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5 things you should know before buying an optic to carry on duty

From quality of construction to ease of use, there’s a lot to know before you make your next purchase

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A RMR optic mounted on a gun

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Sponsored by Trijicon

By Police1 BrandFocus Staff

The main things you want to consider when choosing an optic are what you’re willing to spend, the quality of the weapon system you’re dealing with and a realistic threat assessment of what you expect to face. Armed with this understanding, you can find the best optic for you.

1. Know your regional rules and regulations

Some regions have rules that determine which types of optics officers can use. Some ban magnified optics, for instance. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with any rules related to what you can and cannot carry on duty before purchasing.

2. Buy as much optic as you can afford

Price range can always be a touchy issue, says Logan Killam, product manager for reflex sights at Trijicon, but it’s the most important one.

“Optics are very scientific – there’s really no ways to cut corners,” he said. “We’re dealing with lights and prisms and objects that have to stand up to fairly rugged conditions. There’s no way to cheat the mechanics of those things.”

The good news is you get what you pay for because you’re paying for either higher-quality materials or more precise tooling. The general rule then is that you should buy as much optic as you can comfortably afford. The money won’t go to waste.

3. Match the optic to the weapon and threat

When shopping for an optic, always think about the weapon you’re attaching your optic to. If you have a set budget, it makes sense to spend similar amounts on the weapon system as on the optic for it.

If the weapon is only accurate at relatively close range, there’s little need for powerful magnification or overly expensive optics. If you think you may be called up to take shots at 200 or 300 yards and have a weapon capable of doing so, it makes sense to spend more on an optic to match that capability. It’s no good having an AR that can accurately shoot 300 yards if your optic can only shoot accurately at 25 yards or vice versa.

By that same token, match the optic to your threat. Before purchasing, consider the types of situations you may find yourself in during the course of your duties. From what distance do you expect to engage a suspect? If you’re only expecting to engage at around 25 yards or closer, you probably want to look into a reflex sight.

4. Always consider the quality of the materials

A quality optic is going to be durable as well as precise. This is what it really comes down to for cops. Everything works great on a sunny day, but you’re going to want to purchase something that works well even if it’s been banged around.

“Before purchasing an optic, ask yourself this question: If you dropped this optic from shoulder height, would the optic survive?” Killam said. “If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know,’ then that’s probably the wrong optic to trust your life to.”

If your optic can’t stand up to the kind of abuse you’ll likely give it, it won’t be there for you when you need it.

Battery life is another quality issue. You don’t want to buy an optic that requires frequent battery replacement. Besides being an extra chore, you don’t want the battery to die when you’re in the middle of an engagement. That could very easily become a deadly mistake.

5. Ask yourself how it performs when you look through it

Another factor to consider is how well it performs in the field. You want an optic that performs well in low light – unless you never plan on engaging indoors or at night.

Field of view should be your second consideration when it comes to reflex sights. Ensuring that you have a wide field of view with your optics will help improve situational awareness. The more you can see through the optic, the better.

Next, consider ease of use. Is the optic intuitive to use? Will you have to pause to think when you need to make an adjustment? Is it easy to use the dials when you have gloves on? Is it easy to zero after an adjustment? These types of in-use considerations should weigh heavily on your choice.

Buying the right optic is an important decision that requires balancing budget considerations against those of quality, performance and ease of use. You must always match your optic to the kinds of situations you expect to find yourself in and the type of weapon you’ll be using it on.