Home Buyer Guides Full Buyer’s Guide To Modern Tactical Optic

Full Buyer’s Guide To Modern Tactical Optic


soldier using tactical optic
Iron sights have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Do not get me wrong, the use of iron sights should still be a mandatory part of firearms training and it`s completely possible to hit long range targets with them, if you know how. The fact is since the late 1970s optics have been slowly edging out iron sights on the battlefield.

Weapons like the Steyr AUG lead the way in the implementation on optics for every soldier’s rifle, not just designated marksman or snipers. European nations were some of the first to widely adopt optics as a widespread military issue item. Going all the way back to World War two, the Germans even saw the advantage and topped their FG 42 with an integrated optic.

If you are considering a tactical optic then you have an enormous market to choose from. Since the adoption of optics by the United States military the market has exploded, since more and more shooters desire military quality red-dot/holographic optics and see the overall advantage of having a tactical optic. With a large market, it can be confusing to choose an optic, having a little knowledge will help in making the right choice.

6 Most Important Factors For Tactical Optic

1. Durability

This is one of the most important factors in choosing a tactical optic, and the ultimate reason to own a set of backup iron sights. Optics by nature are somewhat fragile, and often involve glass and some form of light admission in their design, this being said there is no reason an optic cannot be durable. An optic’s body should be made from a high-quality aluminum. Aircraft grade aluminum is what makes the majority of high-quality optics like Aimpoint T-1 and Eotech 512.

Tactical operations are often rough, messy, and violent. This is the simplest means of explaining that things are unpredictable. A tactical optic should be able to meet certain expectations. These include being waterproof since one cannot control when it rains. Also, an optic should be shockproof and capable of retaining zero after taking a bump or two, and a bump or two can be slamming your rifle into a wall, or butt stroking someone, or simply tripping and hitting the ground.

2. Mounting Method

The standard mounting system for most firearms accessories is a Weaver or Picatinny rail. Often an optic will be compatible with both since the rails systems are incredibly similar. However, if you are using a nonstandard or exotic rifle it may not have a Picatinny or weaver rail.

Other rifles like the older AR series may have a fixed carrying handle and no additional options for a rail to mount an optic.The same goes for the AK series, most will not feature a rail, and mounting on one the dust cover if often inaccurate due to the constant movement. Special considerations must be made to outfit these weapons with an optic.

3. Weapon Limitations

What weapons are you looking to put an optic on? Different weapons have different limitations and different advantages. For example, a good tactical shotgun can be an excellent close quarters battle weapon, that being said, it has range limitations. There is no reason to equip a 4x Trijicon ACOG on the weapon. The same could said for certain pistol caliber carbines, and submachine guns.

On the flip side, those operating an M4 style carbine or any rifle caliber carbine is missing out by equipping their weapon with a miniature red optic. Miniature red dots are great optics, but they do not allow the rifle to reach its full potential.

When equipping a weapon with an optic you need to understand it strengths and its weaknesses and equip the weapon accordingly. The idea that any optic is better than no optic is a dangerous methodology. The wrong optic can hamper the weapon.

4. Reticle

Choosing a reticle should fit in with the intended use of the weapons and it’s limitations. A shotgun is a simple weapon that can use a simple reticle, anything by Aimpoint would be perfect for a shotgun. On the same hand, an Aimpoint works wonderfully on a carbine intended for close range work.

The simple red dot reticle lends itself well to close range combat. The Eotech’s dual purpose reticle is suited well for close range combat and longer range engagements. Eotech’s are commonly designed with two precision dots, each for a different range, and the 65 MOA circle that contains the dots is designed for close range work. This gives the optic a more complicated reticle, but also a more versatile one.

eotech 2 dot reticle

Another thing to consider is a bullet drop compensator which Nikon for example uses even on their cheaper optics. A bullet drop compensator allows the user to place longer range shots with accuracy, without the need for the shooter to do the math required for bullet drop. For these bullet drop compensators to work a number of conditions must be met. These involve the barrel length, the bullet’s weight, and even how the optic is mounted.

nikon BDC reticle

The Trijicon ACOG has dozens of different options for what appears to be the same optic, but they are designed for weapons with different barrel lengths and around a certain bullet. Straying from this formula can disrupt the accuracy of the bullet drop compensator.

5. Power Source

Modern tactical optic often feature an illuminated reticle or an option for one. These reticles allow for ease of use regardless of the light provided and generally are more eye-catching. This is important when it comes to close quarters, rapidly moving firefights. Missing the reticle, or not seeing it can be fatal.

