Category Archives: Optics

So, What Use is TrackingPoint?

Here’s the deal that’s currently on. Tuesday they let us know that they’re down to 50 of them left, so they might be gone by now.

And here’s what it can do. Duel 1: 350 Yards, Off Hand, on a windy Texas day. Bruce Piatt is a National Champion — dude can shoot. But he gets one miss and one on the edge. (He’s using decent combat gear, including what looks like an FN carbine, and a 4×32 ACOG). Taya Kyle was at the time a novice shooter. She puts two in center of mass, using the Precision Guided Weapon.

Here’s a capability that you just don’t have without the PGM. Duel 2: Blind Shots, 200 Yards. Being able to engage the target without exposing yourself to enemy observation and fire is a completely novel thing. Sure, we’ve seen Talibs shoot at our guys like this, but these “Blind Shots” are aimed shots.

Yes, this is a completely unfair test, because it asks Bruce Piatt to do the impossible. With the ShotGlass, for Taya Kyle it’s possible.

Several of you have asked, why not spend the money on training and improve your skills? Bruce did that. He’s world-class good. (Yeah, soldiers and Marines shoot at this distance, but we’re shooting larger targets, and from a prone or foxhole supported position.

Taya didn’t do that, and yet, by exploiting the technology, she outshot Bruce. That is not to say Bruce’s skill acquisition was wasted time! After all, he’s lethal without all the gear. And he’d just be even better (more accurate and faster) if he was using the technology.

What use is Tracking Point? When we first started writing about it, we reminded you all of something Ben Franklin said. During his residence in Paris, one morning he was on his way to see an ascent of the pioneering French aeronauts, the Montgolfier brothers. And an intelligent lady, bemused by the American’s enthusiasm for this novel applied science, asked the great man, “What use is it?”

“My dear lady,” the prescient Philadelphian replied, “what use is a newborn baby?”

A century from now, weapons that don’t range and track targets for you, whether you’re a soldier or a hunter, will be nostalgia items, like muzzleloaders today.

Update:

Here’s the Shooter’s Calculator, a way to work your dope (at least initially) if you’re still doing the math somewhere other than inside your Tracking Point Precision Guided Weapon. Sent in by a reader who prefers to remain anonymous.

Update II:

If the embeds do not work (at least one Eurostani reports they are blocked at his location) then these raw HTML links to Vimeo might work.

https://vimeo.com/193109385/

https://vimeo.com/193110497/193109385

https://vimeo.com/193394792/

If the raw links don’t work, we don’t know what to try next.

Deal Coming from TrackingPoint: 700-yard 5.56 AR

The TrackingPoint "Tag" button , here on one of their early bolt guns, locks the gun on target.

The TrackingPoint “Tag” button , here on one of their early bolt guns from three years ago, locks the gun on target.

If you’re already following the company by email (or perhaps other social media?) you are eligible for this. If not, maybe you can get to their site and get registered. (Tell ’em Hognose sent you). Here’s what Tracking Point founder and CEO John McHale sent us last week (emphases ours):

One year ago, TrackingPoint held the American Sniper Shootout pitting Taya Kyle against NRA World Shooting Champion Bruce Piatt. The shootout marked the re-launch of our business and I am pleased to report that thanks to you, TrackingPoint is resurgent and strong. On Monday, in celebration of this success and in celebration of the one year anniversary of the American Shootout, TrackingPoint is offering only to our current followers an Anniversary Edition M700 Sniper Kit. The M700 is a custom TrackingPoint gun built specifically for Taya to use during the American Sniper Shootout. The M700 is a unique semi-automatic 5.56 that has extended range out to 700 yards. 

Next week our newsletter will include the seven minute American Sniper Shootout Documentary and each day we will send you a unique out-take of specific shots taken during the competition. You will see extraordinarily challenging shots made under battle stress conditions including moving targets, off-hand shots, blind shots, and more.

If you guys would like, and we can pull it off technically, we’ll post these clips here. We’ll also notify you with all information about the M700 Sniper Kit that McHale lets us release. We have been strong supporters of TrackingPoint from the very beginning, through its near-death brush with bankruptcy organization, and we’re starting to see the emergence of some of the incredible capabilities that we always saw lurking in the future development of Tracking Point’s Precision Guided Munition technology.

