Through the Ringer: Scope Testing Protocols

In an attempt to quantify what the AR scopes I have on hand for testing will do for me in a more objective manner I came up with five tests to run on all of them to try to measure a few specific things.

Test #1: Close Range Single Target Acquisition

1 round at 7 yards on a 4” target.  20 repetitions total for each scope.  Measuring time and hits.  The basic rubber hitting the road as quickly as possible.

Test #2: Ease of Target Acquisition: Close range transitions- the “X Box drill”.

The purpose for this test was to get at an attribute that Jeff Cooper was trying to maximize with his forward mounted scope, which I think is best expressed through asking, “How easy is it to ‘pick up’ targets?”  After giving this some thought, what seemed like the best way to test this was to work on transitions to targets that are initially outside the field of view.  I didn’t want to incorporate only side to side transitions, but also up, down and diagonals.  I figured out that with four targets I could cover each direction of transition, left, right, up, down, diagonal up/right, up/left, down/right, and down/left in nine shots without repeating.  The first shot comes from low ready, so it doesn’t count for a directional transition.

To set up this course, I left the 1”x2” boards for the target stands uncut so that are 8′ tall.  I placed a target at the top and at the bottom of each stand.  Using two stands, I set them approximately 7 yards from one another.  I originally intended to place my shooting position 7 yards from each, but my terrain didn’t allow for that, so I was approximately 10 yards from each.  The engagement order is as follows:

From low ready, safety on, scope illumination on, round in chamber:

1.  Upper left
2.  Upper right  (right)
3.  Lower Left  (down/left)
4.  Upper left (up)
5.  Lower right (down/right)
6.  Lower left (left)
7.  Upper right (up/right)
8.  Lower right (down)
9.  Upper left (up/left)

This puts three shots in the upper left target and two shots in all the others.  The target is just over 4” and is printed on an 8.5”x11” sheet of paper.

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Just ignore the center target in the right array.  That’s the 7 yard target.  It helps to be efficient.

When I actually set this drill up I was surprised at how wide the transitions were.  They are way outside the scope’s field of view.  Quite a bit of movement is necessary to transition.

Test 3:  Speedy Sight Acquisition in a Variety of Positions

This is a modification of an existing drill.  The original drill calls for a paper plate at 50 yards.  Begin with a magazine of 5 rounds.  5 shots standing, reload with a magazine of 10 rounds.  Shoot five rounds from kneeling, shoot five rounds from prone.  A passing score requires all hits in 15 seconds or less.

One difference in me from when I started the blog is that I have a more realistic idea of my abilities and limitations.  Therefore, when SLG described this drill to me I did not think I would be able to pass it.  Therefore the main modification I made to it is that it is a scored test instead of a pass/fail.  The big disadvantage of a pass/fail test is that once one passes the test there is no further external motivation to improve.  A test is more effective if there is no way to max it out, so I made a scoreable target and removed the par time as a hard limit.  I did still want to respect the original intention of the test, so I decided that all points scored after 15 seconds has elapsed will be counted as half of the target score.  To accomplish that I decided to deduct from the best hits on the target in accordance with how many shots after the 15 seconds were required.  Each position has its own target in my version of this drill, so it’s possible to narrow the shots over 15 seconds somewhat.  Score is points over time.

The other modification I made to the original drill was to make it in congruence with my goal of being able to hit a 4” target under a variety of circumstances.  I reduced the primary target size to approximately 4” (approximately by half) and reduced the shooting distance to 25 yards (exactly by half).  Since both the target size and distance from the original drill were cut in half, this should not affect the overall difficulty of the course.

Test 4: Eyebox Ease in Relation to Precision.

From a standing position I simply dropped to bipod prone and fired a singe round at 10 different targets.  I completed a total of 3 repetitions of this drill, each time on fresh targets.  I analyzed the results by using On Target TDS, which allowed me to aggregate each run into a 10 shot group, and to further aggregate the three 10 shot groups into a single 30 shot group.  There was no specific time to aim for or beat, but I did time each run for splits and total times.

Test 5: Using the Reticle for Holdovers Beyond Point Blank Zero Range.

Most ARs are set up with a point blank zero and aren’t used much outside of that range.  I wanted to see how much versatility each optic would allow for in terms of going beyond a point blank type setup.  I set up my scoreable target on the 8.5”x11” paper at the following ranges (in yards): 170, 230, 270, and 330.  This is not exactly what is generally considered to be “long range”, but considering my goal in terms of target size, this, for me and the ammo I have on hand, is pushing the outside of the envelope.  The average distance of the drill is 250 yards.  I zeroed all of the magnified scopes at 100 yards.  That means that every target in this drill required at least some holdover.

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The targets as they appeared from just in front of the firing line… uh, the next day, after some of them were blown down.

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Um, from the same day I shot the course with the U.S. Optics SR-8, from the 170 yards line target.  I realize I was a bit disorganized with the photography.  I had a fiddle jam to play guitar at and I was running late, okay?

The goal for the drill was to transition between the targets in a way that made each shot a new one, in that I needed to re-adapt each time and change my point of aim and holdover.  To accomplish this the targets were set up randomly left to right.  I also calculated every permutation of possible transitions from one target to another and organized the engagement order so that each permutation would receive a similar number of repetitions.  I fired a total of 36 rounds in this drill, so that each target would receive 9 hits, which would give me something statistically significant to work with.

One problem with tests 4 and 5 is that I don’t have my reloading equipment set up at the new place yet, and therefore did not have access to any ammunition more precise than XM193 in sufficient quantity to perform all the tests with all the optics.  This is bothersome to me, because my groups will, as is my trademark, look too big, but it doesn’t invalidate the tests.

Another problem is that I really wanted to be able to shoot well enough to give all the scopes the best showing I could.  I realized early on that I wasn’t going to be able to shoot well enough to satisfy my expectations.  The only thing I can say is that I think that my level of skill was consistent throughout the tests, and should provide an illustration of how well these scopes worked for me in comparison to one another.

I would be able to reach more conclusive and accurate conclusions if I were able to perform more repetitions of each test with each scope, and if I could get other shooters to do the same tests under the same conditions my results would be more applicable to the general population.  Lastly, I wanted to test the scopes in lower light and with moving targets, and was not able to perform these two tests for lack of resources, mostly time.-

With any luck I’ll get you some results pronto.

3 thoughts on “Through the Ringer: Scope Testing Protocols

  1. Looks good, can’t wait to read the rest. Just FYI, in case anyone else is thinking of trying these drills. The drill that RS describes as having come from me was not my creation, and is actually meant to be shot within 20 secs, so not quite as hard as RS’s version. Still hard enough though:-)

    • I like what you came up with, let us know if you alter it. I hear you on the lack of motivation to improve on a pass fail, but very few riflemen can pass this one on demand. It’s called the D-Drill for a reason:-)

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