There are lots of whiz bang reticles on the market, but one of the revelations I had about a year ago is how important the “old time” German #4 and similar designs are. I have owned a variety of optics over the years… all with different levels of quality and reticles, but after obtaining the Velocity with its free floating German #4 style reticle, it completely blew me away with its versatility.
As an all around reticle, the G #4 is the bomb. One thing that now irks me with other reticle designs is the small, thin reticle itself. Some of the design philosophy of modern optic manufacturers is either to make a big bold reticle design such as a horse-shoe, and then thin out the smaller parts of the reticle for longer range precision, while others follow a form where the center dot illumination takes priority over a very thin reticle which is about useless without the illumination.
Take a quick look at this demo video of a Schmidt & Bender 1-8 short dot. Really expensive and cool. Red dot bright center illumination (which is off for this video) and a uselessly thin reticle.
That’s crap right there folks. If your illumination dies, so too does your ability to use that reticle in dark, shadowy environments like the woods… and it becomes even harder to use at night. That is a poor reticle design for any defensive optic. As quality as the rest of the optic may be, this is a big fail point right there in my opinion.
Here it is in the dark with a tactical light from a post on optics talk:
Let’s fix the short dot:
Let’s take a look at the ACOG TA01 which has a German #4 Inspired reticle:
So you can see, in dense foliage, or at night, thin reticle designs suck if the battery goes dead. As we become more comfortable with battery powered optics, perhaps this concern will continue to diminish as products continue to gain in reliability, but reticles with a design that offers a “backup” against dead electronics are still important. To be fair, these examples aren’t the highest resolution pictures, but the concept is still present… small, hard to find, thin reticles are a poor design choice in a all around optic.
Even the venerable ACOG suffers from this as well:
In the above example, we assist the washed out ACOG reticle with some crossbars. When lighting conditions are dim and the illuminated reticle doesn’t catch enough light to POP, the black crossbars add additional contrast to the sight picture which allows good target bracketing and guides the eye to the center of the reticle. In this example, the BDC should still be usable. If you shined the weapon Light and created a hotspot, the fiber optic illumination would wash out and the best bet for fast target acquisition would be the thick crossbars.
The German #4: Still Works. Good.
The old time G4 style reticle… adapted into numerous iterations, it features a fine center crosshair and three bold lines at 3, 6, and 9. It’s an iconic reticle used in movies, by hunters, and it should be utilized by the AR15 community as well, but it is often passed over for “newer” designs that don’t always do it better.
So what does the G4 reticle do so well? The contrast of those bold lines allow you to bracket your target in changing lighting conditions and background colors. Having such a large filled reticle area helps capture the eye and while the fine center lines may be lost in darker woods, the bold crosshairs will always present the highest level of contrast to anything other than a pitch black target / background. The thin crosshairs will allow you the precision you need for solid shooting when you can settle into the optic. Illumination via weaponlight gives you nice black crossbars that let you bracket the target quickly.
So I hope I made a somewhat convincing argument for traditional crosshair G4 style reticles. Think of the thick crossbars as a backup for unique lighting conditions where illuminated reticles may have washed our or batteries fail. Many of the optics coming to the market continue to eschew the traditinal reticle design for very spartan and hard to see reticle designs, and they lean heavily on illumination to make the reticle catch the eye. While optics have come a long way in terms of the technology inside the tube, not every design has been an improvement over traditional heavy woods G #4 style reticles. Imagine having a short dot (exampled above) on low illumination while roaming around a dark area, and then needing to splash the target with your 600 lumen weapon light for proper ID. You just washed out your illumination. Incorporating some of the design elements of the G4 reticle would improve many of the existing reticle designs which feature thin, hard to find reticles.
I hope you keep some of the above in mind when choosing a do all optic. Many of us will go through a variety of products before finally settling on a design that works for us, and I hope to save some readers the money I wasted on thousands of dollars of optics to come to this conclusion.
On a special note, Atibal will be releasing a 1-6 Japanese optic with some of the design considerations mentioned above. We had a nice conversation on the utility of optics certain optics on the market, and I believe we both made some headway into a reticle design which will aid your shooting in many scenarios. I can’t wait to see the final product and appreciate Jimmy receiving my input.