We hope you enjoy the American Sniper Shootout videos and keep your eye-out for the Anniversary Edition M700 Sniper Kit. Once again thank you for your business and incredible support in bringing tremendous success to TrackingPoint.

If 700 yards won’t do it for you, or you’re a fan of the NATO cartridge, Tracking Point still has a few of the incredible M900 Limited Edition Kits available — $14k if you don’t add the Torrid thermal option. The kit includes the rifle, integrated scope, and has a 900-yard lock range and 20-mph target track velocity.

tracking-point-m900-limited-ed

One downside to the TrackingPoint systems is that they are tuned to their proprietary ammo, and the ammo is very expensive — the 7.62 lists at nearly $3.50 a shot, in case (200-round) volume.

Ow! Defoor Disses the ACOG

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

When the Elcan Spectre DR came online to replace the ACOG TA01NSN, we loved it — for about 30 minutes. It was a beautiful piece of glass (at its staggering price, it should be) and the dual magnification — a flip of a lever migrates you from 1 to 4x and zero holds like a rock — was that rare thing, a marketing feature that action guys could actually use. It was bulkier than the ACOG, but had less stuff to snag on your stuff. But lots of us fell out of love with it nearly as fast. Its weak spot was that, while it was stronger than the typical sporting scope, it was no match for the ACOG’s anvil-like qualities. (Over time, of course, operators could break the early ACOGs too). Trijicon is really good about standing behind these old scopes and will go through one and update the tritium, for example, for a reasonable charge ($150 last we checked).

But that was then, and this is now. And here comes Kyle Defoor to put down our favorite (if elderly) combat optic. He writes:

Getting some time on the ACOG this week. Some dudes still use it/are issued it as their primary. My department is to show them how to use whatever they got as good as they can.

To be a professional in this biz you got to be able to show up and shoot whatever, whenever completely stock and sometimes use the gear of the customer if you don’t have what’s needed……and with that, thanks to the guys for loaning me one to rock while we trained together.

And he accompanied it with the usual entertaining array of hashtags:

#defoorproformanceshooting #acog #training #carbine #5days #runwhatyoubrung #makethebestofit

And therein lies a valid point. There’s always going to be something new and technically a bit better than last year’s (or in the case of  the TA01 ACOG, decade’s) model. Chasing an optimized “best” rig is not worth the trouble for most people. First, if you are a pro user some guy way up the chain from you is probably going to dictate what you use, or if you’re lucky, dictate what options you have to choose from.

This “dictation” isn’t too restrictive in some cases, like if you’re a SEAL, PJ, SF, etc. But in some other cases, like an Army support troop or Marine rifleman, you will be told what you will be carrying and will be ordered to like it. At that point, you can whine about it, sign up for selection (where, should you succeed, you will discover that you’re still working for The Man, just at a higher level), or take Kyle’s advice and run what you brung and make the best of it.

Fortunately, the baseline weapons and optics available to grunts today are quite good stuff. The fact that they don’t have this year’s shine on ’em, or weren’t on the cover of REAL OPERATORS BUY THIS magazine last month, doesn’t matter. Real operators can operate with sticks and stones, hell, with their bare knuckles; any step up from that is gravy. And you too can shoot better and more effectively with the weapons you have now, and money and time spent on ammo and training will almost always have a return on investment far beyond what you get from money and time spent picking out and acquiring new and better gear.

If you’re going to be using a carbine over a wide range of, well, ranges and lighting conditions, etc., the ACOG is still a good choice. If your most likely employment is close up, or even indoors, then a red dot is the way to go. And in both cases, training and practice can let you extend the use of either to ranges where the other selection would have been optimum.

A Sad Scope Story

An AR newbie posted the following to Reddit, under the alarming title, “Frustrating Weekend of Zero”. See if you can figure out why his weekend was frustrating.

Setup:

So I just added a new Sig Sauer M400 Enhanced to my family this last month, and got a shiny new Barska to go atop it. I finally found a range that was outdoors and had a 50 yard target to me to get a 50/200 zero on.

This is the Barska scope on an AR from the Barska website. Note that it is not made to be used with a flip-up BUIS -- without messing up eye relief. But that's the least of its problems.

