Optics for your Rifle: Cover All the Basics
ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, prior to hunting season and/or disaster, those rifles of yours need to be ready to go…cleaned and in peak operating condition. Thinking of the rifle as an extension of yourself is a good rule to follow that will keep you on your toes regarding maintenance and maintaining skills
. This piece is not intended to recommend any particular type of optic, as needs are widely varied in terms of rifles used and the tasks those rifles are intended to perform. For a “Happy Family Scope Primer,” talk to a salesman at Cabela’s or some other big-box store selling the equipment.
This piece is designed to place emphasis on one of the concepts I’ve been trying to hammer home in almost every article: Master the “primitive” before you employ the technological.
Your first emphasis should be on iron sights and Kentucky windage. You must be able to hit your target without optics. OK, you have a perfectly-zeroed scope. What if it breaks off its mount or one of the objectives shatters? Oops, can you wait for Mr. Bad-Guy, so that I can aim? How about an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse), and suddenly that $10-grand thermal image optical “dancer” on top of your weapon becomes a paperweight…what then?
Hopefully (in that regard) you listened to my advice and bought a second one and clapped it into a Faraday cage just for that event. Either way, you will need that iron sight for a time…until that Carrington Effect wears off. Same precautions need to be followed regarding your Red Dot sights and any laser sights or lights you may be employing.
Work with your rifle for at least a week or two with the iron sights. Learn how to adjust them (if they’re adjustable) and how to estimate your ranges. Find your optimal range to hit that target…the range you are comfortable with. It will vary with age, eye-strength, experience, and natural shooting ability. For example, one man may have an easy time with a man-sized target at 100 meters (300 feet), whereas a second man engages it effectively at 50 meters. This is not to make any judgments on either man, but to emphasize a point: know your abilities and your limitations. In this manner, you will be more effective.
Standard scopes with non-electrical/laser objectives (just lenses in a tube!) vary in quality and price. Stick with this motto: Cheap you buy, cheap you get. Although not perfect grammatically, it emphasizes the point clearly. Quality in terms of durability, lens clarity and craftsmanship, and simplicity of function are things to seek after. Take the time to really test out the scope. The “gun salesman” is out to make bottom line and commission by selling guns and accessories. Every scope is good… yada, yada. Want to make a good selection?
Find someone with military experience as a sniper and ask this individual to either make a recommendation or go with you to pick up a good scope that fits your weapon’s needs. Give ‘em the standard: “Thank you for your service.” Great. Then pay him to show you the knowledge that he earned…at a price.
It is a life or death decision, and if it’s not in your mind? You better make it so. If it’s hunting, it’s to provide meat for your table and your family. You can’t get more life or death than that…except for defense. When the goon is coming up the driveway with a pistol after the EMP strikes…you need to drop him before he ever reaches the door.
Once you have the scope, zero it properly. You will have to set goals for yourself. You will have to invest the time and the ammo. Save your brass, reload, and determine your needs with the proper ballistics and bullet tables. That scope…once it’s mounted, it needs to not move. A boresight laser is invaluable: not so much for zeroing, but for confirming your zero and that you’re still “on” if you move the weapon or touch it. Every time you touch that scope, you’ll have to re-zero it or re-confirm the zero. Now, there are a ton of durable scopes and mounts that need minimal work in these departments. It’s up to you to find them for your weapon and apply them.
Then, to the high-tech stuff. As I said, you can invest tens of thousands in this department. For those of you who think I just visit the “Dollar Tree,” think again: that was recommended for those who simply cannot afford to purchase the best equipment. I give you my stance on scopes in a nutshell: only the best will suffice, in all departments as merits a professional soldier. Rest assured, my optics are the best, and following OPSEC, I will not reveal to you what I have.
Thermal imaging scopes should be purchased that have the ability to switch off from thermal imaging to a standard refractory scope with objective lenses. You will be able to “game” the prices on this one. Better follow the rule, though, and buy two of them: one to “squirrel” away in a Faraday cage and one for the weapon that you will lose if an EMP strikes. I’m not advising you to do anything that I myself do not pursue. You may wish a range-finding apparatus within/attached to your scope, or a handheld one. It’s a matter of preference.
In closing, your optics are going to better enable you to hit your target from a distance. The optics are no substitute for the basic fundamentals of rifle marksmanship: breathing, aiming, and trigger squeeze. You can’t “spend” yourself into proficiency. Accoutrements are just that: accessories that need to be “dumped” if they either fail to work or are out of commission for the return to the iron sights. Practice perfects, and in a firefight second place is a “loss,” and perhaps a permanent one. Take your optics seriously, and start with the fundamentals…those iron sights as a mainstay. JJ out!
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Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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