Aimpoint T-1/H-1 series and Primary Arms Micro Dot
The Aimpoint T-1/H-1 series and the Primary Arms Micro Dot with Fixed Base MD-FBGII look alike from a distance. Their size and weight are similar but the resemblance ends there. The Aimpoint, manufactured in Malmö, Sweden, is a top-of-the-line, military-grade optic that sells for more than $600. It is considered the ne plus ultra of the red dot universe. The Primary Arms model is a Chinese-made (Aimpoint) clone and sells for $79.
The attribute they share is that both may be used with the RS Regulate scope mount.
This style of optic works well with an AK because it’s so light. Keeping the weight down, plus getting the opportunity to co-witness, are compelling reasons to buy either one of them.
Given the price disparity, is it fair to compare the two?
In the “micro dot” optics universe, there aren’t too many options.
The Bushnell TR 25 has the same internals and optics as the Primary Arms model. They are even made in the same factory. I believe the Primary Arms MD-FBGII is a good deal if you’re going to need a red dot for the range or other recreational activities.
The red dot will not be as crisp as the much more expensive Aimpoint system, but that’s to be expected. Sometimes the dot looks more like an elongated squiggle or blob, but this effect is in part due to one’s own eye physiology. You may find it kind of irritating at first, but paradoxically it becomes pretty much a non-issue when you’re shooting. I find that you can control his effect by keeping the power setting low. The lower the intensity power, the more precise the dot.
Size-wise, the H-1 and the Primary Arms are the same length but the Primary Arms micro is 0.2 inch narrower than the Aimpoint. The Primary Arms is a fraction taller because its brightness dial is on top. The Primary Arms micro weighs about 20 grams more, but that’s negligible. Its fixed base permits mounting close to the bore and the 4:30 position of the emitter allows for co-witnessing.
Windage and elevation adjustments on the Primary Arms product are made by turning tiny slotted screws. What I didn’t like was that the obligatory arrows that tell you which direction to turn are so faintly imprinted you need eyeglasses to see them.
I liken Aimpoint microdots to the ACOG series of scopes from Trijicon that everybody seems to want (whether they really need it or not). It’s no surprise. These are really well-engineered, precision instruments. Like the ACOGs, Aimpoint models are used by the military atop M4s and some light machine guns. They are battle-proven, sturdy, and waterproof.
Unlike the Primary Arms unit, where the brightness dial sits atop the scope, the H-1 has its adjustment control on the right side of the scope body. The dial is indexed with 12 levels of brightness whereas the Primary Arms scope has 11. The intensity knob on the Aimpoint is easier to turn than the Primary Arms model and stops at the “0” and “12” increments. Thus, you don’t even have to look when you’re turning it off. (The Primary Arms dial just keeps on turning).
Windage and elevation adjustments on the H-1 are done with the actual dial covers. You simply flip them over and use them as keys to turn the dials. Unlike the nearly invisible arrow on the Primary Arms, the inside of the caps have a clearly defined arrow telling you which direction to turn. The engineers in Sweden clearly spent some time thinking about this stuff. By using the caps as tools, you’re also more likely to put them back on when you’re finished tweaking, and thus are less like to put them aside and lose them. (Well, that’s the theory …)
Interestingly enough, they both use the same CR-2032 coin battery but the Aimpoint’s life is five years (50,000 hours) vs. 1,000 hours for the Primary Arms.
The moral of the story is that not everybody needs a military-grade optic. The Primary Arms scope represents a good value for someone who wants the advantages that the RS Regulate system affords but doesn’t have the discretionary funds (or the need) for an Aimpoint.
I’ve had a Primary Arms micro dot for years and it still works after plenty of abuse. It doesn’t have the refinement and durability of the Aimpoint, but it also doesn’t cost $600.
Ultradot, Vortex Strike Fire, Viper and Micro-Max B-Dot are also good options
There are several other choices that lay in between the $79 Primary Arms product and the $600+ item from Aimpoint.
One line of red dot optics that I’ve grown to like over the years is from a family-owned company called Ultradot. Their entry level product is the Ultradot 30, which is a compact, lightweight tubular sight that was designed for Bullseye competition. If you go to a match anywhere in this country, you’ll see a lot of Ultradot’s mounted on 1911s.
I happen to think any of their tube type sights are a great choice for an AK. At 3.9 ounces, the Ultradot 30 is really light.
The optics are also quite good — up to par with much more expensive glass.
The 4 MOA red dot is surprisingly crisp and features an 11- position, adjustable brightness dial. The more expensive Ultradot models, such as the Ultradot Match, offer adjustments for light intensity as well as a separate dial to change the size of the red dot.
Engineered in the U.S., the Ultradot line is manufactured in Japan. Because they were designed to work with the hard recoil of a 1911, they are built to take a pounding. I’ve owned several of their models and have had no problems with them.
