Friday Night Lights: Insight ISM-IR, Integrated Sighting Module

Nicholas C
by Nicholas C

Thirsty for more night vision-related content? Well, drink up here at Friday Night Lights. Last week we took a look at EOTech’s premium thermal clip-on. Well, this week we take a look at a discontinued product from Insight. The ISM-IR is the integrated sighting module. It is a red dot with an integrated multi-function aiming laser (MFAL), basically a PEQ-15. Let’s take a closer look.

Lasers @ TFB:

What is Old Is New, Insight ISM-IR

It seems industry trends are circular. A red dot with integrated MFAL? Why that is the Wilcox Boss Xe, right? Well yes but before that Insight made the ISM. Here is what Insight said in a catalog from 2008.

Insight continues the next generation of multi-function aiming devices, the ISM-VTM. The ISM-VTM is the world’s only fully Integrated Sighting Module with co-aligned visible aiming laser built to survive real world use. With its single set of high-precision, tactile windage and elevation adjusters, the co-aligned red dot and visible laser are dialed into the target at the same time.

The ISM-IR takes the full capability of the ISM-V and adds a co-aligned IR aiming laser and a variable focus IR laser illuminator. The innovative result is a revolutionary combination capable of creating a force multiplier effect when deployed on any Mil-standard 1913 rail.

The ISM-IR is their infrared variant of the ISM. It has a red VIS aiming laser, infrared aiming laser and infrared laser illuminator, just like a PEQ-15. All integrated into a 2 MOA red dot.

You can see the infrared illuminator off to the side of the tape switch plug. Just like the PEQ-15, you can twist it to adjust the beam divergence. It uses the same diffuser cap as the PEQ-15. The IR and VIS aiming lasers are on the other side of the remote switch port.

The ISM has an Insight/Crane remote switch port in the front middle of the optic. This is awesome. Unlike the Wilcox Boss Xe which has its remote switch port in the back of the unit. They wasted a couple inches of cable just to reach around and plug in the tape switch. It is highly unlikely you would ever have the Wilcox Boss Xe in front of your tape switch. Same with the ISM-IR. This allows tape switches to be shorter and positioned where they need to be, in front of the optic at or near 12 o’clock.

At the back of the ISM-IR, you have the battery compartment to the left and the power/selector switch on the right. The ISM-IR is powered by a single CR123 battery. It weighs just under 11 ounces with the battery and has a run time of more than 500 hours with just the red dot. In between the battery compartment and selector switch is a yellow-green indicator LED. This lets you know when the laser is activated.

The selector is somewhat similar to a PEQ-15.

  • O – OFF
  • P – Programe Mode
  • RD – Red Dot
  • VA – VIS Aiming Laser
  • AL – Aim Low (IR Aiming Laser Low Output)
  • DL – Dual Low (IR Aiming and Illuminator Low Output)
  • AH – Aim High (IR Aiming Laser High Output)
  • DH – Dual High (IR Aiming and Illuminator High Output)

The hole at AH is for the blue safety screw to physically block the selector switch from selecting the high-power IR modes. And like an ATPIAL PEQ-15, the ISM-IR has an eye-safe 5mW VIS laser. The IR laser is 50mW.

The blue safety screw is stored on the left side of the ISM-IR just below and to the left of the laser activation button. To the left of the button is the windage adjustment screw. As mentioned by Insight, the ISM-IR lasers are co-aligned to the red dot. So when you adjust the red dot, it moves the lasers as well.

The elevation adjustment screw is on top and behind it are the brightness controls for the red dot. To activate the red dot, the selector lever needs to be an RD or any of the laser modes. Then you have to press both the + and – buttons at the same time to turn the red dot on.

Size-wise the ISM-IR is not that much different from the PEQ-15. You can see they even use a similar button for the laser activation.

Weapon Mounting The ISM-IR

Photo by Tommy Built.

The ISM in general has been mostly associated with the H&K XM8. According to XM8 expert, Tom Bostic, the XM8 version of the Insight ISM has a proprietary mounting system called P-CAPS. Here are some photos Tom shared with me.

Photo by Tommy Built
Photo by Tommy Built

You know those weird holes on the handguard for the XM8? Those are also P-CAPS. Want to see a real XM8 PDW? Click here to read my article about it.

Photo by Tommy Built

The P-CAPS version is too niche and only works on XM8s. Normal ISMs have a simple Picatinny grabbing mount.

Tom Bostic made a railed carry handle that fits G36s and XM8s and allows any red dot, or in this case the ISM-IR to sit comfortably just like the P-CAPS ISM on the XM8. Tom sent me a blemished carry handle a while back and I used it on my H&K SL8 for an XM8 specific thermal weapon sight. So when I got the ISM-IR, I had to put it on the SL8.

It clears the rail pretty well but do you see the immediate problem? The problem is not exclusive to this setup. It is mounting the ISM-IR to most firearms. How do you activate the laser? For my SL8, I can shift the ISM-IR back a little so an Insight tape switch can be plugged in. I run it along the carry handle and down through the opening at the front of the carry handle. Then Velcro the tape switch to the top of the polymer handguard. I can use gaffer tape or zip ties to secure the tape switch cable. But I can remotely activate the ISM lasers without having to reach back and touch the button on the side of the housing. Allowing me to use proper laser discipline. And like any Insight laser, I can double tap the button or the tape switch to have constant activation rather than just momentary. Here are some other firearms I tried the ISM-IR on. Just like the SL8, the Hellion works well with the ISM. I route the remote switch along the carry handle and Velcro it in the space in front of the charging handle.

