29 Apr 13

At an Urban Rifle Program last weekend in UT, one of my students brought a folding-stock (under-folder) Kalashnikov (7.62×39), with a cheesy red-dot optic, mounted high, just in front of the rear iron sight.

The rifle, like most Kalishnikovs, ran fine for the duration, but my student had great difficulty using his red-dot. The problem was that the optic was mounted too high, and my student could not get a useable cheek-weld on the stock. The result was that, when the rifle was mounted, his head continually swam in space in an effort to find the reticle. In addition, the reticle was difficult to see, as is was too faint.

He was actually slower getting on target than with plain-vanilla iron sights! He was thus unable to pass our qualification test, because he could not make the time. Using my rifle, an XCR-M with a forward-mounted Aimpoint T1 on a LaRue quick-release mount, he passed easily.

Another student brought a flat-top AR, with a low-mounted red-dot. This optic too was cheap, cheesy, and mounted way too low. His mounting problem was just the opposite of the foregoing. He could not get his head low enough to find the reticle! His rifle was unusable. He abandoned it and finished the Course successfully with a borrowed AR with iron sights.

The lesson here is that you have to test your gear by actually running it, hard. It all looks great in the showroom!

Both students came to me confident their rifles were ready for war. Both were disappointed, of course, but both learned that important lesson.

When you want red-dot optics on your serious rifle, don’t mess around with cheap trash. Aimpoints, EOTechs, et al are expensive, but they are thoroughly militarized and designed for the rigors of military usage. You’ll need a quick-release mount with an appropriate riser that gets the optic just the right height for a positive cheek-weld, not too high and not too low. In addition, you’ll need co-witnessed iron sights to which you can quickly default when your red-dot suddenly fails. That set-up will cover all bases.

When inexperienced hands slap all this together, the result is often most unsatisfactory, as my students unhappily discovered.

Emergency gear, like your serious rifle, needs to be carefully selected, carefully paired, carefully mounted, and rigorously tested. Your life will depend on it. Don’t mess around!