Internet debates have raged for years concerning the controversy over the best “survival firearm.” Urban preppers have thoughts of civil unrest, rioting and defending their families against gangs of ruthless looters. On the other hand, rural preppers are typically more focused on hunting and longer range defensive capabilities. Regardless of your location, it makes sense to have a long gun that can be used for defense and to put food on the table. This translates into a tool that can be affective at both long and short ranges.
While I have my own opinions about the best firearm, making that choice is only part of the solution in surviving a serious threat. After selecting a weapon, you’ll most likely find the need for an optic, or aiming system, to go along with the new blaster.
The title of this paper is a little misleading. Truly, there is no perfect optic, just as there is no perfect weapon. Like pizza, cars or who controls the television remote, everything’s a compromise, and there is no one single solution to fit every need. The choice boils down to covering as many scenarios as possible with a single selection.
A new solution
Recently, a new wave of optics has arrived that I believe provides the absolute best option for preppers. I refer to this category of aiming devices as “1-bys” in that they offer magnification ranges of 1×6 or 1×8 or even higher.
While they may appear similar to a traditional hunting scope, there are many specific features that separate this new generation of optics from their more common cousins. For example:
- Much larger eye box than a typical rifle-scope
- Greater eye relief than most scopes
- Illuminated reticles or aiming dots
- Very thin reticle framing
- Extremely robust, compact designs
- First focal plane reticles (optional)
- Compatibility with night vision devices
Why are these features important as a solution for preppers? Read on…
Requirements and Application
Before buying an optic, you need to anticipate what functionality may be required after an event. As with the selection of a firearm, the operational range should be one of the first questions asked.
Many riflemen overlook short-range needs. By short, I’ll use a distance of less than 100 meters (110 yards) as a general definition. Traditional hunting (or sniper) rifle-scopes are inferior during close-in engagements because it takes longer to acquire a target. When multiple threats are considered, this handicap can be a serious issue.
A few years ago, infantrymen all over the world began procuring holographic weapons sights (red dots) at an astounding pace. There’s a reason why these optics were all the rage – they save lives. When compared to iron sights, the target acquisition time for close-in threats is considerably faster. The advantages of keeping both eyes open, diminished parallax and improved accuracy have been demonstrated on battlefields all over the planet.
Longer ranges (150-600 meters) are well served by rifle-scopes, but can be a problem for holographic or iron sights. You need to ignore internet bravado when thinking of 600 meter shots and be honest with yourself. Yes, I can hit a man-sized target with iron sights at 600 meters with an AR15. I need to “walk” the rounds into the target on a clear day, in good light, without any wind. I’ve watched the US Army Marksmanship Unit accomplish this feat in a more proficient manner, but those guys and girls are elite shooters whose everyday job is putting lead on target. In a situation where conditions aren’t perfect…you are scared, angry or desperate…600 meters with iron sights or a holo isn’t realistic for most folks. Magnification and bullet drop compensation can help with longer range shooting, but holo-dot sights aren’t equipped with such features.
So everyone had a problem. There wasn’t any available solution that addressed both long and short- range shots. Any optic was a compromise on what situation the operator “thought” was most likely to be encountered. If something unexpected came up…well…you didn’t have the right tool for the job.
Magnification serves another important role beyond accuracy. It helps with target identification (is that person carrying a shovel or a rifle?), scouting (did I just see something move in that treeline?) and distance estimation. In fact, the benefit of magnification and the extent it enhances the rifleman’s capabilities are both so significant, the US military recently invested millions of dollars in ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gun Sight) for our troops as a tactical advantage.
The ACOG is a wonderful tool and until recently presented the best compromise of long vs. short-range target acquisition tools. This “aiming system” is a fixed 4-power magnification unit with long eye relief and an illuminated reticle, normally a dot. The 4x zoom was middle-ground in that you could still acquire a close-in target while having the advantage of longer range capabilities. The ACOG was better in so many ways than anything else up until that time. Civilians purchased them by the millions as well.
But the ACOG wasn’t perfect. In close-quarters battle situations, like clearing a building or street fighting, that 4x still slowed down acquisition times. On the other hand, 4x isn’t so great on longer distance shots, say outside 250 meters. For older eyes, 4x often isn’t enough zoom.
Professional shooters began to address these shortcomings with hybrid solutions. Red dots began to appear on top of ACOGs (see figure 2 above) or mounted offset on rifle-scopes. Other shooters went with magnifiers mounted in front of their holo sights. All of these hybrids created their own set of problems. I used an ACOG with a dot mounted on top for years. The drawback was that my cheek weld (shooting position) was altered by the height of the dot, and I was still limited to a 4x magnification. That little device residing on top of the scope’s body always seemed to be in such a precarious position as well.
I also utilized a red dot with a magnifier mounted in front, but this was an untenable fix. The extra device never centered properly, was a pain in the butt to carry, and still provided very limited magnification.
On my long-range rifles equipped with huge scopes, I mounted offset red dots. Again, the little devices were constantly getting hung up on gear, impacted my shooting position, and I broke more than one of the expensive units.
While the hybrid solutions reduced the amount of compromise, many shortcomings still existed. Range wasn’t the only consideration then, nor should it be now. The list below contains requirements most preppers need to address:
- Optic must work with Night Vision Devices
- Must function with backup iron sights
- Weight must be reasonable
- Battery life/usage is an important consideration for preppers
- Must be able to withstand abuse in the field
1-bys to the rescue
Scopes with a 1 x n magnification have been around for years and served a variety of purposes. There have been a few recent enhancements to this category of gun sight that has greatly improved their functionality as an overall solution for a survival weapon.
First and foremost is what I call the “reticle framing.” This is the black ring (edge of tube) that is seen while looking through the device with both eyes open.
The newer generation of 1-bys has a very thin frame that avoids distraction as your eyes (both open) scan for threats.
Secondly, the illumination of the reticle (a red dot is shown in the example above) has improved to the level where these scopes are now on par with the best holographic red dots. This means that target acquisition times are greatly reduced on short-range shots.
For longer range activities, you simply increase the magnification by twisting a ring, much like a typical hunting scope.
You can now have a red dot and a long-range scope all in one unit without clutter, breakable appendages or weld-distorting shooting positions. You can have less compromise for the same amount of money.
To understand why this Joe Nobody is so excited over 1-bys and the advantages they offer, it helps to compare solutions. The following table represents my personal ratings, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest.
Because I’m writing this for preppers, I am assuming a wide range of eyesight capability. Not all of us are in are our prime with 20/20 vision, so the enlarged eye box and reticle framing carry more weight. As with any side-by-side comparison, some caveats must be noted:
The cost category is relative to the value received for the money spent. Low to high cost models exist for all four categories of optics. It isn’t fair to compare a $1,800 ACOG to a $49 Red Dot. The same logic applies to the scopes.
Parallax and ruggedness are also factors of the cost ratio. You can purchase very high-end scopes that have little parallax and are very rugged (Schmidt and Bender for example). You can also purchase sub-$100 units that are prone to blackout and distortion.
In summary, 1-bys provide the average prepper with a new and exciting option. They aren’t perfect for every situation, but technology keeps us moving closer to that goal. After field testing one of the devices, I’m convinced they are worth the investment and will gradually be switching all of my rifles to this new system.
Joe Nobody is the author of The Home Schooled Shootist and numerous other titles focused on self-reliance and prepping.