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The Current State of the Pistol Mounted RDS

The above photo I was sent was posted (and taken) by @realdirtyharry on IG, it's an Aimpoint ACRO P2.  From what I could gather, he didn't drop it, but simply was shooting it and the glass cracked.  So my interest was peaked and that started me down a rabbit hole trying to get answers, find info, and survey various people that I know who have pistol-mounted optics of various types, using them in training real-world applications or otherwise have had the applicable experience to my query.  This led me to a broader look at the industry, the current state of the pistol-mounted RDS development in the industry, and where we may want to see it go.  I reached out to Strohman Enterprise, who I used and recommended others to use, for LE discount preorders for Aimpoint ACRO P2s and asked if there is a recall and if so, if the P2 I ordered was affected. 



This email confirms that there is a recall on the ACRO P2, but anyone who purchases from Strohman was not affected by it, yet.



So the obvious question I had that I asked a bunch of people I knew could have access to this information, was how many people did they personally know who either posted about or already had replaced, a broken/cracked ACRO P2.  The answer was about 10.  Not exactly a groundbreaking number, but that number is likely higher than that because most people do not post about these issues, they just reach out to the company to get the product warrantied.  The fact remains, however, that many of us preordered the ACRO P2, paid in full, waited for nearly a year, and some of these products performed, and were generally far below, the quality we had wanted them to be.  Did Aimpoint Amber Heard the bed, or was it our perceptions and expectations contrary to reality?  That is what I am going to explore in this article.


In late 2014 I wanted to see what the rage was about, and I ended up getting an RMR cut slide and got an RMR for use.  At that time pistol mounted optics were not that great, and even though RMR changed just slightly since then, the general issues of pistol-mounted optics have been fixed, sort of.  Fast forward to 2017, I wrote an article talking about how the RMR is nice but just does not do it for me in terms of pistol-mounted optics.  Since then I have tried various different setups, including an Aimpoint T1 on a pistol, the SRO, the P1, MPS, and the current issue ridden P2.  In between these optics that I have personally owned, some carried, and used, I have tested various other pistol-mounted RDS like those from Vortex, SIG, Leupold, and a few others. Now in 2022 I settled on the Steiner MPS.


So what are the current issues with the ACRO P2?  Even though we waited for almost a year from the announcement to get the ACRO P2, the P2 is a lot of what the P1 was before.  The ACRO P2 came out because the ACRO P1 was a flop, and I outlined the issues of the ACRO P1 in an article I wrote in July of 2020.  The biggest, and the most obviously glaring issue is that the ACRO P2 is literally just a P1 with a new body kit and some new buttons, and it can take the 2032 battery.  Dimensionally, dot size, settings, etc it is nearly identical.  This was a giant missed opportunity for Aimpoint, and this does not make an iota of sense to me.  But, of course, the same people who sang the praises of the ACRO P1, were the same people to sing the praises of the ACRO P2, and they have been failures to do anything other than a shill for Aimpoint in order to keep the stream of free products coming.  Like most others, I had to pay for mine just to find out first hand it is definitely not what I had hoped it would have been when Aimpoint announced their intention to make another ACRO version.  There are benefits however, first and foremost the addition of the 2032 battery gives it extended battery life over the ACRO P1.  The P2 design has indents for covers of some kind (not that you would cover the lenses on a pistol optic), and Aimpoint has them available, also some other companies do as well, but on a pistol optic, they make little to zero sense.  I have yet to see anyone actually use them for EDC carry, and the argument for these types of micro optics mounted on a rifle is another completely different article (spoiler: hard no).  Otherwise, you get the same eye box, the same size MOA dot, and the buttons feel mushy to me but they are new so that may change.  I cannot understand why they would not redesign the whole optic, or at least make it different in more ways than not.  NV settings seem to be similar, although I have not had a lot of time with the ACRO P2 under nods to really give a great review of that functionality.  Add in the fact the ACRO P2 glass breaks for no apparent reason, and I have to say I am disappointed in the  newest ACRO version.  


