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Is the Primary Arms GLX 2x the Best Value in Low Power Prism Optics?

Is the Primary Arms GLX 2x the Best Value in Low Power Prism Optics?

I’ll put the bottom line at the top of this article: Yes, I think the PA GLx 2x IS the best value in prism optics, and I have three main reasons.  First, it has a bold, eye-catching reticle. Second, it has an etched reticle with user-controlled brightness… And third, it has an adjustable diopter.  I’ll explain these points below in detail, compare the PA 2x to an Aimpoint and a TA-45 1.5x ACOG, and then offer a few more features to share with you.

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But before I do that, let me give a quick introduction. This optic is currently available for pre-order on PA’s website, is expected to ship in mid-May. It uses an adapted version of the respectable ACSS reticle and sells in the mid-$300 range.  The GL series of optics is PA’s mid-level line featuring improved glass quality, improved ruggedness, and motion-sensing on and off illumination.  I had been critical of their 1x prism optic on Arfcom and, to my surprise, PA contacted me and offered to send me a prototype 2x optic to test and give them some feedback, no strings attached.  I did not request the optic and they do not know I am writing this review.

First photo out of the box

First photo out of the box

I am a nerdy civilian in my late 40’s with bad eyesight and a small budget.  I have been shooting and building AR rifles for many years and fit best into the modern-Minuteman category.  I am neither a door-kicking infantryman nor an LEO.  I need a simple rifle with a simple optic that can serve neighborhood watch and also boogaloo duty.  I regularly test myself and my gear at local “tactical” shooting matches and have used low-powered variable optics, red dots, and prism optics with various levels of success and failure.  Up to this point I had used either an Aimpoint mini red dot or a 1.5x TA-45 ACOG on my rifle but was not fully satisfied with either one.  I think the PA 2x overcomes the liabilities of each of those.  You probably think comparing a new mid-budget optic manufactured in China (cough cough) to an ACOG or an Aimpoint is ridiculous, and you’re probably right.  So let’s touch on the three points that make this optic so awesome:

The Three Amigos: A TA-45-2 ACOG (with a keychaing light under a section of innertube to help brighten it up), An Aimpoint mini-red dot, and the PA GLx 2x Prism

The Three Amigos: A TA-45-2 ACOG (with a keychain light under a section of innertube to help brighten it up), An Aimpoint mini-red dot, and the PA GLx 2x Prism

1: Bold, Eye-Catching Reticle

The optic on my grab-and-go rifle is the TA-45 1.5x mini-ACOG and my primary complaint with it is that the reticle is too small and occasionally hard to find.  I have the amber triangle model that I purchased used and although I like the idea of a triangle as a blunt and yet precise aiming tool… I sometimes take longer than I like to find it, either when quickly bringing the rifle to shoulder, or when shooting against a background that blends too easily with the amber color.  It’s too small in the full field of view, and this was also my complaint with the PA 1x Cyclops optic.  I need an eye-grabbing reticle that stands out immediately. The Aimpoint does not suffer from this at all.  My eye picks up the red dot instantly, in any shooting situation.  But the Aimpoint has no image magnifying or light gathering ability like the ACOG does.  The Primary Arms 2x remedies this problem.  The field of view is HUGE compared to the ACOG, and the reticle is still large enough in the full field of view to find easily and instantly, and the optic gathers light into the eye providing clarity and slight magnification. The PA wins.