This is the Barska scope on an AR from the Barska website. (And yes, it’s on a full-auto post sample lower). Note that it is not made to be used with a flip-up BUIS — without messing up eye relief. But that’s the least of its problems. 

Some of you will have sussed the answer already. For the rest of you, we’ll drag a red herring in the form of his first couple frustrations…

First frustrating bit is that they tell me AFTER pay range fees for the day that no FMJ is allowed on the outdoor rifle range. Ok…so I buy their up priced ammo just to save me a trip to the closest store (~10 miles away) for range/target 5.56 ammo.

First: what odds that ammo restriction is on the range’s website?

Second frustrating thing was the staffer. I started with the iron sights at the 50 and the RSO there is literally pestering me every firing iteration about how I should be zeroing it at 25 yards. Anyhow, I get it nice and zeroed at the 18 round mark. 3 rounds each group. Still feeling pretty OK at this point. On goes the scope.

A lot of outdoor ranges are requiring frangible ammo now under EPA, etc., pressure. Until the bureaucrats are displayed along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway like Spartacus’s army, our only choice is to live with it. But he put the scope on, and as we are fond of saying, Then His Troubles Began™.

By the way, if anyone here has a similar setup be aware that the rail on the M400 is BARELY long enough to fit both the scope of this length and the rear sight on it. I had to put the sight on the forward-most slots and the sight on the rear-most. It actually extends a couple of mms over the bolt handle.

One of those “sight on the forward-most and sight on the rear-most”  was obviously meant to be the “scope.” The normal thing to do would be for the scope to be forward, but we have limited confidence in this guy’s gun savvy.

For most people, back-up iron sights are somewhere between an affectation and a gimmick. With a solid scope, you will not need them.

Anyways, the next frustrating part is that this scope is not intuitive to zero in. Even with the manual in hand. I field boresight to get on paper with the RSO looking at me like I have lost my mind. Looking down the open bore and then getting the scope close to where I can see it. This gets me on the paper. I quickly realize that this scope has these “locking rings” to keep the adjustment wheels from moving. The frustrating bit is that if they are locked in, you cant adjust (duh) but if they are TOO lose, the knobs will turn without clicking and without moving the sights at all. So its a freaking pain to sight in this scope.

This: “I quickly realize that this scope has these “locking rings” to keep the adjustment wheels from moving,” makes us wonder if he did anything with that manual except wave it around as a magic talisman. On the other hand, is the manual on any Chinese scope any good?

One gimmick that is a red flag for low-quality Chinese glass is the multi-color reticle.

One gimmick that is a red flag for low-quality Chinese glass is the multi-color reticle.

Because here we’re getting to the root of the problem: in terms of optics, nothing from China that’s exported here is any good. (Chinese optics on their own military firearms are fine, but that’s not the lowest-bidder crap they send us). Even if the manual weren’t in an uncharming patois with English, Chinese, and Christ-knows-what elements to it, the scope itself is likely to have any of a number of problems: DOA, reticle out of place, won’t hold zero, won’t adjust, fogs up, etc. etc. etc. It’s not just Barska, which name is a watchword for bottom-drawer, Airsoft-quality junk, but TASCO (These Are Simply Crappy Optics), Leapers, NCStar, Simmons, and any other trademark that’s now emblazoned on the products of Peoples Re-Enlightenment Prison & Factory #4628. (ETA: UTG, BSA, same junk with a different name).

This character had the no-system-to-the-adjustments problem, which is not universal but pretty common on the Walmart & Dick’s, etc., scopes.

My grouping every 3 rounds was fine, so I don’t think firing moved the sights at all, but the adjustments were crazy. 12 clicks down to put me twice as far as I wanted, from about 4 inches above the target to 4 below. So I went 6 up…then 4 more up, then 4 more up, then 2 more up to get on target. Made no sense to me. Regardless I finally get it zeroed and Ive been in the heat for hours now. I am done and relieved to be done with it. I start tightening the lockdown rings on the scope…and I hear them making clicking noises. **** me…I knew I just ruined my zero, and I know that although I reversed the exact same number of clicks that this scope is funky. My zero is probably gone after all that work. I went from frustrated to plain pissed off, and at that point just decided to call it a day and head home. I will at least be on paper next weekend and go from there.

