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Pushing the Optic Envelope: The Road to TacomHQ’s Alpha and Charlie Tarac’s and Axeon Optics Second Zero

Throughout history man has been keenly interested in lobbing a rock just a little further, a little faster, a little more accurately than the other guy. Nothing has changed with this concept. When the rock gave way to the spear, the spear was optimized and the spear thrower, likewise, honed his skills to ensure that whether in the battle for his life or the battle for his supper he was successful. In time the spear gave way to the atlatl, a form of spear that can be hurled with much greater speed than a regular old spear. If you can add speed, you can add range and accuracy, the odds of going home hungry or just going home change. In time the atlatl then gave way to the bow and arrow. The science and practice of such skills would best be described as existential, a word that is very much over used these days.

At some point the Chinese learned how to make a magic powder that made a lot of smoke and a lot of boom. In a flash, historically speaking, this powder was found to be really effective in pushing a projectile from a tube. Scaled up it would become artillery, scaled down it would become the musket. The one that spoke to the hunter and warrior was what would be known later as the rifle. Each small improvement in the development of the firearm made the devices better for their intended purpose. And then, there came a plateau. But that was much later.

With each advance an edge was gained for the warrior and hunter. The edge helped insure survival of both for yet another day. Yes, there are some ugly realities that were borne of the advancement in arms, especially when the technology development outpaced military strategy. The wholesale slaughter of World War I comes to mind. Yet these little, but profound, advancements- rifling, the metallic cartridge, smokeless powder, repeating actions—all of which added up to devices that could send more bullets faster and more precisely than was ever possible.

Shots Heard ‘Round the World

Some Connecticut Yankees, while not in King Arthur’s court, managed to actually transform the old smoke pole into something quite marvelous; the modern rifle. Some of the heritage rounds that were developed in the late 19th century, like the .22 LR, .45-70 Gov’t and .30-30 Winchester are still popular today, even though the technology and development of the metallic cartridge has yet to cease. Combine a modern, sleek and fast cartridge with a precisely made action and barrel and the shooting possibilities really start to boggle the mind. Even bargain-line bolt actions of nearly any make can shoot 1 MOA with factory ammo these days.

Image Courtesy of American Shooting Journal- The Whitworth RifleSpend a little dough on a custom action, good barrel, rock solid stock, and some good glass and the pursuit of accuracy is now entirely on the shooter’s shoulders. But before I get too wrapped up in what is possible today, let’s stroll back through some distance shooting records and pay attention to the time between those records.

In 1864, at the tail end of the American Civil War, an unknown Confederate sniper picked off a Union soldier from a distance of 1,390 yards. The shot was placed with a Whitworth rifle and while impressive, was actually taken during a ceasefire agreement.

In 1918, some 53 years later, SSgt Maj. Herbert Sleigh used a M1903 Springfield chambered in .30-’06 to kill an enemy soldier at 1,400 yards away. From that late WWI shot it would be about 49 years when in the Vietnam War Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock (White Feather) used the .50 caliber “Ma Deuce” M2 and an 8 power Unertl scope to center punch an enemy from a distance of 2,500 yards. It would be a Canadian Sniper, Aaron Perry, in Afghanistan that broke Hathcock’s record by using the same .50 caliber round, albeit from a rifle more refined for the task, hitting a Taliban soldier at 2,526 yards.

Photo Courtesy of American Shooting Journal-- Carlos Hathcock with his Winchester M70 and 8X Unertl Optic

During this era the mark kept creeping further out, but creeping is the emphasized concept here. Now it must be said that in the years since Hathcock made his name in the jungles of Southeast Asia the Western military apparatus finally decided to make a science of the sniper’s trade. Schools and technology coalesced around long range precision shooting and created scores of marksmen within the Armed Forces equipped with the skills to be surgically precise with a rifle from AT&T distances.

It became evident that there was a threshold for long range shooting which would require some clever thinking and extreme ballistic technology to overcome. Bullet makers were making slick, ballistically efficient projectiles that could cut through the air better than older designs and new chamberings were emerging that offered flatter trajectories specifically for extreme long range shooting. However, rifle scopes and scope bases could only be configured to a certain range of adjustment, and, if using an extreme scope base on a rifle to gain capability beyond 1,000 yards, it became less than ideal for ranges inside of 1,000 yards as the adjustment limitations on the optic flip.

