First came the red dot and reflex sights, both of these technologies vastly improved the accuracy and speed of target acquisition and engagement. Soon, operators determined they needed a way to add magnification to extend their range of engagement. The industry responded introducing 3X, 4X and 6X magnifiers . The magnifier sits behind the red dot sight and provides magnification. In use, the operator still sees the red dot but the target is now magnified. That’s all well and good but what is your target range, how much holdover do you use? I’ve used magnified red dot aiming systems and wished I could have an optical ranging tool as part of the magnifier. So, I tried an experiment to determine if having ranging stadia is in any way disruptive to the operator when using a magnifier.
I setup a test platform using a Crimson Trace red dot mounted just north of the trunnion,; I then mounted an IOR 4X24 M2 with a Dragunov style reticle to see how it all works out.
The image below is not representative of the actual optical clarity through the IOR 4X optic which was excellent, but stay with me. By the way, if you are not familiar with IOR Valdada, they make an outstanding magnified optic using excellent glass, they’re not cheap but you get what you pay for, check them out at Valdada Optics.
Getting back on topic, what I was trying to do is assess how disruptive, if at all, it would be to use a magnifier etched with ranging stadia. To test that, I used a fixed 4x optic, the IOR , which has excellent optical clarity and a Dragunov style reticle.
The picture above, and on the left, was taken through the IOR optic and through the red dot with the sight powered on, my photo bears no semblance to the actual image which was clear with a sharply defined red dot. Using this arrangement, I could easily determine that the vehicle, an SUV, is 2.5 mils wide. I know that SUV widths range from 69 in. to 79 in. , so I calculated an average (69+79)/2 arriving at 72 inches as my target width, so my range to the vehicle is approximately 800 yards. Rather than simply seeing a magnified image, I had the ability to accurately range my target. Having a ranging reticle provides the operator with actionable information to assist him or her in effectively and accurately engaging a long range target. Without a ranging reticle, the operator has to rely on Kentucky windage.
What I did in the picture on the right is photoshop out the excess reticle details leaving just the horizontal stadia to simulate what an operator would see looking through a magnifier with only ranging stadia etched – it’s uncluttered, clean and providing valuable range information to enhance the operators’ target engagement. There are a number of ranging reticles available; two of my favorites are a simple horizontal and vertical stadia or the Dragunov style shown below.
There’s currently a move to incorporate variable power magnified optics, usually in the 1x-6x and 1x-8x range, as a primary sight backed up by an offset red dot sight. This is an excellent configuration for a DMR operator but it adds weight and requires rotating the rifle inward to use the backup red dot sight; however, the benefits outweigh its disadvantages. On the other hand, for the average rifleman, there is no better fire control configuration than a red dot sight and magnifier with ranging stadia for rapid accurate fire.