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Eotech 558: A Review

A long long time ago, in a unit far away,

I played around with an Eotech.

The Battalion Gunner then, wouldn't let me win

he never gave the Eotech any slack.

He said, "The RCO is so much better,

first round hits are much more frequent."

I tried to counter, "But passive aiming,"

he said, "get used to lazing."

Ok, enough of that bad parody- how about a story about why Eotechs are awesome sights, and I really think you should use them in conjunction with night vision.

First- let's flesh out that crap song in the beginning. It's based on a true story. After my first enlistement I got out- and immediately bought an Eotech 552. It was the first iteration of Eotechs that had night vision capability (which meant the things could be set to be so faint only an NVG could pick them up). According to the marketing the way it projected the reticle made it seem like it was 50 feet in front of you making it easier to pick up with your eye. And this feature of the optic meant it could work with night vision devices as well. I thought this was cool- and I wanted a set of NVGs back then- so I got it.

And six months later I went back into the Marines, and then I found myself working up for another Iraq deployment as part of the PSD for 2nd Battalion 6th Marines. During that time I messed around with my Eotech- even took it on deployment with me. I didn't get to put rounds downrange with it on my service rifle, but I did mess with it using night vision (and had my 240 gunner do the same with it on his 240) and we found it worked as advertised. To me the advantage it gave was immediate and obvious- I could aim my weapon at unsuspecting people at night and they'd never know.

One day shortly after arriving in country, we're going to do a zero confirmation and I've got my Eotech mounted to my M-4. I'm excited- I FINALLY get to start messing with this thing as God (should he exist) intended. The Battalion Gunner saw it. Asked me if I'd lost my ever loving mind- and where is your RCO? I said, "No, I hadn't lost my mind." The Eotech didn't block my 203 leaf sight, it interfaced with my night vision, was faster to pick up than the RCO. "Take that stupid thing off your rifle and put the RCO back on. First round hits with the RCO are 90%. Your red dot uses batteries which can die. You'll never shoot your 203 anyway. And you have a PEQ to shoot things at night."

Now, to be fair to the Battalion Gunner- he was a really awesome guy overall. I respect him totally, and he wasn't wrong. Yes, RCO's increased first round hit probability in practice by 90% (not something to raise your nose to). Yes, batteries die and yes, that could be problematic. And yes <sigh> I never got to shoot my 203. But that aside, I really feel he missed the mark on just how big a deal not using your laser to engage targets at night truly is. Especially when you only get to BZO said laser, never get any range time with it, and it's sitting on a rail that kinda wobbles. And it uses a battery... Just like your NVGs... And our Radios...

But yeah- EotEcH stUpId rED DoT.

I'm here to cast that idea right into the trash. I... Am... An... Eotech fan. But not because they look cool (which they do) or because the reticle is awesome (which it is) but because it's a great tool for putting bullets into things. And it seems to me that this little optic just doesn't get the respect it deserves. Not that the Trijicon RCO and ACOG aren't awesome sights themselves- but I can get 2 Eotechs for a single ACOG/RCO. Also- well... Lets just move along with the review.

To start- what is the Eotech? Well, perhaps I'll let Eotech fashion the answer: "This is not a red dot."

Review done (JOKE). But seriously.

The Eotech is a holographic weapons sight that basically makes the reticle appear to be on the target. This allows the shooter to focus on BOTH the target and the reticle at the same time. To those who understand- you understand. To those who don't- lemme splain it Crayola style.

When you look through a scope (or red dot, or simple iron sights) your eye can focus on either the target or the sight. For a red dot, that would be the red dot. For a scope, that would be the crosshair. For iron sights, that is the front sight. The general rule for good shot placement is that your target should be blurry and your sight should be clear. IE, you focus on the sight when taking the shot. But you have to focus on the target to align the sights.

See the problem?

For an experienced shooter who understands what's going on this isn't a huge deal. Most people use scopes and red dots without issue. With practice your brain knows what to do and just does it. You focus on the target. The brain calculates where that is, and where your body needs to be to put the sights where they need to go. Your muscles move the weapon up to your eye, your eye refocuses on the sight as it swings into view and is placed OVER the target. You stroke the trigger. Another one bites the dust. Rinse, repeat. Murica.

