If you were going to war, what scope or sight would you want on your rifle? For the moment I’m going to limit the response to “single unit” optics and not consider scopes like the Trijicon ECOS or Leupold HAMR that have the mini sight on top. Let’s only discuss single sighting systems and then I’ll talk about scopes like the ECOS and Red Dots with magnifiers, etc.
In response to the opening question, I immediately beginning thinking Trijicon ACOG, EOTech or Aimpoint. Leupold has some nice scopes, but I’m not sure I would pick my “Go To War” scope outside of the three brands previously mentioned.
My first choice is the Trijicon ACOG TA11H. In reality, it’s a toss-up between the TA11H (Horseshoe reticle) and the TA11F (Chevron Reticle). I pick the TA11 series (3.5×35 ACOGs) over the TA31 series (4×32 ACOGs) because of the longer eye relief. The TA11 has 2.4 inches of eye relief compared to the 1.5 inches on the TA31 series. The TA11 has a 10mm exit pupil compared to the TA31′s 8mm. Larger exit pupil also aids in faster target acquisition as you’re eye can be positioned less precisely behind the scope. I feel like the TA11 series gives me faster target acquisition.
Like I said earlier, I have a real hard time deciding between the Horseshoe reticle or the Chevron reticle. As I’m picking a combat scope, and typical combat range is less than 100 yards, I think I would go with the Horseshoe reticle. Target acquisition just seems faster with it. The center Horseshoe dot is designed for point-blank shooting out to 200 yards. The top of the vertical stadia line is your 300 yard point of aim and then you can see it designated for longer distances. The dot is 1 MOA so it’s only covering a 1 inch circle at 100 yards (2 inches at 200 yards) which is precise enough for combat shooting. Additionally, I pick the red reticles over the green ones. I know they say our eyes see green better, but the red reticles stand out better to me.
With a bit of training, the TA11H is going to be almost as fast as and EOTech or Aimpoint. I like the 3.5x magnification as it will help you locate and identify targets at longer ranges as well as inside buildings and shadows of an urban area. Adversaries typically do not make themselves a target. They are trying not to get shot as much as you are. You are probably only going to see movement or a small part of them. The small amount of magnification is going to help you see inside windows and concealed positions to help you shoot the enemy when he thinks you can’t see him.
My second choice is the much overlooked Trijicon ACOG TA26SR. I think a lot of people miss out on this great sight. It’s compact, lightweight and super fast at getting rounds on target with 1.5x magnification. All of the ruggedness of the ACOG in a smaller unit. I love the reticle as well. It’s just seems like you’re on target as soon as you bring your gun up… and no batteries required.
For my third choice, I would pick the Aimpoint COMP M4S with it’s 2 MOA dot and 80,000 hours of battery life. Yes… you read that right… 80,000 hours on one battery. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons I choose it above EOTech. I like the COMP M4S over the COMP M4 due to the lower battery casing. The Aimpoint COMP M3, with 50,000 hours of battery life, is also an excellent choice.
Battery life, especially in combat, is an issue with me. I was reading Chris Kyle’s excellent book, American Sniper, and especially noticed his account of leading a group of SEALs on a raid in Iraq when the battery on his laser sight crapped out. Murphy’s Law at work… and Murphy works overtime in combat.
My fourth choice is the EOTech 556. The 556 has the buttons on the side for use with a magnifier and offer 1100 hours of battery life. Leaving battery life out of the question, I don’t know if I prefer EOTech over Aimpoint. I probably lean a little toward EOTech.
Now let’s talk about the “combo units” which combine a magnified scope with a mini red dot or using a magnifier with the Aimpoint or EOTech. I think the best combat sight in the world would be the Trijicon ACOG TA11H with a Dual Illuminated Trijicon RMR mounted on top. I’ve already talked about the TA11H, but I choose the Dual Illuminated RMR because it doesn’t require batteries and, like the ACOG, it’s always ready. No switches to turn on.. just pick up the gun and start shooting. Placing the RMR on top of the ACOG now gives you the instant target acquisition you get with the Aimpoint or EOTech.
I don’t like the Aimpoint 3x Magnifier because of it’s twist mount. You’re constantly putting it on and taking it off. When you take it off the rifle, you need some place to put it where it won’t get lost and broken. Just seems like a hassle to me. I much prefer EOTech’s new G33 3x Magnifier. It offers the “Flip to Side” mount where you push a button and it flips off to the and out of the way. I think the Flip to Side mount is a much better design than Aimpoint’s Twist-Mount. The only drawback I see to the Flip to Side mount is then you have the 3x magnifier off to the side in an unusual position where I think it could get banged going through doors or other tight spots – as it’s hanging off the side of your rifle. Additionally, you have to move one of your hands off the rifle to flip it out of the way or move it back into position. With the RMR above the ACOG, you just have to raise or lower your head about an inch and a half to use the desired sight.
So for combo units, I would go with the TA11H and the Dual Illuminated RMR. Second choice is the Aimpoint COMP M4S with the EOTech G33 3x Magnifier.
OK, let’s talk about a few optics that didn’t make my list. I really like the new Leupold HAMR, but I don’t think it’s better than the TA11H so why pay the same amount of money for a scope that needs batteries for illumination?
Additionally, the ACOG has 30 years of combat proven experience behind it. I trust Leupold and believe the HAMR is probably as rugged as the ACOG, but it’s hard to beat the Tritium illumination and 30 years of military experience. The HAMR is available with Leupold’s DeltaPoint mounted on top, but the DeltaPoint requires batteries and is useless if you lose battery power.
The Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic) is new from Aimpoint and I’m really impressed with it. If I didn’t have the money for the COMP M4S, then I’d go with this PRO model. But, as money is no object for this little exercise, I picked the COMP M4S.
As many of you know, I really like the Burris AR332. It’s a great scope and I feel it will hold up to rugged use, but if I have the choice, I’d take the ACOG over the AR332. If I was spending my own money, and didn’t have the $1100 for the ACOG, I would be comfortable going with the AR332. I don’t think the AR332 was made as a “Go To War” scope like Trijicon, Aimpoint, and EOTech so it’s not going to hold up like they would.
I’m sure some of you are wondering why I didn’t pick Trijicon Reflex Sights like the RX30. This is where dot size trumps Tritium illumination. The smallest dot you can get on the Trijicon RX34 is 4.5 MOA. You can get the RX06 with the 11 MOA triangle which gives you the top of the triangle for precision aiming, but the 80,000 hours of battery life combined with the 2 MOA dot on the Aimpoint COMP M4S wins my vote over the Trijicon Reflex Sights. In my Combo Unit pick, I go with the Trijicon RMR, but I have the ACOG for precision, longer range shooting, so I’m not so concerned about dot size on the RMR.
In closing, there are a lot of really great scopes and sights for tactical rifles. There are other “combat-grade” optics out there that I didn’t mention for the sake of brevity. This discussion could possibly be dragged on forever! I mention my picks here and tried to give my reasoning. Other people obviously will pick other optics and have other reasons. My point is to promote you’re own thinking on the subject as well as give you some lines of thought and reasoning to guide your decision if you’re shopping for a high end, combat grade, scope.