ACOG sights are among the most popular of optics in use on the battlefield. Due in part to their resilience, but also due in part to their high level of adaptability.
They were initially developed by Trijicon for use with M16 Rifles and M4 Carbines. But their intuitive nature has led to them being developed for a wide range of firearms.
It honestly would not be an exaggeration to state that the ACOG scope is one of the best optic systems available for an AR15 or similar rifles.
Unfortunately, many enthusiasts out there simply do not have the money to sink into an ACOG sight. Their status as the ultimate rifle scope has led to quite a high level of demand. As such, the pricing point for these particular sights remains pretty high across the board.
If you find yourself pinched for pennies, it may be worth looking into ACOG alternatives or ACOG clones.
What Exactly Is An ACOG?
ACOGS, in laymans terms, are simply compact rifle sites with illuminated reticles. They’re designed and manufactured with combat in mind.
The clue is in the name: ACOG stands for “Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight”. As such they generally have a magnification level of anywhere between 1.5x to 6x. The reticle itself on most ACOGs has a tendency to be self illuminated.
This is normally accomplished with a combination of fiber optics and internal phosphor illumination.
Tritium is safely stored within the scope and undergoes radioactive decay. One of the byproducts of this decay is light, allowing your scope to be completely self-illuminated without the need for battery power.
“Real” ACOGs are manufactured by Trijicon, their original inventor.
As far as scopes go, they’re probably one of the most famous variations on the market today. They’ve been in constant use by military forces around the world for decades. And not without good reason. Aside from the quality of the materials involved in manufacturing them and their self-illumination, they’re a very unique product. This is largely due to the novel aiming concept you’ll read about below.
Aiming With Both Eyes Open
ACOG sights allow you to aim with both of your eyes open utilizing a novel aiming concept. This concept is known as the Bindon aiming concept. When you’re looking at a target with both eyes open, your brain merges the image from both of your eyes and superimposes the reticle into your vision. This brings you the advantage of maintaining a wider field of view whilst retaining the accuracy granted to you by the scope.
What Is An ACOG Clone?
Due to the relatively simple nature of an ACOG scope, it’s possible to find an alternative for a fraction of the price. Countless manufacturers out there have taken ‘strong inspiration’ from the design philosophies of these sights – which has resulted in a massive variety of alternatives to select from.
The downside to this is that there is an ocean of alternatives out there, so finding the best ACOG clone can prove pretty challenging. It can also be difficult to even ensure that the product you’re ordering is going to be of an acceptable quality.
The concept of buying a “knock-off” or “fake” product may leave a bad taste in your mouth, and rightly so. But you aren’t resigned to a negative experience purely because your ACOG sight was not made by the original manufacturer. There’s a plethora of manufacturers out there who are capable of putting products out their that come close to rivaling the ‘real thing’. At a fraction of the price, too.
We’ve put together this buyers guide to assist you in getting the best quality product. It aims to give you a rough idea of what to look for when you’re shopping around. We’ve also included some of our favorite options too, if you can’t be bothered digging through hundreds of knock-offs, this may be ideal for you.
ACOG Clones – Our Top Picks
Terminus Optics Black BDC 4×32 Sight
This sight by terminus optics is honestly comparable to the real thing. It’s manufactured from a sturdy but lightweight aircraft aluminium. Just like the original Trijicon sights.
It provides you with 4x magnification utilizing its 32mm lense.
This lens is both waterproof and fog-proof, meaning you won’t need to think twice before exposing it to the great outdoors. The same lens is also multi-coated for additional protection.
The red fiber optic reticle can provide you with outstanding illumination, even in extremely low light conditions. The use of fiber optics means that there’s no need for batteries when utilizing this sight.
Comes compatible for 20mm picatinny rail systems, utilizing the provided mounted flat top adapter.
Adjusting for both elevation and wind-age is easy and accessible. The shock proofing also means that you can expect to put countless round down range without losing accuracy.
Monstrum 3×30 Ultra-Compact
This ultra-compact rifle scope has been expressly manufactured to provide you a great deal of comfort and reliability when shooting. It provides you with a high quality, 3x magnified view of your target.
Reticle illumination on this particular optics system is entirely dial controlled. Brightness intensity can be specified and the primary color can be toggled between both green and red. This is designed to allow you to get a clear view on a target regardless of background color and light intensity.
The reticle itself employs a handy range finder design, this will allow you to adjust shots on the fly. Reaching an unprecedented level of accuracy in a fairly short amount of time.
It’s not just compact, it’s lightweight too. Weighing in at about 12 ounces whilst remaining under 6″ in length.
It comes with its own, one-piece, secured integrated mount for railings. This mount has been manufactured with aircraft grade aluminium(6061) to ensure durability without adding to the overall weight of your rifle.
This particular sight is ideal for close to mid range, and should grant you a ‘comfortable’ shooting distance of up to 300 yards.
