Red-Dots: We Like Aimpoints 5000
This units low price and accessories put it ahead of the Aimpoint Comp, Gilmore Red Leader, and Millett Redot items.
We compared the ease of use and function
In matches where theyre allowedespecially in IPSC-style speed eventsred-dot sights have virtually taken over the line. High-end comped guns dont look complete unless theyre wearing a big tube of aluminum on top, and the prevalence of these fiber-optic devices in games like the Sportsmens Team Challenge have signaled the demise of traditional iron sightshooting skills in the events where sighting precision is needed.
The reasons for this sea change are obvious: The red dots offer a combination of light weight, low cost, and precision aiming ability. To shoot a red-dot item competently, the beginner doesnt have to learn the intricacies of front-sight alignment, and the experienced shooter, whose eyes arent what they used to be, doesnt have to contend with the taxing job of seeing light bars in the right places at the right times.
For these and other shooters, red dots are manna from heaven; accordingly, shooters have abundant numbers of these products from which to choose. From dozens of these products, we decided to compare four currently shipping red dots to see which one offered the best combination of price, utility, user-friendliness, adjustment accuracy, and durability. We intend to revisit this product category frequently over the next several months to see how additional items fare against this first quartet of optics.
We tested the $308 Aimpoint Comp S10, the $277 Aimpoint 5000, the Millett Redot, which retails for $289.95, and the Gilmore Red Leader RL-5L, $319.95, all of which we ordered from Brownells catalog 49 (telephone  623-5401). In our testing we found little performance difference to separate the devices. Thus, we thought the slightly less expensive Aimpoint 5000, which came with a set of rings, lens caps, front polarizing filter, and a rear sunshade, was the best buy of the bunch. Details of our testing and the reasons for these judgments follow:
How We Tested
To check the scopes for adjustment accuracy, we mounted a Smith & Wesson Model 41 in a Ransom Pistol Rest with a windage base. The rest was mounted on a 24-inch square plywood base that was 1.4 inches thick. This platform was C-clamped to a 1-inch-thick steel sheet attached to a steel pipe concreted in the ground.
To test for adjustment accuracy, we first pointed the scopes toward a target that contained a grid pattern of 1/4-inch squares formed by placing Speedwell Police Rifle Shot/Log targets side by side. We began the adjustment tests by placing a units red dot on large sighting dots in the middle of the Speedwell targets. Counting clicks as we went, we then adjusted the device to make the dot run to the right 6 inches to the next target center dot. Then we adjusted the dot to make it move upward 6 inches, left 6 inches, and down 6 inches, completing the around-the-world drill.
On the range, we also compared how easy it was to see each units dot. A tester would stand with the products on and in front of him, and pick up a unit. He would check the dot clarity and brightness (adjusting it if necessary), and then pick up another unit. Using this side-by-side elimination process, each tester would pick what units dot looked the best to him.
To check each units adjustment accuracy in live firing, we conducted two tests. Using sandbags, we shot two patterns with the Model 41. At 25 yards, we shot three-shot groups in the around-the-world drill, counting clicks to give us a 3-inch-square pattern. Also, at the same distance, we held on the center of the Speedwell target and shot a three-shot center group. Then we dialed in a half-inch of windage adjustment and fired a shot. We continued the windage adjustment tests until we had a string of shots out to 3 inches. Then we brought the device back to zero (by counting clicks) and reshot the center group. We conducted this same test with vertical adjustments.
