SADJ Visits Aimpoint
Aimpoint AB President Lennart Ljungfelt met Megan and I at the company conference room in Malmö Sweden, gave a short introduction to the company and what our schedule was to be like, and included several of his obligatory puns in the course of discussion. (Lennart is a proficient Pun-Master in four languages and takes great enjoyment in that). What promised to be an interesting factory visit was quickly turning into a unique and very open opportunity to see the inner workings and newest products of one of the world’s most innovative firearms sight companies.
The Aimpoint® Electronic debuted in 1975, a year or so after a small group of Swedish investor/hunters got together and tried to find better solutions for target acquisition. It was a devoted group, and they had a mission; they wanted to make the best possible targeting aid and in the process, discovered a method of swift aiming that massively increased the shooter’s situational awareness- the “Red Dot.” While the initial program was for hunters, the possibility to enhance the same for police and military was quickly realized.
Many people’s first exposure to Aimpoint’s products as a military option were when a famous photo was taken during the First Gulf War, of General Norman Schwarzkopf descending a stairway and his guards had the Aimpoint 3000 series on their M4s. For Aimpoint’s military use ambitions, this photo was as defining a moment as the SAS hostage rescue in 1980 at the Iranian Embassy in London was for HK’s MP5 submachine gun.
The current M68CCO subsequently purchased by the US Military has exceeded 1.2 million units so far. Aimpoint had been awarded the first military contract for a red dot sight in 1997.
A “Dynamic Universal Reflex Sight;” the DURS. That’s a mouthful of words for “a sight for making a heavy projectile hit a moving target.” Contrary to popular myth, this author’s introduction to heavier squad weapons was not with Ballistas and Catapults- no, it was the M67 recoilless, and the M72 LAW with a sprinkling of M79 and M203 40x46mm launchers. All of these used either iron sights or rudimentary optics and accuracy was related entirely to the skill and experience of the operator. Kentucky Windage on a large scale. That means less hits per rounds expended, which is a “Bad Thing.” A “Good Thing” in the eyes of both soldiers and commanders is taking out the bad guys every time. Many of the manufacturers of weapons have created modern sighting systems with which to address the myriad of environmental factors involved. Oddly and frustratingly enough, many have been bulky and very complex to operate.
Aimpoint’s scientists and engineers have a 40-year history of taking a working concept in target acquisition, distilling it to its most simple and ergonomic form, then building a robust yet lightweight casing. Building a better mousetrap. When the DURS concept was formulated, the idea was to have an onboard ballistic computer capability of quickly taking all of the environmental factors and applying these to calculations that would enable the operator to fire a variety of heavier weapons with their various ammunitions.
Sometimes, a one-size-fits-all approach is not workable. Aimpoint’s designers have successfully overcome the obstacles and built a system that will handle everything from basic 40x53mm HEDP rounds from a MK19 Mod 3 to a Tandem 84mm Carl Gustav round, and an airburst programmed projectile from an HK GMG. There are over 50 ballistic calculations present in the Aimpoint FCS; the operator simply prepares the FCS for which base firearm will be used- MK19, GMG, M3 MAAWS 84mm, AT4, etc, and selects the ammunition to be used. The 1500nm laser range finder lases the distance to target, and the chosen ballistic algorithm will automatically “sight in” using spin drift, propellant temperature and terrain angle. Some models can work with moving target calculations as well, but all FCS are set up so that the aiming reticule location is changed electronically inside the optical channel- no motors or mechanics involved.
Aimpoint’s MPS3 weapon sight is shown below on a US Ordnance M2A2 QCB .50 caliber machine gun. The MPS3 (Multi Purpose Sight, 3rd generation) is a reflex collimator sight that is designed for use on medium or heavy weapons. It was introduced 8 years ago, and has been in the field ever since. This author has extensively tested and fired .50 caliber machine guns of various styles with the MPS3, and it is extremely fast for target acquisition, as well as robust enough to handle the incumbent man-handling on “Ma Deuce.” MPS3 is compatible with all night vision devices that can be used on medium or heavy weapons, it has 7 NV settings and 9 daytime settings. It will work with any AA battery, and at worst the battery has an 80,000 hour life; at best in NV settings, 500,000 hours. It is set up for convenience; one rotary switch for all light intensities, and the Picatinny rails for lasers are unobtrusive and accessible. Since this is a 1x optic and the aiming dot only covers 2 MOA, the field of view allows for situational awareness downrange that other optics can block out. A .50 caliber machine gun is an area weapon; and while they have been tuned into a “Sniper” use weapon occasionally, the mission is engaging an enemy in a beaten zone as quickly and accurately as possible. Aimpoint’s MPS3 does this and does it well. MPS3 is not a sniper scope; it is an excellent, robust target acquisition tool that works equally well from tripod, vehicle, boat or air mounting. (M2A2 QCB www.usord.com )
We were given a presentation of the new products which were coming out, including the Magnifiers in 3x and 6x. SADJ routinely announces Aimpoint’s new products as they come out, and these are online as well. We have shown a few of the newest military application products in these pages, and thought that perhaps a more personal look at Aimpoint itself might be appropriate.
