Optics Review: Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56mm First Focal Plane Rifle Scope

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

JWT for TTAG

The best thing that The Truth About Guns has done for me, other than introducing me to so many of you fine people, is make me appreciate budget optics. Or maybe it’s just how far budget glass has come. Because I’m here to tell you, the new Primary Arms Platinum Series PLx5 6-30X56 FFP scope with its Athena BPR Mil reticle has made me a believer.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

The most important feature of any optic is the quality of the glass itself. The Platinum Series PLx5 rifle scope is made in Japan. It says so in big letters right on the front of the box. Decades ago, “Made in Japan” meant sub-par quality, and cheap. That’s hasn’t been true for a very long time. Now it generally means high precision, high quality, and relatively affordable. That goes double for precision machines, and triple for rifle optics.

The clarity of the glass on the PLx 6-30x56mm FFP is on par with any Vortex Razor, Nightforce, or many other optics of considerably higher price on the market. As I’ve noted in previous reviews, the differences between good enough to great glass don’t show up outdoors on a bright, clear day. You have to add a little darkness and/or fog, haze, and precipitation for them really pop out.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

Take a look at the photo above. That was taken on a cloudy day between rains. That telephone pole is about 700 yards away. I’m not dialed all the way in, and you can clearly see the insulators on the line and details in the tree. I couldn’t line up my phone’s camera to either a Vortex Razor or Nightforce SHV (also made in Japan) in time for the same conditions, but the glass clarity is every bit as good as those brands.

My Schmidt & Bender PMII does have a slightly sharper image than this scope (at over twice the price). I don’t know if the Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25×56 image is any sharper, but it does manage the light at dusk and dawn a better, providing maybe 10 minutes more visibility on targets at dawn and dusk.

That’s pretty important, but until this year, I would have not seriously considered putting a Primary Arms optic up against those two brands. And yet, an optic that is almost half to a third of the money compared very well against what I would consider the best brands at any price.

The next question to answer on a precision optic is whether or not the turrets track, and return to zero. To test this, I first simply zeroed the scope, reset the turrets to zero, and shot a round at 100 yards on paper. I then ran the turrets all the way right, left, up and down, and returned to zero. I shot another round and then repeated the process four more times. I ended up with 6 rounds with about one inch of maximum dispersion.

I then performed a simplified box test. At 300 yards, I shot a round on a 4 mil square target, moved 3 mils up, 3 mils right, 3 mils down, 3 mils left, and shot a round. I ended up with two rounds about 3 inches from each other.  The rifle and ammunition combination I was shooting, an FN SCAR 20S with IWI’s 175gr HPBT ammunition, shoots 1 MOA five-round groups.

One of the points where an optic like the Leupold Mk5HD 5-25×56 beats the PLx5 is the total amount of elevation adjustment. The 27.6 mils of total elevation adjustment on the PLx5 concerned me a little, until I sat down and did the math.

Using the shorter 20-inch SCAR 20S barrel, that IWI ammo, (or any NATO M118LR ammunition) I wouldn’t run out of elevation until after 1,600 yards. Better than 9/10th of a mile is plenty for any of the short actions, and most of the long action calibers as well.

Of course, by using the hashes and choosing your zero as something other than 100 yards, you could extend that elevation significantly. Still, if I was going to focus on farther than a mile shooting, this would not be the scope I’d choose.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

Beyond clarity and precision, any quality optic needs to be durable enough for the field. Primary Arms advertises the PLx5 6-30x56mm FFP as waterproof, meeting an IP67 standard. That means that the entire scope should be able to be submerged in one meter of water for half an hour without ill effects. I put the whole thing in my kitchen sink for half an hour. No ill effects noted, other than a long time spent cleaning water spots off the glass.

I’ve had this scope all summer. I got this optic to try out on competitions that were mostly cancelled due to COVID-19.  Instead, I mounted it on my FN SCAR 20S in 7.62×51 NATO with a set of Seekins Precision rings. Before I realized how hard it was about to be to get either ammunition or components, I put a couple thousand rounds through that 20S with the Platinum PLx5 scope.

