiber optic system which provides the normal light level illumination. This is unlike other collimator and holographic sights, which are battery powered. The benefit is that the Reflex does not need batteries. The trade-off is that the Trijicon chevron or dot cannot be adjusted and is not as bright as those sights using batteries.
This “washing out” of the reticle is the problem among SF personnel having experience using the Reflex, that it is simply not bright enough in daylight. For this reason the Reflex was removed from the SOPMOD program of the military. Trijicon is addressing these issues with the Tri-power (Tritium, fiber optic and battery illuminated), which was not available for testing at the time this article was written.Testing
Trijicon supplied the Reflex, ACOG, Compact ACOG, and Accupoint for testing. The Reflex, ACOG, and Compact ACOG were mounted on identical Colt M-4 carbines. This process took less than 20 minutes with hex wrenches provided with the sights. The Reflex was mounted afore the carry handle on a co-witnessing mount. The Compact ACOG was mounted atop the carry handle and the full size ACOG mounted on the M-4’s flat top.
Taking the sight equipped carbines throughout an office area in varieties of light, it was quickly apparent that based on their magnification, they had different roles. Simply put because of the 4x magnification of the ACOG it is not suitable for entry work.
I gathered three of my coworkers, all current or former SWAT operators, and proceeded to the range. An iron sighted M-4 was used as a comparison. A formal sighting in was not possible due to time constraints. The sights were roughly dialed in by moving the red dot so that it was on top of the iron front sight while a conventional sight picture was obtained. This is certainly not the preferred method but was combat accurate at the distances tested.Reflex
Trijicon manufactures the Reflex sight with amber aiming dots, triangles or chevrons, not red. The Reflex sight is available with the following reticles (based on a target at 100 meters): 12.9 MOA Triangle, 4.3 MOA Dot, 6.5 MOA Dot and 14.4 by 16.6 MOA Chevron. The model tested was the 6.5 MOA Dot. Designed for military and police close quarter battle scenarios the Reflex sight like all red dot style sights is designed to be shot with both eyes open.
The Reflex has no magnification which for most police usages is appropriate. The shooter has only to place the aiming point on target. With two points to coordinate (the aiming dot or chevron and target) versus three with conventional iron sights (target, front sight, rear sight) while being able to keep both eyes open. Simply put the result is faster hits.
Testing inside a building showed sufficient illumination in a variety of lighting conditions due to the dual illumination (fiber optic and Tritium) system. If you could identify your target the dot could be seen. The co-witnessing mount placed the sight on the same plane as the iron sights. This allowed quicker adaptation to the sight versus a scope mounted atop the carrying handle.ACOG
The ACOG is in use by all branches of the U.S. military. The sight is rugged enough to survive the rigors of battlefield deployment and yet increase speed of hits without sacrificing accuracy in combat. The TA11D 3.5x35 with red triangle ACOG was selected for testing. The carrying handle was removed and the ACOG mounted quickly and easily on top of the flat top receiver.
This is not a small sight. The TA11 is eight inches long and weighs 14 ounces. That said, no one commented about excess weight or size. What quickly became apparent is due to the 4x magnification the sight was really not suitable for entry work. The Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC), which is available on some models, “combines traditional long-stand-off marksmanship capability with the ultimate in close combat transitional aiming,” according to the manufacturer.
Used with both eyes open Trijicon states “the BAC magnification is not perceived as the weapon is moved. As soon as the weapon movement is stopped, the targeted image “zooms” into magnification, permitting greater shooting accuracy with higher hit ratios.” While this is true outside of 25 yards, inside the magnification was too great to allow quick hits. Outside 25 yards, the ACOG truly shined, i.e., an ACOG equipped rifle should be relegated to perimeter or sniper team duties.Compact ACOG
The Compact ACOG is the best of both worlds. It is “the bomb” as one operator put it. Trijicon’s TA44-2 (1.5 x 16) with amber triangle was the model tested. The sight is small in weight (5.3-ounce) and profile (5.3-inch), able to deliver accurate fire at a distance due to it’s 1.5 x magnification and yet still quick on target inside 25 yards.
In a multiple target test at 25 yards, the three different sights were shot by each shooter as well as the iron sighted M4. Four out of four shooters shot quicker scores with the Compact ACOG while maintaining the same size or smaller groups. The TA44-2 model was mounted on top of the carrying handle. The base has a channel below the sight, which allows the iron sights to be used as back-up.Accupoint
The Accupoint TR20 sight was mounted on a Remington Model 700 rifle chambered in .308 Win. Our snipers observed that the recoil of the rifle blew off the sight adjustment knobs. The snipers who shot the Accupoint scoped rifle liked the concept but were unable to deliver accurate fire at 100 yards. In their opinion, the single amber aiming point was not sufficient to enable accurate fire.
One of the shooters stated that if the scope had three cross-hairs coming off the main post it would have been easier to align and deliver accurate fire. At 50 yards the target was large enough to hold the post steady to allow sufficient accurate fire but Trijicon sells other scopes that perform as well at fifty yards and are quicker to use. This sight may be perfect for a hunter but in our opinion did not supply enough accuracy potential for the police marksman.Conclusion
Each sight tested has its strengths and weaknesses. The Reflex is most suitable for entry work but would benefit from a battery-illuminated reticle. We look forward to testing the TriPower in the future. The Compact ACOG can be used in more diverse situations than any other sight tested. The magnification was low enough to not distract from close range use and yet still capable of head shot accuracy at 75+ yards. For longer range work such as on perimeter or on rural patrol (or for that matter on the streets of Iraq), the ACOG and its 3.5x magnification would be my choice.
All the carbine sights provided faster acquisition of the target than iron sights in all light conditions. This is what Bull Simons sought for his Son Tay Prison raiders and what modern law enforcement and military operators seek today. As one of the shooters said, using these sights is almost like cheating! The comparison to cheating is a good one, as no right-minded police tactical team operator or soldier would give an adversary a fair fight or an even break! Seek and obtain the edge in sights with Trijicon.Kevin R. Davis is a full-time police officer assigned to the training bureau. A 23 year veteran of law enforcement he is a former Team leader and lead instructor of his agency’s SWAT Team. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.advancedtacticalconcepts.com.