Elsewhere in the thread, he explains that the Barska scope was a gift. He amended his post to include:

Since I am getting a lot of comments about the scope. I understand that its not top quality. But it IS gift quality. And thus I use it. It is in itself not a bad scope to use for shooting. My groups are good, sights are stable during and after firing…its just a pain to adjust. I am just hoping that after I get it locked in I will never have to touch the adjustments again.

Unfortunately, a scope that seems to hold zero but that has no logic to its adjustments is unlikely to continue to hold zero. Our heart goes out to this guy. A well-meaning relative has given him something that looks like a scope, and that is, in true Chinese-maker style, laden with advanced-sounding features, but deficient in quality control and basic functionality.

His basic choices at this point are:

  1. Return the scope (and risk disappointing his relative) in the fond hope that another one with be without problems;
  2. Live with it, and “hope” it doesn’t get worse, which is clearly what he’s decided to do;
  3. Start saving for a real scope.

“Just as good for half the money” is not a term that has any grip in the low end of the optics market. (The high end? Maybe). And any expenditure is wasted, even $59, if it’s on a scope that you can’t trust. 

A Chinese scope is not automatically bad. Maybe one in four will take zero, hold zero, adjust correctly, and last for years. Two in four will start off like that and fail on at least one of those in twelve months or less — usually, much less. And the fourth is DOA, like this fellow’s. That is not a product you can trust, and right now China, Inc. can sell as many of these things as they can make at a profit, so they have little incentive to improve the product. There’s nothing different about Chinese people that makes it hard for them to make scopes, but their industrial and social organization is at odds with modern quality control practices. In plain English, even when they have a QC process in place, they’re incentivized to cheat on it, and they do.

How will you know when the Chinese make a good scope? When they proudly put a Chinese name on it. Ain’t happened yet.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune or buy a trusted name (Leupold, Nightforce, Trijicon) to have a decent scope. You can seek out a used scope from when Simmons, Bushnell, Tasco, etc. were not badge-engineered Chinese junk. (The fact that these names are now applied to Chinese scrap-value scopes depresses the prices of the older, higher-quality glass!)

Look for scopes made in the USA, Japan, or the Philippines. (Many of the Filipino scopes are made with lenses ground and coated in Japan, so they tend to punch above their weight in clarity & light transmission).

As a rule of thumb, your optic should cost you about what your gun did. (Hark! We hear squawks of alarm). It’s not an “accessory,” it’s a vital component of your fire control system. But assuming Chel$ea Clinton hasn’t taken up shooting, the rest of you may need to compromise on your optic.  The good news is that you can without going all the way to the bottom of the barrel.

For $100 more than the scope from the Peoples’ Re-Enlightenment Prison & Factory #4628, you can get a Filipino-assembled scope that will have had some quality control at the factory. You won’t be playing in Nightforce territory and the Schmidt undt Bender snobs will still sneer at you, but you’ll be spared the miserable weekend this guy just had, trying to zero a shoddy scope.

 

“Black Spot” and Night Battlefield Dominance

NC-123k period 2In 1967, the Air Commandos began to develop a night special operations gunship capability called Project Black Spot. They leveraged the capabilities of primitive imagery intensifiers to create an aircraft that could defeat the darkness and interdict enemy movement in areas where the threat situation was too “hot” for a low-and-slow-flying fixed-wing gunship. While a couple of these areas were obviously the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia, the ship was also used to hunt clandesting agent-landing boats off the coasts of South Korea.

nc123k

The airframe selected was the Fairchild C-123K Provider, which after modification was called the NC-123 (formal name) or AC-123 (as used by crews). Instead of side-firing guns, the Black Spot birds had cluster bomb unit (CBU) dispensers and carried a war load of over 6,000 1-lb dual-purpose CBUs, of which 24 could be delivered (2 x 12-unit racks) in a single pass. The CBU racks could then be in-flight reloaded by the crew.

Some sources say three airframes were modified, but only two show up in most references: 54-691 and 54-698.

NC-123k period photo

The key to the system was the sensors: X-Band Radar, Doppler terrain-following radar, night-vision Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR), night-vision Low Light Level TV (LLLTV), a Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) countermeasures device, and a laser range-finder/illuminator.  Some of these systems were new, and some had been developed for strategic bombers, but taken together they greatly improved the situational awareness of the crew.

