> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Project AR-(20)15 - Follow-up Discussion: Optics

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2/15/15

Project AR-(20)15 - Follow-up Discussion: Optics

Had some good comments around optics in the prior post, and Ryan shared his thoughts on optic choices, so I thought some follow-up discussion was in order.

Aimpoint PRO vs Micro Dot
My current optic is an Aimpoint PRO. It's been very good, zero issues, and a solid choice for a $400 red dot w/ mount. Great budget conscious choice, but the only real reason that I can discern to run a PRO is if you can't afford the $200-ish extra for a H1, T1 or T2 Micro Dot.

Budget constraints aside, the Micros do the same thing for substantially less weight. The PRO weighs 11.6 ounces, where a Microdot weighs something like 5 ounces, depending on your mounting option. That's a nontrivial weight difference - nearly half a pound of excess when running the PRO.

Weight isn't of course the be-all, end-all, especially on a weapon platform that is fairly lightweight to begin with.

But, I am really enjoying the light weight and balance of my new ELW / KMR13 upper. Having a fatty optic on there just seems non-congruent. A micro dot would be soooo nice -- and it seems like a bunch 'o of today's top carbine trainers are running a pretty similar set up, too. Travis Haley, LAV and others.

Micro Dot vs. 1x-Nx
One of the commenters mentioned that variable power 1-6x magnification scopes are all of the rage now. The Vortex Viper HD seems to be the go-to recommendation, but it's also $1400. Trijicon has a similar optic in a similar price range, as does Leupold. So, off hand I replied that a $1000 optic wasn't in the budget.

Subsequent comments pointed out that there were more cost-friendly variables out there.

Primary Arms has a 1-6x for under $300...but honestly, I wouldn't put a Primary Arms on my go-to, primary defensive rifles, and I think PA would agree with that--they've put notes on their optics that they are for training purposes / not patrol in the past.

Vortex and several others have 1-4x optics at around $500. Vortex also just announced their 1-6x Strike Eagle which would probably be at the top of my list to check out.

A variable optic has a lot to like about it - red dot like performance at 1x and the ability to zoom in for distance shooting. The 'recce' - shorter, railed carbine with a variable power optic - has become the go to choice for a versatile, do-all AR.

Variables also have a big downside - weight - with a mount, you're talking somewhere around ~1.5 pounds extra. That tradeoff can often be worthwhile, sometimes not.

Personally, I don't have ready access to a range that goes much beyond 50 yards. When I lived in rocky mountain west, long range was the norm - heck, I lived around the corner from a range that went out to 400 yards. In the heavily forested south east, I'd have to drive an hour or two to get to a range that was 100 or 200 yards. And even then, 200+ yards isn't that hard with a red dot. You won't get tiny groups like you can with a magnified optic, but combat effective ain't hard.

And there's also the point things would have to be waaaay down the crapper for me to be taking potshots at bad guys out at 300 or 400 yards.

So, for my situation and for this particular lighter-weight, go-to defensive carbine, I'm feeling like a variable would be more than what I need and more weight than I want to strap onto the gun.

Of course, minds can always be changed and switching out optics isn't that tough. But for now, I'm hunting for deals on an Aimpoint Micro - if anyone has any screamin' deals, let me know.

21 comments :

  1. People get pretty hung up on magnified optics for battle rifles when you can get hits to 350-400 with a decent 2MOA red dot. When I did some training in Texas, we were doing shoot and scoot drills to and from cover while shooting prone and kneeling. We could regularly get hits out that far on a steel LaRue target. One of the guys in the class had a burris 1-4, and while it was more accurate at range, he had trouble getting on target as fast as people with red dots. You seem to be making a better choice by looking for an Aimpoint. They don't fail.

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    1. I agree. Have had success with my PRO out to 350. I Think many people end up shooting paper and obsessing over group size, which magnification will certainly help with.

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    2. 350-400? I was getting 600 yard hits with my PRO mounted on my 16" middy during my last class with Haley, but so were the other students. I was also making head shots at 300 Yards also!! If you can afford it get a Micro, but until than the PRO will take care of business, but than again so will irons! I have mine zeroed at 50.

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    3. I do (and recommend) the 50/200 zero as well. From 0-200 yards, you're plus or minus 1.5 inches. So center up on target and blammo...

      Shooting at range is largely about knowing your holdovers...the further out you get, the more you need to compensate for. 600 yards and 5.56 is a fair amount of bullet drop to compensate for, but doable, as many here would attest.

      Now if only I had a 600 yard range to go practice on.

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    4. Sign up and train with Haley!! Not sure what part of country your in, but he travels all over the country. It is worth the money for sure!!

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    5. He isn't to my neck of the woods this year, but investing in some high quality training was one of the motivating factors behind upgrading the AR.

