By Steve Coulston
Images by Jody Lewis (CROSSFIRE Photography)
In 2007, Aimpoint set the bar high for the micro red dot sight (MRD), which was then new to the market. Until then, military grade red dot sights were fairly large, consisting of a wide 30mm tube with a battery compartment slung off the side. While very effective in combat and in the civilian hunting and shooting sports, they added bulk and weight to the firearm. This proved cumbersome, especially for competition shooters mounting red dots to their pistols. When Aimpoint launched its Micro Red Dot series, it took all the reliability, durability and long battery life of its proven larger red dots and crammed it into a small, light-weight package.
Originally Aimpoint had three micro models, the T-1, H-1 and R-1. All three shared the same physical dimensions, weight and operating controls, but they were intended for different applications. The T-1 was designed primarily for a military and law enforcement application, while the H-1 and R-1 were intended for the American hunter and competition shooter respectively. As the R-1 has been discontinued and the primary difference from the H-1 is the color (silver instead of black), this article will only address the T-1 and the H-1. The different specifications between the T-1 and the H-1 are their availability of night vision settings, operating temperature ranges, water resistance and color. The military and Law Enforcement T-1 has four night vision settings and is rated for operation in -50 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also submersible to 80 feet. These extra features come at a premium, and the T-1 commands a higher price point than the H-1. The H-1 looks like the more expensive T-1, but it lacks the night vision settings, has an operating temperature range of -20 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is only submersible to 15 feet. The H-1 also has more distinct manufacture and product markings than the T-1.
The H-1 is the perfect light weight red dot for the hunter or competition shooter. It has 1X magnification, is available with either a 2 or 4 MOA sized dot and weighs in at a whopping 3.7oz (with integral mount). This optic can be mounted for a variety of applications and can be installed on different mounting systems depending on the use. For example, for mounting on a bolt gun with a 1913 picatinny rail a low mount can be used. If the user wants to mount it to a modern sporting rifle, like an AR15, higher mounts are available. Aimpoint also makes specific mounts for the Ruger 10/22, Glock, Merkel Double Rifles and the Ruger MKIII. Earlier in 2013 they also announced a new H-1 optic package for Blaser rifles which features a new saddle mount that will now utilize both mounting points found on Blaser rifles.The Micro Red Dot H-1 departs physically from its larger and heavier brethren. Instead of a 30mm aluminum tube, it sports a compact, extruded, high-strength aluminum housing that is anodized black, with a sight aperture of 20mm. The H-1 uses Aimpoint’s superior Advanced Circuit Efficiency Technology (ACET). This provides outstanding, long-lasting battery life. While the larger Aimpoint CompM4s sets the standard for battery conservation at an amazing eight years, it is much larger and heavier and requires an AA battery. The H-1, on the other hand, still has a very impressive battery life of five years, yet it takes up less rail-estate, uses the smaller 3V CR2032 battery and weighs 8.1oz less! This small package makes it ideal for hunting rifles, sporting rifles, pistols and even bows. Thanks to the H-1’s compact size, it takes up less field of view. This means more of the target is visible. This is vitally important for hunters and competitions shooters. For folks used to the 30mm red dot tube, the smaller 20mm may take a little getting used to, but if sound fundamentals are used and repeated, such as consistent cheek weld, picking up the dot is very quick and efficient. As this optic is parallax free, it is very forgiving in regards to centering the dot. Place the dot on target and shoot. Pretty simple.The battery compartment can be found on the right side of the optic and is integrated into the brightness adjustment knob. Care must be taken to not over-tighten the battery cover when changing the battery. Thanks to the long battery life, the battery compartment shouldn’t be accessed that often. Aimpoint recommends that the battery be changed once a year, however, especially if the optic is turned on continuously. Knights Armament makes a battery cap that houses an additional spare battery, but you probably won’t need that.
