Best Micro Red Dot for the Money — Primary Arms MD-RB-AD

The windage and elevation dials can be adjusted using the top side of the turret caps.

Primary Arms’ latest micro red dot could be the best value in its category.

Primary Arms Continues to Raise the Bar

The folks at Primary Arms made a name for themselves producing solid optics at reasonable prices, but in the last few years, they surpassed their budget-friendly competitors with stellar customer service and a desire to improve.

Their latest offering, the Advanced Micro Red Dot (MD-RB-AD), exemplifies the company’s attention to detail and their commitment to providing their customers with new and improved products at the same low prices.

SPECS:

  • Battery Life: 50,000 Hours

    The MB-RD-AD is a solid little optic that includes many of the features found in higher-priced competition.

  • Battery Type: CR2032 3V Lithium Coin
  • Brightness: 11 Settings
  • Finish: Hardcoat Anodized
  • Material: Aluminum – 6061
  • Night Vision Compatible: Yes, two settings
  • Reticle: 2 MOA Dot
  • Reticle Color: Red
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • Weight: 5.4 oz.
  • MSRP: $150
  • Manufacturer: Primary Arms

Important Features

The first item on the list—over 5.5 years of continuous battery life — catapults the MD-RB-AD from the budget optic sector and onto more advanced playing fields. Aimpoint’s Micro T-2, for example, boasts the same battery life for roughly five times the price. While battery efficiency has improved across the red dot marketplace, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another optic for a similarly low starting price.

A long battery life allows the user to leave the optic in the “ON” position even when the firearm isn’t in use. That way, if the rifle or shotgun should be deployed at a moment’s notice, the shooter doesn’t have to fiddle with the knob before aiming and firing. As long as you change the battery in your MD-RB-AD every four or five years, your AR-15 or AK-47 will always be ready to rock and roll

The MD-RB-AD includes an integral baseplate that can be swapped out for Aimpoint risers.

Primary Arms v. Aimpoint

But enough about batteries. Let’s address the question everyone’s asking—can the MD-RB-AD compete with the likes of Aimpoint for a massively lower price?

As with almost any gun-related question, the frustratingly evasive answer is, “It depends on what you’re using it for.” The optic worked perfectly throughout the course of my testing, but I conducted my testing at a gun range, not Afghanistan. If you’re looking for a reliable range optic or something to use on your home-defense gun, you’re unlikely to notice much difference between the Micro T2 and the MD-RB-AD.

Battery life is comparable to the T2, and the MB-RD-AD offers one more brightness setting (though two fewer night vision settings). Both feature a 2 MOA dot and a hard coat anodized non-reflective finish.

Primary Arms also improved the MB-RD-AD over the first-generation PA red dot by including rubber O-rings in the windage and elevation turrets for better waterproofing. The entire unit, including the turrets caps, is constructed from 6061 aluminum, and it weighs a solid 5.4 ounces.

Primary Arms made a number of changes to their first-generation red dot (right). The latest version (left) moves the brightness dial to the right side of the optic, expands the diameter of the turrets, and adds more aggressive stippling to all dials.

The Advanced Red Dot also improves upon the older model by including two night vision settings. See the “Testing” section for an important note regarding these settings.

I found the dot to be clear and sharp at all brightness settings, which is no doubt due to the fully multicoated lenses and an ultra-low-profile emitter. A 2 MOA dot, which covers a 2-inch circle at 100 yards, is the perfect size for both close and medium-range applications. I noticed some lens tint, but it was minimal and consistent with all other red dots I’ve used.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but even here you can see the dot is clearly visible on a bright, sunny day.

Overall Impressions

All of these features contribute to a fantastic experience at the range or on a hunting trip. If you’re looking for something that can survive a war zone, the MB-RD-AD includes a few features that aren’t ideal. While the waterproofing is better than the first-generation model, it can only survive up to one meter for up to 30 minutes. The Micro T2, by contrast, is submersible up to 25 meters. While few soldiers engage in many underwater firefights, the difference in waterproofing indicates differences in construction quality.

That being said, the MB-RD-AD will easily survive a fall in the river or a rainy day at the range. It also includes a lifetime warranty that covers both defective materials and (amazingly) normal wear and tear. My experience with Primary Arms’ customer service has always been excellent. In the two or three occasions I’ve had to contact them, they’ve responded promptly and rectified the situation to my advantage. If your unit has any issues, you can count on Primary Arms to either fix it or send you a new model.

Range Time

The MD-RB-AD was simple to install and zero, and it performed well throughout the course of my testing.

