CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- The Marine rifleman is deadlier thanks to the Trijicon Advanced Combat Optic Gunsight.
Marines using the short scope mounted on top of their rifles are finding it easier to identify enemy fighters, aim in and kill them. They're doing it at longer distances with lethal fire through the haze of the battlefield.
Marines in the 1st Marine Division first started using the four-power scope last year in the invasion of Iraq. But it wasn't a last minute decision. Marines have tested the scope and its applications for almost two years.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chuck F. Colleton, the division's gunner, the Marine Corps was in the process of validating the need for designated marksmen within infantry units and looking for a precision-fired weapon to complement the marksmen.
"There were some Marines doing tests in Guam about the designated marksman concept," explained Colleton of Murrieta, Calif. "They were using M-16A4s and the ACOG. We did almost the same thing with 5th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton."
During the trials, Colleton said he was impressed with what he saw.
"We learned that the M-16A4 in conjunction with the ACOG could accomplish exactly what we needed on the battlefield," Colleton said.
In January and February 2003, the division issued a limited amount of ACOGs to the battalions.
"The Marines who had the ACOG during the war did amazing things," he said.
The ACOG proved its worth and the division ordered more for its next bout in Iraq.
The scope, which was designed specifically for the M-16 family, mounts to the rail system of the M-16A4 and is held in place by tightening knobs.
The 9.9-ounce scope is ideal for low-light situations thanks to a fiber optic light collector and tritium. This makes the reticle self-illuminating. Tritium is a radioactive gas used to provide nighttime illumination. This eliminated the need for batteries.
However, there is no extra night vision device available for the ACOG. Marines are currently adapting their PVS-14 night vision systems to the scope.
"We knew we had to have a scope that did not require batteries," Colleton said. "Some people think batteries are easy to come by, but anyone in a combat environment knows they are not."
The red, illuminated "chevron" inside the optic provides an aiming point for short-range targets, and the black bullet drop compensator helps shooters determine how far away targets are located.
The scope also magnifies targets four times what the human eye can see, which helps Marines pick out legitimate targets on the battlefield.
Lance Cpl. Kyle T. Mader, a designated marksman with Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, already knows the advantages of using the ACOG.
During intense fighting in recent weeks, Mader and a handful of his peers put the optic to the test.
"There were times during the fighting that I couldn't tell with my eyes if a guy had a weapon or not," said Mader, of Shoreview, Minn. "I looked through my ACOG and could see if he was carrying a weapon or not."
Mader recalled a time when he was receiving enemy fire but could not tell where the rounds were coming. With his eyes alone, he saw a man more than 800 yards in front of him but did not know if the man was carrying a rifle. Using the ACOG, Mader could see an AK-47 in the man's hands, so the Marine immediately eradicated the threat.
Colleton said Marines do not target unarmed civilians, and the last thing any Marine wants to do is kill an innocent person.
"The ACOG allows the Marines to identify a person as a friend or a foe," the gunner said. "Instead of firing into a crowd of people without knowing where the enemy is, the Marines can locate that target."
This also reduces the amount of ammunition Marines need because they are able to aim in on specific targets rather than spraying the area with rounds.
"The key to the ACOG is that shooters can see where they are impacting if they miss," Colleton explained. "The shooters will be able to see the dust or rocks fly up if they miss; then they can adjust quickly and get on target."
The ACOG, made of durable forged aluminum, was also designed to be used with both eyes open, providing extra protection to the shooters.
"The dominant eye focuses in on the target while the other eye gives you a wider field of view," Mader explained. "It really helps in a firefight because you can still keep an eye on what is going on around you."
Cpl. Cody H. Adams, infantryman with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, also likes being able to use both eyes to shoot.
"It's great being able to take out the enemy while being able to protect yourself," said the Boscobel, Wis., Marine. "It's definitely an advantage in combat."
With all the advantages, the Marines would like to see more of their brothers-in-arms receive the scope. Plans call for every battalion to be equipped with at least 250 ACOGs by the end of May.
The following specifications are provided for graphic information.
Name: Trijicon Advanced Combat Optic Gunsight
Objective lens (mm): 32
Eye relief (inches): 1.5
Exit pupil (mm): 8
Field of view (degrees): 7.0
Weight (ounces): 9.9
Length: 5.8 inches
Field of view (@100 yards): 36.8
Adjustment (click/inches @ 100 yards): 3
Source: Trijicon Inc.