Unfortunately this doesn't always happen. Even for professionals. Especially when shooting offside. Sometimes you focus on the target (blurry sight, clear target) and that causes your shot to wander. You say, "I aimed center mass" but your bullets says "You thought you aimed center mass, but you concentrated on the target and so you really aimed high and left, dummy."

The Eotech takes this out of the equation. Rather than having to worry about where your eye is focused you can focus on the target and sight together. It's this function of the sight that makes it unique and gives the ability to interface directly with night vision devices. Not kinda work with night vision devices if you REALLY try- but easily work with them without thought (though alignment can be tricky). It's this that I was trying to articulate to the Battalion Gunner on that day in 2007, and it was this that he wasn't concerned about (perhaps rightly so- like I said, he was a smart guy even if he was absolutely wrong about the 3 point sling). He saw that the RCO/ACOG gave good shooters a greater chance to hit their target the first shot- during the daytime. He wasn't too worried about getting the first hit at night.

All this to say that when I was going to buy myself some NVG's, this was a factor in the decision making process regarding cost. Sure, I could have got an IR laser instead of a fancy holosight. But when the hell am I going to TRAIN putting rounds down range with a laser? Getting to the range is already kinda tricky given my schedule. Now to find a range for night time shooting and THEN get to zero the damned thing. Add that just about every laser is offset from the barrel at a totally screwball angle and this can add to the issues for zeroing. Especially if you can't laser bore sight the damned thing.

Low setting on sight with NV setting on. 14's are roughly where they be if worn.
Eotech through Gen 2

No, an Eotech is a far simpler means for getting a night vision capable sight than any other option out there (for half the cost of a good NV capable laser aiming device). So, I included this into my overall cost for my NVGs and got one as soon as I had the funds available. The one I got I found on Ebay for about $100 less than new. I had had good experience with Eotech before, so I really wasn't worried. It arrived. I put it on my rifle- and it worked as advertised.

"But why the 558 and not the XPS-3," the educated reader asked.

Well fine fellow- "Logistics" is the simple answer. The complicated, long, drawn out answer: AA batteries are really super common, and I was still trying to ascertain if I was going to get a PVS-14 or a Sionyx Opsin. The PVS-14 I settled on uses AA batteries, and I figured (correctly I might add) that should I go that route, having one type of battery necessary to use the sight and optics was better than needing two different types of battery to use the sight and optics.

Ignore that my Surefire uses CR123s for a second, and follow the logic.

Shit has gone haywire, and life is suddenly VERY hard. Your wife (who is amazing and wonderful and totally not a gun nut or tactical hobbyist like you are) buys AA batteries because all her things use AA batteries. The remotes use AA batteries. The kids toys use AA batteries. Her very cheap flashlights use AA batteries. Everything runs on AA batteries (not Dunkin, oddly enough). So you- being the devilishly handsome and wise warrior you are- decide that all your stuff should as well (or, as much as you can manage) so you can use HER battery stash. Cause she has like, thousands of the damned things. And they are literally EVERYWHERE. And they're cheap.

See the philosophy? It's what I missed when I got the Opsin initially. I was worried more about tube life and daytime training than I was about something as simple and important as "universality of power supplies in electronic devices." But I got it right with the Eotech. Go me.

This is the strength of the 558 and 552. Which leads to the question of "Why the 558 and not the 552?"

Ergonomics and sight radius, bucko.

"Now hold on," says the guy who knows stuff. "A single plane sight like an Eotech doesn't have a sight radius. That makes zero fucking sense you self aggrandizing moron."

Caught me- you're right. But you're also wrong, mooseface. Let me explain- this is my post afterall.

Mooseface tactical wizard guy is absolutely correct. The Eotech doesn't have a sight radius.

"What's a sight radius," asks the guy who doesn't gun much.

