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Thread: Optics for Self Defense and CQB: My thoughts and experiences

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    Optics for Self Defense and CQB: My thoughts and experiences

    Posted this on another site and thought it might have some relevance here (I compiled my experiences with several different optics from posts that I had made on several different boards and put them into a single post for a member on another site):

    Newby here --

    Wondering what holographic sight I should use on a flat top AR15 carbine for self-defense?



    If you could define your needs a little better, it would narrow down the options.

    By self defense, I'm going to guess that the place you are most likely to use an AR15 is in defense of your home.

    For a home defense carbine I would suggest a simple carbine with iron sights and a white light. This is not the "coolest" answer, but it is probably one of the most practical.

    Most guys don't deal with violent criminals on a daily basis and often times on the internet posts like this often generate more responses that are based on "theory" rather than responses that closely follow circumstances that a armed civilian is likely to find himself in.

    That being said, I see a lot of threads like this, and most of the responses are based on theory and best case scenerios. Any fighter (boxer, soldier, cop, civilian defending themselves) should always train for the worst case scenerio, not the best case. As the saying goes, prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

    If as an armed civilian you are unlucky enough to be the intended victim of a violent crime, you are most likely going to be involved in a defensive or reactive fight, not an offensive fight. The criminal, much like an animal of prey will pick the intended victim, the date, the time, and the place for the attack.

    As a victim of a violent crime, you will almost always find yourself dealing with the situation on the criminals terms. You will be reacting to his actions. As is proof in the OODA loop, actions are always quicker than reactions.

    If a criminal kicks in your front door to committ a home invasion robbery, he isn't going to sit in the front living room like a prom date and wait for you (the victim) to turn on your optic, put on your multi-cam plate carrier, and get ready for the fight. He is there it dominate you and to control you and to get what he wants (steal something of monitary value, take a human life, exact revenge, etc) In most cases you are barely going to have enough time to roll out of bed and grab your gun (much less turn on an optic, mess with a sling, insert a mag and chamber a round, etc) before the bad guy is in the same room as you. Crimes like this happen VERY quickly.

    Sorry for the rant, but these are things you may want to consider prior to deciding if an optic is the best route.

    Here are my experiences with several different optics in a close quarters battle enviornment. Most of these are responses to other posts, but you may find some of the information useful:

    Trijicon Reflex I & II

    The first time I had a "wash out" (ie. where you can't see the aiming dot because you don't have proper contrast between lighting / target / illuminated aiming dot) problem with the Trijicon Reflex was in 1998 on a SWAT call. It was a no knock drug raid, in one of the back bedrooms I encounter a gang banger who is wearing a long white shirt. He won't comply with my commands and is slightly bladed to me, I can't completely see his right arm / hand.

    The house is extreemly dark, all the windows are covered and the only ambient light in the entire house is coming from the television in the front room.

    I have a Surefire 9v classic weapon mounted light illuminating the suspect. I'm looking for the dot, I can't find it. The bad guy complies and we take him into custody.

    As we are searching the rest of the rooms, I use the light intermitenly, turing it off and on. When the light is off I can see the dot perfectly, when it's on if the light is on a dark object like a black or dark blue bed sheet I can see the dot fine. If the light is illuminating a white or light colored object like a wall, etc. I can't see the dot as the white light on the light colored object washes out the amber dot.

    I also tried the Reflex II and had the same problem. I was also using the Polarizing filter on both Reflex sights. The filter is like putting a pair of sunglasses on your optic but it gave more contrast and I could see the dot better (until I ran into the problem noted above).

    The Reflex technology is over 10 years old and there are so many better optics on the market today.

    Trijicon Accupoint TR21 (1.25-4x)

    I used the Trijicon Accupoint 1.25-4x with a red triangle (TR21R) on a duty gun for a short period of time. I shot matches and did some training with it as well as taking it on calls at work. While I didn't care for this optic on 1.25x because it slowed me down too much for my preference at CQB distances.

    I really liked this scope on 1.5x - 4x.

    On 1.25x the scope had too much eye relief (I'm a nose to charging handle shooter) even in a LaRue SPR-E with the LaRue mount as far forward on the flat top as possible and the scope mounted as far forward as it would go in the scope mount.

    There was some distortion that I couldn't get use to on 1.25x. The best way I could describe this distortion is, it is like looking through a bubble.

