Police officers can be gadget freaks. We re willing to add any gizmo to our firearms to gain an edge. Recently, I shot some rounds downrange with a tactical officer s carbine, and I could barely pick the thing up due to the weight of the spare magazine, flashlight mount, bi-pod, bull barrel and telescopic collimator sight he d installed. I couldn t imagine carrying this arrangement on sling during an extended call-out, but I really liked his sight.
Advancements in the electronic-sight market continue to reduce size and weight, improve dot or chevron illumination, increase battery runtime and offer an aftermarket full of mounts and backup iron sights. We even see electronic, tritium and fiber optic sights sitting on top of combat carbines.
I tested some of the newest sights available and have come to appreciate their advantages. Example: Illuminated reticle sights only require the shooter to place the red dot or chevron reticle on the target instead of requiring the shooter to align the front sight, rear sight and target with both eyes open. This reduces the speed of engagement for a shot versus traditional iron sights.
Aimpoint Micro T1 www.aimpoint.com
Aimpoint is a division of the Swedish company GS Development Group. The company claims 400,000 of its sights are used in law enforcement. With 20 years of experience in the illuminated-reticle business, they ve amassed a great reputation.
According to the company s Web site, in February of last year the U.S. Army ran tests pitting the current CompM2 against a variety of competition. The Army selected the new CompM4 as its new red-dot sight, which will be standardized as the M68CCO. The CompM4 and its previous model, the M2, will run on standard AA batteries. According to Aimpoint, it will provide constant illumination for eight years.
Also last year, the company introduced its new micro line of red-dot sights. I had the opportunity to shoot the Micro T1 and the Concealed Engagement Unit. The T1 offers much in its small package (it measures 2.4'' long and weighs 3 oz.). Powered by one 3V lithium battery (Type CR2032), the T1 will deliver up to five years of continuous illumination. With four night-vision device settings and eight daytime settings, the T1 offers 1x magnification.
At the 2008 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to shoot the T1 for the first time, in addition to the Concealed Engagement Unit. The CEU is designed to allow shooters to fire over or around cover without being exposed.
Shooting the CEU around cover, I laid the carbine on its side and focused on the 4 MOA reticle on assorted metal targets downrange. Although uncomfortable at first, I was able to run a clean rack of metal plates. An Aimpoint representative then demonstrated the T1 and CEU by shooting over the top of the cover without any problem.
Don t want the CEU? Simply remove it from its ring, and you re back to a standard T1 configuration. Should everyone have a CEU? Probably not, but it does offer advantages of shooting from cover without exposure.
The first sights I tested were from the Trijicon line of collimator sights, including the Reflex, Compact ACOG and ACOG. The Reflex relies on fiber optic coils to supply light during daylight operations and the radioactive isotope tritium to illuminate the chevron during low or subdued lighting. The Reflex sight came with an amber 6.5 MOA dot and was mounted in a co-witnessing configuration in front of the carrying handle.
With a co-witness mount, the dot or chevron is on the same plane as the iron sights, which can lead to sight clutter. Instead, you should mount the collimator or holographic sight higher than the iron sights so the backup iron sights are in the lower third of the sight window. The Reflex sight is powered through tritium or fiber optics, but lacks the brightness of other electronic sights.
I also tested Trijicon s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) in 3.5x magnification. Everyone who shot the ACOG liked the magnification for perimeter or long-distance work, but felt the magnification distracted the shooter in close-in work. The addition of small, non-magnifying sights, such as the Trijicon lithium battery-powered Red Dot, mounted on top of troopers ACOGs gives magnification for long-range work, and the illuminated LED helps for close work, such as room entry.
The Compact ACOG at 1.5x magnification was the shooter s choice out to 25 yards. The 1.5x magnification offered an improvement over the naked eye, but didn t overwhelm the shooter. The Compact ACOG is smaller in girth and weight than its full-size brother (the ACOG TA-11 tested measured 8'' long and weighed 14 oz. in comparison with the Compact TA-44-2, which weighed 5.3 oz. and measured 5.34'').
What Trijicon lacked in terms of reticle brightness was made up with the introduction of the TriPower.
The TriPower is a non-magnifying reflex style sight, which means it s always on, in contrast with electronic- only sights.
The TriPower has 14 daytime and six night-vision settings, including automatic turn-off after two hours, which returns the unit to the previous setting at the push of the on button.
Costing less than other red dots and with less magnification, the EOTech from L-3 Communications is the primary red-dot sight I ve seen on carbines in the instructor programs I run, and on SWAT personnel riles.
I picked-up my first EOTech this year, the 511.A65 model. This red-dot sight was purchased with a Larue Tactical mount, which allows a lower third iron sight plane. The sight is powered by two standard 1.5V lithium batteries, which give the unit eight hours of power prior to auto shutdown, if turned on by the up button. If the unit is turned on via the down button, the unit will shut down in four hours.
With 20 brightness settings, the EOTech offers a variety of options, depending on ambient light. The heads-up illuminated reticle can be described as a larger circle (65 MOA) with hash marks at the compass points and a smaller 1 MOA aiming circle.
Recently while at the Cleveland Police Department s outdoor range, I had the opportunity to shoot my carbine and EOTech during a lunch break in a Basic SWAT class I teach for the Cleveland Heights Police Department. Focusing on head shots while on the move, I kept a decent group in the center of the head. Although I ve yet to really wring-out the EOTech, I m looking forward to the three-day carbine operator courses and the five-day carbine instructor courses I m running.
Illuminated reticle rifle sights (holographic or collimator) won't turn a poor shot into a great shot. If the shooter doesn t know the basics of rifle fire, they ll still toss rounds regardless of what sighting device they use. However, if a well-trained shooter uses a red dot, they can decrease time to an effective round on target.
We strive for decisive hits in combat, whether in law enforcement or the military. Red-dot sights can help us accomplish this mission, but to develop the shooter, we must combine the right equipment with a solid training program.