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I spy with my little eye. Gear Review: Primary Arms GEN 2 AA Battery Multi Reticle Red Dot (BLEM)

Posted by Knitebane

UPDATE: This little gem keeps going strong. As a test, I turned the red dot on and set it to its lowest setting then left it. That was in October (2012). I checked it last week (first week of January 2013) and it's still going on the same AA battery.

The term "you get what you pay for" probably came from a gun owner. It's certainly true more often than not when it comes to firearms and their accessories. That's a real problem for me because I don't like to spend money I don't have to. It hurts to shell out hundreds of dollars for a firearm and then shell out almost as much (or more) before it's usable. Even the most utilitarian pistol needs ammo and a holster. A typical self defense setup includes a good sturdy holster, spare magazines or speedloaders and a way to carry them plus a belt designed for a gun. There's just no getting around the fact that you're going to spend money on things other than the actual gun. And it's better to spend a bit more once than spend a bit less twice or more.

I really don't mind spending money on quality equipment but when an optic like an Aimpoint, Eotech or ACOG costs more than the gun I'm going to put it on, something inside of me dies. I've learned the hard way that going cheap is even more expensive. I've junked several NCStar or "Famous Maker" optics, lasers and lights. I've learned not to trust the low end stuff at all. This doesn't mean that something sturdy and reliable can't come at a good price, but too low of a price is certainly immediately suspect.

So when I come across a work-alike of an Aimpoint CompM4 for $99 and ON SALE for $59, I WANT TO BELIEVE! but I'm also afraid to believe. I don't want to buy another piece of junk. So I started digging. I checked the usual places that are critical of cheap glass. And while there are always a few zealots (If it aint a Unertl it's junk!) the reviews I found suggested that Primary Arms was a solid, dependable optics company that had a solid, dependable red dot.

Still, $59 for a rugged, dependable red dot? There has to be a catch. And there is. It seems that the first run of the GEN 2 sight had a manufacturing defect. The battery tube was a few millimeters short and the battery cap digs into the body of the optic by a tiny amount. Like this:

Battery cap

This is the stock picture from the Primary Arms website.  Mine isn't even close to being that obvious. You really have to look close to notice it so I suspect that some are worse than others.

Primary Arms admits the defect right up front and the warranty is limited to a store credit if it fails.

So I bought one. The specs are:

* 2 MOA Dot
* 1,000+ hours battery life
* Uses 1 AA battery
* Length: 5.5-Inch
* Weight: 12 1/8 oz w/mount

Used on the flat top rail of an AR, the included mount with spacer will give a lower 1/3 co-witness with the standard iron sights. Reportedly, if you remove the spacer it will do a true co-witness. I can't testify to that as I don't have an AR. I can tell you that the mount + spacer is REALLY HIGH UP on an AKM clone especially if you've mounted it using the side mount:

It's high enough that I could barely get a cheek weld even with the 1/2 inch cheek piece on the Magpul MOE. I've since pulled the spacer out (more on that later) and the cheek weld is much, much better.

This is not an Aimpoint. The glass has a noticeable green tint to it. It doesn't seem to affect visibility (for me anyway) though I haven't tried it out in a low light environment. The emitter is on the left-hand side of the tube and it's noticeable. That side of the tube isn't round as you look through it. The reticles get blurry on higher settings. In fact, the higher settings are unusable indoors as they are blindingly bright. Outdoors in bright sunlight those settings might be more usable but indoors they are a hazard. In fact, you don't want to twist the knob the wrong way on a dim shooting range. It will take a few minutes for your eyes to recover.

The reticle knob changes between a dot, a cross, a circle and dot and a starburst. The knob has positive but silent detents though it is possible to stop between detents and have no reticle while still burning battery. Elevation and windage are easily adjustable and covered. The covers themselves have retaining wires so you can't lose them.

Primary Arms GEN2 AA battery

The one real weakness is the brightness knob. Full credit for going to eleven, but it's a continuous knob and turns in either direction from OFF thus risking the aforementioned blinding. Once it's on, finding OFF is a matter of either coming out of battery to look down on the scope and find the little dot so you can line up the zero or looking down the tube and turning the knob until the reticle goes away. I would much rather have a positive stop at zero and eleven. I plan to do some creative painting on the knob to indicate which direction is correct and where zero needs to be for OFF.

On a thousand dollar optic, these would be deal killing flaws. On a $60 optic, not so much.

To date, I've only shot 60 rounds of 7.62x39 out from under it. It took three rounds to sight in, after that all of them went where I put the dot.

Currently the Primary Arms website shows this particular optic to be out of stock. Considering that it's effectively a factory second I suspect that this exact item won't be back though I hope a new one with a corrected battery tube will show up soon. They have other, similar items using CR123 batteries or single reticles so if one of those floats your boat you can go get one today.

