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Is There a Place for Fixed-Power Optics in the Modern Shooting World?  

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The fixed-power optic has been around for a while, but seems to have been outclassed for a while.  Red dots are undeniably faster up close and in awkward positions, LPVOs are nearly as fast as red dots with the advantage as having the same or greater magnification as all the fixed-power combat optics I've ever seen, and the long range/precision community has gone all-in on variables.

The last holdout for the fixed-power has been the military, and their fielding of the venerable ACOG.  Sure the high-speed guys have been using 1-4x and 1-6x for years, but they always do more experimental stuff.  Well, until now.  The USMC put out an RFI for a 1-8x back in 2017.  It looks like the last major user of the fixed-power optic is moving away from them.

So I ask you guys, is there still a place for this class of optics?

US Marine Corps Release RFI for NEW Infantry Rifle Optic

"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement"

progunmillennial.wordpress.com

4 Answers
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I have used a red dot, lpvo, and the trijicon TA 33 with the horse shoe reticle on many of the annual desert biathlons (the Pecos Run & Gun in the Sun)....without a doubt- for that application, and in my opinion- the TA shines.  It is lightweight, slim, easy to make hits with, lightweight, simple.....and did I mention lightweight? 🙂  In fact, the last three or four years, that is what I have used exclusively.  As an RO, you will see people dither with dialing magnification and/or get very frustrated with large scopes trying to navigate their way through a V-Tac board- NOT saying there not a few guys that are very dialed in with their lpvo; I just place a premium on a simple, lightweight optic that carries well, and doesn't overwhelm the rifle.  The furthest target is usually 400-450 yards, and is a half silhouette, so it is not like you are shooting sub-MOA  target groups...

Another niche I think that fixed-power scopes fill much better than their variable-powered brethren is if you are scoping a heavy-recoiling rifle-  I had hell trying to scope my model 600 in 350 remington magnum until I figured that out!  All other (variable) scopes I tried (to include a couple of the lpvo) all had the ocular lens WAY to close for comfort, but a Leupold fixed 6 power with the M1 knobs was just perfect.

I don't think fixed-power scopes are the answer for everything, but there are a few cases when they are certainly a very good answer!

Jordan

Thanks for the input. I think you've really defined the places where a fixed-mag optic still shines.

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I think there is, though it is a gradually diminishing space, and it's tied to the high-end models like the ACOG and ELCAN.

To me, there are two main advantages to the low power fixed magnification optic:

  • Rugged simplicity
  • Lighter weight
  • Reduced cost to durability ratio

There's something to be said for an optic that provides you that magnification without having to fidget with it, and that you know will always be there and work when you need it. On the speed front, I'm not an expert, but as an average user I was able to post very similar stage times in my last match to the guys that were running red dot sights.  I'm sure it would be a different story with real professionals...but I am the Everyday Marksman after all.

Next is the question of weight. Ounce for ounce, the fixed magnification optic delivers that magnification at a lighter weight. To be fair, the difference is diminished with something larger like my TA-110, but if you're running a TA-33 that weighs less than an Aimpoint PRO and only a little more than a micro, that is a significant difference compared to an LPVO. If weight is a concern, it's still hard to beat this type of optic.

Then comes cost. While an ACOG is still in the $900-$1300 price range, which is no doubt expensive, a comparatively durable LPVO runs nearly twice that. The question really comes back to how much durability do we need? For your average weekend range trips, you really wouldn't need it and would be just fine with a more inexpensive LPVO like an Atibal or Vortex.

All of that to say that there's a time and a place for the kind of optic that an ACOG represents, but it is narrowly tailored to specific use cases.

"Man is still the first weapon of war" - Field Marshal Montgomery

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I preface my comments with the admission that I have no completion or under stress experience with my optics.

