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Long-Range Sniper Optic for Under $300? The Primary Arms 4-14x44mm Riflescope—Full Review.

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The author used Primary Arms’ low scope rings to attach the optic to a Savage 11 Hog Hunter chambered in .308.

For more information, visit http://www.primaryarms.com/primary-arms-4-14x44mm-riflescope-acss-r-grid-reticle-pa4-14xffp-r-grid.

To purchase a Primary Arms optic on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=primary%20arms.

The world of optics has come a long way since Vasily Zaytsev used a 3.5 fixed-power scope on his Mosin Nagant to pick off more than 200 combatants at the Battle of Stalingrad. Today, long-range shooters and hunters can choose from literally hundreds of scopes that range in magnification, quality, size, features, and—most importantly—price.

Scopes these days can cost as little as $60 and as much as $4,000—and that’s not even considering thermal and night-vision optics. Most shooters are looking for something in the middle, a reliable sweet spot that won’t break the bank.

Enter Primary Arms.

Primary Arms (PA) hails from the Houston area, and they’ve made a name for themselves by producing excellent optics at a fraction of the cost of comparable products.

The optic I purchased has the same internals as the standard 4-14X scope, but also features the patent-pending R-Grid Illuminated Reticle. Before I get going, here are the specs:

The Primary Arms 4-14X44 is among the best bang-for-your-buck scopes on the market.

SPECS

  • Brand: Primary Arms
  • Battery Type: 1x CR2032
  • Finish: Matte Black
  • Magnification: 4x – 14x
  • Objective Diameter: 44mm
  • Reticle: R-Grid
  • Type: Variable Magnification
  • Capped Turrets: No
  • Click Value: 0.1 Mil
  • Exit Pupil Diameter (mm): 11.2 mm – 3.3 mm
  • Field of View (@ 100 yards): 27.2 ft low – 7.85 ft high
  • Finger Adjustable Turrets: Yes
  • Focal Plane: First Focal Plane
  • Illuminated: Yes
  • Length: 13
  • Manufacturer: Primary Arms
  • Weight: 24 ounces
  • MSRP: $279

One additional note on the specifications: The scope is made in China. That’s a big turn-off for some folks, and I get it. It’s a tough job market, and it’s hard to stomach shipping work overseas. But the “Made in China” label doesn’t necessarily mean you have to worry about quality. If a company has a good, accountable relationship with their Chinese manufacturer (which PA obviously does), the quality won’t suffer (which it doesn’t).

Finally, I wanted to mention that Primary Arms’ customer service is absolutely second-to-none. If there’s anything wrong with your scope, PA won’t waste any time making it right. Before installing a set of their scope rings, I emailed their customer service to ask about recommended torque weight. A customer service rep named Daniel replied within 30 minutes with the exact weight as well as an offer to exchange the rings if I found them to be the wrong height. That’s just one example of the many positive interactions I’ve had with PA, and, unfortunately, I can’t say the same about every small gun parts manufacturer I’ve come across.

Feel and Finish

Some consider a sub-$300 scope a low-quality optic. I’m not one of those people, but after looking at scopes in the $800 to $1,000 range, I was worried the PA scope would feel cheap. It doesn’t. The construction is solid, and there aren’t any strange or rough machining marks. It’s a bit hefty, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The reference markings make it easy to determine how many mils the turrets have rotated.

The .1 mil increments make it possible to make precise adjustments.

The windage and elevation turrets move the reticle .1 mils per click, which allows for extremely precise adjustments. Both turrets include reference marks to determine how many complete rotations the knobs have made, and each complete rotation moves the reticle 6 mils. Both turrets can also be removed and spun back to zero.

The clicks are not as positive as more expensive scopes, and the hash marks sometimes don’t line up precisely with the fixed reference mark. That being said, neither problem was noticeable enough to bother me in the field, and I could easily count clicks without looking at the markings.

The horizontal marks 1-5 allow the shooter to determine how many complete rotations the turret has made. Each complete rotation moves the reticle six mils.

The parallax adjustment knob is located opposite the windage and includes hash marks for ranges from 50-1,000 yards.

