Eotech: My favorite red dot / holographic optic. Of all the true 1x options out in the world, this one has my heart. It is the only TRUE holographic sight to my knowledge, that utilizes a laser diode and holography to display the reticle through the window. It also separates itself from the rest of the crowd by being the only one that has zero tint to the glass: It is perfectly clear. The reason is because the laser can get so much brighter than the LED variants, it does not need the tinted glass to create contrast between the reticle and the image you see through the window…..it is bright enough to do that all on its’ own. This does, however, come at a price: Battery life. More on that later. Another thing about laser technology is that it creates hundreds (or thousands?) of tiny, tiny red dots to create the reticle image. This ends up creating a grainy effect that many are not used to. LED based sights are a solid light, so they are not susceptible to this effect. This may bother you, or it may not. For me, I thought it was unique the first time I looked through one, but it does not bother me in the slightest.
This particular Eotech model (Eotech EXPS3-0) is nearly the highest model they offer. They have 3-2 models (extra dot for BDC), and another crazy expensive model with a build in red laser pointer for use without looking through the sight window, and I just learned a new model with both visible red and infrared laser….one on each side. I opted for the highest end that enables NightVision capability and the quick release mount, but none of the other laser gizmos that I didn’t need. Another thing this version sports is the button layout on the side instead of on the back. For anyone running a magnifier or PVS-14, or anything else they feel like sticking on there, this is a MUST. I used to be the owner of a 512 model, before the XPS series were introduced. I also (temporarily) ran with a magnifier in a flip-to-side mount….I was forced to mount the magnifier back further and move the eotech farther forward in order to let my fingers reach the buttons on the back panel. It didnt take long to realize the downside of my setup, and further, I found that the magnifier added absolutely NOTHING to my shot making capability. It only served to weigh my rifle down A LOT, took away my peripheral vision and made for a very bulky setup. It is the opinion of this writer that if you like the magnifier setup behind an Eotech, you would be better served with a 1-4x or 1-6x scope: They get as dang near close to a true 1x view as magnified optics possibly allow, and have all the in-between magnification levels that the magnifier doesnt offer. ***One thing to note here: If you do plan on putting something behind an Eotech, make SURE that you know whether or not your model has the built-in 7mm riser or not, because this will determine the mount height for the optic behind the Eotech. If you get the wrong one, it will not align well and you will be staring straight into the window border of the eotech….either too tall or too short.
The usability of the reticle is really great compared to most red dot sights. Most are just that: A red dot. All Eotechs have a 65 MOA outer circle, which at point blank ranges is nice because you just place that circle anywhere in the torso and pull the trigger. It’s great for CQB work. Then there’s the 1 MOA center dot: This is also great in my opinion because you can get great accuracy results due to not covering up your target with a bright red color. 1 MOA will cover up a 1″ circle at 100 yards…..think of all those red dots with 4 to 6 MOA: At 300 yards, they’re covering up 12″ to 18″ of target! We’re talking torso sized targets at that range. Hardly what I would call pinpoint precision. Granted, these sights are not made for that kind of work anyhow, but it’s nice to have the capability of placing accurate shots at that range without covering up your target.
Another cool feature about the EXPS3-0 is that it sports a built-in 7mm riser with a quick detack lever. I really like this lever! It is built so that you can use your thumb to release the lock, enabling you to flip the lever very quickly. It’s also very strong and tight on the rail, giving no room for movement or losing zero, and is re-mountable to within 1 MOA, which claim I have found to be true. Other quick release mounts work just as securely, but with a more difficult locking mechanism that typically requires two hands to undo. Such is the type of lock (American Defense) on my TA31 ACOG. It works well but is more cumbersome, so two thumbs up for Eotech on this point.
As for the brightness of this optic, it is insane. You can practically stare straight into the sun with this thing and still see the reticle. It gets bright. TOO bright. It will hurt your eyes and bloom something terrible if you have it turned up too high, not to mention waste battery life. But it’s there if you need it. The picture on the right was taken on the highest brightness setting, Level 20. You cant tell, but this was actually pointed very close to the sun. I took this picture with an ISO of 100 and a shutter speed of 3200 just to get it to dark enough to not get a completely white picture. You can still see the reticle very well.
