Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reflex Holographic Sights... Where Have You Been My Whole Life???

I have zeroed my iron sights on the SCAR 17s, and I noticed right away that I would want to put some accessories on the rifle. First and foremost, I didn't like gripping the magazine or the Picatinny rail system that runs the length of the barrel. The rail system is difficult to grab and is very uncomfortable. Using a standard magazine hold was more comfortable, but... The SCAR uses a reciprocating charging handle. And that handle reciprocates right above the magazine... And if you get lazy with your thumb and let it creep up off of the magazine when you take a shot... OUCH!!!

So, I talked to several friends who use their their rifles for a number of different ways. One guy uses his rifle for hunting, one guy uses his exclusively on the range, and the other two... well... They hunt people. One being a member of a Midwestern State Patrol SWAT team, and the other a Special Forces Operator who is back, hopefully for good, from his second tour in Afghanistan. The guy who hunts uses a SCAR 17s, and the SOCOM guy had a SCAR-H mk17. The difference? Well, the 17s is the civilian version of the rifle, made in Belgium by FNH. It is a semi-automatic only rifle. The H mk17 is the military version of the SCAR made in the USA on contract from FNH by Bushmaster. It is a selective fire rifle with the option of semi-automatic and automatic fire settings. The other two guys use the M&P AR-15, both in semi-automatic. I asked them what they thought of my gripping problem.
Both the Hunter and SOCOM guy used a vertical fore-grip on their SCARs. Both saying that they liked the fore-grip because it allows you to very easily keep the muzzle under control much easier than the standard magazine hold.
The SWAT team guy liked the fore-grip for his AR-15 as well. He and the SCOM guy could not grip the barrels of their rifles because they hang so much junk off of the rail systems of their respective rifles. Flashlights, both UV and viable light, lasers, backup iron sights, you name it they hang it off their weapons. The fore-grip is necessary, because having all of that stuff hanging off the rifle shoves the Center of Gravity of the rifle forward. You can't use a magazine hold because the weight will pull your shots will be consistently low. The fore-grip fixes this issue.
The Range guy... He just uses the magazine hold. Not helpful.

Then an unexpected question was asked... What am I using for optics? I replied that I really didn't want to buy optics now, because I haven't really tried any out, I didn't know what to buy, and I didn't want to dump a bunch of money in to something that I could just use my iron sights to do. Iron sights came with the rifle, I have them zeroed, why would I need to buy something else??
Every one of the guys said that I needed to look at some optics for the rifle. They all said that the new sights have revolutionized shooting. No one uses iron sights anymore, said the SWAT and SCOM guy. You can't get on target fast enough, they give you a headache, and you have to have your face in a very particular place on the rifle to use them properly.
Great... What should I look at. SOCOM, used to the taxpayer funding his optic choices said Trijicon's ACOG/RMR combo. He liked the TA31F-RMR model. With the .308 Ballistic Reticle.

Wow... That costs as much as the rifle. I said.
Yeah, he replied, but you can use it in any situation. Long range you can use the ACOG for 4x zoom, and for close up you use the Reflex holographic sight.
But... It costs as much as the rifle.

The hunter uses a Mark 4 MR/T from Leupold. It is a 8x zoom.

Holy crap I said... I don't need that much magnification... And the thing costs a thousand dollars!!!!

The SWAT guy said he likes his Eotech XPS3 Holographic Reflex Sight.

He said that his main concern was close quarters combat and he liked the reflex sight because there was no magnification, he could keep both eyes open his head mobile, and still be able to put his bullets on target. He had his optic zeroed at 50 yards, because he wouldn't ever be shooting any farther than that. The snipers handle those shots. But... it costs $600!!!!

The range guy had a very simple Leapers UTG SCP RD40RGW A red dot sight.

It cost him $35 at Cheaper Than Dirt. Now we are talking!!

