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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?
"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement"
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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