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Going beyond iron sights: How law enforcement can harness the benefits of optic technology

Advancements in optics tech can improve the confidence level, as well as the hit potential, of law enforcement officers armed with a patrol rifle or tactical carbine

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Even if only a split second is saved during a use of authorized deadly force, any piece of equipment that enables LEOs to engage armed subjects with more confidence and precision is worth using.


By Nick Jacobellis, P1 Contributor

While numerous wars and combat actions have been won while using rifles fitted with fixed and adjustable iron sights, advancements in optics technology make it possible for military and law enforcement personnel to effectively engage armed adversaries with rifles equipped with a red dot or magnified optic.

This article provides a general description of the different types of optics currently available for use by law enforcement officers.

Hunting/sniper rifle scopes

For many years, people were most familiar with the magnified optic commonly used by hunters and military snipers in time of war. These variable scopes are designed to provide a specific level of “power” or magnification that enables the shooter to clearly identify and accurately engage targets at certain distances.

The problem with this type of optic is that it is slower and more difficult to use in a fast-moving, close-quarters battle situation. Instead, these types of scopes/optics are designed to be “dialed in” or manually adjusted to allow the rifle operator to engage targets at specific distances.

Single-body optic

A single body magnified optic – designed for fast-moving armed encounters – is commonly mounted on the top rail of a semi-automatic or a select fire rifle/carbine. This optic is also used on belt-fed machine guns.

Unlike the magnified optics more commonly used on hunting and sniper rifles, this optic cannot be manually adjusted. Instead, this optic provides a specific level of magnification. These optics also utilize reference points that are incorporated in the design of the viewing body of the optic and enable the operator to engage targets with precision in a CQB situation or beyond to several hundred yards.

Certain popular fixed power non-adjustable magnified optics are also fitted with a small red dot optic or have a fixed blade fitted to the top of the body of the optic. These features enable the shooter/rifle operator to have additional aiming options when it becomes necessary to engage targets quickly.

Piggy-back magnifying device

A piggy-back magnifying device can be positioned behind one of the popular red dot optics. One benefit of using such a device is that it can be removed when not in use and installed behind the red dot optic when enhanced magnification is desired.

Red dot optic

The red dot optic is the absolute game changer when it comes to using modern optic technology to enable a shooter to deliver accurate shot placement in fast-moving armed encounters. However, batteries are required to illuminate the aiming reticle that is included inside the body of some of these optics. While certain red dot optics can remain operational for tens of thousands of hours, even when left on at specific intensity settings, other models need to be turned off and require more frequent installation of fresh batteries.

Even if only a split second is saved during a use of authorized deadly force, any piece of equipment that enables LEOs to engage armed subjects with more confidence and precision is worth using. This is especially the case while operating under stress and under low light/no light conditions.

About the Author
Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent. To date the author has published over 170 magazine articles and four books, including a two-part series about covert operations during the Miami Vice era of the drug war called “Controlled Delivery Book One” and “Controlled Delivery Book Two.”