Primary Arms Micro Dot Review

PA Micro Dot

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




Nathan B

Nathan B is a software engineer living in Maryland. He graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with a BS in Information Sciences and Technology. He has been shooting for most of his life, is a sucker for a good .22 rifle, and shoots competitively in IDPA and local 3-gun matches.


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  • Big Daddy

    If my life depending on it on a daily basis I would not hesitate to spend whatever it cost. My guns will be for going to the range and hopefully never HD. The whole SHTF scenario is possible more and more these days so that is a factor. I think the middle ground is fine for a person like myself, Lucid and Primary Arms are great choices. The same goes for weapon lights, I am not going to buy a light and mount that cost as much as the rifle. If it works the few times I will use it fine, if it holds up to some abuse fine, that’s all most shooters need. Would I love to outfit all my weapons with top of the line lights, optics and everything else, hell yes. Can I afford it? Hell no. I’ll spend the extra money on ammo to practice.

    • sianmink

      Right. With good irons as backup, a red dot that’s pretty good is a world better than no dot at all.

  • sianmink

    Sightmark is in the same class — I think Primary is a bit better IMO but has a much narrower selection.

  • allannon

    I’ve got several PA optics now, and I’ve been extremely pleased with them. They hold zero, they’re tolerably (and increasingly) water-resistant, they have good adjustments.

    The biggest issue for them, I think, is all of the people that can’t get past them not being Trijicon/Aimpoint/Eotech. I don’t need a battle-ready optic, I’m not in the military (nor likely to engage in combat). I’m not worried about it being off when I need it for home defense, because if it comes up I have a pistol for that kind of use.

    Would I like one? Sure. But I could mount a perfectly functional optic on a handful of guns for the cost of just the optic from a brand name. It’s a good tradeoff. :)

  • iksnilol

    Would it be legal to ship one of their 4-14 FFP scopes to Norway? I dont know US law on scopes and export.

    • Coyote_Vs_ACME

      https://www.primaryarms.com/help_answer.asp?ID=12#24

      I am not sure if that means any seller, distributor, ect as I know nothing on how the laws might or might not affect other sellers / distributors with the right permits if there is even such a thing, but as far as Primary Arms is concerned, its a no go.

    • Primary Arms, LLC

      It is not “military grade” soit does not fall under ITAR. We do sell other items that fall under ITAR so for compliance purposes (and sometimes our own sanity) we don’t ship international right now.

      • iksnilol

        Do you have plans to ship international (the optics that dont fall under ITAR)?

        And do you have plans to produce a 2-8×42 scope? or a illuminated version of your 4-14 FFP mil-mil scope? It is okay if you dont want to answer i am just being curious.

        • Primary Arms, LLC

          The international discussion is tabled until we can get the site onto a more customizable platform. We are limited right now.

          Not sure on the illuminated version. Once we can get a good steady supply of the non-illum version we will look at more upgrades. You also get into a cost factor.

          • iksnilol

            That was fast, you really are professional.

            I understand, I was asking because I would I really like the 4-14 scope due to it being FFP, mil-dot and mil-mil and most important: not expensive.

            But would it be legal to buy it, and then have somebody else ship it? SInce it isn’t “milspec”.

  • David Pyzik

    I just got mine in the mail this past Friday. Very nice little optic.
    My only complaint is that my controls are on the left side of the optic and not the right.
    I wanted to use the IO cover and can’t with mine.

  • Ian Thorne

    Seriously? ” Between these two worlds there is a surprising lack of sights in between.” WTF? There are tons of options in that middle ground. Sightmark, Primary, Burris, Bushnell, G&G, Truglo, Tasco, Walther, Leapers, Vortex, Millet and more. The middle of the market is freaking saturated. How can anyone who writes gun blog be so painfully ignorant about this?

    • This guy sucks

      Speaking of ignorant: Leapers=UTG, Tasco=airsoft garbage.

      Careful when you throw insults around, or you may find yourself looking into a mirror.

      • Ian Thorne

        Tasco is not good, but they do have higher end models that are perfectly good for .223 rifles and lower/pistol caliber rifles.

        Leapers owns UTG and uses it for it’s lower end products and their products are far better than the UTG branded stuff. That’s like saying Land Rover and Tata are the same company because of ownership. I can’t understand why people like you place so much emphasis in corporate ownership over the evidence right in front of your face.

