Texas-based Primary Arms has released its second generation Cyclops 1x prism sight and I have had the opportunity to test a pre-production model for several months. I’ll give you the bottom line at the top. Can it replace a red dot? I think it can, for several reasons… and it has replaced them, at least for me. I directly purchased several of these new prism optics to replace my own red dot sights. This optic is a best-case hybrid between a mini-ACOG and an Aimpoint Mini-red dot. Let’s take a look:
The second generation SLx (Silver Line series) Cyclops is a 1x (no magnification) optic that uses a prism and lenses like an ACOG, but has a user-adjustable battery illumination like an Aimpoint for its etched reticle. It uses the simple chevron and outer horseshoe ACSS reticle that was pioneered by Primary Arms. The red reticle is daylight bright and can still be used if the battery dies or it is turned off. I believe a green reticle is also in the works. The illumination is auto-live, meaning it turns off after a while and will then turn on again with movement, and also features three night-vision settings with an OFF position in-between each ON position. It is strikingly different from the first generation Cyclops, with a larger reticle inside, half the size outside, and a much improved mount and spacing system. The windage and elevation turrets are now recessed and uncapped, each giving a tactile 1 MOA adjustment per click. The included robust mount uses two recessed clamping screws, has 8 different riser height options, an add-on AR carry handle riser (although one of the included risers will work for that too), and uses the mini-ACOG mounting footprint if an aftermarket mount is desired. Field of view is about 75 feet at 100 yards and the adjustable diopter allows an exact 1x magnification so that the interior image is seamless with the outside world.
I want to highlight three qualities that make this optic superior in its class. They are the etched reticle with adjustable diopter, increased image clarity vs a standard red dot, and user-adjustable brightness. I am nearing 50 years old and wear glasses. An optic is almost a necessity for me, and for years I went back and forth between a mini-Aimpoint and a mini-ACOG (TA-45). I was not satisfied with either one. The Aimpoint red dot allowed me to control the dot brightness and was superb for speedy work up close, but the image through the optic was relatively dim, the dot was out of focus due to my astigmatism, and if the battery died or had an electrical problem (which did happen once), I was bereft. The ACOG offered a brighter image (more on this later), and an etched reticle that was a bit more in focus, but I could not control the reticle brightness and had trouble when shooting from a dark interior to a bright target area. What I needed was an optic that had the benefits of both systems with none of the liabilities, and the PA Gen 2 Cyclops does that.
First of all, the Gen 2 Cyclops has an easily seen, etched reticle with an adjustable diopter. I did not know how much I needed an adjustable diopter until I actually looked through one. I have mild astigmatism that makes red dots look like a crooked Venn diagram. The ACOG was an improvement, but the small reticle was still a bit blurry at the edges because it was made for a person with 20/20 vision and could not be made to focus exactly for my eye and prescription glasses. With the diopter adjusted properly, I can get the Gen 2 Cyclops reticle as sharp as I have ever seen one, and the image exactly proportioned to be a true 1.0x, the image inside the optic seamlessly merging with the outside world.
Secondly, the prism optic offers greater clarity of image compared to a red dot. This seems to be contradictory at first. Doesn’t a 1x red dot offer the same image that a 1x prism does, both having the same magnification? In terms of image size, yes, but in terms of image clarity, no. The red dot does not focus or alter the path of the light that goes through the tube, it simply puts a dot on the target. You only have as much light entering your eye as your pupil will allow, which is about 4 mm in diameter in daylight. A lensatic optic, like the Cyclops, collects light from an objective lens that is much larger than your pupil and “funnels” it into your eye… which is why a hunting scope with a very large objective lens is best for hunting at dusk as it makes the image intensity brighter, regardless of magnification. I noticed this when I switched from the red dot to the mini ACOG years ago. The image clarity seen at distance was greatly improved, more than just the 1.5x magnification could account for. The detail that I could not see with the red dot, or the naked eye, was visible through the lensatic optic because the image was brighter, and sometimes this meant the difference between the ability to identify the target from the background or not. You can’t effectively shoot what you can’t effectively identify. The PA Gen 2 Cyclops has an objective lens of about 17 mm, meaning almost four times the size of your pupil. Imagine your pupil opening up to the size of a penny; could you see better? So even though they have the same magnification level, the Cyclops offers a superior image, which is bright and crisp. See the comparison photo between the Cyclops and the Aimpoint in the section below if you doubt me.
And third, the Cyclops offers user-adjustable illumination. This is the feature that is lacking with most ACOGs. The tritium-only and fiber optic ACOGs are fantastic optics until you try to use one looking from a dark location into a brightly lit area. The reticle washes out and there is no way to reasonably make it bright enough to compete with the bright outside image. If the reticle can’t be seen, what good is the optic? Also, sometimes outside in the sun, the ACOG’s reticle is too bright and it blooms. I’ve seen “dimmers” that cover up the fiber optic strip for use in bright sunshine, but I’ve yet to see a “brightener” for the opposite problem. The Primary Arms Cyclops gives an ACOG-like optic with the added benefit of constant and controllable illumination.
