We presented test results in the March 2020 issue about everyday-carry pistols with slide-mounted red-dot sights. As a result of that piece, Gun Tests readers sent in requests asking for more information about the new sights. When you ask, we try to deliver, so we hit the topic a second time in the November 2021 issue. Questions about still more additional optics followed immediately, though our responding readers seemed to be particularly interested in the Holosun brand. So get in, sit down, and hold on because we have new dope on four more sights for you, including the new Holosun AEMS (Brownells.com, 100-043-828WB, $399), Lucid Optics M7 (OpticsPlanet.com, $215), the Swampfox Justice model (Amazon.com, $235), and the Crimson Trace Rad Pro (MidwayUSA.com, $280).
We tried to keep the same testing format we used for the previous tests. Then we remembered the frustration we had with mounting systems for pistols, but still wanted to test the sights in a competition arena. We also wanted to see which products were flexible enough to be mounted on different platforms. So, we grabbed a SIG MPX 9mm that we use for USPSA Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) division and started shooting. We sighted in each red dot in turn, then shot them for feel and function at American Shooting Centers in west Houston. We shot the carbine/optic combo in practice for about a month and then finished everything off with a USPSA match. Observations were recorded at each step along the way. We still had a stash of Remington 115-grain 9mm ammo we were able to use for the tests.
Along with the factors we tested for in the past, we wondered if the “dot and a donut” reticle from the Holosun or the simple red-dot reticle like on the Swampfox would be faster. To see, we set up an “A Zone” plate (approximately 6 by 11 inches) at 9 yards and did one-shot drills from USPSA ready (port arms with the buttstock resting on the belt, safety engaged, and finger off the trigger). The differences were statistically insignificant — less than 0.02 seconds on average. Pick the reticle/body style you like and practice, practice, practice.
Our SOP has been to mount low- or zero-magnification optics well forward on the Picatinny rail. Just for giggles, we mounted various optics all over that mount — forward, middle, and rear. We decided, very subjectively, that we liked our existing practice and settled for mounting the red dots as far forward on the rail as possible while still keeping them actually attached to the receiver. We felt this method allowed us to focus on the reticle most quickly with both eyes open. It also seemed to allow us to point the carbine more naturally and helped us find the dot.
We understand that these manufacturers established their mount height with a different goal in mind than what we had in these tests. We were running the red dots on a competition-type pistol-caliber carbine in a United States Practical Shooting Association setting. We were looking for high-speed no-drag red dots that were easy to acquire and fast to use. The makers of our sights were generally trying to allow more defensive-minded users to co-witness their back-up iron sights through the lower parts of the dot windows in case the optic failed. Smart — and we don’t disagree with the concept at all. We just really liked the option to bring the sight to a lower level, which allowed us a more secure cheek weld. Lucid supplies its dot with multiple-height mounts, and Swampfox has a lower mount available on its website.
So with those fine points covered, we went to the range and shot these sights side by side.
Gun Tests Grade: A- (BEST BUY)
Swampfox is another relatively new player in this game, proudly stating on their website that they were “born on the 4th of July, 2018.” The moniker was adopted from the nom du guerre of Francis Marion, one of our Revolutionary War heroes and a forerunner of the Rangers and Green Berets – look him up.
|Height Above Rail
|1.06 x 63”
|Picatinny rail clamp – 2 screw
|Slotted screw on top deck
|Estimated Battery Life
|4000 to 50,000 hours
|Sides and top
One of the first things that caught our attention was the company’s “Ultimate Red Dot Screw” package for a mere $20. We’ve documented some of our frustrations with the current crop of red-dot sights and the mounting systems for them. There are several prevalent patterns, such as the SMSc, Docter and RMR. Not everyone follows these patterns, and those that do seem to each have their own idea of what screw size and pitch should be used. We once spent hours on the internet and more than $100 in purchasing screws for red-dot-sight installation and still didn’t get the right screws. The Swampfox package doesn’t contain every possible screw, but it does include many of the most popular.
The Swampfox Justice model we selected is the largest of the company’s open red-dot sights with a 27mm width and a height of approximately 16mm (0.6 inch or so). This dot comes with 10 brightness settings that were able to make sure we could see it in bright sunshine. The buyer has the option of ordering this sight with either a red or green emitter. Once again, we chose red to give the best contrast against the foliage we normally experience in our test area. The brightness controls double as the On and Off switches and are located on the left side of the unit. About 4 minutes of inactivity sends the Swampfox into sleep mode, where it draws no power. Any movement at all turns it back on. The Swampfox Justice does not have any feature that turns the dot off completely, at any point, thereby requiring a button to be pressed to restart. This isn’t a big deal for a competitive shooter, but we really like the lack thereof for a professional carrying this on duty. While this may not be optimum for battery life, with the 3-moa dot powered by a single CR1632 battery, estimated life is 4000 hours with constant on and up to 50,000 using the “Shake-N-Wake” auto on. The battery loads via removal of a slotted cover on the top deck. The elevation controls are also on the top of the rear deck. Windage adjustment is located on the right side.
The case is 7075-T6 construction, as we would hope. The mounting plate on the bottom of the unit sports two studs that project into the available mounting plate for the Picatinny rail ($20) or an aluminum shield ($40), as desired. If not, the Justice optic comes with a press-fit rubber-type cover. Both of those accessories are available for purchase at the Swampfox site. The cantilever-style Pic-rail adapter utilizes a full-length bar held in place by two Torx screws. There are three transverse bars inside the mount acting as recoil lugs. All told, we felt these combined to produce a very secure attachment to our carbine.
Our Team Said: The Swampfox manual warns the user not to use the top two brightness settings unless they are shooting outdoors in sunlight. The manual was right. We still had the dot turned down several notches, and it was very visible on our sunny test day. A very pleasant surprise was when we opened the package and saw more screws. Lots of screws. Different size screws. The user should have little problem finding what he needs to attach a Swampfox optic to a pistol. Swampfox may be relatively new to the market, but we like what we are seeing.