The illumination knob is directly in front of the magnification adjustment. It includes an “Off” setting between each brightness setting, which allows the shooter to quickly access the brightness he or she normally uses. I know, for example, that when I hunt I’ll use either brightness setting two or three. So I leave the scope in the “Off” position between two and three, which allows me to quickly access either setting.

The magnification adjustment is located in the usual position, and the knob turns smoothly. The scope also includes a ring that allows the shooter to match the reticle to his or her eye, ensuring the reticle is sharp for every shot.

The parallax knob ensures each shot is parallax-free, which is especially important for long-distance shooting.

I was shooting in direct sunlight, so the illuminated reticle wasn’t necessary. But it’s a nice feature in darker settings.

Durability

Scope durability is a little tough to test. Again, it feels like a durable scope, but I can’t exactly drop the thing off a cliff, as most companies like to receive their products back unharmed after a review is completed. I bought the scope for this review, which makes me even less inclined to drop it off a cliff.

No scope is meant to be handled roughly, but I have no doubt this scope can take its fair share of drops.

The product description says the scope is “shockproof, waterproof, and fog resistant,” which is a great start. I did quite a bit of research on Primary Arms for this review, and I have no reason to doubt the truth of their claims. Primary Arms has been selling scopes for several years now, and I had trouble finding any negative reviews on their website or anywhere else.

Would I take the scope into a war zone? Probably not. Will it last for as many range sessions and hunting trips as I want to take? Definitely.

Reticle

I chose PA’s R-Grid reticle because it allows for a huge amount of flexibility estimating range and determining hold-overs. Primary Arms also offers reticle styles that include hold-over marks calibrated to .308 and .223. Their ACSS HUD DMR .308/.223 is especially useful, as it includes range estimation marks as well as hold-over and windage marks. If that reticle reminds you too much of high school algebra, they also offer a toned-down version specifically designed for hunters.

The R-Grid reticle features a chevron aim point for precise shots as well as a horseshoe mark for quick target acquisition. Like the HUD DMR reticle, it includes markings for quick range estimation. You can estimate range between 400 and 1000 yards if you’re looking at an object roughly 70” tall (average height of a person). You can also estimate the range of an 18” object using each separate horizontal mark. I don’t know how often I’ll be shooting at something 400+ yards away, but I can see how these would be handy if I hunted farther west.

The R-Grid is an extremely versatile reticle, especially for anyone already familiar with mil-based ballistics calculations.

The most noticeable feature of the reticle, obviously, is the plethora of hash marks for measuring mils, half-mils, and even tenth-mils. These are great for precise range estimation, as an object’s height rarely lands on a full mil. (If you’re unfamiliar with how to estimate range using mil dots, Paul Helinski published a great primer here.) You can also use these marks for hold-over estimation as well as wind holds.

Finally, you should know that this is a first focal plane scope. There are a number of differences between first and second focal plane scopes, but the most important thing to know is that, in a first focal plane scope, the reticle changes size along with the magnification. This allows a shooter to estimate range at whichever magnification he happens to be using. In a second focal plane scope, range estimation marks are only valid at certain magnifications (usually the highest).

These pictures don’t do the scope justice. The glass is clear, and the reticle marks are thick enough to see clearly but thin enough to allow for good sight picture.

Performance

I look for three things in a scope’s performance: glass clarity, tracking, and zero hold. In my opinion, nothing else matters. Some reviewers will talk about a scope’s “accuracy,” and show you a bunch of tight groups. I’ve never understood why. As long as the scope holds zero, accuracy is due to the rifle, the ammo, and the shooter. Scopes allow a shooter to be accurate—they aren’t accurate themselves. I tested the scope simultaneously with the Savage 11 Hog Hunter. You can read that review here.

This is a great test for any scope, and the PA 4-14X passed with flying colors.

This scope performed well in each of the three categories. The glass is clear even out to extended ranges (500+ yards), and I had no trouble picking up my targets. I was initially concerned the hash marks would impede sight picture, but the marks are thin enough that it didn’t turn out to be a problem.

