A tactical scope is a shooting scope designed for use by the military and police forces, as well as civilian use beyond basic hunting and rangefinding. They are designed along the same basic principles as a standard shooting scope, but are specialized depending on the type of shooting needed.
The most common form of tactical scope is the sniper scope, used by marksmen and sharpshooters for increased accuracy over long distances. The sniper scope is often a robust fixed-power scope, like the United States Marine Corps’ Unertl scope. Use of tactical scopes was restricted initially to certified snipers, owing to the cost and intricate nature of each unit. Nowadays, most special units use some form of tactical scopes, and more and more regular soldiers are being equipped with them.
Regular infantry tactical sights are often robustly-made fixed-power scopes fitted with night optics and other extra functions, as found on the British army’s Sight Unit Small Arms, Trilux (SUSAT) or the US military’s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG). These two weapons are both good examples of basic tactical scopes – both feature 4x zoom magnification and tritium-based night vision enhancement, and are designed to be mounted to select-fire weapons such as the M-16, SA-80 and H&K MP5. Such sights are also referred to as reflex sights, and are designed to allow quick and accurate target acquisition.
Many modern civilian tactical sights have similar features, but are less robustly-constructed. They also normally feature a degree of zoom magnification, as they are less likely to be subjected to the rough handling a military weapon receives over the course of its operational life.
Tactical scopes come in a variety of sizes, with larger scopes normally housing significant adjustment capabilities. Large scopes are also generally more robust, but can cost a huge amount more than their smaller brethren. For any civilian planning to buy a tactical scope, the main considerations should be the magnification, the range of adjustment, and the range at which you plan to do most of your shooting. Other important things to take into consideration are the size and caliber of your weapon and the purpose to which you intend to put the sight to use. Any gun specialist will be able to take a buyer through these considerations, but as a simple guide the shorter the effective range of the weapon, the smaller the scope. Fitting a 15x magnification scope to a .22 rimfire rifle, for example, probably won’t produce very good results.
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