Trijicon TA33: The Most Underrated ACOG
For over a decade now the go-to answer to the question “what magnified optic should I get?” has been the Trijicon TA31, colloquially known as the ACOG. What a surprising amount of people don’t know is that the ACOG is not a single scope but rather a line of fixed-magnification compact optics that stem from the original TA01 4×32 Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight that was first debuted during the 1987 Advanced Combat Rifle trials. While the TA01 and TA31 are the most common optics to be known as the ACOG, there are a slough of other sights in the line that share the same telltale signs of a Trijicon product: high quality glass, a forged aluminum housing, a tritium-illuminated crosshair for night-time usage, and a well reticle for bullet drop compensation. In fact, the only thing these other optics don’t share with the aforementioned models would be the level of magnification, or so it would seem at first. After having used almost every ACOG under the sun, I can say with confidence that it is the TA33’s subtle differences in areas such as magnification, eye relief, field of view, overall optic size, and price that make it a significantly more user-friendly optic than other scopes in the line.
One of the first things anyone looking at the TA33 will notice is that it is only x3 magnification rather than the traditional x4 magnification that has been the industry standard for years now among fixed-mag optics. Sure, an insignificant difference at a glance, this can make a world of difference depending on what range you plan on shooting at. The Bindon Aiming Concept, which in theory allows you to shoot using the ACOG more like a collimator sight than a magnified optic, is a very nice theory indeed, but in practice it can get a little hairy with the TA31. However, I’ve never had this problem when shooting up-close with the TA33. I’ve taken the TA33 as close as 5 meters and as far out as 400 meters and shooting with it just feels natural at all distances in between. At distance the TA33 doesn’t feel like you’ve got too much magnification like you can sometimes experience on higher-magnification optics that turn gross motor skill shooting into a showcase of precision skills.
Another reason I put the TA33 above the TA31 is the eye relief, which makes a big difference in any scenario. With the TA31, you’re not going to be within the optic’s zone of eye relief unless you’ve got your rifle’s stock fully collapsed and your nose to the charging handle, but with the TA33 you’ve got some room to play around with both the stock and your facial placement. I find this especially nice when shooting ARs as it means you don’t necessarily need your nose to the charging handle to achieve a perfect sight picture, which means you’re going to the reduce the amount of gas, carbon, and oil you breathe in and wear on your face when shooting. This longer eye relief also makes shooting utilizing the BAC easier as you’ve got more room to play with when it comes to less-than-ideal cheek weld scenarios that can occur in extreme close quarters. Be it at a three gun match, hunting from a vehicle, or even out on a battlefield; you’re going to run into scenarios that present you with challenges that the TA31 occasionally cannot cope with thanks to it’s eye relief, but the TA33 doesn’t have that problem as it boasts the greatest eye relief in the line, eking out almost 5″ of practical-use eye relief.
Another ace up the sleeve of the TA33 is the excellent field of view it provides. While it has the worst of what I call the “big three” ACOGs (the TA31, TA11, and TA33), it’s still nothing to scoff at when compared to other ACOGs and even less so when compared to most other scopes on the market. On top of having an above-average field of view down the optic, the minute design allows you to keep your situational awareness up close where it would otherwise be lost partially on the TA11 and almost completely on the TA31. Tunnel vision can adversely affect your performance as a shooter, and I think the TA33 strikes the perfect balance of what you can see up close compared to what you can see down range.
The real cherry on top of it all is the price you can find the TA33 for: A measly $700 if you look in the right places. My TA33 was a direct trade for an Aimpoint T-2 on AR15.com and when I last checked a couple months ago these trades and sales were still attainable. In an almost comedic example of prejudices proven right, the majority of the optics I found while searching were never used. When I got mine it still looked as if the case had never before seen the light of day much less been opened. If, for some reason, you find yourself skeptical of buy/sell/trade websites, forums, and groups you can always snag a TA33 on Amazon for as low as $1078, which is around $200 cheaper than your standard TA31.
It’s safe to say that the TA33 is an ACOG just like any other, but it’s the ACOG I’ve hitched my wagon to out of the ACOG line. While it might not be the best optic Trijicon has ever put out, it is a strong contender and is, in my opinion, the best ACOG for beginners simply due to the forgiving eye relief and less-intimidating price point alone. For what you’re getting, the TA33 is more than worth the cost.