In a harbinger of what was to come, the the TFR, FLIR and LLLTC were housed in a gimbaling “ball” in the nose.

c-123k pod

The outcome of the Korean tests is unknown. The Vietnam theater tests were successful, despite the aircraft having gross weight and density altitude limitations. In addition, a limitation of the cluster bomb dispenser required the pilots to fly the plane at 4,800 feet — no more, no less.

At the end of the test, the NC-123s were converted back to ordinary C-123K trash haulers. All of the sensors proven on the NC-123 were used in subsequent gunships.

Not all experimental sensors from this period went forward. Black Crow, for example, was a truck-ignition detector that zeroed in on the ignition “noise” produced by unshielded wires in the typical Otto-cycle gasoline engine’s spark-ignition system. It was deadly effective on the trucks of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but wouldn’t work on newer trucks. Black Crow was only installed on -698, but did become standard on the AC-130s for a time.

Proving this technology on large airplanes like transports and bombers was necessary and laid fundamental groundwork for US dominance in low-light sensing systems in present years. It is a matter of some concern that, while we continue to exploit, miniaturize and field these 1960s technologies, the rate of development has slowed, and we’re resting on our, sometimes 1960s-vintage, laurels.

Sources

Chinnery, Philip D. Air Commando: Inside The Air Force Special Operations Command. London: Airlife Press, 2008. pp. 210-218. 

Johnson, E.R. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2008. pp. 210-211.

Images found here and there on the internet.

Silencerco SWR Radius Rangefinder

Silencerco says the objective of its Silencerco Weapons Research subsidiary is “to bring advanced technology to the public at an attainable price.” We had not heard of that, or of SWR for that matter, until they came up claiming mission accomplished: “with the announcement of a capability-heavy range finder for only $999, we’ve done just that.”

Have they? Here’s a silent (apart from music and maybe gunshots) video of the SWR Radius in action.

This video describes some of the capabilities:

Sure, it’s not TrackingPoint, but TrackingPoint is not available for pre-order at $995, either.

The Tracking Point system includes several other modules, such as an air data computer that accounts for atmospherics (density, ambient pressure, altitude, temperature), a ballistics computer that knows the bullet performance at a given range, an aiming point module that adjusts the digital reticle on to target, a target reference module that “understands” where a marked (“tagged”) target is in three dimensions, and trigger control that, in a digital update to the way a Contstantinesco gear interrupted fire of a World War I fighter plane unless the propeller was clear of the trajectory, only allows the trigger to fire when the aimpoint is on target.

A unit like this, if it were able to output data through an RS232/RS422 port or something like that,  could be a component of such a system, and if the rangefinder alone succeeds, the likelihood that SWR builds in this direction is increased.

Of course, the one nut that even TrackingPoint has yet to crack is wind.

None of these developments are really, in the truest sense of the word, inventions. They’ve all been around for a century, manually calculated and optically ranged, in naval gunnery, and for most of a half century (including laser ranging) in tank gunnery. The new development is this technology reaching levels of portability and affordability where it can be installed on (or in) an individual weapon.

There are  couple less in-your-face developments embedded in the Radius. One of these is the display of not just one, but the top three range returns. This is a big deal if you’re engaging a target screened by vegetation, a chain link fence, or any of the other embuggerments that give a laser rangefinder a false return.

Another is the selectable use of visible and IR laser. The two lasers coalign, so that the laser can be boresighted or sighted-in with the visible laser, and then switch to the IR for actual field use, and use it with confidence.

This suggests that, while full firing system integration à la TrackingPoint is one way this can go, there are other ways. For example, a unit integrating this laser capability (in milspec strength) with current IR/visible laser floodlight and point illumination would be catnip to the military services.

How would you use this? No manual is posted yet, but a .pdf spec sheet is available.

And as an exit video: here, they’re hinting at some future capabilities.

Dude, where’s my jetpack?

