No tool will handle every chore, nor will any weapon handle the dynamics of every confrontation. The standard weapon of the U.S. Military is the M16 series of weapons which worked quite well in Vietnam. The 1-in-12 rate of twist barely stabilized the 55-grain full metal jacket bullet so that when it hit anything it would tumble, creating a wound that resulted in quick incapacitation. This was good in the relatively close combat of the jungle, but in an effort to make the gun more accurate; faster rates of twist have been incorporated into the weapon’s design. While this change has accomplished the desired accuracy, it also made the fired round very stable in flight which turned the fast, pointy 5.56mm bullet into a flying ice pick—a projectile that tends to go in and out of human flesh, depositing little energy as it passes through. Combine this with the fact that the 5.56mm was intended to be a gun used inside 300 yards and it does not take a great deal of effort to see that the M16, especially in the short barreled M4 version, is not an optimal weapon for long-distance engagements.
Urban Combat Ain’t Nam’s Jungles
One of the reasons the AR was intended to be a 300-yard gun was research conducted at the end of the Korean War that revealed that because the infantryman was equipped with a rifle that used iron sights, firefights usually occurred within the distance of human sight. As a general rule, a soldier with good eye sight can see and identify an enemy soldier out to 300 yards, thus inside this distance is where most of the fighting occurred. Vietnam was no different, with thick jungle making engagements even closer, within 50 yards or less before combatants were seen by their opponents.
This has not been the case in recent desert conflicts. Add to this that compact scopes of one-to-four power have enhanced our soldiers’ vision, and it is easy to see that the 5.56mm is likely being used at distances that it was never intended for.
Much of the War on Terror has moved into urban environments where the fight occurs very close. Insurgents are not stupid—they know that much of our military technology is intended for battlefield environments—so moving into the crowded cityscape among innocent civilians offers them a more level playing field as they fight using techniques that are quite simple…hit and run. They shoot, move and our soldiers and Marines pursue, hunting these ruthless killers in close quarters among people that our guys do not want to hurt. This is where the short M4 carbine becomes quite desirable.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Marines who had been in the middle of urban combat in the Battle for Fallujah. Naturally, the discussion moved to how well their individual weapons worked. When I asked about their M16’s, I was told, “The stopping power of the 5.56mm at close quarter was really not a problem as you just fire two or three rounds every time and this usually stops them. But what I really wish I would have had was an M4 with a red-dot sight. The M16 and ACOG was great when we were fighting across the desert, but once we got into the city, the long barrel, fixed stock and four-power scope was just not as good. The long barrel did not work the corners as well…the hallways and stairways were not very wide and the fixed stock got in the way. The ACOG was too much sight for shooting across a room. Some of the SpecOps guys started putting small red-dot sights on top of their ACOG’s which was sweet! The short M4 would have been real nice to have. But you know, we did OK which tells you about how good our training was. No gun or gear works well for everything.”
The U.S. Army has bought one half million Aimpoint red-dot sights for their soldiers. This optic has proven to work well in the field and has stood up to the rigors of combat. The Aimpoint has proven to be the optic to have in close combat, but it has been less than optimal for long range targets. The Army realized this but did not want to start from scratch. They realized they needed a unit that would work with the unit that was currently in service, but could be quickly removed if the fight moved in close. The solution was the Aimpoint M68 3X Magnifier.
The 3X magnifier converts the standard M68 Close Combat Optic Comp M4 red-dot sight into a three-power telescopic sight, allowing soldiers to engage targets at greater distances. Adding the Magnifier instead of issuing a new optic makes a great deal of sense. Why replace a piece of gear that you know works? Part of the Army package is a proprietary Twist-Mount device that allows the soldier to switch from a non-magnified close quarter combat sight to an extended range telescopic sight in a matter of seconds.
The Magnifier can also be used as a monocular for long distance observation and enemy identification, making this dual-use unit even more valuable. The $9.88 million contract calls for the delivery of a classified number of units to the Army and will be issued service-wide to all units currently using the M68 red-dot including Special Forces. Currently, the Army has more than 500,000 M68 sights in service with more to be added. The adaptability of this enhanced system will likely be very popular with soldiers service-wide.
The M68 CCO Comp M4 offers better energy efficiency that provides up to eight years of continuous use from a single AA battery! In the past, concern has been expressed by some that the older, flat wrist-watch-style batteries used in advanced optics might not be readily available in some parts of the world, whereas the standard AA battery is used to power a wide array of electronic devices and can likely be found in any home or office. Aimpoint’s engineers listened to post-combat reviews of the older CompM2 while designing the CompM4 and added some features that were requested from the field. They include a more concentrated 2 MOA dot with additional night vision and daylight settings, an improved rotary switch that will not break off, an improved QRP2 mount with twice the clamping force as the original QRP mount, and a shorter knob on the mount that is less likely to snag on gear or other obstructions.
