Category Archives: Optics

Tracking Tease

Got a phone call yesterday from a friend at a range in West Virginia. Three guys including a former SF man, a former SEAL (range officer), and a dealer/gunsmith/armorer without military service cracked the box on a new TrackingPoint .300 WM rifle on a long range.

This is file photo a standard TP XS3 rifle. Don't know yet what exact model our guys had.

This is file photo a standard TP XS3 rifle. Don’t know yet what exact model our guys had.

Quick take-aways:

  • Best packaged gun any of them had ever seen. In the gunsmith’s experience, that’s out of thousands of new guns.
  • Favorably impressed with the quality of the gun and the optic. It “feels” robust.
  • It’s premium priced, but with premium quality. Rifle resembles a Surgeon rifle. “The whole thing is top quality all the way, no corners cut, no expense spared.” They throw in an iPad. The scope itself serves its images up as wifi.
  • First shot, cold bore, no attempt to zero, 350 meters, IPSC sized metal silhouette: “ding!” They all laughed like maniacs. It does what the ads say.
  • Here’s how the zero-zero capability works:  they zero at the factory, no $#!+, and use a laser barrel reference system to make automatic, no-man-in-the-loop, corrections. Slick.
  • The gun did a much better job of absorbing .300WM recoil than any 300WM any of them have shot. With painful memories of developmental .300WM M24 variants, that was interesting. “Seriously, it’s like shooting my .308.”
  • By the day’s end, the least experienced long-range shooter, who’d never fired a round at over 200 meters, was hitting moving silhouettes at 850 yards. In the world of fiction where all snipers take head shots at 2000m with a .308, that’s nothing, but in the world of real lead on target, it’s huge. 
  • It requires you to unlearn some processes and learn some new ones, particularly with respect to trigger control. But that’s not impossible, or even very hard.
  • They didn’t put wind speed into the system, and used Kentucky windage while placing the “tag.” This worked perfectly well.
  • An experienced sniper or long range match shooter, once he gets over the muscle memory differences, will get even more out of the TrackingPoint system than a novice, but
  • A novice can be made very effective, very fast, at ranges outside of the engagement norm, with this system.

As Porky Pig says, for now, “Ib-a-dee-ib-a-dee-ib-a-dee-That’s all, folks!” But we’re promised more, soon.

Everybody is really impressed with the Tracking Point system. No TP representative was there and as far as we know this is the first report on a customer gun in the field, not some massaged handpicked gunwriter version. And as far as we know this is the first report on a customer’s experience with both experienced school-trained snipers and an inexperienced long-range shooter. The key take-away is the novice’s ringing of the 850m bell on moving targets. That’s Hollywood results without the special effects budget, and with real lead on real target. No marketing, no bullshit, just hits.

We asked about robustness. This isn’t like the ACOG you can use as a toboggan on an Afghan stairway and hold zero (don’t ask us how we know that one). But it seemed robust to the pretty critical gang shooting it Friday.

We wish Chris Kyle were here to see this. Maybe he already has!

Stand by for more on TrackingPoint, and on more on this range complex when the principals are willing to have some publicity.

Civilian-legal IR laser illuminator

PEQ-2 on an M4 clone. This unit was IR only -- note blue lock keeping switch on low power. TNVC image. Click to Embiggen.

2000-vintage PEQ-2 on an M4 clone. This unit was IR only — note blue lock keeping switch on low power. TNVC image. Click to embiggen.

At the start of the war in Afghanistan, we had the AN/PEQ-2 TPIAL, which is actually something pretty useful under that welter of characters. Let’s break out the descriptive acronym: Target Pointer/Illuminator Aiming Laser. What a TPIAL is, is a laser floodlight and laser sight, slaved to one another so they both align with the weapon’s zero, both working in the infrared regime where it cannot be seen with the naked eye.  The PEQ-2 was a decent unit but only worked with night vision, was bulky and took up a lot of your rail, ate batteries like Godzilla carboloading for the Tokyo Marathon, and had a bad tendency to get knocked off zero, or knocked clean out of the fight, if clobbered pretty hard. In time it was replaced by the PEQ-15 ATPIAL. (“A” for “Advanced” Target Pointer/Illuminator Aiming Laser, naturally).

ATPIAL-C on a similar weapon. Note size difference.

ATPIAL-C on a similar weapon. (This is what PEQ-15 looks like, too). Note size difference between this and PEQ-2 above.

The PEQ-15 has a number of advantages over the PEQ-2. It was smaller, lighter, and more durable. The battery life is even longer (not long enough, but it is an improvement). It has an ingenious “saddlebag” cross-section that lets it mount to the top rail of your carbine without interfering with any ordinary iron or optical sight. Taken together, these things mean it screws up the balance of your carbine less than the PEQ-2 does.