So, taking all of this knowledge, I started thinking about what the mission of my rifle is. Mostly, I will be shooting at ranges. I MIGHT go pig hunting with it, I MIGHT do some three gun training, but the vast VAST majority of my shooting will be at a shooting range. That means my maximum range will be about 150 yards. So, I don't need any thing with any type of magnification.
I will be doing most of my shooting "Off hand." Meaning that I will be shooting from a standing position. So, the biggest thing for me will be reacquiring the target shot after shot.
Also, I didn't want to dump a bunch of money in to an optic that I had no idea that I would like. I have never used a modern optic and I didn't know what to choose.

Where does that leave me? Some where between the SWAT team guy and the range guy. No long range shots, easy target acquisition, no magnification, and under $50.

Getting on to Cheaper Than Dirt I started looking for inexpensive Reflex Holographic sights. And I found the perfect one. The Sightmark Sure Shot SM13003B Holographic Reflex sight. Only $40.

Now... A little bit about reflector or reflex sights. Essentially they are a little heads up display. They have their own light source a mirror and the reflector screen where the image is projected. They are called "holographic" because the image is made by refracting a laser beam.
These types of sights have been used on aircraft, anti aircraft, and artillery guns since the 1940s. There is nothing new about the base technology. What is new is that they have been miniaturized to fit on to a personal, portable weapon.

Now... Anytime you are dealing with optics you have to talk about "parallax." Parallax is the difference in the in the apparent position of an object viewed along different lines of sight. For instance, hold out your arm, close one eye and sight directly down that arm on some point on the wall. Now open your other eye and close the original one. From the view of your other eye you are no longer sighted directly upon the same point. This makes a big difference when we are talking about gun sights. When looking down iron sights, the aim point seems to change according to where you hold your cheek on the butt stock (called the cheek weld). So, when you zero your iron sights you have to find the exact same cheek weld EVERY time you aim. Any deviation to this cheek weld, and your shot will be off. It is one of the frustrating things about trying to get consistent accurate shots with iron sights. It is also why shooting is a perishable skill. You forget where that cheek weld is, and you need to find it again.

The Reflex sight is essentially "Parallax free." What that means is that the holographic image, called the "reticle," will be on the bullet strike point, no matter where the shooter is looking at the reticle. The cheek weld can be different each time, and the aim point will be where it is zeroed. It takes a lot of the guess work right out of shooting.

One of the things you try to do in tactical shooting is to aim with both eyes open. You do this to keep aware of your surroundings, maintain depth perception, and to prevent blurred vision in the closed eye. Using iron sights, keeping both eyes open is very difficult. The image of your sights is blurry, or split or any number of problems. It gives you a head ache. The reflex sight is designed to be essentially ignored. You bring the weapon up and just look out on to your targets as you normally would the projected reticle simply shows up in your plane of view as if it is floating in air.

I bought the Sightmark and put it on my SCAR along with an inexpensive fore-grip. The "bad ass" factor of the rifle went up about 10 points.
I took the rifle to zero the sight. The difference in shooting with the reflex sight and without is a night and day difference. It is like going from a black and white 10 inch television to a brand new High Definition 70 inch TV. It absolutely redefines shooting. I the ONLY thing I have in my experience to compare the difference to is going from flying the traditional "steam" instruments in the airplane to a glass cockpit. Like flying with just a paper map and a compass to moving map GPS. After taking the first look through that sight, just as just as I knew I would never fly without a GPS again, I knew that I would never shoot iron sights again. The optic is an absolute necessity after the very first shot.
However, the sight is designed with the iron sights in mind. If you run out of battery charge, you don't need to remove the optic in order to use your iron sights. You simply flip up the sights and aim through the viewing screen just as if it wasn't there. Very cool!!

The only regret I have in my purchase is that I didn't buy something more robust. When I break the Sightmark, and I will break it, It is just that flimsy, but what can you expect for $40??, I will look in to getting the Eotech that my SWAT buddy likes so much.

My SCAR 17s with the fore-grip and Sightmark Sure Shot Reflex Sight

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