My friends over Primary Arms have once again sent over another optic for me to review. This time though they did something a little bit different. Somehow they thought it would be a good idea to send me a rifle optic. I suppose it isn’t a completely a bad idea since I do know a little bit about rifles, but let’s just say I’m a wee bit rusty given I’ve been so focused on pistol shooting over the last year. Who am I kidding? It was probably a terrible idea to send me a rifle optic as this review of the Primary Arms SLx MD-25 G2 Micro Red Dot, which I’ll refer to as the MD-25 from here on out, might turn out to be a disaster. Let’s give it a go and see what happens.
As I’ve eluded, Primary Arms sent the MD-25 at no cost to me. I also want to disclose that I am affiliated with them which means I have a monetary relationship where purchases from their website that follow after clicking links in this blog and other communication channels yield a small commission that supports this blog. That said, Primary Arms is aware that I do my best to keep the reviews honest and impartial which means I will point out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What exactly is the MD-25? It is an enclosed emitter micro red dot reflex sight with a budget friendly price point of under $200. More specifically, it is the newly introduced second generation of the MD-25 red dot sight that features the ACSS CQB reticle. Given that this is a second generation release, it offers some improvements over the first generation which will be called out as this review proceeds. Like other red dot sights in the micro category it is designed to be a small lightweight aiming system that has virtually infinite eye relief that is ideal for rapid target acquisition and engagement. More often than not, optics in this space use a simple dot as an aiming reference which is emitted by an LED and reflected off the front lens back at the user through the rear lens. There are a handful of red dots that emit a reticle instead of a dot and the MD-25 is one of these. However, it is available without the ACSS CQB reticle and a plain 2 MOA red dot for about $50 less.
So what can one expect to find in the box for under $200? Well the box contains:
- The optic which comes pre-assembled with the standard height Picatinny rail compatible mount and an installed CR2032 battery,
- Two Torx wrenches used for securing the optic to a Picatinny rail and altering the mount configuration,
- A low profile mount,
- Two different height riser,
- Two sets of four additional screws to change the mount configuration which have thread locker already applied,
- A lens cleaning cloth,
- A small tube of VC-3 thread locker,
- An optic manual,
- And a reticle manual.
I really appreciated finding the low profile mount and risers in the box which can save folks from having to spend extra money on ordering different mounts and risers to get the best possible mounting height configuration for them and their shooting applications. It’s a nice touch. According to the information provided by Primary Arms, the mount was updated with new materials and a finish which should improve the mount’s ruggedness over the previous generation. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to work with the previous generation and can merely speculate on the differences, which I won’t do. What I can say is that the mount feels solid and secure when attached to a Picatinny rail.
As I mentioned, the MD-25 is an enclosed reflex (or red dot) sight. This means the electronics and the LED emitter are completely enclosed within a 3” long hardcoat anodized aluminum housing and the recessed front and rear 25mm multi-coated anti-reflective lenses that provide a wide field of view. This protects the emitter from debris and provides fog resistance which should aid in keeping the optic obstruction free in a wide variety of environments.
The front end of the aluminum housing is threaded to accommodate a 25mm anti-reflection device which, unfortunately, is not included in the package. While the lenses are coated with an anti-reflective coat, the optic isn’t completely impervious to scope glare. This is an inexpensive upgrade that folks may want to consider for applications where scope glare can yield negative consequences. For example, scope glare may scare off a deer or other game animal a hunter is attempting to harvest.
The illumination control knob and CR2032 battery compartment is found on the left side of the housing. I’m a huge fan of having the illumination controls on the left side of the housing since it means that I can use my left hand, which happens to be my support or weak hand, to dial the reticle brightness up and down. Left handed rifle shooters will need to use their primary hand to manipulate the knob. The knob has 12 positions for each of the illumination settings which includes an off position, two brightness settings which are night vision compatible, and nine brightness settings suitable for the naked eye. Changing brightness settings are accompanied with a tactile confirmation of each position change and require just enough effort to prevent unintentional changes if the knob happens to be inadvertently bumped or brushed up against something in the field.
Battery life is estimated to be somewhere between 10 to 25 thousand hours depending on the reticle brightness level. This is an improvement over the previous generation which is accomplished by the use of the new AutoLive Battery Cap which will be available later in 2023 as a stand alone upgrade for previous generation SLx optics and will work with some other brand optics as well. The cap is equipped with Primary Arm’s AutoLive motion technology which reduces the illumination output when no motion is sensed to reduce power consumption and extend the battery life.