Heres how each product fared in these evaluations:
Aimpoint Comp S10
Physical Description: At a retail of $308, the Comp S10 was the first of the two Swedish-made Aimpoint products we evaluated. It had a silver, satin finish that makes it a sharp-looking sight, in our view. At 4.4 inches long, it makes it a very compact package. The Comp weighs in at 4.75 ounces, making it the lightest of all the scopes we tested. The objective diameter is 36 mm, and the main tube is 30 mm. At its widest point (diagonally across the battery compartment and the main tube), the Comp measures 2.1 inches. The front objective bell was threaded to accept filters, but none were supplied. The rear eyepiece was also threaded, and a rubber eyeguard and lens cloth were supplied. The unit has a two-year limited warranty. Operational Evaluation. The Comp was mounted with one enclosed 30-mm ring (called a uni-mount), which fits on the main tube about an inch from the front of the device. Because the tube can be rotated on its longitudinal axis in the ring, the shooter can choose to have the controls situated on the top right or the top left side of the gun.
The Aimpoint Comp has an adjustment range of 8.5 feet at 100 yards. To make adjustments we had to unscrew the protection caps from the adjustment screws. The screws can be adjusted with a coin or screwdriver. The owners manual says that each click makes a 1/8-inch movement of the point of impact at 25 yards, or 0.5-inch at 100 yards. However, the technical specifications on the back of the Comps box said the adjustment amount was 1/4 inch (0.25 inch) at 100 yards. Our tests showed the unit required 6.7 clicks per inch of adjustment, or 0.15 inch per click.
The Aimpoint Comp is equipped with a rotary switch to adjust the brightness of the dot. There are 10 different settings for the switch; one OFF-position and nine positions for intensity. The first setting is a EHI position (Extra High Intensity), the brightest dot setting the scope can produce. This model comes with three SP675 mercury batteries.
When we tested the adjustment accuracy of the Comp, we found that it didnt return to zero as accurately as some of the other products. In our optical test, where we tracked the progress of the dot across a grid, we learned the dot didnt return to zero in the around-the-clock testit returned to a point that was half an inch high and right from the original starting point. In the shooting portion of the same test, the bullet impacts also didnt return to zero, they wound up half an inch high. In the other shooting test, we adjusted the scope in 8-click increments, firing one shot after each adjustment. We should have gotten a smooth, linear separation of bullet holes approximately 1 inch apart. Instead, we saw bunching, which indicated to us that the adjustments we were making werent consistent; that is, we didnt see point-of-impact changes that the clicks indicated should have occurred.
Our Judgments: For compact applications, such as putting the device on a small gun or on a semi-auto that doesnt have a top rail mount, the Comp is a good choice because of its short overall length and light weight. Also, we judged the 10 MOA dot to be too large for applications like bullseye shooting, but it was fine for pure speed games on larger targets, we thought. We thought it was odd that the highest-intensity dot clicked on with the first switch position, the opposite of the other Aimpoint product. We would have liked the Comp to have an intensity scale on its body for faster reference. We liked the dual-mark adjustments for windage and elevation, which featured UP and R markings on one dial and UP and L adjustments on the other. If the shooter changes the orientation of the scope on the gun, he wont be confused about which way to dial in elevation and windage changes.
Physical Description: At $31 less than its Comp cousin, the satin-black Aimpoint 5000 comes off the shelf at a suggested retail price of $277. The 5000 was 5.5 inches long, making it the longest of the test group, and it weighed in at 5.8 ounces, making it the heaviest as well. The 5000 comes equipped with two 30-mm rings used for mounting, and like the Comp, the 5000 can be adjusted so the controls sit on the side of your choice. The sight has an adjustment range of 8.5 feet at 100 yards. Like the Comp, the 5000 has two screws used to make windage and elevation adjustments. The windage adjustment is on the side of the scope, and the elevation adjustment is on the top of the scope. Full instructions for adjustment were contained in the owners manual. Along with the 30-mm rings, the 5000 came with lens caps, a 1.5-inch rear tube extension, lens cloth, and an adjustable front polarizing filter, which also fits the Aimpoint Comp.
