In recent years, the AR pistol has become a popular short-barrel alternative to the standard longer-barrel AR-15 rifle. By definition, the gun is functionally equivalent to that of a full-size AR-15 but sports a short barrel, typically 7 to 10 inches, and a pistol buffer tube that does not allow a traditional stock to be attached. This configuration, specifically without the stock, avoids the AR pistol being classified as a short barreled rifle which saves you from extra regulations and costs associated with owning a genuine AR-15 fitted with a barrel less than 16 inches.
The benefit of the AR pistol packs the power of a .223/5.56 round into something easier to carry and handle than a full sized rifle. When you attach a quality optic sight to this configuration, you get a powerful package with rifle-like accuracy, friendlier dimensions, and better maneuverability. Here is a guide to the best optic for your AR pistol.
The Best Optics For The AR Pistol
With the right sight, a user can achieve an incredible level of accuracy with the AR pistol. Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 AR pistol sights on the market for 2021.
Sig Sauer is among the top producers of firearms optics and gun accessories, and has been for a number of decades. The Sig Sauer SOR52001 Romeo5 1x20mm is arguably the best sight for an AR pistol as it offers many different advantages that help shooters get the most out of this compact weapon.
The brand has established itself with their recent Romeo5 lineup and users have been raving about the quality and easy-to-use adjustments since the sight was first released.
This sight is IPX-7 rated, which means it is made to be completely submerged in water and still function according to plan. In fact, the SOR52001 Romeo5 is likely the toughest sight for an AR pistol on the market for 2021, but there are a few others that are also exceptionally tough.
Made to fit onto a standard Picatinny rail, this sight provides 10 different illumination settings for visibility in all light conditions, including 8 daylight settings and 2 nighttime modes. This sight is a tactical masterpiece and features MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination) which is designed to power up when there is movement in front of the sight and go into rest mode when all is quiet.
The Trijicon MRO makes a strong case for being the No. 1 sight for an AR pistol, but some users would likely squabble over a few differences between this and the other top sights on our list. This sight has an exceptionally large viewing area that’s ideal for hunting or any other use in which a shooter needs to have as large of a sight picture as possible.
This particular sight is crafted to an exceptionally-high standard and is among the most popular choices for law enforcement and military use.
The top-mounted brightness control can be adjusted by left or right handed users. This sight is also one of the toughest on the market for 2021 as it is made with 7075 forged housing featuring sealed construction. The Trijicon MRO also offers lens covers for both sides of the optic, which is important for users who expect to be carrying their weapon through tough terrain or situations.
This sight also offers three different reticle options and more than 5 years of battery life on the standard red dot mode. The quality of the glass speaks for itself and many users would likely have this atop our list of the best AR pistol sights.
In the last decade, Sightmark has carved a path toward the very top of the firearms optics industry by producing sights that seem to be perfectly-suited for specific types of guns.
The Sightmark SM26008 Ultra Shot Plus is a sight that might be specially made for AR pistols and most users will agree that this model certainly functions as one of the best sights for an AR pistol that’s currently available.
This model has a smaller profile and more closely resembles a traditional iron-sight appearance. It features a cast-aluminum housing that acts as a protective shield around the more fragile elements of the Sightmark SM26008 Ultra Shot Plus.
It has a number of red or green reticle options that allow each shooter to select the one that best fits their needs. Many users have raved about the overall ease of use and adjustability this sight offers, as well as the fact that it has well-over 1,000 hours of battery life, depending on the level of brightness used.
Regardless of the type of firearm, Vortex seems to have created a sight that’s ideal for each specific gun model. Their Vortex Optics Strikefire II is a bit more costly than other sights on our list, but is widely considered to be one of the best sights for an AR pistol. The company prides itself on producing optics that have an incredibly-clear sight picture and this model is no different.
Like other Vortex sights, this one is very rugged and made to withstand anything you might encounter in the outdoors, or with tactical use. It features two scope covers on each end that ensures your lenses will be protected when you’re not firing or aiming down the sight.
This sight is fully shockproof and offers the standard O-ring sealed housing that Vortex is known for.
The battery can last as long as 6,000 hours, depending on the level of brightness one chooses to operate this sight with. This one comes with a lifetime warranty and is built to out-last other sights that simply can’t stack up to the level of outstanding quality the Vortex has become known for.
Primary Arms Advanced Micro Dot
- Angled front lens designed to reflect the crisp 2 MOA dot projected by the emitter into the eye of the user
- 11 illumination settings with approx. 50,000 hour battery life (5+ years) at a medium brightness setting
- Includes removable Picatinny rail mount for out of the box use and bikini lens covers for glass protection
- 6061 aluminum housing, durable black anodized finish and aluminum turret caps that tighten around O-rings for protection from...
- Lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects, materials and workmanship, and even normal wear and tear
This model from Primary Arms offers crisp image quality and a set of basic features at a good price point. While it does not have any advanced features beyond an illuminated red dot and windage/elevation adjustment knobs, it makes up for the shortcomings in overall value.