The optic functioned as advertised. The windage and elevation dials adjust one MOA per click using the turret caps, which means the appropriate tool is always handy. I conducted a quick sight-in at 50 yards using nothing but a 30-round magazine for support, and I got the optic ready to go in four shots.

The windage and elevation dials can be adjusted using the top side of the turret caps.

The group in the middle was shot using the original zero. The group on the bottom left was shot after removing the optic and reinstalling it.

The brightest setting is still clear and sharp, and can easily be seen in direct sunlight. The lowest settings are ideal for lowlight or nighttime conditions. The brightness adjustment dial stops on the “Off” position, and the clicks are tactile without making the dial difficult to turn.

One Critique

My only critique of the optic regarded the night vision function. Though the product description says these settings should not be visible to the naked eye, I could easily discern both the N1 and the N2 dots. I worried this would make the dots much too bright for any night vision optic.

But remember the awesome customer service I mentioned in the intro? Primary Arms responded to my email the next business day. They’re aware of the issue, and they told me that customers have two options: they can have PA replace the circuit or PA will happily refund their money. Customers will receive a pre-paid mailing label once the company receives the correct circuits from their supplier.

So, while PA’s optics are made in China, which sometimes causes issues like this one, customers can have confidence that the company will fix the problem in a timely manner.

Overall, the MB-RD-AD performed well. I shot several hundred rounds, and it never lost its zero. I even took the optic off the rail, reinstalled it (to the same torque weight), and shot another group. As you can see below, the result was great. The variation in point of impact is obviously due to my rifle or ammunition, not the optic.

Conclusion

As my colleague Max Slowik said in his overview last month, the Primary Arms Advanced Red Dot proves a fantastic choice for anyone looking for an affordable optic they can trust to come on and stay on when they need it. The MB-RD-AD won’t survive the apocalypse, but it will survive whatever may happen on your next hunting trip. For the money, this may be the best option out there.

For more information about Primary Arms, click here.

To purchase a red dot on GunsAmerica, click here.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • John L January 8, 2018, 8:23 pm

    Looks good. I would have to see the daytime is fine claim at mid day in a Phoenix AZ summer. You know, blazing sun coupled with a sere landscape. I tend to lose the red dot even on high setting. Green on the other hand always stands out. This looks like a good buy for most.

  • Russ H. January 8, 2018, 12:26 pm

    I’ve got a PA red dot on one of my better carbines, simply wanted to try it out. It’s worked great for over a year now with about 500 rds put through the gun. American Defense quick detach mount (don’t go cheap with the mount). I’ve intentionally banged this sight around to see if I could break it – nope. \”Banged\” means I whacked it hard with the heel of my hand while mounted on the gun about 20 times (if I can break it like that, I don’t want it on my carbine). As with all red dots, if you wear glasses or your eyes are not so great the red dot can ”star” a little (very little) depending on your prescription or how bad your eyes are. People simply don\’t understand how red dots work or don\’t know their eyes are jacked up – causes 90% of the complaints with red dots regarding \”starring.\” I highly recommend PA red dots – the ones in the $150+ price range, no experience with the less expensive ones.

  • joefoam January 8, 2018, 8:15 am

    Wow, how does PA continue to produce superior optics at bargain basement prices? Other manufacturers of high end glass had better take notice.

  • Corbin January 8, 2018, 7:10 am

    I agree PA has a great product line, but their “sister” company Holosun, actually has many red dot sights that provide better clarity and cleaner exterior adjustment controls with an identical battery life. I would really like to see a Holosun vs higher priced similar red dot review. I feel that Holosun is the real sleeper affordable quality red dot optic.

    • Ryan January 8, 2018, 9:21 am

      Until Holosun offers a legitimate lifetime warranty on their optics like Vortex and PA, I won’t mess with them. Holosun only covers red dot electronics for 3 years, then you MUST provide a copy of your receipt to process the warranty claim within that time frame. Only the metal body of their optics is covered by their joke of a “lifetime warranty.” Check out their warranty page and actually read their terms. If they won’t stand behind their products, you shouldn’t either!

      • Bill Jacobs January 8, 2018, 7:01 pm

        Well – My Holosun has took a beating for 4 years so I havent needed their customer service. And the new Elite Series from Holosun has Lifetime warranty no questions asked to the first owner.

  • akjc77 January 8, 2018, 3:38 am

    Thanks for reviewing a product in the price range us pheasants can afford. If I was still in market for an optic the things I have always heard about PA makes it a much bigger value! You cant put a price on great customer care and who covers wear n tear for life? Not even Zippo does that folks! I hope more companies take notice

    • A. Dolphin January 8, 2018, 11:00 am

      I guess red dots are for the birds now.
      Rise up against The Man, brother!

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