The 3-MOA dot found on the 5000 makes it a fine scope for bullseye competition shooting and IPSC shooting ,though it could make it difficult to shoot long-range distances, such as in silhouette shooting. A 10-MOA dot is available if youre planning on shooting longer distances. The unit has a two-year limited warranty. Operational Evaluation. On the Aimpoint 5000, each click of the adjustment screw makes a 1/2-inch (0.5-inch) movement of the point of impact at 100 yards, the owners manual said. However, the technical specifications on the back of the 5000s box said the adjustment amount was 1/4 inch (0.25 inch) at 100 yards. Our tests showed the unit required 10 clicks per inch of adjustment, or 0.1 inch per click. Also, when adjusting the brightness of the red dot, the switch pattern is opposite of the Comps. The first click produces the dimmest light, whereas the last setting will be the brightest. This model comes with one 2L76 lithium battery.
When we tested the adjustment accuracy of the 5000, we saw that it returned to zero. In our optical test, where we tracked the progress of the dot across a grid, we dialed in 60 clicks in the around-the-clock test and saw it come back to the original starting point. In the shooting portion of the same test, the bullet impacts also returned to zero. In the other shooting test, we adjusted the scope in 15-click increments, firing one shot after each adjustment. We should have gotten a smooth, line of bullet holes approximately 1.5 inches apart. However, the distances between our shots ranged between 1 inch and 1.25 inches, less separation than we expected from the factory specs (which should have produced 2-inch gaps) or our own adjustment measurements, which should have created 1.5 inch measurements.
Our Judgments: The longer tube on the 5000 will require the shooter to use a top rail mount or place the unit on a gun like the Browning Buck Mark, which has a Weaver-style, 6-inch-long ramp built into it. We think the 3 MOA dot is fine for almost all applications except some speed events. We would have liked the 5000 to have a numerical intensity scale on its body. Like on the Comp, we liked the 5000s dual-mark adjustments for windage and elevation. Also, this unit came with the best feature set, which included an adjustable polarizing filter and other niceties.
Gilmore Red Leader
Physical Description: The Japanese-made Red Leader RL-5L is one of several similar red-dot scopes that this Tulsa, Oklahomabased company offers. The scope has two-tone, satin-silver and black finish. It has an octagonal 35-mm aluminum main tube. It retails for $319.95, making it the most expensive scope we tested. Its dimensions were similar to that of the Aimpoint Comp, with its 4.5-inch length (without sunshade) and a 5-ounce weight. This scope, as with the others tested, can be mounted on a pistol, rifle, shotgun, or bow. It comes with two octagonal Weaver-style mounting rings, covers, lens cloth, rear rubber eyecup, and a sunshade. The rheostat (potentiometer) knob is located on the top of the scope, and is turned clockwise to brighten or counter clockwise to dim the dot. The intensity reading of 1 is the dimmest and 11 is the brightest. The RL-5L, with its 8-MOA dot, is brother to the RL-5S, which has a 4-MOA dot. The unit comes with a two-year limited warranty. This model comes with one CR-2032 3-volt lithium battery. Gilmore says the unit is waterproof and fogproof.
Operational Evaluation. On the Red Leader, each click of the adjustment screw makes a 1/3-inch (0.33-inch) movement of the point of impact at 100 yards, the owners manual said. However, our tests showed the unit required 6.7 clicks per inch of adjustment, or 0.15 inch per click.
When we tested the adjustment accuracy of the Red Leader, we saw that it returned to zero. In our optical test, where we tracked the progress of the dot across a grid, we dialed in 40 clicks in the around-the-clock test and saw it come back to the original starting point. In the shooting portion of the same around-the-clock test, the bullet impacts also returned to zero. In the other shooting test, we adjusted the scope in 4-click increments, firing one shot after each adjustment. We should have gotten a smooth line of bullet holes approximately 0.5 inches apartand thats just what we saw on both the horizontal and vertical adjustments.
