Best Deal in Red Dots: Trijicon MRO

MRO on Daniel Defense M4

Just a few months ago, I found myself in dire need of a new red dot sight. Not a range toy or competition special, but a no kidding duty grade optic. And in looking, I noticed a problem many of you doubtlessly already have. The market seems to be pretty much Chinese garbage or priced so high that you need Uncle Sugar’s checkbook to justify it.

25mm lens

And I thought to myself, there has to be another option. A middle ground. The argument here is one that I think you will agree makes sense. I have a lot of guns, as do many of you. But if push comes to shove, how many of those guns actually matter? Two, maybe three at most. That is going to be your sidearm, and a battle rifle in your hands. Perhaps a spare upper or specialized gun on your back, if you have the youth and strength to justify the weight. But be it riots, escape from COVID lockdown, or dodging natural disaster- you need one absolutely reliable, hell and back gun. And the optic has to match.

Which tends to rule out airsoft grade Beijing knock offs. The things that can go wrong are many, and playing for keeps is not a place to gamble. You might have ½ a second to save your own life in a shoot out. When you snap that rifle up, is the electronic dot going to be there? If you see a problem developing, and can fix it with a preemptive strike first shot, it is critical your optic has held zero.

Top illumination dial

Even with that requirement, it is hard to justify $700-$800 for a red dot sight. Red dots are cool and all, but they aren’t exactly extremely complex items. No magnification, no etched glass reticle, and remarkably few moving parts. Not to mention, many of us just got our peepee’s smacked in an economic sense by the Rona.

Finally, after much searching, I found what I think is a good trade-off. The Trijicon MRO. After some pretty extensive testing, I am ready to say this one is a near-perfect balance of cost and features. Pound for pound, this little guy is very hard to beat.

Testing set up

As we laid out earlier, reliability is going to trump most anything else for this purchase. Which in this case, means I am going to pay some money for the Trijicon name, as well as put some faith in it. Did I get to test the MRO as thoroughly as my previous Aimpoint Micro T-1? Not yet. I will have to carry it for 10 years first, which makes the review less than timely.

Hornady Match, the only choice for accuracy testing.

But, as I said, we can take some things from the brand. First, Trijicon is known for durable optics. They are the market leader right now in slide-mounted pistol red dots, devices that eat significantly more abuse than rifle optics ever will. It is counter-intuitive logic since rifle recoil is greater in raw force than pistol recoil. However, the mechanism of operation matters. Rifle recoil, particularly on a semi-auto, is mitigated by buffers and springs. Not to mention, the optic doesn’t really move. All the weight transfer is in the bolt movement, which happens largely independent of the glass.

Recessed windage and elevation controls.

Now pistols are another story. Nine-millimeter recoil is soft in our hands, but the action of the slide is actually insanely violent. First, the red dot on the slide rockets back, and momentarily slams to a stop. Then it accelerates forward at roughly the same speed and slams to a stop again. The G forces involved are crazy. So anyone that can make a tough pistol optic, can absolutely make a durable rifle optic.

Second, Trijicon has decades of experience at rifle optics and made what is arguably the most combat-proven optic of all time. The ACOG is a completely different animal than the MRO, but the point remains. The ACOG has served in the GWOT since day one, and you can still find them in use today. Troops actually refused to turn them in when they were “phased out”, which should tell you a lot about them in itself. Trijicon made its name with the ACOG, I’m betting they wouldn’t lose that reputation by putting out a fragile princess in the MRO.

Red dot…

It sounds expensive, right? And we did talk about the price being a huge factor. So I was absolutely shocked to find the MRO with a street price of $440. That is roughly half of an Aimpoint Micro T-2 while being roughly double the price of a HoloSuck. It hits a really sweet spot of price that grabbed my attention. Look, I’m not a snob with kit. But I’m not trusting my life to an electronic sight that costs less than my irons.

or green

Design-wise, the MRO has a lot going for it. Instead of trying to match either an Aimpoint Micro or full size, Trijicon went middle of the road on size. The objective lens is 25mm, which makes for a larger field of view. But it is still small enough to see around the sight if we are talking fast CQB range shooting. Much like the Micro, you can still shoot both eyes open while seeing the dot projected on target, without losing situational awareness of the larger picture. It is a remarkably well-balanced size, sure to please both Micro fans and those that prefer to look “down the tube”.

