The tactic of the Partisan Rifleman is akin to a type of hunter. An effective hunter stalks and attacks without being seen, using his environment and situation to his absolute advantage. In the United States, the AR-15 has proliferated to the point of being a staple on every range I’ve visited in the past several years. Rightfully so. Its inexpensive, simple to use, and works. The AR even in basic carbine form can be a formidable weapon with good training. Aside from floating the barrel and gas system, the addition of a good optic and solid training increases a rifleman’s speed, accuracy, and lethal range many times over iron sights. That quality optic can take a decent rifleman and make him a great one. In addition, having decent magnified glass adds observation capability- critically important to reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition; the primary skills you need to be effective as a small unit. With this theory of use in mind, Primary Arms has built what may be the biggest innovation and force multiplier for the AR platform- the 1-8×24, offering a higher magnification range than many options on the market and at a price that most can afford. Over the past year I have rigorously tested this optic numerous classes and private training events on two different ARs- one more ‘budget’ focused and one very high-end, each with the goal of finding the best optic for the money for the AR platform.
Innovation in Design
One of the neat innovations coming from both the War on Terror and the booming popularity of three gun matches and IPSC is the low to mid powered variable optic. Ranging from 1x to 4 or 6x, and now 8x, these optics offer the best of both worlds from the speed of a red dot and the advantages of magnification. They have found their way to the Designated Marksman’s role, helping reclaim that Infantryman Half Kilometer while bridging the gap between Riflemen at the Squad level and the Sniper. For Infantrymen of both the Army and Marine Corps, the ACOG was implemented and continues to serve this function well. There’s a reason Marine Corps General James Mattis declared it “…the biggest improvement in lethality for the Marine Infantryman since the introduction of the M1 Garand in WWII.” But as all things do with time, revisions are made and improvements are recognized. Variable power optics have quite a bit of versatility over a fixed low power optic, and definitely a big leg up on red dot collimator sights when it comes to long term capability.
For potential partisans and those looking to maximize defensive capabilities on your homesteads or communities, long range training can be both expensive and difficult. It can be a lot of investment for those looking for a simple solution rather than engaging at 800 meters or longer. The ability to outrange the opposition is not only a distinct advantage but one that will keep you alive, and competent shots to 500m are certainly within the capability of anyone and made even simpler with a quality optic. Since the bulk of the community is likely to own an AR-15, putting a simple and purpose-built optic on the weapon is a force multiplier. Recognizing this, Primary Arms has developed a reticle and optic that can turn even a lower-end or budget AR into a formidable longer range platform with limited training- enter the 1-8×24 with ACSS.
The Advanced Combat Ranging Reticle, or ACSS, is a recent innovation developed by Primary Arms with a large amount of input from the shooting & prepping community as well as military both currently serving and recent veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for feedback on what makes an effective sighting system. Their goal was to create a usable sight that requires minimal training, extends the effective range of the average marksman, and like everything from Primary Arms, offer quality without breaking the wallet. Lofty goal, but is it worth the money over more conventional options?
That desire for simplicity in the Designated Marksman’s role is one that has widespread favor. Going back many years, I was always enamored with the Russian PSO style reticle due to the appreciation for its simplicity. A shooter could rapidly range his target based on the choke-type rangefinder along the bottom and make his holdovers accordingly. While the optic itself is a bit dated today, it was incredibly intuitive to use. Training on such an optic would be quick and dirty, and while not as precise as a mil-hash type reticle, it was perfectly suitable to the Designated Marksman’s role. I hold the opinion that such an optic design would be great if introduced in the West and modernized just a bit; purpose-build it for Western calibers and refine the windage and elevation adjustments. That logic seems to be the direct inspiration for this optic. Having a similarly simple rangefinder based upon average human height, the range can rapidly be found and holdover mark placed on the target- making the whole process very simple. The dots to the left and right of the center are holdovers for 5 mph full value (90 degrees from you) wind or the average lead of a person running. The whole system is very, very simple and best of all, easy to train in use. This creates more marksmen putting more accurate lead on target at longer ranges- that same force multiplier that General Mattis referenced in his quote. And that correlates to a shorter and more effective training regime for the end user.
