Having been more than pleasantly surprised by Unity Tactical’s FAST Micro Mount, I wrote at length about it and the ergonomic and situational awareness benefits of a 2.26” optic centreline.
That piece is an essential companion to this article, because you can’t run the Unity Tactical FAST FTC Aimpoint Magnifier Mount without a 2.26 red dot or EOtech mount. I bought both Unity products from Tactical Kit.
Suffice to say that like the FAST Micro Mount, the FAST FTC is mainly composed of hard anodised A7075T6 – the standard for kit at this level. Surprisingly, it’s a mere 90g – which is relatively light for a magnifier mount.
Clearly I’ve opted for Unity’s FDE, although black is also available.
B. Unity FAST FTC Capabilities
1. No brainer: facilitates magnification
Self-evidently, the FTC extends a rifle’s capabilities by facilitating the use of a magnifier – in this case an Aimpoint 3XMAG-1.
I’ll review the magnifier at a later date, but suffice to say it exhibits three times magnification (3x). Crucially, it features improved eye relief (70mm vs. 55.8mm) and feels less bulky when compared to my previous magnifier – an EOTech G33.
The 3XMAG-1’s 70mm eye relief may not sound like a huge improvement over the G33’s 55.8, but it really is. And, indeed, the G33’s more limited eye relief is the reason I sold it.
I mention that here because as we’ll learn later, there are marginal postural benefits to be gained from using a magnifier with decent eye relief in synergy with the FTC’s 2.26 optic centreline.
2. Flips to centre
Unity’s FTC series (they also make a G33 mount) is unique amongst magnifier mounts. Not only does it correspond with their FAST optic mount series’ 2.26 height, but it features a novel Flip To Centre (FTC) mechanism.
2.1 Mechanism of action
I appreciate a smooth, solid detente. I’m happy to say that Unity’s FTC transitions in such a way; what the company calls ‘force-to-overcome’. It’s a rapid, satisfying, user friendly action. Just grip the magnifier with your support hand and flip it up to use – or down to stow.
2.2 Centred mass
The FTC keeps the magnifier’s mass centred over the rifle when compared to the more ubiquitous flip to side mounts made by Aimpoint, EOTech, Wilcox, et al.
Collapsing vertically when stowed, there’s no shift in weight to imbalance handling. As such, the rifle’s centre of gravity is largely unaffected longitudinally whether the magnifier is stowed or deployed.
To be fair, when I owned the G33 I didn’t think too much about this – or rather, I put up with the eccentric bias as one of the trade offs of carrying a magnifier. However, the performance of Unity’s FTC makes me realise the user can have their magnification cake and eat it.
This, of course, is a function only made possible by the 2.26 optic centreline and the additional folding space it provides. It’s like the Golden Ratio of optic mounts.
2.3 Snag hazard reduction
Something often overlooked with flip to side magnifiers is the snag hazard in confined spaces (or with the user’s sling) with the mount flipped open.
Unity’s FTC does away with this entirely, for the obvious reason that it always holds the magnifier above the rifle’s footprint – not exposed, hanging off to one side. For this reason it’s relatively low profile and snag-free.
3. Quick detach
To expedite removal of the FTC and magnifier (if the user needs to use BUIS, or for any other reason) the FTC comes compete with an awesome American Defense Manufacturing (ADM) QD throw lever mechanism.
As I’ve said many times before, ADM makes my favourite QD. Working on the face cam principle, it’s smooth, secure, easy to adjust, easy to use and adapts to a wide range of picatinny tolerances.
Therefore, it’s absolutely no problem removing the FTC and magnifier to store in a pouch or pocket – even in extremis. Replacing the unit on the rifle is correspondingly hassle-free.
C. Does the FTC Leverage The Benefits Of 2.26?
I’ve already mentioned 2.26 a number of times in this article and the reader is right to infer that I am highly positive towards it. But does the FTC fully leverage the benefits of the 2.26 optic centreline?
The answer is yes and no, because it depends on how it’s used.
The FTC’s 2.26 height does encourage a more natural stance and head position when compared with a lower third magnifier mount.
Nevertheless, the magnifier’s eye relief limitations rule supreme here. Cheek weld and head position largely will be constrained by its demands, and thus differ from those of 2.26 red dot use alone.
In addition, because during magnified use one eye is closed and the dominant eye is focused on a telescopic image, the user naturally loses many of the benefits of 2.26’s field of view and enhanced situational awareness.
Of course, the same can be said of any magnified optic – unless using the both-eyes-open Bindon aiming method.