A Side You Might Not Know of a Company You Do

If you think you know Beretta Defense Technologies, the professionals’ side of the 15th-Century gunmaker… do you recognize this?

trg-m10-bolt-action-sniper-rifle-rifle-scope-folding-rear-stock-desert-tan

That state-of-the-art looking sniper rifle is a Sako TRG M10 bolt-action sniper rifle, availble in the three most common Western sniper chamberings: 7.62 NATO/.308 Win; .300 Win Mag; and .338 Lapua Mag. Beretta says this about that:

The TRG M10 is a bolt-action sniper rifle that is available in multiple calibers, manually operated and shoulder-fired, as well as magazine-fed. It has a high-capacity magazine and fully adjustable stock that make it a multi-functional system in a single weapon, suitable for many different situations. The M10 sniper weapon transforms from a compact medium range precision tool into a full-bodied sniper platform capable of engaging targets out to 1500 m and beyond–in minutes and virtually without tools.

Currently TRG M10 offers three different calibers (.308 Win, .300 Win Mag, and .338 Lapua Mag) and all these in multiple barrel lengths. Each of the calibers feature a high-capacity magazine. There are also three standard color options to select from: Stealth Black, Military Green, and Coyote Brown.

The folding stock shown on this example is an option. And the M10 is far from the only BDT sniper rifle; there are four separate sniper product lines, ranging from a light law enforcement Tikka T3 in .223 up to this Goliath in .338 LM.

That’s one of the things we learned stooging around Beretta Defense Technologies’ new website  today. BDT represents several other Beretta-owned brands including Benelli, Sako (as above), and Steiner (Optics).

Of course, Beretta has a whole line of pistols, for which it’s probably best known in the USA, as well as several carbines.

Aside — We’ve never understood why so many are eager to badmouth the M9. It deserved its selection, given the competition at the time, and back in the 1980s when they selected it we were very pleased. (Some military units had already jumped the gun and been using them, bought with a forerunner of MFP-11 money). Yes, there was the debacle of the locking blocks, and that shook the gun’s reputation badly. But once they got over that, M9s were back to running really, really realiably).

It’s almost as if familiarity with the M9 has bred contempt. And in some people, it’s such great contempt that they don’t even consider more modern weapons, like the PX4 or the new striker-fired APX.

End of Aside.

It is a mystery to us, as well, why Beretta’s rifle- and pistol-caliber carbines haven’t gained more sales.

Finally, the BDT website is a gateway into Beretta’s armorer courses, conducted at Beretta HQ in the People’s Republic of Maryland, or at various agency sites nationwide.

The Story Behind the EOTech Fraud Settlement

The sight at the center of the storm: EOTech 556.A65 Holographic.

The sight at the center of the storm: EOTech 556.A65 Holographic.

There has been a lot of news in recent weeks about a major fraud settlement (>$25 million) between L-3 Communications’ EOTech and the DOD, over deficient holographic sights distributed as part of the SOPMOD II case and other military and government channels. As is often the case when suits settle, it’s not entirely what it seems. Whether your narrative was “greedy defense contractor rips off troops,” or “bozo government buys crap again,” you had only one blindfolded finger on the underlying elephant of truth. You probably missed the bit about “lawyers twist negotiations to privately enrich lawyers.”

To start with, we have an allegation that some EOTech Model 556 holographic sights were defective, and that “testing” performed by L-3 consisted, actually, only of paperwork falsely representing that environmental tests were performed. From Guns.com:

Since 2004, L-3’s EOTech sold holographic weapons sights that they knew were defective to the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lawsuit says. EOTech was paid tens of millions of dollars in government contracts.

“Tens of millions” is an understatement.

What was the specific deficiency of the EOTech holographic sights? It was environmental failure, to wit, collapse of performance in low (but hardly extreme) temperatures. A lot of the readers of this blog are former special operations personnel or grunts from various services (and nations). Ever needed to use your sights in temperatures below

The defects caused the optics to fail in both cold and humid environments (effective in temperatures -40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), but EOTech claimed it tested the sights in accordance with military standards.

The lawsuit says in sub-zero temperatures the defect distorts the aiming dot within the optic by more than 20 inches fore every 100 yards.

Yes, that last sentence collapses into gibberish (it almost makes sense with for in place of fore).  But we think we understand what was intended, and we’re not going to hurl stones at the writer from our blog’s crystal chateau.

How did the .gov find out about the problem? Turns out, EOTech solved it… then decided to sell their solution to the military.