Selecting a particular type of power source will be important when you consider your own logistics. Certain police departments may issue battery A, but your optic uses battery B. You can buy your own batteries, of course, as a police officer or everyday joe, but what if the battery isn’t sold locally? You are forced to the internet, but is it pricey? You may consider using a different optic, or inquiring if that optic has a model for your chosen power source.

If you want to stay away from batteries you can go with models designed by Trijicon. These optics use a combination or tritium and fiber optics to absorb light and charge the illuminated reticle. The only issue with these is the fact you cannot easily adjust the brightness level on these optics, and have to rely on their auto adjustment properties. The main appeal is that batteries are not needed.

6. Accessory Capability

Certain optics are compatible with a variety of different accessories, and some are not. These accessories can add to the overall efficiency of the weapon. These can include:

  • lasers
  • mounted miniature red dot sights
  • magnifiers
  • doublers
  • night vision devices

If night vision capability is something you desire it’s important to know if your weapon is compatible. For example, the Eotech XPS2 is not night vision compatible but is magnifier compatible. The Eotech XPS3 is both magnifier and night vision compatible. Important things to know.

Another risk is mounting space. The ACOG series takes up more space than an Aimpoint on a rail, and this is something to consider with certain weapons. Some, like the MP5 or CETME series, have limited rail space and fitting both an ACOG and night vision device on that small of space is impossible.

Now You Should Recognize Quality Optic

As the technology shrank, and demand grew, tactical optics has become a large market. A variety of different optics occupy nearly every price range imaginable, and the small nuances between optics present enough options to drive any consumer stir crazy.

Recommendations can be made for dozens and dozens of different optics, but ultimately it’s up to the user. However, as long as you understand the things listed in this guide, you can select a quality optic that fits your mission.

Recommended Tactical Optic Picks

EoTech 552 Holographic Sight

eotech 552 optic

The Eotech brand made their name as a favorite among Special Forces and police users for its ease of use, simplicity, and reliability. The Eotech 552 is a holographic optic designed for close quarters combat but is versatile enough to be used for medium range engagements. The Eotech is simple, but the reticle is unique and provides the optic’s versatility.

The Eotech 552 is an opened top design, so there is no tube to look through. This cuts the time on target down since upon presentation the optic is ready to go. The optic is designed to be used with both eyes opened, and this imposes the reticle onto your vision, making it an unconscious effort to aim and shoot. The 552 excels at tactical applications and is night vision ready. The 552 is designed to partner with a vast array of different night vision optics.

The 552 has two different reticle options. The first is the XR308, which is designed for the militaries M240 machine gun. The second is designed for 5.56 rifles and the reticle consists of a 68 MOA ring and a single dot placed in the center. In close quarters combat the 68 MOA circle is designed for extreme close quarters, simply fill the circle and pull the trigger. The single dot is used for targets from 50 to 200 meters. The 552 is lightweight at only a little over 11 ounces and features 20 daylight settings and 10 night vision settings. The 552 is powered by two 1.5 volt AA batteries and lasts for 1,00 continuous hours.

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Magnification: 1x

Eye Relief: Unlimited

Brightness Settings: 30 ( 10 for nightvision )

Weight: 11.1 oz

Length: 5.6 inches

Power Source: Two 1.5 Volt AA Batteries

FOV@100 yards: 30 yards at 4 inches eye relief

Waterproof/fogproof: Submersible up to 33 ft

MSRP: $459

Manufacturer`s Website: http://www.eotechinc.com/holographic-weapon-sights/model-512

Trijcon ACOG TA31RCO

Acog TA31RCO

The Trijicon ACOG is a superb rifle combat optic that comes in a wide variety of different magnification levels, and reticles options. The TA31RCO is the model used by the United States Marine corps and has been used extensively in both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The optic is a 4x power fixed optic, with a 32mm objective lens.

The ACOG’s 4x is completely sufficient for rifleman armed with M16s and M4s, and allow for easy shooting at 500 yards, and a skilled marksman can reach out to 800 meters. The optics themselves are tough as nails and some models have been at work for over a decade. The ACOG TA31RCO has two specific models, the A4, and M4. The A4 model is designed for a 20-inch barrel AR15/M16, and the M4 version is made for the 16-inch carbine variant. The ACOG features a bullet drop compensator for easy extended engagements, and the BDC is dialed in for the standard military 5.56 cartridge.

