What’s the “best” anyway? It all depends on the ranking criteria, right? Is the “best” car one that hits 60mph in 2.9 seconds or one that can tow the lower half of South Dakota to Manitoba?
The same goes with optics, so as I own the ink until this article goes live and comments open, I’m going to define the selection criteria. To me, a great short range AR optic must offer speed and just enough precision to hit something accurately inside of 200 yards, with a strong emphasis on less than 50 yards. Magnification features allowing me to see a gnat’s eye color at 400 yards is irrelevant. Reliability is also a factor. If all you want is a range toy, then you can buy a cheap optic and take your chances. There’s not a whole lot of risk other than having to rebuy it when it breaks.
I’m going to assume our “best” optics need to be suitable for home defense and/or competition. Both of those scenarios offer penalties if the optic won’t hold zero or won’t run when you need it to. After these criteria, things get subjective pretty fast, and that’s OK. I’m going to offer up my picks, then you can tell me whether you agree or disagree, and why. Here goes.
Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO)
The Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic is purpose-built for the AR platform in my opinion. Available with the QRP2 rail grabber mount, it will return to the same zero every time. Mounting couldn’t be easier. Turn the large gnarled knob until it clicks. Yes, it’s got torque limiting built in so you’ll get perfect mount tension every time. The height of the mounting base positions it perfectly for the AR platform and it will co-witness with fixed or flip-up front sights. The 30mm tube provides plenty of field of view.
The best features, however, are construction and the “always on” capability. Aimpoints are built like tanks. Drop it, bash it, or dive to 25 fathoms (150 feet) and it will keep going. While you can adjust the 2-MOA dot intensity from off to very bright, you never need to turn this device off. It will run on a single battery for years. Yes, years. That’s why the Aimpoint PRO lives on my home defense AR rifle. No switches to remember or fumble with in the dark. The rear flip-up lens cap is also clear. You’ll find that with both eyes open and the front cap closed, you’ll still see the red dot on the target. It’s some kind of optics voodoo.
In a very short list of five optics, Aimpoint gets two spots, and that’s because I think it’s the best red dot option out there, all things considered.
The Aimpoint Micro series currently comes in four options. The “H” series and “T” series only differ in that the “T” models have brightness settings compatible with night vision. The “2” models are new on the market and feature incremental improvements like dramatically improved glass over the “1” series. I mention both as you’ll see all four combinations available for sale.
Like the PRO models, these are built tough and you can leave them on for about 75% of forever before changing batteries. Unlike the PROs, they’re small, hence the name “Micro.” Depending on what mount you choose, these serve equally well on rifles, carbines or bows. You can even get pistol mounts. I’ve put one on a Glock 17 with great success. The tube is also small enough to serve as a crude aiming device for short range shots. If you see your target through the tube, you’re good to go. I keep an Aimpoint Micro T-2 on my Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun always, you guessed it, turned on and ready to go.
Prices vary with mount options, but you can find the Aimpoint Micro H-1 for about $620.