The -15 has a visible as well as an IR laser pointer (selectable), which lets you use the pointer as a day sight if they day isn’t too bright, and lets you use it at night to intimidate enemies or as a pointer for allies without night vision capability. Best of all, it cost less to manufacture, so Uncle Sam could buy and issue more of them, and they became a standard part of a grunt’s kit rapidly.

But there was a problem with these, for the civilian market. The military lasers are Class 3B lasers, and are not remotely eye-safe. (There are lockout switches to prevent military users from inadvertently engaging high-energy mode in noncombat applications). The FDA, which regulates lasers in the USA, does not permit the sale of these devices to members of the public without licenses (which the FDA chooses not to grant).


So L3 Communications, the makers of the PEQ-15, have made a civilian-legal Class 1 version, which they call the ATPIAL-C (“C” for “Commercial”). It’s basically the PEQ-15, made on the same production line out of most of the same parts, just without the high-energy mode. Even side by side they’re hard to tell apart. (Look at the laser safety label — the ATPIAL-C has a triangular warning icon, as befits its lower-energy laser, and the PEQ-2 the red starburst of an eye-unsafe laser). What you give up with the -C model is some range on the laser pointer, a lot of the range on the laser floodlight, ability to focus that light, and 100% of the risk of putting someone’s eye out or having the authorities take your eBay PEQ-15 away because it was originally stolen from Uncle Sam.

The ATPIAL-C is available for pre-order for $1200 from Tactical Night Vision Company (they charge your card when you order; shipping is supposed to be in November). TNVC has an exclusive deal with L3, at lest for the time being, for these things.

Training Smarter: Low Ready on Army BCT Ranges!

e-type_silhouetteApparently we got out ahead of our knowledge recently when we said that the conventional Army maintained cold range practices, and only some ARSOF were using hot range practices.

We thought we said that in answer to a comment on this blog, and now we think we might just have done it on another blog (’cause we can’t find the sucker), maybe Tam’s. Tam is on record that she thinks requiring extraneous manipulation of weapons on the range, creating the false idea that the weapons are now “safe,” and making people fear a loaded gun (even his or her own!), is a bad idea. We couldn’t agree more, but pointed out — to someone, somewhere — that such extraneous gunhandling, mythical “safe gun,” and situational hoplophobia, is how Big Green did it. Turns out, we was wrong.

This was, indeed, the “Way it Used to Be,” but over the last dozen-plus years of war, the Army’s gotten smarter (admittedly, they’re rising up from a low baseline here). There have been a large number of training changes, even in Basic Rifle Marksmanship, which are oriented towards the idea that the end product is not hitting targets on a range, but being able to “fight with a rifle.” That’s a quantum improvement, and it appears to have changed some of the Army’s excessive safety orientation. Here’s a chart of some of the differences:


It’s taken from this PEO Soldier document from 2011. To break out some of the acronyms, BRM is Basic Rifle Marksmanship, taught to all soldiers in initial entry training. ARM is part of Advanced Individual Training for infantrymen. “Up and Downrange” referred to the way weapons had to be carried on the range: muzzle up, and pointed in towards the impact area at all times. The Army still clears weapons at the end of a firing evolution, but the trainees continue to handle their weapons as if they were hot, in the expectation that soon enough they will have to go about their business, confidently and safely, with a hot weapon.

The first bullet point in the comparison chart is the reason that we hot range advocates are hot range advocates: Students are trained to be comfortable with a rifle, not to fear it. You train as you fight, or should fight.

The Trainfire range system was a sort of physical world video game, in which any hit on the E-type silhouettes (used from 100 to 300 meters range) of F-type partial silouettes (for targets inside 100m) caused the silhouette to drop. These were used in field firing practice and for rifle qualification. The Trainfire system could also be cheated or gamed in several ways, for instance, a shot short of the target would often throw enough rocks, dirt, or debris onto the target as to make it drop.

The Army has finally woken up to what everyone else (including many armies) knew decades ago: optical sighting systems are superior, period. Ten years ago, using an optic was “cheating.” Now they understand it’s “training.” (The Army’s standard optic is the M68 Close-Combat Optic or CCO. The same designator is used for the Aimpoint Comp M2 and Comp M4. In the conventional Army, certain specific troops also get an ACOG M150, but that’s not used in basic combat training). Train as you fight.

Even ten years ago, range firing, even for qualification, was “admin”: if your weapon failed or jammed, you got a mulligan, called in Army range fire an “alibi.” Stages were designed to use the rounds you had in a given magazine, so that your mag change was never on the clock. Now, the qual fire is more releastic. If you have a jam, you have to conduct immediate action and reengage your targets — just like in combat. If you run out of ammo, well, they taught you how to reload an M4, do it and drive on. Just like in combat. And some of the e-hadjis (or enemy of your choice) out there in the target array will take multiple hits to be incapacitated — just like in combat.