The current favorite, and recommended optic, is the Steiner MPS.  Obviously, I am affiliated with a company that sells them, and Steiner did send me one for free for testing and evaluation, hence my full disclosure here, and before in posts.  The MPS, however, does a great job at being a new-to-market closed emitter pistol-mounted RDS.  The eye box is wider than the ACRO, the dot is slightly smaller and crisper (to my eye), and the overall design is more appealing to the eye, not that aesthetics should play a role but it always will on some level for the average consumer.  The MPS also has removable/replaceable side panels that I am personally waiting for someone to start 3D printing or making cool versions of.  Some people have issues with the MPS, so much so that Steiner has released a firmware updated V2 of it (the same thing just has the ability to turn off the auto 13 hour off feature).  The user can turn off the auto shut-off feature, but it removes the top brightness setting on the MPS.  The reason behind this is that if you set it to the top brightness setting and then leave it on, the battery life is measured in days not months.  This is likely true with the ACRO P2 as well, but no one actually sets it to the brightest setting and leaves it on.  I actually prefer the auto 13-hour shutoff because it does two things, number one allows the MPS to save and extend battery life, but also requires the end user to check for functionality.  You should always check your tools when you put them on, this is a normal protocol everyone should follow but few actually do it seems.  Whenever I put my pistol on, I check to make sure it is loaded, I check some of the ammo, I do some dryfire, and then draw from concealment, all to make sure the pistol is functional and my equipment is not compromised.  I also turn on the optic and set it to the brightness I need it to be set to for that particular day, brighter for sunny days, less for cloudy days.  I have long wondered why people have transferred Aimpoints "constant on" marketing from rifle mounted RDS to pistol, it is not a transferrable concept and I would not want it to be for obvious real world applicable reasons, no two days are the same and just because you left the optic in one setting does not mean it will be applicable when you go to use it.  On top of all that, how often do non-LEOs carry a firearm for more than 13 hours straight?  If you do end up doing so, regardless of where you are the lighting conditions most likely have changed and you will need to readjust your dot brightness.  How many other EDC electronic items do you turn on to the preferred setting and keep running while you are not in immediate use of it?  Is there a single electronic item you keep on just in case you need to use it?   Set and forget brightness on a pistol-mounted RDS is not something that I want as of now.  Will there be AI-powered RDS in the future that change and adjust to the light conditions, I hope so, but that leads us to wonder, what would make a top-tier pistol-mounted RDS with today's technology?

What features do we want to see on a pistol-mounted RDS, and how much are we willing to pay for it?

This is the question I posed to several folks in the 2a, training and firearms industry over the last week or so. I got back varying results, here is a wish list of things people would like to see, many were repeated by numerous people:

1.5 Month constant on
Better battery choices
Ability to change battery without having to re-zero or remove from pistol
Actual dive rating, with proof
Different reticles
Smaller Dots - 1MOA and the like
Different dot colors - Green
Two real NV modes - super NV bright and low NV bright
Titanium Construction
USB powered charging and firmware updating - which also means hackable
Two screw mounting construction
Variable or modular mounting ability - especially retrofitting onto RMR cut slides - without plates
Onboard extra battery storage from the factory
Anti-reflective coating on both glass
Has to be closed emitter type optic
Lockable adjustment dials, or a return to or set to zero
Less 'sidewall" and more glass / bigger eye box window
4 main brightness modes
Dot remembers prior brightness setting
Selective auto-shut off timer
....and a few others that were too pie in the sky to mention

Without nerding out too far with this exercise, I think that the average serious pistol-mounted RDS enjoyer would easily pay up to $999 for a top of the line RDS that is purpose designed for pistol mounting and has some key features that every other optic on the market seems to have missed the shot on.  What features would I personally like to see on a pistol-mounted RDS that could cost up to $999? Specifically, a battery or battery system (USB charging included) that creates worry-free functionality and allows the RDS to stay on for at least a full month (30 full days = 720 hours) at maximum brightness.  I think USB-C charging is something every single electronic EDC device should have today, RDS are no exception but cheap and easily purchasable batteries can replace this as long as they offer the performance.  A 1 MOA dot option, red and/or green.  Yes, green, it is great and I prefer green dots.  Some type of waterproof or water resistance or water depth rating, since it has to be a closed emitter it has to have some sort of liquid sustainability.  A way to lock out the adjustment knobs, I do not like marking anything up with a pen, and marking optics for zero is 1980s technology, why are we still doing it?  Should be able to lock out the zero once it is set somehow.  Glass reinforcement of some kind, either through double glass or hardened (gorilla type) glass, or some other way to make the glass very hard and very difficult to break or crack.  Personally, I prefer to have an auto-shut-off setting, but I understand some users may not, we can split that down the middle and make it a user customized setting.  A bigger glass window to sidewall ratio, more window, more eyebox, definitely bigger than the P2.  Finally, the optic has to be American-made, by American labor, preferably having some sort of government berry compliance.  I refuse to purchase 2a products made overseas, especially not from communist China.  I would gladly pay more for American labor.