        Good job proving your ignorance there. Care to try again after you educate yourself a bit? Or will you just go on sucking?

        • Dave

          Ian, you are coming in real hot buddy. I think the author is correct in general terms, meaning the $100-$200 priced good quality items are thin. I think the Primary Arms on my AR is fantastic and better than the airsoft garbage out there. The Vortex Sparc is nice as well, and after that the brands you mentioned are dubious at best and significantly lacking in customer care.

          • Ian Thorne

            You call it coming in hot, I call it calling out bullshit. To each their own.

            He didn’t say in the 100-200 range. He said between airsoft garbage and high end optics. Don’t try to narrow it down to something he never actually said then try to build your case off of that.

            Most of the brands I listed are in the 75-150 range and they are great products assuming you take care of your stuff. I have multiple sightmarks, vortex and Burris red dots that have tens of thousands of problem free rounds. Most of those brands are far from dubious, they are just in the cheaper end so people with more expensive sights make fun of them, even though they provide everything the average user needs. It’s just a matter of people preferring to buy more than they need just because they can.

          • RocketScientist

            I’m with you (Ian) on this. I have a TruGlo tru Brite red-dot sight on my keltec su-16 C that I have beat the hell out of and had hold up just fine. Was talking with a friend recently who was considering buying an EOtech for his AR, which he shoots at the (covered) range maybe 3 times a year. I put it this way: unless you’re jumping out of planes, swimming underwater, and crawling through mud with your gun, then throwing it under a tank before using it with your life on the line, you probably dont need an EOtech. For your usage, you’d be spending 4x as much for longer battery life and a slightly clearer dot.

          • michael

            I agree, there are alot of options between aimpoint and airsoft. Terrible article for a variety of reasons imho.

            that said, PA is not a bad option in the sub $100 range but for a few bucks more, buy vortex and the lifetime warranty.

          • Ian Thorne

            I have my two “stake my life on it” guns. Those have an EOTech and Aimpoint. I know I will probably never need that level of ruggedness, but the peace of mind is great.

            Everything else has cheaper dots. That’s all a range gun needs. I have even dropped an AR right on the sightmark Ultrashot(a 80 dollar optic) and other than a few finish scuffs, it is perfectly fine, held zero and everything.

            I dropped my Tavor with my EOTech a much smaller distance and it put two big gouges in the hood. It doesn’t affect performance at all, but I was surprised at how much damage a small drop did. I still love the EOTech though, by far my favorite red dot.

  • Fred

    I have had the Micro on my AK for three years. Holds Zero well and has at least 5000 rounds thru it without issue. More then adequate for my needs. Agree customer service is without compare. If PA has something I want I always buy from them.

  • snmp

    You could found very Russian/Bella Russe Nice Red Dot (Combat proven) Like the PK23 by BelOMO, The Kobra by Axion or the PK-01 …

    • whodywei

      The Russian red dot sights are no longer cheap. Kobra sells for about $400, PK-01 is about $300.

  • Jeremy Star

    “Between these two worlds there is a surprising lack of sights in between.”

    EDITOR! Please chop the last two words off that sentence. Thanks.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Sorry I can’t do it. That’s up to the author. Steve would have to speak to the author for any such change.

    • Nathan B

      Whoops, that one got past my editing. Fixing it now.

  • GG

    MADE IN CHINA!!

    • 032125

      This is my concern face.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      That may be but a good 90% of optical glass comes from China.

      • Rugrash

        That iPhone, your laptop and/or PC that your posting on this thread with is made in China. An analogy that I like to use is that there are good and bad Chinese-made products, just like good/bad Chinese food. ;-)

  • Zius Patagus

    So what is the difference between chinese made optics that all pretty much come off the same line? The sticker on them? LIng made it instead of Ching? The hype of the retailer? What I would like to see is someone buy the same optic under multiple different names, tear them apart and then tell me what’s different.

    • anon

      Me too. Care to volunteer? You’re buying of course…

  • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

    A good deal of the talk about middle ground optics has to do with what you call expensive, middle ground and cheap. Is $300 high end or middle ground?
    At least to me a brand I did a review is the Lucid HD7 at about $200— that seems like a medium price to me but others may consider it cheap.