I’ve also taught a few DMR style courses with this rifle, and since beginners do what beginners do, the rifle and scope were knocked to the ground a couple of times. At no time have I experienced any issues of damage to the scope at all. The crosshairs never shifted, and the turrets never failed to track.

Beyond the basics, the Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56mm FFP is well appointed with many of the features you’d expect from a high end scope.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

The turrets are not a locking type, and I’d rather they not be. I want to move and mess with the scope as little as possible when I’m behind it. With a zero stop on the elevation, the windage is really the only concern, and it’s no real concern since it’s easy to set the windage turret back to zero as well. There’s a revolution marking hash on both the windage and elevation, so just return the windage to zero prior to your first shot.

The turrets are large, knurled, and easily gripped with bare hands or gloves. Each 1/10th of a mil click is crisp and recognizable by feel, but not very audible. As long as you are moving carefully, it’s hard to move too far in any direction or lose track of how many clicks you’ve dialed.

That said, I would highly recommend everyone not try counting clicks on any scope. It’s too error-prone when you are under stress. And even when you aren’t, it’s too slow.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

Ignore the clicks entirely and move to the marks listed on the scope. For the Platinum PLx5 6-30x56mm FFP, those marks are large and clear. (As an aside, I wish scope manufacturers would make those turret marks in some kind of obnoxious dayglo colors, but nobody does.)

The magnification knob is also very well done. It moves easily and smoothly. There are no places during the turn that catch or slow. The knob itself is wide with one large raised section as a magnification indicator. That means that you’ll know right where the magnification is (far less important on a first focal plane scope) and it also doesn’t get in the way of anything.

The PLx5’s parallax control knob is on the left, closest to the one-piece 34mm tube body. Unlike some other budget scopes I’ve reviewed, the graduations are far enough apart on the PLx5 to fine tune the adjustment. A not so pro-tip: make sure you have properly set the reticle to your eye prior to playing with parallax adjustment. In the case of the Plx5, instructions on how to do so are included in the manual.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

Just outside of the parallax dial is the adjustment knob for the illuminated reticle. This feature runs on a single common 3 volt CR2023 battery and can be replaced quickly with no tools other than a case rim, or quarter. What’s particularly appreciated is the “off” setting between each level of brightness.

Finally, the PLx5 scope also includes a screw-in aluminum sun shade as well as Butler Creek press open lens caps right out of the box.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

I decided on this scope after a long talk with Dimitri Mikroulis. For those of unaware of this particular figure in the shooting world, he’s the genius behind the ACSS reticle, as well as many other specialized shooting reticles. His sighting systems have become ubiquitous in both military and competition-focused shooting. I mentioned to him that I struggled with complex reticles, but after some previous competitions last season, I certainly understood their value.

Dimitri suggested this particular scope for me, with this particular reticle. It was a solid recommendation.

There’s a whole lot of information present inside this system, and it takes some real dedication behind the gun to wring the most out of it. I’ve been shooting with it for months now, and I still don’t have all of the hashes and holds down to an instinct-like level. Then again, I’m a slow learner.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

The center “dot” is a chevron, which is always preferable as it never obscures the target. To each side there are individual mil hashes, and below there is the now familiar “Christmas tree” of dot reference points for elevation and windage.

If you have multiple targets at multiple distances, this system is extremely helpful. It’s far faster to engage each target without dialing either windage or elevation (I typically dial elevation and hold for wind) by simply picking the corresponding dot to elevation, and then moving left or right to the corresponding wind dot. As this is a first focal plane scope, ranging can be made easily at any magnification.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

I spent a couple of days at the Triple C Range in Cresson, Texas, with this scope mounted on the SCAR 20S. Targets were spread about 200 yards apart from 100 to 1,000 yards in 100 yard increments.  On the second day, the wind was particularly gusty, blowing from 4 to 14mph. Using the Athena BPR reticle, I was able to hit 2 MOA targets at each yard limit between wind gusts. There’s no way I could have done that if I had to dial elevation each time.