I mounted my Ultradot on an Arsenal scope mount using 30mm rings, but it also works with the RS Regulate system. Note that but because of its configuration (it’s about 5 inches long) it needs to be mounted with RS Regulate’s longer-railed AK-303 model and fitted with two 30mm ring mounts.
At $190, including a lifetime warranty, the Ultradot 30 is a superb deal. If you really want to save money, check out the bulletin boards of bullseye shooters where you can pick up a used Ultradot for about $100.
Another inexpensive red dot optic that is favored by our optic’s guru, Tim Yan, is the Vortex StrikeFire II.
Vortex is a Wisconsin-based company but manufactures its products in Asia. The StrikeFire II is made in China. At $179, it’s not going to break the bank and the quality (plus its warranty) is quite good.
The first thing that strikes you about the Strikefire II is how robust it is. It’s built like a tank and screams “tactical.” The single-piece chassis is compact and weighs in at 7 ounces. It’s a little heavier than the micro dots and tubular models from Ultradot but reportedly can handle a lot of abuse.
It’s a snap to mount on an AK. It comes with a cantilever-type mount for an AR, but you’ll dispense with that if you use the RS Regulate system with their 30mm ring.
Unlike other tubular-type optics, the Strikefire requires only one ring, which secures the unit in the middle of its casing. You can make horizontal and vertical adjustments using the top of the plastic caps which have a ledge that fits into the screw tops. Aimpoint uses the same system and it’s a very thoughtful adaptation.
One of the most important points is the quality of the Strikefire’s red dot, which is surprisingly good for the price.
Another very big plus I discovered using this scope is that in concert with the RS Regulate mount it will co-witness with a VEPR. One cannot do this with an Aimpoint or any other micro dot that I’m aware of.
I looked at the red-only version, which Tim Yan prefers, because it’s brighter than the green-red version.
The Lithium CR2 battery has a life at maximum brightness of 300 hours. It also has an automatic 12-hour shut-off, which is very handy for people of a certain demographic (such as myself). As an optic designed for plinking, hunting and the range, it’s ideal, especially for the price point.
As I have mentioned before, co-witnessing your red dot on your AK is the equivalent of discovering the Holy Grail.
It just doesn’t happen very often and when it does, it’s exceeding satisfying. For better or worse the geometry of an AK sighting system does not lend it self to easily co-witnessing with a red dot. That’s just the way it is. Usually the rails or scope mount on an AK are just too high. This is particularly an issue with tube type red dots such as the Aimpoint or other similar sights. However reflex sights can be mounted super-low.
I was experimenting with a Viper Red Dot which I had originally intended for a handgun review. I knew that the optic was suitable for a rifle and just to be thorough I placed it on a couple of AKs, fully expecting “geometry” issues. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get it to co-witness on the forward rail of a Saiga set up with Krebs handguard and on another AK with an Ultimak Rail in a matter of minutes. It also worked perfectly on a mini-rail on my Krebs Custom rifle which is set over the dust cover. (It will also work on a side mount if you have the correct RS Regulate Scope mount).
Being able to use it on a forward rail is a huge advantage.
Unlike a tube type optic, Viper’s reflex technology will not cause eye relief problems if the sight is mounted far from the eye. In other words, mounting the sight on a rail over the gas tube, near the front sight, is not an impediment. You can easily see the dot without straining your eye in the least. In fact because the dot is further away from the eye, it’s going to look crisper than one mounted closer to your eye. You could use this sight closer to the eye, but in my opinion it’s just as effective mounted further away. With this perspective you also can gauge what’s going on around you rather than being focused on the optic.
Furthermore, because it’s so light, it’s not going to interfere with the balance of your rifle by making it “top heavy”.
The Viper has been out for a few years and Vortex has gotten all the kinks out. What I like about it is that there are the locks up front so that once you’ve dialed it in, you can nail down the windage and elevation.
Mine came with a 6 MOA arrangement which will work well with a rifle shooting at steel but not as well if you’re shooting at a bullseye on a paper target. Better to get the 3 MOA for precision work.
The left-side up/down power and illumination controls are easy to manipulate and the whole shebang runs on a CR2032 battery. It comes with a base that mounts on a pic rail. The only thing I didn’t like was that you have to detach the mount in order to replace the battery. The good news is that the battery will last up to 30k hours so you’re not going to have to do this too often.
If you need a lightweight red dot for your rifle, this will work just fine. At $229 on Amazon, it’s not going to break the bank.
Another one of Tim Yan’s favorites is the 2 MOA (minute of angle) Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-DOT. Call it a T-1 alternative or an Aimpoint clone; it’s a sturdy little red dot priced at around $200 with an impressive life of 55,000 hours (6.2 years) on a CR2032 battery. Thus it’s equivalent to the $700 Aimpoint when it comes to staying power.