The Trijicon ACOG is completely waterproof, and can be submerged to 11 meters without the caps. The ACOG is useful for both extended engagements and close quarters fighting. The optic is designed with the rifleman in mind. The user should utilize the Bindon two eyed aiming concept for close range engagements. The ACOG user an illuminated chevron as its reticle, and the illumination is provided with a battery-free power source. This power source absorbs ambient light from the world around it and utilizes tritium and carbon fibers to absorb the light.

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Magnification: 4x

Length: 6.7 in

Weight: 15.8 oz ( with mount )

FOV @ 100 yards: 36.8

Eye relief: 1.5 inches

Power Source: self-illuminated tritium phospor lamp

Water/fog proof: Water resistant to 100 feet

MSRP: $1724

Manufacturer`s Website: https://www.trijicon.com/na_en/products/product3.php?pid=TA31RCO-A4CP

Vortex Viper

vortex viper

The Vortex Viper is the tactical optic you’d equip a designated marksman with. This optic is not necessarily designed for close quarters combat, but for precision shooting at the squad level. A designated marksman uses a high magnification provided by the Vortex Viper for more precise shooting at extended ranges, target and hazard identification, and to provide overwatch.


The Viper is available in a variety of different magnifications, but the 3-9 power is probably the most versatile. At 3 to 4 power, the optic can be used for some closer range fighting, and the 5 to 9 power is perfect for making shots up to 600 yards and beyond. The Viper would be a good fit for the AR 15 platform, but could also work well with the AR 10 or M1A 30 caliber rifles.  Vortex uses a proprietary coating known as XR to fully multicoated their lenses. This coating provides excellent light transmission to give a clear and bright sight picture.


The Viper is constructed from a single piece of aircraft grade aluminum for both increased strength and a higher level of precision. The Vortex Viper is also water, fog and shockproof, making it a very durable and rugged optic. The reticle is a simple duplex crosshair with a small section of tac marks for windage and elevation holdovers. The Viper is a very precise, and well-tuned optic. The Viper is perfect for striking from afar and allows tactical operators an extended range option within their team or squad.

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Magnification: 3-9 x

Objective Lens: 40mm

Eye Relief: 3.5 inches

FOV @ 100 yards: 35.5-12.2 feet

Length: 12.4 inches

Weight: 14.2 oz

Waterproof / shockproof: 100%

MSRP: $399

Manufacturer`s Website: http://www.vortexoptics.com/product/vortex-viper-3-9×40-riflescope-dead-hold-bdc-reticle


Leupold Mark 4 HAMR – Read Our Review

mark 4 HAMR with deltapoint

The Leupold Mark 4 HAMR is a versatile tactical optic that is not only called hammer but is easily as tough as one. The Mark 4 HAMR is made entirely from T6 Aircraft grade aluminum and is a single piece construction. The Mark 4 is a both a 4 power main optic, and the user has the option to add a Deltapoint 1 x miniature reflex sight.  The addition of the miniature red dot allows the user to transition from medium to long range engagements, to the close quarter, room to room fighting.


The HAMR is a heavy optic, especially when paired with an additional Delta point. However, the optic is designed for combat operations and is built to last. The HAMR’s reticle incorporates a bullet drop compensator rated out to 800 meters. The HAMR features a wide eye box to make the transition from low ready to presentation as swift as possible. The combination of the wide eye box, and Leupold’s proprietary diamond coat lens coating you clear a crystal clear sight picture with excellent light transmission. The HAMR is a large optic but comes with a weaver/Picatinny rail mount adapter, so rings are not needed.


The HAMR is incredibly precise, and the addition of a miniature red dot makes it very versatile for not only close range engagements, but use from a moving vehicle. The HAMR weights nearly a pound, but I doubt anything called HAMR is supposed to be light. The HAMR is an interesting step for Leupold, but a successful one.

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Magnification: 4x

Objective Lens: 24mm

Eye Relief: 2.8 inches

Length: 5.7 inches

Weight: 14.8 oz

FOV @ 100 yards: 31.5 ft

Weather resistant: Waterproof/fogproof

MSRP: $1624.99

Manufacturers Website: https://www.leupold.com/tactical/scopes/mark-4-hamr-riflescopes/




  1. […] Leupold is a very popular brand that is mostly known for their long range, variable, and fixed power optics. Leupold has designed a wide variety of different optics that have served for years with various branches of the military. Leupold provided the scopes for the United States Marine Corps’ scout snipers. Most firearm enthusiasts know that Leupold produces excellent long range optics, but many do not realize they also manufacture a variety of short-range tactical optics for carbines, shotguns, and rifles. […]