Please also note the ranging reticle built into the scope, in the upper right quadrant of the image. Although a laser range finder would  be more accurate, this allows for rapid measurement, assuming a 5’10” tall or 18″ wide target.

I found these types of ranging hashes OK for actual ranging, but really great to get general ranges of targets to relay to other team members. For instance, while serving in Afghanistan, hitting humans at 600 yards on the move with my M4 and a 4X ACOG was wishful thinking. Using the built-in ranging hashes to quickly identify the range for my teammate running the Mk19 was far more effective.

Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56

Image courtesy JWT for www.thetruthaboutguns.com

The Primary Arms PLx5 6-30x56mm FFP scope is a premium high power rifle optic in every sense of the word…and for under $1,500. That is impressive. Not very long ago I would have completely dismissed this brand as not being competitive in this market, but it is. For me, this is the optic that makes memorizing a complex reticle worthwhile. It’s good glass, has tons of features, is built well, and backed by a solid warranty from a company that’s known for their quality customer service.

Specifications: Primary Arms PLx 6-30x56mrad FFP Rifle Scope

Battery Type: CR2032 3V Lithium Coin
Click Value: 0.1 Mil
Exit Pupil Diameter: Low: 8.20 mm / High: 1.90 mm
Eye Relief: Low: 4.00 in / High: 3.30 in
Field View 100: Low: 16.60 ft / High: 3.30 ft
Focal Plane: First Focal Plane
Maximum Magnification: 30
Minimum Magnification: 6
Night Vision Compatible: Night Vision Compatible
Objective Diameter: 56mm
Reticle: Athena BPR MIL
Reticle Type: MRAD
Total Elevation Adjustment: 27.6 MIL
Total Windage Adjustment: 13.1 MIL
Tube Diameter: 34mm
MSRP: $1,499

Rating (out of five stars):

Overall * * * * *
I have quite a few optics in the hopper for review, and frankly, getting to this one first isn’t going to help any of those reviews score well. This is a great scope, and an absolutely spectacular value at this price point. This optic has all the basics done right, and then some. There are very few high power optics — at any price point — that are markedly better than the Primary Arms PLx5.

comments

  1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

    Nice review! I’ve always been a fan of Primary Arms, they seem to have hit the right balance of budget friendly prices and good enough quality for any situation. I’ve had a number of their red dots over the years and they hold up well compared to Aimpoint or SIG Optics.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Nick, you just gave me an idea that some of us older guys should have “garage sales” for all our gun stuff. Scopes, cleaning kits, rings, brakes, bipods, etc.
      (Not you as an older guy, guys like me)

      Swap meets. Like they do for car parts.
      I really need to get rid of stuff that just didn’t work for me.

      Not just another gun show. A “gun stuff” show.
      No beaded lamps, bird houses, or other crap.
      Just “gun stuff”.
      No guns. Just stuff.
      Hmmmm

      1. avatar possum says:

        A box full of holsters

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Then where am I going to buy my beaded lamps?

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          Where everybody else gets ’em.

          The side of the road, where you see cheap throw rugs with marijuana leaves painted on them being sold out of junker vans…

        2. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          @Geoff

          Ah, memories…of when I lived in El Paso and those same junked vans were hawking Elvis, Pancho Villa and MaryJane paintings done on imitation black velvet down at the Ascarate Drive-In swap meet every Saturday / Sunday….the really classy ones glowed when under blacklight (UV-A) lamps.

        3. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

          @Geoff – Don’t forget the guy in the same crappy van selling turtles on the side of the road.