Scale-correct comparison of the TA-45 and PA 2x. This is how the viewer sees both images

Scale-correct comparison of the TA-45 and PA 2x. This is how the viewer sees both images

2: Etched reticle with user-controlled brightness

Another problem I have with the fiber optic ACOG, and my chief complaint, is that I cannot control the reticle brightness very well.  I can rig some cover for the fiber optic when I’m shooting in the sun into a dark target area and the reticle is too bright, but I cannot easily make the reticle brighter when shooting from a dimly lit region into a bright target area.  This created a problem at a match once where I was shooting from inside a darkened structure through a window into the bright Florida sun.  The amber triangle just disappeared.  It was not bright enough to stand out against the background, nor was it dim enough to appear completely black.  The Aimpoint does not have this problem.  The dot intensity can be quickly turned up or down to meet the need.  BUT, the Aimpoint requires a battery.  No battery means no dot at all, and then the optic is useless.  The fiber optic ACOG is supposed to remedy this, but cannot be easily adjusted. (I’m testing a keychain LED light tucked inside a section of rubber innertube to “help” the fiber optic)  Again, each of these optics has a liability.  The PA 2x has a solution.  The bold reticle is etched into the glass and will function fine as a black reticle with no battery, and it also allows the brightness to be adjusted to suit the situation.  From what I can see, the PA 2x reticle is truly daylight bright.  PA wins again.

TA-45 ACOG from a dark environment to a bright environment. Can you find the amber triangle? It's by the window above the top right corner of the garage door.

TA-45 ACOG from a dark environment to a bright environment. Can you find the amber triangle? It’s by the window above the top right corner of the garage door.

PA 2x from dark to bright environment. The reticle is on full brightness and is dimmer here than in person. It's bright neon red and blooming a bit. Illumination off would work too.

PA 2x from dark to bright environment. The reticle is on full brightness and is dimmer here than in person. It’s bright neon red and blooming a bit. Illumination off would work too.

Brightest part of the Florida sky. TA45 is hard to see.

The brightest part of the Florida sky. TA45 is hard to see.

the brightest part of the Florida sky. Pa GLx 2x on full brightness, no problem.

the brightest part of the Florida sky. Pa GLx 2x on full brightness, no problem.

Aimpoint on full brightness. Can you see the dot? It kinda washes out, it's just a pin prick of light

Aimpoint on full brightness. Can you see the dot? It kinda washes out, it’s just a pinprick of light

3: Adjustable Diopter

It has taken me a while to figure out that I benefit from an adjustable diopter.  My eyes are problematic, including a recently discovered astigmatism.  I wear bifocals now and am told that I need trifocals.  My astigmatism makes red dots look warped, and if I’m really tired, I wind up seeing two separate dots overlapped on each other.  This is why I moved from the Aimpoint to the ACOG a few years ago.  I needed a crisper image and more light gathered to my eye…  But the ACOG’s image properties are fixed, even though they are an improvement over the red dot.  As I got older, I found that I still occasionally had trouble getting the reticle and image focused at the same time.  The PA 2x offers a manual diopter which allows for a precise fine-tuning and adjusting of the reticle focus. An unexpected discovery of this system is that I can have one setting for use with my glasses, and another setting for use without my glasses.  I’ll mark them both with a different colored paint pen and if things go bump in the night and I can’t find my specs, I turn the ring over to my “blind” setting and be able to see clearly.  I’m now fully convinced of the benefit of an adjustable diopter.  PA wins again.

This image was taken through the PA 2x with a cell phone camera and then zoomed in and cropped. The glass is superb. With the diopter properly adjusted, I could easily resolve the fine chevron aiming point and the center of the O in the stop sign.

This image was taken through the PA 2x with a cell phone camera and then zoomed in and cropped. The glass is superb. With the diopter properly adjusted, I could easily resolve the fine chevron aiming point and the center of the O in the stop sign.

Adjustable diopter! Who knew it was so helpful. Mark your spot with a paint pen

Adjustable diopter! Who knew it was so helpful. Mark your spot with a paint pen

Can the PA GLx 2x Prism compete with the TA-45 1.5x ACOG and Aimpoint Mini-Red Dot?