Of course, you can use it on any mount that will accept an Aimpoint. The unit has 12 brightness settings accessible on a dial atop the aluminum housing. The lowest two settings work with night vision. The scope will automatically shut down after eight hours of use (with the factory default settings) but you can configure it manually for anywhere from between 2 to 12 hours.
The elevation and windage adjustments elicit positive clicks that move the point of impact 0.5 inch at 100 yards (1/2 MOA). Like the Aimpoint and the Vortex Strikefire, the tiny caps that cover the adjustment knobs have little flanges that can be inserted into the notch at the top of dial, so that you can tweak the elevation or windage without using a coin or screwdriver.
Two flip-up lens covers are included as well as an extra battery that resides inside the battery cap. This is a sturdy little beast. The finish on this product is also excellent
The quality of the red dot is crisp and shines intensely, even in bright daylight.
When you consider the Micro-Max B-Dot, along with the Strikefire II and Primary Arms scopes, which are manufactured in China, it’s clear that the Chinese have come a long way in improving the quality of their optics.
This scope is fully submersible and has been used at temperatures as low as -85 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 167 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s been tested with a semi-auto .338 Lapua, which has more than a healthy kick, and passed with flying colors.
I think this product is well worth a look.
Budget Long Distance AK Optics
If you’re going to use an AK in the 100+ yards range and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, consider the Primary Arms 1-6x scope with the ACSS (Automatic Combined Sighting System) Reticle.
This style of reticle which is designed for a 7.62 x 39 cartridge is generally what you’d find on a much more expensive scope such as a Trijicon or a Browe. (Note that there are many variations of reticles, including dots, posts, circles, scales, chevrons or a combination of these).
The scope utilizes a battery to illuminate the reticle for low light conditions. If you’re shooting during daylight hours it’s generally not even necessary to switch on the illumination.
Eye relief, at up past 4 inches, is quite good. (Eye relief is the distance from the last surface of an eyepiece at which the user’s eye can obtain the full viewing angle. If a viewer’s eye is outside this distance, a reduced field of view will be obtained).
The 6x zoom provides a ton of flexibility so that you can engage targets at a wide-ranging distance envelope. The reticle offers a bullet-drop compensator and other nifty little tables that allow you to estimate the range and other variables such as the wind.
To set up the reticle properly, you’ll need to sight in the dot at the center of the horseshoe at 100 yards.
At 10 ¾ inches, weighing in at 17.4 ounces, this is not a small scope. If most of your shooting is off the bench, this won’t be an issue. If you’re going to be shooting long distances, you will absolutely need it.
Priced at around $280, this optic isn’t going to equal what you’d get with the expensive glass. However, if your plans entail shooting at the range rather than doing a tour in Afghanistan, this scope is perfectly adequate.
7.62×39 300 BLK 3x Compact Scope
This new optic from Primary Arms is called the “7.62×39 300 BLK 3x Compact Scope” but don’t let the name confuse you. It’s ideal for the AK.
It uses the highly touted ACSS BDC which offers quick ranging, wind holds and moving target leads. The etched reticle requires no illumination and there are 12 brightness settings powered by a CR2032 battery.
It comes with a standard 1913 Picatinny mount. We’re told it’s quite durable and is designed to handle 7.62 recoil and varied weather conditions. We certainly had no malfunctions during our rigorous testing. The finish on this scope is excellent and looks a lot more expensive than the $259.99 price point. (This includes a 3-year warranty).
We tried it out at our local 100 yd range and thought it a great value for all that it delivers.
We liked in particular its compact size, good optical clarity and eye relief, useful 3x magnification, adjustable diopter (used to accommodate different eyes and corrective eye-ware), and easy to see and use BDC reticle.
The wide field of view is nice too, and the battery that powers the red-lit reticle is commonly available from any drug or variety store.
After sighting it in, we were able to remove and replace the optic several times over the course of a week, and still retain zero.
It comes standard with flip caps, a very handy feature to assist in keeping the optics clean, yet ready for quick action.
We tested it on a Krebs AK 47 and a PWS upper in 7.62×39. One thing to note is that the optic is a bit on the heavy side. At nearly 1 lb it is twice as heavy as a Trijicon TA33-C-400123 (their 3x optic with 7.62×39 BDC) so it would not be your first choice for long treks in the field during a hunt.
The other point to remember is that it’s much better to mount the optic as close to your eye as possible. It’s not like using a red dot where you can mount it closer to the front sight and not suffer consequences. In this case eye relief, the distance from the last surface of an eyepiece within which the user’s eye can obtain the full viewing angle, is problematic. Thus you’ll need to make sure you either have a rail or better yet, according to Dimitri Mikroulis at Primary Arms, use a side rail AK mount to place the optic atop the receiver.
Our conclusion: If you need a reasonably priced optic for an AK, particularly if most of your time is at the range, this is the ticket. I think offers great value–one the best inexpensive AK scopes on the market.
Editor’s note: Much thanks to Tim Yan of GunsandTech for his photos.