  2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Wow. That’s a really nice scope for the buck.
    Although I’ve had really good performance out of a brand at up to 35 power with a 35mm tube,
    I found it lacking in low light.
    (Which in Oregon during fall/winter can be all day). I need that extra light.

    The reticle reminds me of the Leupold CCH reticle that I’m having put on my primary North American hunting rifle.

    I’m still drilling down for a scope for my “new to me” Ruger No 1 in .375 H&H. I’m thinking 1-6 or similar. Any suggestions anyone?

    1. avatar possum says:

      A scope on a .375 HH,,, blasphemy

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Nah. With ballistics similar to .30-06, it just makes sense for those longer shots.

      2. avatar Craig in IA says:

        “A scope on a .375 HH,,, blasphemy”

        Not really. I guess a few people who don’t know better only see the .375 H&H as some sort of “dangerous game” rifle for up-close work but a little study of the ballistics and you’re see you are basically shooting a .30-06 using 270 grain bullets over a very decent distance. (You don’t have to shoot the 300 solids all the time…

        That bullet really scoots to the 2-300 yard line, nothing like my .458 Win Mag or stiff .45-70s. As for the real critters, .375 H&H is a bit on the light side but for moose, big bear or even elk it’s a great choice and a good scope would be just the ticket for precise shooting. Not that anyone would need an excuse to pick up a .338 if all you had was the .375.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I’m running an ancient Weaver K6 on mine for load development. Fits the factory 1″ rings. Not great glass. Adequate magnification. Indestructible.

      1. avatar possum says:

        I’ve got a Weaver K4 with duel horizontal cross hairs, the top one is thinner then the bottom one. I do not know if this was for some range finding or what. Anyway I use an 06 165bthp and if the deer fits inside I use the bottom one, if it don’t I use the top one

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Nobody does light management better than Leupold. The stuff they’ve done in the last 5 or 6 years on the HD optics is pretty impressive. They’ve effectively extended hunting ability well beyond the legal definition of daylight in most states. That Mark5HD is the best thing on the market, but those 20 minutes of light are gonna cost you.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Mr. Taylor,

        I have no idea if this is practical for you: can you (gently) clamp two scopes — a newer inexpensive model and a newer high-end model — on a table, bench, etc. and take photos of their images during those “extra” 10 minutes of twilight? I would really like to see the difference. Of course that entire exercise depends on whether or not your camera would faithfully capture the differences in images.

        I ask this because I purchased an inexpensive Nikon scope two years ago. I then sat out to see how good the images were. I was utterly astounded at the clarity, contrast, and brightness, even during those last 10 minutes of dusk. I looked into deep shadow under pine trees and hedges at 100 and even 200 yards and I could clearly see everything in that deep shadow — even with a fairly bright sky (twilight) in the same overall field of view.

        Anyhow, I sure would like to see the image comparison between these nice $280 scopes and premium $1000 scopes. As you suggested in your article, I am wondering if “budget” scopes these days are far better than we realize.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          “your camera would faithfully capture the differences in images”

          This is the hardest part, since just a couple of minutes makes a big difference.

          What I think I need is two phone scope set ups to swap quickly.

  3. avatar possum says:

    With A 30 power scope and a 6.5 Creedmoor you could shoot the “We were here” plaque on the moon

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      And you sir win the intertubez for best comment of the day!

  4. avatar Dude says:

    Decades ago, “Made in Japan” meant sub-par quality, and cheap.

    I heard about those days. Unfortunately, more recently, like the 80’s and 90’s, “Made in USA” cars meant sub-par quality, and cheap.

    1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

      True enough for the 80’s / 90’s.

      I have a 2010 Toyota P/U built in Texas* that has been solid from the day I drove it off the lot. Best of two worlds…Japanese QC and US workers…everybody wins….management, labor and the end user.

      *Toyota relocated from California because of Cali’s taxes and BS.

    2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Decades ago, “Made in Japan” meant sub-par quality, and cheap.

      I heard about those days.”

      From the 50s through the mid 70s, it was true. “Jap crap” was the term.