Man- all these questions. Ok, sight radius simply stated is the distance between the front and rear of the sighting system in question. So, for a scope the sight radius would be from the objective lens to the ocular lens (the lens where the light enters the scope to the lens through which your eye is looking). This effects eye relief and parallax. For an iron sight setup, this is the distance between the front and rear sight. This effects how accurate the sight is- the closer the front sight is to the rear sight, the greater you variation in aligning the sights is. The farther apart they are, the less you will have this effect.

To understand the second example, imagine a straight line passing through a hole to a second point. The farther that point is from the hole, the less it will move the line if it shifts left or right (up or down in the detail). This is why pistols are less accurate at range than rifles (generally speaking). Being off ever so little left or right can have big impacts down range.

Sight radius matters.

With a red dot or Holographic sight, you're looking at a dot or reticle pattern projected onto a piece of glass. There is no sight radius. Hence, Tactical Mooseface, my unfortunate strawman, is 100% right that I'm an idiot.

But there is a radius from your face to the Eotech. So he's wrong. But not because of what you're thinking. If I used a 552, the sight MUST be mounted farther back on the rifle bringing it closer to the face as a result. This does two things that are not beneficial. First, should I wish to mount my NVG to the rail via a rail grabber or mount a magnifier, I wouldn't have the room to do so. But more importantly, I need room for the face/NVG team to get behind the sight so that face/NVG/optic alignment can be achieved. Pushing that optic as far forward as possible allows me to do this without adjusting my stock setting. IE, I can use the same stock setting in the daytime as I do in the night time. This eases the transition, keeps my fundamentals the same, and makes my life easier.

KWA LM4 (Review Coming)
If you're not airsofting- you're mssing out.

As to ergonomics, the controls are on the side (to allow for a magnifier) rather than in the back like the 552. This may seem small, but it's rather important. This places all the left hand controls for the weapon on the left (or top in the case of my light's pressure switch) where the left hand can easily get to them. Given the location of the Eotech in relation to things like the bolt catch, this makes finding it at night with the weapon in my shoulder easier (because I'm right handed).

You noticing a trend here? AA batteries EASES logistics. Longer sight radius EASES aligning the eye/NVG/Eotech. Controls on the side EASES finding them and adjusting them with the weapon in my shoulder. It's almost like the 558 makes all these things EASIER.

Now, to answer that last and all important question that the Gunner mentioned all those years ago- what about battery life? Click the link again for the 558 and scroll down to "Battery life." For an alkaline battery (the ones my wife gets) it has an expected battery life at ideal temp at setting 12 of 2,200 hours. With lithium- add 300 hours. That's almost 100 days. A third of a year. On 2x AA batteries. The XPS-3 has an operational battery life of 1,000 hours at the same settings and temps. Less than HALF. So, 50 days. To be honest, at the time I had my 552, the battery life was only about 800 hours ( I think- don't quote me on that). That's over a month of it being on at settings usable for daytime. Combat is not 100% all day every day. You have to take your weapon apart from time to time to clean it. It takes less than a minute to switch batteries in an Eotech. You spend more time cleaning your weapon by far (ten to fifteen once a day minimum). Even then it wasn't a concern. Now?

Have extra batteries that are fresh and ready to go, and you'll be fine. And besides- that's what BUIS are for.

Now, all those issues laid bare, you should be able to see why I chose the sight that I did. You have within the Eotech and optic that is 100% night vision capable, that operates off of easy to find AA batteries for close to a third of a year at a go, that can be interfaced with a magnifier to aid in target ID and first round hits at range, and reduces the chances of a misalignment of sight and target due to it's very nature. Given all that the Eotech gives you for the price point being asked... How could you not?

Battle Specter, out.

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1 Comment

Hey man, nice write up! My first EVER (non-issued) optic was a 552. Turns out it pulls double duty as an optometrist letting you know if you have an astigmatism... RIP me.

I always struggled with the ACOG in CQB (Bindon Aiming Concept). Yes, it can work... but its far from ideal, and it takes a bit of training to get accustomed up close. I think there must be some sort of middle ground where you could use both ACOGs and red dots/ eotechs in the makeup of a rifle squad... maybe I'll be a be a BN gunner in another life.

At the end of the day, I'd rather be supremely confident dealing with sub-50m targets using a red…

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