I am not a rich guy. I’m not complaining by any means. I’m comfortable with my income, but with 3 kids in school and an older house with a long list of home improvement projects, my disposable income just does not allow me to plunk down $400-1000, or more, for an optic for each of my rifles. Having spoken with more than a few people recently who were also shopping for optics, I know I am not alone in that regard. With that in mind, I had looked for an in depth comparison of some of the less expensive red dot sights on the market but have never really found one. Thus, the idea for this article was hatched.
In the title of this article, I use the term “budget” when referring to these sights. Please realize that I use that term loosely here, because even though these sights all have a street price under $200 (my price ceiling for this comparison), many of them are far from “cheap” in either construction or pricing. However, when compared with even the least expensive options from Aimpoint, EOTech and the other big names, they are in a completely different price ballpark.
Before I get too far into this, I would like to start by saying thanks to a couple of the manufacturers for loaning me optics (SightMark and Lucid), and a big thank you to 3 Rivers Precision for providing me the Vortex Strikefire used in this test. As for the rest of the optics tested, I either already owned or I purchased them for this test. In total, I gathered together nine (9) different red dots. Some of these optics were specifically requested by fans of the MAC Facebook page.
Also worth noting, both Vortex optics being tested have a Gen II version that will be available come Spring 2014. I spoke to the Vortex folks both on the phone and at SHOT Show and confirmed that most of the important features (dot size, adjustments, weight, size, battery life, etc.) will be almost identical to the Gen I models. The changes are with control locations and power sources.
The optics being tested, and pictured to the left, are listed here in alphabetical order: AIM Sports Red Dot Sight with 4 Reticles (8), Bushnell TRS-25 (9), Lucid HD7 Gen III (2), Lucid M7 (6), Primary Arms MD-06L (3), SightMark Ultra Shot Pro Spec NV QD (7), Truglo Red-Dot 30Mm Dual Color (4), Vortex SPARC (5) and the Vortex Strikefire Red/Green (1). Also included in the picture for size reference is an Aimpoint PRO (10).
In the interest of providing more than just on person’s opinion of which one they like, I put together a group of seven shooters, all either current or retired law enforcement, all with plenty of trigger time on red dot optic equipped rifles. To start, each shooter will be grabbing one of the rifles equipped with a freshly installed optic and zeroing it at 50 yards. After that, each shooter will fire as many rounds as they feel necessary to get a good feel for the optic, and then complete a quick survey about that optic before moving to the next.
After all the optics have been evaluated by each the shooters, we will move on to the next step which is a bit of a durability test. Each optic will be installed on my Mosin Nagant (same one I am using for my Mosin series) and 20 rounds of Albanian surplus ammo will be fired through it to see 1) if there are any electronics failures and 2) to see if there is any shift in point of impact, which will be measured and noted. To really test their durability, I would have preferred to mount each on a 12 gauge slug gun, but neither my budget nor my shoulder could afford that much in one day.
Part 2 can be found here: “Budget” Red Dot Sight Comparison – Part 2