They also have a micro red dot and an Ultimak gas tube mount that might find its way onto Mrs. Knitebane's AK.

I guess I sound like a fan of Primary Arms, don't I? Considering how I hate to part with coin unless I get a good deal, yeah, I can live with that. Part of what makes a good deal on a product is how the company treats you. After I got the optic mounted I put the box away somewhere safe. Very, very safe. And inside the box? The two short screws used to delete the spacer.

So I emailed and asked them how I could buy some more screws. Within 24 hours their customer service representative, Garrett, had responded to me and had put some in the mail, free of charge. I never even mentioned I was going to do a review.

Yeah, I'm a fan now. If you're going into combat or if you're going to compete and shoot tens of thousands of rounds a year then a high-end optic like an ACOG is probably a better choice. But for general target shooting or hunting or even some recreational competitions, a Primary Arms optic is something I'll certainly recommend.

Dear FTC, I paid for this out of my own pocket.  So there.


I love it when a plan comes together

Posted by Knitebane

The Mrs. and I spent the afternoon at the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center validating a few firearms.

I've been building my AK for the past couple of months (actually a WASR 10/63 which is a Romanian AKM semi-auto clone) and with the addition of the TAPCO Razr muzzle brake and the Primary Arms GEN 2 red dot (a US-made Aimpoint M4 clone) I was finally ready to run a few rounds through it.

After the outing to the Sooper Seekrit Gun Blog shoot, I've had some worries about my FAL. It had some issues with the Remington UMC ammo and I decided to try some Tula steel case to see if it ran okay. The Tula comes at a good price and would make nice plinking ammo if it cycled okay. Since the FAL is really hard on brass I'm not particularly worried about reloading it so the steel cases don't bother me.

And finally we've been readying the Remington 597 for the upcoming Appleseed shoot in Ramseur, NC. I've put a 4x scope on it and switched to a more reliable ammo so it needed a zeroing.

Other than running the blowers at full blast and trying to freeze us to death, and having one of the largest crowds I've ever seen at the Wake county range, it went pretty well.

We started with the Remington 597. This little rifle is fantastic. It's just a bit picky about ammo but .22LR is cheap enough that having to move up to a more expensive brand wouldn't be too bad. Strangely, it doesn't care a whole lot for the Federal. Or the Remington. Or even the CCI. It likes Armscor green dot, the high(er) velocity Filipino import stuff. Go figure. The scope is nothing to write home about either, a Barska 4x32 Plinker-22 all set up for the built-in 3/8" rail on the Remington.

See if you can see the spent brass in the air

I had bench zeroed the scope using a laser and it got the rifle close. A few clicks later and I was making one ragged hole at 25 meters in the bullseye. The Mrs. took a turn and put 10 rounds into a thumb-size area. Not bad for someone with no formal rifle training. I think that after Appleseed she's going to be tough to keep up with. The Armscor ammo did great. Consistent, pretty clean and I had ONE failure to fire out of 95 rounds. Not bad. I've got sling swivels and a GI sling on order. When they arrive this thing is done. The Mrs. likes mine enough now that we're going to start shopping for a Remington 597 for her too.

The Mrs. on the left. My final target on the right.

Next was the AK. Because of the new muzzle brake doing a bench zero with the laser was not all that good but the gun made a nice grouping if very high and to the left. A few clicks and I was again making one ragged hole. The Mrs. took a turn and also had a nice grouping. This is only the second time I've fired this gun and while it may not be a top-end item, the TAPCO Razr made a world of difference. There is almost zero muzzle lift now. The gun pushes straight back and the red-dot barely moves. Follow-up shots are quick and accurate. I'm a fan.

In full recoil

The above image shows what the Razr does. That's in full recoil.

The Primary Arms red dot is another winner. The glass is clear and gathers light rather well. The dot isn't blurred and even on the lowest settings it's easily visible against the target. On the higher settings it's VERY bright and kind of hard to look through indoors. An outdoor test is in order but so far I'm impressed.

The FAL was next and there was mixed news. The Tula ammo seems to shoot just fine and had none of the sticky chamber issues that the Remington UMC ammo had. It has a significant difference in power though and out of each 20-round magazine I'd get four or five light primer strikes. This is likely a gas regulation issue with the bolt not slamming all the way forward or perhaps just a dirty gun (I honestly can't remember the last time I oiled it, much less cleaned it) but I've ordered a spare firing pin just in case. Other than the few that didn't fire at all, once I got the gas system to cycle at all the ammo was VERY accurate and consistent. It's clean and non-corrosive so for plinking ammo it should be fine.

I love me some FAL

All in all a very good day at the range.

Dear Feral Trade Commision, I paid for all of the items reviewed here out of my own pocket. GFY.