The Trijicon ACOG is a battle-tested optic that has seen use worldwide in military, law enforcement, defensive, and recreational applications. I’ve owned a TA31 (Marine Corps version) since 2009 and ran it through its paces. Originally, it was my go-to optic for my personal rifle that saw use for training, competition, and home defense but has been primarily used as a range queen on a personally owned select fire rifle. While a fantastic optic and worth every penny, the price of $1,074 isn’t necessarily satisfactory for those looking to get “quality” at a discounted price. So, what happens when you go for the “economy” version of the ACOG? That question, with some absurdity, is answered today.
The Wish.com ACOG
Some months ago, a friend of mine told me he purchased a knockoff ACOG off wish.com for a mild $60. I chuckled at his purchase but it got my mental hamster wheel spinning. Just how well does a bootleg optic, at 1/18th the price, hold up to shooting? I approached my friend with the idea to run his bootleg ACOG through the paces to see just how durable and reliable it was under normal, as well as extreme, use.
Once I had the opportunity to inspect the optic against my tried and trusted one, I immediately noticed some differences. The windage and elevation dial caps were not wired to the optic frame as observed on the real ACOG. The windage and elevation adjustments were also a slot style as opposed to the serrated knobs on a genuine TA31. Furthermore, the “Trijicon ACOG” lettering was not raised and was printed on the optic. I was surprised at the clarity of the glass and the reticle appeared much the same — complete with functioning fiber optic illuminated reticle. In the hand, the optic doesn’t feel much different nor does it look dramatically different from the real thing. The housing does appear less durable and more cheaply made than an actual ACOG.
When my friend arrived for range day, he mounted the Wish.com ACOG to his PSA KS-47 for sight-in. The KS-47 was fed a steady diet of a mixture of cheap Russian 7.62x39mm ammo throughout the day. After all, a cheap bootleg optic should only be fed the poorest ammunition. It seemed justifiable at the time.
At approximately 25 yards, we sighted the optic in and shockingly discovered the elevation and windage adjustments tracked somewhat appropriately. Within a dozen rounds, the optic was sighted in to the standard of “close enough” and we were ready to run it through its paces. The main question to answer was how well the optic held up to recoil and maintained zero. It’s worth noting we didn’t observe any suspicious weather balloons during this testing nor afterward that directly or indirectly affected our results.
The rifle was fed a little over 200 rounds of 7.62x39mm. We giggled as the steel plates continued to ring out with hits out to the maximum available distance of 50 yards. We were already surprised that it held zero and the optic wasn’t launched into the stratosphere under recoil.
After the 200-round 7.62 appetizer, the optic was placed on a select-fire M16 and ran through two mags under sustained fully automatic fire. After completion of the second magazine, the optic developed a mild issue that isn’t normal for a true ACOG. The four screws that affix the objective lens to the body of the optic worked loose. I don’t mean a little loose, but a lot loose (as in multiple turns). After some less-than-precise application of torque from my Wheeler toolset, the objective was tight and we resumed our shenanigans. At this point, we agreed it was time to put the scope through heavier recoil and see what it was (or was not) capable of withstanding.
In testing this optic, we may have gotten a little ridiculous. Then again, it’s an ACOG with a side of stolen valor. The JROTC version of Special Forces, but I digress. For the next test, we knew the optic needed to undergo heavier recoil — even if it meant looking ridiculous in the process. Enter the Saiga-12.
The Saiga-12 has been a fixture in my collection for some time and sported a lovely 20-round drum mag loaded with 12 gauge 9-pellet 00 buckshot. Accessories are plentiful for the Saiga and one of its benefits is its acceptance of 20-round drum magazines. Due to the mounting platform of the Saiga, the optic was mounted too far forward for useful sighting. Several of us commented this ACOG’s eye relief was noticeably shorter than the real deal. If you’re unfamiliar with the ACOG, the eye relief is exceptionally short to start. Thus, this venture was exceptionally terrifying when used with heavier recoil firearms where the optic was mounted more to the rear. The Saiga blasted through 20 rounds of buckshot much to our enjoyment. Meanwhile, the optic held on for dear life without any obvious external issues sans the earlier loose screws.
For the final test, we discussed mounting to a Howitzer or M1 Abrams. Unfortunately, despite extensive efforts, we fell short and settled on mounting the optic to a Barrett M82A1 CQB .50 BMG. This rifle may have fallen from a suspicious balloon that passed overhead or not. I’ll leave our acquisition of this weapon to the reader’s imagination. The .50 BMG is quite the boomer of a cartridge. For comparison, a 55-grain .223 projectile exits the barrel at roughly 3,000 fps. The .50 BMG obtains similar velocity except with a projectile weighing 12 times that amount (660 grains or approximately 1.5 ounces). It’s the difference between getting hit by a bicycle or getting hit by a Honda at 20 mph. Neither are pleasant to experience, but one has more guaranteed negative outcomes for the recipient.
The optic was mounted to the top rail of the Barrett and thoroughly tightened. There was a consensus of doubt the screws would hold up to such recoil but we were willing to accept that in the name of science. As covered earlier, the eye relief is somewhat short on this optic compared to the real deal. To say this was unsettling when placed on top of a .50 BMG is an understatement. Fortunately, none of us left with blurred vision, lacerations, or a concussion as a consequence of the short eye relief atop a .50.
The Barrett’s magazine was loaded with 10 spicy rounds of .50 BMG and I stepped in as the sacrificial lamb. After five rounds (including three rapid fire), nothing appeared loose, broken, or damaged. The remainder of the magazine was finished off with nothing worthy of further commentary besides some impressive muzzle blasts in the dust and gravel from the .50.
Returning to Zero
After the dust settled, the discount ACOG was returned back to its current home on the KS-47. We immediately recognized an issue as the point-of-aim and point-of-impact were not the same. At no point during the testing did we change zero or adjust windage or elevation from initial zero to returning the scope to the KS-47. The optic drifted approximately six inches right and eight inches low at 25 yards during testing. This is a substantial change of zero from start to finish.
After re-zeroing, which was achieved to our surprise, the KS-47 gave the optic another ride of approximately 90 rounds of 7.62x39mm. The discount ACOG still appeared to maintain zero and steel hits continued to ring out consistently out to 50 yards.
Is the Knockoff as Good as the Genuine?
I didn’t have high hopes for a $60 optic to perform well under repeated, sustained recoil. Surprisingly, it held zero relatively well under the mild recoil of an intermediate caliber like 7.62x39mm. Unfortunately, the optic didn’t maintain zero when exposed to more pronounced recoil nor did the components hold up. While it’s easy to tighten the occasional loose screw, I would prefer not to fix gear that shouldn’t break and want confidence my equipment can sustain some basic wear and tear. The Wish.com ACOG didn’t provide that kind of reassurance.
On first appearances, a knockoff ACOG can appear comparable to a genuine one. Appearances are deceiving and, if the price doesn’t match the purported quality, it’s probably not going to perform to that standard. A real ACOG will not lose zero nor should you see the screws work loose. The cost of a real ACOG is worth the quality, durability, and reputation against a cheap imitation. While we’re impressed the imitation somewhat held up, it’s not worth it to get catfished by an optic because it looks like the real deal but is cheap. Inexpensive optics have a place but they also have a more limited range of applications. Would I bet my life on an optic from wish.com? Simply, no. As a mentor once said to me, “There are durable scopes. There are cheap scopes. However, there are rarely durable cheap scopes.”