This is a great example of a minimal red dot sight, though it is built for durability including a design that is geared toward heavy recoil firearms. Primary Arms also backs it up with a lifetime warranty which is nice to see at any price point.
The red dot illumination claims 50,000 hours of battery life which makes it reliable over the long haul and means you won’t be worrying about whether your optic battery needs to be changed any time soon.
It is also compatible with night vision and is designed for low-light environments with multicoated lenses and an ultra-low profile light emitter to ensure a clean sight with minimal lens tint. It also includes a removable Picatinny base for easy mounting on most AR pistols.
Positives Recap for This Product
- 1 MOA rating
- Affordable price range for a quality optic
- 11 brightness settings for red dot
- Clear image quality
- Lifetime warranty
Negatives Recap for This Product
- Windage/elevation knobs feel coarse
- No auto shutoff for illumination means you can easily drain the battery
Related: These Are The Best .22 Pistol Scopes
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight
- Matte black featuring a 3 MOA Dot reticle with 11 brightness settings; Mounts easily on most picatinny rails and is...
- Waterproof construction: O ring sealed optics stay dry inside, even when totally immersed in water. Parallax - 50
- Shockproof construction: Built to withstand bumps, bangs, drops and the rough and tumble environment of the field
- Nitrogen purged fog proofing: Nitrogen inside the scope ensures interior optical surfaces won’t fog due to humidity or...
Bushnell has been making optics in all forms for a long time and they have built a reputation for quality. The TRS-25 offers the Bushnell name at a very affordable price point. You won’t find any high-end features on this sight, but it’s built to last, 100% weatherproof, and makes a great addition to any AR pistol.
This optic features what Bushnell calls the “Amber-Bright” lens coating which helps with target distinction, such as seeing different shades of brown in low-light environments.
This is largely intended to speed up the time of target acquisition making this a good hunting option. Users report that this feature helps when hunting in the woods during autumn when shades of colors can blend together.
The eye relief is unlimited, meaning it’s easy to use with either eye and allows you to be more aware of your surroundings since your head can be much further back from the eyepiece.
As far as red dot sights go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one with this quality at this price point. Manufacturers usually sacrifice build quality to lower the cost, but in this package, Bushnell has produced an affordable option that holds up over time.
Positives Recap for This Product
- Specialized lens coatings for wooded environments
- Unlimited eye relief
- Lifetime warranty
- Weatherproof construction
Negatives Recap for This Product
- No premium features like auto-shutoff
- Shorter battery life than other models
Related: Best AR 10 Scope (Top 5)
Optic vs. Scope
Optic sights and scopes are not the same things and it’s important to understand some key differences when shopping for an AR pistol optic.
Low Magnification – Scopes are designed for zooming in on a target and providing greater shooting distance at longer range. A quality optic, on the other hand, is more about target acquisition and the ability to hold the target in view.
When changing target distances, scopes require some adjustment to the zoom level. This is not the case with an optic sight since it is designed for a different purpose.
Short Range Engagement – Optic sights are designed for short-range engagement of a target. The goal is to capture the target quickly in your sight and be able to follow movement without the limitations of traditional sights or the necessary adjustments to a scope.
The AR pistol itself is intended for short range shooting which is why it pairs well with a smaller optic sight.
Moving Targets – Try following a fast moving target with a scope and you’ll find the limitations of keeping a bead on the target at a high magnification level. Sudden movements by the target can take it out of view making it hard to track. An optic sight, equipped with an illuminated dot or reticle, makes it far easier to track sudden movements at close to medium ranges since the field of view is much wider.
Commonly Asked Questions
What MOA level should I look for? – MOA stands for “minute of angle” which accounts for 1/60th of a degree. You’ll see optic sights that advertise 2 MOA, or possibly 4 MOA, etc… The lower the number, the more precise adjustment the optic has for moving the point of impact at 100 yards distance.
For example, an optic with an MOA value of 2 will adjust the point of impact 2 inches at 100 yards. In most cases, the lower the better for a tighter group and more precise aim. If you’re only shooting at a very short range, an MOA 4 is acceptable but for longer range, a lower value is needed.
Why does battery life vary between brands? – In some cases, it can be simply due to using a smaller battery size to keep the weight low and the profile small. In other cases, it could be that the manufacturer has chosen to emphasize brightness and clarity of the reticle or dot versus extending battery life.
Most of it is based on your unique usage and preference, but don’t expect to get anywhere close to the maximum number of hours rated by the manufacturer since that is likely achieved using the lowest brightness setting.
The AR pistol has become popular in recent years as laws in some states make it hard to own a full AR-15 rifle. The AR pistol can be fun to shoot and adding an optic to mix will take your accuracy to the next level and improve proficiency.
Hopefully, this guide has helped in understanding what to look for in the best optic for the AR pistol. Finding the right one is similar to shopping for a scope, but there are different things to consider. Stick with the well-known brands offering lifetime warranties and you’ll find a great addition to your AR pistol.
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