    I did have a problem with the reticle washing out a couple times in the dark using a white light. It didn't completely wash out, but the lit reticle was dim, thus making it harder to locate in a hurry.

    If using the TR21 to shoot longer distance, the reticle under the triangle is 3 bold vertical lines that can completely cover the target, thus making "hold over" difficult to impossible.

    Trijicon ACOG (TA01NSN, TA31, TA11....3.5x and 4x)

    An ACOG would not be my choice for using on a CQB mission. When I first got a TA31 ACOG I used it for matches and became fairly proficient with it at rifle matches (3 yards to 425 yards), and after a short learning curve I felt comfortable using it at CQB distances.

    I started using the TA31 at work and after my first couple SWAT missions, I quickly figured out that a 4x fixed optic was more of a liablity than an asset.

    A 4x optic is very slow and doesn't afford the shooter a good sight picture or the ability to identify threats at CQB distances (concentrates on too small of a target area).

    Often times when SWAT does an entry, both you and the bad guy are moving, it's dark, and you are using a white light, flash bangs are going off, you are trying to identify theats, dogs are so shitted they are either trying to get out of the house or trying to attack officers, there are people in the house that are not involved with the criminal activity (relatives or assoicates of the bad guy) etc, etc.

    Doing CQB drills with an optic on a square range is quite different from using that same optic while doing a real world entry on a house with real suspects inside that would like to do you harm.

    Trijicon TA31 + Doctor Optic Red Dot (TA31DOC)

    I was considering the TA31 + JPoint / Doctor Optic set up, but that set up was the exact opposite of what I needed.

    On the ACOG + DR Optic set up your primary optic is the ACOG and the Dr Optic is more of a back up in case you come across a target that is at CQB distances.

    In my job approximately 75% of the work is at CQB distances and the other 25% is at longer ranges. I needed an optic that more geared toward what I do most.

    Aimpoint and EO Tech

    (non magnified electronic red dot optics)

    I have been using the Aimpoints prior to the XD models coming out (since around 1999 or 2000).

    I attend several tactical carbine classes, shoot in matches, and have taken several Patrol Rifle and SWAT carbine courses. I have yet to see an Aimpoint go down.

    On the other hand I have seen several EO Tech's go down (they were all prior to the Rev F). I have also seen several fall off guns. I know of at least 3 different Officers who had their EO Techs go down DURING a SWAT call out.

    I don't like dropping names, but Pat Rogers and several other trainers have witnessed the same problems with EO Techs (check the posts in the 2001 - 2004 timeframe on http://www.tacticalforums.com for further info).

    That being said, the Rev F has been out for a couple years, I have seen several in classes, matches, etc. and have never seen one fail.

    I highly recommend both the Aimpoint or the EO Tech (Rev F). Both are extreemly durable. The deciding factor comes down to your personal preferences. I find the controls on the Aimpoint easier to operate with glove on or when your fingers are extreemly cold, the battery life is in the 10,000 to 50,000 range (EO Tech has a battery life in the hundreds of hours depending on which model you get), both EO Tech and Aimpoint have night vision models, with the Aimpoint if the sight goes down you can use the tube as a large ghost ring at CQB disances, etc, etc, etc.

    I don't care for the reticle on the EO Tech (pixilated), the buttons, the auto shut off feature, the battery life, etc. These are just *my* personal preferences. I highly recommend the EO Tech or the Aimpoint.

    If you go with an Aimpoint, I perfer the 4 MOA dot instead of the 2 MOA dot. The 4 MOA dot is easier to see under extreemly bright conditions (sun reflecting off the snow). Some guys get wrapped around the axel about precision shots with a 4 MOA dot. This is a non-issue because at 300 yards the dot is only 12" in diameter, not big enough to cover a man's chest. At distances over 300 yards you are going to be holding over the target, so you don't have to worry about the dot covering up your target.

    I have been using the Aimpoint on entries for the last 6 or 7 years in all types of conditions.

    Leupold MR/T 1.5-5x vs. Short Dot 1.1-4x

    I have both the S&B Short Dot and the MR/T M2 1.5-5x.....Both are excellent glass.

    The main advantage the Short Dot has over the MR/T M2 is that it has an illuminated electronic red dot. This was a one of the prerequisites that I had when I was looking for a low powered magnification scope for SWAT work.