      Then, something wonderful happened. They listened to an engineer named Ed Deming. Deming had an outlandish idea on how to improve factory quality –

      Rather than inspect for quality after something was made, inspect it after each step, and correct problems as they became apparent. Manufacturing yield went up, and so did profits. Customers got fewer ugly surprises after purchase.

      China today is where Japan was quality-wise in the mid 1970s, and improving…

      1. avatar possum says:

        Even though I own China brand from the past they couldn’t give me ice water in hell now. ,,,,, there went the stimulus check

      2. avatar 9x39 says:

        Not everything in the 70’s, Datsun/Nissan and the Z cars, Mazda and the RX’s. Inexpensive, yes. Cheap, no. I miss the minimalist days of true sport’s cars before they all became Lay-z-boy recliners on wheels. Certain examples excluded.

    3. avatar possum says:

      Nikon cameras were everything a Canon was and Pentax wasn’t bad either, Vivitar ran close.

  5. avatar Chia Smolik says:

    Duuude!! I shoot steel pistol matches in Cresson at Triple C! Contact me, I need help once I get my Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25 56mm FFP on my Weatherby Accuguard SS 30-06 build. A MDT chassis is next.

  6. avatar gus says:

    56mm objective lens… 34mm tube diameter… how much does it weigh again? I must have missed that

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I don’t think you did.

      1. avatar gus says:

        well if I did I would know how much it weighs. but you must have a problem with that. put me to shame, O Omniscient One! tell me how much it weighs, according to this web page, or the manufacturer’s website, or the user manual. show me where I overlooked it and make me look like a fool.

        but if you can’t, you’re the fool.

        1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          38.2 oz without lens caps.

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Chill princess. My point was that you didn’t miss it, and that you clearly understand from the dimensions alone it’s going to be hefty.
          Try not being an asshole for a minute. It’s nice.

        3. avatar gus says:

          ok you’re a fool and an asshole too!

  7. avatar gene says:

    Will it handle the recoil from my Mini-14?

    1. avatar possum says:

      I doubt it, the Mini14 fires the same deadly eargersplittenloudenboomermulenkiken assault cartridge that those Army gunms shoot.

      1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

        Nice Steppenwolf reference.

  8. avatar arc - the annoying one says:

    In a few months, this optic can probably be found used in “like new” condition for <$1,000. When I went to sell a night force optic, I got a real slap in the face and decided I would never buy new again. I kept the NF optic, price was just too low and I found other things to sell to raise $.

    Lots of safe queens out there.

    1. avatar gus says:

      if you trust a used item when forking over $1000.

      what can go wrong with a used scope? what happens when the previous owner drops it? is he going to tell you there’s something wrong with it and sell a messed up scope for $100, or sell it to a sucker for $1000?

      that’s why you buy new on stuff like that.

      1. avatar Red in CO says:

        If you’re paying 4 figures for a used scope it damn well better be durable enough that used vs new is basically irrelevant. “What happens when the previous owner drops it” if the answer to that is anything more than a minor exterior scratch at most, it ain’t worth a grand, or even half a grand

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        You send it in for repairs since it’s still under warranty.

      3. avatar arc - the annoying one says:

        Part of buying a $1,000-$2,000 optic is that it’s supposed to be durable, resilient, and field grade. Smart people save the box, manual, swag, and don’t fill out the warranty card for future re-sale.

        If you are buying an optic in this price range, they damn well better be honoring their product through it’s lifetime. Out of warranty repairs will likely cost a lot less than a new optic. The company has a reputation to protect.

        Abuse will be evident on the outside of the tube, cracked glass will be visible inside, provided you use some common sense and inspect the item. Good or well built optics are pretty hard to break and I have only come across a single “good” broken optic in my time. Part of buying an optic in that price range is they are supposed to be field grade, and handle the usual bumps, knocks, and drops; if it can’t, pass on the brand.

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