11 Mar 13

At an Urban Rifle Course last weekend, a student brought an FN/SCAR/17S (7.62×51). His SCAR was equipped with a 3.5x ACOG Optic on top, and iron sights, offset on a 45-degree angle to the right, on LaRue offset mounts.

The SCAR ran fine for the duration, without a single hiccup, as did an XCR, Kalishnikov, M1 Carbine, and several ARs. The ACOG is a rugged, thoroughly militarized optic, and LaRue mounts are, of course, second to none.

At the end of the Course, we all agreed that the SCAR 17S with a 3.5x optic makes a wonderful 300m-500m “general purpose” military rifle, but it did not make a particularly good close-range, urban combat rifle. When engaging multiple close-range threats, mixed-in intimately with non-threats, all while moving rapidly and being compelled to shoot in several directions, its owner often became confused and disoriented. He had to come out of his optic quickly and often in order to re-acquire a normal perspective and monitor his surroundings. Once in his optic, he was able to see great detail, but unable to see threats directly adjacent to his narrow field of view. Because of close eye-relief, necessitated by magnification, he had considerable difficulty “looking around” his optic. His offset iron sights came in handy at times, but going from one system to another still took time and required repeated re-orientation.

I don’t teach sniper courses. It is fascinating, but I don’t know enough about the subject to presume to teach it to others. Legitimate sniper rifles are single-purpose, good for sniping at long ranges, but not well suited for most other purposes.

Likewise, I teach few “General Purpose” military rifle Courses, where targets are engaged out to 500m. There is scant legitimate domestic demand for such training, and typical main-battle military rifles are too long and heavy to be ideal for relatively close range, “urban” fighting.

However, there is a significant demand for “Urban Rifle” training, where threats are engaged from point-blank to 100m, and students must move fast, locating and identifying threats deftly, and changing positions quickly and often. Best rifles for this challenge are short, light, slim, slick, handy, and are equipped with, forward-mounted, non-magnifying, red-dot optics. Although, for the sharp-eyed, Western-style iron sights are still eminently useable, and they are low-profile and don’t require batteries!

The point is that no one rifle will perform all three tasks well (although you’re going to have to find a way to win with whatever rifle you can get your hands on). Many of us are tempted to load-up our rifles with “accessories” in an effort to provide them with “increased capability” and “options.” What is definitely increased is weight, bulk, and confusion! No accessory is all bad, nor all good, but “minimal” is usually superior to “extravagant.”

That is the issue my student discovered. The SCAR 17S is a good system and makes a fair urban rifle, but high-magnification, close eye-relief optics actually detract from its utility for close-range work. So, wonderful as ACOGs are, they’re not wonderful for every circumstance.

To the degree that we have choices, we need to make them with care, as if our lives depended upon them. No choice is ever perfect, and no one rifle/system will perform all tasks perfectly, nor even well.

“Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, so beware, beware”

From Asleep in the Deep, written in 1897 by Arthur J Lamb, and subsequently put to the music of Henry W Petrie