Sniper with Holographic sight

This Royal Marine is using an EOTech holographic sight, without magnification, mounted on either an .338 Lapua Magnum L115A1 (Accuracy International Arctic Warfare) or .50 BMG AW50 rifle.

A Royal Marines marksman takes aim from a Merlin helicopter during counter-piracy operations.

I have often wondered why we do not see photos of snipers with 1x magnification sights. During WWII plenty of snipers used iron sights to good effect. It must surely be easier to use than a scope with magnification when bouncing around in a helicopter and aiming at a moving target.

UPDATE: Added additional information.

[Hat Tip: Пьер де Буа]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • jdun1911

    There is a serious issue with RDS when it comes to long distance shooting. The issue is how RDS works compare to iron sights. The red dot cover the target, while iron sight the target is above the post.

    The further away the more the red dot will cover the target to a point where you will be shooting blind. This depends on the MOA of the dot. The bigger the dot the less effective it will be at greater distance.

    99.999% iron sights doesn’t have this problem because the target is above post. In other words it does not cover the target.

    Eotech dot is 1 MOA. This is better than a 4 MOA at greater distance but still not ideal for long range shooting. I switch to iron for shooting long distance if my optic is Red Dot. Someone can do the math at what distance does a 1MOA dot cover the entire target.

  • MacK

    Friend of mine shoots “service rifle” type comps with a AR15A3 20″ with an eotech out to 600m… Mission dictates 😉

  • Patrick

    As I recall in the movie Blackhawk Down the M-14 that Shughart was firing from the helicopter had an Aimpoint on it. I know it’s just a movie, but I know one of the military advisors for the film, and he isn’t the kind of person who would let let a detail like that slide.

  • mark

    If you are only issuing 1x Magnifiers with 4MOA dots, why not just use a service rifle instead of a dedicated sniper rifle?

    It makes sense though from a usability standpoint, and the sniper is probably much more familiar with the AI rifle than your average service rifle. Maybe we will see more research into variable power 1-4x red dot scopes with long eye relief, which are great for competition and scout rifle purposes.

  • Martin

    think you ment “without magnification” 😉

  • Martin

    ok, forget it. Now I red the entire sentece 😉 with magnification is magnifiscent.

  • Rusty Ray

    Think you’ll find that’s either a Rockape or a Bootneck. Ray

  • Bill Lester

    A one MOA dot is just fine to well beyond the effective range of anything short of big bore sniping rifles. I just had my wife measure across the tops of my shoulders – just under eight inches. At 800 yards a one MOA dot would cover my shoulders with a tiny bit to spare. Anyone game for trying a rack-grade 5.56 or 7.62 on a man-sized target at that range? The rifle will “give up” long before the aiming point.

  • Ewan

    I think the sniper is a marine on anti-pirate patrol. The AW50 is probably for taking out outboard motors on pirate vessels so wouldn’t the red dot make sense? I bet the helo gets him to within 100m anyway and looking down even a 4x in the air would be enough to make me nauseous! 😀

  • Gage

    Coast Guard snipers use M14 EBR’s and even M82’s with EOTechs and other various optics. You can actually see these guns in action by watching these first 5 vids:

    It really intrigues me to see anything other than a scope on a sniper rifle.

  • To be honest I think the simple solution to the ins and outs of this is that this particular markman finds that this set-up works for him in this situation.

    From my reading of the history of military markmanship there certainly doesn’t seem to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution in actual practise in the field and it is likely that there are some very odd matches out there.

    As usual I bow to those of you who have an opinion and who have actually served.

  • SoulTown

    From what I remember from Magpul’s excellent Aerial Platform Operations DVD, anything beyond 1X optic is said to be an overkill for any shooter onboard helicopter. The platform moves too much and too fast for any precision shooting outside any 1X optic’s engagement range, not to mention the fact that the narrow field of view from sniper optic severely limits the shooter’s effectiveness as overwatch. This viewpoint largely comes from Chris Costa’s experience in USCG, I believe.

  • MrMaigo

    In the documentary ‘Brothers at War’ a sniper tells the story about ALMOST shooting a kid with a toy AK. That’s not something he’d be able to tell at 1x.

    The primary role is to reach out and not just touch, but see. Observation is, at least, as important as precision.

  • I’m considering setting up a micro-sized red dot on my suppressed K-31, because I have a lot of trouble aiming with a scout style iron sight (I’m fine with reciever sights like on the AR-15). I think a 1MOA dot is perfect for man-sized targets up to 600 yards, or for competition shooting the 4MOA means you can center the dot on the aiming black and fire; it’s actually a really good sight picture, similar to the concentric circles of some diopter setups.

  • Ewan

    I am pretty sure it is a AW50 not a L115A1 due to the stock and bolt/chamber area shape. The muzzle break is a little different to most of the pictures out there though. The AW50 has a recess in the cheekpiece for the bolt to slide back into.

