A year ago we reviewed the .22 LR version of Primary Arms’s ACSS reticle optics line, which is made to quickly and intuitively range cans, bottles, and clay pigeons out to 200 yards. Focused more on combat use, the 1-6x scope’s patented ACSS reticle is designed to range, well, combatants. It blows traditional range-finding reticle technology back into the stone age with the simplest, fastest method of ranging a human-size target, compensating for bullet drop, leading a moving target, and holding for crosswind short of having Rain Man as your spotter.
The ACSS’s biggest coup was marrying accurate ranging into the reticle itself. There’s no conversion from reticle measurement units to distance units. No calculator or math needed. It’s the WYSIWYG of ranging reticles. But the ACSS didn’t stop there; it merged range-finding and bullet drop compensation holdover marks together, too. Match your target to the appropriate range and you’re already holding properly for the distance, ready to pull the trigger.
I’ve added some brown silhouettes to the image above to show how some of the reticle’s features work. The primary feature is the center tape — 12-level illuminated in red — for use at 6x magnification for ranging targets from 300 to 800 yards.
Each horizontal line corresponds to the width of an 18-inch-wide target — your average male torso width — at the designated range. A 300 yard target would fit between the bottom-most corners of the horseshoe, and the top of the ranging tape post acts as the crosshair. From there, the farther away the target is the smaller it is, and ranging it is as simple as matching its width to the width of one of the range lines or judging it as in-between two of them.
In the picture above, the silhouette has been ranged at 600 yards, the bullet drop holdover is already done, and all that’s left is to pull the trigger.
To the right and left of the ranging tape are illuminated wind hold dots. These represent the necessary hold to compensate for a 5 mph crosswind. This distance can easily be halved (2.5 mph wind) and fairly easily be doubled (10 mph wind).
Off to the right side of the primary ranging tape is effectively a backup ranging tape. Should your target present itself at an angle that doesn’t allow for torso-width ranging, this tape will estimate range based on a 5′ 10″ average male height. Feet at the bottom, and wherever the head stops is your range. In the picture above, he’s ranged at 600 yards. This tape can also work if the enemy combatant is only visible from the waist up; range with that and then simply cut the tape’s range estimate in half. Note that the horizontal lines still correspond with an 18″ target at the given ranges.
The biggest focus of the reticle is the illuminated horseshoe with center dot, which is, indeed, the center of the scope image. This is designed for CQB work, for use primarily at 1x magnification but it can be used at higher zoom levels as well (and at full zoom, a target at 200 yards goes outside edge-to-edge on the horseshoe).
Well off to the left and right of the horseshoe is a large, non-illuminated dot. This is for leading a running target. Apparently a handful of separate military studies showed that a man running with a rifle in hand does so at a pretty reliable 8.6 mph. Between 100 and 300 yards, I believe regardless of zoom level, these dots will work for leading a running target.
There are a lot of variable zoom optics out there claiming “1x” as the minimum zoom level, but not actually delivering. It’s surprisingly common to find a “1x” that’s really somewhere in the 1.1x to 1.4x range. Well, Primary Arms’ 1-6x doesn’t suffer this issue, and its 1x is a true 1x with zero zoom and no distortion. This is actually an important distinction, because a true 1x with an illuminated center dot — the entire horseshoe in this case — makes a scope like this just as fast as a red dot or reflex sight. It rocks both-eyes-open, CQB, red dot-style shooting like a champ.
Zoom in to 6x and the quality of the glass and clarity of the picture stays way beyond what’s expected at an MSRP of just $269.99. Unfortunately, taking photos through a scope is a bit of a trick and I struggled to show the clarity of the reticle itself. Even at full brightness, it’s completely clear with no bleeding (it would get weird through the camera lens, though).
The best I could do was this photo, showing an in-focus reticle at illumination level 8 or 9 of the 11 “on” settings, but a blurry background. This is partially due to having the diopter adjusted for my right eye’s marginal eyesight, and partially due to heavily cropping the photograph to where it’s pixelated. Anyway, other than the blur and some illumination bleed (again, the camera adds that) it’s a fairly realistic representation of what the reticle looks like at 6x in real life. That’s a consenting human target out there on the paddle board, being ranged — by a loose scope not mounted on a firearm, for the record — at approximately 400 yards.
Odd to get most of the way through a scope review without even talking about the physical scope itself, but the ACSS reticle just steals the show. At any rate, the scope is anodized 6063 aluminum and is 10.75″ long and weighs in at 17.4 ounces. It’s waterproof and fog resistant, with fully multi-coated lenses, and comes with a 3-year warranty. Tube diameter is 30mm. Turrets are capped.
Click adjustments feel clean and precise, and are easily accomplished by hand on the serrated outer ring. Each click is 1/2″ at 100 yards. The ring with adjustment markings can be rotated independently of making actual adjustments in order to align with a zero mark on the scope body (this has not been done in the photos).