The lawsuit adds that EOTech waited to disclose the problem until 2013, when the company thought they had a solution and then pitched the fix as an upgrade.

via L-3’s EOTech to pay gov’t $25.6 million in fraud case.

Tacky. That’s what woke up the slumbering lawyers, who then pounced.

The settlement is a big loss for the military and a big win for EOTech, as it doesn’t solve the problem of the bloated aiming point, but leaves the company able to keep the majority of the money it got for the defective sights, and sell the fix for their own failure to Uncle Sam for more money.

So why did the .gov accept the settlement? It looks like a lot of money, and gives the lawyers something to crow about and put on their CVs as they seek better-paying jobs in the Dreaded Private Sector. Maybe with L-3 Communications, or another firm in the industry, or a law firm that serves such contractors and promises “connected” former Federal lawyers.

In other words, a settlement process operated entirely by lawyers has been corrupted to detriment of the nominal client, and to the personal benefit of the lawyers. Stop us if you’ve heard that one before.

Is this a “Red Not” Sight?

Screenshot from Shooting Sports Retailer, generally a really good online trade mag:

ssr_lays_an_egg

D’oh.

(The sight in question is a Trijicon TA01NSN scope, the model we had on our M4A1 in Afghanistan. It’s a traditional four-power scope with a tritium-illuminated reticle and bullet-drop compensation for the M855 round from a 14.5″ barrel. It’s not a red dot).

We used them mostly just like this, with the backup iron sights, although some guys ran them with a Docter or RMR red dot mounted on top of the scope for servicing both close and distant targets.

The sad part of it is, the story is pretty good. Especially when you consider what the author is trying to do, provide some primary education to gun-shop clerks about red dots so that they can better serve their customers.

You’d think they could have found a picture of a red dot sight to illustrate it. This is the Aimpoint Comp M2 aka the M68, the contemporary of the ACOG shown above. (We pulled these pics off of GunBroker, where this optic is currently up for bid).

aimpoint_comp_m2

The Comp M2 has a feature most don’t need, along with several degrees of visible-light brightness the dot has night-vision-compatible settings. (The NV “red dot” looks green through your PVS-7s, but then, so does everything).

Here is why it is called a red dot.

comp_m2

You’re welcome.

Vietnam Sniper Study

In 1967, the Army got the idea to study whether, how, and how effectively different units were using snipers in Vietnam. They restricted this study to Army units, and conventional units at that; if SF and SOG were sniping, they didn’t want to know (and, indeed, there’s little news either in the historical record or in conversations with surviving veterans that special operations units made much use of precision rifle fire, or of the other capabilities of snipers).

Meanwhile, of course, the Marines were conducting parallel development in what would become the nation’s premier sniper capability, until the Army got their finger out in the 1980s and developed one with similar strength. The Marines’ developments are mentioned only in passing in the study.

Specific Weapons

The study observed several different sniper weapons in use:

  • ordinary M16A1 rifles with commercial Realist-made scopes. This is the same 3×20 scope made by Realist for commercial sale under the Colt name, and was marked Made in USA. (Image is a clone, from ARFCOM).

realist11

  • Winchester Model 70s in .30-06 with a mix of Weaver and Bushnell scopes, purchased by one infantry brigade;
  • two versions of the M14 rifle. One was what we’d call today a DMR rifle, fitted with carefully chosen parts and perhaps given a trigger job, and an M84 scope. The other was the larva of the M21 project: a fully-configured National Match M14 fitted with a Leatherwood ART Automatic-Ranging Telescope, which was at this early date an adaptation of a Redfield 3-9 power scope. (Image is a semi clone with a surplus ART, found on the net).

M21 ARTR

The scopes had a problem that would be unfamiliar to today’s ACOG and Elcan-sighted troopies.

The most significant equipment problem during the evaluation in Vietnam was moisture seepage into telescopes. At the end of the evaluation period, 84 snipers completed questionnaires related to their equipment. Forty-four of the snipers reported that their telescopes developed internal moisture or fog during the evaluation period. In approximately 90 percent of the cases, the internal moisture could be removed by placing the telescope in direct sunlight for a few hours.

The leaky scopes ranged from 41% of the ARTs to 62% of the Realists. The Realist was not popular at all, and part of the reason was its very peculiar reticle. How peculiar? Have a look.

