I first heard of the Trijicon ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) from my good friend Dave some time ago.
He has been an avid coyote and predator hunter for years. Dave uses the ACOG on one of his AR set ups. Yes, one of them. He has several setups for different purposes. Little did he know our hours of conversations and emails about the AR platform and optics for hunting, competition, and self defense would inspire me to write this series of reviews.
Trijicon, like Aimpoint, has an innovative past carving out a unique niche in the optics market. The founder Glyn Bindon started out in 1981 to develop an “any-light” aiming system. Trijicon is world-renown for its innovative applications of tritium and advanced fiber-optics. Trijicon boasts manufacturing some of the most advanced rifle optics and sights for tactical and sporting applications on the planet.
The company sells their innovative products to military branches including many special operation units.
The ACOG (TA01 4×32) was first introduced in 1987, so this isn’t a new model series. I chose this optic for the test because of Trijicon’s and the ACOG solid reputation. The ACOG’s earned reputation is for extreme durability, the fiber optics illuminating the reticle drawing your eye in quickly, ease of mounting via the Larue mount, very clear glass, and a smaller package compared to many magnified scopes.
Tijicon uses tritium to illuminate many of their optics. Using tritium is an effective and very functional technique for a great user experience. There is comfort knowing you don’t have to worry about a dead battery in a critical moment. It’s designed for “any light”, not no-light. It’s not a night-vision optic.
What is Tritium, How Does it Work, and is it Safe?According to Tijicon’s website, tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It’s a gas that reacts with the human body in the same manner as natural hydrogen. Beta rays from the tritium hit phosphors to create the glow you see.
When I read “radioactive” and “reacts with the human body” it certainly raised my antennae to see if there is any danger for me or anyone using the product. After reading further, whew, no problems according to Trijicon and U.S. Regulatory research documents. The tritium is encased in a small tube. It would take 10,000 of these tubes to break at once in a small room to be “potentially” harmful. So, unless you plan on buying 10,000 of these and breaking all of them at once, you should be ok.
This optic is put through extreme military conditions without problems with breakage. I think I will be ok with my use of the ACOG.
Other manufacturers have come along to copy Trijicon using tritium technology, but Trijicon sells far more than the competition.
How Trijicon Uses TritiumThe Trijicon ACOG TA11J (3.5 X 35) I am reviewing uses tritium to illuminate the BDC (Bullet Drop Compensating) reticle through fiber optics even in low light. I first opened the nice hard plastic storage case of the ACOG later in the afternoon. It didn’t take long for me to test out the optic in low to extremely low light right in my office. I didn’t spend any time to mount the unit on a rifle; I just picked it up and looked through the optic around the room and out the window.
There was no on/off switch. I didn’t have to worry about batteries. Just grabbed the ACOG and looked through the optic quickly. I picked up the illuminated reticle with ease.
Fiber OpticFiber optic is a clear, thin, flexible, and transparent fiber used to transport and concentrate light. It’s the “tube” you see on the top of the ACOG. It essentially collects available light concentrating it at the end of the fiber to illuminate the reticle.
I was amazed how clear the sight picture was at dusk. I could clearly see objects across the street. The red portion in the reticle (Dual Illumination Red Crosshairs .223) became brighter as the outside light became darker. The opposite is true during the daylight. The red cross-hairs become less bright and black lines on the cross-hairs becomes more prominent.
The ACOG version Clay, from Trijicon’s media company, sent me is the 3.5 X 35 fixed magnification unit which is a great distance for my uses with the AR-15 platform. Again, I want to predator hunt, compete in 3-Gun and other events, as well as using for self defense.
The glass on the ACOG is extremely clear.
Bindon Aiming ConceptTrijicon has spent a lot of time and I imagine money developing their product and practical use of their system. Because of the large objective lens, Trijicon’s extensive human vision research, and their Bindon Aiming Concept, two-eyed (binocular) viewing and target acquisition is very realistic and simple to use. The basis of the Bindon concept is the brain will merge two images with the help of the Trijicon advanced reticle design. With the substitution of a simple bright red dot for an illuminated usual cross-hair reticle, it makes it easier to keep both eyes open. With both eyes open, the brain will merge two images. Your eye behind the optic sees the illuminated reticle but the target is blurry. During movement, the scene through the optic will appear blurry to the brain because the image is moving faster because of the magnification. The other eye tracks the target with normal vision. As soon as the weapon steadies, the brain switches to the magnified object. The shooter can then quickly hone in with the illuminated reticle to refine the shot. I can’t wait to try this concept out in the field.
I tried this two-eyed target acquisition at home. I am right-eye dominant so I placed the optic in front of my right eye. I picked a target and moved the optic from left to right. All I saw with the right eye was the red illuminated cross-hair. Everything else was very blurry. My left eye saw the entire target, a painting with a face on the wall. As I stopped, my focus naturally shifted to the reticle. The target was very clear within the ACOG. I was amazed the reticle was actually placed right on the center of the nose on the picture. I didn’t try and put it on the nose, it just happened naturally. To test the aiming concept and make sure I wasn’t trying to do it artificially, I asked my wife to give it a try. She had the same great results.
It was amazing.
The concept is not unique to Trijicon though. In bright sunlight, the illumination becomes less apparent. I’ll be able to see if the BAC concept works without the reticle illuminated during my field test.
I imagine I will have to practice this two-eye open skill with this unit on the range before I would trust hunting a predator with this technique. I can see why they say this optic can even be an effective 1X optic too. You would have to trust your open eye a lot.
Mounting this to my AR-15 is very easy with the Larue LT100 mount. Two quick levers and the unit is secure and in place. Took all of 20 seconds.
Pricing: This optic is the rich girl at the dance. The question will be, is it worth the money in the field? From what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be very hard to turn this rich girl down for a date because of price. The performance so far is outstanding. The MSRP for the Trijicon ACOG 3.5 X 35 is $1,558.
Trijicon backs their product with a Limited-Lifetime warranty and is also waterproof to 100 meters. I’m not a scuba diver, but it’s nice to know I won’t have to worry about the ACOG it in rain or mud.
I am leaving for a predator and hog hunt next week. I will be taking this ACOG with me as well as one of the 1X optics I have to review to have a multi-magnification setup. I am looking at taking the Weaver 1X red dot and/or Aimpoint H-1 red dot for close target acquisition mounted on an offset on the trip. I look forward to putting these units through the paces. It will be interesting to test the Bindon Aiming Concept versus adding a 1X red dot for close target acquisition.
As you can probably tell by my favorable comments so far, and the fact I am taking the ACOG with me on the hunt, I am ready to move deeper in a relationship with this fine piece of equipment.
Be sure to check out my other articles as well as the Trijicon ACOG specifications linked below.
Trijicon Introduction VideoACOG IntroductionBindon Aiming Concept Video