I took the Gen 2 Cyclops to the range at least a half dozen times, both to indoor and outdoor ranges. I sighted the Gen 2 in at an indoor range and zeroed the optic with a 50 yard zero at the top of the chevron per the instructions. Adjustment was easy with the large printed directions on the turret and tactile and audible clicks between settings. Next, I took it to a few local “action” matches that involved a lot of movement and targets within 25 yards. It took a bit of thinking to mentally switch to using the larger horseshoe from the pinpoint dot of the Aimpoint, but very quickly I adapted and was running the Cyclops just as fast. The image was clear and seamless with the outside world, and the daylight illumination worked fine here in the central Florida sun. Even though the Cyclops is not as nuclear bright as an Aimpoint, it does not have to be because the reticle has some thickness to it rather than just a single point. This makes it much easier to see than simply a pinprick dot. I don’t think I was lacking any speed compared to the red dot. I also shot the Gen 2 Cyclops at 200 and 300 yard steel torso targets, both full-sized and reduced. I was able to hit both the larger and smaller steel plates with ease, and to my utter surprise, I was able to hit a 12-inch round steel plate at 300 yards consistently shooting prone off a bag with some concentration and discipline. The ACSS reticle holdover for 300 is spot-on. I asked several other people to try the Gen 2 at 200 and 300 yards, both experienced and novice shooters, and all of them were able to understand how the reticle worked and hit the small plate. One guy in particular was irritated that he could not buy one immediately since they had not been released yet. He wanted one NOW.
What follows is a direct comparison between the PA Gen 2 Cyclops and some other competitors in its genre.
Gen 2 to Gen 1 Cyclops:
The same manufacturer and same optic line? Yes. Versus the Primary Arms Gen 1 Cyclops, the Gen 2 is superior in many respects. The glass quality appears to be the same between the two, which is very good… but the Gen 2 is shorter in length, lighter, more streamlined, has a larger, and therefore useable, reticle, and has a more robust, adjustable mount. One of the chief complaints about the Gen 1 was that the reticle was too small, so much that the inner chevron was effectively unusable. As you can see, Gen 2 offers a larger center reticle. More than just a superficial upgrade, the Gen 2 is a fundamentally reimagined and upgraded optic.
PA Gen 2 Cyclops to Aimpoint
Versus the Aimpoint mini-red dot, the PA Gen 2 cyclops is superior in having an etched reticle that can be used without battery power, greatly increased brightness of the image, and an increased field of view. The Cyclops is also less than half the price of the Aimpoint. The advantages I see for the Aimpoint is in proven ruggedness and in battery life. The Cyclops might be as rugged, but that has yet to be seen, and it only offers 29k hours of battery life compared to 50k on this older Aimpoint.
PA Gen 2 Cyclops to Bushnell Lil P
Versus the Bushnell Lil P, the PA Gen 2 Cyclops is superior in having a brighter illuminated reticle, brighter image due to a larger objective lens, larger field of view, and range finding marks. The Lil P is significantly smaller and that is its key feature. I don’t know of any lensatic sight that is as ridiculously small as the Lil P. Unfortunately, Bushnell has discontinued it.
PA SLx Gen 2 Cyclops to PA GLx 2x Prism
Same manufacturer but different optic line? Let’s have a look. Versus the PA GLx 2x, the SLx 1x Cyclops is superior in size and in speed when used in close-range shooting. It is also much less expensive than the “Gold Line” optic. The GLx 2x has better glass quality and higher magnification and is more suited for distance work. My GLx 2x optic will go on a dedicated hunting rifle.
The Primary Arms Gen 2 Cyclops solves a lot of problems for me, and it’s now my go-to optic for a general-purpose rifle. I’ve now bought several more since they have been released and they have replaced red dots. I no longer own my old TA-45 ACOG. Both the Aimpoint and the mini-ACOG are excellent optics, but the companies have been stuck in a rut for a while, living off government contracts and a well-earned reputation. They have not innovated and their features have remained the same for decades. Companies like Primary Arms that have to constantly compete and innovate to stay in business have now taken these classic optic designs and have improved upon them. I think this new Gen 2 Cyclops 1x prism optic merges the best features of the Aimpoint red dot and the mini-ACOG is therefore the best optic available for a duty rifle.
the optic can be found on Primary Arms’ website here
Special thanks to PA for sending an optic for review. TNR has NO financial relationship with Primary Arms. We received no compensation for the above review. All thoughts are the authors and the authors alone. We do not receive referral income in any way shape or form, whatsoever, from PA or any PA-affiliated referral programs.
Thanks Theoden for another great review!