In an email our friend and advertiser Idaho Preps asked the following questions. "So, let me ask you this. In your experience and in the way that the.mil is training you 4x works out to be a good all around optic? What is the current thinking on average engagement ranges, etc? I have read quite a bit on the 500 yard engagement issues we are currently having in Afghanistan, but the point usually made is that the round is underpowered for the distance (5.56), not too much info on optics. I've always thought that something like the Millett DMS makes a lot of sense it's 1-4x with an illuminated dot. When/why would you go with a EOTech or Aimpoint (by this I'm asking from the .mil's point of view, I know when I would use one) vs an ACOG? I know you're busy with the little guy, and there are a lot of questions in there, so whatever you have time for would be appreciated."
TOR here: That covers a lot of ground and I will try to answer as much as I can. It is however worth first noting a couple things. First I am just one guy and obviously can only speak for myself as an individual not the Army or anything like that. Secondly there are somewhat diverse opinions within our ranks on most things including optics. Now that you have been properly disclaimed I am going to make with the answers.
"In your experience and in the way that the.mil is training you 4x works out to be a good all around optic?" The simple answer is yes. Especially in a platform with very forgiving eye relief and a wide objective/ view such as the ACOG it has a big up side and a minimal downside when compared to just rocking iron sights or the Aimpoint (or I imagine EOTech which I have very minimal personal experience with). At real close ranges of say point blank to 50 meters they are a tiny bit slower then the Aimpoint but probably comparable to iron sights. I think it is at most a very small issue. Also most significantly the up side that pretty much everyone shoots better past 100 meters (certainly 200m) with a good magnified optic more than balances it out.
As an all around optic I really like the ACOG. As I've gotten more experienced and comfortable with the ACOG I prefer it over the Aimpoint. They are easy for most people to shoot well. Magnification aids with identifying and engaging targets at distance, as well as at even fairly close ranges. Some experienced folks feel equally strong about Aimpoints or EOTech's for the same role. I hesitate to say there is a right answer to this one. At the end of the day it really comes down to personal preference.
What is the current thinking on average engagement ranges, etc? By context I will talk about Afghanistan. I hesitate to use the term average because it implies a level of tracking and statistical analysis which I do not believe is present. However it would be accurate to say that in Afghanistan engagements tend to be further out than in Iraq. A few hundred meter contacts are at least relatively common. Not surprising seeing as Afghanistan is relatively short on built up urban areas and also very open with lots of hills and mountains. Also these far ambushes are a lot easier for insurgents to safely break contact from. There is the worst case scenario of complex heavy weapons ambushes from several hundred meters. However popping off a couple mags or part of a belt of machine gun ammo then fading away is probably a lot more common.
As this applies to the reader as a private citizen. It sorta goes without saying that the longer line of sight is in your AO the further away people could potentially exchange gunfire. You can see a long way in lots of the midwest if you get above all the corn. In Montana and Wyoming you can usually see as far as your eyes or optics are able. If long range is the rule magnification is your friend.
The second half of this question is "I have read quite a bit on the 500 yard engagement issues we are currently having in Afghanistan, but the point usually made is that the round is underpowered for the distance (5.56), not too much info on optics." Interestingly enough I wrote about this some time ago, Increasing Small Arms Lethality In Afghanistan-Taking Back The Infantry Half Kilometer. To rehash quickly it breaks down like this. First and foremost is training. It doesn't matter what kind of distance a weapon is capable of if you can't effectively employ it. It doesn't matter what a bullet will do if it doesn't hit flesh and bone. In terms of the caliber discussion. There are some very effective rounds for the 5.56 (most notably Black Hills MK262 MOD1 but really 70+ grain JHP/open tip match grade stuff in general) but unfortunately they are not issued widely enough to make a difference. Of course some people will always believe that anything less than 7.62x51 is useless but lets not go there.
