There is a proliferation of low powered variable optics (LPVO) across the spectrum. Military, civilian and police are all making moves in that direction. When asked why, the common response is “its magnified…duhh” or “I can PID further away”. Most however employ the LPVO like a red dot with magnification
I had heard long ago a quote (I cannot substantiate it) from Erwin Rommel. When asked what his most important weapon was, he replied “binoculars”.
Why? Seeing first, more or farther allows us to begin to make decisions and take action, earlier than the opposition. In some cases, the opposition does not even know.
While most people know the answer to why the LPVO is gaining in popularity, few understand or conceptualize the magnitude of the capability they bring to combat.
Using the suspected Erwin Rommel quote earlier. The LPVO means each rifleman can have a set of binoculars (well technically monocular). However, a tool is only good if you use it.
So, what does seeing first, more and farther actually mean.
If I have detected OPFOR before they have seen me (first) my decision making process is much different than if I walk into a drag race to the “up-drill”.
Seeing first allows me the possibility to:
-Array my forces to maximize my chances of success (ambush, occupy prominent terrain)
-Deliver organic fires (cause a casualty to limit their mobility or limit/force their decision making)
-Deliver supporting arms
-Begin to maneuver (the essence of gun fighting is maneuver, the essence of maneuver is movement under load)
-Break contact and fade away without him knowing
Or you can do any combination of the above (and more). But that first detection, is brought to you by seeing first.
Seeing more can be hard to explain in writing. If anyone has watched war footage from Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Africa. It is exceptionally rare to ever see an enemy combatant. This may be because its video. However I would wager, the guys in the videos had a hard time seeing as well. Any historical study of combat often annotates how hard it is to see the enemy. The LVPO gives us the ability to see more. Some examples:
-Modern Afghan war footage always shows the massive expanse of fields separated by 5-10m thinly packed treeline. LVPO make it significantly easier to see through one of those treelines and into the field or next treeline. Think about this both offensively and defensively
-Syria and Ukraine footage often shows soldiers engaging from deep within rooms. LVPOs allow me to see from external to internal of a room and potentially identify whats IN the ROOM not just in the window
-You are not always presented the target you want. Elbows, Knees, ankles and feet are often forgotten about when people are being sneaky. They leave these out from behind trees, walls, cars etc. This may or may not be a target, but it certainly tells you someone is there.
-If people are using cover you usually only get very small glimpses of them. At 100m I doubt I can reliably identify a guy peaking the left edge of his head out from a wall. However at 4x, I absolutely can see that. And I have a system that is easy enough to be precise with, to score that hit.
Seeing further also goes hand in hand with engaging further. Lots of shooters adopt LVPO, but then say “I’m not a sniper” or “I’m not trying to do sniper things”. Snipers primary job is usually observation. A Rifleman’s primary job is to reduce point targets with rifles… That sniper math everyone is scarred of, is easily learned and applied to 5.56 carbines using 4x or higher optics. Which means you have increased your threat ring.
Now all that said, the employment of the LPVO is a skill that needs to be trained. I have taken courses by 2 “national level” instructors and was sadly disappointed with the material.
The obvious skill that needs to be trained is marksmanship. I am not going to dive too deep into that.
The other skill (seeing first, more and further) needs to be practiced as well. The logistical problem usually encountered with this type of training is space/terrain. Its not very culturally appropriate to do this type of thing in your back yard. However some skills to sharpen this include
-Just look at treelines from 100m+ through your optic. Do not just look though. Actually see. See the stumps of each tree, identify likely firing points, identify what spots would be cover, determine how far back into the treeline you can see, make some guesstimates on what your hold and sight picture would be
-Go bird watching….with your LPVO…
-Using safely UNLOADED weapons, play hide and seek or set up stalking lanes with your friends.
-Go hunting… using your LVPO
Analysis or planning of modern combat always comes down to both sides overlaying the ranges they are effective to, and what they think their enemy’s effective ranges are. The goal, is to be outside the enemy’s threat ring, while they are inside yours. Extend your threat ring and see first. For the same reason night vision and thermals are such a force multiplier, the LVPO can be also.
I will leave you with:
Look deep and in. NOT “at”
Look at it from a perspective of “where would I be”. Identify those points, prioritize, scan and move on.
Another good interview with K from Combat Studies Group titled Tactical Skills Q & A -or- Be Good at Everything or Die.
In the interest of spreading useful information regarding tactics/training I wanted to relay this conversation I had with some folks from the tactical community a while back. I was asked several pointed questions which I do my best to answer below:
Of all the various training disciplines available, which one should be top of the training list right now in light of world events? Rifle training? Land Navigation? Communications? Patrolling, etc…
Well, there are definitely some sacred cows on that list. It of course kind of depends on where you are as an individual with regard to the various skillsets, but lets assume you are a competent shooter with some basic fieldcraft under your belt….I would put information gathering on top. You could also label it Intel/Comms if you wanted. Why?
1. Intelligence drives the fight. Without it, you are just a bunch of armed guys in the woods.
2. Everyone can do it. Your 75 year old aunt can do it, your kid can do it. Not everyone can be an effective infantryman, but anyone can be eyes/ears/disseminators.
3. Right now nearly everyone sucks at it. I had a good buddy that was with CAG tell me once, “Everyone thinks our shooting is what makes us so effective, and while we are talented shooters there are certainly better out there….that is just a small part of what we do. It’s all those other skills that make the difference”. I thought he made a very good point…..
What is the best fighting rifle?…