It also gets really low too…..even outside of night vision mode. I like the low mode when I’m at the range on the bench: The 1MOA center dot really pinpoints where your shot will go without covering up the target or blooming. It is harder to find, but is more accurate this way. When benched, I can pick off clay targets at 200m+ with ease. This is one reason why I dont like the magnifier: With my eyes, I can hit just as accurately without one as I can with one. Other people with poor eyesight may have a problem doing this, in which case a magnifier might be a good way to go if they really like the Eotech. Anyway, I made an animated gif below that will show the different brightness levels of non-nv mode, showing all of the even numbered brightness settings. There are 2o levels of brightness, of which I find myself using around the 6-8 level indoors, and the 14 level outdoors on a bright day.
Another important change to the XPS series was the positioning of the battery transversely. It is now perpendicular to the line of sight, so that when set on a heavier recoiling rifle, it will not damage the battery and potentially leak into the body. They also all use CR123 batteries, which is a good compact battery and has commonality with most Tac lights. The first Eotechs used N batteries, then moved to AA, then to CR123 with the 516/553 models. When comparing batter life to the most popular and coveted LED red dot sight, Aimpoint, all Eotechs pale in comparison: The single CR123 XPS/EXPS models measure in at around 600 hours on level 12 brightness. The Aimpoint, depending on the brightness level selected, is typically measured in years, not hours or months. It should be noted that Eotech models such as the 516 or 553, require the use of two CR123 batteries, bumping up the lifespan of a single set of batteries to 1100 hours at level 12 brightness. Even still, 1100 hours is nothing to “Oooh and Ahhhh” about. But it’s much better than 600 hours. Having said that, the dual battery models are still less efficient because technically you are getting 100 hours less than double the hours from the single battery model. But not having to worry about changing them out as often is nice.
From a usage standpoint, I love nearly everything about it. It is fast, it is pretty small, and fairly light. A little wider than most red dot scopes I suppose, but nothing to complain about. It gives a massive field of view compared to any other red dot optic due to the fact that it does not use a tube for the body. Your field of view will get greater and smaller depending on how far forward or backward you mount it, but there are trade offs: 1) Mounting it backwards (closer to your eye) will give you a wider field of view, but it will also block more of your peripheral vision. The 65 MOA circle will also appear to get smaller in relation to the window size. 2) Mounting it further forward will give you less field of view, but more peripheral vision. The 65 MOA circle will appear larger in relation to the window. In fact, if you mount it far enough forward, the circle will touch all sides of the window! I should mention though that the circle size in relation to the size of your target will NOT change: Whether you mount it back further or far forward, the 65 MOA ring will still make a 65″ circle around your target at 100 yards and the center dot will continue to cover 1″ of your target. Again, the appearance is ONLY in relation to the window size because of how far away it is from your eye. I dont know why this is, but it might be due to the holography technology. The reticle always appears to be about 15 yards out past the scope. Here is an animated gif showing what I mean:
Notice how regardless of how close or far the sight is from the camera, the reticle stays the same size? Pretty cool how that works. Another quick thing about this sight is that the reticle is not visible from the front at all. Completely invisible. This is not the case with reflexive LED based red dot sights…..if you look at the right angle, you can see the LED emitter.
As to the nightvision, unfortunately I do not have or have access to a night vision monocular (PVS-14 or the like) and cannot test out the Nightvision capability. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to get one of these.
Parallax appears to be minimal. Like any red dot sight, you cannot have your target be 5 yards away, move your head around and expect the center dot stay on it’s target the whole time. The distance at which the dot truly represents the point of impact is what I have measured to be 12.7 yards. Said another way, the reticle will not move off of your target regardless of head position after 12.7 yards. Of course, I dont know of anyone that zero’s a rifle at 12.7 yards, but it’s nice to know that at anything past 13 yards, the dot isn’t lying about the point of impact due to the positioning of my head on the rifle, or maybe a bad cheek weld on a snap shot. You still must take into consideration the zero, and not think that your 100 yard zero will be the same POI at 5 yards…..it’s just that after 12.7 yards, the float around the target with changing head position. At 7 yards, your zero will be the bottom of the 65 MOA circle.
