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!