They also added an internal voltage regulator that allows the sight to be used with any AA size battery. The Comp M4 also incorporates an integral mount that eliminates a separate mounting ring that is wrapped around the M4’s tube. Being expressly designed to be used with any modern night-vision device, the Comp M4 can be utilized around the clock, and with the addition of the M68 Magnifier, can now be used at greater distances than ever before.
The Magnifier was designed to be mated with any of the Aimpoint close-combat sights, so soldiers who are equipped with the M2 will also have this newly enhanced capability. Aimpoint’s Twist-Mount device will attach to any military grade rail system, but the scope can also be attached via any quality 30mm mounting system if the end user so chooses. Since the unit does nothing but magnify the image of the scope mounted forward of it, a new zero is not necessary…the unit just goes on and off with no change in point of aim or point of impact. The M68 is made from high-strength aluminum with a hard black coating applied. Sections of it are also covered in rubber to offer greater shock resistance during rough treatment in extreme situations. The unit is 4.3 inches in length and weighs just over seven ounces, so its addition to the gun does not affect its balance.
Author’s Dead-On Groups
Wanting to see just how much the 3X Magnifier enhanced sighting, I attached the Comp M4 to my Stag Arms Model 3 and zeroed it in at 100 yards. In an effort to increase the efficiency of the test, I selected Birchwood Casey’s 3-inch Shoot-N-C target dots. I shot the Stag using Hornady’s excellent 75-grain “T2” 5.56mm ammo, a load expressly designed to be used in short-barreled weapons. This load has not only proven to be very accurate, it is also battle proven, being used by various military Special Operations Units and S.W.A.T. Teams.
After zeroing the Comp M-4, I fired several groups to make sure that I was on target. I decided against using a fixed rest as I wanted to test the optics under more realistic conditions, but at the same time, I wanted to give the gun, ammo and scope as stable a shooting platform as was “realistically” possible. I opted to use my Blackhawk “Battle Bag” as a rest. Designed to carry a handgun, spare rifle and pistol mags as well as other related field gear, it makes for a very useful and portable “grab and go” bag as well as a good rifle rest. The first groups were fired with the Aimpoint Comp M4 alone, using the lowest dot illumination setting that I could see, in order to give a precise aiming point inside the 3-inch dot.
The unaided optic worked quite well, keeping most of the rounds inside the 3-inch dot, with an overall spread of around 3 to 3.5 inches. However, once the 3X Magnifier was locked in place it became a whole new ball game. I was able to consistently shoot groups under 2 inches, with several groups being in the 1.25 inch range. While this type of accuracy may not seem important to some, I have been told by several returning Marines and soldiers that the insurgents like to stay well hidden and only a portion of a head or torso may be all one gets to shoot at.
After all, No weapon intended for combat can ever be “too accurate,” provided it is reliable.
The “Mini” Aimpoint
In response to numerous requests for a smaller and lighter tactical sight, Aimpoint has introduced a new compact red-dot optic they call the Micro T-1 electronic red-dot sight. Built to offer the same street-proven ruggedness as the larger Aimpoint sights, the Micro T-1 will perform to a high level under extreme conditions while adding very little weight to your firearm. The Aimpoint Micro T-1 is ideal for use as a stand-alone sight or can be mated with larger magnifying scopes, night -vision or thermal imaging optics. The Micro T-1 weighs only 3.6 ounces, and comes from the factory with a patent-pending integral Picatinny mount that is built into the sight body to absorb recoil.
The Micro T-1 is a 1X, parallax-free optic that features a 4 MOA (minute-of-angle) red dot for fast target acquisition. The use of tools is not required to zero the sight, as the top of the caps covering the windage and elevation screws fit directly into holes on the adjustment screws. The Micro T-1 is waterproof to 80 feet and is certainly durable enough to stand up to the worst battlefield or street conditions. It is capable of being used with all generations of night vision devices. It features a manual adjustment switch with six night vision compatible settings and seven daylight settings, including one extra-bright setting for use in desert sunlight or with laser protection filters. Aimpoint’s high tech ACET diode technology allows the Micro T-1 to operate continuously for five-plus years on a single CR-2032 battery.
Compact, lightweight, tough and versatile. Could any operator ask for anything more?