After quite a bit of shooting the previously reviewed Troy XM177E2, I’d gotten interested in getting some type of retro optic on there. While I was initially leaning towards the Brownells Retro 4X, finding one in stock (even before COVID has been clearing the shelves) proved nearly impossible.
Edit: Naturally, now that I’m writing this, they’re in stock.
On the strong suggestion of this website’s occasional other writer, I looked into another period-correct option – an Occluded Eye Gunsight. These are essentially the predecessor to the modern red dot – rather than having a see through tube, you have a black tube with a fiber optic (and optionally, a tritium lamp) in the front. When viewed with both eyes open, it projects the sharply detailed, but “soft” red dot over the target. This is very similar to using an Aimpoint or other red dot with the front cover closed, and keeping both eyes open.
While this sounds like a huge disadvantage, upon using it, you’ll immediately find that it has several advantages over a modern red dot, not the least of which is the fact that it’s always on, and it’s brightness is never a factor since the eye witnessing it is always against a solid black background, so when your brain combines the image, the dot will always be visible. You can be looking directly into a light source, and still see that dot. It’s also never too bright for a situation. It’s always just a perfect, soft red dot.
If you get one with tritium (and you should), this extends to low-light shooting as well. The tritum lamp provides just enough illumination to the fiber optic to give you a visible soft red dot that wont interfere with your eyesight in low light.
This is where this gunsight really shines, and why it happens to be “historically correct” on this rifle – during the Son Tay raid, commercial off-the-shelf Single Point OEGs were used. During the practice for the raid, it was found that these drastically increased hit probability at night – and thus we got (as far as I can tell) the first use of a red dot type sight in combat.
The only real drawback is in the potential difficulty in zeroing. For what it’s worth, I think I got lucky and mine was almost dead on at 25y out of the box – but it definitely helped that the M16 carry handle mount mine came on allowed viewing of the iron sights through a channel under it. One of the quirks of how these sights work with your brain is, if you try to actually focus on the dot, it’s likely to “move around” as your brain tries to reconcile what’s going on. What this means is, you have to keep both eyes on the target, not focus on the dot, and make fairly quick shots as soon as you bring the rifle up. These sights are intended for fairly close range work, however, so just getting it in the ballpark of center of mass at 25y is plenty fine – and once you get a bit more used to using it, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting it zeroed more precisely if you’d like. My OEG came with instructions on how to do this.
As a final shoutout, Armson’s customer service is fantastic. I had a brief email exchange with Mr. Hatcher about my sight and ended up with a real “this thing was built specifically for me” feeling from the whole interaction. While they are a bit pricey for something that can be considered such old generation tech – M16 Gen II Retro = $209.95 + $40 for the tritium – these clearly fall into the “don’t build them like they used to” department… even though Armson definitely does continue to build ’em like they used to. It’s also worth noting that they will replace / retrofit older OEGs with new tritium, as well as upgraded adjustment knobs.