Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WEARING A SUIT; CONFESSIONS OF A NON-RECOVERING FALCOHALIC

No, I’m not wearing a suit, not at the moment, although my wife seems to think that I hose off pretty good for those formal occasions that require me to wear pants in public. I’m talking about my FAL wearing a SUIT, and by that I mean the Sight Unit Infantry Trilux, L2A2. This is an old military scope used by the British and the Israelis, most often on the FAL, in the 1980’s which, hey, wasn’t really that along ago. I like to think the SUIT as the ACOG’s grand-daddy. Would I rather have an actual ACOG? You bet your sweet patootie I would. But I have at least a thousand good reasons why I can’t get an ACOG at the moment, so Grandpa will do fine for now.

The Trilux was one of those devices that came before its time, like the E2 rifle and the 7mm cartridge and crooked narcissistic Chicago politicians as president. It is a nice 4x scope with a lightweight aluminum body, weighing only 12 ounces. The glass in it is quite good, offering 86% light transmission. The scope has a prism so that the body is bent, providing a short, compact package and keeping the front sight post out of the way of the objective lens. This also just happens to allow folks to mount other items, such as a laser or weapon light, on the rail in front of the scope without interfering with the optics.


FAL with scope rail top cover, adapter, and SUIT. Better than the British-pattern riveted top cover, IMHO.


The British manual says the SUIT is: “A detachable optical sight with a magnification of four, equipped with an internally illuminated inverted aiming pointer. With the sight fitted the Infantryman’s night vision capability is extended enabling him to engage targets at longer distances. The amount of improvement depends on the light falling on the target and the target/background contrast. The increase in range varies from two to three times that of conventional open sights. By day, the sight unit assists in the acquisition and engagement of targets with low background contrast at the effective range of the weapon to which it is attached.”

First off, isn’t it cool that the Brits capitalize Infantryman? I see the U.S. Army now capitalizes Soldier, which seems stupid to me. Capitalizing Infantryman I can see, though. Secondly, I should point out that increasing the range of the weapon 2-3 times over open sights means less when the open sights in question belong to those of the L1A1 British inch-pattern FAL, which were arguably the worst of all the FAL sights. And, since the FAL was adopted by some 93 countries at one time or another, that’s saying something.

The SUIT is still pretty cool. Instead of a crosshair, it has a single pointer, like that of some ACOG’S, only this pointer sticks down from the top rather than up from the bottom. On the negative side, I suspect in the heat of the moment, lots of folks shoot high, putting the top of the target on the bottom of the pointer, rather than holding the pointer down on center mass. As with all shooting systems, practice is needed. Supposedly, this system of inverted reticule also offers the advantage of not obscuring the target during recoil.

A brief aside to those who bemoan the terrible recoil of the .308 battle rifles. My 5’4” wife shoots a lightweight sporterized 03A3 Springfield .30-06 with 180-grain bullets and doesn’t complain about recoil. People, especially guys, who complain about the recoil of the M1A or FAL or HK should just go ahead and admit to being a big fat pussy.

The point is sharp enough for good holds even at a distance, and at night the pointer is lit from within via tritium.

Back to the SUIT. Its aiming pointer is also lit from within via a tritium vial and fiber optics, the brightness being adjustable for conditions. With good glass, you can see better at night than with the naked eye, so this works out well for low light shooting. Unfortunately, when the SUIT’s were imported into the country, the tritium had to be removed because of some asinine government regulations. Go figure.

There is a battery-operated red LED light replacement, but “tactical” and “batteries” in the same item makes my nervous. Finding a replacement tritium vial is a huge pain in the butt, but worth it IMHO. Some folks get them out of bow or gun sights, or key-chain fobs. It’s extra hard to find the red. Red is the dimmest of the tritium lamps and lasts the shortest time in years. But, for me, using this thing as a low-light shooting aid, you want dim and red rather than bright and green if you’re to clearly see your target past the pointer. Plus, the manual says the lamp will lose half its brightness in 10 years but is likely to have a further useful life. I can live with once-a-decade or more replacements.

The SUIT’s weakness is the mounting system. This requires a special FAL top cover with an adapter riveted to it. I’m told it’s just a matter of time until the rivets work lose. There’s also an adapter that allows you to attach the SUIT to a conventional scope rail cover. This is what I use. It took a deal of work and a home-made adjustment or two to get it just right, but once done it has been fine ever since. Supposedly, you can take the SUIT on and off at will, using the clamp-type system, and not lose your zero. I’ve heard from guys over at the FAL FILES who say they have done this regularly without losing zero. I’m too fearful of Mr. Murphy to be taking a scope on and off all the time.