    If you aren't going to be kicking doors, the MR/T 1.5-5 with SPR reticle is an excellent choice. The only reason I bought my Short Dots is because I didn't feel comfortable kicking doors with the MR/T.

    The SPR reticle is extreemly quick at CQB distance targets (ie. daytime CQB stage at a rifle match), just put the big round circle on the target and press the trigger. The glass on the MR/T M2 is exceptionally clear, the reticle is very precise at longer distances. Down side is you can not see the lit reticle during the day.

    2 weeks ago I was out shooting steel gongs (18" - 24") at 450 yards with the MR/T, the bullet drop comp dial works as advertised.

    I have noticed that I can get tighter groups with the MR/T than I can with my Short Dots or ACOGs. This is due to both the reticle and the higher 5x magnification.

    I experience very little occulation with the MR/T, it has generous eye relief, the SPR reticle is very quick on close targets at 1.5x and the inner portion of the of the reticle is fine enought to get very precise shots out past 500 yards because the reticle is thick enough to see, but not so thick that it covers up the target.

    Is the S&B better glass? Yes, but at almost 3x the price. Does the S&B have better features? Depends on what you are using it for.

    For almost 1/3rd the price, and for your intended use, the MR/T is probably the best bet.

    I would not use the Leupold MR/T for home defense or on an entry gun.

    Leupold CQ/T 1-3x14mm

    It depends on your application. A lot of competition / 3 gunners use them and really like them. The glass is not bad, just doesn't have a lot of features that lends it's self to being a good optic for *most* military / police / tactical applications:

    -On 3x the eye relief is extreemly short (about the width of my index finger),

    -the field of view is like looking through a straw,

    -the reticle is not visible during day light hours,

    -at 3 yards the large circle is touching the "C" on an IPSC target (ie. it's almost too large to be practical),

    -it's long and heavy (8.8", 17.5 oz),

    -mounting options suck (unless LaRue starts making a mount for them again), the amber lit reticle sucks

    -etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    In short, for my application LEO / SWAT, I don't care for them.

    For more info read my responses on page 3 (screen name USMC03)



    **From another post**

    My responses are listed in BOLD Red text below your quote.

    Originally posted by SMGLee:

    Always agree with everything you said except on this CQT issue.

    Nothing wrong with having a differening opinion, based on first hand experience. If we all agreed all the time, this internet thing would get boring rather quickly :beer:

    the eye relief is short but not any shorter then the ACOG 4x.

    I was running our Department Quals on the rifle range 2 weeks ago. We have over 200 sworn officers on our Dept. and only 1 of them carries a CQ/T. While this Officer was at the range I used his CQ/T to get familiar with it again, as it's been 18 - 24 months since I last had any trigger time on one.

    On 3x, I measured the distance from my eyebrow to the scope. It was the width of my index finger.

    I have owned several ACOGs (TA01, TA01NSN, TA31s, and TA11s).

    The eye relief on the TA01, TA01NSN, and TA31 is listed as 1.5". Measuring with my fingers the eye relief is the width of my index AND middle finger. For me the eye relief is noticeably more with the ACOGs.

    The eye relief on the TA11 is 3" - 3.5". I'm sure you were probably refering to the 4x ACOGs.

    FOV is actually better on the CQT then it is on the short Dot. at least at 1X.

    I was refering to the FOV on 3x, it reminds me of looking through a straw. On 1x the CQ/T has a wide field of view, I can remember seeing the handguards on the Officer's rifle.

    it is true about the poor illuminating reticel and low battery life. but Short dot has about the same low life on the batteries but at least you can see the illumination during the day.

    Opinions, applications, and mission statements differ. As I stated above: "The glass is not bad, just doesn't have a lot of features that lends it's self to being a good optic for *most* military / police / tactical applications."

    For the square range there is nothing wrong with a non-illuminated reticle, or a reticle that can't be seen during bright day light, with use of white light, etc.

    For people who are operating outside the controlled enviornment of a square range, an illuminated reticle that can be seen under all conditions can be more of a "need" than a "want".

    A couple examples of this is:

    -Consider going up a stair well with your CQ/T a bad guy has on dark colored clothing. You and a couple other members all have your 9 volt surefire lights aimed in on him. He won't listen to commands. You can't find your reticle because the lights are bright enough to wash out the illuminated reticle and the black reticle is blending in with his clothing. This happened to an Officer I know who use to use the CQ/T.