As noted on the slide the minimum qualification (“Marksman”) on Trainfire or reduced-distance ranges was (and is) 23 hits out of 40. (Bear in mind, this might be done in any weather, so it’s not a completely unrealistic evolution — just mostly unrealistic). The max qualification, Expert, required and requires 36 hits.

In the long run, these training changes will produce soldiers who are more confident and more effective with their individual weapon, especially if in-unit sustainment training also makes similar advances.

This cultural change won’t happen overnight. It needs to have sustained command emphasis, and we need to have young people come up, especially in the NCO ranks, who trained like this, to replace those sergeants and sergeants major who aren’t bright enough to follow the reasoning of the policy, and can only do what they saw others do before them. So firming up this policy may require 25 or 30 years of emphasis and effort, but it will produce more lethal combat units, and support and service-support units far more capable of self-defense, one soldier at a time.

The biggest threat to this change is, indeed, personnel policy. Currently, the Army gives little weight to combat experience and is throwing experienced combat leaders out, while promoting combat-shy ticket-punch collectors, who rode to the sound of their careers while the Army was off fighting a war (the current Sergeant Major of the Army, who spent most of the war hiding out in Army schools and did one, late, tour as a sergeant major on a FOB, exemplifies this perfectly). But the same current Army leadership doing that are the guys who signed off on this, which illustrates, perhaps, that the leaders are doing the best as they see it.

When is a Used Scope Worth $5k?

With a couple hours left to go, this scope is over $4,800 at the CMP Auction site. It’s worth a lot because it’s a rarity, of no small historical significance.

USMC Sniper scope2

Anybody can stamp “USMC Sniper” on a scope, but when Unertl did it, the scopes went to the Marine Corps scout-sniper program — he never sold one to the civilian world. So everybody who’s a fan of Marine snipers, whether they’re real ones like Carlos Hathcock or the fictional kind like Bob Lee Swagger, wants one of these scopes.

Many years ago they were rebuilt by US Optics, and stored. And they wound up at CMP. They have a mil-dot reticle.

USMC Sniper scope3

You’re on your own for a mount… but if you need this you can solve that little problem.

USMC Sniper scope1

CMP Auction here.

We want this so bad we can taste it, but then we’d need to build the whole gun, and we’re not Marines around here… better to let the authentic Marines have it, but we’d sure like to see (and shoot? Pretty please?) the gun when it’s built.

Now, we SF guys need a 1980-vintage M21 with Leatherwood ART II. Sooner or later.


The scope sold for exactly $5,000. CMP doesn’t have another scope auction scheduled at present.


Crimson Trace’s “Foundation of Success”

crimson-trace-laserFrank Miniter writes in the normally anti-gun Forbes magazine with a remarkable business story — a profile of the way the spirit reduced to a few handwritten lists, recited with the faithfulness of a cloister’s vespers, animate a business in our industry: Crimson Trace, the maker of compact lasers and laser handgun grips, like the one on the Glock at right. A taste:

There are two handwritten lists on the sheet of notebook paper. They are written in black ink on a sheet of paper torn from a legal pad in 1994. He tells me he used to read these aloud with his business partners—mostly engineers—every morning. Small edits show it was tweaked and added to until they thought it perfect. So perfect, he says, they got so they could say the numbered lists without the piece of now crinkled and smudged paper. When that happened Lew put the lists in a frame and tacked it on the wall.

Under the title “Our Mission: What it’s going to feel like” is:

1. Our futures are financially secure
2. We all own part of everything
3. Work is fun
4. Our tools and equipment are topnotch
5. Our customers love us
6. Our building and property are impressive to say the least
7. We own other profit-making corporations
8. Our profits are at all time highs
9. Our competition cannot touch us
10. We are moving forward into the future

Lew proudly says these ten hopes and dreams aloud to me as he did every morning with his team for years.

via The 21 Rules That Built An Industry Leader.

Miniter seems to have lasered in on something that is of bedrock importance to the Wilsonville, Oregon company. While the first list describes how the founders of the company intended to wind up (and did), a second and perhaps more-important list was titled, “How do we get there?” and comprises 11 more rules. (To read it, you’re going to have to click over to Frank’s article and Read The Whole Thing™, which you know you wanna do anyway).