  • David Sharpe

    Damn, they don’t ship to Canada, otherwise I would buy one.

  • Dave

    Seems to me that if these less expensive options were actually worth the squeeze the companies wouldn’t have to do their best to rip off the aesthetics of the real deals.

    What kills me are people that have $200 buttstocks and $300 forends combined with plastic BUIS and knock-off optics… Talk about form over function….

  • Ryan

    I have an MD-06 with removable base on my Ruger Mk III… The Aimpoint base cost me almost as much as the red dot itself. The sight has a very crisp dot and no problem using it in full sun. Can’t comment too much on durability since it’s on a .22 but I’m impressed so far. If I ever need another red dot, I’ll be ordering again from PA.

  • Cymond

    I do agree that we should remember brands like Vortex, Burris, Bushnell, Truglo, and Sightmark which are all a step above cheap ‘airsoft’ grade dot sights. Primary Arms is hardly the only brand in the middle. However, PA should be commended for also selling their competitors’ sights.

    I’m really looking forward to their upcoming AA battery models. I’m also curious about their 1-4x scope. There’s been an explosion of 1-4x scopes over the last few years, and I have no idea how to sort out the best values in the middle zone. For example, I’ve read comments claiming the Millet DMS is poor quality, without any supporting evidence or explanations.

    I do regret the discontinuation of the “Primary Arms Green Reflex Sight Gen II”. It was similar to a Docter Red Dot or Burris Fastfire but only cost $75. I always meant to try one on a rimfire pistol. The Bushnell Trophy seems like the closest competitor, but it’s still $130.

    • Primary Arms, LLC

      The 1-4 is our highest rated scope for durability. It’s a great little scope that just keeps going and going.

      We are excited about the upcoming AA red dot and the new forward extension rail for it.

      The green reflex is still in re-design (including an on/off switch). No word on the new price point but it will be a bit more than the old model.

  • DrMike

    I have had several product both from Primary Arms and from Vortex. I can heartily recommend both. I doubt I would take either brand off to a war, but they are just about perfect for a range toy or a hunting gun. Also all of my communications with Primary Arms were answered quickly, in detail, and politely. Good company to deal with, and they have a nice selection of higher end “brand name” stuff like Aimpoint and Eotech at reasonable prices. Also they have sales on a regular basis which they send out emails about to past customers first.

  • Michael

    Who wants to do a test? Lets compare scopes. Put a UTG. Primary Arms, Burris, Vortex. Aimpoint and Eotch on ARs and shotguns and lets see how they perform.

    • Rugrash

      Actually almost all PA optics (red dots) are tested on a KSG shotgun.

      • Michael

        They probably lasted longer than the KelTec

  • Aaron E

    I just put a Bushnell TRS-32 on one of my AR’s and was very happy with it. The dot is bigger than an Aimpoint and the PA, but not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. For $130 I’m happy, though the adjustments for accuracy aren’t as tight as I would like (only 1 MOA per click @ 100 yards).

    I’m also looking at a Vortex Strikefire for another rifle, as it has tighter adjustments (.5 MOA per click @ 100 yards), has a 4 MOA instead of 5 MOA dot, and has the option of red or green dot. At $170 I see it in the middle range as well. It does take a CR2354 battery as opposed to the more common CR2032.

  • Michael

    I am looking for an inexpensive red dot for a 12 gauge shotgun, would this work? Any alternative in the $100 range.
    How much do you have to spend to get something that works?

  • Blam

    Hi guys can I check with you whether your T1 clone falls under ITAR?

  • 1911a145acp

    I paid $1500 for the Zeiss Conquest HDS 5-25X50mm on my Arma Lite 7.62. Is that high end? Not compared to my buddies U. S. Optic 5-25×58 ER 25 that he put on his BARRETT. I don’t care for the reticle on my Zeiss at all. There are bargains to be had out there and all optics have advantages and disadvantages but there is NO free lunch. The derivation- “Only a rich man can afford a cheap scope ” is often attributed to Col.Townsend Whelen- and is undeniable truth. I see usable,reliable scopes and dots starting in the $350-$500 range. You will very often buy a cheap scope twice. If it fails when you needed it- How much money did you save? You would pay the difference at THAT moment for a better optic so why not pay it in advance and save your self the worry? The LOW end of the market IS saturated with cheap junk.