    -Often times, when it's bright outside bad guys, like cockroaches, like to hide in dark areas (barricaded gunman inside a dark house, suspect hiding in a salvage lot under a pile of wrecked cars, under a sheets of plywood leaned up against a fence, in a dark secluded breezeway, etc). If you under the bright sun light in the middle of the day and the suspect is in a dark area, you may not be able to see the reticle as the sun light will wash out the illumination and it's extreemly difficult / sometimes impossible to see / find a black reticle against a dark background.

    mount does suck.

    At least we found some common ground

    but as long and heavy, it is no longer and heavier then a Short dot that cost a lot more.

    I should have been more articulate. For what it does, the CQ/T is long and heavy.

    If a piece of gear has outstanding performance and desireable features I will tolerate a little extra weight or bulkyness. Other optics are on the market that are close to the same features as the CQ/T that are light, smaller, have more magnification, have more features, and have more eye relief.

    To compare the a $700 CQ/T to a $2,000+ Short Dot is much like comparing a $20,000 Saturn to a $50,000 Mercedes Benz. They are not really in the same class. With the Benz, you are paying more for attention to detail and performance. The same applies to optics.

    I wasn't trying to compare the two. If you read the www.ar15.com thread above, a guy on that site stated that the they were basically the same, but the CQ/T just cost less. There was a long discussion about the CQ/T in that thread, and that is why I posted a link to it. Sorry for any mis-comm on my part.

    the Long tube is require to reach a true 1x unlike the Short dot which is about as long and it is actually a 1.1x.

    The CQ/T is extreemly close to 1x, but it is not a true 1x like an EO Tech or Aimpoint. Look at the front sight post next time you look though a CQ/T and you will see some slight distortion cause by slightly more than 1x magnification.

    then again.. no one really makes a ture to life 1X there is always some varations. but CQT is the closest to a true 1X.

    Disreguard my last.....I concur

    It is indeed ugly....and the damn rail on the tube.

    More info on the CQ/T:

    Gear selection is based on mission statement and personal preference. If you gear doesn't work when you need it to, it hinders you ability to proficiently complete your mission and come home safely.

    I'm not saying that the CQ/T is a bad optic. Leupold marketed it toward the military / tactical community and in my opinion the CQ/T doesn't have a lot of features that lends it's self to being a good optic for *most* military / police / tactical applications.

    I think a lot of the complaints you hear about the CQ/T comes from military guys and cops. Many 3 gun, IPSC, competition shooters love the CQ/T. If Leupold had marketed the scope to a different crowd or given it a different name, I don't think you would hear as much chatter about it. Just my 2 pesos

    US Optics SN4 1-4x

    -1x, not a true 1x. Can see some distortion of the front sight post. Probably more like a 1.1x

    -Illuminted reticle can not be seen during the day light

    -The factory mount sucks (Can be changed for a superior mount like the LaRue Tactical mount)

    -Field of view reminded me of looking through a straw

    -Head position had to be just right, but eye relief was adequate

    -Optic was overly long and heavy for what it offered.

    -I was very slow at close distances with this optic.

    Overall I wasn't too impressed with the SN4 as a CQB optic.

    Schmidt and Bender Short Dot

    Over the years I have been in search of the "perfect" optic.

    In a SWAT setting 75% of the missions are CQB and the other 25% can range from permiter work, to overwatch on a VIP detail, to searching large warehouses or schools, etc.

    SWAT missions can often be dynamic in nature. One minute you can find yourself on a permiter trying to see if the barricaded gunman standing in the window has a gun or a cell phone in his hand, and the next minute you're being picked up as part of the entry team. On other missions you may find yourself sitting across a large parking lot covering a buy / bust operation, the bad guy goes mobile and now your part of a vehicle take down.

    In short there are times where an electronic red dot rules the day and other times where a magnified optic is more desirable.

    I have tried magnifiers, a few variable powered optics, etc, etc, etc. I had issues with everything that I tried.

    A couple requirements that I have in any optic that I use for duty:

    -Lit reticle that can be seen in bright day light (this knocked out some optics like the MR/T M2 1.5-5)

    -Very little distortion on the lowest power (this knocked out most optics that had the lowest setting at 1.25x and higher)

    -Have close to the same speed with the optic as I did an Aimpoint.

    I have tried most of what is on the market and after doing much research (thanks to the Lightfighter members who took the time to answer my many questions) I settled on the S&B Short Dot and after training with it for the last 6+ month I'm very satisfied with it.