Colt realist 3x20 scope reticle(A later version of this scope, sold by Armalite with the AR-180, added feather-thin crosshairs to the inverted post. The British Trilux aka SUIT used a similar inverted post, but it never caught on here).

The theory was that the post would not obscure the target, the way it would if it were bottom-up. That’s one of the ones you file away in the, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” drawer. Theory be damned, the troops hated it.

The use of the rifles varied unit by unit.  Two units contemptuously dismissed the scoped M16s, and wouldn’t even try them (remember, this was the era of M193 ammo, rifles ruined by “industrial action,” and somewhat loose acceptance standards; the AR of 20145 is not the AR of 1965). The proto-M21s came late and not every unit got them. It’s interesting that none of the weapons really stood out, although the NATO and .30-06 guns were the ones used for the longest shots.

None of the weapons was optimum, but in the study authors’ opinion, the DMR version of the M14 was perfectly adequate and available in channels. The snipers’ own opinions were surveyed, and the most popular weapon was the M14 National Match with ART scope, despite its small sample size: 100% of the surveyed soldiers who used it had confidence in it. On the other hand, the cast scope rings were prone to breakage.

The biggest maintenance problem turned out to be the COTS Winchester 70 rifles, and the problem manifested as an absence of spare parts for the nonstandard firearm, and lack of any training for armorers.

Looking at all the targets the experimental units engaged, they concluded that a weapon with a 600 meter effective range could service 95% of the sniper targets encountered in Vietnam, and that a 1000 meter effective range would be needed to bag up to 98%. (Only one unit in the study engaged targets more distant than 1000 m at all).

Snipers were generally selected locally, trained by their units (if at all), and employed as an organic element of rifle platoons. A few units seem to have attached snipers to long-range patrol teams, or used the snipers as an attached asset, like a machine-gun or mortar team from the battalion’s Weapons Company.

An appendix from the USAMTU had a thorough run-down on available scopes, and concluded with these recommendations (emphasis ours):

Recommendations:
a. That the M-14, accurized to National Match specifications, be used as the basic sniping rifle.

b. That National Match ammunition be used in caliber 7.62 NATO.

c. That a reticle similar to Type “E” be used on telescopic sights of fixed power.

d. That the Redfield six power “Leatherwood” system telescope be used by snipers above basic unit level.

e. That the Redfield four power (not mentioned previously) be utilized by the sniper at squad level.

f. That serious consideration be given to the development of a long range sniping rifle using the .50 caliber machine gun cartridge and target-type telescope.

(NOTE: It is our opinion that the Redfield telescope sights are the finest of American made telescopes.)

Note that the Army adopted the NM M14 with ART (as the M-21 sniper system) exactly as recommended here, but that it did not act on the .50 caliber sniper system idea. That would take Ronnie Barrett to do, quite a few years later.

Rifle_M21_2

The Effects of Terrain

Terrain drives weapons employment, and snipers need, above all, two elements of terrain to operate effectively: observation and fields of fire. Their observation has to overlook enemy key terrain and/or avenues of approach. Without that, a sniper is just another rifleman, and snipers were found to be not worth the effort in the heavily vegetated southern area of Vietnam.

In the more open rice fields and mountains, there was more scope for sniper employment. But sniper employment was not something officers had been trained in or practiced.

The Effects of Leadership

In a careful review of the study, we found that the effects of leadership, of that good old Command Emphasis, were greater than any effects of equipment or even of terrain. The unit that had been getting good results with the Winchesters kept getting good results. One suspects that they’d have continued getting good results even if you took their rifles away entirely and issued each man a pilum or sarissa.

Units that made a desultory effort got crap for results. Some units’ snipers spent a lot of time in the field, but never engaged the enemy. Others engaged the enemy, but didn’t hit them, raising the question, “Who made these blind guys snipers?” Sure, we understand a little buck fever, but one unit’s snipers took 20 shots at relatively close range and hit exactly nothing. Guys, that’s not sniping, that’s fireworks. 

The entire study is a quick read and it will let you know just how dark the night for American sniping was in the mid-1960s: there were no schools, no syllabi, no type-standardized sniper weapons, and underlying the whole forest of “nos” was: no doctrine to speak of.

Vietnam Sniper Study PB2004101628.pdf