And here’s founder Lew Danielson’s ideas about why these rules are about people, not things; and how it influences hiring:

The rules to run a business by must deal with people, not products. This is because people create the products. When I hire someone, and I still interview everyone, I ask them about their hobbies and passion. I want to know them as a person—I figure if they made it to my office others have already vetted their resumes. When I ask someone if I can count on them and they get these misty eyes and tell me they better believe I can, well, then I know I have a loyal and passionate part of the Crimson Trace team.

Frank Miniter has far more information about the culture of Crimson Trace and the character of its people packed into his column. We’d tell you you-know-what, but we already did, right?

Road to Precision

This YouTube playlist documents at excruciating length (the whole playlist is hours long) Canadian Ryan Pahl’s four-year effort to break into F-Class high-power rifle competitive shooting.

Spoiler: in the end, he decides he just doesn’t have the resources (human or capital, we’re not really sure what his problem is) to get to the next level. So he decides to take his shooting in a different direction, at the end of the playlist. But if you hang in for the whole thing, you’ll learn a lot about rifle competitive target shooting and the level of competition that’s out there these days. You’ll also learn quite a bit about what it takes to put lead on target, when “on target” is defined as very small and quite far away.

The fact is, Ryan shot better than many elite military unit snipers, and he was still, at the end, disappointed in his performance, measured against the real high-power competition gravelbellies.

And benchrest shooters look at high-power shooters’ best groups, kind of like physicists look at psychologists — “they do interesting stuff, but is it really science?” — and they have the groups to justify that attitude.

There are two sets of things that competitors do. The first is a variety of things that actually improve shooting performance, including such things as handloading with extreme uniformity. These things are mostly unchanged from competitor to competitor and year over year. Then there are the superstitions, which do tend to change: they get swept up as enthusiasms or fads by the community for a while, then they’re all on to the next fad. But an outsider has little hope of figuring out which is which. (Best guide to a fad is the absence of a plausible physical explanation of why it helps, but that’s not perfect as some useless superstitions sound perfectly plausible).

This could be edited down into a single, shorter presentation, that would be worth buying as a DVD or download. We’ll admit we fast-forwarded past the many groups that were recorded in apparent real-time. Shooting holes in targets is one of those things that’s much more interesting when you’re doing it than when you’re watching the other guy do it.

Good luck to Ryan, and thanks for the video tour of a short career in high-power.

FDA Moves to Regulate Lasers, Ban High-Powered Units

Is that a warm glow we’re feeling, or are you just glad to range us? The Food and Drug Administration, apparently upset that all kinds of other agencies are getting their Nazi on and leaving the pill police behind, wants to restrict and, functionally, ban, all but the lowest-powered laser pointers. Everything but the green five-watters in the chart below? Banned. “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Pretty neat,” as some politician or other said.


Why? Because they’re from the Government and they’re here to help you, and because occasional asshats have aimed pointers at aircraft. (The usual outcome: asshat in prison. It’s a Federal felony to point a laser at an aircraft in flight. A guy got 14 years for this, last month). As the above chart (from laser vendor shows) higher-wattage and -wavelength lasers are powerful enough to, as your mother warned you, put your eye out. Kind of like a scissors, then, which the nannzies at FDA haven’t gotten to. Yet.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration published new draft guidance that could effectively put an end to high-powered lasers in the United States. It will not be formally approved until the 90-day comment period has passed.

The move is likely in response to the growing threat of laser strikes against aircraft. Since early 2014, the FBI has offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who reports a laser strike to federal authorities, leading to an arrest. Since the FBI began keeping track in 2004, there have been more than 12,000 reported incidents nationwide—and the incident rate continues to climb.

Earlier this year, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison in a lasering incident, believed to be the harshest such sentence in the United States, and possibly in the world. Pilots say that being struck with such lasers can be terrifying, causing temporary blindness and sometimes lingering headaches.

The new draft regulation expands the definition of surveying, leveling, or alignment (SLA) lasers, which are currently capped at five milliwatts of power, to include consumer-grade lasers. Sites, like, openly sell lasers with up to 2W of power for $200 to $600.

via Feds issue “draft guidance” to restrict high-powered laser pointers | Ars Technica.

The clowns managing the transition from nanny to Nazi at the FDA (which is where we get the neologism nannzies) announce their power over lasers on a web page, but have yet to announce their intent to ban large sections of the things, although they do assert that any laser not now making less than their future limit IS ILLEGAL. (Emphasis theirs).

Even the smallest handheld, battery-powered lasers are capable of emitting laser light at hazardous powers. Larger models, the size of a small flashlight, can burn skin and pop balloons. More importantly, consumers should assume any size handheld battery-powered laser they do not directly control has the potential to blind or permanently affect eyesight.

