[Guest Post] Aimpoint Micro Anomaly

[ This guest post was written by M.J. Mollenhour ]

Anomaly: something that is not supposed to be, according to theory or design. I have a Space Invader running around in my Aimpoint Micro T-1. I should warn you about it.

Aimpoint Micro T-1

I own the Aimpoint Micro T-1 and I am not giving it up, or sending it back. The T-1 is right for many reasons. For example, the body of the optic is so small that it need not create a “visual tube” that would otherwise occlude the field of view outside of the tube. The sight just won Petersen’s Hunting Magazine’s “Editor’s Award,” and for good reasons. I am sure the company is proud of the device, and I am grateful for Aimpoint’s solid contributions. Keep them coming, though I don’t know how much more battery life you can achieve beyond 50,000 hours, and surely you cannot make the optic’s body disappear altogether!

However, every device has characteristics that create “quirks” and this post is about one I discovered with the Micro T-1. It is worth knowing the limitations of the device.

I shoot often at a location that is a narrow valley, facing due west, with a ridge as the impact area behind the targets. This means that, later in the afternoon, targets will be in the shade but the sun will face the shooter, at a shallow angle. Here is what it looks like.

Targets at end of valley facing due west late afternoon

At approximately a 20 degree angle—sun above muzzle by 20 degrees—the shooter using an Aimpoint Micro will see a reflection of the red dot’s diode circuitry, surrounding the dot. If this were ghostly, or tiny, I would not be writing the post. However, at 200 or even 100 yards, the image is sizable enough, and opaque enough to block the shooter from seeing the target altogether. Here is what the shooter sees at 200 yards, with the dot-diode Space Invader off to the side so you can see its reflection, the sun, and the targets.

Two IDPA targets lower left, sun upper left, “space invader” prominent

You see the three, parallel bar, lobster-like image I am naming “Space Invader.” The red dot is in the hole in the bar in the middle, where the lobster’s eyes would be. Two IDPA targets, at 200 yards, are in the shade in the lower left corner, and show you the relative size of the targets compared to the anomalous space invader, red-dot circuitry image. The bright spot showing through the trees, upper left, is the sun. Now, picture what all of this would look like with the red dot moved to the target of your immediate attention. The Space Invader obliterates your view of the target.

Think Taliban attacking an outpost, late in the day, topping a hill, and now on the downhill (shaded) side, coming from out of the west. MJM does not think he is being picky to call this a problem with the optic’s design.

The shooter will not experience this on a cloudy day. You may own a Micro and never see what I am writing about because of where you shoot. (That is another reason why we need to fire our weapons in a variety of weather, locales, conditions, and affected by other variables.) Also, with the sun more than 20 degrees above line of sight, the reflection begins to fade, and it fades altogether if the sun is 30 degrees higher than line of sight.

I do not experience this with a conventional telescope sight, even a relatively cheap one. Of course, you cannot shoot directly into the sun, and shooting at a shallow angle into the sun will affect your vision. However, for example, with the Bushnell Banner 1.5x–4.5x scope (about $90) I used to compare, the glare did not occlude the target.

Neither did I experience this with the Aimpoint Comp M2, used at the same time for comparison. At a very shallow angle (less than 20 degrees), the shooter using the M2 will begin to see the “ghost” of the circuitry, but it is faint, and considerably smaller than in the Micro.

Before you tell me to “send it back,” thinking my Micro is defective, I took the opportunity to ask an Aimpoint representative about this phenomenon at the SHOT Show in January, 2011. He told me that the length of the barrel in the Micro sights is just so short that the diode’s reflection cannot be completely eliminated.

I understand that. Everything is a trade-off. Like I said, I’m not sending mine back. But, if I knew then what I know now, I might have bought the Comp M4 or M3.

A few more observations about using the optic

Aiming with a red-dot sight is natural and fast. Forget the device exists: target and dot.

Aimpoint’s manual includes only two trouble-shooting pointers. One of these pertains to the battery. The manual advises you to clean the battery and terminals if the dot does not light. I found this to be good advice. One fell0w shooter experienced the dot turning off after one shot. Turning the on/off switch did re-light the dot. However, this disturbing occurrence apparently is caused not by interference in the switch, but, rather, in the battery connection. I supposed it is too much to ask for a battery to sit in the device for all of those hours-days-months-years that it will last in an Aimpoint but it’s good for the shooter to know. I made a note to remove the battery (easily done in seconds) and wipe it clean from time to time. In my novel about to come out, Amazon Avenger, Jack McDonald, the hero, finds himself equipped with the Aimpoint Micro and immediately takes the battery out and wipes clean the battery and connections. Aimpoint recommends it, and my experience backs them up.