The scope was incredibly easy to zero. Even without converting inches to mil-clicks, I managed to zero the scope with only three shots. After that, the zero held solid. No complaints on that front.

Reticle tracking is among the most – if not the most – important function of an optic. I wasn’t able to take the scope out to longer ranges, but I was able to complete a test at 100 yards that, in my experience, does a great job determining whether or not the scope tracks correctly.

After zeroing the scope, I grabbed a box of PMC X-Tack Match ammo, which I know my gun shoots well. I started with a shot at the target’s center. I then moved the reticle one mil up and one mil to the right (10 clicks in each direction). I took aim at the center of the target, and my shot landed precisely one mil up and one to the right. I then moved the scope one mil down. My shot hit one mil down. I repeated the process until I had a nice square box around my center shot.

One mil equals 3.6 inches at 100 yards, and, as you can see, each shot landed right around or just above the 3 inch mark. Given my average group size with this round (around .7 inches at 100 yards), I confirmed that the scope tracks accurately.

Conclusion

The Primary Arms 4-14X44 is a great piece of equipment. You can buy a better scope, certainly, but I haven’t been able to find a scope with this kind of quality and these kind of features at the same price point. This, combined with PA’s great customer service, should put you at ease when purchasing a scope from this up-and-coming scope manufacturer. The glass is clear, the zero is solid, and the quality is on point. If you’re looking to outfit your next rifle on a budget, check out Primary Arms.

For more information, visit http://www.primaryarms.com/primary-arms-4-14x44mm-riflescope-acss-r-grid-reticle-pa4-14xffp-r-grid.

To purchase a Primary Arms optic on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=primary%20arms.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Kameron January 2, 2017, 5:49 pm

    I have had this exact scope with the grid recticle for about 2 months and so far so good. It is mounted on a 5.56 which I shoot out to 600yrds. I would argue with the author about “accuracy” , I agree it is not about the shot grouping, but I measure a scopes accuracy on its expected vs actual click values and repeatability. My scope has a correction value of 9%, not too bad, but it makes a difference . Being a 1/10 MIL scope, 10 clicks should equal 1 mil,or 3.6 inches at 100yrd. Mine is 3.24 inches at 100yrds. Will like to see how it lasts. I put the quality of this scope with other scopes 2x -3x the cost.

    • cartmanea February 15, 2017, 1:11 pm

      Your 9% correction is because mil adjustments are calibrated for 100 meters, not 100 yards. One click is 1/10 mil, or 1 cm at 100 meters. There is your 9%.

  • Mike Cornett January 2, 2017, 12:32 pm

    Please never use the word ‘Sniper’ when talking about civilian firearms or scopes.
    Sniper connotes shooting people. Please use: Long range shooting.
    The word Sniper gives Anti-Gun people a little more to talk about.
    I am a firearms collector…Vintage Military.

    • Jack February 27, 2017, 7:57 am

      Exactly, don’t give them wild bloody eyed frothing at the mouth psychotic types anymore fodder than they can make up them selves.

  • Robert Faris January 2, 2017, 11:59 am

    Read the article and found that the most important part-the durability was not tested. What good is buying a scope the can’t withstand a drop or jaring in a gun saddle on a side by side or on an ATV. If companies send you a scope for a review then it should be expected that if the person reviewing the item is diligent and not just “selling” the item for the company all aspects of said item would be checked and verified so an accurate and complete review can be given . Just my observation after all I’m just an ol’ Marine .

  • Jason Bostick January 2, 2017, 10:51 am

    I’ve been running this scope for the last year on my 6.5 Grendel AR build and it is indeed a terrific scope for the money. I can’t recommend it enough.

  • marvin w ketchem January 2, 2017, 10:11 am

    Will this fit a bushmaster ar15?

  • Billybob January 2, 2017, 9:43 am

    Let me take it for a ride on my HK G3 or M2HB ! The high dollar scopes keep turning into cracker jacks !

  • Alan Buccellato January 2, 2017, 8:38 am

    I like the scope.WHATwould be a good rifle for the scope.

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