Category Archives: Optics/Optic Accessories

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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Primary Arms Micro Dot Gen 3

Some people need the most rugged and reliable product they can find.

Other people want the most rugged and reliable product they can afford.

Still more people just want a product that looks cool and functions fairly well.

I can’t tell you what your needs are, or where you fall on this scale, but I can tell you what this product does, and what it might be good for. As always, in the interests of full disclosure, I was given this “Micro Dot” by Primary Arms for the specific purpose of abusing it. In the past, I was given a Bobro Aimpoint mount for T&E by this same vendor (Marshall at Primary Arms – and he hasn’t asked for me to return it yet…I’m not going to give it up easily).

The first thing you need to know about this optic is that it is a semi-clone of the Aimpoint T-1  – or maybe I should say H-1, since this has no NV-specific settings and is not waterproof to the same depth. This particular model has a threaded “killflash” that is of surprising quality and effectiveness. Thus, the optic looks a little longer than a regular H-1.

The original price for the optic was $109 plus $29 for a riser, but because the factory messed up and the units aren’t purged with nitrogen, the price has been dropped $30. If you want the model without the killflash, the adjusted price is $59 plus $29 for the riser.

I’ll start with my negative comments.

The Bad

– The “QD” lever included with the riser, which is a copy of the American Defense lever, is not very well constructed. It’s small and difficult to manipulate. It’s not constructed of the best materials. It is, however, a good enough copy of the ADM lever that real ADM components will drop in and offer a functional level of fit. Frankly, I’d just buy a Daniel Defense mount for $70 or so, instead of the included riser – although it has been hollowed out and if you happen to have spare ADM components, it’ll work very well. I’m told that the next iteration of these red dots will have a thumbscrew mount.

– The LED inside the optic is a little high and blocks a small portion of the field of view. This also precludes proper cowitness when using aftermarket mounts.

– Battery life seems to be about a week, maybe 8 days, of continuous use. This isn’t really bad, per se, it’s just something to be aware of. The unit takes commonly available CR 2032 batteries. For a training rifle, this should not be an issue.

– As I said before, the factory messed up – they drilled the mounting screw holes too deep and the units may have fogging problems if the standard “low” mount is swapped for a different mount. Several people, including myself, have attempted to induce fogging. I put it in a bathtub under running, scalding water, then into a freezer, then back into the tub. I noticed no fogging on the inside of the optic. The front glass under the killflash did fog, but that was on the outside, and I had no problems wiping that clear after removing the killflash.

– The dot does not stay on between brightness settings. Also, it rotates continuously. There is no “stop” at 0.

– Yes, it’s made in China.

The Good

– This optic is quite durable. You can see this here.

– It maintained zero after the above abuse. I don’t know if my “custom fit” ADM throw lever has anything to do with it (yes, the nut is sticking out of the mount, it works fine). Standard Aimpoint Micro mounts should work for this optic.

– Adjusting the brightness takes a good grasp of the knob. An errant blow to the knob will most likely not change the brightness. Clicks are tactile and barely audible.

– The killflash, battery cover, and adjustment caps have good threads and were easy to install and remove, even after big dents were put in them. The adjustment and battery caps/covers have O rings. The unit seems water-resistant as far as my bathtub was concerned. I may take it on a dive trip later this week.

– The dot is clear and crisp. On setting 11, it is definitely bright enough to use when the sun is out.

In Summary

For those who have an Aimpoint Micro on a work gun, this may be a cost-effective alternative to spending another $500-600 to put one on a .22 or 5.45 training rifle. Alternately, you could use a .22 conversion in your work rifle and swap between an Aimpoint Micro zeroed for 5.56 and a Primary Arms micro zeroed for .22. It’s definitely durable enough that you won’t have to worry about it being damaged from a minor impact. I have had similar good luck with a Primary Arms M3 clone, which I compared with the Vortex Strikefire here.

I firmly believe, and so does the man who runs Primary Arms, that duty/deployment use calls for a real Aimpoint. Primary Arms does sell real Aimpoints. If your needs call for the most rugged red dot available, buy an Aimpoint. If you need an affordable duplicate for training or other purposes, consider the PA Micro Dot.


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A.R.M.S. Throw Levers – Not Exactly Perfect

As some folks have learned the hard way, A.R.M.S. throw levers sometimes fail at inopportune moments.

LaRue mounts, on the other hand, are well known for their return to zero qualities and toughness.

In this video, I demonstrate the difference between the two.

The A.R.M.S. throw lever fails after four hits, while the LaRue is damaged, but still fully functional.

The sad part is, a lot of companies get suckered in to using A.R.M.S. mounts for their products – such as the EOTech 553 and Elcan Specter DR – when far superior mounts are available.

LaRue isn’t the only game in town – I like Bobro and American Defense as well – but A.R.M.S. shouldn’t be on anyone’s purchase list.

It should be noted that I have no connection with either company, and procured both mounts shown in the video with my own funds.

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Bobro Engineering Cantilever Aimpoint Mount

After a comparison test I did between the American Defense and LaRue Tactical Aimpoint mounts, I was offered a free Bobro T&E mount by Primary Arms, a Bobro dealer.

When I pulled the mount out of the box, I first noticed that the mount seemed exceptionally well machined, although the design initially appeared to be overly complex. There are a lot more screws and springs on this mount than either the ADM or LaRue, and in my experience, while such designs may initially appear to work well in the lab, field testing normally goes awry.

The method for installing the Aimpoint itself is, in my opinion, preferable to the vertical split rings of the ADM and LaRue. The top half of the ring has studs, to which you attach 12pt nuts. This is very secure and hard to screw up. From an end-user standpoint, this is actually the simplest of the three mounts.

As I spent more and more time with the mount in actual use, I became more and more impressed with it. The reason the mechanism is complicated is that it is self-adjusting. While the LaRue is adjustable, you need a wrench (though needlenose pliers found in a multitool will work in a pinch), and when it’s properly adjusted, it’s supposed to be difficult to remove. The ADM mount is adjustable for a wider range of rails, and this adjustment can be done by hand, but the Bobro is truly unique in that it adjusts itself.

The mechanism, while complex, doesn’t seem to be weak, fragile or otherwise unsuited for hard use. It’s easy to remove and install with one hand on a variety of rails – in fact, when removing the mount, the arm will swing out with enthusiasm, and I recommend not having any fingers in the way. That said, you have to disengage the “lock”, so it’s not coming off on its own. Here’s a close up view of what I’m talking about. The lever is gray, the lock is black. Installation and removal on a rail is a very simple process.

I’ve tested and tested this mount, and it has yet to disappoint. It doesn’t lose zero and you can attach it to any rail, even one covered in dirt. It’s pricey, but I’ve learned that in the world of firearms, you get what you pay for. This is, in my opinion, the best Aimpoint mount available today.


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