The issue that I have mentioned previously in other articles is that the consumers in the industry still buy some of these faulty RDS products, even though they have issues because every small incremental step is still better than the previous and this is the American Capitalistic way of product development.  I am hopeful that other companies like Trijicon, Vortex, and Leupold make closed emitter pistol-specific RDS products.  I also hope they do not send their products to known industry shills who will tell them whatever they want to hear in order to keep getting products sent to them.  These are some of the biggest issues in the industry, shills, and industry celebs are the reason why we have garbage products and why people still use the RMR on duty guns because it is on the "approved" list for departments while literally the current best pistol-mounted RDS on the market, the Steiner MPS, is not.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies in this industry, but we have to move beyond these issues and into the arena of the real world.  

If someone reads this article and has a direct hand in making decisions at one of these companies, reach out, I want no money, I just want an end product that I would recommend for people to use in the real world, and use myself on a daily basis.  This is an area of the industry that can move forward very quickly given the correct motivation and product development, big steps forward can be had, these companies just need to listen and not use the end users as test subjects.

Lum-Tec Solar Marine


Description:

The Lum-Tec Solar Marine comes in three different styles, all three have 316L steel cases with a bead blasted finishes, one version comes in all black, one with a silver rotating bezel, and this one with a bead blasted case but with a black bezel.  As usual, Lum-Tec delivers a very densely spec'd out watch, that does not cut any corners.  The Solar Marine comes with a solar-powered movement that requires a single minute of direct sunlight to run for the day, and once it's been in direct sunlight for about 5 hours you get six months of charge.  As always you get the legendary lume application that Lum-Tec offers, there is no other company that even comes close.  This is my second solar-powered Lum-Tec and I got it for purposes of reviews before release.  The retail price will be in the $500 area, and you get the typical warranty from Lum-Tec.  I would recommend checking out the long spec sheet of the Solar Marine on their website.    


Reason For Purchase:

I always enjoy dive watches, tool watches, dive watches that are tool watches, as well as, new technology in watches. Solar-powered watches are likely going to start being more and more available and the fact that Lum-Tec jumped into this arena should give everyone a reason to consider solar-powered movements seriously. This watch comes in at about 39mm, which may be a little too small for some that are used to wearing larger profile watches.  It also comes with a NATO strap for the "military" or "tool" feel of this watch.  


The Solar Marine comes in the standard Lum-Tec white box.


Inside the white box, you get Lum-Tec's leather watch box, which has a spot for the watch and two compartments for other straps or hardware, also a sleeve for the warranty information. 


First Opinion:

The Solar Marine is a light watch, especially with the nylon NATO strap.  you can immediately tell there was a lot of attention to detail when this watch was made.  



The few most obvious and most visible features, like the double AR (anti-reflective) coating on the sapphire glass, the lume markers, and the solar panels behind the dial are very eye-catching.  I personally like the second hand having a red tip and the bezel lum marker having a red filling.



A decently sized "LT" labeled screw-down crown is the other clear feature that many people will be interested in.  The crown is sized just right and tightens to keep the water out.  It is a "dive watch" after all.



The bead blasted case does well to matte out the light, and it is aesthetically pleasing, especially in this two-tone model.



The nylon NATO strap feels like a quality strap in my hand and the hardware is bead blasted in the same color to match the case.  Aesthetically and functionally pleasing.