CTOPTIC 5X35 Red Chevron Scope
The CTOPTIC is another great ACOG alternative. It, it’s immediate predecessor, is also manufactured from a hardy aircraft aluminium. This metal has a special protective matte black coating designed to prevent oxidization and general degradation.
The 35mm lens is a pretty reasonable size and has been covered in a special, anti-reflective coating. This coating prevents sun glare from interfering with your vision when you’re shooting.
It’s built to last, it’s weatherproof, waterproof and fog-proof. It’s also shockproof, meaning you shouldn’t have to worry about recoil or a few light knocks majorly interfering with your accuracy.
The red chevron sight is perfectly suited for shooting over longer distances, it even has some bullet drop compensating functionality. The reticle is again illuminated through the clever integration of fiber optics, so there’s absolutely no need for additional batteries.
CL-SPORTS Alrebeto 1×32 ACOG
If you’re looking for something that leans heavier into the “budget” side of things, this may be your best bet. In terms of features, this does exactly what it needs to do, no more and no less. It has a 32mm lens with absolute zero magnification. Is perfect close range and mid range shots. It will hold a zero on a real firearm provided you’re utilizing smaller caliber ammunition. Despite the lower pricing point it still has a protective, glare-proof coating installed. The lower pricing point starts to reveal its flaws when it comes to the actual illumination of the scope. There is none. It utilizes some fiber optics which are still reliant on there being some level of lighting. Although you could argue that the point where the fiber optics start to fail is probably the point you should be looking at night vision scopes instead anyway.
Regardless, this is a good choice if you’re looking for a quick, cheap replacement between paydays. Perhaps you’re not all that into shooting but require the scope for aesthetic purposes (think cosplays). Regardless of your reasoning, this is a solid choice if you’re looking for value for money.
What To Look For In An ACOG Clone
A Buyers Guide
There’s a handful of things you’re going to have to keep an eye out for. Especially if you don’t plan on getting ripped off.
Quality Of Materials
What materials have been used to manufacture your sight? ‘Real’ ACOGS are often manufactured with an aircraft-grade aluminium. As a result, they’re incredibly sturdy. You’re going to want your clone of choice to be manufactured out of a material that’s at the very least comparable in integrity. Generally speaking, a good amount of clones will make a modest attempt to use similar materials to those found in an authentic scope. That doesn’t necessarily mean they all will, however. So be vigilant when analyzing a product page or inspecting a product in person. You should try to identify the quality of metal first and foremost.
Of course, the quality of the manufacturing materials won’t even matter if a product has been designed poorly. As a general rule, the more ‘moving parts’ there are, the more opportunity there is for something to wrong. Ideally the metal casing of your scope should be one solid structure – not assembled from smaller pieces. Poor design choices can lead to a whole array of problems. One of the worst being internal fog. Luckily, most of the time the inside of scopes have been treated to ensure there’s no microbial life present to allow for a build up of steam. This isn’t always the case, however, so try to ensure the lens has been nitrogen purged.
Any sight you purchase should be rugged enough to withstand harsher conditions. An ideal sight should be fog proof, waterproof and shockproof. There’s nothing worse than forking out money on a piece of equipment only for some light rain to completely ruin it. You’re going to need your scope to be shockproof because it’s going to be exposed to trauma constantly in the form of recoil. An ideal scope is one that will consistently maintain its accuracy. Even after thousands of rounds have been spent at the range.
Genuine variants are waterproof. This is why they’re used by aquatic forces around the world.
Country Of Origin
As a general rule, we try to stick to buying sights manufactured exclusively in the US. This is generally a good indicator of quality and often times US manufacturers provide warranties with their products. This is not always a measure of quality, however. Just because something is manufactured in the US doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a quality product. Keep in mind that less reputable manufacturers will import their parts and assemble their product in the US with cheap labor in order to “spoof” the “Made In USA” label.
Read reviews. This can’t be stressed enough. It’s perfectly possible to find a product that looks like it ticks every possible box only to find out it’s terrible. Customer reviews are absolutely critical. Pay particularly close attention to how well people say the scope can hold a zero. If a scope is losing accuracy after you place a few rounds down range then you’ll want to steer well clear of it. Complaints relating to fog, water proofing or compatibility are also major issues that you should avoid. It’s totally feasible that a scope could be manufactured from all the right materials in the right places and still have issues. It’s also possible for people to hijack online eCommerce listings and sell counterfeit products. Customer reviews will generally give you a good idea of who the reputable sellers are.
Why Are Real ACOGs So Expensive?
There’s no question that these sights provide an unprecedented level of reliability and accuracy. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be one of the most commonly used optical systems on the battlefield today. But they can be pretty pricy, why is this? Well, it largely boils down to two reasons.