The PS90 is a bit ridiculous. It is too tall and activation in this case is convoluted.

I was curious if this could be useful on the FLUX Raider. While it is nice having everything, other than white light, all in the ISM-IR on the FLUX Raider, activation is even worse than the PS90. The PEQ-14 works better for this weapon.

Night Time Shooting Perfection With The ISM-IR

While the ISM-IR is not suitable for some of the weapons above, I think I have found a perfect weapon to put it on. My H&K SP5. Before the ISM-IR, I found the EOTech laser battery cover (LBC) to be my favorite red dot/laser setup for the MP5. The LBC has a VIS and IR laser with crane ports for each one. I used a Unity TAPS switch taped to the side of my LDI lighted handguard. So I could activate VIS and IR laser with the push of a button. For illumination, I use a SureFire Vampire head.

By switching over to the ISM, I eliminate the need for dual buttons and IR illumination. The only downside now is that I do not have VIS over-ride for the VIS laser. But that is ok. I can have white light only now for the lighted handguard and just aim passively with the red dot. This is the best night vision gun setup I have run so far for the MP5. Everything I need is activated with my support hand. I can passively aim with night vision goggles or press the laser button on the Unity TAPS for active IR aiming and illumination. If I need white light I can squeeze the handguard switch.

One minor issue running the ISM-IR is the IR illuminator is very close to the top rail of most firearms you mount it on. So it is common for the IR illuminator to splash across the top. This was the same issue I had with the Wilcox Boss Xe. For my “MP5SD at home”, I use a Unity Tactical FAST optic riser. This gets the optic higher for passive aiming with night vision and reduces the splash of the illuminator across the top of the handguard and suppressor. It helps that I can narrow the IR illuminator beam divergence for better throw down range which also minimizes the splash on the gun. This also helps with the UNITY Hotbutton I use to activate the laser which is mounted at 12 o’clock and in front of the ISM.

I am debating moving the hot button off to the side with an offset rail so it is not in line with the illuminator. Or swap it out for a Modbutton for a lower profile while still keeping it ambidextrous.

ISM Variants

There are VIS-only versions of the ISM. My friend Steve_MP5 has a VIS-only ISM on his Tommybuilt XM8. But there is also a rare 4x scope variant of the ISM called the AMO (Advanced Magnified Optic). Think of an ACOG with an integrated PEQ-15. Tom Bostic has one on his Cobra Commander XM8 build.

Photo by Tommy Built

The guy I got the ISM-IR from apparently had an AMO but I didn’t know what it was at the time and someone else bought it before I did. Here are some photos he shared with me. You can see how much bigger the AMO is compared to the ISMs. I bought two of the ISMs.

The AMO has a large rubber sunshade.

Instead of a red dot, it has a reticle and it is 4x magnification.

I zoomed in to better see the reticle.

Edit: the guy who bought the AMO before I could reached out via email and was kind enough to share a better photo looking at the reticle of his AMO.

Another person reached out about his AMO as well. Here is his reticle. Slightly different.

Final Thoughts On The ISM-IR

Remember the GBRS Hydra Mount? The ISM-IR accomplishes the same thing in a more compact setup. You just need a riser. Sure the ISM could be a bit higher to match the optic height of the Hrydra mount but that is the only compromise. The Hydra setup has the same functionality as the ISM but in a bigger package that looks like it will get snagged on things. Laser activation is not great for the Hydra but isn’t worse than the ISM.

Unfortunately, the ISM is discontinued. They fetch similar pricing as a full-power PEQ-15 which it basically is with an integrated red dot. You can build something similar with Farrowtech’s red dot sight mounting plates for Steiner lasers. But the ISM-IR is cooler. If you can find one I recommend picking it up. It is a great piece of kit that has everything packed in a decently sized red dot.

Nicholas C
Nicholas C

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5 of 7 comments
  • Uncle Yar Uncle Yar on Dec 23, 2023

    Good idea. Cutting edge execution for the era. Hopelessly outdated today. Still cool as hell.

    Holosun made PEQ clones that has integrated mounts for T2 style red dots. Those are the modern commercial successor to these things.

    Now we need to make one with pic rail or ACOG footprint too. Hydra mounts are snaggy, bulky, and overpriced.

  • Vet Vet on Dec 23, 2023

    Nick, great article as always. Few questions/comments:
    1. Would be interesting to see a review and comparison to the similar Mepro MOR also introduced at the same time, however the MOR withstood the test of time and still wildly used today, including in the current Gaza war. It also has a frontal attached cable
    2. I think the article is missing photos of the actual ISM aiming dot
    3. The optics looks a bit dirty with sand and grime in several places. Any reason why it couldn't be cleaned a bit before the photoshoot?
    4. Your seller name and address are visible in one of the photos, you may want to blur it.

    • See 2 previous
    • Erwos Erwos on Dec 23, 2023

      @Nicholas C I have an MOR. It is broadly similar to this, but no IR illuminator. Also has the cable going out the front, interestingly enough.