On my four ARs, the optics I have are an Aimpoint PRO, a Leupold 1.25-4x Firedot LPVO, a TA-31 and a TA-50.  Both ACOGs are my newest optics, and I'm seriously considering ACOGs for two other rifles in the future.  Why the ACOG?  They enable PID of targets out to what I consider my nominal engagement range (~300yds).  Do they enable ID better than the Leupold?  I haven't tried recently, so I don't know.  They do have advantage of a simpler magnification setup.  Simple is better for me when under stress.

One of my shooting projects right now is to see how both ACOGs behave in practice at close range.  This is in conjunction with trying to learn the Bindon Aiming Concept.  I also know I can use it for range estimation, and have successfully engaged steel at 500yds with the TA-31.  While I might be able to do ranging with the Firedot, it doesn't seem as intuitive as the ACOG.  I generally don't like distance shooting with the PRO because I don't feel it enables me to see the target well enough.

The ultimate decision rests with mission requirements, since those should drive equipment.  Since the farthest I've ever shot with irons is 562yds (4/32 hit ratio with my M1), I can say that target ID is very difficult with low contrast conditions.  Therefore, magnification helps, and I'd rather have it to the point of saying I need it for PID.  When I think about what I want to do with each optic, the breakdown is as follows:

  • HD/Engagements under 50 yards: PRO
  • Engagements beyond 100yds woth known ranges: Firedot
  • Engagements beyond 100yds with unknown ranges: ACOGs
  • Engagements with NVGs: TBD (Probably IR laser. . . .)

I see the ACOG as a jack of all trades optic.  It "can" do all of those roles above (caveat: with sufficient training), but it may not do any of those roles better than a red dot or LPVO.  With that in mind, if my mission requirements call for a do-all optic that can what I need at the "good enough" level, I wouldn't feel disadvantaged with an ACOG. It has a sufficient magnification at range, and if I use the whole reticle as a quasi-dot, it could be employed as a red dot at HD ranges with training.  It requires me to train with it to use it in these conditions, which may steer others toward red dots and LPVOs that seem more intuitive.

As I think it was said here: Prefection is the enemy of Good Enough

It's my opinion at present that the ACOG is the "good enough" optic in modern shooting.  However, I believe its downfall is the optic requires sufficient training for the CQB and low light applications which some may not be willing to do.

Internet reputations may be one thing, but cold hard data is another.

You seem focused on distance shooting, and at that range I'd say that the fixed vs LVPO argument is a wash, if not in favor of the fixed (generally have better glass, weight, and field of view for a given price point). But the CQB range is where the Class III really starts to outpace the Class II. I have no doubt that the Bindon concept can e used effectively at close range, but does it even compete with a Class III dialed down to 1x? When experienced LVPO users claim that it's as fast as a red dot, the undisputed champion of CQB, should we even bother with Bindon?

I'm also interested in why you choose the ACOG for unknown distances and the LPVO for known distances.  Is that optic driven, or reticle driven?

You happen to be in a much better position to test this out than I am, as I don't own an ACOG or other Class II optic, so I'd love to hear back if you choose to humor me.

I say ACOG for unknown distances because, as is the case with my TA31 BDC, the hoirzontal stadia lines on the reticle represent an average shoulder width at the designated range. Therefore, in theory, I can use the ACOG to "range" my target in a more intuitive manner than the traditional hashed crosshairs on my Firedot. That's a contributing factor why that rifle is zeroed for 50 yards. To answer the question, I'd say purely reticle driven.

I will gladly report my findings for PRO vs ACOG at ranges inside 50yds when I get range time to test.

Gotcha. I look forward to seeing what you find out.

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Yes; but with the understanding that a fixed power is more of a 'jack of all trades, master of one' type of optic.

This is really the only 'drawback' of fixed power,  OK at close ranges, OK at distance.    As long as you can deal with this go for it.     Other than this it can blow its competitors out of the water in the categories of weight, durability, & cost.  A jack of all trades scope is something that I would think would be right at home on a 16" midlength rifle.  Something that can go from 5-500 yds and do a good job at every distance in between.

Thank you for coming by The Everyday Marksman. This site and its community are a labor of love. I hope you stick around for a while, and maybe even join us.

-Matt

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