The graduations for zeroing the scope are rather coarse, one tick-mark moving the point of impact 4 MOA, but you can carefully tweak in between the ticks and, after all, it is designed to be used on a designated marksman-type weapon rather than a full fledged precision sniper rifle.

The SUIT doesn't have a true ballistic drop compensator. It does have a range control lever that actually moves the back of the scope itself up or down. Again simple almost to the point of being crude, it only has two positions and works just fine. The rear 300-meter setting is for engaging targets between 0 and 400 meters. The front 500-meter setting is for ranges of 400 to 600 meters. Being KISS simple, with the selector lever with choices of only “A” or “B”, it works very well for even amateurs as long as you have even the very roughest sense of range estimation.

It’s not quite precise enough to ethically put a bullet exactly into the vitals of a deer at 500+ yards, but certainly good enough to hit a man-sized target, and I did drop an antelope with one shot at almost exactly 300 yards with this rig last hunting season. You see, my FAL had never been “blooded” in the hunting field. The other rifles in the safe used to tease it and make fun of it late at night. So this past hunting season I took it out to whack that speed goat as well as a couple of whitetails at around 150 yards. Now it can hold its muzzle up high and thumb its nose back at the other rifles.

In past threads I have shown my interest in combat in the mountains of Afghanistan. British, American, and German sources agree that about half of their engagements take place at ranges greater than 300 meters. One American commander estimated his unit’s average engagement range to be 500 yards. Living in the mountains myself, I find this all very interesting.

One of the military solutions has been to re-invent the .308 diameter wheel in the form of the M240 GPMG and a designated marksman rifle, usually in 7.62x51mm (.308) caliber, often an old M14/M21. Issuing such weapons down to squad level allows at least two of the guys to shoot back during those long-range engagements. I guess the rest of the gang armed with those 14-inch barreled .223 varmint guns are apparently supposed to just stay low and bitch about the situation. Once more, the FAL with SUIT was ahead of its time, as the role in which it functioned was to equip one soldier in the squad as a designated marksman to extend the squad’s firepower, for those special occasions when they needed to “reach out and touch someone” but didn’t want to use up machine gun ammo or fire off expensive Milan anti-tank guided missiles.

So, once upon a time, Bawb decided to give the FAL and the SUIT a workout. The first time I set up cheap electric fence posts up at 100 yard intervals out to 500 yards, and used old delivery pizza boxes skewered on the posts. Perhaps I’m expecting to engage fat people, but I figure half a pizza box, 16x16 inches, is about the size of a man’s torso, the target the SUIT is intended for. On the first trip, it was a clear sunny day with hardly any wind, temps in the low 60’s. Shooting prone from off a sandbag, I gave each target from 100-300 three shots. Then I flipped the SUIT over to the long-range setting and gave the 400 and 500 yard targets three shots. When you get to looking out across the vast landscape at those little tiny targets waaaayyyy out there, it really makes you appreciate how far 5oo yards really is. It also makes your appreciate living in Montana where you can actually find places to safely shoot a thousand yards.

I was fairly happy with the results. The 100-300 yard shots were well centered. 400 was high and drifting to the side, and I only hit that 500 yard target two out of three times. “Good enough for government work,” as they say, but not good enough for me. Since the SUIT’s objective lens does not sit exactly over the center of the bore, at long ranges the convergence becomes noticeable. I had tried to compensate for this by zeroing a half-inch to the right at 100 yards. Obviously, while indeed good enough for its intended purpose, being me I had to tweak it.

Recently the great spirit moved me to finally get things juussst right with the FAL and the SUIT. I headed out to a state-owned section of public land where I like to shoot. It has an entire mountain for a backstop, which is pretty handy. I felt bad for the elk, though. There were maybe fifty or so bedded down atop the ridge to the north, a little over a mile away. Even though it almost four months after hunting season and they were better than a full section line away, the wapiti were still pretty skittish. By the time I had my shooting area set up, they were all on their feet. When I walked down and starting putting targets up, they took off trotting across the ridge towards the dark timber.

It was a nice Montana spring day, with the temp just above forty degrees, and the sky alternated with sunshine and snow squalls. Having already worked things out at the closer ranges in my previous shooting sessions and in hunting, I started this session at 300 yards, with targets every 100 yards out to six hundred. I shot in the prone position from off a sandbag, aiming center mass.

It turned out my windage was indeed a tad off, which of course gets magnified with range, and the SUIT mounting system having the added twist of convergence. I was, though, pretty happy with the size of the groups I was shooting. I mean, we’re talking a Plain Jane Century Arms FranknFAL with a 30-year-old scope and Aussie surplus ball ammo, not a match-grade M1A or something. The old girl did pretty well, considering who was behind her with only one good eye. I do still have to do some more trigger work. Awhile back, I installed the springs that give the system at least a lighter trigger pull. Now I just need to work on something at least resembling a smooth trigger pull. It’s not as bad as an HK, mind you, but it could (and will) be much better than it is.







Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man, a Century FrankenFAL, and surplus ball. The grease on the pizza boxes explains the fat part.


As I said before I got myself side-tracked, my windage was a tad off. The 3-shot group on the 400 yard target hung right there on the left edge of the cardboard. As expected, there were no holes in the 500 yard target. So I went back and set up a 100 yard target and did some tweaking. In theory, a 100 yard zero that is four inches high and a half inch right is what the SUIT is supposed to take. That’s what I dialed in as precisely as I could. Using the sharp tip of the inverted pointer, you are capable of a pretty precise hold, more so at long ranges than at short ranges I find.

By the time I was ready to shoot another round, one of the traveling snow squalls moved through pelting me with those snowflakes that look more like Styrofoam beads than snow, which turned quickly to fat round water droplets on the surface of the German shelter half I was using to lie on. With the snow, the wind really came up, probably 15 or more mph, for five minutes or so as the cloud moved over. When it was done, the bottom of the 300 yard target had ripped loose of the post and the cardboard was standing out like a wind sock. The 600 yard target had folded up like an accordion and rattled down the post until it was half sideways and about a third the size of a properly extended box.

I had intended to start at 400 yards anyway, so the 300 yard target didn’t matter. I fired six rounds at the 400 yard target, three with the SUIT on the 300 setting and three with it on the 500 setting. The former was just about dead on the nuts, while the second was indeed quite high, almost too high, on the very top edge and out of the pictures. Things worked well at 500 yards with the SUIT on the long-range setting, although I did call what I knew was an obvious flier to the right. I had a couple of other fliers to the right due to human error and the gritty, reluctant trigger.

With the 600 yard target itself halfway FUBAR, I guess I thought the pressure was off and I was pretty relaxed and casual squeezing off three more rounds at the screwy target. I was very pleasantly surprised when I went to pick up the targets. There was a bullet gouge in the side of the fence post about four or five inches above the folded-up cardboard. Another round had hit directly under the box, close enough to pepper it with dirt and gravel shrapnel. And lo and behold, there way off in the very corner, there was a little round .30-caliber hole.

So I reckon I would be good on man-sized targets out to 600. Very soon, though, I’ll have to go out again and, after I tweak things just a wee tad bit more, do some more shooting. I want to get the 500 yard bull exactly centered on the long-range setting and then try some shots out to 700 yards with a little hold-over. Of course, the trigger parts, myself, and a fine Arkansas stone need to spend an hour or two together beforehand.

Why the sudden intense interest in wringing the very best performance out of my toys right now rather than just kicking back with “good enough” until I have more time to mess with things later? Well, I had to do something after the debacle on Sunday, and it’s a good hour and a half drive to the nearest Demoncrat political office with a window I could throw a brick through. I think most of our readers can figure out my alternate choice of recreational activity.

My next plan is to head off up into the mountains for a night or two with just my weapon, my Load Bearing Equipment (LBE), and the clothes on my back to see how well the survival gear in the fanny pack of my LBE works out. It’s been a long time since I field tested my gear beyond just hunting for the day.

Interesting times make for interesting hobbies.

6 comments:

Iowa Patriots said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iowa Patriots said...

Sweet write up! Very much appreciated. An ACOG would be nice, but that would double the price of my FAL. I'll definitely look into the SUIT.

What sling are you using?

My biggest beef, besides the rear sight, is with the pistol grip. Wrong angle and too small for my mitts. Might have to try a SAW pistol grip and one of those rubber grip sleeves from DSA.

Jealous that you can find places to shoot at 200+ yards. Haven't found anything past 200 yds here in I-oo-way.

Bawb said...

I just got done with the trigger job and it's now slicker than deer guts on a doorknob. I think a decent trigger is gonna help me a whole heckuva lot with those far right fliers I keep having. Now that I've realized the potential of the scope/rifle rig I think I can really have some fun with it and practice reaching "way out past Fort Mudge" as Jeff Cooper used to say.

Next time I think I'll take the Garand, too, and see how this ol' eye holds up.

Iowa Patriots said...

How about a post or e-mail me some info or point me in the right direction on what you did to the trigger.

BTW, forgot to comment on the recoil...what recoil?

Mark said...

Get this kit: http://www.falconarms.com/xcart/product.php?productid=16536&cat=50&page=2

Then very carefully clean up the trigger/hammer. I just used Flitz and some time.

Bawb said...

D'-oh! What Mark said. I couldn't even remember the brand name of the springs. He found and installed the ones I have a LONG time ago. Dang, how long ago was that??? I had just about forgotten about it. We're gonna have to get together one of these days...maybe the next Appleseed.