Ow! Defoor Disses the ACOG

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

When the Elcan Spectre DR came online to replace the ACOG TA01NSN, we loved it — for about 30 minutes. It was a beautiful piece of glass (at its staggering price, it should be) and the dual magnification — a flip of a lever migrates you from 1 to 4x and zero holds like a rock — was that rare thing, a marketing feature that action guys could actually use. It was bulkier than the ACOG, but had less stuff to snag on your stuff. But lots of us fell out of love with it nearly as fast. Its weak spot was that, while it was stronger than the typical sporting scope, it was no match for the ACOG’s anvil-like qualities. (Over time, of course, operators could break the early ACOGs too). Trijicon is really good about standing behind these old scopes and will go through one and update the tritium, for example, for a reasonable charge ($150 last we checked).

But that was then, and this is now. And here comes Kyle Defoor to put down our favorite (if elderly) combat optic. He writes:

Getting some time on the ACOG this week. Some dudes still use it/are issued it as their primary. My department is to show them how to use whatever they got as good as they can.

To be a professional in this biz you got to be able to show up and shoot whatever, whenever completely stock and sometimes use the gear of the customer if you don’t have what’s needed……and with that, thanks to the guys for loaning me one to rock while we trained together.

And he accompanied it with the usual entertaining array of hashtags:

#defoorproformanceshooting #acog #training #carbine #5days #runwhatyoubrung #makethebestofit

And therein lies a valid point. There’s always going to be something new and technically a bit better than last year’s (or in the case of  the TA01 ACOG, decade’s) model. Chasing an optimized “best” rig is not worth the trouble for most people. First, if you are a pro user some guy way up the chain from you is probably going to dictate what you use, or if you’re lucky, dictate what options you have to choose from.

This “dictation” isn’t too restrictive in some cases, like if you’re a SEAL, PJ, SF, etc. But in some other cases, like an Army support troop or Marine rifleman, you will be told what you will be carrying and will be ordered to like it. At that point, you can whine about it, sign up for selection (where, should you succeed, you will discover that you’re still working for The Man, just at a higher level), or take Kyle’s advice and run what you brung and make the best of it.

Fortunately, the baseline weapons and optics available to grunts today are quite good stuff. The fact that they don’t have this year’s shine on ’em, or weren’t on the cover of REAL OPERATORS BUY THIS magazine last month, doesn’t matter. Real operators can operate with sticks and stones, hell, with their bare knuckles; any step up from that is gravy. And you too can shoot better and more effectively with the weapons you have now, and money and time spent on ammo and training will almost always have a return on investment far beyond what you get from money and time spent picking out and acquiring new and better gear.

If you’re going to be using a carbine over a wide range of, well, ranges and lighting conditions, etc., the ACOG is still a good choice. If your most likely employment is close up, or even indoors, then a red dot is the way to go. And in both cases, training and practice can let you extend the use of either to ranges where the other selection would have been optimum.

21 thoughts on “Ow! Defoor Disses the ACOG

  1. DSM

    If there’s a better compact, magnified optic than an ACOG then I’ve never seen it. I bought an NSN model 15 years ago, went from here to there with it and it’s still chugging along. Tritium isn’t as bright of course but once you’re dark adjusted is still very usable.

    1. James F.

      It got one in 2012. (Link in nick. ) Tested and found durable! They don’t test them that way in the trials because they’d injure the testers.

  2. GQ

    The ACOG is magic, pure magic. Zero it to 100m, pass it around and shooter/spotter can bang at 650m like they were born to do it! If I’m so close that it’s not working, I prefer a shotgun, or maybe a big rock.

  3. Hillbilly

    I’m a big fan of low magnification scopes on general purpose combat guns myself. If you are doing anything beyond door kicking distance a scope can pay some major dividends.

    Was the Acog the greatest scope ever? IMO no but it was/is a solid scope and I wouldn’t have heartburn about having to deploy with it even today. Would I prefer a Nightforce or S&B? Sure I would, but that’s my inner gear queer speaking.

  4. Boat Guy

    Mine’s the oldest of the commenters so far; and I’m still happy. Hadn’t know about Trijicon’s refurbishment program but I will certainly look into it. Unless/until I am as good (and as rugged – certainly NOT these days) as that scope I’m sticking with it.
    To paraphrase …” ‘Better’ is the enemy of rock-solid/damn-good”

    1. Hognose Post author

      Trijicon will also check the SN of a used scope to confirm you’re not being sold stolen govt property. I used that service when I bought mine (I wanted an old one).

      1. 11B-Mailclerk

        As the march of time continues to degrade my vision, I am looking anew at electronic sights. The days of scoffing at anything other than “good old reliable iron” for sights, well, those days are long past. I tend to hang on to toys and tools for a very long time, so the “fade to black” of Tritium seems like a minus. Are the battery-powered ACOGs “good enough”, presuming you accept the logistics of feeding them?

        1. DSM

          The fiber optic scopes like the TA31 or RCO series will answer your needs. As for fading tritium, How well can you see your irons at night? Mine is at 15 years, it still glows well enough.

        2. james

          half life is 12 years. at that point still good enough and that gives you plenty of time to swap the lamp. much recommend over batteries, imo

        3. Boat Guy

          My Bride just had a “change-of-vision” that made using her pistol difficult. I just had a Trijicon red-dot installed on her pistol. She hasn’t been to the range yet but pronounced the whole outfit “GREAT” last night when I brought it home. In this case the battery life is rated at a year of constant operation. If this solves the problem (and I’m pretty confident it will) I will be more than happy to buy a couple of spare dime-size batteries.

  5. KB Dave

    I’ve got a first gen Spectre DR, and while it’s really nice, it’s also very heavy. It makes a heavy rifle into a pig, and a light rifle into a not-light rifle. As a result, I don’t use it much anymore.

  6. Dienekes

    Got back into AR carbines about 10 years ago. Instantly found that iron sights and I were no longer compatible–to put it mildly. Did some homework and put on a 1.5 X 24 Compact ACOG (TA-45?) with amber triangle. LOVE that little guy! Great eye relief, good FOV, works nicely from arm’s length to 200 yards. Tritium still ok.

    Wanted something for longer ranges in 5.56 so put a TA-33 3 X 30 with red horseshoe reticle on a flattop. Still had excellent eye relief, and the reticle is a joy to use.

    Worth every penny.

  7. 3000£ of Education

    My brother was asking for my advice on what optics to mount on two SHTF scenario ARs. I recommended the classic 4 x 32 ACOG based on sheer reliability. Hognose, what do you think? Disadvantages are, of course, cost and the potential lack of tritium replacement. Would you recommend a lesser magnification in a optic which would likely be used initially in urban terrain before moving to rural? Advice from experts is always appreciated!

    1. Hognose Post author

      There’s a version of the ACOG (widely used in the USMC and Army) that combines a tritium element for night with a very effective fiber-optic thing to illuminate the reticle in daylight. Unless you already own night vision equipment, my recommendation is to buy the version without NVG/NODS compatibility, which adds hundreds of dollars.

  8. Wesley W Bishop


    Were there any reasons the ELCAN fell out of favor besides it being less durable than an ACOG?

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