Magnified optics have seen a rapid increase in use among our nation’s combat units since 2004. They have made their way to conventional infantry units and are frequently handed to young 18-year-old men and women, many of whom have never seen a magnified optic before. The most-issued and most-used magnified optic is Trijicon’s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG), which saw limited service starting in 1989 through Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The U.S. Navy SEALs purchased 36 3.5x35mm ACOGs in 1991 and several hundred more by 1995. However, the first time the U.S. military issued the ACOG was in 1995 when the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) selected the 4x32 ACOG as part of the issued M4 carbines. This was the first time a magnified optic was selected to serve on a general-issued carbine or rifle. The U.S. Marines adopted the TA31 4x32 ACOG 2004 and labeled it the Rifle Combat Optic (RCO). Big Army followed suit in 2007.
On a personal note, the 4x32 ACOG was the optic I was issued in 2003 while in Afghanistan for my first close-range small-arms engagement with the Taliban. That little optic took a beating, but served me well over two deployments. Combat has changed a little, but optics have changed a lot since those early days in the War on Terror. While a fixed 4X scope was once satisfactory, the military (and a lot of civilian shooters) have realized that there are significant advantages to a low-powered variable optic.
The world of combat optics hasn’t been theoretical for Trijicon. They’ve been an active player in that environment for over 20 years, and all the lessons they learned while making a durable, fixed-power optic were applied to the Variable Combat Optic Gunsight (VCOG).
The first VCOG was the 1-6X that came out in 2013. I had left the service by then, but a friend that I served with bought one and took it to Afghanistan for two of his deployments. It became (and remains) his favorite variable-powered optic. He told me he was once running full-tilt across an open area when he tripped and fell. He weighs about 190 pounds; He, and all 50-ish pounds of his gear, landed right on the VCOG. He figured there was no way it could have held zero, so he found a quick target about 100 yards away and put a couple rounds on it. Later he confirmed at the range that there had been no point-of-impact shift. He’s a convert.
The great news for optics enthusiasts is that Trijicon now offers the VCOG in 1-8X. This makes sense since military solicitations for recent and future optics have all been in favor of higher maximum magnification.
The new 1-8x28mm VCOG retains many of the features that made the first VCOG such a success. The forged 7075-T6 aluminum scope body and integral mount are examples. Very few optics companies are willing to make scope bodies out of 7075-T6 billet, and Trijicon is the only one (to my knowledge) that uses a forging. That’s like doubling down on ruggedization.
A lot of important things happen inside a scope, especially when you change magnification and all those functions depend on the main tube remaining round. No one makes a main tube as tough as Trijicon’s VCOG. When my buddy and all his gear fell on his VCOG, the reason he had no point-of-impact shift was because the main tube shielded the lenses inside from the blow. The tube didn’t flex or deform; it kept its shape and held everything in place.
The new 1-8X VCOG also retains the original VCOG’s AA battery for the illumination system. Most low-powered variable optics are powered by a small CR2032 battery. Since most illumination systems use an etched reticle bathed in a red LED light, the size of the battery matters. The small CR2032 only has so much horsepower; Even at maximum output it can’t push enough light onto the etched reticle to bounce enough light back to the shooter’s eye to make it visible in the brightest daylight. This means any optic with a traditional illumination system powered by a CR2032 battery cannot be used as a red dot in bright sunlight.
The story changes a bit when you power the illumination system with an AA battery. It’s like driving a car with a small four-cylinder engine and then getting in one with a supercharged V8. The AA pumps serious output through the VCOG’s illumination system and now, thanks to the new “super bright” setting on the 1-8X, the reticle is visible at 1X in the brightest daylight and can be used like a red-dot optic. Best results with the 1-8X VCOG’s illumination system come with the installation of a lithium AA battery, like the one Trijicon includes with each scope that ships. The lithium battery has more juice than an alkaline, and it lasts longer. Congratulations to Trijicon for finally cracking the code on this historic low-powered, variable-optic illumination system problem.
Part of what makes the Trijicon VCOG an ideal combat optic is the sensible first-focal-plane (FFP) reticle and the 4 inches of eye relief. The average variable-powered scope has right around 31/2 inches of eye relief. Under most shooting conditions, this is just fine. Some shooting scenarios, like combat ones, require the person using the optic to contort their body in order to make good use of cover. This means that sometimes the shooter won’t have their head right behind the rifle, but more to the side instead. An extra half-inch of eye relief makes seeing through the scope from an awkward position much easier.
The reticle Trijicon puts in the 1-8X VCOG is also done well. There is a tiny dot/crosshair in the middle for precision work at 8X, and a large and thick segmented circle that surrounds it. Both the tiny center crosshair and the segmented circle illuminate. When set at 8X, the segmented circle is far away enough from the center that it doesn’t interfere when using the reticle. At 1X the segmented circle is in the very center of the field of view and is small enough that it functions like a red dot.
Unique to the Trijicon VCOG line is the integral scope mount and the fin on the ocular housing. The fin makes changing magnification quickly a snap, and the integral scope mount means the scope will never become loose in rings. Having to never worry about checking the torque value of scope rings is a wonderful gift for any optic designed for combat.
After spending some time with the new 1-8X VCOG, I’m not surprised by the refinements Trijicon made. They are what I’d like to think I would have created if I were really smart and in tune with what was happening to our troops downrange. I especially appreciate the big increase in field of view at the scope’s maximum magnification. How they got an extra 10 feet in the field of view at 100 yards is beyond me, but I’ll take it. It makes what was already a good choice for a combat optic in the 1-6X VCOG a fantastic choice in the 1-8X VCOG.
Trijicon VCOG 1-8x28mm Scope Specs
- Power: 1X-8X
- Objective: 28mm
- Tube Diameter: N/A
- Elevation Adjustment: .1 mil per click
- Windage: .1 mil per click
- Reticle: Segmented Circle/MRAD Crosshair Dot
- Length: 10.8 in.
- Weight: 1 lb, 15.5 oz.
- Eye Relief: 4 in. to 3.9 in.
- MSRP: $2,800 Manufacturer: Trijicon, trijicon.com