The growing popularity of the AR-15 in American law enforcement has brought with it the inevitable number of controversies about barrel length, ammo type/weight, sling configuration and style of stock. Everyone has an opinion. Although I seldom log on to any of the gun forums, I surf around to see what folks are saying. Knowledge-based opinion can be quite helpful, especially if it’s based on an actual experience. The problem is that no one wants to have too many of these experiences because no matter how well you’re trained, anyone can have a bad day or just run out of luck.
As many readers know, the AR was intended to be used out to 300 meters. This was as far as a shooter with good vision could see and identify a threat. Iron sights were standard and this operational threshold seemed reasonable. Nowadays, the sighting systems that are available have exceeded the original capability of the weapon platform, offering a magnified field of view that’s greater than the original weapon parameters. It’s not hard to find a palm-sized, 4X optic for less than $100 for the AR. You wouldn’t want to rely on it, but how much do you think a veteran of the Korean War would have given for one of these optics—that we would now turn our back on as too cheap—just to have that magnified capability for a few minutes on the battlefield?
The purchase of a quality optic for the AR platform shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’re looking at an outlay of at least $400 to get something that will stand up to the rough world of patrol or SWAT. Add to this the debate of whether or not we should go with some type of magnification.
The general thought of law enforcement is that magnification isn’t necessary because confrontations are generally close, but at the same time, having a bit of magnification to see small areas (i.e., “What’s that he has in his hand?”) could come in very handy.
Bill Taggert, manager for Trijicon’s Military Training and Sales Division, a former Marine and instructor at Crucible, says that a shooter should have one power of magnification for every 100 meters they feel is likely for their operational environment. Because the vast majority of law enforcement confrontations take place inside 100 meters, this would seem to be an argument for a 1X optic on a police carbine. But what about those times when a bit of magnification would come in handy? Additionally, everyone I know advocates iron sight back-up in the event the optic fails for whatever reason. This means the iron sights will either be in the field of view of the optic or might need to be flipped up when needed, which could be problematic in a fight.
Phil Motzer, the chief firearms instructor at Crucible, recommends a carry-handle, fixed sight with the addition of a compact 2X ACOG on top. According to Trijicon, its TA47R-6 is well-suited to limited space on a weapon like the UZI or MP-5 9 mm sub-machine guns and further increases the ability to detect and identify targets out to 150–200 meters. Motzer’s thought is that an officer will have access to an easy-to-view magnified optic of proven quality above the sight line of their iron sights, which can be used for close shots, if desired.
All that’s required to go from one sight system to another is to lift the head about an inch, not even removing it from the stock. It’s more of a twist of the cheek weld. The simple red dot reticle will look familiar to many shooters and will also offer the capability to hit near or far.
Bindon Aiming Concept
ACOG sights are designed to be used with both eyes open—what’s known as the Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC), a method named after its originator and founder of Trijicon. When using a magnified optic, the disparity between the eyes looks weird, but with use the brain will merge the reticle into a single plain of vision allowing the shooter to scan the area while staying on the sights for a faster, more accurate shot. The less magnification, the less time/effort required to make BAC work for you. This concept was used for years by hunters who were trying to keep track of moving game animals, and it’s now used with great effect by the military.
The one drawback to this system will be when the optic is used as close range, the standard 2–2 1/2" sight offset will be about 1" taller, but then proper training is always the answer to the problem of offset.
As previously stated, the iron sights can be easily accessed by merely lowering the eyes to the sight channel located directly under the ACOG. The traditional AR-15 rear sight consists of two peep apertures—one large and one small for greater accuracy at distance—but we’re not looking for a 300–500 meters shot in law enforcement operations. We’re looking to engage at point blank range to 100 meters, so another rear sight configuration might be a better idea.
XS Sight Systems
Former Special Forces and Delta Operator Paul Howe, who runs a school in Texas called Combat Shooting and Tactics, has a solution. Developed for sale by XS Sight Systems, the CSAT is designed to be zeroed at both 7 and 100 yards for use anywhere in between. The sight is a flat black face with heavy serrations to reduce glare. The top notch (as is the bottom peep) is to be used with XS Sights’ tritium front post, which combines a green globe with a white outline and black casing. The color contrast helps fast sight acquisition.
The top notch is zeroed at 7 yards with a sight picture that looks exactly like that on a pistol. Once zeroed at 7 yards, move back to 100 and fire three rounds at your target using the six o’clock or center-hold while using the more traditional peep aperture. Adjust your sights accordingly to ensure your rounds hit where you want them. Once zeroed, move back to 7 yards and confirm your close zero using the top notch. After this is accomplished, you should have a point of aim and point of impact zero.
To see how far back you can use your top notch, move back to 10 yards, 15 yards, 25 yards, etc., and notice the sight offset. Use the peep when you feel you are too far away for the notch to make the shot. This will be up to the individual shooter to make this determination and will develop through use and training.
Using the ACOG/XS Sight combination requires time and practice, but you’ll be surprised at how fast you can get on top of this. Is this the ultimate answer to AR sighting solutions? No, few things will be the ultimate. But it’s a good one and one worth exploring if you don’t already have a sight set up on your AR.
As always, stay sharp, stay alert and check your 360 often!