“Movement” I whispered quietly while signaling back to my squadmates. We were in a small pre-deployment training center in Texas and the heat was relentless. The movement was across a ridgeline that, if followed, would lead to a small collection of buildings that we were holding. Waves of rising heat distorted the small dots that moved across the ridgeline perhaps 600 meters away. I raised my M4A1 and rested the stock on top of my shoulder and craned my neck to peer through my ACOG gunsight, a 4x optic designed for combat usage. With the magnification I could make out that they were enemy based on their clothing. They had however by this time slipped into cover.
When the gunfight erupted perhaps an hour later in the confines of the village we were in, the 4x magnification of the ACOG severely limited my ability to accurately deliver simunition rounds into the bounding opposing forces as they advanced upon us. Raising my rifle to my eye and looking through the ACOG I only saw a corner of a doorway, or the blur of clothing. Tracking targets in close quarters came down to instinctive snap shooting. Successful shots at mid-range occurred due to familiarity with your optic and excellent reflexes. A reflex sight or holographic sight would have been much better suited to this particular engagement. However at times due to the varying terrain, magnification was sorely needed for engagement or target identification.
Weapon optic technology has advanced at a breakneck pace the last 15 years as the Global War on Terror has necessitated advances in war fighting. One of these advances has been the melding of magnified optic and reflex sight in what we see today as variable powered optics that go from true 1x to 5-6x magnification. Many companies put out excellent products for various purposes and many companies build them with combat in mind. Enter the Steiner M5Xi, it is built rugged and over-engineered in Germany to withstand the rigors of combat. You may know Steiner for their excellent IR laser/IR Illumination products. In any case the company is very familiar with the rigors that non-permissive environments can put on products.
The Steiner M5Xi is a 30mm tube which has an illuminated rapid dot reticle with easy to use bullet drop marks. The illuminated dot has 7 night settings and 4 day settings. The great thing about the dot settings is that between each of the settings there is an off position. This way you can turn your optic directly onto the setting you are most used to so that you don’t have to scroll through the entire wheel of settings. There is a demarcation point between the night and day setting as well on the brightness turret. The elevation and windage adjustments are positive and “clicky”. Zeroing this optic was extremely easy and intuitive. Each click is 0.1 mrad, which is as precise as I need on my particular rifle. Steiner optics also have a re-settable zero in case you want to change the elevation values and need to return to your zero.
The Steiner feels like a true 1x both eyes open optic. It isn’t however nearly as forgiving as a red dot. So don’t come in expecting that type of 1x performance. The Steiner has a 4.3 inch eye relief which in use I’ve found to be true. The red dot is sensitive to head placement in that if your head isn’t at the correct location the dot will fade to an almost unusable level however the reticle will still be visible. Regarding the brightness it is daylight bright but not “gazing in the Aimpoint Sun bright”. It is plenty usable on a bright day. I haven’t seen any dot bleeding though some people have complained about that being an issue. The Steiner M5Xi is a 2nd focal plane reticle meaning that when zoomed, the size of the reticle will remain constant. The lever which adjusts the zoom had raised rubbed grips with a fin that makes changing the magnification level simple. The lever is stiff but not so much that it is a pain to turn, it also spins smoothly which helps with the overall stiffness.
The M5Xi is heavy at 21.2 ounces but still less than the Vortex Razor HD Gen II which comes in at 25.2 ounces. Still, it’s a consideration as it is a lot of weight to add to your rifle though at the same time, it adds a lot of capabilities. The weight does sit further back on your rifle and while noticeable was not terrible and I was still able to run through multiple drills without my arms feeling fatigued. Depending on the length and setup of your rifle you may need to find a mount that appropriately places the optic to help with both eye relief and weight distribution.
Running rapid CQB transition drills with this optic was interesting. I could get the same approximate time running this vs the Aimpoint micro T-1. However I found that it was more difficult to keep up with the Aimpoint due to the fact that I had to worry about cheek-weld and eye relief much more when shooting in unconventional positions. The reticle and dot were however very fast to pick up in rapid target transition and the field of view at 1x is large and clear through the excellent Steiner glass.
I’ve fired 300 rounds while looking through the Steiner M5Xi so far and I’m planning on hitting 1500 total before I put out a definite verdict on it, though I will say this. It’s a bomb-proof, fog proof, durable optic with an excellent reticle that is easy to see at CQB ranges and at distance. The clear glass and easy to use magnification adjustments make it a pleasure to use. Don’t expect the 1x on this to be on the level of an Aimpoint or a Trijicon MRO however I’ve found it to be quick and intuitive. The Steiner M5Xi retails for around $2599.99 from Optics Planet. There is also a more 3-gun friendly version known at the T5Xi which has some different features that I’ll go over in another article that retails for 1399.99.