By Rob Kay
I suspect if you’ve purchased an AK, one of the first accessories, if not the first you’ll consider acquiring is a scope mount.
So, what to buy?
If you read our recent story you’ll see that we’re unabashedly bullish on RS Regulate. We’re not alone. They are sleek, strong, and hold zero tenaciously.
For the quality of scope mount you’re getting, they are fairly priced. They are manufactured from 6061-T6 Aircraft Grade aluminum that is Mil-Spec Type 3 HA. The lock bolt is Grade 2 titanium and the bolts are Stainless Steel. (You could always get some junk mount for much less but you’re not going to be happy).
The RS Regulate mounts are modular so you can use them with just about any AK rifle and are designed so that you’ll be able to co-witness with several popular brands of optics.
We chose the set up designed specifically for the Aimpoint T-1 and H-1 series of microdots. Not coincidentally, this mount also works with a popular Aimpoint clone, the Primary Arms Micro Dot with Fixed Base MD-FBGII. Both scopes look almost the same from a distance. Their size and weight are similar but the similarity ends there. We’re talking apples and oranges. What they do have in common, for the purpose of this article, is that they both work splendidly with the RS Regulate product. (See above photos).
They are really great for an AK because they are so light. Keeping the weight down, plus getting the opportunity to co-witness is a compelling reason to buy either one of them.
So…we thought it would be an interesting exercise to compare the two scopes.
Why? An Infinity is nice to have but not everyone can afford one. A Fiat will also get you from point A to point B. The Aimpoint retails in the 600+ range and and the Primary Arms goes for $79. (What’s more, fit and finish on the Primary Micro are quite decent, particularly when you consider the price).
Why look at just these two scopes?
In the micro dot world, when it comes to Aimpoint-like scopes, there doesn’t seem to be other options. It would be great if there was a “in between” clone made in Japan straddling the price point between the Primary Arms product but I am not aware of such a beast.
There is the Bushnell TR 25 but in researching this article I found out that the internals in the Bushnell product are identical to the Primary Arms micro dot. They are even made in the same factory. The only thing different is the exterior.
Primary Arms – a value proposition
I originally became familiar with Primary Arms when a friend sold me his match quality 1911 wadcutter gun (set up for Bullseye shooting) with the previous generation Primary Arms micro dot sitting on top of it. Who knows how old the scope was when I purchased it but it continued to serve me for quite a long time and took quite a beating from that 1911 until I ponied up for a competition model from a company called MatchDot.
Thus my own experience with the Primary Arms scope was limited but very positive.
The only thing I didn’t like was the “dot” resembled a kind of elongated squiggle or blob rather than a precise “dot”. I realize that effect comes more from my own eye-physiology but none the less, I’m the one that uses it. The upshot is that I found it kind of irritating at first but paradoxically it becomes pretty much a none issue when you’re shooting an AK. It also seems that with the Primary Arms optic, the lower the intensity power, the more precise the dot.
Size-wise, H-1 and the Primary Arms are the same length but the Primary Arms micro is .2” narrower than the Aimpoint. The Primary Arms is a skosh taller because its brightness dial is on top. The Primary Arms micro weighs about 20 grams more but in the scheme of things, but that’s negligible.
Windage and elevation adjustments on the PA product are made by turning tiny slotted screws which works fine. 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 the thing.
Here are some of the major features of the Primary Micro:
- 3 MOA dot.
- 1,000+ hour battery life at medium setting.
- Uses 1 CR2032 battery (included).
- 11 brightness settings
- LED emitter on the side (4:30) for better cowitness.
- Waterproof (you can shoot in the rain) but as the PA website says “don’t go scuba diving with it”
- One year manufacturer warranty
- Bikini covers included.
- Weighs 127 grams with mount
- Price $79
I liken the Aimpoint to the ACOG in that everybody seems to want one, whether they need it or not. And why not? These are really well-engineered, precision instruments. Like the ACOGs, Aimpoints are used by the military atop M4s and some light machine guns. They are battle proven, sturdy and reliable.
They are waterproof too. Unlike the Primary Arms unit, where the brightness dial sits atop the scope, the H-1 is on the on the right side of the scope body. The dial is indexed with 12 levels of brightness whereas the Primary Arms scope has eleven. The intensity knob on the Aimpoint is easier to turn than the PA 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 just keeps on turning. It also allows for more red dot intensity when dialed to the max. With my eyes, the more intense, the rounder the dot. It seemed to “bloom” like a flower.
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 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 your finished tweaking, and thus are less like to put them aside and lose them.
What a concept.
Interesting enough, they both use the same CR-2032 coin battery but the Aimpoint’s life is five years (50,000 hours!) vs. 1000 hours for the Primary Arms.
Here are the main points:
- Weighs 105 g with mount
- Weaver-style base
- 50,000 hours of operation on one battery
- Available in 2 dot sizes (2 and 4 MOA)
- Fully waterproof
- No tools required for windage and elevation: top of protective caps fits into holes on adjustment screws
- 12 brightness settings
- Price $600+
Both the Aimpoint and the Primary Arms optics allowed me to “absolute co-witness” on the Saiga using the RS Regulate mount.
The Primary Arms also allows you to “absolute co-witness” on the VEPR. However, I was not able to do this using the Aimpoint on the VEPR.
The sight picture on the Aimpoint did not allow for it. In other words, the very bottom edge of the optic “eclipsed” the view of the rear sight.
The “sighting” geometry on the VEPR differs from the Saiga vis a vis the scope mount.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Each AK variant has different specs and as RS Regulate founder Scot Hoskisson attests to, it’s maddening trying to design parts that will fit a wide spectrum of AK models.
However, with the Primary Arms optic there was a larger sight picture. You might say there was more (vertical) distance between the bottom rim of the optic and the iron sights with the Primary Arms optic.
I also tested both optics with the popular TWS dust cover. I co-witnessed with both optics easly because it’s mounted so low. What’s more, the rear aperture from TWS made it it easier on my tired old eyes.
Conclusion: Not everybody needs a military grade optic. However, if you have the bucks, you know exactly what you’re getting with an Aimpoint.
The old cliché is true. You get what you pay for. There’s reason why Aimpoint products cost a lot and armed forces around the world use them. That said, the Primary Arms scope represents an exceptional value for someone who wants the advantages that the RS Regulate system affords but doesn’t have the discretionary funds for an Aimpoint. As alluded to above, 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.
Each has their own place in the scheme of things and you’re not going to go wrong with either.
Questions? Comments? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Kay writes about firearms for Hawaii Reporter and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.
Read more of Rob’s articles on OnTargetHawaii.com