All three of these optics are built to take a beating. The Leupold is best for making long shots, the EOTech has a bold reticle for fast shooting, and the Aimpoint is compact and lightweight.
When it comes to purchasing an optic for an AR-15, there are two main categories of glass to consider: non-magnified and magnified. Which to choose depends on the type of shooting you plan to do with your rifle.
Non-magnified optics are great with targets from point-blank range out to about 300 yards. If your self-defense rifle might also be used for long-range shooting, an optic with some type of magnification is probably a better pick.
Aimpoint Micro H1
The Micro H1, a non-magnifying optic, is the smallest sight in Aimpoint’s lineup, coming in at just under 3 ounces, not including the mount. It comes with a choice of two aiming dot sizes, either 2 or 4 MOA. The 4 MOA dot will cover about 4 inches of a target at 100 yards, while the 2 MOA covers half as much. The larger dot, in theory, allows the shooter to more quickly acquire the target, while the smaller one is better for more precise shot placement on distant targets.
The parallax-free design of the Micro H1 means the shooter’s head doesn’t need to be perfectly aligned behind the center of the optic. Wherever the dot is, the bullet will impact, making the Micro H1 very forgiving when shooting in awkward positions and ideal for fast shooting against multiple targets.
The Micro H1 has 12 different brightness settings for various lighting conditions and a battery life of 50,000 hours. Given Aimpoint’s history of working with the military, law enforcement, and hunters, it is no surprise that the Micro is rugged and durable, too. ($686; aimpoint.com)
EOTech Model 512
The holographic reticle on this non-magnified optic consists of a red circle that covers a whopping 65 MOA, which surrounds a small 1 MOA aiming dot in the middle. As with the Aimpoint, the EOTech 512 is parallax-free, so the shooter does not need to have perfect form to get a good hit. The M512 is a beefy sight, weighing almost 11 ounces, and runs for up to 1,100 hours on a pair of lithium batteries. Part of the weight goes into the integral mount, which will attach to a Picatinny rail. The reticle is designed to shut off after a certain amount of time (either 4 or 8 hours, depending on the shooter’s preference) if the sight is not moved around or adjusted.
Controls on the EOTech consist of large buttons at the rear of the optic to turn the unit on and off, and to control the intensity level of the illumination. The windage and elevation adjustments are located on the right side and are easy to use to get the sight zeroed.
The Model 512, like other EOTech sights, is overbuilt in order to withstand extreme use. It can shrug off a degree of punishment that would shake a regular scope to pieces. ($729; eotechinc.com)
Leupold Mark AR mod 1 1.5–4X20
When it comes to magnifying optics, Leupold is at the top of the list for dependability and quality. The company’s Mark AR MOD 1 1.5–4X20mm scope is built specifically to cover a wide range of shooting applications for ARs—everything from duty use by military and law enforcement to competition shooting and personal protection. Being able to run the power setting down to 1.5X gives you the opportunity to use it on targets in close quarters, while at 4X the scope can be used to make precise hits past 300 yards.
One AR-friendly feature on the 9.6-ounce scope is that the yardage markers on the turrets are calibrated for a 55-grain .223 bullet traveling at 3,100 fps. Once the scope is zeroed at 100 yards, the shooter can spin the elevation dial to the correct number and get hits at long range.
The Firedot-G SPR reticle features an illuminated center dot within a larger circle that can be used for fast and up-close shooting. The vertical and horizontal lines are marked with mil lines for accurate ranging and holdovers. This is perhaps the most versatile AR optic on the market. ($564; leupold.com)