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    In the section on accessories, I referred to target acquisition devices (I.E. sights, and scopes). I did not go into a great deal of detail about them because the subject is expansive, and I could very likely dedicate an entire site to this one area. This section will concern itself with rifle sights, since only a fool would choose a pistol as a primary battle weapon. Actually, the term battlesight can have two meanings. A battlesight is a sight setting utilizing what hunters call a point blank range. This is an imprecise, but versatile method of sighting in iron sights, which allows a shooter to quickly engage a target at a variety of ranges. A battlesight can also refer to a piece of sighting equipment particularly well suited for combat.

Point blank, and the Battlesight
    The traditional battlesight in most branches of the military is a setting of two to three hundred yards, though this can vary from caliber to caliber. The idea behind the battlesight is that there is a lethal area about the middle of the human body which is approximately six to nine inches in diameter. In theory, a hit anywhere in this circle will be disabling. So rather than having to estimate range, and calculate drop to the target, once point blank range is set, the shooter need only aim for the middle of the torso and fire. The bullet should impact within the lethal area at all ranges from the muzzle, out to several hundred yards. Precision shooters look with disdain upon this method, as it flies in the face of all the skills they have so painstakingly acquired, but within it's limitations this can be a very effective means of placing one's fire as quickly as possible where it will do the most good. A chart of the point blank range settings, and effective distances for various cartridges is shown below.
Caliber Point Blank Setting Mid Range Far range
.223 (55gr) 300yds (50yds) +5.4"@150yds -5.9"@350yds
.223 (M-193 68gr) 300yds +5.7"@150yds -5.9"@350yds
.308 (Military ball) 300yds +5.4"@150yds -5.1"@350yds
.308 (168gr sniper) 300yds +5.2"@150yds -5.1"@350yds
30-06 350yds +7.3"@200yds -5.7"@400yds
.300 Win Mag 350yds +5.9"@200yds -4.7"@400yds
44Magnum pistol 125yds +5.5"@75yds +6.1"@150yds

    As can be seen from the chart, this is anything but a precision method of  shooting. At the near and far extremes of the effective ranges, the shots will tend to be gutshots, or groin shots. Towards the middle they will hit high, up around the collar or even the neck. This method depends upon the fact that a rifle cartridge is very much more lethal than a pistol round. Hits which would be ineffective with a pistol can be devastating when made with a rifle. Unfortunately, dependence upon this method will develop poor shooting habits, and may not be effective against smaller, or partially shielded targets where the size of the effective area has been reduced. As an illustration of the effectiveness of Rifles over pistols, I have included the .44 Magnum for comparison.

Iron Sights
     The most popular standard military sight is the aperture or peep sight. This uses a standard post for the front sight, and a small hole as the rear sight. The main advantage of this sight is it's quickness. Target acquisition is very fast, though accuracy may suffer a bit. This sight takes advantage of the fact that for most people, centering an object within a circle is a very fast and natural visual instinct. Some people do this better than others, and some people do not do this well at all, but for most of us this is a fairly fast and easy to use sighting system. This is not the best choice for very accurate shooting, as even the best shots are only "eyeballing" the sight picture. This particular system has been used on every American rifle since W.W.II, and is on the current version of the M-16. This major criticisms of this sight have to do with it's lack of precision, and poor low light performance, though no iron sight performs particularly well in low light.
    There is a variation of the peep sight, used by H&K, which I consider to be the best battle sight available. The H&K sight uses a rotating drum with a series of holes calibrated for different ranges as the rear sight. The front sight is a post with a ring set around it. The tip of the front post sits in the center of the ring, and when the shooter sights through the rear aperture, the front ring appears to be the same size as the rear aperture, with the point of impact along the top of the front post. This is a wonderfully quick, and also very precise aiming system, and I can think of no way to improve upon it without going to an optical sight.

Optical Sights
    Optical sights are getting to be standard equipment on hunting rifles and are becoming more common on military rifles as well. Until recently, the military was wary of using optical sights on it's rifles except for special purpose units like those using snipers. The objections were primarily focused (so to speak) on the fragility of the scopes themselves. There was also the matter of slow target acquisition (I.E. a scope is much more deliberate and slow to use than iron sights), and the limited field of view offered by most scopes. In the minds of many of the military brass, a scope was just one more thing for a soldier to lose, break, and have to learn. Many of these problems (field of view, fragility) have been greatly reduced in the last several decades. Scopes are becoming smaller, lighter, sturdier, and easier to set up and use. Most modern scopes have, at least, an incidental way to calculate range and drop, and special low power, wide field of view scopes, along with zoom scopes, have made the scoped rifle almost as quick as it's iron sighted counterpart. British soldiers are now issued a rifle equipped with a 4X optical sight; predictably, this rifle also has a set of iron sights. This four power scope is at the high end of magnification used in non-sniper battlesights. Most assault rifles with integral scopes tend to have a magnification of around 1.5X. Scopes of this power give little, if any, increase of effective range, but do improve speed, and considerably improve accuracy. The low power permits a wide field of view and a good range of eye relief, which enhance speed and battlefield awareness.