Our Judgments: The Red Leader is a distinctive looking product, with its mixture of black and aluminum tones and eight-sided shape. We also liked the octagonal body because it forces the shooter to mount the device square to the handgun bore. It can be mounted with the controls on either side of the gun, but the adjustment screws arent marked as clearly as the Aimpoints dual markings, we think. Theres plenty of room on the main tube to mount the device on practically any Weaver-base equipped gun. We think the 8 MOA dot is a good compromise size for almost all applications. We liked that the Red Leader had a numerical intensity scale on its switch. Also, we liked the Gilmores positive clicks when the shooter adjusted the light intensity. The manual had a thorough cross reference on battery alternatives, a nice touch when you have trouble finding a certain power cell.
Physical Description: The Japanese-made Redot sells for $308. The Redot is one of four similar red-dot scopes that this Huntington Beach, Californiabased company offers. The scope has an aluminum finish. It has a round 30-mm aluminum main tube. It measured 5 inches in length (without sunshade) and weighs 5.6-ounces. It did not come with mounting ringswhich forced us to buy a $47 set of Burris 30-mm High Zee matte-black finish steel rings, to mount the sight on our Weaver base. With these rings, the total unit weight was 11 ounces and total cost was $355. There are other aluminum rings available that would lower this weight, of course. The Millett comes with a 1-inch sun shade extension tube, which is installed on the forward or objective end of the sight, a light-grey polarizing filter, lens cloth, rubber eyecup, and lens covers.
The rheostat knob is located on the left side of the scope, and is turned clockwise to brighten or counter clockwise to dim the dot. The intensity reading of 1 is the dimmest and 11 is the brightest. The unit has a 10-MOA dot. It comes with a five-year limited warranty. This model comes with one CR-2032 3-volt lithium battery. Millett says the unit is waterproof. Unlike the other units, the Millett cant be rotated to change its knob orientation. The switch must always appear on the left side of the gun.
Operational Evaluation. In the Redots box copy, the units click-adjustment distance is said to be .730 Min. We assumed this meant each click moved the point of impact at 100 yards about 3/4 inch. Scaled back to 25 yards where we conducted our optical tests, the readings would be very close to what we found, about 5 clicks per inch of adjustment, or 0.2 inch per click.
When we adjusted the Redot in our optical tracking test, we saw that it returned to zero. In the shooting portion of the around-the-clock test, the bullet impacts also returned to zero. In the other shooting test, we adjusted the scope in 4-click increments, firing one shot after each adjustment. We should have gotten a smooth line of bullet holes approximately 0.8 inches apart; instead, we saw bullet impacts from 0.75 to 1.5 inches apart.
Our Judgments: The Redot is a flashy looking product even with its satin aluminum tones. We dont like that the device cant be mounted on one side or the other, and we wish Millett had supplied rings like the other manufacturers. Theres plenty of room on the main tube to mount the device on nearly any Weaver baseequipped gun, especially if you use the front extension. We think the 10-MOA dot is too large for many precision uses, but it would be a good choice for speed applications. We liked that the Redot had an intensity scale on its switch similar to the Red Leader, but the clicks were mushier than the crisp, audible Gilmore detents.
Performance Shooter Recommends
The Aimpoint 5000 has a good mixture of features, including a long tube for easy mounting on any gun, a low price of $277, a fine 3-MOA dot, and adjustable polarizing filter and other details the other units lacked. It would be our first pick.
The Gilmore Red Leaders 8-MOA dot is probably the best all-round size, and it has some well-thought-out features, including its tube shape, integrated mounts, and positive click adjustments. We recommend the $319.95 Red Leader RL-5L.
In our estimation, the $308 Aimpoint Comp S10 would be a good choice for applications in which size and weight are crucial considerations, but it was otherwise undistinguished when compared to the other two units. The biggest drawback was its 10-MOA dot, which we believe is too large for many applications other than speed games.
The Millett Redot lacked a basic itemenclosed ringsthan made it the most expensive unit in our comparison. It didnt show us any extra performance that we believe justifies the products higher cost.
-By Brandon Marler