In the world of red dot sights, there exist essentially two quality grades. The first is airsoft quality dots, which may or may not rattle themselves to pieces within a few magazines and might hold zero, typically priced around 15 to 30 dollars. NCStar and UTG are the usual suspects in this group. The second is truly high-grade combat proven red dots that will hold together until long after the apocalypse, and probably have a battery life to match. These tend to be quite a bit more expensive, 300 dollars or more, and are usually made by Aimpoint, Trijicon, or EOTech. Between these two worlds there is a surprising lack of sights. Primary Arms busted onto the scene a few years ago, and they’ve been taking the red dot world by storm. They have rapidly become a favorite for mid-range red dots that will hold together on AKs and ARs without breaking the bank.
The Primary Arms red dot range consists of a few sights, with their big seller being the MD series, the Micro dots. I purchased the removable base model with a Primary Arms QD riser (a $29 add on) about 2 years ago, and put it on my AR-15. It ran me just over $100 for the package, and what I got was a very solid clone of the Aimpoint Micro for roughly a third the price. Primary Arms gets away with this such a great price by sourcing the dots from China, much like the cheaper sights, but maintains a much tighter control over the QC processes and manufacturing quality. This makes for a slightly more expensive dot, but the quality is definitely worth it.
The sight body itself is a rather compact, anodized aluminum ~25mm tube, with adjustments at the top and side, and a brightness knob just forward of the windage adjustment. It has a nicely sized 3 MOA dot, takes a standard CR2032 battery and has 11 brightness settings, which, while not as bright as Aimpoint’s fiery ball of cornea-scorching light at 11, is still more than enough to not wash out in bright sunlight. Typically I shoot with it set at 5 or 6 on a sunny day, sometimes venturing up to 8 if it’s really bright. It claims a 1000+ hour battery life on “medium,” which while not Aimpoint-class 3 year battery life, will probably last between range trips if you forget that it’s on. Click adjustments are .5 MOA, and are pretty distinct and solid. The front lens has a slightly blue tint, which can be off-putting to some users, but I don’t find it distracting.
While not as durable as an Aimpoint, they can still take a pretty good beating. Over at 230-grain.com, user Miso Beno put a blemished earlier model through its paces, showering with it, baking it in an oven, throwing it in some ice cream in the freezer, and seeing if it would hold zero on a Remington 11, one of the most punishing guns for optics. It held together well, with the only problem area being water resistance, it let in some water during the shower test, but that was dried out by a stay in some rice for a few days. I had a similar experience with my dot on a very moist range trip, it rained heavily the whole time, and the dot sat out in it for most of it. Enough water was let in to render the dot unusable, as condensation made it impossible to see through the tube.
The thing that surprised me most about Primary Arms was their customer service in responding to this. Within a day of my email to PA, they had an RMA for me, and were very communicative throughout the entire process. While they didn’t have the exact dot I owned before that in stock any more (it was an obsoleted model at this point), they were more than willing to send me a newer version of the removable base micro dot, and replace the riser, the QD feature of which had failed, and even threw in a Kill Flash for my troubles.
Bottom line, this dot is fantastic value-for-money for a budget AR or AK optic. While it is definitely not Aimpoint-level quality, it is very solid for the price. Given a chance to change anything about my purchase, I’d skip the PA QD riser, and pay the extra $40 for an American Defense mount, also available bundled with the removable base dot on Primary Arms’ site. For $110 though, this is a scorching deal. Check them out at www.primaryarms.com