[Though I cannot help but note that in WWI and WWII when everybody used .30 cal rifles there wasn't close to a 100% mortality rate for GSW. Furthermore in Korea where our troops were periodically overrun by hordes of Chinese they were carrying the 30.06. The same 30.06 which is bigger and more powerful than the mighty 7.62x51. Every man they shot didn't die. Chinamen didn't flee towards home en mass because they were so afraid of the BATTLE RIFLES waiting for them. Somehow that big heavy .30 caliber BATTLE RIFLE made of good American steel and wood didn't do a very great job as a magical talisman.]
Specifically as to optics. It goes without saying that when stuff is hundreds of meters away magnification makes it easier to see and thus easier to shoot. This is where Aimpoint's and EOTech's are especially wanting in comparison to magnified optics. Their relatively large dots and lack of magnification turn what could be precision fire into area fire.
"I've always thought that something like the Millett DMS makes a lot of sense it's 1-4x with an illuminated dot."
I am not sure about variable power magnification for an all around optic. I have some concern that they are more complex and thus fragile than fixed power models. For all around use I think it is just hard to beat a good 3-4x optic.
There have been what could be called a "have your cake and eat it too" ideas when it comes to optics for some time in various shooting arena's. Ever seen the scope rings which let you still see the iron sights? I've heard of folks talking about mounting some sort of a small red dot IN ADDITION to a magnified optic. They need to be offset somehow and that is inevitably awkward. Trijicon offers an ACOG with what could (generously) be called back up iron sights on top of the scope which isn't a bad idea. I imagine it would be good for CQB. They even have one with a tiny red dot site on top of the scope. I have no experience with that but it seems like a bit much to me. [The ACOG has a cool system called the Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC): The highly advanced Bindon Aiming Concept is an optical breakthrough that combines traditional long-stand-off marksmanship capability with the ultimate in close-combat transitional aiming. Using the two-eye aiming method, when the weapon is being moved, the perceived image is unmagnified, permitting extremely rapid target acquisition. As soon as the weapon movement is stopped and the shooter is close to the proper aim on target, the targeted image "zooms" into magnification, permitting greater shooting accuracy with higher hit ratios. This is especially useful for moving targets or for targets in dense cover.]
I do not have personal experience with the Millet DMS scope but did some research. At least enough to talk semi intelligently about it. They got some decent man in forum reviews. Don't seem like too bad of an optic for the money. I don't like the reticule but that is sort of a personal thing. Also they lack a BDC or turrets which makes precision distance shooting difficult. Most likely that would only be an issue around 300 meters or so varying by the ballistics of the cartridge. Depending on what you want it for that may or may not be important.
[One thing that has always sort of confused me is when people buy a rifle and then immediately go get the cheapest big variable power scope Walmart sells. This makes even less sense when folks mount a cheap scope on an expensive rifle. Personally if I am going to scope a rifle I save up and do it at least decently right. Spend at least a few hundred bucks and get a quality name brand scope with comparable rings or mount. This isn't the place to go cheap. Not necessarily saying the Millet DMS does or doesn't fall into this category; I just don't have the experience with them to say. This trend is just something I felt like rambling about ]
When/why would you go with a EOTech or Aimpoint (by this I'm asking from the .mil's point of view, I know when I would use one) vs an ACOG? There isn't, at least that I know of, any sort of doctrine or best practices on this. Units (aside from maybe SOF folks) use whatever they have on inventory. If they have a bunch of Aimpoints they use them, same for EOTech's or ACOG's. There is at least a general consensus that magnified optics are good for the open terrain in Afghanistan. As for individuals this is definitely a personal preference thing.
Personally I would be inclined to go with an EOTech or Aimpoint when for some reason or another the range I would use it at was really limited. I'm talking CQB to maybe 100 meters. If I was building a rifle for defense inside of my home (versus the traditional shotgun) and wanted an optic it would be some kind of EOTech/ Aimpoint. For some of the shooting sport stuff where you use rifles but only at close distances an EOTech/ Aimpoint is what I would use. For a more all around scenario which could require longer distance shooting I like magnification.
Well I hope that answers the questions. Maybe we will get some interesting discussion out of it.
Also I would be negligent if I failed to mention that Idaho Preps sells EOTech, Aimpoint and Trijicon products including ACOG's at very competitive prices.