Primary Arms 4.5-14×50 Illuminated, Side Focus, Mil-Dot Scope

That’s a mouthful.

Image stolen from without permission

I’ve remarked in the past on Primary Arms’ ability to deliver a quality optic at an excellent price. Mainly, I’ve been referring to their red dot optics, but now that I’ve had a few months with their magnified optics, I’m even more impressed with the company.


Now, let’s get a few things straight. Although I’ve been perfectly clear in the past about what I think PA optics should be used for, I’ve still upset some people. So here goes. If you plan on depending on this product to save your life or the life of another (i.e., duty or combat use) or if you just want the best optic you can buy, purchase something else. Primary Arms is a stocking dealer for Trijicon, Nightforce, Burris, Aimpoint, EOTech, and Vortex, among others. Marshall at Primary Arms will be happy to sell you as much optic as you can afford or need.

However, if you’ve reached the end of a rifle build and suddenly realized that you just didn’t leave enough room for an optic, or you don’t care to spend more than $150 on an optic, then the Primary Arms branded optics are for you.

I’ve prefaced this review with enough warnings and disclaimers that you probably think the PA 4.5-14×50 scope jumped off my rifle and kicked my dog. It didn’t. In fact, I have two of them, and while one has seen duty on various 5.56 caliber weapons, the other has been sitting atop my Thompson/Center Venture bolt action rifle in .30-06. I don’t have a very high round count on that rifle – 150 documented rounds to date – but it’s maintained zero perfectly during that time. So has, in fact, the other scope, although I didn’t expect 5.56 to knock anything loose.

Now, I obtained both of these scopes (at a discount, I should add) when Primary Arms was officially out of stock of them. In other words, these were demo and/or “reject” (for lack of a better word) scopes that Marshall didn’t think were good enough to ship to consumers. Still, I’m very impressed with the quality of these two scopes, given their price.


So, what does this scope offer? Well, it does have an illuminated reticle. I think that if you’re going to be shooting in low light, you should spend more on your scope – but this unit doesn’t become useless when the sun isn’t directly over you. From a light gathering standpoint, it’s slightly better than my Burris Fullfield II 3-9×40. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to my Swarovski spotting scope. This is not a big surprise.

The illumination knob is at the rear of the scope, where such things are traditionally located. It has 11 positions (no stop, it turns continuously) and is powered by a single CR2032 battery. I haven’t tested runtime, because I haven’t used the illumination other than to verify function in each scope.

There is a side focus knob that turns smoothly from stop to stop in each scope, and really does work. It’s way better than adjusting an eyepiece focus knob. The last side focus scope I owned was a Zeiss Conquest, also a 4.5-14 power, and while the two probably wouldn’t be considered by the same buyers, it is nice to have such a feature on a budget scope.

The scope has a mil dot reticle. If you know what mil-dots are, then you can skip this part. A mil-dot is a specific size at a specific distance and at a specific magnification. For this scope, the mil-dots are the proper size at 10x. What does this mean, you ask? Well, you can use the mil-dots to estimate range with surprising accuracy, if you can take the time to learn how to do some basic math. There are some excellent simulations online that will help you learn how to use mil-dots. When I was at the 500 meter range shooting steel plates, I was able to, without changing zero, quickly engage targets from 200 meters out to 500 meters, simply by estimating holdover with mil-dot calculations instead of Kentucky windage.

It’s completely dark outside, so I’ll have to get reticle photos tomorrow. Both scopes have decent glass that is free of blemishes, spots, etc. The reticles are clean and clear on both, with the exception that one has a tiny “protrusion” at the very top. It’s not something you want in a scope, but it gets lost in the clutter of the outdoors very easily.

The scope does have turrets for windage and elevation adjustment. They are not resettable – this is something to be addressed in a future version, as I understand it – and have a total adjustment range of (if I remember correctly) 65 MOA. They turn easily, but not easily enough that brushing up against something will cause them to rotate. Each click is audible and tactile and results in a 1/4 MOA adjustment.

The objective area of the scope is threaded, but no sunshade is known to fit these threads. I have yet to have any significant issues with the scope in its current configuration with regard to the sun shade “issue”.


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