I've been in the market for a red dot sight (RDS) for my homeland defense rifle for a while now. I tried some of the low price offerings to much disappointment, mostly around the mount loosening up after a half a magazine. It's hard to suck up paying hundreds of dollars for a little glowing dot, but if you want to put a RDS on your carbine, it's the price you've got to pay.
Why add an RDS at all? Try one out and you'll know why. Both eyes open target acquisition becomes much faster and instinctive, from short range out to long range. It makes a big difference in all around shootability, which is why red dots have become standard issue on the carbines of armed professionals everywhere. If you're serious about setting up your TEOTWAWKI rifle for the best performance in combat conditions, a professional-grade red dot optic is a very worthy investment.
My previous experience with red dots has been with a $40 Bushnell sight, and a Primary Arms micro dot, both of which had problems falling loose under recoil. The PRO is my first "service grade" red dot purchase, though I have experience with magnified scopes in a similar price range and played around with most of the other major optics.
The Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO) came out last year as an entry level offering targeted to the law enforcement community. It's based off Aimpoint's legendary CompM2 and features the top-of-the-line features you would expect from an Aimpoint optic. For a while, the PRO was only available to law enforcement or military, but Aimpoint opened up sales to civilians earlier this year.
The PRO hits the $400 price point, which includes the excellent QRP2 mount. Aimpoint's micro red dots are hundreds of dollars more and come without a mount--you're looking at $600 to $700 to get into one of these. The competition around $400 comes from EOTech's holo sights, and generally you're looking at their older models like the 512 for the $400 mark - the XPS models are closer to $500.
I'm not a huge fan of the EOTech's fiddly controls, at least when compared to the Aimpoint's "set-it-and-forget-it" 3 year constant on battery life. The EOTech has to be turned on, and if I remember right, dialed up to the desired brightness every time. If I need my carbine in a hurry, I don't want to be messing with my optic. Furthermore, reports of less-than-stellar reliability and a complicated reticle took the EOTechs out of the running for me.
During initial unboxing, the PRO impresses. The PRO has a solid, rugged feel in hand. It feels like it will have no problemo standing up to whatever you throw at it. Heck, if you need to, you can go SCUBA diving with the PRO - it's waterproof down to 150 feet. The included documentation (for the Comp series) goes through a list of extreme weather conditions--extreme heat, extreme cold, salt air, and so on--and "no special procedures required" comes up more than anything else.
Threads on the battery compartment and adjustment turrets operate smoothly. The included scope covers work well - they slip on easily but firmly, and the front cover is spring loaded and pops open quickly for immediate use.
The QRP2 rail grabber mount comes attached to the optic, and it's very easy to mount on standard Picatinny rail. Pop-in the included battery and you can have the PRO mounted in a couple of minutes. A nice feature of the QRP2 mount is that it's designed to not let you over tighten the mount on your rail - once you've reached the desired tightness, a spring kicks in and won't let you tighten it more. The QRP2 mounts very securely...there's not wobble or play at all, which is exactly what you want. While the QRP2 is not a quick release mount, it's only going to be marginally slower if you need to remove the optic due to damage/malfunction in a firefight--twist the know a few turns and it's off.
The PRO's red dot is 2 MOA in size, which is a good size for fast acquisition while still allowing for some more precise aiming. There are 6 day light settings and 4 night vision settings--setting 7 is what Aimpoint recommends leaving the optic on in order to achieve the 30,000 hour battery life. Setting 7 is pretty good for indoor, lower light or cloudy day uses...if it's bright and sunny out you will probably need to dial it up a notch or two in order to get good visibility of the dot. The below picture actually makes the dot look a little bit bigger than it is.
When I zeroed in the PRO, it was a bight, sunny day in the desert, so I clicked up to setting 9 in order to get strong visibility from the dot. Once I was on paper, dialing the dot in to the bullseye was a simple enough task. The adjustment turrets are easy to access--unscrew the protective caps on the side and top of the optic. The turrets are adjusted with a coin or similar sized tool. Adjustment is in 1/2 MOA increments, and the turrets have a nice positive click to them, which is helpful when dialing in. Once properly sighted in, I was getting groups of around an inch at 50 yards with M193.
And yes, you must spend time and get the optic sighted in properly. Don't just slap the RDS on your weapon and line it up with your irons and call it done. I did that prior to the range trip and my initial shots weren't even on target...anywhere. Please, spend the time and effort to get the optic properly sighted in, dead-center of target.
Shooting with an optic like this is a different, improved experience. It's a heck of a lot easier to shoot with two eyes open, and your field of view is less obstructed by iron sights. This has two positive effects--one, you can see more of what's happening around you, and two, it makes it easier to see where your shots are impacting, at least for me. The dot is fast and intuitive - just put the red dot of doom where you want the rounds to go, versus lining up iron sights.
What surprised me was the level of long range accuracy I was able to get. After sighting in and going through a magazine or two, I moved out to steel targets at the 200 and then 300 yard line. My hit percentage increased dramatically, and I was hitting torso-sized gongs at these ranges with satisfying regularity and speed. When there was a miss, the better field-of-view afforded by the PRO allowed me to better track where the shot hit and adjust from there.
I've got about 200 rounds down range with the PRO thus far, and I'm very satisfied with it, despite initial reluctance to drop $400 on a red LED dot. If you've got a carbine in need of a red dot and have budget constraints, the Aimpoint PRO the best buy on the market.
Even the extra $200 to $300 spent on one of Aimpoint's micro red dots will only net you 20,000 extra hours of battery life and save you 6 or 7 ounces of weight over the PRO.
The Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic is now available from a wide variety of sources on the Interweb, including Amazon.