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    6. Glad to hear it. There are some other high quality instructors out there other than Haley. The jury is still out on Costa for me, but I may still attend one his classes. I would like to attend something by Paul Howe or Lamb first though.

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    7. Definitely lots of options these days, which is great. Ammo is affordable, too. Golden age of civilian accessible training, I'd say.

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  2. Speaking from the variable powered side of things (scored a great deal on a Burris 1.5-6x, mounted on a BCM LW upper with kmr rail) I'm a big fan. I use mine for coyote hunting as well as home defense so the variable makes sense.
    As for making hits at long ranges, totally agree you can with a dot. But target ID is why I want the variable. Whether its making sure the canine I'm aiming at is a coyote and not the neighbor's dog. Or in a SHTF situation, making sure the man I'm aiming at is a baddie and not my neighbor. Obviously AO matters. I've got rolling hills and fields so I've got a reasonable chance of long engagement range if things are bad. YMMV.

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    1. All good reasons - and in your shoes, with rolling hills and long range coyote hunting, a variable would be a must have for me, too.

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  3. There were a few videos of the Primary Arms optics being put through a torture test, and they survived. The boys over at AK Operator's Union did a few. Rob does state:

    "...guys, you can't say that this dot is as durable as Aimpoint. Aimpoint dots were tested in combat zones and and etc. for many years now...I have this dot for only few days..."

    And I agree. I would take an Aimpoint over a Primary Arms any day... but at the same time I wouldn't scoff at taking a Primary Arms optic (be it RDS or variable) be it out to take out some 'yotes or a real SHTF scenario. Irons are always there. My personal carbines (and faux SBR) either have perfect co witness, QD mounts, or combination.

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  4. i have an Aimpoint PRO and i like it. on a whim i picked up a Sig Sauer STS-081/G1 red dot with a UTG quick release rail mount to put on my lower end back up AR. it is small, light weight and while i cant remember what i paid for it but I i found them on Amazon for under $130.
    http://www.amazon.com/SigTac-Mini-Red-Dot-Sight/dp/B001FT4S9E/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top/175-5625703-0680618

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  5. One thing you might want to think about, is used optics. As a college student on a pretty tight budget, I searched on AR15.com a lot and found a guy selling a used CompM3 for about 25% off value. With an optic as well built as an aimpoint Used wasn't and issue for me. I've had the optic for a few years now and it works great, I just replaced the batteries when I bought it and kept the ones already in there for an emergency backup. just my two cents!

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    1. Agree - I am looking for used deals in Micros, as retail is a bit rich for my blood. Tou do need to be careful though as there are many fake / air soft replicas out there.

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  6. If you get a red dot, I recommend something that is night vision capable. You may not have it now or think it's in your budget, but in a few years you might. This is a mistake I made when I bough an Eotech w/o NV capability and now want it. To add magnification, use a 3x or 5x magnifier. The way I have mine setup is daytime use with a 3x magnifier and 2MOA red dot that is NV capable. I have a TNVC 30mm mount for the magnifier and the base works with the TNVC PVS-14 mount. So 1x or 3x in daytime, and 1x w/NV.

    On another AR I have a Vortex Viper PST 1-4x, which is NV capable but not really useful with NV. I'd go with the less expensive non-illuminated 1-6x model when it comes out. Quality QD mounts for everything if you want to switch back and forth.

    When it gets into good optics for your primary weapon, nothing is cheap. And I agree I would not use PA stuff on a go to war rifle. On other stuff PA is awesome though.

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    1. Pro tip, For tactical use the way to go is putting your NOD on your head and aiming with an IR laser. Otherwise to look at anything you have to point your weapon at it which is a big no no.

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  7. That's good for when the other guys don't have NV or you're hunting hogs. But the IR laser is a great way to get noticed by a target with NV.

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    1. I think almost universally the SOF dudes use IR lasers over weapon mounted. A fixed sniper position may be one thing, but moving at night with weapon mounted NODs is sub optimal. For a zombie movie example, see the end of 28 Weeks Later.

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    2. Yeah, but are they going up against other guys with NV in Afghanistan? No (might be some cases, not sure). In a TSHTF scenario might be plenty guys with a PVS-14 or whatever. Even a cheap gen 1 scope will see the IR laser like daylight. It just depends on what you're doing and who you're fighting in this notional situation.

      http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=3&f=18&t=484660

      This is the mount I have, it's QD;

      http://tnvc.com/shop/tnvc-tm14-mk2-pvs-14-weapon-mount/

      On the helmet for walking around and doing most stuff. Can get in on the weapon in a few seconds with practice. It's not ideal, but it's better than yelling "HERE I AM" with an IR laser.

      If night hunting things that don't shoot back, IR laser all the way.

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  8. I will agree though that it usually makes sense to drop the extra $50 on the higher end, NV capable models. There are usually some other incremental benefits as well, and you will recoup the difference if you ever sell it.

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