Red Dot Sight Comparison: Aimpoint, Millet and Vortex

 

 

Note from the editor:  this marks the first time I have a guest author on this website.  I have been wanting to do a descriptive article on a few red dot sights for some time now and the three red dots that are the subject here have been in my posession for quite some time.  In a perfect world, I would just buy a $600 Aimpoint Micro and be done with it, but I have a hard time justifying that, so I wanted to look at more affordable options.  I am generally more drawn to long distance shooting, so I kept postponing this article.  Finally, I gave up and decided that I need to come up with a way to get someone else to do it.  In retrospect, I like the idea and I will try to occasionally invite people to look at some products for me.  It offers a different perspective to mine which is usually a good thing. My guest author has occasionally helped me out with some scope comparisons and I like to draw on him since he is a detail oriented guy who does not know all that much about optics.  He is a proprietor of a small company called Speedcraft Composites specializing in repair and manufacturing of custom carbon fiber (and other composite) material which requires a little bit of the same obsessive compulsive behavior optics people have.  Since his background is different, Stan often pays attention to different flaws in weapon sights than I do and prioritizes their strengths and weaknesses differently.

 

Red Dot Sight Comparison: Aimpoint, Millett and Vortex

By Stanislav Kaplan

 

To start off, I want to make it clear that I am what I would consider to be a typical user i.e. I do not wear body armor for a living nor do I really hunt or compete. I own several firearms mostly for recreational shooting and home defense.  For the purpose of this review I will limit my “philosophy of use” to AR-15 applications, specifically to my AR-15 16” .223 carbine.

 

I was asked by a friend to take a look at a few red dot sights to give my view on things. Technically, what he actually said was “take a look at these three and pick one for your birthday present. The catch is that you have to write a review of why you picked the one you did.”

Well having just finished my AR15 build and being conveniently in the market for a sighting system I of course after a poor attempt at “no, no you don’t have to” took him up on the offer. (Wouldn’t you?)

 

The red dot sights which will be described in more detail later were three reflex 1x red dot sights:

1. Vortex Strikefire

2. Aimpoint 9000SC Camo

3. Millet ZoomDot

 

Here are the contenders.  From top to bottom: Millett, Aimpoint and Vortex:

all

 

Since I am actually deciding which one of these to keep, and for the purpose of clarity, I will disregard name brand, price/value and specs/features at first. My intention is to use and evaluate these sights for my specific and perhaps your need.

 

My needs (yes, it’s all about me):

 

Since I have never tried writing down anything like this before and not knowing where to start, I will first describe my gun, specifically my AR15, which I have built with my own two hands (yeay for me) with occasional help and advice from friends and family.

 

It is an AR15 based on Sun Devil lower receiver chambered for 223Rem California legal rifle with a bullet button 10 round mag, 1-8 twist 16” Rainier select barrel, standard A2 grip and buttstock along with VTac handguard and Spike’s Tactical BCG.  This recipe of parts for me, like most, was not the gun of my dreams but a literal and figurative hodge podge of compromises.  I chose to spend money where it mattered and save money where it mattered less (to me).  What I wanted was a rifle that was reliable, affordable and could perform better than I could in order to leave room for growth.

 

My intended use is to put holes in paper and to defend my home and those living in it, (though I have better tools for the later at my disposal).  Oh, and in theory, to defend the world from the armies of zombie hordes.

 

So that’s it for me. Now for the sights:

 

Having spent some time evaluating the three systems I have better defined for myself what I am looking for in a red dot.  I’m not looking for pin point accuracy at 600 yards or for something where I can play with wind and range adjustment to get that one shot in the x at x00meters. No, these things are great for both eyes open, fast target acquisition at short range, while on the move. Once the sight is set up for approximately 50m you’re done messing with it.  Could you shoot to 300-600? Sure. Will you hit anything? Maybe. Will you do it consistently? Probably not.

So why not just pick any one and be done with it you ask.

 

What I like:

In general I really like these systems for their compactness, ease of use and type of use. The later perhaps requiring some explanation.  Having used many different sighting systems including iron sights and top shelf scopes costing in the thousands of dollars, I can appreciate being able to track my target with both eyes open and letting the dot appear. I’ve never liked the idea of iron sights having to focus on the front post while letting your target be out of focus in the back ground. And while scopes are great, they are limited.

 

Vortex Strikefire

The Vortex system is an interesting one on the face of it, trying to be all things to all people. It comes with a 2x magnifier, soft touch on/off, brightness and color controls plus a feature allowing the use of night vision and a cool flip up cover. The adjustments are easily accessible and the clarity and brightness of the dot are not the best here but are good enough.

With and without a 2x magnifier:

with magnifierwithout magnifier

 

With all that, calling this the best sight here would be a big mistake.  The system is heavy adding a noticeable weight high up on the AR platform.  It is also bulky in size as viewed from the shooting position. Due to the combination of electronic controls, battery receptacle, wind and elevation adjustments, and lens cover, the sight gives you a very large blind spot becoming most notable when panning from left to right.

strikefire

I don’t know about you but I like to see what I’m about to point my gun at. Though the cover is snug and might even be splash-proof, it is poorly designed as you have to wrestle with it to get it to fit correctly. But all of this I can live with.

