The reflex sight is arguably one of the most important recent developments in small arms technology. I’ve read assertions that first round hit probability is tremendously increased with the proper use of reflex sights, especially on moving targets, and I’m certainly inclined to agree. Aimpoint was the first manufacturer to create such sights, but a company that followed closely behind them was Elbit Systems of Israel, who created the Falcon optical gunsight.
I was able to acquire a Falcon reflex sight recently, and had a chance to put it through its paces. More after the break!
When you look at the Falcon, the first thing you notice is that it’s huge compared to modern reflex sights like the Eotech and Mepro RDS, nevermind the diminutive Aimpoint T-1. It is basically the length of your typical AR-15 upper receiver.
When you pick it up, you notice something else: it’s heavy. VERY heavy. And it also feels like it’s built like a tank. You see pictures of Elbit Falcons on IDF M16s that look like they’ve been abused horribly, but if you ever held one in your hand, you’d completely understand why they’re still functional.
The dot is projected on the window by means of a dot projector in the rear of the sight. This is very reminiscent of the C-More and Trijicon RMR setups, but seems less likely to get blocked by sand or water due to the huge size of the projector. The dot itself is pretty small – I’d guesstimate 2MOA – but is well-defined. The window has a noticeable blue tint.
Speaking of which, from my research, it seems as if the IDF generally used the Falcon MkI. If you look closely at the pictures of IDF Falcons, you can usually see a few differences in how the body of the sight is cast, especially above the dot projector. I have no idea if there are any major differences between the MkI and MkII – to my knowledge, IDF-surplused Falcons never hit the import market.
The sight comes with flat-top picatinny and M16A1/2 mounts. As the Falcon pre-dates the M4, the flat-top mount does not work with the larger M4 handguards, as the front of the sight will hit the handguard. You need to use M16A2 or CAR15 handguards, or other equivalent handguards that don’t rise above the upper receiver rail. I didn’t have an opportunity to test out the M16 mount, as the sight I bought didn’t come with it.
The sight adjusts using the usual adjustment wheels at the back of the sight. These have coin turn slots, and it appears you could use a cartridge tip to push them. Turning by finger seemed difficult and uncomfortable. Power is turned on by twisting a small lever down. Brightness is auto-adjusting, but you can control the brightness using a knob of sorts at the front of the sight. Next to that knob is the battery compartment.
The Falcon takes a 3.6v battery, which is not exactly a standard item at your local grocery store. I’m using Ultrafire 14500 3.7v batteries with mine, and these appear to work OK. The usage of weird batteries is somewhat less uncommon with earlier reflex sights, but it’s jarring in this modern age of sights taking AAs, CR2032s, and CR123s.
When testing out the Falcon, I was surprised at how dim the dot was on the highest brightness setting. In dim light, it got VERY dim, and in normal room light, it wasn’t anything to write home about – I could see where you might get washout in some situations. Again, this is one of those subjects where modern red dots spoil you… even my Holosun and Bushnell sights are capable of quite a bit of output when called upon. It could be my Falcon is old and is therefore not as bright, but it seemed like it was in working order… the dot is generated by an LED, which is going to work or not work.
Another problem I noticed was that if I deployed my polymer front BUIS inside in a situation where the light was mostly coming from a single source, the light sensor on the Falcon seemed to pick up a lot less light, and therefore adjusted the dot to be much dimmer than it should be. In a situation with lots of ambient light (outside in the sun), this isn’t a problem, but I’m a bit skeptical of this sight’s ability to work reliably in an indoor environment, or when shooting from a dark environment into a light environment. To be fair, most auto-adjusting-brightness sights have this issue.
The ability to use BUIS with the Falcon is a bit mixed. The Falcon is pretty high, and if your front post is on the lower side of adjustment, you will be unable to use your BUIS. My initial testing of this optic was on a 9mm carbine sighted in at 25yds with the FAB Defense BUIS, so I was able to use them. I am not so convinced you’d be able to use BUIS if they were sighted in for a longer distance. Part of me wonders whether the IDF trained its soldiers to use the window as a sort of ghost ring for this purpose, but I have no information on this. My gut feeling is that the IDF didn’t have a lot of problems with this sight failing, but batteries always die at inconvenient times.
If you could simply pull the sight off the rifle, of course, that would make the BUIS situation less of a problem. But the mount isn’t QD, and I don’t know of a source for the ARMS levers that the IDF was using. As it is, you’ll need to unscrew it using a tool, and if you’re under fire, I’m guessing that’s a pretty poor option.
Another unexpected situation with the Falcon and BUIS was that polymer flip-ups seemed to block the light sensor enough to dim the dot in indoor situations where you wouldn’t want it dimmed. The Falcon was used on rifles that had fixed front sights, so I can see how this wouldn’t be an obstacle for IDF usage… just be aware of it on other rifles.
On the outdoor range, the Falcon was easily visible in daylight, which was a bit of a contrast to my indoor testing. I was not thrilled with the lack of tool-less point of impact adjustments, but this seems to be par for course for non-Aimpoint-style sights. It performed very well on the 9mm AR-15 carbine I tested it on (better than the carbine itself, but that’s a story for another day).
What you wind up with in the end is a tough-as-nails, military-grade sight that is obsolete (but not unusable) in 2017. You could go to war with the Elbit Falcon, but, simply put, there are better options now. The accumulated issues with the Falcon are probably why the IDF transitioned to the MARS, Mepro 21, MOR, and Mepro M5. Those sights mitigate or avoid the issues that the Elbit Falcon had.