Okay, I’ve talked enough about the great things about Eotech sights, and the EXPS3-0 in particular, but it’s time to talk about the gripes. The first would be that the speed of which it takes to turn the sight on. You can press the lower brightness button and it will stay on for 4 hours, or you can press the increase brightness button and have it stay on for 8 hours straight. The buttons are a bit mushy, but there is a physical click, and is lightly audible, but the buttons are recessed in the protective shroud. This is a good thing, and a bad thing: You wont accidentally bump the buttons, but they are slightly harder to get to. The Aimpoints have a quick lever switch that turns it on and off so that you can flick really easily. The Eotech takes a little longer and might be more difficult with gloves. To turn the Eotech off, you must press both buttons at the same time. The second gripe is the reticle in the window…..Not all Eotechs exhibit this flaw, but the lower 1/8 quadrant of my window does not show the reticle. The reticle will go to the bleeding edge all the way around the top and sides, but the lower area fades out to invisible before the window ends. I had the same issue with my 512 but to a much stronger degree. I ended up RMA’ing it and they repaired it for me as it was a flaw in the optics/holography. I should mention that they did do it for free, but I was two months out from the warranty expiring, so I dont know how much it would have cost to get it repaired outside of the 2 year warranty window, nor if they would have honored the warranty anyway and fixed it for free (Trijicon has been known to do this). I can’t say for certain yet, but I do hope that this is not an issue that creeps up incrementally over time. If so, it would certainly shy me away from recommending this sight. Lastly, I worry about the true durability of these sights. I dont believe they are as bomb proof as the Aimpoints as these sights have much more sensitive components inside. A slight shift in an internal holographic mirror and it can throw off the reticle entirely, makes it not show up, or causes the reticle to be invisible in certain sections of the window. I can’t say this for certain, but it is a concern of mine. Being that this is my second Eotech that has exhibited this issue, I don’t feel my concern is without merit.
So in the end, is it the best red dot type sight in the world? Well, as much as a fanboy of the Eotech sight as I am, I cannot say that I would choose this sight for all situations. For instance, if I was your typical foot soldier in the military, humping it over mountains day in and day out, I would choose an Aimpoint over the Eotech. Reason being is battery life, ruggedness, and an always-on capability. I’d probably say the same thing if I was a LEO on routine patrol: The always-on feature is really great for when something unexpected comes along. In any ambush situation, you dont want to be concerned with turning your optics on…..no, you want to be as quick as possible to eliminate the threat. However, if I was part of a SWAT team or Elite branch of the military such as a SEAL, I’d certainly opt for an Eotech. Reasons for this are because they dont need to be concerned about always-on capability or long term ruggedness of day in, day out use. They usually know what they’re going into, how long the engagement period will be, and often play the opposite role of “Ambusher” vs being ambushed. When the ball is in your court, you can prepare before entry. This is where, I believe, the Eotech excels: The expected and known, short and planned engagements. For me, the reticle provides faster and more accurate shooting ability and makes more sense for a close quarter engagement. Being that I am not an operator, dont go on patrols, don’t gear up for door entries or room clearing, dont go on long deployments or stay out in extremely rough terrain, I really just chose the Eotech because I like the reticle, clear glass and large field of view. Truth be told, other than durability and long batter life, I really dont see the benefit of having an Aimpoint. It’s no more accurate or has any useable benefit than most other red dots on the market, and are 3x-4x the price. Yes, battery life is great, and if I wanted/needed an always-on optic, I would get an Aimpoint. But for now I am partial to the Eotech brand for reasons already stated, and until such a time another brand comes out with better features that enable faster shooting, I will probably remain in the Eotech camp.
If it weren't for the relatively low battery life and the issues I have had with a disappearing reticle around the bottom area of the window, I'd say the EXPS3-0 would deserve a 4.9 star rating (is anything perfect?). As it is, it's a great sight worthy of my recommendation for most situations. For those in the military on long deployments or are LEO on patrol, I would probably recommend an Aimpoint. YMMV.