In The Field:

The Solar Marine keeps near perfect time, I would say it's +-0.01 over two weeks at most, even then it's barely noticeable.  The only reason I even mention it is because I set the watch against time.gov to the second  It is supposed to be a digital movement so, of course, I wanted to see how accurate it is.  I also put the watch into a dark box with no sunlight for 5 days to see if it would lose power or stop keeping time properly, only after wearing it out one day.  It did not lose time or stop ticking, I am sure it lost power but no way to gauge it without taking the case back off and using a voltmeter before and after.



Ownership and Usage:

If you are a fan of NATO straps this is a very nice strap, covering the case back and allowing you to figure out which direction you want to loop the tail of the NATO, forward to backward.  I will probably be changing the strap out as I do not prefer NATO straps, but as far as NATO's go this one is a better quality version than others on the market.  



The bezel clicks very audibly and has a similar firm feel that divers 5x have.  The lume bead in the bezel is very bright and very visible.  It compliments the dial face an the function hands very well.  The sapphire glass is very clear, no magnification, and the double AR coating is very visible when you are out in direct sunlight at the right angle.


The NATO strap held up well and does not show any signs of wear, nor does the bead blasted hardware.  Definitely designed for work.


Final Thoughts and Recommendations:

I prefer watches that are bigger, 43mm+ although some 42mm watches wear larger.  This watch comes in at 39mm, and if you prefer smaller watches with a lot of function this is probably an instant buy for you.  I would recommend you read the spec list for this watch, it has all the details that everyone who is looking for a quality tool watch would want.  Lots of really specific attention to detail that watches in the same category do not have.  While Lum-Tec ships this watch with a quality NATO, it may not be your style or speed, but it is very easy to replace a different strap, lots of different types out there to select, I think I will end up getting a black or similar color profile to the NATO nylon strap for this watch down the line.  The smaller profile helps with daily wearing, as does its weight.  Check it out on their website.

Aimpoint ACRO P-2 Comparison vs. P-1 and Steiner MPS


Like many people who have dived headfirst into the red dot sight mounted on pistol world, I preordered the Aimpoint ACRO P-2 when I heard it was coming out.  I did this because I had an early version of the Aimpoint P-1, that I posted a not-so-kind article about due to all of its problems.  The P-1 had a lot wrong with it, but at the time, the industry offered very few viable options.  The Trijicon SRO was decent as well, but it fell short in a lot of aspects.  While I know people opted for holosun / Chinese optics, they are not even a consideration for me, so they aren't covered in any of my posts as viable.  Shortly after the P1 came out, Steiner decided that they were going to throw their hat in the ring and really make a decent optic in the MPS.  After seeing the MPS in person at Warrior Expo and then Steiner being nice enough to send me one for use and review, the MPS in my opinion became the standard for RDS in the industry for pistol-mounted optics.  The ACRO P-2 seemed as though it was unobtainium for a while, mostly because of various supply chain issues Aimpoint incurred.  I know a ton of people who preordered the P-2 through various companies and the wait became a joke.  I placed an order for the P-2 from Strohnman Industries in April of 2021, I was one of the first people to place an order, paid in full, and I would email them every two to three months to see what the next delivery window was supposed to be, at some point I stopped asking because it was clear the P-2 was not coming any time soon.  It did arrive, however, almost a year after the original order, and after I have ran the MPS for several months.  This post will cover my initial impression comparison between the P-1, P-2, and the MPS.




In the box, you get the P-2, a bunch of paperwork, and their Aimpoint T10 tool.


The P-2 takes the industry-standard CR2032 battery, which Aimpoint finally decided to use thanks to the overwhelming request for it.  The cap is not very hefty but it does have a rubber gasket, so it has that going for it.  Aimpoint says in their product literature that with this battery the P-2 can get 50k hours of on-time at setting-6.  Which has always been one of the appeals of any Aimpoint product.  That particular appeal was shattered in the P-1 so having them say this is expected in the P-2 is a good thing.


The P1 has the smallest battery out of the bunch, the CR1225, and the MPS uses CR1632 battery, which seems to work fairly well for it.  


The P-2 battery cover is easily opened by the Aimpoint T10 tool, it also fits the MPS.


The T10 tool barely fits the P-1, better use a flathead or a quarter.