Tracking test set up

The controls are excellent, with a Trijicon take on familiar feeling adjustments. The brightness is set via a dial on top of the sight, rather than the side. This is arguably a better spot for it, especially if you are doing real work. Part of the procedure for pre-breach is to turn your brightness up if you are going from daylight to indoors. Or in reverse, if you are going from nighttime to white light CQB. Trijicon uses a flow of off, n, N, 1, 2, off, 3, 4, 5, 6. The N’s are for night vision. Setting 2 is excellent for zeroing, and 4 is my preference for high noon desert sun. The off switch between 2 and 3 is handier than you would think and shows how much Trijicon thought of the details in this optic.

Front view on Daniel Defense rifle

Windage and elevation are not capped but instead are recessed. A tool is included, but a 5.56 casing works just fine, which I also like. Adjustments are ½ MOA, perfect for a red dot that will likely be sighted in at 50 meters. The MRO features an impressive 70 MOA of travel for both elevation and windage, which means it will work with any height of mount you choose.

M4A1, always a joy to test with.

Unorthodox in “ red dot” class, Trijicon offers another set of options. The MRO is available with either red or green dot, without much change in price. $20 to $40, depending on where you buy. I got both in for testing because that seemed like an important bit to cover.

The red offers a longer battery life, by a big margin. On setting 3, red will go for 5 years, while the green will go for one. This has to do with the diode difference required to project green, similar to what you see in lasers. Green requires a bigger diode, but it has a payoff. Holding them side by side, I see the green dot more clearly. In testing, the green was also bright enough to not wash out against a green background of any type. So no worries about losing it in the jungle.

BOBRO engineering modular mount

We are also quite fortunate that the popularity of the MRO has already driven the aftermarket. Trijicon offers several mounting options, but I prefer these from BOBRO Engineering. I have used one for years on another sight, and I’m a fan. Quick detach, with a true return to zero is a huge bonus. Available in any height you like, from low to absolute co-witness. With the cost savings of the sight, this is a no brainer.

Taken apart view of BOBRO mount.

The MRO as of right now is the best deal I’ve seen in red dots. Familiar performance, Trijicon quality, and a price that is unbeatable. Not to mention, the MRO is 100% American made. That is a much bigger deal for many of us now, that is, was even 2-3 months ago. Not just designed in America. MADE in America. If you are in need, this is one I highly recommend.

BOBRO return to zero throw lever

For more information visit Trijicon website.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Phud Elmore July 20, 2020, 7:19 pm

    Nope. No adjustment tool came with mine. Useless little cloth and a marketing sticker. No tool.
    Nice optic, though.

  • Jake July 20, 2020, 12:25 pm

    Clay, what is the dot size? I see so many red dot ads and articles where the dot size is never mentioned.
    I think the ideal would be something this size with a brightness control like the Leupold Freedom RDS.
    I’ve had many, starting with the original Aimpoint almost forty years ago mounted on a High Standard Victor Bullseye pistol. Those were a game changer but totally impractical for anything but the range. The only non US made red dot I have on a “gunfight gun” is a 4 moa SIG on an AK. The SIG came with an SIG 556R which has an EOTech 512 on it today. I have a Freedom RDS on a heavy barrel carbine and it is far and away the easiest to use electronic sight in my four decades of experience with RDS and HDS.

  • Ray B July 20, 2020, 10:31 am

    Clay what happened man – those extra lb’s shake and recoil when you fire more than the M4. Time for some PT buddy

  • Michael Lindley July 20, 2020, 5:34 am

    I have the MRO with the green dot and love it! Totally agree with you there. However, I went with the ADM quick release mount due to the lower profile compared to the Bobro. Don’t get me wrong, the latter is nice (I have their scope mounts on another rifle), but they are too wide and stick out too far on an otherwise sleek rifle and sight in my opinion.

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