Do not purchase a handheld, battery-powered laser labeled with hazard Class IIIb, Class IV, Class 1M, Class 2M, Class 3B or Class 4 unless the manufacturer has an approval from FDA (called a “variance”) to allow the purchase.  Sales without a variance, or sales that violate the conditions of the variance, ARE ILLEGAL.

You might have something to say to that, but the only thing they want to hear from you is “Jawohl,” and a smart click of the heels. If they want any lip from you, they’ll scrape it off their brass knuckles.

So how did the payroll patriots at the FDA come to regulate lasers? They just decided to grab the power one day, and they up and did it. And nobody objected, so they kept grabbing more power. As they told the owner of the website, they didn’t bother to announce the new regulation in the Federal Register, as the law requires regulators do. Why not? “Because of the way the regulations are stated, the FDA determined that a guidance document was not needed when making this determination.” (More detail in this pdf).

If that sounds like Because F!&% You then you’ve tapped into the essence of Washington attitude. What’s the best way to deal with criminal misuse of a product? Ban it! If they want any lip from you…

For the time being, of course, high-powered lasers remain for sale. The ArsTechnica story linked above shows you a 2 Watt laser (often stated as 2,000 MW, because 2 Watts sounds tiny when it’s actually a gorilla among lasers) for $600, featuring hip/cool/George Lucas-ified Star Wars styling. If your taste in lasers runs more to the functional than the theatric, you can get the same power in a knurled alloy tube from Sky Technologies for $270. It has a neat focus feature making it useful as a long-distance flashlight. And here’s one for $170, that’s visibly cheaper in both senses of the word.

But even if the ban slides through, despite the complete lack of applicable statutory authority, the FDA’s nannzies can’t — yet — come into your home and stop you from building one. Here’s an example:

And this site seems to be one source of expertise and parts. Scroll down past the ads. When will they ever learn, you can’t stop the signal?

What’s a WWII Carbine worth?

T3 Carbine serial numberWell, maybe about a grand or so. What if it has a low serial number? And is in really good condition. Well, that elevates the price a little.

What if it’s an M3 with sniper scope? Well, a lot more. For one thing, the M3s were all select-fire — a selective-fire M2 carbine, on the National Firearms Registry and Tracking Record database (in other words, civilian-transferable) is worth quite a bit, maybe $10k.

With the M3 infrared sniper-scope, then, the price ascends; it’s now a rare and historic weapon (the second night vision system used in combat, and the first American one, and the first US production system).


But what if it’s a T3, not an M3, one of the original run of a very short number of experimental, prototypical systems? Then… the sky’s the limit. We have now launched from the pinnacle of rare and historic weapon into the stratosphere of extremely rare collection centerpiece, and the price must rise accordingly. (This T3, also, appears to be semi-auto only, simplifying transfer and possession — some states still ban private ownership of Class III toys).

T3 Carbine with Scope Left

But what if it’s the prototype, complete with provenance from the inventor and a ton of information about the thing? We have now rocketed from extremely rare collection centerpiece into the rarefied interstellar space of unique historic museum piece, and you can expect that if you bid for this gun at Rock Island’s upcoming auction, you’ll be bidding against some pretty big museums. Not to mention the first rank of US Martial Arms collectors.

Here’s how Rock Island Auctions describes the piece (paragraph breaks added, and a couple of obvious typos fixed — grammatical howlers were left alone as an exercise for the reader):

This is the Original Inland Division T3 Carbine serial number 00306 along with the Prototype M2 Infrared Sniper scope that was used by Mr. William Garstang in 1943/44 when he developed this system for the US Army. There is solid supporting documentation, original letters and photographs of Mr. Garstang and his wife holding this exact T3 Carbine/M2 Sniper scope set-up in their house when he was working on this design, that authenticates this entire lot.

The T3 Carbines were developed and produced on an extremely limited basis with less than 1000 total ever made in their own serial number range. As all carbine collectors know 99.9% of all these carbines were demilitarized after WWII, with the only true examples known to have survived having been retained by either the Inland Division or Winchester factories as display models. One or two may have been retained by the optical companies.

This one being the original T3 carbine/M2 Sniper scope set-up remained in Mr. Garstang’s personal possession while he worked on the design in 1944 and then after WWII until 1976 when he sold it. The documentation that accompanies this lot are letters from Mr. Garstang to one of the past owners briefly explaining how he had this weapon along with a discussion about an article he wrote in 1946 for the Electronics Laboratories, Inc. company newsletter, “The Electronic Beacon”. This article discussed his involvement with the design work and specifically listing the serial number of this carbine. Also accompanying this lot is a copy of the magazine that shows Mr. Garstang on the cover as well as several pictures on the inside with him at his company in 1945/46 showing several civilian and military officials when he demonstrated this design.

