In fall 2018, weapons experts at the annual Marine Corps meeting on all things marksmanship warned that without action on a shortage of working rifle optics, shooters at The Basic School in Virginia, Parris Island in South Carolina, and Weapons and Field Training Battalion at Edson Range in California would face “critical impact” on training within six to 12 months.

A combination of a shortage and a number of damaged rifle combat optics used on the M4 carbine had prompted the warning.

That issue arose in a recent Marine administrative message posted online reviewing findings from the October 2018 “Combat Marksmanship Symposium,” held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

The message noted that there were “ongoing efforts to reduce the immediate training impact redistribution across the total force.”

Often equipment is prioritized for deployed or soon-to-deploy troops, meaning support units and sometimes training units might not get the full allotment of gear that is needed.

Headquarters Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Karoline Foote responded Wednesday to a Marine Corps Times request regarding the potential shortfall and critical impact.

“The issues with the RCOs referenced in the message were addressed well before any impact to Entry Level Training (ELT) occurred,” Foote wrote in an email. “A series of actions to include redistribution of assets, clarification of maintenance procedures and prioritization of maintenance actions ensured ELT requirements were met.”

Marine Corps Times also asked if the Corps had upped the number of RCOs it expected to purchase this year or for a short-term filler.

“There are no current plans to procure additional RCOs,” she noted.

The RCO used by Marines is made by the company Trijicon. According to congressional budget documents, the Marine Corps plans to by 231 RCOs in the coming fiscal year at a price of about $1,300 each.

In 2018, it bought 21 for $1,250 each. Before then documents showed the Corps bought 187 in the years immediately preceding.

The quantities were categorized as “replenishment” purchases, basically replacing lost or broken gear items but not increasing the total quantity of optics in the Marine inventory.

The RCO’s days are numbered anyway.

The Corps is developing the “squad common optic” to replace the RCO. Initial procurement funding of $19 million is in the current budget request, though there are no quantities listed.

Maj. Kenneth Kunze told Marine Corps Times in an email that procurement of the SCO is expected to begin next year and continue for the next five or more years.

What the Marine Corps told industry back in 2017 was that it want a variable optic that lets shooters use it for both up close targets out to between 600–900 meters and weigh less than 2.1 pounds, according to the original government posting.

It needs to have a field of view of at least 18 degrees and an illuminated central aiming point and work on the M4, M16 and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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