Innovative Thinking, Record Breaking Results

The only thing missing was a way to land the bullet on a target when the range stretched out beyond 2,700 yards. This is where the brilliant mind of John Baker comes in. John is an optical engineer by trade and knew that the secret to unlocking real practical long range performance was in a concept that no one else had done before, at least not this way.

The idea was born from the prism. The prism bends light. A wedge prism set in front of an optic can bend the light entering the scope essentially offering a predetermined amount of correction, correction that would normally be dialed in through the elevation turret or via an angled scope base. With the correct prism in front of the glass the rifle could then be used to dial in additional correction for extreme long range shooting situations. The great benefit is that the rifle remains in the original configuration for shooting in normal ranges. But John’s prism could be installed and removed without limiting the functional range of the rifle.

It didn’t take long for John to realize that some other limiting factors needed to be addressed. A sniper isn’t going to carry around several prisms for various possible ranges that could be encountered. One device was all that was needed--one device that was adjustable. One device that could offer an insane amount correction. One device that would turn the long range precision shooting world on its ear. Thus, the Charlie TARAC was born. The Charlie device works like a periscope, an extremely precise periscope that is adjustable from 10 MILs to 120 MILs. For some perspective, one MIL is 3.6 inches at 100 yards. At 1,000 yards one MIL is 36 inches. 120 MILs is off the chart, in a manner of speaking (360 feet at 1,000 yards).

Somehow, someway, a sniper team from Canada got their paws on the Charlie TARAC. In May of 2017 they were hunkered down on a hill in Afghanistan when Taliban combatants appeared over two miles away. The shot was lined up, and about 10 seconds after the trigger was pulled an unnamed Canadian sniper had a confirmed kill at 3,871 yards. The previous record of 2,815 yards wasn’t just broken, it was shattered by over 1,000 yards.

Extreme Long Range Accuracy

Fast forward a year and I am with John and his son Jacob at the Winston P. Wilson/Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting (WPW/AFSAM) sniper competition at Fort Chaffee in my home state of Arkansas. The competition is over and it is vendor day. Vendor day means these warriors from all over the US and allied nations of Europe get to relax for a few minutes and have some fun burning ammo in some really cool gear that Uncle Sugar doesn’t own. Sniper team after sniper team settled in behind John’s ELR rifle equipped with a magical piece of gear that most of these teams had somehow heard about through the grapevine.

At various times I was able to witness John giving instructions to the teams. One occasion that really sticks out in my mind is when the team from Warrior Training Center (Camp Perry) made themselves at home behind John’s rifle and picked out a target somewhere on the rise of Potato Hill, the visual centerpiece of the vast impact area. From the firing line, the summit of Potato Hill is about 4,000 meters away. The target the WTC team settled on was 3,240 meters downrange.

“Spotter up.”
Dope was called. Dope was confirmed.
“Shooter ready.”
“Send it.”
I never heard the “it” let alone the “nd” of send. I did hear, a few seconds later, “Impact.”

What these soldiers and the Canadian sniper team from Joint Task Force 2 were using was the device invented by John Baker, the mastermind at tacomHQ. And that is how you make an impact beyond two miles and still have a rifle that is effective at all closer ranges. There’s no funky scope base that turns the rifle into a one-trick pony. Don’t need the Charlie? Take it off. Taking a shot outside of the scope’s adjustment range? Slap it on and go to work.

Genius Optics. Absolutely Genius.

Most of us mere mortals hardly ever get a chance to shoot 800 yards let alone break a record by a factor so great. The difference in this example John Baker. The difference was the Charlie TARAC.

John didn’t abandon the single correction prism concept throughout all of this. He just turned it application in another direction. The practical application of the wedge prism wasn’t for extreme long range shooting, but it could be really handy for practical intermediate range engagement. Most shooters spend the bulk of the shooting dollars lobbing lead at targets within 300 yards. The US Army also focuses on shooting within that 300 meter (327 yards) range. But both soldiers and civilians do, on occasion, get the chance to shoot at further ranges. However, shooters quickly learn successful shot placement at these ranges does require some additional correction.

It’s at these intermediate ranges that a fast shooting solution really shines. Engage, disengage, engage—hit, hit, hit. Hence the instant engagement of the Alpha TARAC wedge prism device. This “flip up, flip down” device steps in to provide an ideal shooting solution for that range where drop really starts to take effect. The Alpha TARAC prism really shines for shooters using red dot type sights, although LPVOs and prism scopes also stand to benefit from the ALPHA’s unique capabilities with equal proficiency.

