Without a doubt, mounting glass on the AR-15 has never been easier, and in turn, there’s never been a time where we’ve had the number of solid options for glass like we do today. The evolution of the common, rack-grade AR platform has been interesting to watch since I was coming along in the 90s. Slowly but surely, the carrying-handle sights gave way to picatinny rails and as things became more modern, so did the sighting options on the AR. With that evolution came the genesis of low-powered prismatic optics. And for a good reason- a lightweight, low fixed power optic is an undeniable force multiplier in both being able to identify targets at longer ranges while extending the lethality range of the average rifleman.
My introduction was when we were issued ACOGs in Iraq, and I saw first hand just how effective an etched reticle was over the older Aimpoint M68. You never needed batteries or a goofy magnifier. The overall concept was so simple. A quick aiming reticle that was easy to use with both eyes open, an integrated rangefinder, and bullet drop compensation based on average bullet data. And it wasn’t long before other companies jumped on the concept, including Primary Arms.
The ACOG in its original form is not perfect- the eye box is a little unforgiving, the glass has never been great, and for civilians looking to build a simple home defense or general purpose carbine, its kinda on the expensive side. Its also a little slow at 4x magnification versus some of its lower powered versions, and not nearly as fast as a red dot. But it is rugged; the TA-01 really is bombproof and I’m living proof- mine survived a catastrophic IED with me in Afghanistan and despite a sheared screw on the rear ocular housing, it still works fine today.
There’s a lot of lower priced competitors on the market in slightly different versions recognizing some of these shortcomings and Primary Arms’ answer is the 2.5x prism sight. They sent one out for testing with no other guidelines besides “use it”. So for an optic of this type, filling the same role as the ACOG at a more justifiable price, durability and practicality are a premium and the focus of the test.
Their scope includes the excellent ACSS reticle in their CQB version. It has a built in rangefinder and bullet drop compensation points for points of aim at the corresponding distances. All of it is integrated into a simple and effective donut & dot reticle. It effectively pulls your eye to the center for speed and has a tighter center point of aim for precision work. In practice the it all works pretty well. The system does exactly was it sets out to do, providing a nice balance between speed and precision that works well in a woodland environment, where shot distances might 300 meters might be considered a long distance shot.
The glass is surprisingly good for a scope of this price point, actually exceeding the old ACOG in brightness and clarity, at least to my eyes. One thing I’m normally concerned about with many reticle types is it washing out on the background. One of the reasons I’ve always preferred the old TA-01 and its modified German Post over newer models of ACOGs (such as the TA-31) was the issue of losing the small reticle in the background. Primary Arms’ CQB reticle doesn’t suffer from this issue which is a big plus in varying light conditions. It’s quick to find and fast on target. There’s battery powered illumination if you want it when the sun goes down, which works fine. Its not super bright in the daytime but that’s not really an issue. The donut & dot is effective enough to pull your eye in the same way a red dot does and as noted, the 2.5x magnification is still fast on the draw while adding enough for finer precision shots. At 100 meters standing it acquires the target easily, and stays there.
So we know it’ll mate up fine and zeros, the glass is nice and the reticle is well thought out. Great. But how does it hold up to abuse? The big selling point for the ACOG is, without a doubt, its durability. This scope from Primary Arms feels pretty stout and the build quality looks nice, but there’s no way to know without beating on it a bit. Violating my own personal dictum, I dropped the rifle three times, then picked it up and shook it, testing for play between the sight and the mount. Without the base, the sight can be mounted in an AR-15 carry handle like the ACOG. There was none that I noticed. Then it was drug around the range for a bit behind the ATV, and run it completely over back and forth until we got it well coated in only the finest Carolina mud. It’s extra swampy in the creek bottom from all the rain. Pop the mashed up scope covers, glass still looks good, no clouding, no signs of moisture intrusion. Let’s take it back to the target and check how the zero held up.
Fired a few more rounds at the target. 100 meters, standing. Zero didn’t change, still rock solid. Pulled three shots just to the right, grouped fine, with no noticeable shift in point of impact. I can’t find anything wrong with the mechanics of this optic. Durability, water intrusion and adjustments all appear to stand up fine under abuse.
That said I do have a few minor nitpicks. No optic is perfect and this one is no exception. Like the ACOG, the eye box is a bit tight. If you’ve ever shot with an ACOG you immediately know what I’m talking about- the shadow in the scope gets annoying if the head placement is not exactly perfect. This optic is a bit more forgiving, more akin to the Burris 336. The other minor note has to do with the reticle itself. The design is sound and rock solid, but for an optic in this magnification range I think its just a little bit busy. Not as busy as that Burris I mentioned, but still a little more than what a shooter will realistically be using. It’s not in any way a hindrance, but the latest CQB reticle Primary Arms is using in the 1x Cyclops and Trijicon is using in the TA44 is much simpler. If this optic had an updated version with that reticle, it’d be that much closer to perfect.
For whatever reason this model hasn’t got the same level of attention as many of Primary Arms’ other scopes. I don’t really know why that is, but I think its a very good option to run on a general purpose AR. The glass is nice, the reticle is well thought out, and its built rugged enough to handle what folks will throw at it and then some. It is that nice balance between speed and precision that I think most people benefit from in a general purpose AR format. This scope is nearly everything I like about the ACOG in a lesser expensive form factor. At $200, its a winner.