I said the PA 2x is the best value, and value does not bean the absolute best in every category… and the price is certainly a consideration.  But for an optic that sells for half or a third of an Aimpoint or an ACOG, this one competes. The bold PA reticle with adjustable brightness and diopter sets the 2x prism in a class of its own for me, and why I’ve actually decided to switch to the 2x as my primary general-purpose optic over the Aimpoint and TA-45.  Yes, I’ll say it again.  I have replaced my Aimpoint MRD and my mini-ACOG with the PA GLx 2x.  The image resolution, the field of view, and useable reticle of the PA is superior.  The PA glass is amazingly clear, as clear or clearer than the TA-45, and the field of view is very large (have I said that yet?).  The ACOG seems like I’m looking through a toilet paper tube by comparison, and the Aimpoint is embarrassingly dim. You doubt, and perhaps even mock me!  Yet I have compared the ACOG, PA, and the Aimpoint side by side over the last few weeks.  Here are the comparison photos.  KEEP IN MIND that, except for the first photo, these are NOT scaled to relative size.  The PA field of view is huge compared to the other two, but this will give you something to work with.  All pictures were taken with a cell phone camera.  I spend money on gun stuff, not cameras as of yet.

These images are scaled to accurately represent the images seen through each optic. This is a TRUE comparison.

These images are scaled to accurately represent the images seen through each optic. This is a TRUE comparison. Note the field of view of the PA 2x compared to the others.

200 yards, Daylight:

TA 200

200 PA 1

200 PA 2

AP 200

200 yards, Nighttime:

TA dark

mid-level illumination

mid-level illumination

AP dark

450 yards, Daylight:

TA 450

PA 450

AP 450

There are some other great features too.   I am impressed with the mount, which is included.  It uses a mini-ACOG footprint with hardened steel Torx bolts and press nuts. It’s very robust, with three separate spacers and snag-free non-protruding knobs (I HATE big nuts). The eye relief is good, not as long as the 1.5x ACOG, but certainly not as short as the 4x ACOGS.   The illumination turns itself off after 2-3 minutes of stillness and is instantly on again at the proper setting with the slightest movement. The ¼ MOA adjustments are crisp and strong, with the turret caps providing the needed slot tool when flipped over.

The PA fits perfectly in a carry handle with the low riser and takes the ACOG screw

The PA fits perfectly in a carry handle with the low riser and takes the ACOG screw

Strong and simple mount utilizes the mini ACOG footprint and comes with three risers

The strong and simple mount utilizes the mini ACOG footprint and comes with three risers

Mount is reversible to put the screw heads on the left or the right, and it totally snag free!

Mount is reversible to put the screw heads on the left or the right, and it snags free!

Shooting Experiences

I have not been able to use the PA 2x in practical shooting situations as much as I wanted to because of the COVID-19 isolation, but I did get it out to one tactical carbine match and also shot leisurely at 300 yards.  At the tactical match, most stages were fast action with close targets from 5-40 yards with one 300 yard long-distance stage.  The PA 2x did decently on the close targets.  The large horseshoe was easy to find and utilize, both with the illumination turned off and also with it on in the bright Florida sun.  I think I was slightly slower on the very close targets compared to the Aimpoint because the minor magnification of the 2x was just a tad disorienting.  I don’t have stereo vision and so I can’t use the Bindon Aiming technique of overlapped images, and I don’t think anything is faster than a red dot at across the room distances… but using the 2x that close was not a problem.  Intermediate shots, including headshots on reduced torso targets out to 40 yards, was easy.  Shooting steel torso targets and a 12-inch circular plate at 300 yards after a brief run was easy as well.  The fine center chevron was clearly seen and the bullet drop properties of the reticle work exactly as advertised.

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A week after the action match I shot the PA 2x again at 300 yards, this time in a lazy afternoon of relaxed shooting.  I was consistently able to hit an 8-inch steel plate using Wolf Gold 55gr FMJ while shooting prone off of a front bag. The PA glass is amazingly clear at that distance.  I tried the same feat using the TA-45 ACOG, but could not see the target as clearly as I could with the PA 2x and did not know where to hold for that distance with the reticle. I fired about 15 shots with no hits and no clear feedback through the 1.5x and gave it up.  The PA 2x wins again.

