Saturday, April 22, 2023

Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot

Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot

One of my favorite things is to breathe new life into an old project. From an AR perspective nothing screams reclaimed & upcycled like my nearly ten year old DeadPoole build that was a cobbled together set of ultra-premium parts. The brand new Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot is a heck of a product name but was exactly what was needed to update one of my favorite builds. 

The DeadPoole build parts read like a who’s who’s of premier parts such as an retro cool early 1970 Armalite carry handle upper, precision National Match sight set, Barnes Precision custom milled quad rail, Feddersen 17-inch .223 Wylde fluted match barrel, Ace stock, Timney two-stage trigger, Bootleg Adjustable Gas Bolt Carrier, and New Frontier billet Pandemic Biohazard lower. Because literally every part I listed was a different shade of light to dark black anodizing or freshly milled, the set was hideous unfinished. The build received a shockingly durable DIY rattle can combo finish with spray epoxy, ceramic mag wheel paint and Alumahyde clear to create a battleworn finish.

From an optics perspective, some trick innovations I made were to open the large national match rear aperture to a huge size - effectively delivering an almost non-existent rear ghost ring while still preserving the ability to flip to the fine aperture if needed for backup or secondary zero. This open ghost sight allowed unobstructed co-witness use of the Gen 1 Primary Arms push button red dot mounted directly in front of the front carry handle on the handguard. 

It is a very tight setup which delivers total sight backup with the precision of a standard red dot plus some protection from the convenient carry handle. The result of all this was an incredibly accurate National Match style build but with the advantages of a red dot.  The vintage Primary Arms red dot has been fantastic and was left on continuously and has only had one battery change since purchase. Times change and there are now far better options than just a tiny red dot. Enter the brand new Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot.

To call the brand new PA SLx MD-25 Gen II ACSS-CQB a “Red Dot” is a bit misleading because it is so much more. The MD-25 Gen II is about 20% larger than a typical red dot which delivers more clarity, a lighter & brighter optic, and larger field of view that seems very close to large format holographic sights. Primary Arms has also added an AutoLive feature which helps preserve and extend the 25K hour runtime - essentially it can sit in your safe in hibernate mode and comes to life whenever motion is detected. 

Though 50K hour runtimes are common on Primary Arms standard red dot electro-optics, the SLx MD-25 Gen II is supporting the the illumination of a larger and more advanced ACSS-CQB reticle with calibrated ballistic drop holds plus an extremely fast and precise chevron reticle with an even faster 65-MOA CQB horseshoe. With all that illuminated, the runtime is factory tested to 25K hours or more with AutoLive. The result is a clean reticle without clutter, a fine and precise chevron aiming point, plus bullet drop holds calibrated for the 7.62 Nato and 5.56 Nato calibers, plus a battery runtime that still blows holographic site runtimes out of the water. All this is an optic platform with more field of view, clarity and light transmission than a typical red dot all for $199. There are even night vision compatible settings. PA has included a very high quality rugged co-witness mount with two additional risers. Not sure how these guys do it, but I love it.

Mounting was as simple as any red dot, however the SLx MD-25 Gen II has moved up to max sized heavy duty torx screws which can take some serious torque with the included T-handle torx wrench. Having broken or broken-off many inexpensive optic mounts and bolts over the years with tiny screws, I am very excited to see a big durability shift of the new mount vs the older legacy mount. Zeroing was simple via the capped turrets and ½ MOA adjustments.

The ACSS-CQB reticle is a big jump from a simple red dot in use and speed. One of the previous challenges with the red dot  was determining holds at longer ranges. Generally I could have a good idea of where my hold-overs were or tune the iron sights to co-witness for a secondary hold, however the ACSS-CQB reticle has integrated holds to 600-yards which seem to be pretty accurate holds depending on the right ammo choice. The Semicircle horseshoe, like similar other circle dot reticles, is extremely fast at close ranges and far more apparent than hunting for a small red dot.


Way back I heard that this retailer called Primary Arms was making optics and I thought it sounded like a me-too optics story, but they definitely proved me wrong. After owning and putting a very hard level of abuse on several of their red dots and a 4-16 FFP mil-dot scopes, I am extremely impressed. Obviously I have a nearly ten year old red dot that is still running hard and will find a home on another build. PA has become one of the most respected optics brands in the industry delivering high value, cutting edge features, developed a widely regarded ACSS reticle system, and offers some features like AutoLive that many competitors still do not offer. Overall I am impressed with all their optics over a very long term.

The Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot is a fantastic optic and for $199, it is an amazing value and was perfect to upgrade this old build with new capabilities. Comparing this to other red dots in this price range, you will see that with the reticle, mount, and ACSS-CQB reticle wider field of view and extended run time make this my new go to recommendation for a red dot.

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