The windage adjustment turret cap hides a spare CR2032 battery. Another one comes pre-installed under the illumination turret on the left side of the scope.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: will this work with my gun/ammo? Well, if it’s in 5.56/.223, 7.62×51/.308, or 5.45×39 then most likely the answer is “yes.” Above is the suggested zeroing chart to ensure that the bullet drop compensation tape works for your barrel length and/or ammo choice. The only real standouts are the suggestions to zero M193 through a 14.5″ barrel at 50 yards, to zero 75 grain and 77 grain .223 a half inch and full inch high at 100 yards, respectively, and to zero 7.62×51/.308 an inch high at 100 yards. With that done, all of the holdover distances are correct, and point of impacts are within an inch for all caliber and barrel combos listed.
On The Range
I really can’t express enough how much I love this scope. I’ve owned it for over a year now and it has been a total rock star. On my very first range outing with it I was presented, conveniently enough, with 18″ steel gongs at random, unmarked distances out to ~600 yards and then animal silhouettes beyond that, out to 880 yards (a half mile). With cheap .223 I absolutely crushed those gongs, ranging and engaging them near instantly. It was all too easy until a cross breeze picked up and I missed a shot. Then, watching the wild grasses, it became easy again using the wind hold dots — between half a dot and a full dot hold — to accurately compensate.
Turns out even casual familiarity with animal sizes can translate into accurate ranging with the ACSS as well, whether coyote or buffalo. I took a guess at ranging a wild boar target, estimating it at a bit shy of 750 yards, and hit it. Now, with a 6x zoom I couldn’t tell where on the target I hit it, but I definitely hit it. Taking a few more shots I confirmed a few more impacts, and on a couple of wind-induced misses the loose sand surrounding the target poofed up in a tell-tale geyser.
For close-in shooting, it’s a red dot. Well, it’s close. Due to the long tube the field of vision is slightly more restricted than with a shorty red dot or a reflex sight, and the housing and adjustment knobs are larger so they obstruct a bit more of the downrange view. But the reticle is bright, there’s no distortion, both-eyes-open shooting is easy, and there’s almost no parallax. I tried to time myself running through a competition-style stage with this scope vs. a popular red dot, and just couldn’t conclude a reliable difference between the two, running nearly dead nuts at 18 seconds either way.
Adjustments appear to be reliable. It shoots square boxes and tracks close to expected. However, nobody cares. The only purpose of the elevation and windage adjustments is to get the initial zero set. Once that’s done, forget clicking. The BDC reticles and wind holds have you covered for all of your distance and windage needs.
The ACSS reticle — or ACSS-style knockoffs — is the way of the future. With it one can accurately range and fire on a target faster than it’s even possible to describe the method of ranging with Mils (target height in inches multiplied by 27.78, then divided by the target height in Mils = distance to target in yards). In short, it’s freaking awesome. So awesome that variants of the ACSS are now available in ACOGs, red dots, high-end 1-8x scopes, 4-14x and 6-30x long range scopes (with more granular, expanded ACSS reticles), and for other calibers like .300 Blackout, 7.62×39, and .22 LR. I’m sure its popularity will only continue to grow.
Of course, in this case there’s a $269 scope attached to the reticle. It’s a 1-6x job with a smooth-turning zoom ring and shockingly good optics. The illuminated reticle is bright enough to use in full sun and it doesn’t bleed or halo. At 1x it’s truly zoom free and holds its own against a dedicated red dot or reflex optic. The very simple turrets leave something to be desired, but then again who needs ’em? Once sighted in, the caps may never come off again.
Specifications: Primary Arms 1-6x ACSS Scope
Build: 6063 aluminum, anodized black
Tube Diameter: 30mm
Ocular Diameter: 42mm
Weight: 17.4 oz
Click Adjustment Value: 1/2″ at 100 yards
Magnification Range: 1x to 6x
Field of View at 100 Yards: 115 feet at 1x, 19.2 feet at 6x
Eye Relief: 4″ to 4.5″
Exit Pupil: 10mm at 1x, 4mm at 6x
Illumination: 12 brightness settings, CR2032 battery
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Reticle * * * * *
Absolutely love it. It doesn’t get any easier, faster, or more intuitive to range and engage a target.
Build * * * 1/2
The feel of the scope is more or less on par with what I’d expect from a known brand at this price point. Maybe slightly above expected with the smooth-yet-snug feel of the zoom ring and the clean clicks of the turrets, but the cheapo lens caps and spinning turret adjustment marking rings don’t really do it for me. It has proven to be very reliable and durable — passing many internet “torture tests” — but it just doesn’t feel as quality as it actually is.
Optical Clarity * * * *
Amazing for the price point.
Value * * * * *
Great optics, incredible reticle, decent warranty, and reliable function at an MSRP of $269.99 is a heck of a value.
Overall * * * * *
I love these scopes. They’re probably impossible to beat for the money and, really, I gravitate towards this optic for all of my practical shooting even with a couple of ~$3,000 scopes available. The .22 LR one will probably never leave my CZ 455, and I’m fairly sure my next optics purchase will be a 1-8x ACSS.