Last year we had a chance to review the Trijicon MRO, which I called the best deal today in red dot sights. A very good balance of price and performance, from a name synonymous with durability in the optics industry. I liked it so well I bought one myself, which currently rides on my duty AR.
Never content to rest on their laurels, Trijicon recently introduced the new MRO HD. Available as just a red dot, or in a bundle, our test model includes a 3x magnifier. What is the difference between the MRO and the MRO HD? Turns out more than just a name change. With the awareness that there are model differences, and consumers have different needs, the only real way to review the MRO HD is a direct comparison of the MRO…. Regular? Standard? Whatever, the first MRO.
One obvious difference is that the new MRO HD has two reticle options. In the same optic, as in you can choose your reticle. The default setting is the same 2 MOA single red dot like the original MRO. Option two is what Trijicon calls a complex reticle. This is a 2 MOA center dot with a 68 MOA outer ring, or what most of us would call an EOTECH reticle. Which is going to be very popular among those of us that grew up on the EOTECH system.
Why would I want that? Because while just a red dot does work, and work well, the complex reticle offers you some options. It can be used for holdovers at range, provided you have done the work to see exactly where it hits. But that isn’t the biggest benefit. If you have ever trained in CQB, you know that new shooters have a tendency to hit low. Due to the height of a red dot over the bore, you actually have to aim high at close range to hit what you want to hit. The bottom of the large circle is very nearly a perfect point of aim inside 7 yards and keeps you from the odd feeling of shooting a target’s hairline to hit it in the brain box.
I also prefer the much larger reticle for CQB work because I feel like I acquire it faster. In situations where a little slop is acceptable, like across the room at a full-sized target, the bigger ring is hard to miss. 68 MOA circle on the chest, hammer that trigger, and problem solved. I don’t dislike just a 2 MOA dot, but using the bigger reticle this week has reminded me just how much I like it.
It does, however, come with a small penalty in battery life. At position 3, the regular MRO has a 5 year on life. The MRO HD using the 2 MOA dot only has a 2.5 year on life. The complex reticle at position 3 has a battery life of just 75 days, so plan accordingly. The reticle choice can be toggled from on top of the MRO HD, simply by turning the brightness setting all the way around. Numbers alone are the 2 MOA dot, and numbers with a circle are the complex reticle. I really like what Trijicon has done here for real-world use.
If you in LE or using the MRO HD on a nightstand gun, it is easy enough to set it to noncomplex position 3 and leave it all year long. When the time comes to use it, it is either on RIGHT NOW or you can rotate to the complex reticle if you have time. Either way, you won’t be caught with your pants down.
The second difference between the MRO and MRO HD has to do directly with the magnifier. In order to make the magnifier a possibility, Trijicon had to enhance the clarity of the MRO lenses by an order of magnitude. And you may be mad at me right now because I said the original MRO was very clear.
This is one of the places that tools are required to tell the difference. Side by side, my eye can barely tell if there’s any difference in clarity between them. Until we put the magnifier on. And at that point, some things become obvious. The dot in the HD model is much more crisp and is a perfect circle. The original MRO shows some distortion of the dot, which may actually be worse if you have less than perfect eyesight. Under magnification, you can see a clarity difference at the range too.
Does this mean Trijicon sold us a bad optic the first time? No. One of the things you have to accept as truth is that better lenses are harder to produce and therefore cost more. While the new HD lens is very clear at 3x, I bet we could also say Swarovski would reject it for a 35x. Right now, in my garage, I still can see very little if any difference between the two at CQB ranges. Nor could I tell unaided outside in the sunlight. The regular MRO lenses are adequate for a nonmagnified optic. But if you want to use the magnifier, or you are really a snob for clarity, the HD is a better choice for you. But I also bet that if I took the markings off, very few of us could tell the difference unmagnified. And I also don’t feel cheated since the HD model is $300 more just for the optic.
Now about that magnifier? This is not a new concept, but I am glad to see Trijicon come to the table with one. Magnifiers behind red dots to my knowledge started around 2006 in military circles. It was nice to have a red dot for housework, but to have the 3x capability for observation, or in case you got into a longer range fight on the way to the house.
The MRO magnifier works similarly to most others. It is mounted by default in a quick detach mount, so you can choose to carry it in a belt pouch when it isn’t needed. It will also snap to the side and get out of your way if you opt to leave it attached behind the MRO. In a situation like that, you have 3x power on the way to the target, then a flick of your wrist before breech has you ready for CQB work. For observation, the magnifier works great and is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal.
The MRO original still stands as the best deal in red dots, but the HD definitely has its place too. If you do CQB for a living, it is probably worth the extra money just for the complex reticle. If you live in an environment where a full-up variable power scope is too much, but sometimes a red dot alone isn’t enough, the combo is an excellent gap filler. At $1400 for the set, it isn’t cheap. But it does fill a wide variety of needs, and being from Trijicon, you know it won’t let you down.