Faulty Rifle Sight Still Being Used by U.S. Military

photo from reddotsights.com

This is why every rifle should have back-up iron sights.

Back in November of last year, L-3 Communications, the giant parent company that owns, among many other things, EOTech and had reported revenue in excess of $12.6 billion in 2013, quietly settled a suit for $25.6 million that claimed it knowingly supplied the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies with thousands of defective holographic weapon sights that malfunction in extreme hot and cold conditions.

According to this story from the Washington Post, four months later, the sights used by thousands of U.S. service members have not been recalled or replaced, say military officials. The defective EOTech Holographic Weapons Sights have been issued by every branch of the military, the FBI, the State Department, and local law enforcement agencies.

The story says the sight is still being used by units under Special Operations Command (SOCOM), including Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, Marine Corps Special Operation units, and some parts of Delta Force and SEAL Team Six, according to Navy Cmdr. Matthew Allen, a spokesperson for SOCOM. The Marine Corps also has thousands of the EOTech sights in service.

What’s the specific problem? It’s known as thermal drift. When temperatures reach around 122 degrees, the holographic reticle begins to drift without the user knowing and the point of impact begins to shift, causing rounds to hit up to 12 inches off from center in various directions. The sights also don’t like things too cold, as the Norwegian military found out back in the winter of 2007, when temperatures below 20 degrees caused the sights to fail, expanding and distorting the crosshairs.

And because it’s a weather-related problem, it could be particularly deadly because users likely wouldn’t realize the sight was malfunctioning until their life depended on it. The rifle could shoot dead on zero in the morning, but as temperatures climb through the day, it could be off by as much as a foot at 300 yards. It's a particularly big problem in places like Afghanistan, where temperatures can vary wildly throughout a 24-hour period and in different regions.

EOTech was paid "tens of millions of dollars" for sights that were supposed to perform in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and in humid weather, according to the story. The government's suit actually accuses L-3 and EOTech of scheming to defraud the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. The suit also names EOTech's president, Paul Mangano.

According to the story, EOTech tried to fix the cold-weather problem, but never told the Pentagon about the Norwegian’s discovery, since by then it had purchased the sights in large numbers, according to the lawsuit from 2015.

Court records say a sales and marketing employee wrote an email to EOTech's co-founder about concerns over the company not properly disclosing the cold-weather problems.

From the story:

“‘Is it worth risking one person’s life on this? What if there is a guy in the mountains in Afghanistan, and he brings up his sight…on the enemy who has the drop on him with an AK?’ the employee wrote. 'He takes aim as quickly as possible and puts a shot that misses wide due to the distortion of the reticle. He’s dead a fraction of a second later…This is a dramatic example, but this is the risk that is posed the longer the end-user is unaware of the risk.'

“In spring 2008, EOTech presented the problem to the U.S. military and said it had a solution, according to the lawsuit.

photo from opticsplanet.com.

“In its proposal, the company stated that EOTech “has not received a single report of a problem from the field regarding optical performance of the sight at cold temperature” and failed to mention that the Norwegians had rejected the sights because the issue could put their soldiers’ lives at risk, according to the government’s complaint. The firm claimed that the fix was undertaken on the company’s own initiative, the lawsuit said.”

But that’s not all. Apparently soldiers, Marines, and cops can’t rely on the sight in the jungle, or Jersey in July, either. According to the lawsuit, despite EOTech claiming its sights were waterproof after being submerged 66 feet underwater, they weren’t. Because of faulty seals, the sights would accumulate moisture in humid environments, causing the crosshairs to fog on the inside of the unit, making the crosshairs dim. The court records allege EOTech knew about the problem for years, but didn’t tell the U.S. military about it until March 2013 when a video appeared on YouTube showing the crosshairs fading.

It was the FBI that finally discovered the thermal drift issue in 2015 at its ballistic research facility, when agents noticed hot or cold temperatures were causing the reticle to move, unbeknown to the user. The FBI presented EOTech with evidence of the problem. In November, the government sued the company for fraud. The company settled on the same day the suit was filed, the story says, for $25.6 million.

The Post story says EOTech has been paid about $24 million for the sights.

Now, after the settlement, a disclaimer is included with the equipment regarding the thermal drift issue. In December 2015, Mangano resigned and he refused to speak with the Washington Post for their story.

The Marines told the Post the Corps continues to use 6,000 of the sights purchased between 2007 and 2012. Sights issued in those years had the most serious issues.

Anthony Tai, an EOTech co-founder who later served as the company’s CTO until 2011, said in the story that the company should have recalled the sight. Tai was one of the original designers of the sight and was consulted on the product’s issues before he departed the company, the lawsuit says.

Some agencies have already deep-sixed the EOTech.

“During an October visit to the FBI’s armory, agency personnel were seen disposing of the sights in bulk...Allen said EOTech is not fulfilling any new contracts with the military’s Special Operations forces. But EOTech has not been prohibited from 'submitting for future business.’”

For the full story from the Washington Post, go here.