Also accompanying this lot is a copy of the December 1946 issue of “Mechanics Illustrated” which has another article by Mr. Garstang about his small electronic company and work he did during WWII and in the post war years, with a mention of his numerous electronic patents (over 50) he held. This article also shows his wife holding this carbine and M2 scope setup in their home.

These T3 carbines were specifically designated to be used with the M2 Infrared Sniper Scope. This was the original “see in the night” design on which all following night vision devices were based. These T3 carbines and infrared sniper scopes saw service towards the end of WWII especially on Luzon and Okinawa.

The primary difference between a T3 carbines and a standard M1 carbine is that the T3 carbines had a one piece integral scope base brazed and pinned on top of the receiver. This integral base may have been one of the primary reasons for the removal and demilitarization of this model from Army inventory as it was later replaced by the standard M3 Infrared Sniper scope conversion package, with the separate long mounting bar. This allowed all standard carbines to be converted for use of the infrared system and then back into a standard M1 carbine.

This one-piece integral scope mount forced a relocation of the nomenclature and serial number from the top of the receivers to the right rear side of the receiver. This carbine has the following markings; top of the barrel “INLAND MFG. DIV./GENERAL MOTORS” and the right side of the receiver “U.S. CARBINE/CAL. 30 T3″. The top rear portion of the receiver heel is marked “INLAND DIV/0306″.

The carbine still retains all of its original issue parts, and factory parkerized finish. Some of the noted parts are a type three barrel band with bayonet lug, a flat blue bolt, the magazine release with only a single capital letter “M” on the side, a parkerized trigger and a parkerized unmarked push button safety. The carbine is fitted with a late four rivet hand guard and a super rare all original T3 carbine stock. The stock has the Inland “IO” proof in the sling slot with a large crossed cannon ordnance cartouche on the right side of the butt stock. The left side of the stock has been correctly modified and is fitted with the original “silent” on-off switch as designed by Mr. Garstang for the T3 carbine. The carbine has an original T3 stock that has the large squared off bulbous forend where the original M2 Infrared lamp and pistol grip assembly is mounted.

The M2 electronic telescope or sniper scope that is mounted on top does not carry a nomenclature plate (which would be correct for this model being a prototype, prior to full production) and is only marked with “D-5637-7-1″ on the underside of the body of the scope.

In addition to the items noted above, this lot contains the following additional original accessories: the original M2 power pack and M2 battery for this model (uncharged brand new) an original hand-held, “snooper-scope” pistol grip mount assembly, an original first pattern green plastic/rubberized designed backpack/carrying pouch with original 1936 straps that carries the power pack and battery, (this is not the later black rubberized backpack), an original green canvas carrying case to carry the carbine with the scope and emitter lamp when installed on the carbine, an original spare electron tube (still in the original WWII box), for the electronic telescope an original WWII green canvas web belt with double M1 carbine magazine pouch with two magazines, an original M4 M1 Carbine bayonet and scabbard made by A.C.C., an original T-23 designated M1 carbine flash hider, marked “Hider-Flash-T23/Carbine/CAL.-30″, a super rare field recharging cable that allows the power pack battery to be charged by Jeep battery, a super rare electron tube, removal tool, and an original (unaltered) hard back War Department Technical manual (TM 5-9341) dated June 1945 showing complete operation of the M2 scope, with disassembly procedures wiring diagrams etc. still marked secret and signed by William Garstang on the back cover.

To adequately store and show this rare carbine and scope set-up, the previous owner purchased a small steamer trunk with metal corners and edges that he had converted to a complete “turn-key” display set up. Inside is a custom designed storage areas made from oak that has compartments for the T3 carbine, M2 telescope and lamp/pistol grip assembly, and all the aforementioned accessories all packed inside the trunk.

RIA sees this going for $35,000 to $65,000, and who are we to disagree? (That sum does not include a “buyer’s premium” of 17.5%, which goes to the house). In our past experience, Rock Island, like most auctioneers, tends to understate probable selling prices slightly, especially on exotic lots; this encourages more bids and, in the end, gets the house and the consignor the best possible price, and helps those of us interested in the market understand it. (All markets run on pure information).

T3 Sniperscope Display

The condition of the T3 set is described as follows:

Excellent plus, totally original overall. The T3 carbine retains 99% correct original parkerized finish with only slight wear on the correct blue bolt from cycling the action. The stock and hand guard are also excellent plus, showing only minor handling marks in a few areas with clear sharp cartouche and proofs.

The mounted infrared lamp and pistol assembly and the actual electronic M2 telescope are also like new showing 99% original finish with minor edge and high spot wear. All the various accessories; M4 bayonet and scabbard, web belt and magazine pouch etc. are all excellent. The magazines and pictures are all original and also excellent.