The scope was mounted in Primary Arms’ extended cantilever mount to accommodate the correct eye relief and give the most range in mounting to maintain a repeatable and natural cheek weld. Cantilever mounts came about as a solution to the potential instability of railed handguards with the limited rail space atop the AR receiver. The whole assembly makes for a very durable, single piece design.
The optic features 1/2 in at 100 yd clicks per adjustment. While not as fine as many optics on the market, this allows quick and accurate zeroing. Mechanically they are solid with both a tangible and audible value and no play. For the BDC to function as designed, a proper zero is conducted at 100 meters (109yd). In my testing the clicks were true and repeatable after conducting three different box tests on a 100m square range. Since a DMR role usually does not call for making corrections by the turrets, the zero is set and caps reapplied. The whole process is very simple, durable, and maintains zero despite getting tossed around in the field.
The glass is surprisingly good for this type of optic. As many shooters know, sub-$1000 three gun-type optics usually leave much to be desired especially in the glass department. Most often the 1x suffers from a number of issues, such as the fishbowl effect, a shift in zero, or a noticeable change in eye relief. The Primary Arms 1-8 suffers from none of these problems, being just as clear at 1x as it is at 8x. In my testing I did not experience any of the common problems that other budget-oriented optics suffer from, with the imaging at 8x being very crisp and on par with optics costing far more. I could venture to say this is on the better end of glass options for its cost, on the market surpassing several other well known brands.
The reticle entirely lives up to its aim. Its simple and uncluttered design is intuitive to use and most important in my opinion, does not obscure the observation abilities. Often new reticles on the market attempt to reinvent the wheel or perform too many functions at once, cluttering the field of view or confusing shooters. The ACSS does neither. While testing, holdovers were most accurate to 400m using IMI produced M855. Being a 62gr round, this makes the most sense as it a ‘middle of the road’ weight between 55-77gr. This was consistent after being fired from two different rifles the optic was mounted on for testing, both having a 16in 1/7 twist barrel. The 77gr Sierra Match King Mk 262 shot just a tad high at each distance. For this reason I’ll point out that stadia lines on a BDC type reticle are only a guideline which must be confirmed at the suggested distances for accuracy. But that said, solid first round hits were recorded at each distance with each type of ammo, which means the OPFOR would still be hurting- and you repeatably put lead on target.
The only potential drawbacks to this scope are the same complaints I have with every optic in this class. The 24mm objective lens and 30mm tube can be a bit dim compared to a larger objective lens, such as a 40mm, even in bright sunlight. But as I stated, that comes with the territory. So if you’re considering a lot of low light conditions or maybe looking at this optic for predator hunting, it may not be for you. That said, its not bad. The other minor complaint I have is with the reticle itself; there’s no real way to account for wind aside from the 5mph full value (perpendicular to the bullet path) wind holds. But again, the reticle was designed for speedy engagements and not precision shots. “Minute of Man” comes to mind here, at extended ranges. And inside of those parameters, it works. Finally, the optic is not light. Weighing right around 18oz without the mount, the scope is heavy but incredibly well built for the price. This is not the choice for those looking to build a 6lb AR. After carrying it on multiple training and hunting scenarios on my large tract of private land, I can attest to its durability with the magnification range being worth the weight penalty.
This is an optic designed from the ground up to bring range-extending capability to shooters both on a budget and of limited training. It excels in both of these tasks better than any of its closest competitors, placing a lot of capability in the hands of even novice shooters. Does it live up to my expectation of the ‘American’ PSO-type reticle? Absolutely, and it exceeds it. I wish that I had had an optic like this in Afghanistan with the extended engagement ranges and need for higher magnification in order to effectively observe. Having this might negate the need for lower powered binos in a hide site. Being just shy of $400 as of this writing, I can decisively give this optic a green light and state that it should be on your short list for enhancing the capability of your rifle and ability as a shooter. Its a bargain for what it costs and does, and for the Partisan Rifleman, makes training rapid and simple at an affordable price. No matter what grade of AR you can afford, this optic adds a new level of versatility. With additional training, you can get even better.