The T10 tools fit the MPS and P-2 mounting plate, and the zero adjustments of the P-2.  The issue I found is that when I went to zero the P-2 at the range, I actually forgot the T10 tool at home, I did have a multi-T hex tool with me, so I was able to zero the optic, but if I did not I would have been messing around with it trying to get it to zero.  I do not understand some companies' fascination with proprietary setups.  I get that Aimpoint includes their tool with nearly every optic, but a more streamlined option would definitely be better.  9mm rim turnable, or small flat head equivalent, probably would be the best industry standard across the board.  Guess we can dream that it may happen one day, unlikely though.  The P-1 takes a completely different sized hex tool, so the T10 tool does not work for it, other than zeroing.


The P-2 mounting plate comes apart, it has its grip side part that comes out of the P-2 body and its held in by a single screw.  You can see the T10 tool in this photo that I broke trying to take the battery cover off to see if it would work.  Clearly not.



Both the P-1 and the MPS use a single screw plus mounting attachment to connect to the ACRO-foot print of the pistol.  This is the industry standard, and I see no reason, as of this post, to change it.  I would personally rather have two T10 screws on the ends, each in a standalone mounting attachment, but that is because I value zero retention and overkill of engineering.  I doubt it will happen in the industry.




Visual comparison of each of the RDS, side by side.  The MPS is the smallest profile with the biggest window, the P-2 is in the middle for size and window size, the P-1 is the biggest sized and smallest window size.


Button setup of each unit.  The P-1 had an "update" of better tactile feeling buttons that Aimpoint transferred to the P-2.  All three have + and - buttons, the P-2 has a center-looking button but I cannot find documentation anywhere on what it does, so if I do I will update this post with it. I much prefer the MPS buttons for this purpose, they are stylish and purposeful, in that they are longer shaped and have a click press feeling, unlike the P-1 and the P-2 has a middle of the way click feeling.  



The window size gets a little interesting.  The P-1 has a window size of .63x.63 inches per documentation and the P-2 has the same window size per documentation.  The issue is that looking at it with the naked eye, it does not look the same, the P2 seems slightly larger, maybe it's because of the recessed placement, but to my eyes, the P-2 looks just slightly bigger than its older brother.  The MPS comes in at .83x.63 inches, wider than both the ACROs and the rectangle window looks better in my opinion.  





Mounting on the three RDS optics are pretty straightforward, I think in the photo above I flipped the P-2 around by accident, so all the long bars across the optic run in the same area of each optic.  I like Aimpoint's use of a single straight bar all the way across and the P-2 doesn't have any screws on the bottom at all, unlike the MPS and P-1.  I am sure there's a reason Steiner and Aimpoint added various screws to the bottom, I just do not like to see exposed screws on an optic, but then again on the MPS, at least, they are snuggled up against the pistol.  


Install is pretty easy.  I throw the P-@ on the optic and dab a single drop of blue Loctite onto the screw and then use the T10 tool to tighten it until it's hand tight, plus a 1/4 turn.  There is only so much force you can exert onto a screw of this size with the T10 and while you can easily strip one of these out, I think the T10 tool makes it easy to install properly.  



Once mounted you can see that the P-2 is not exactly flush, but it is not expected to be.

 
Max brightness P-2.


Max Brightness MPS.


Max Brightness P-1.


Max Brightness SRO.


Conclusions and Considerations:

Each of the optics says they are "true 1x" but the P-1 is not true 1x.  The MPS and P-2 are very close but have a little bit of distortion at the edges, this is expected.  The MPS has a top mount emitter.  The MPS has a 3.3MOA dot, and the ACROs have 3.5MOA dots.  I prefer a smaller dot and would like to see one of these have a 1MOA or smaller dot available.  Both the P-2 and MPS have aftermarket potential customization, still waiting to see what people design for these optics, specifically the MPS has side plates that can be user removed and probably 3D printed newer plates, the P-2 has these two ridges that something can be made to snap into place.  Do not know how applicable it is to pistol optics, but rifles may work.  The MPS is the only optic that has auto-shutoff, though many people seem to dislike this option on the MPS, I personally like it, especially since the MPS has a smaller battery.  As I write this I am going to be EDC'ing the P-2.


EDC AIWB / IWB UPGRADES!