This carbine (00306) and its attached original prototype M2 scope, being the prototype “rig” used for development of the infrared M2 program would be the first successful infrared weapon system in history, put into production, making carbine 00306 and its scope the “first of the first” infrared weapon system in history. The M1 infrared scope program plagued by design and technical problems was rolled into the M2 program and never reached full production stage. This significant example of World War II history best exemplifies our technological edge over our enemies and is worthy of being in the Smithsonian Museum!

Here’s RIA’s Kevin Hogan’s preview of the auction as a whole:

There are hundreds of sporting arms, 250 US martial arms including, for example, five Johnson M1941 rifles and an original USMC 1903A1 sniper rig, 175 German weapons, including at least three MP43/44s and a Himmler inscribed presentation Walther PP, and numerous weapons from other nations, including an extremely rare (in the USA) Izhevsk Dragunov SVD. There are also some fine edged weapons, if you roll that way (and we do).

There also seem to be none of the “five rifles with a mix of junk and jewels” that we’ve noticed at some earlier auctions. In most cases, where a lot comprises a pair of weapons, it’s a logical pair. All in all it looks like a great auction.

Is a red dot better than iron sights — for a pistol?

Here's a Glock 17 with a TRijicon RMR, The guns in the study were the slightly smaller but similar G19

Here’s a Glock 17 with a TRijicon RMR, The guns in the study were the slightly smaller but similar G19

According to what appears to be a Norwich University undergraduate study from 2011 that was recently noted by Soldier Systems Daily, the answer is in and it’s a strong “yes.” From the report’s Executive Summary:

This project examined the comparative effectiveness of traditional iron pistol sights with Trijicon, Inc.’s red dot optic sight. Twenty-seven students from Norwich University participated by undergoing a simulated training course of fire using International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) silhouette targets for four different stages. Thirteen students used iron sights and 14 students used the optic. The results of the project indicated that there was a statistically significant difference favoring the optic for “hits on paper” in Stage 1 (15 yard slow fire) and for accuracy (hits near the center mass of the target) for all four stages of fire. 

Summarized Summary: more hits with the Trijicon RMR in Stage 1, and better hits in all stages.

The study is credited to James Ryan, apparently a student at the university, and Robin Adler, a professor of Justice Studies and Sociology.

While the summary led the report, and the statements made in the summary are well supported by the study data, at the end, the study reached three conclusions. The interesting thing is that we can only find support for two of the three in the findings and data. The conclusions were:

  1. This comparative pistol project indicated the Trijicon Inc.’s RMR was more effective than traditional iron sights.
  2. The results suggest that trainees in military and law enforcement specialties may gain proficiency more efficiently with the RMR.
  3. In addition the RMR is useful for seasoned professionals.

We find support for the first two conclusions in the study, but didn’t see anything at all to support the third. (We would expect that the RMR would be useful for pros — we’ve found it useful –but we could find nothing in the study itself that backs that statement up).

If this study is repeatable, we’re going to see more sights like the RMR on more handguns in the coming years. The key limitations of the study are that it was of short duration (one range day for each group) and very small groups (the control and experimental group were each 15 pistol shooters,  plus three alternates. Both groups were generated by random assignment, and about evenly split betwen complete novices and people with some shooting and/or pistol experience. In the end, 27 total students participated, 13 using three-dot iron sights and 14 using the RMR).  This experimental data set is too small to generate a high degree of confidence, but the group with the RMR steadily and consistently outshot the iron-sight group.

The pistols were otherwise identical Glock 19s. The targets were modified IDPA standard targets (the head was removed as a point-advantaged target, because the shooters were instructed to engage the targets only at center mass).

The small sample size meant that a result would have to be extremely disparate between the two groups to meet measures of statistical significance. The measure used judging the variance between teh groups’ mean scores in the stages was the non-parametric Mann-Whitney U.  In each of the four stages, the RMR group had more hits than the iron-sight group, but only on Stage 1 was the difference statistically significant. The measure used for evaluating overall accuracy was the chi-square, familiar to every survivor of freshman stats. The accuracy advantage of the RMR was statistically significant.

For both the mean scores in Stage 1 and the accuracy superiority overall, the probability of these results being the consequences of random chance, rather than an actual advantage of the RMR over iron sights, was 1 in 100.

WeaponsMan Analysis — Why the RMR “wins.”

The key advantage of the RMR on a pistol is the same as the key advantage of any optic on a rifle, compared to iron sights: it eliminates the need to consciously focus on one of three focal planes (the front sight) but allows a shooter to focus on the target and have the aimpoint superimposed in the same focal plane. A secondary advantage is the red-dot’s ability to compensate to some extent for poor presentation, pistol cant, etc., in ways that iron sights cannot.