What I can’t live with is the apparent after thought of the use and placement of the soft touch buttons, specifically the power switch. When I received this unit, the battery was dead.  Not thinking much of it, I replaced the battery. To my surprise, periodically when going to use this system, I found the power was on. At first I thought that the vague feel of the buttons meant I wasn’t turning it off when I thought I was. I was wrong. It appears that the soft foam in my rifle case and even the padding of its own box were enough to activate the power button. Surprise! One fine day the battery was dead. This is after a total of 2-3 hours of use and several months of storage. When did the battery die? I don’t know nor care. This is a flaw I can’t live with. Regardless of whether I pick up a weapon or a ham sandwich, it better do its job when it needs to or it ceases to have any reason to exist. No excuses. This one is out of the running.

 

Aimpoint 9000SC

The first thing you notice about the Aimpoint is the camo, the second thing you notice is … the camo. I’m not a fan of the camo finsh, but that’s me not you so let’s move on.  This thing is build like a tank. From the satisfying click of the switch to the double mounts, it’s clear they were thinking of a much more significant caliber then the .223 I’m using. But since the AR15 is a modular platform with plenty of big hitting options, no points lost there. The brightness of the dot is significantly higher than that for the others and the view from the shooting position is the most pleasing by a wide margin.

aimpoint dot

The weight is still an annoyance as the balance changes when going through ammo and the weapon becomes top heavy tilting in the hand when maneuvering. So, other than being overbuilt with a distracting paint job and no attempts at having any frills it’s a pretty good piece.

aimpoint

 

Millett ZoomDot

At first use the Millet was the sight I thought I would prefer.  It’s compact, light weight, and has an adjustable dot size. Why adjustable dot size? Despite what I said before, when I decided to stretch the sights out to 100-200 yard off hand plinking it was nice to have a small MOA dot to help get on target and see where I was missing. What I didn’t notice at first was when operating the turn knob there is no way of grabbing the knob where the stop pin doesn’t get in the way and annoy the hell out of you. The wind and elevation adjustment require the use of an alen wrench and if your mount is where mine is you need a ball alen and even then it s a real pain to get to. The idea of having to carry an extra anything other than ammo and a cleaning kit seriously irks me. In fact the cleaning kit should be optional.

zoomdot

But what is surprisingly intrusive is how the projector for the red dot protrudes into your field of vision when aiming through the sight. I didn’t notice it at first except I found when I was looking at my target I found myself sighting left of center through the opening. When I investigated I realized the aperture is more a “D” shape than a circle. Did this affect the accuracy or use of the weapon system? Yes. Once I noticed it, it was a distraction and that is enough.

zoomdot2

 

Conclusion

 

Since the vortex is out of the running until they resolve the battery draining on/off problem, the race is between the Millet and the Aimpoint.

 

So which did I choose? At the end of the day the Millett is a good sight with some annoyances but no deal breakers and when you bring in price it’s a bargain. But…

 

I have to go with the Aimpoint (even though ill have to paint the thing). The complaint of being overbuilt is rather like having too much horsepower or a woman too beautiful; sure maybe it’s possible but it’s a long road to get there. And after everything even though it’s a bit big and a bit heavy, it just feels like a tool made with no excuses or compromises. What it does it does better than the other two and perhaps better than a whole lot of others. It has the brightest dot I’ve seen and in most cases the highest setting is too bright. It has the largest battery and, except maybe other than the vortex’s green setting, the longest battery life (Editor’s note: there is no maybe.  Aimpoint’s battery life is an order of magnitude higher than that for any other battery powered red dot sight.  I’ll be damned if I know how they do it.) The threads of the adjustment covers are smooth and beefy.  The adjustments themselves are visually and mechanically pleasing. The clicks of the brightness knob are solid and, from what I understand, the optics and coatings are top notch.

What have we learned? A smart and informed buyer could get 85-90% of what they need for a reasonable budget. Then spend the rest on ammo and go out, learn to shoot, and get better sooner. However if you’re like me and you get pleasure out of use and feel of a well made mechanical device and your want is telling your need to take a back seat, then I’m sorry to say it’s going cost you.

aim

 

 

 

Yet another note “from the editor”:

 

First of all, here is the spec table for the sights discussed above.  

 

Aimpoint 9000SC Millett ZoomDot Vortex Strikefire
Weight, ozs 7.4 8 7.2

Length, in

6.3”

5.5

6.1

Dot  Size, MOA

4

Variable 1 to 10MOA

4

Dot Color

Red

Red

Red/Green

Dot Brightness

Adjustable

Automatic

Adjustable

Brightness adjustment Small rotary knob Large rotary knob Pushbuttons

Battery life

50000 hours (forever for most people)

Not listed, but not as good as Aimpoint

Not listed, but not as good as Aimpoint

Mounting

Two 30mm rings (included)

Single or double (with adapter) 30mm rings

Single 30mm ring (included)

Price: $398 $220 $150


This just has got to show how opinions differ.  In this group, my personal preference is the ZoomDot.  The one I have is from the very first batch of these sights that was made before Bushnell bought Millett and has worked perfectly for me ever since.  I like the adjustable dot size and the automatic brightness adjustment it has.  I also like that there is only one control there: large rotary knob.  Stop pin has never given me any trouble like it has Stan.  Pushbuttons on the Vortex Strikefire leave me cold.  Smaller rotary knob on the full size Aimpoints has never ben comfortable for me.  I consider Micro Aimpoint to be the best red dot sight on the market, but I am not nearly as big of a fan of the full size Aimpoints.  All in all, I am happoy Stan picked the Aimpoint, since I get to keep my ZoomDot and I get an article out of it.

 

 

 Posted by at 10:51 pm