The Best Prism Optics For ARs in 2023

Let’s talk about prism optics, specifically prism optics aimed at the AR-15 world. If you’re not familiar, prism optics are fixed-powered optics that are often magnified, but not always. Magnification varies from none at 1X to around 6X or so. Prism optics provide a level of simplicity that pairs nicely with magnification. 

They excel on the AR because of its modern carbine-like nature. While plenty of AR-15s can reach out there and touch a target with excellent accuracy, the typical use case tops out at around 300 yards. They provide enough magnification to make hitting targets at this range simple, and they tend to be rather small, compact, and lightweight compared to other magnified options. 

Prism optics are also robust and often very simple. Integrated, AR height mounts are the norm. Versatile, etched reticles often feature bullet drop compensators with partially illuminated portions. With bright enough illumination and a two-eyes opened, target focus shooting style, they can be quite quick at close range and quite accurate within 300 to 500 yards. 

That’s not to say they are perfect. 

The Downsides To Prisms 

Prism optics are often sidelined by the optics world. However, there was that weird, like six months where every influencer was telling us to buy ACOGs. Beyond that, the classic prism optic has never seen the same popularity as the LPVO or red dot. Admittedly they aren’t as simple and effective at close range as red dots, and most don’t provide the versatility of an LPVO. 

They sit somewhere in between the two, and it’s up to the end user to suss out their needs and compare them with the optic choices available. 

The Best Prisms (For ARs) 

The Trijicon ACOG 

We can’t make this list without including the top dog of prism sights. The Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, aka the ACOG, is a classic design from Trijicon. It’s easily the most robust and proven prism sight on the market. The Trijicon ACOG was the optic of choice for the United States Marine Corps, and even the Marine Corps barely ever broke them. 

Trijicon Acog prism optic

The ACOG comes in various magnification levels, with the 4X models being the most popular. There are also several reticle options and colors. You can use a battery-powered model or one that uses the power of the sun to illuminate the reticle. The ACOG promises a reticle tuned to your caliber and barrel length, with 5.56, 7.62 NATO, .300 Blackout, and even 9mm out there as options. 

The ACOG is the option of choice if you are jumping into Fallujah next week or heading to fight bank robbers. If you need tough, you need an ACOG. You’ll have to bite the bullet on eye relief, but other than that, it’s the best prism out there. 

Primary Arms GLx 2X Prism ACSS Gemini 9mm

Holy crap, is Primary Arms GLx 2X Prism ACSS Gemini 9mm a mouthful? Let’s just call it the GLx for this section. With so many AR9s on the market, it’d be crazy to ignore the GLx with the ACSS Gemini 9mm reticle. This combination gives you just a hair of magnification to help you take your 9mm projectile to its max effective range. The reticle inside can be paired with a 7.5-inch barrel or a 16-inch barrel. 

Primary Arms GLx 9mm Gemini reticle prism optic

With holdovers out to 200 yards, it’s rather optimistic. It’s also crystal clear with generous eye relief. You can still get behind the optic quickly and engage those close-range threats quickly, fast, and in a hurry. When you have to slow down due to distance or target size, the magnification certainly seems quite nice. The reticle is illuminated brightly and works in high noon and low light easily enough. 

Vortex Spitfire HD Gen 2 3X Prism 

The latest Spitfire prisms from Vortex have shrunk things down considerably. These are seriously small optics and impressively capable optics. The Spitfire HD Gen 2 in the 3X category is about the same size as an Aimpoint T2. Maybe a little bigger and slightly heavier, but they do offer you some nice magnification and an excellent view. 

Vortex Spitfire prism optic

The illuminated three-quarter circle provides a big close-range dot, and the bullet drop compensator makes those long-range shots a lot easier. Vortex includes two mounting options, so you could take this to guns other than ARs. The Spitfire HD Gen 2 series are fairly affordable and an excellent option for a base-level carbine. The biggest problem these optics have is the 1 MOA adjustments. That’s fine for a red dot, but for a 3X optic, I want something more precise. 

See More – Vortex Spitfire Gen 2 HD 3X Prism

Swampfox Trihawk 

Swampfox is a young company making big waves by making affordable, high-quality red dots, LPVOs, and prisms. On the Prism side, they have several, but the one I turn to most often is the Trihawk. This 3X prism comes with either a BDC reticle or a standard MOA reticle, so you can figure out your drop and customize it. The Trihawk is bigger than most prism sights but sticks to the same lighter weight we are used to. 

Swampfox Trihawk 3X prism optic

All that size is due to the fact that you get a massive field of view. How big? It’s a mighty 53 feet at 100 yards. That’s the largest I know of with a 3X magnification. It’s absurdly wide and clear from side to side. It’s an awesome option for keeping great situational awareness. My biggest complaint comes from the reticle’s brightness. It’s just barely daylight bright. 

Steiner T432 

Steiner is often overlooked when it comes to optics, and the Steiner T432 is one heckuva prism optic. It’s robust, tough, and designed for serious tactical users. Much like the ACOG, it’s a duty-ready optic ready to take on the world with a smile. The T432 is a 4-power optic, but Steiner also offers a 3X and 5X option if that’s how you want to rock and roll. The reticle is crazy bright and battery-powered, the illumination control is digital, and the optic is fairly lightweight and compact. 

Steiner T432 is one heckuva prism optic

Steiner wisely includes some sections of Picatinny rail to make adding a red dot an absolute breeze. This means you have an up-close option without needing to use a funky CQB sight picture. Additionally, the T432 offers a slightly more affordable duty-ready option, and it’s not reliant on tritium and fiber optics. The downside is the eye relief still sucks. 

Primary Arms SLx  MicroPrism Series

I’m including all of the micro prism from Primary Arms in this category. Holy crap, are they small. How you get a 3X prism to be smaller than most compact red dots is beyond me. How you do it for less than 500 dollars is also beyond me. The SLx 3X prism is my personal favorite, but a 1X option also exists. They come in numerous calibers, including 9mm, 5.56, .330 Blackout, and .308. 

Primary Arms SLx Micro Prism optic

These tiny prism optics are quite clear, and the reticles get surprisingly bright. They are daylight bright even in high noon. The new auto motion sensing shake awake style reticle illumination makes life easy. The MicroPrism optics feature multiple illumination settings, and the various ACCS reticles are extremely handy and versatile. For their small size, the 3X option does pack a 38-foot field of view at 100 yards. 

See More Primary Arms Prism Scopes: ACOG on a Budget

Seeing Prisms  

Prism optics can be extremely handy for a shooter who recognizes and plans to deal with their downsides. They do make for a very light and compact rifle that isn’t devoid of magnification. These optics can certainly provide enough magnification for the standard carbine in the standard carbine role. I’m still a huge fan of the prism, but that might be my inner jarhead talking.

What do you think? Please, share below! 

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  • Ransom May 22, 2023, 4:21 am

    “The Trijicon ACOG was the optic of choice for the United States Marine Corps”… …and now for the Taliban as well, thanks to the donation made by Joe Biden.

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