Range Estimating Scopes
    Most scopes have some means of calculating range, whether designed into them as a ranging device, or simply as a sighting aid. Before any pretense can be made about being able to range optically, the shooter must be familiar with what an angular measure is, and in particular what a minute of arc is. A circle is divided into 360 degrees, and each degree is divided into sixty minutes of arc (you have already guessed that each minute of arc is divided into sixty seconds of arc, but this level of precision is not addressed by shooters). For the mathematically minded, 21600 minutes of arc are in a full circle, so as you can see, this is would seem to be a pretty small measurement. A fortunate coincidence makes 1 moa equal to 1" at 100 yards, or at any rate they are close enough so that the difference is negligible (1.047" to be exact). Because the moa is an angular measure, it changes in a completely predictable and linear way over distance. At 200 yards, 1 moa equals 2"; at 300 yards it is 3", and so on. This makes it possible to calculate the angular size of any element or aiming aid within a scope, and knowing this makes it possible to use virtually any scope as a ranging device. The other major angular measurement is the mil, which is used in a special scope called a mil-dot scope. One mil is equal to 1/6400th of a circle, or 3.438 moa. This would seem to be a pretty odd number to pick, but there is a reason it was chosen. At any distance, a mil has an angular measurement of 1 to 1000, which is to say, at 1000 feet 1 mil is equal to 1 foot, at 1000 yards 1 mil is equal to one yard. The virtues of the mil will be referred to in a latter section.

The Duplex Reticle
    Though not initially designed as a ranging scope, there is some ranging potential in this, the most popular of all Reticle designs, though taking advantage of this requires the shooter to learn his scope, and his loads. The crosshairs on a duplex reticle will be thick at the edges, with a thinner set of hairs at the center. The angular measure of these hairs varies from scope to scope, and must be determined by noting the subtention (the amount of area covered) of the hairs on objects of known size at known distances. The angular measure in minutes of arc, or mils may then be determined mathematically. This would seem to be easy enough, but there is a complication. Most of today's scopes are zooms, and most have the hairs set in the focus plane of the ocular. What this means is that the hairs will stay the same apparent size as the scope is zoomed, changing their angular size. The shooter must either always range with the scope at the same power, or he must calculate, and learn to use a number of different angular measurements at differing powers. It is generally best to range at the highest power, rather than commit one's self to the impossible task of learning an infinite number of sizes, measures, and ranges. There are two clear constant angular measures in a duplex scope. The first is the width of the thicker, outside part of the hairs; the second is the space between the edges of the thicker portions. Generally, there are between 8 and 30 moa in this open area where the hairs thin. In order for the range information to be of any value, the shooter must be familiar with the amount of drop a given load has at a given distance, and must be familiar with the vertical adjustment of his scope. The old military shooters used to call these adjustments "come ups".
    The use of come ups  is very simple, and is a matter of knowing the range of the target, the drop of the round being fired, and the vertical adjustments of the scope. As an example, you have a target at 300 yards, and your scope is sighted in at 100 yards. if you fire dead on, you know that your shot will be low. You also know that each click of vertical adjustment on your scope raises the hairs 1/4 of a moa (minute of arc). Being a dedicated sport shooter, you also know that between 100 and 300 yards, your favorite load drops 16" (or if you don't know, you have a little "come up card" taped to your rifle stock, or slid up your sleeve). Since you know that 1 moa equals 1" at 100 yards, you know that 1 moa also equals 3" at three hundred yards. Knowing this, you can calculate that at 300 yards you would have to raise your point of aim by 5 1/5 moa (we will settle for 5 1/4 moa, since the adjustments on the scope are in increments of 1/4 moa). It will take 21 clicks of vertical adjustment to properly set the hairs for the shot.

Stadia Ranging Scopes
    Most scope manufacturers offer at least one model of ranging scope for the hunter and sportsman. These tend to use the stadia method by which a target of known size is bracketed between a pair of lines (appropriately called stadia lines). Without exception these are zoom scopes. This is a somewhat more precise method than the use of a duplex reticle, but still leaves much to be desired. The main drawback of this method is it's slowness. The shooter zooms the scope in and out until the appropriate area is bracketed by the stationary stadia lines, after which the range is read off of a calibrated circle set around the zoom ring. After determining the range, the shooter must then click the range adjustment dial to the appropriate setting to bring the crosshairs to the proper point of aim. He may now bring his rifle to bear on the target and fire, provided the target hasn't found something better to do then stand there waiting to be shot.
    This is somewhat better than the use of the duplex reticle because the stadia lines are close enough together that smaller targets, and longer ranges may be calculated more exactly. The come ups are replaced by a calibrated dial, set over the vertical adjustment on the scope, increasing speed a bit, but also losing some of the precision gained by the better ranging ability of the stadia lines over that of the duplex.
    One problem with the stadia scope is that it is not the most precise tool in the world. Certainly all optical ranging methods make use of a certain amount of estimation, but the stadia scope has three distinct fields of estimate, each of which adds it's own margin of error. The first concerns the well known fact that the sizes of natural objects vary. All deer do not have 18" briskets, nor are all men 5'9" tall; this introduces the first variable. Second, the ranging ring, and the zoom optics of the scope are not perfect, and even if they were, there is no precise marking of range to go by; another variable. Third, The range settings for the cross hairs are not absolutely accurate, and even if they were there is some mechanical imprecision in the mechanism itself, introducing yet another element of error. The Stadia method is marginally accurate, but very slow, making it an acceptable, but not ideal system.