The first reason: the prices are as they are because that’s simply how much people are willing to pay for them. The actual manufacturing costs to produce one of these products will be a fraction of the full retail price. Until people stop sinking ridiculous amounts of money into authentic ACOGs, the price will remain incredibly high. But given that military services and police forces all across the world utilize this technology, it’s unlikely that this will happen any time soon.
The second reason: as with many products, the rules of supply and demand still apply. When demand is magnitudes higher than the supply available, products tend to naturally gravitate upwards in price. This discourages specific vendors from buying up all of the stock and also slows down the volume of products sold enough so that the manufacturers can satisfy the amount of orders in a timely manner.
How Long Does The Self Illumination Normally Last?
If you purchase any scope that utilizes tritium as an illumination method, you should expect a shelf life of about 10-15 years. Tritium provides illumination as a byproduct of radioactive decay. Light is given off as tritium slowly degrades into it’s non-radioactive counterpart, helium-3. Over the period of a decade or so, this degradation will result in less tritium being present, which will result in less illumination.
If Tritium Is Radioactive Am I At Risk?
Simply put, no. Many people have a very negative perception about the dangers of radiation. The truth is that not all forms of radiation are dangerous. Only high energy forms of radiation can cause you significant woes when you’re in radius. This is because the highly charged particles are capable of penetrating your skin. Tritium is a “low energy beta emitter”. This means that the particles it emits are not powerful enough to penetrate your skin and damage your DNA. The only time tritium is dangerous is if you somehow manage to ingest it. With that being said, if you’re the type of person to accidentally ingest tritium it’s probably not a good idea for you to own a firearm. Tritium is also commonly found in self-illuminating watches and a handful of other inconspicuous, everyday items.
Which ACOG Do The U.S Marines Use?
To our knowledge, the variant they use is the Trijicon TA31RCO. This is obviously subject to change as the marines are a modern military force and they’re constantly reviewing and updating which individual pieces of equipment they bring out on to the field.
This Design Concept Is From The 80s – Is It Outdated?
Not particularly. Whilst it works to serve a specific purpose, there haven’t really been many big leaps forward in terms of optic technology over the years. Possibly the most notable leap forward we experienced was with the introduction of fully digital and semi-digital sights. They’re certainly more powerful than they’ve ever been and they definitely have a wide range of features (pairing with your smartphone, for example). But I can’t really say with confidence that this is an outdated design. Total, battery free self-illumination with some novel aiming concepts are going to be really hard to outdo, even with modern electronic technology.
Over one million authentic trijicon sights have been shipped out to the US military. This is not a coincidence. Who’s to say which number of replicas have also sold over the years? I’d be willing to wager that it’s a lot.
Should I Really Buy A Copy?
If you’re adamant that you want to utilize this type of sight then yes. If you’re planning on getting some practice with it until you’re able to afford the real deal then there’s nothing wrong with that either. Honestly, odds are you could find a sight that you enjoy enough that you’ll find it difficult to justify splashing out on a real variant. It’s totally a matter of personal preference once you’re at the stage where you can accurately assess the quality of an alternative sight. Some people swear that you don’t need to spend the kind of money Trijicon expects.
Which Eye Should You Aim With?
Technically speaking, these sights facilitate the ability for you to aim with both eyes. However, if we’re not being pedantic, you’re likely asking which eye you should be placing in front of your sight to get a target.
Real ACOG Sights
Many people are more than happy with an alternative model, especially due to their lower pricing points. Sometimes when people review their options they decide they’d rather skrimp together what they have and splash out on a real variant. Whether or not you choose to do this is totally up to you. You’ll face very little judgement either way for making a decision that’s relevant to your fiscal interests. If you are planning on purchasing a genuine, trijicon sight instead of an alternative. Here’s a few examples of some iconic sights that’ll likely serve you pretty well.
Even if you’re not planning on purchasing the real deal, having a look at some of the options on the market will give you an idea of what to look for when you’re doing your own shopping.
Trijicon ACOG 4×32 Scope
This is a special edition from the classic original family of combat sights. It features a fixed magnification of specifically 4x utilizing a 32 millimeter lens. It features the classic Trijicon tritium + fiber optic illumination system. This makes for a crisp and clear line of site regardless of the time of day. Quick target acquisition from medium to long range are the key selling point here. Close range is also viable with both eyes open.
The authentic build quality means that you’re not likely to find faults with this particular sight any time soon. Unsurprisingly it comes with an official registration forum. This will allow you to allow you to register for trijicons warranty. This means they will cover any potential manufacturing defects or other issues you may face with your optics.
When it comes to scopes, you get what you pay for.
But you don’t have to pay top dollar.
Procuring a reliable and useful optic for your rifle doesn’t have to be expensive.
Whilst it’s hard to match the quality of a genuine trijicon product. There’s plenty of alternatives. More than enough companies are out there working as hard as possible to ensure they do just that. Don’t be afraid to take some time to mull over your purchasing decisions. And above all else, remember to read the reviews!