All Aimpoint products are handmade in Sweden, utilizing their two facilities: the main offices in Malmö in the south by the sea, and the other in Galliväre in the far north in the mountains. The company Aimpoint AB is certified in compliance with ISO 9001:2008 and this is taken very seriously. What we observed was a series of clean rooms, with security protocols and quality control checks at various stages of the manufacturing process. This was not “Pull one out of a hundred and test it.” The QC testing was on every unit. We were told, and observed it in fact, that every component was ultrasound cleaned and kept in the clean environment all through the manufacturing process. Every unit and its parts were tracked and recorded at every stage of manufacture. This ensures that if a problem shows up in final testing, then it is quickly trackable to the point where the issue occurred and all other products can be tracked and tested. Aimpoint’s production has a very low problem rate due to this, and they can afford to have a generous return policy- as returns are rare.
Throughout our visit at Aimpoint, Lennart referred to a special training system that Aimpoint had been partnering with internationally. It is a Swedish made unit called the “Marksman ST-2.” www.marksman.se
Aimpoint has the system in their Malmö facility for use with the special laser rifles, not live fire. All of our shooting of course used variations of the Aimpoint products. The system allows the instructor to track and observe where the shooter’s point of aim is all throughout the exercise and to provide instruction on how to become a better shooter. The system we used was for hunting, and I have since tried the military version. That one will give you chills as it is extremely well done and the combat simulations are accurate engagements allowing stress and point of aim observations from the trainers. Lennart showed us how the tracking worked, and it mapped point of aim. He tracked my 50 years of technique- watching the scene, rifle aimed slightly down, raising the rifle and meeting the target in motion and firing. Perfect hit every time with a laser line path that simply came straight up and fired. Lennart explained that the method taught with the system was to follow the animal with the optic then lead slightly ahead and fire as the animal entered the sight. It was intriguing to map the methods of fire and very educational.
Our group then traveled to a local Swedish gun store and shooting range; Jakt & Skytte (in English: Hunting & Shooting) which is located in Staffanstorp, just outside of Malmö. We were able to meet with numerous local friendly shooters, and embarrass ourselves on the Marksman ST-2 shooting range with .308 caliber live fire at running wild boar. It was an amazing experience, with the full wall target system appearing almost exactly as it would while hunting in a forest. A herd of wild boar run across a woods path, and with a live rifle round, the “Hunter” engages the boar. Exact location of the hit on target is immediately shown via computer. This may be one of the best integrations of training simulation and live fire that I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, never having hunted wild boar, I was unfamiliar with the wily creatures’ tactics and failed to have the one-shot one-kill “Bringing home dinner” shot. Eventually, the baby boars stopped in the path so I shot one of them in the head as it stood glaring and mocking me, and then took the jesting of all the Swedish hunters. Lennart pointed out that I did, in fact, have supper so it wasn’t a total loss. www.jaktoskytte.com
The only comparable range to Jakt & Skytt currently in the US, is the American Sportsman Shooting Center located in Grapevine, TX (just north of the Dallas Airport). If you want to experience the Marksman system, give them a try. www.sportsmanshootingcenter.com
SE-213 75 Malmö, Sweden
Phone: +46 40 671 50 20
Fax: +46 40 21 92 38
What’s so special about a “Red Dot Sight?”
Red dot sights use a light emitting diode (LED) that is completely safe for the human eye, as opposed to a laser which creates a reticle with a laser emission and can be harmful. A red dot sight allows the shooter to keep their eyes focused on the target, there is no need to change focal plane to acquire aim.
The reflection of the red dot is always in the sight’s optical axis, due to the Aimpoint design of the double lens- meaning that wherever your eye is, if the red dot is on the target, that’s the projectile point of impact if the operator had properly sighted the rifle and optic to begin with.