    The Short Dot gives the end user amost the same capabilities as an Aimpoint and an ACOG in one optic.

    As with any new piece of gear there is a learning curve.

    I haven't used a shot timer, but I would guess I'm somewhere between 80% to 85% as fast with the Short Dot as I am with the Aimpoint. For me this is acceptable, because there has to be a trade off.

    The Aimpoint is a good CQB optic that can be used out to 300 yards +

    The ACOG is a great intermediate optic 50 yards out to 600+

    The Short Dot is a combo of both of these, so there is going to have to be a trade off somewhere.

    I'm looking forward to running it through the paces at some upcoming rifle matches (CQB distances out to 450 yards) and classes.

    I did explore the Aimpoint magnifier. I didn't care for the field of view (reminded me of looking through a straw) and it just didn't "do it" for me.

    In theory the magnifier would be an excellent choice, in reality it's not. Sometimes events can be so dynamic and situations can happen so quickly that you don't have time to fish around in a pouch for a magnifier, locate it, and then put it on the gun. Or if I had the magnifier in a pouch on my SWAT vest and I rolled on a bank robbery in progress, active shooter incident, etc. and had to deploy the carbine and didn't have a chance to don my SWAT gear then I'm without the magnifier.

    I needed something that stayed on the gun and was easy to use. This is the reason you see so many military and law enforcement guys going over to variable powered optics.

    Is the Short Dot the "Be all, end all" optic? No. But it is currently the best choice for *my* needs in an optic. My shooting needs are different than the needs of a Deputy working in a rural county, a Soldier / Marine deployed to the GWOT, a competition shooter or a civilian who will be using his carbine for self defense.

    Access your *real* needs and get the best gear that helps you fulfill your mission statement.


    In short for a civilian using the AR15 as a home defense gun, I would highly suggest iron sights with a large rear ghost ring style sight like the Same Plane Rear Appeture made by XS Sights and a large tritium front sight post like the Big Dot or simular front sight post also made by XS Sights and a quality white like.

    The light should be ergonomically placed on the carbine where it is easy to access with the support hand on the handguards.

    If an optic is desired I would go with a non-magnified electronic red dot like the Aimpoint or the EO Tech. My presonal preference is with the Aimpoint and it's what I've used on duty for the last 7 - 8 years.

    Take care and stay safe,

    Semper Fi,

  2. #2
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    Too bad theres a very vocal group on the internet with ZERO real world experience or training for that matter that will doggedly argue your well thought out logic.

    Good post bro.

  3. #3
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    I have been a Aimpoint/EOTech proponent and fan for some time now, with my preference being the Aimpoint. If one has an A1 or A2 upper, then an XS same plane app. is a must have. I am still not 100% sold on the big dot front though. I am still pondering that.
    What I am still trying to figure out is a slightly lower cost equivalent of the Short Dot. While I think they are excellent optics etc., I personally just cant spring the $$ for one. I wish there were a vible alternative for a bit less change.
    Protego quod vallo.
    Si vis pacem para bellum.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkeye View Post
    I wish there were a vible alternative for a bit less change.
    NF said they were changing their reticle illumination in their optics. They wouldn't commit to a timeline.

    I opted for the Short Dot, after much consideration of my checkbook......

  5. #5
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    Good stuff Jeff, thanks for taking the time to write this.

    This will definetly help me get people into the right optic.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the very detailed examination based on your experience. Truly appreciated.
    "The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it." –Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers

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    Great post, I love reading actual user experiences of equipment and not just internet anecdotal "evidence."

    I, being a regular civilian until I finish my second degree and find a job somewhere in law enforcement, chose to outfit my personal defensive carbine with an EOTech. I figure, for my limited defensive needs, it should more than suffice. Good to hear someone with much more experience agrees!

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    Do you feel to get the benefit from the Short Dot that you have to have the dot always illuminated? Are there any situations where you would employ it without it illuminated?

  9. #9
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    Great write up, this type of quality work is why Al Gore invented the internet

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmart View Post

    Do you feel to get the benefit from the Short Dot that you have to have the dot always illuminated? Are there any situations where you would employ it without it illuminated?

    I don't run the illumination when I crank up the magnificiation. The dot covers too much of the target at longer distances.

    CQB = Dot ON

    Distance = Dot OFF

    Semper Fi

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