The Art Scope
    This was THE ranging and sniping scope during the Viet Nam War, and is still a well regarded design, though it does have it's drawbacks. The leatherwood company which first designed and built these scopes is still in business, and still produces an updated version of this well regarded scope. The range is determined in a fashion similar to that of the stadia scope. The attraction of this scope is that it determines the range, and sets the bullet drop compensation in one step. This is done through a clever set of cams in the base of the scope which raises or lowers the rear of the scope as it is zoomed. Once your target is properly bracketed, by zooming the scope, you need only aim dead on, and fire. The older version of the scope used a pair of stadia lines set in the vertical hair; the newer style has a set of horizontal hairs which subtend 18" in the civilian model, or 1 meter in the military design. the company may be found at
    There are a couple of problems, or at any rate irritations, with this scope. The first is that the scope is useless without it's special, and rather delicately calibrated, base. Both scope and base must be handled rather carefully, and kept in adjustment. The second is that the shooter is locked into using a specific magnification at a given range. The scope is configured to range at 300 yards while at 3x, 400 yards at 4x, etc. As was mentioned, this is more of an irritation than a problem Since this is a 3-9 power scope, it can be inferred that it will range accurately from 300 to 900 yards.
    Another scope which ranges and compensates in one step is the Shepherd scope This scope does internally, what the ART scope does with external cams, and the whole idea of the scope fascinates me. Both sites are worth a visit for those interested in seeing just how sophisticated a sniper scope can get.

The Mil-Dot Scope
At first glance, this would seem to be a duplex scope, but upon closer examination, a row of dots may be seen running across the thinner part of the hairs. This is my personal favorite for versatility, and is the only design available for some calibers and applications. The mil system was initially used by artillerymen, and made corrections by forward observers much easier, and more accurate to implement. As was mentioned above, a mil is 1/6400 of a circle, giving it a distance to area ratio of 1000. This was very handy for adjusting fire. The artillerymen would know their range by the elevations set on their guns. The forward observer would give corrections in yards which could easily be converted to mil measurements and adjusted on the guns. Though a mil is a much larger measurement than a moa, and the artillerymen generally fire at targets much farther away than anything a rifleman usually takes aim at, this is plenty precise enough for 4" to 8" shells full of high explosive. Though designed for compensation and adjustment of fire, the mil system may be used to range as well as compensate. It also has the advantage of not being tied to any particular caliber as the proprietary reticles listed below are, while being almost as fast. The cross hairs are adorned with precisely spaced and sized dots measuring exactly 1 mil from center to center. The thin part of the cross hairs is ten mils high by ten mils wide.
    I have included a small range card which should give some idea of how the mil dot system is used to range, and should also give an indication of the power, and versatility of the system. A skilled shooter, with or without range cards, equipped with a mil dot sight should be able to range, calculate drop, and fire, all without ever having to take his finger off of the trigger, or take his eye from the scope. With the range card, I have included a diagram of what a mil dot is, and the various measurements of the components of the mil dot system. As can be seen, measurements down to 1/4 of a mil may be quickly and accurately made. As a mil is defined here as 3.438 moa, it may be further seen that measure of less that 1 moa can be determined. This is a considerable amount of precision for a system of such speed, and simplicity. The lack of delicate parts which may be damaged, or of moving parts which may be misaligned, adds to the robustness of the design.

Proprietary Reticles

    The quickest and most accurate method, though sharply limited to certain calibers, and in some cases certain loads. These scopes tend to be made specifically for military applications, and are therefore commonly available for military calibers. This is the best choice for a long range scope, provided a model is made for the particular caliber and load you fire. These have etched glass reticles rather than drawn hairs, and are generally quite expensive. As much as I sing the praises of the mil dot system, and recommend it without reserve, I do favor the dedicated, proprietary reticle, and recommend it if one maybe found for the particular caliber and load being used. The best source for proprietary reticles is probably Springfield Armory, which offers a number of different models designed for a range of military calibers.
    In this particular scope, the zero is set at 200yds. As may be seen, there are a series of calibrated shapes set in the field of the scope. These shapes are used to estimate range, by referencing the size of the target. Upon determining range, the appropriate crosshair is used. This scope is right on the money, with the proper load, out to 1000yards.