The capped elevation and windage adjustment turrets are found on the top and the right side of the housing respectively. The exposed turrets provide adjustment direction arrows and reference hash marks which eliminate guesswork. The notches in the turret allow adjustments to be made with common items such as a pocket knife, a flat head screwdriver, or even a small coin. Each turret provides an adjustment range of 50 MOA in ½ MOA increments that have a stupendously positive audible and tactile click.
The only thing left for me to talk about is the reticle, but before I do I want to point out that this optic, quite frankly, ticks almost all of my boxes when it comes to what I look for in rifle red dot sight at a really low price point. Assuming that it continues to hold to use in local matches as it has so far, it is on par to becoming my go to recommendation for a value priced rifle red dot. The only drawback that I can find, which is me being nit picky and not really much of a drawback, is that at 6.5 ounces, while still light, is heavier than other optics of this size and similar price points such as, but not limited to, the Holosun 503R and the Vortex Crossfire. However, it also offers a larger lens diameter, more features, and a lower price point than the other named optics.
Now let’s talk about the ACSS CQB reticle. The reticle features a center chevron as the primary aiming reference. Below it are three bullet drop compensation (BDC) dots which I find to be exceptionally small and hard to see. However, I have to caveat the hard to see part with I have old man eyes that require quite a bit of correction. The chevron on the BDC dots are surrounded by a 65 MOA horseshoe.
The picture above doesn’t do the reticle justice. The reticle is quite crisp without any of the blur that is captured by amateur photography equipment which also doubles as my primary communication device.
The first thing that I noticed when using this reticle is that the 65 MOA horseshoe is incredibly fast to acquire and lends itself exceptionally well to being able to use a “flash sight picture” for larger or relatively close targets. I make a lot of use of this feature when shooting carbine matches where the adult human targets are situated at distances of 25 yards or less. The reticle documentation suggests that the horseshoe also approximates an average shotgun pattern at 25 yards which is something I’ve yet to test and confirm for myself.
The chevron is large enough that it is easy to pick up and use for shots that require more precision and therefore a finer grained “sight picture”. I found it to be well suited for smaller or longer distance targets. For example, getting those 25 yard head box A-zone hits. The chevron combined with the 65 MOA horseshoe come together really well, living up the CQB designation, an acronym which stands for close quarter battle, of the reticle making it a fitting choice for home defense and some competitive applications.
The BDC dots provide a couple functions. The most obvious function is providing a point of aim for targets at extended distances. The actual distances are going to be dependent on the cartridge used and also on the optic mounting height. I won’t get into all the details of a BDC reticle here for the sake of brevity and I’ll refer those of you who want a deeper dive to this post that gets into the weeds. Suffice it to say that this reticle can theoretically be used to engage targets as far out as 150 yards with a 1 ounce 12 gauge slug or up to 600 yards with 5.56 NATO or 308 Winchester. The reticle manual provides 9 different BDC charts for reference. Unfortunately, the manual doesn’t provide the reticle subtensions which make it a little difficult to confirm the reference distances of the dots to the specific firearm and cartridge that the optic is mounted on.
Another function the BDC dots provide in combination with the chevron is target ranging capabilities. The width of the chevron can be used to range an 18” wide target at distances of 300 to 500 yards while the dots can be used to rate a 5’ 10” tall target at distances of 500 to 600 yards. Again, if the manual included the reticle subtensions, then it would be easier for one to figure out how to use these reference points in order to range other targets such as a deer or other game animal during hunting season.
I already mentioned that the BDC dots are rather small to the naked eye. At least in my opinion, given my visual limitations. Nevertheless, I suspect the use of a magnifier in conjunction with this optic while using the BDC and ranging features. Not only will a magnifier make it easier to use those features, but it will also make positive target identification easier. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a magnifier so I can only speculate on this as I haven’t attempted anything beyond 100 yards with this reticle.
Overall, the MD-25 has a lot going for it and the price point is hard to beat. A lot of value for not a whole lot of dough. To review, the construction appears solid, glass is clear, the adjustment turrets are on point, controls are good, battery life is more than reasonable, and the reticle is pretty freaking amazing. It is a wee bit on the heavy side and reticle documentation is lacking. Assuming it continues to hold up as it has so far, it will become my go to recommendation for a value priced rifle red dot for certain competitive and home defense applications. Y’all can expect an updated review later this year after it’s seen several thousand rounds of local match time.