  • Huey

    A lot of this debate has to do with how a particular entity sees the use of the sniper in battle. In the US the sniper has been employed to make long distance precise shots on high value targets as a combat multiplier. In this role an highly modified bolt action rifle with a high power scope is ideal. In other armies (the former Soviet Union for one) the sniper is a combat multiplier not necessarily by taking out high value targets but by taking out multiple targets in quick succession and putting a strain on enemy resources. In this role a semi auto rifle with a sighting system that allows quick acquisition and engagement of targets would be ideal. Take a look at the Soviet era Dragunov, semi-automatic, 2 – 3 MOA accuracy….not designed for head shots but it would put a round in a torso from a long ways off and do it repeatedly in short order. Kill a man and his comrades move on, wound him and at least one has to care for him.

  • NE Rancher

    Mark, the reason for the AI, is because it is chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum.

    When it comes to wrecking an engine block, most of your service rifles won’t do as much damage as that particular cartridge.

  • Huey

    also, considering this guy is firing from a moving helo, the use of a magnified sight would make no sense unless he had it dialed down as low as it would go and then had an incredibly smooth ride to go along with it.

  • snmp

    Small magnification sight is better for quick target acquisition when you are in move

    Like French Commando Marine (Naval Commando) sharp shooter in Solamia (Operation Thalantine) with HK G3A4 with Trijicon ACOG 3.5 & B&T Rail hanguard

  • zhoriks

    it does indeed more look like AW50, as Ewan had already said. beefy.

  • ki

    Moving targets.

  • Sean

    When they eradicated goats from some of the Galapagos islands they used helicopters.
    The guys in this video are using pretty basic sights as well.
    I guess at speed and with vibration it’s a lot easier than using a high mag scope.

  • Will

    Someone hit on the Coast Guard. I imagine he serves a similar role to the Coast Guard’s HITRON gunner. Like some have said, I would imagine that red dot would be more useful than even a fixed power scope for the type of close in work he’ll be doing.

  • Jesse

    When shooting from any type of moving platform like a helicopter, the vibrations and movement make shooting a magnified optic very very difficult.

  • subase

    Probably has something to do with.
    Bigger cartridge = more knockdown power + penetration through barriers.

    The .338 would be the rolls royce, a step a above the .308. The Knights M110 can accommodate 20 round magazines.

  • John

    Probably helicopter is shaking so much, he probably can’t get a decent sight picture off of something like a 10x scope. He probably should have a belt fed or something, but probably using a bolt action to limit the damage he can inflict/liable for.

  • Hey Guys:

    I’m no expert on the subject, but the Magpul Dynamics team advocates use of zero parralax, zero magnification optics on firearms when shooting from an aerial platform. They teach that the main reason for the aerial platform is for surveillance, secondarily for shooting. The operator shouldn’t use a magnified optic to keep from being sucked into the “tube” and loose peripheral vision on what else is going on down on the ground.
    And that’s my understanding of their class on the DVD.

  • DougF

    In my experience when shooting more than 100M I find my Eotech works great (magnified or not) so long as I reduce the brightness to the point that the red dot is transparent.

    I use an EOTech 557 3X package.

  • Hauser

    Watch this video from about 6:30…

    It shows Royal Marine snipers on a Merlin using GPMG’s, G3’s with 6x ACOG’s and AW50’s with Eotech’s. As others have stated, the AW50 is mainly used in the anti narcotics role, with armour piercing ammunition to shred the engine blocks of suspect vessels.

  • Caseless

    For precise shots, I use the red dot sight like iron sights, with a six o’clock hold. No difference on accuracy.

    Scopes are great for target identification in addition to being an aiming tool.
    Some friends who had worked as US gov. contractors said they wish they have 1-4x scopes instead of the Aim Point red dots because target identification, especially watching body language/facial expression of locals standing a few hundred yards away from your position in the convoy/checkpoint would be really helpful.

  • Kevin

    Pretty sure thats an AW50 being used in an anti-material role.

    AW 50 would have plenty of stopping power against boat motors, or for that matter, for putting several half inch holes through the bottom of a pirate dhow/motorboat.

  • Nick

    anti-vehicle setup, perhaps?

  • Zach

    I’ve seen USCG marksmen using M82/M107 .50 cals with EOTech sights like this guy. Obviously when shooting from a helo that would be a good choice.

  • Oswald Bastable

    Validates a scene in my first book!

  • electronics

    Using an optic with magnification severely hampers your main advantage of being in a helicopter–visibility. Being 1000 feet above the battlefield doesn’t do you much good if you are only ever looking at a 30′ diameter circle at any given time. Guys with .50BMGs will put EOTechs on them for use in a helicopter, and be effective. It’s all well and good to say just use a service rifle, but nothing turns cover into concealment quite like a 700gr projectile traveling at a couple thousand feet per second.

  • Rob

    This is definitely a Marine sniper on Anti-Pirate patrol. After talking to a couple at RN Gaerlochead, they do use Eotech’s on the aw.50 because it’s very difficult to use anythig with magnification from inside the helo in the circumstances. That said, the groupings on engine covers brought back from tours are impressive to say the least.

  • Sian

    @jdun1911 65moa ring+1moa dot (standard for eotech) wouldn’t be bad for this kind of shooting. a carat as used in the Trijicon reflex sights would work quite nicely as well.

  • Payce

    Coast Guard uses Red dot equipped Barrett’s all the time, to take out engines. The Beowulf might be a cheaper option in my opinion.

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  • The Aw50 is used by the RMC to take out a boats engine or sink it,