The concept, as expressed by a USASOC (United States Army Special Operations Command) user of the Alpha TARAC, is to provide, “greater ability to engage enemy insurgents across distances greater than 300m and within 600m, utilizing point-and-shoot methodologies rather than complicated holdovers.”

And in answer to the unstated question, yes, like the Charlie TARAC, the instant engaging fixed correction Alpha TARAC has been used with positive results by US and allied soldiers in the sandbox.

Practical Intermediate Range Shooting Solutions

The possibilities of the above mentioned tools are thrilling to me and no doubt countless other shooters, hunters, and service people. With a reasonable degree of certitude, I can say that there are many folks who wear a uniform who have been thoroughly impressed by both iterations of the wedge prism concept. While you and I might never have the chance to shoot a target anything close to two miles, we often do have a chance to hunt and shoot at the intermediate 300 to 500 yards range. John came to us here at Axeon Optics in 2017 with an opportunity to open up the capabilities of the Alpha TARAC to the general public. Yes, tacomHQ is still in the business of making the Alpha and Charlie TARACs, along with some other really awesome gear. The Alpha is truly geared toward the rigors and hardships of Special Forces use and priced accordingly. What we were able to offer via this partnership is to make a version that is plenty tough enough for civilian use yet offer the same capabilities for correction at these longer intermediate ranges and diversify the fit of the device for nearly any scope or mounting system.

We first brought the Axeon Second Zero to the NSSF’s Industry Day at the Range with tacomHQ in 2017. IDATR is a crowded place where tons of ammo is burned in not-so-remarkable new products every year in the Nevada desert in conjunction with SHOT Show. Oh, yes, there are some cool guns and optics there, but seldom is something presented that is really attention grabbing. The Axeon Optics/TACOM HQ rifle lane offered the media and industry professionals something way more interesting than a new wonder caliber or Christmas tree scope reticle. We brought a simple duplex reticle scope zeroed for 100 yards and the Second Zero, Axeon Optics version of tacomHQ’s Alpha TARAC.

The instructions to the shooters were simple. “Hold center on the steel at 100 yards.”
Tag.
*flip.
“Now hold center on the target a few degrees to the right and at 500 yards.”
Tag.
No gratuitous mag dump needed, the point was made in two shots. Three if the shooter jerked the trigger.

The Best Bargain in the Shooting and Hunting Industry

The good news is you can pick up the Second Zero shooting accessory in one of two mounting styles, Picatinny rail or scope objective bell and one of two MOA configurations tailored to recreational shooters as well as hunters, 4.3 and 11.5. The 4.3 MOA correction will put most high velocity rounds back on to a 9” target between 270 and 330 yards and the 11.5 MOA correction will do the same at about 480 to 520 yards. Now we are figuring this on the approximately 9” vital area of a standard white tail deer. If you are using a silhouette style target, the effective range for a hit will increase the yardage spread between the minimum and maximum ranges.

Trips to the range are always fun, but taking the Second Zero with me has bumped up the fun exponentially. Especially when there’s a newer shooter who hasn’t shot at anything beyond 100 yards. I’ll set them behind my rifle and offer simple instructions to the shooter and wait for the steel to ring out. With the question of where to aim out of the picture the shooter can concentrate making a proper squeeze on the trigger.

The rail mount Second Zero in front of Axeon Optics MDSR1 compact red dot sight.Here’s the good news for everyone: If you find yourself in the high-speed, low-drag crowd—go get the Alpha TARAC. And while you are browsing around on tacomHQ’s exemplary website, check out their Structured Barrels, Armor Optic, and the aforementioned Charlie TARAC. John and his crew are always working on something new and making the things they currently produce better. If you are the least bit skeptical or just excited to try something new and unique, scoot over to the Axeon Optics’ website and browse through are versions of the Second Zero. Really, for less than $70 what do you have to lose? Chances are you’ve spent more on cleaning equipment for your rifles than you will spend on the Second Zero. We truly believe that you’ll be thoroughly impressed with the Second Zero.

Mark Davis, avid outdoorsman, family man, and outdoors writer is the social media specialist for Axeon Optics.

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