1. Bindon aiming method
In this case the magnifier initially isn’t used for magnification at all, but as a Collimator (or occluded eye) gun sight. Therefore, the benefits of 2.26 in terms of situational awareness and a heads up posture are leveraged, until such time as the user achieves the required target acquisition. At this point the user drops their head to aim through the magnifier, closing their non-dominant eye:
In this both-eyes-open technique the brain superimposes the aiming reticle on the target. An added part of the technique is to shift focus after acquisition to the dominant eye/telescopic image for more accurate shooting. This overcomes the problem of centering or acquiring fast traversing targets common with all telescopic sights.Wikipedia
2. Illustration of aiming variations
The following sequence seeks to articulate visually, the three aiming variations I’ve been using with the 2.26 red dot and magnifier setup.
2.1 Heads up with red dot only
With the user’s head up and with both eyes open, optimal field of view and situational awareness is leveraged while using the red dot only, on its 2.26 Unity FAST Micro Mount.
2.2 Heads up with magnifier used Bindon style
Again with the user’s head up and with both eyes open, optimal field of view and situational awareness is diminished to a certain extent by close proximity of the user to the magnifier.
Nevertheless, the dominant eye perceives the magnified red dot while the non-dominant eye perceives the target and background at normal scale. For the majority, the brain merges the two images into something understandable (though inferior to using both eyes open with just the red dot). That being said, the user is still able to aim at closer targets in this way. Alternatively, they may move to adopt the magnifier as a telescopic sight for targets further away.
2.3 Magnifier used as telescopic sight
Here the user’s head is down (although not as low as lower third). Only the dominant eye is open, as the 3XMAG-1 is used as its name suggests – as a magnifier. Needless to say that field of view and situational awareness is greatly diminished.
Note that the user is much closer to the magnifier than in previous pics, but it still has relatively good eye relief.
D. Does The FTC Obscure Sight Picture When Stowed?
One question I had prior to using the FTC/3XMAG-1 aiming cluster, was whether it would occlude the user’s red dot sight picture with the magnifier in stowed position.
Much to my surprise, it doesn’t; not to any perceivable extent, anyway – although I guess this will vary from user to user. I strongly suspect we have the wonders of stereo vision and the occluded eye gun sight concept to thank for this phenomenon.
Curiously, the arrangement reminds me of an inverted Aimpoint CompM4:
The FTC/3XMAG-1 does detrimentally occlude the sight picture of the FAST mount’s built in BUIS when stowed or when deployed, however. Should the user be forced to use BUIS in the unlikely event of electro-optic malfunction, they’d need to remove the FTC.
Unity has clearly thought this through, because it’s easy to achieve using the ADM throw lever which comes as standard (unlike the FAST Micro Mount, where it’s an additional extra).
I guess the first thing to say in conclusion is whether there are any downsides to the Unity FAST FTC. It’s a struggle to think of any aside from the ergonomics of prone shooting. I must admit that I do like shooting prone and it’s a bit more challenging with the FAST mount series, but not unassailable. It may even be an improvement for some, as we’re all built differently.
I hope I’ve been careful to disaggregate the benefits of the FTC from those, simply, of using a magnifier. That said, I should note that I’ve found the additional capability of excellent eye relief absolutely compelling. In this case that’s augmented by the FTC, as its flip to centre action is so user friendly and efficient. It’s not like the user is moving the magnifier very far from stowed to deployed and it’s a rapid, simple action.
While this article is a companion to my review of Unity’s FAST Micro Mount, I didn’t anticipate writing as much as I have. But, the FTC is another well designed, feature-rich Unity product and to be fair when the review item is this classy the review pretty much writes itself.
With that being said, I wanted to shoot a lot of BBs at a lot of paper before I formed an opinion. There’s often a glow inherent to the early days of testing something new and I wanted to get past that. I never did, because the FTC is just so cool and usable.
Of course, it is a major investment because it’s not just a standalone item – it’s part of a comprehensive system. An individual can’t use the FTC with just any red dot mount or EOtech. They first need the FAST Micro or EO mount; then the FTC and a magnifier. It’s not an economical bundle.
But, the user doesn’t need to use an Aimpoint 3XMAG-1 as I’ve done here. They just need to find a magnifier with a 30mm diameter upon which the FTC can be secured (by its two chunky Torx bolts, no less). Just remember that the more limited the eye relief, the fewer the benefits of 2.26 can be leveraged with the magnifier deployed.
Unity Tactical products are available from Tactical Kit
It actually took a lot longer for me to decide which magnifier to buy, than whether I wanted to go ahead and get the FTC.
The FTC was a no brainer.
The chosen magnifier was never going to be another G33, but a chance conversation with blog contributor and long time Unity user Alex Dai gave me the direction I needed – thanks mate!
Check out Alex’s FBI HRT/SWAT style rifle.