If an optic is out of reach of your budget, it may be time to rethink your budget priorities (or time to get a job delivering pizzas). There are basically two choices when it comes to picking an optic: magnified traditional scopes or red dot sights (RDS).
To Magnify or Not
Most of us probably won’t need the ability to make precision hits on small or moving targets several hundred yards away. Yet if the need is there, nothing beats a variable power scope with an illuminated reticle.
These scopes are usually compact and on the low end of the magnification; as close to one power as possible. Most have a mil-dot or a reticle designed for close in engagements. These scopes let you dial the scope up to the higher magnification needed for long-range shooting, and dial the scope back to engage nearby targets using the illuminated reticle as a RDS.
Included in this category are the Leupold Mark 4 MR/T M2 Riflescope and the Leupold Mark 4 CQ/T Riflescope. Another option is a fixed power scope with an miniature RDS mounted on it. This gives you the option of quick acquisition close range sighting with the RDS, and the precision for longer range shooting with the fixed-power scope, although it does add bulk and weight to your weapon system.
The Ubiquitous RDS
Professionals know the red dot sight (RDS) almost universally lets you engage targets faster and with more precision. The RDS is also easier to learn to shoot with when compared to the traditional iron sights.
When you speak of quality red dot sights, the industry standard is Aimpoint. Adopted by the U.S. Army as the M68 CCO, the Aimpoint CompM2 is rugged and features a 10,000 hour extended battery life.
Replacing the CompM2 as the M68 CCO is the Aimpoint CompM4 which adds improved energy efficiency with an 80,000 hour battery life and the integral mount base screws directly into the sight – no separate sight ring is required.
The newest RDS that is causing a stir is the Aimpoint Micro H-1. With typical Aimpoint strength and battery life, while weighing in at only 3 ounces, the Micro series is light enough to be used anywhere you might need an RDS.
The Magnified RDS
As was mentioned earlier the option of having a traditional magnified scope with an attached mini red dot sight (MRDS) has been field and battle tested with very positive results. Another application developed from battle is mounting a magnifier behind an RDS. This magnifier is simply that, devoid of reticles or adjustments, its only job to increase the usable distance of the RDS. The most efficient way to mount this to the weapon behind the RDS is some sort of quick detach mount to allow the use of the RDS by itself. There is the Aimpoint Twist Mount and EOTech and others make flip to side mounts (FTS).
Your weapons system is only as good as its weakest link, whether that is magazines, ammunition, or you the shooter. When it comes to your fighting rifle do not let your weakest link become the mount for your optics.
Skimping on this completely undermines the idea of a solid optic for your fighting gun. For magnified optics some of the best scope mounts are the one piece mounts from companies like GG&G such as the AC-30.
The other option for mounting a traditional or tactical magnified scope on your fighting gun is a simple quality ring from companies like Leupold and Warne.
For attaching a 30mm RDS the Aimpoint QRP is hard to beat and GG&G is one of many manufacturers that offer an Aimpoint Cantilever Ring mount for those that need to mount a 30mm RDS further forward.
No matter which optic you choose, remember to practice, practice, and practice some more with your entire weapons system. This practice ensures your ability to deliver shots on targets and determine any weaknesses with your weapons system, not to mention the benefits that practice has on your confidence, confidence that you may find useful some dark day.