The adjustment knob itself is knurled for a sure grip, is numbered for the desired brightness setting and has distinct detents at each setting, giving the user feedback in low-light or no-light settings. As mentioned previously, the dot is available in both 2 MOA or 4 MOA sizes. Regardless of the dot size, the dots still have the same 13 brightness settings. Setting 0 is for off and setting 12 is extra bright. The extra bright setting will scorch your retinas in a low light environment; however, it is really handy when the conditions are glary and bright.Zeroing the dot is straight-forward. The H-1 has elevation and windage knobs in the standard 12 and 3 o’clock positions. The knobs are protected by sealed aluminum caps with two very small prongs on them that are to be mated with the adjustment knobs to sight in the optic. They are not retained in any way, so don’t lose them. The optic also comes with a handy adjustment tool that can be used for both tightening the mount as well as point of impact correction. It is bright orange so it is easy to find in your range bag. If for some reason both the tool and the caps are missing, the knobs can be adjusted using two rounds. It is extremely clumsy, however, and requires an extra hand. The adjustments have distinct detents, making it easy to keep count of clicks. Each click will move the point of impact ½ inch at 100 yards.
Having used the Aimpoint T-1 for years, incorporating the H-1 into my rifle inventory was second nature. Aimpoint also sent its high mount, so I mounted the H-1 to the mount using the longer screws they provided and clamped it to a Head Down Products Provectus PV-15 AR. As the mount is a clamp on type, with no way to automatically regulate torque, I made sure to not over tighten the mount to the rail with the provided tool. Thanks to the compact size and light weight, it was a perfect addition to the rifle. The high mount put the dot right where it needed to be, and if I had back up iron sights installed, it would co-witness just fine. Shooting the rifle with the H-1 installed made for very quick target acquisition, engagement and transition. For longer shots, I used my 3X Aimpoint Magnifier in a Larue Tactical flip to side mount. The high mount puts the H-1 at just the right height for use with the magnifier. In the past, I have used my older T-1 in a lower, absolute co-witness mount and have still been able to utilize the magnifier. It may look a little strange, but the magnifier still picks up the dot with a clear view. The H-1 that Aimpoint sent featured the larger 4MOA dot. Up close the dot was easy to pick up, but at longer ranges it obscured more of the target. This was enhanced while using the magnifier. If given a choice, my preference would be for the smaller 2MOA dot.
Due to the popularity of the T-1/H-1, many manufacturers make a variety of mounts to accommodate them. These manufacturers include Fortis Manufacturing, Larue Tactical and American Defense Manufacturing and Knights Armament to name a few. Another great use for the T-1/H-1 is for use as a backup sight in conjunction with longer range optics. This can be done with aftermarket 45-degree offset mounts as well as mounts that clamp directly to the longer range optic. This allows the shooter to transition from a magnified optic to the MRD if a target of opportunity presents itself close up.
My criticisms of the T-1/H-1 are very few. While the front lens is recessed for some protection, the T-1/H-1 only comes with a flimsy, rubber bikini cover to act as protection from the elements. This is fine for a while, but like most rubber, it breaks down over time when exposed to UV rays, i.e. the sun. I have also snapped my fair share of rubber straps on these types of covers. A few manufactures have stepped up to the plate to offer more permanent solutions for lens protection. For example, GG&G offers an entire mounting system for the T-1/H-1 that incorporates flip-down lens caps. Personally, I really like the Tango Down iO Cover. This is a plastic cover with integrated lens covers that flip and lock to the side. It is a cheap option that can be had in many colors. Another improvement would be to thread the inside of the housing to accommodate a 20mm kill flash. Lastly, I would like to see a tethered solution for the elevation and windage knob covers.
T he above mentioned criticisms are small when compared to the features found in the Aimpoint Micro sights. They continue to set the bar high for the MRD market, and I look forward to what Aimpoint will do in the future to improve upon these sights. For now, they are top notch in my book and will continue to ride my guns for years to come. The cost for the H-1 is right around the $600 mark, depending on where it is purchased. For me, the Aimpoint Micro series of optics has been and will be the go-to red dot of choice, period.