Hitting a 12-inch plate at 300 yards with Wolf Gold? no problem

Hitting a 12-inch plate at 300 yards with Wolf Gold? no problem

Wrapping Up

I was initially skeptical, but I’m sold.  This is a well thought out general-purpose optic.  It punches above its weight class.  The thing to watch will be its durability.  The ACOG and Aimpoint have earned their reputation as being solid and reliable combat rile optics.  The PA is built to be rugged, with a 6061-T6 body and a seemingly bomb-proof mount, but time will tell if the internal mechanisms and the electronics will stand up to prolonged use.  If it does, the ACOG and Aimpoint remain as backups.  I just wish PA would show the true size of their reticles in the field of view…

I really wish advertisers would give a true representation of how big the reticle is in the full field of view

I really wish advertisers would give a true representation of how big the reticle is in the full field of view

Disclaimer: TheNewRifleman has no financial or advertising relationship with Primary Arms and the review is as above!

Written by Theoden

13 Comments

  1. Creature · April 12, 2020

    Excellent write up. The field of view comparisons were downright startling.

  2. Eric J Brabham · April 14, 2020

    Very well done reveiw , thanks for doing it right.

  3. Dan · April 16, 2020

    Another excellent article. Thank you for the review. The GLX 2x is truly an advancement as it solves all of the problems with the outdated ACOG line. This will be the first time ever that I have pre-ordered an optic.

  4. NORSE DEFENSE · April 17, 2020

    Great review.

    By American whenever possible.

    America’s lively hood depends on it…

    • Richard · April 17, 2020

      That’s a nice sentiment, and I strongly agree, but for decades the manufacturing infrastructure of this country was sold out to foreign nations. American made optics are extremely rare and prohibitively expensive, primarily due to inane environmental regulations. I’d like to buy American, but the product does not exist. One of the best things that could happen from this COVID19 circus is for Americans to realize that dependency on foreign nations for our manufacturing, especially for essentials like medical and defense products, is akin to national suicide. But until then, we make the best choices we can.

      This is a great optic. I’d be delighted to see it made in the United States. But don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

      The American rifleman needs a worthy optic. He might have to fight before he can move his manufacturing back to America.

    • M.B. Pagal · April 28, 2020

      If it can’t be made in America, let it be made elsewhere; S.Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Nepal, anywhere but Communist-occupied China.

  5. Dennis · April 18, 2020

    Just checked website….sold out till June

  6. h0neyc0mb · April 19, 2020

    Richard ..

    This review should help those deciding if this optic is right for them.

    Thanks for your contribution to the site.

  7. Geoff · May 14, 2020

    Excellent review. Will this optic clear a Matec rear sight whilst folded?

  8. Tony D · May 17, 2020

    Thanks for the great review. I’ll try one because of this.

    Quick question, is that bicycle tubing on your stock and buffer tube there?

    • Geoffrey · May 17, 2020

      Keeps beard hairs from getting pulled out that would be snagged otherwise at the tube/stock interface

      • Richard · May 17, 2020

        That’s exactly right, to keep my beard from being ripped out at the stock joint. It works very well.

  9. RSR · May 26, 2020

    All prisms must be removed in order to accurately use irons that aren’t offset.

    My favorite 1x prism (and 1x generally) is the old Vortex Spitfire 1x on QD ADM mounts. Have a half dozen of them. I have astigmatism *which is a factor), but the primary drivers are 1) the reticle (two rings and dot pretty much at “advertised” image here size — circle of PA being smaller of Vortex’s two), 2) the MUCH wider field of view and granted, I mount the optic further to the rear (front of ADM mount pretty much at rear 40% of dust cover), and 3) the etched reticle vs project dots/reticles. Both green and red illumination is nice too.

    I have no experience with Vortex’s newer Spitfire AR model nor am I aware of aftermarket qd mounts, etc, for it.

    The only real detriment is greater weight. Offhand, want to say around 10-12 ozs.

    And I’d argue for the benefits of low power variables over 1-3x fixed mags, but YMMV.

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