The key disadvantage of the RMR is the way it juts out from the top of the pistol slide, making the pistol more awkward. While optical sights are often considered frail and vulnerable, the RMR  is a fairly robust unit, and a blow that would dislodge or damage it might well dislodge the standard three-dot iron sights also.

The full study can be read on SSD at this link or downloaded from here: 2011_Norwich_Study_RMRvIronSights.pdf

Optics for Beginners, by Chris Hernandez

Pick one. But how? (photo of a pile of scopes found on an online forum).

Pick one. But how? (photo of a pile of scopes found on an online forum).

Here’s a small snip from a post by Chris Hernandez at The New Rifleman, a blog aimed at rifle n00bs. Hey, everybody’s a n00b once, and the variety of optics available now can be confusing, so a review of the basics hurteth not.

Example: for complicated reasons, when the SOPMOD I gear shipped, we got bare equipment with no instructions and no training, so we had to figure it out on our own. That was not entirely fun.

In this snip, Chris tells you what he used, and a few facts about the civilian rifleman. Some of these facts probably qualify as “Tough love.”

I’m not a sniper, nor do I have extensive experience with optics in the civilian world. What I do have, however, is a decent background in military optics from my twenty-plus years in the Marine Reserve and Army National Guard, including two combat deployments where I used an Aimpoint CCO (Close Combat Optic), Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG), and Leupold MR/T (Medium Range Tactical scope). In the Marines my secondary MOS was 8531, Marksmanship Coach. I’m also a school-trained Army Squad Designated Marksman (SDM), meaning I’ve attended a two-week course which taught me to hit man-sized targets with an M16A4 out to 600 meters with iron sights and ACOGs. So I’ve got a decent background in medium to long range shooting, with and without optics.

So, first thing: If you’re a typical civilian shooter with limited training time and limited money for an optic and training ammo, there’s no reason to try to make yourself a sniper. It’s not going to happen. In the Army, with government ammo and decades of institutional marksmanship knowledge, the average soldier only shoots to 300 meters. And some of them struggle with that. So it’s not really feasible for the average civilian shooter, with extremely limited training resources, to expect to shoot like a sniper.

Second thing: For most modern combat, 300 meters is plenty far. I carried an M14EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle) in Afghanistan, and I could consistently hit a torso-sized rock at 900 meters – at the range, with perfect weather conditions, a good firing position, on a stationary target at a known distance. In combat, with extreme heat or cold, unknown distances, hasty firing positions, adrenaline and moving targets, plus little annoyances like incoming fire, I would have been ecstatic to smoke a mofo at 200 meters.

Third: 300 meters is about the practical limit for civilians in any foreseeable domestic combat situation. If you’re preparing to defend your family from rampaging gangsters, it’s not likely you’ll find yourself sniping them from 500 meters. Urban combat is a close-in affair. In Iraq, enemy snipers sometimes engaged from within 100 meters. Unless you’re defending a farm in the middle of acres of cleared land, you probably won’t do any long range shooting

There’s a ton more good info on the site, so get thee hence and Read The Whole Thing™.

We’d add a few bullet points:

  • Almost nobody is as good a shot as he thinks he is.
  • If he hasn’t been practicing, he’s not the shot he used to be, either.
  • And he’s definitely not the shot he thinks he was. 
  • ACOGs are the heat. They have something many scopes don’t: durability. In our opinion, they lose sales because they’ve got so many variations and models that it confuses people. Just get one with the right BDC for your barrel length and caliber.
  • But for a home defense or truck gun, a high quality red dot is probably your best choice.
  • In optics, you get what you pay for except at the very high tail of the cost bell curve, where most people can’t exploit the marginal differences in performance.
  • The flipside of that? You’re better off buying a cheaper rifle and a more expensive scope than you originally planned.
  • Lots of phony optics out there. Protect yourself (we wrote about this back in 2012, a couple of times).
  • Scopes put the target and the aiming point in the same focal plane, so they’re extremely beneficial to novice shooters, and also to shooters who wear glasses or have some eye problems.
  • Night vision compatibility is cool. Shooting with night vision is also a perishable skill that needs to be practiced. If you don’t already have a night vision monocular or goggles, and don’t have a need or a way to practice with them, don’t pay extra for this capability; all you get is bragging rights, nothing practical for you.
  • Chris’s post is a great place for a beginner to, well, begin. Read The Whole Thing™ (you knew we were gonna say that, right?)

Finally, don’t be too eager to step in to complicated and advanced techniques like shooting at moving targets, shooting on the move, clearing structures, obstructed areas, or linear targets, or engaging targets that are higher up or lower than your position. Work on accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. Speed will come in due course, once you’re consistent enough to be accurate.