The Early Days of Modern Optics

Karl from InRange TV dives into the Hensoldt G36 dual optic system in the this featured video. It’s more interesting insight into the futuristic ambitions of the turn of the century weapon programs that were unmatched by technological development. Big ideas, but not possessing the tech to bring them to life.

The Hensoldt is an ambitiously forward thinking but ultimately bad optic. It’s counterpart on the XM8 was too. The 1.5x ‘Donut of Death’ Steyr AUG optic, made by Swarovski, was also limited even though it was well made. The SUSAT has suffered the same fate. Even just a couple year I had hands on a very nicely made gunsight from Meopta that was ultimately a bad design, it was one without a place.

In fact all of these optics were well made. They were not well designed. They were not suitable, especially by today’s standards, to accomplish their goals based upon real world experience. It is a symptom that can come of good engineers building something they do not understand because it is from the eyes and hands of the soldier that they need to draw design criteria.

These are interesting historic notes in optic development but as we can see from the modern optics of today we needed optics that allowed for very “heads up” capability.

Image pulled from Google Search

Turn of the century optical engineers tried their best but the developments needed more time. Which is why, ultimately, only one optic emerged from that time period as a clear international winner.

From Wikipedia ACOG article, M150 RCO (US Army ACOG)

The Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight model TA01 was introduced in 1987, that model did not feature the common fiber optic illumination on later models but its profile, field of view, and magnification were that of the widely procured TA31 model. The ACOG has since been adapted and adopted on nearly every rifle platform that originally had a native optical sight. Elcan’s also made a strong international showing but did not gain the universal acceptance of the ACOG.

Even the modern ACOG Generations, like the TA44 and TA50, don’t vary widely from the goal of these early optics but they execute that goal in a smaller, better lit, wider FOV, and more durable and modular manner than the older optics.

Today we live in a time where 1-8x and 1-10x gunsights are more durable, brighter, clearer, and capable than anything imagined at the turn of the century and they can be used to take full advantage of the innate capabilities of their platforms like never before. The quality of these tools in every aspect has never before posed these opportunities to grow and develop.

So thank you Hensoldt, SUSAT, Donut of Death, and every other oddball aiming solution of the past few decades. Thank you for paving the way to the glory days, even if objectively you were terrible optics. It was theorized, tried, and ultimately has been passed on to better systems. Day time optics will be LPVOs and likely backed up by dots and irons. Reliable and redundant systems to the point that it is more likely the whole weapon is out of commision due to damage than just a primary optic going down.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.