New Optic Helps Old Eyes
As a new rifle shooter, I have been struggling for some months to improve my shooting skills beyond what a brand new shooter could expect. It seemed that, no matter what I worked on, I was not getting any better. Trigger pulls, cheek weld, natural point of aim, support, different rifle, it all seemed for nothing. I eventually decided that my old eyes were simply not going to allow me to shoot accurately with iron sights. And while I really like my Red Dot for CQB [Editor: Close Quarters Battle/Close Quarters Combat], it is simply not suitable for small groups at any distance.
My 995TS does not seem like it will ever serve well as a 100 yard tack driver, so my focus will be on my MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle - the new "in" term for an AR15.)
So, I looked around for something that would work for both CQB and precision rifle shooting. There are several competitors for this particular market (the 3 Gun crowd), and it is not my intention to review any of them. Rather, I am going to show how the one I picked out affected my shooting.
My requirements were as follows:
1) Quick target acquisition, like a red dot.
2) A mechanism to permit magnification and precision shooting when I need it.
I wanted this combination so I could keep the same optic on the rifle all the time.
Here is the optic, an Atabal XP8. It is a 1-8x magnifier with an illuminated diamond reticle and a 0.5 MoA [Editor: Minute of Angle] center dot. Also includes some other stuff for windage and a BDC [Editor: Bullet Drop Compensation], which will not be discussed today.
Here is the view through it at 8x from my back porch. This photo was taken with a phone while holding it and the rifle, so it is a bit out of focus. Also, I am looking through a screen at the rooftop across the street, about 100 yards. The illumination is on it's brightest setting.
I should mention here that, while this may look like a red dot, it is not. There are some important distinctions. 1) A red dot is pretty much parallax free, at least beyond 50 yards or so. This means you can acquire your target while your eye is NOT lined up with the scope axis, permitting better shooting without fussing about your cheek weld. 2) The reticle on this scope is etched, which means you must still get a good cheek weld. For CQB, this is undesirable as it may slow you down. On the other hand, you can get accuracy with it, and do so without the illumination. So if the battery dies or the electronics break, you still have a working scope (without illumination). No need (or room) for a backup iron sight.
So, yesterday afternoon, I went to my range and sighted in the new optic. I won't display those targets because they are not interesting. All of the following are shot at 100 yards on a bench with sandbags.
1st Target, Left side: German NATO M193, 56 gr.
2nd Target, Right side: Wolf Gold, 55 gr.
3rd Target, left bottom: Remington Match 69 gr.
4th Target, right bottom: Hornady Match 75 gr BTHP [Editor: Boat Tail Hollow Point]. I was really disappointed with this. I usually get much better results with the Hornady Match than anything else, no matter how bad my shooting is. But this group was all over the place. I wondered if my rings were shaking loose. So I tightened them up a bit. It could just as likely been that I was getting tired, and was in a pretty uncomfortable position.
In any case, I decided to shoot 10 more Hornady into the center target. These were a bit better, but still not what I was hoping for.
5th Target, center top: 10 rounds of Hornady Match. 75 gr BTHP.
So, I am still not shooting as accurately as I had hoped, but it is a substantial improvement over what I have been doing. So it looks like it was worth it.
Now, to the second part of the test. Can it substitute as a red dot? I loaded a silhouette target, and moved it 50 yards. I shot standing up, supported, with my hip leaning against the wall of the shooting stall. I have not yet had time to practice my Snap Shots at home in dry fire mode, so I did not attempt that here. Instead, I simply aimed and fired 30 rounds spaced about 2 seconds apart. The scope was set to around 3x for this test. I was using American Eagle 55 gr.
This is substantially better than I have done in the past with irons or a red dot. So, while it seems there is a lot more practice in my future, I think this may work out just fine. Since both my Red Dot and XP8 are on quick release mounts, my plan is to leave the Red Dot on most of the time, then switch to the XP8 for trips to the range. Once I am fully confident I can shoot Snap Shots with the new scope, it will remain on the AR.