If you plan to buy one, and if your AR has a fixed front sight, be sure NOT to buy the LaRue mount that provides absolute co-witness. You want the one that provides co-witness in the lower third of the optic. They call it the “tall” mount.” If you order their combination with the mount that gives “absolute co-witness,” that mount will definitely line up your iron front sight—right in the center of the optic. They make the lower-third co-witness version for we shooters whose front sight is the fixed post. My compliments to LaRue for excellent customer service in accepting my return, and correcting my error.

I do wish Aimpoint still made one with 2x.




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  • steve

    Good to know (diode and iron sights tip). I’ve been looking to pick up an Aimpoint and been having problems deciding which one to go with because of my lack of experience with optics.

  • Chris

    Another phenomenon of the Micro sights affects people like me with astigmatism. The dot can appear to have a tail trailing off to one side. For me the tail points to about 4 o’clock. It’s a little distracting at first, but is something that can be trained through. It also helps to keep the dot turned down fairly low. Corrective lenses help somewhat also, but for me at least the tail remains.

    Having said all that, I’m not sending mine back either.

  • Lew

    There are honeycomb covers for the aimpoint that should not only sort out some of your Space Invaders-problem, it also reduces glare and reflexions seen down range.

  • Would a screw on sun shade help with the problem? I’ve got a clone of the Aimpoint from Primary Arms that includes a sun shade and never seen this phenomenon, but I don’t think I’ve tried this particular test. Also mine isn’t built to the same quality level as the Aimpoint.

  • SeaDrive

    If the circuitry unit was painted black, it would be invisible. It’s usual in fine optics to paint the interior black. Perhaps there is an electronic reason they can’t do that.

  • armed_partisan

    I really like the T-1 Micro, and I hadn’t seen that yet, but I’m sure it’s there, and it probably would have freaked me out the first time I saw it, so thanks for the warning. I tend to use open sights in daylight, because I’m old fashioned, and I still don’t trust batteries.

  • andrew

    Some of the biggest reasons to buy an RDS type optic and use it instead of irons are performance in no light, low light, and when the sun is behind your target.

    This phenomenon would annoy me greatly.

  • Lyle

    We once had a Micro go intermittent. I called the tech at Aimpoint USA and he told me I wasn’t tightening the battery cap all the way. The cap seems to tighten, but more torque is required to take it beyond that point and fully seat it. He said that this is a common problem– people not wanting to torque it all the way.

    Regarding the space invader; if you can see the dot with one eye, the other eye sees the target. There is no such thing as target occlusion when using a dot sight as designed. The use of a sun shade or KillFlash, as stated earlier, would help. You can also use a dot sight with the front cap completely closed. That turns it into an occluded eye gunsight (OEG). So configured, you can point right at the sun and still see the dot, because it’s a glowing dot on a black background. The other eye sees the sun.

    I suppose Aimpoint could fix the space invader, or at least minimise it, by blacking out the bars.

  • NikonMikon

    Aimpoint needs to flock the whole diode assembly then it wont reflect light anymore. Lens/camera manufacturers do this to prevent ghost images (which is what that is).

  • Max

    Did you contact Aimpoint’s tech support?

    It would be interesting to hear their side of the story!

  • 6677

    A thin bit of paper attached over the electronics would probably prevent them reflecting into the lens. Woulda thought a large company would have thought of a method just as simple. On the otherhand it looks like the dot of a weapon a space invader would use

  • Ritchie

    Try putting a circular polarizer over the front of the sight. This is not a regular polarizer in a circular piece of glass, but a polarizer that passes only light with circular polarization. Camera stores will have them, see if they have a cheap used one to try with. Maybe you could borrow one from a photographer, or, I don’t know, maybe take them shooting?

  • John_234

    Good review, I live in a pretty bright state so that’s very relevant information to me.

    I do find your novel character cleaning the battery on a red dot scope for a random rifle a bit detail-heavy though… does such an act actually add to the scene?