My Experience With Primary Arms Optics

My Experience With Primary Arms Optics



Primary Arms blog post02

Four different Primary Arms ACSS optics that I have on some of my firearms.

There are a few writers out there that love to say a piece of tactical kit is “Duty Grade”, when the writer/individual (an “expert” I’m sure….) in question has never even done “Duty” any where or at any time. Those “experts” will “poo poo” those of us that select items based on what we believe is a serious need, but also have to consider our pocket book in the process.

A while back I read some drivel from a “Wanna be Tactical but Never Has Been” concerning a recommendation towards selecting Primary Arms optics for self defense firearms. This author’s “claim to fame” is taking classes from some tactical trainers, giving his “Range day accomplishments” in blog form and being a self described “Anarchist”.

Having not only owned, but used, a number of Primary Arms optics for a bit now. I figured I’d give my impressions of several of their optics, and whether I feel they are “Duty Grade” for the average Survivalist looking to equip their self defense or “game getter” firearms with decent scopes. Keep in mind, I have to outfit several weapons with optics that not only can’t break the bank, but still need to perform up to my standards, and having a similar reticle across the array of weapons is important.

My standards take into account what I know about the combat optics I’ve used in actual combat conditions and their short comings. I also consider what I also know will “cut it” in severe environmental and difficult task oriented activities as a civilian, and for that, I considering the failures I’ve seen in those environs.

The Primary Arms 1-6X ACSS

Primary Arms Blog Post09

The 1-6X ACSS reticle

The FAL type action is one of the hardest actions to find optics for. This is due to the recoil impulse being very hard on the internals and the reticle of any given scope. I have had failures from Tasco, Bushnell and Leupold optics on different FAL’s I’ve owned. They weren’t the low end $25 “Walmart Specials”. They were some of the better $250-500 models. Up until the PA 1-6X ACSS scope, the only one I found the FAL didn’t break, was my Valdada IOR 4X M1 (a $500 scope in 2000). I hated that scope (M1) on a .308 (the M2 works fine on my 5.56 M4) because just like an ACOG, the eye relief is too short.

Primary Arms Blog Post10

My normal “Go To” weapon when I train is my 11″ ParaFAL with the PA 1-6X ACSS optic.

So along comes Primary Arms with their 1-6X ACSS reticle. What’s not to like? It has awesome clarity, good eye relief, an etched reticle that is similar to the ACOG I used in Iraq, and not only has one scope survived 800 rounds through one of my Para FAL’s (a 16″ barrel), but a second has cleared 500 rounds through another (an 11″ barrel).

Primary Arms Blog Post04

I liked the PA 1-6X ACSS so much that I bought two more. One for my 11.5″ SIG M400 AR, and one for my “House Rifle”, a 16″ SAI Socom. Those four optics together, would cost what one of the high end optics so many of the “Experts” out there are pushing (Of course they don’t have a “Company Rep” agenda……right?). What’s the excuse of the “expert” we were talkin’ about earlier? He is just a “Float rider” who is “waving his hand”, hopin’ he’ll be seen by someone so he feels relevant cuz…..trainin’.

Primary Arms Blog Post11

The rifle that is on standby in my home.

On a side note. Some might think a .308Win is too powerful for home defense use. Normal mil ball would definitely be too much. I’ve found in studies that the 110gr Federal VMax retains plenty of .308 power, while not going through numerous walls in a dwelling. This rifle also has the added advantage of being very well suited for use as a blunt force weapon, due to the hand positioning on the stock. Setting the ACSS scope to 1X and turning on the illuminator helps it perform much like the M68 Aimpoint red dots I used in the military.

Primary Arms Blog Post06

The ammo I use for home defense in my Socom is the 110gr Federal VMax. With the ACSS zeroed for this load, my hold for 149gr LC Ball is the 350 meter point in the reticle.

Primary Arms Orion 4-14X ACSS

Primary Arms Blog Post07

So after deciding that I really liked the ACSS reticle and system, I decided to look for something for my primary deer rifle. After weighing the pros of the power level and the now familiar reticle BDC, with the cons of more weight than my 3-9x40mm Sightron MilDot, I took the leap and bought a PA Orion 4-14x44mm. This optic is phenominal. I have a higher magnification power for the really long shots (I’ve shot deer out to 627 meters at my regular hunting spot), and at the same time, I also have an easily understood, quick to use and accurate reticle.

Primary Arms Blog Post05

With my .308Win Ruger Scout, I was able to shoot a 1 inch group at 200 meters at the conclusion of the zeroing process. I used 168gr. Fed Match. The glass is very clear. The reticle BDC is easy to use and be accurate with (obviously). Finally, although it hasn’t been run through hard conditions yet (I put 200 rounds through it on “sight in” day), I’m confident in it’s durability because of the other Primary Arms products I’ve used and been very satisfied with. I did not feel a need for an illuminated reticle on this rifle, considering the primary purpose of that gun is for hunting.

The Primary Arms 1X Cyclops

Primary Arms 1x Cyclops01

As with the above mentioned PA Orion, I’ve only owned one PA Cyclops 1X so far, but I have used it on three different rifles, one of which was an 11″ Para FAL. it has done well on all three rifles, and the only reason it ended up on the Keltec SU-16C was due to me putting PA 1-6X ACSS scopes on the FAL and 11.5″ AR. As of right now, the SU-16C with a loaded 10 round mag, as it appears in the pic, weighs 6lbs. 6ozs., and with this weight and an overall length of 27 inches, this is just about perfect as a Bug Out Bag rifle.

Primary Arms 1x Cyclops02

I put about 400 rounds through the ParaFAL while I had the Cyclops on it, and there was never an issue with damage to the reticle or failure of the scope. As a Survivalist, I can appreciate that this optic is as quick as a red dot, but does not need a battery if the balloon goes up. You can’t say that about most red dot optics.

Primary Arms 1x Cyclops03

If you are looking for a rugged and economical red dot sight for a self defense weapon. look no further than the PA Cyclops. it will never go down, due to battery issues. Like it or not, battery life is only part of the equation. If the electronics take a dump (like the high priced EOTech I used to own did in extremely wet weather), you are up the creek unless you have an etched reticle in the optic.

Primary Arms Blog Post08

The Primary Arms 6X .22 ACSS

I’ve shot a lot of .22’s over the last 40 or so years, and I’ve used a ton of different scopes on different rifles over the years. One of the things I found I usually did with a variable power optic on a .22LR was leave it set on 6X. So a while ago, here comes Primary Arms offering a compact 6X scope with an ACSS reticle geared towards the diminutive .22LR caliber. The PA 6X ACSS is one of the most convenient and squared away little scopes I’ve seen in a long time.

Primary Arms Blog Post12

I put that scope on my old Ruger 10/22, and together, they make a super light and compact system that will be the doom for many a squirrel and groundhog this hunting season. Having a bullet drop reticle in a .22LR takes a lot of the guesswork I had to put in when using a mildot reticle. Range, Hold, Squeeze and the rest is history for whatever game or target you are shooting at.


On my recommendation last year, my Son bought a PA 3xACSS for his Palmetto State Armory PSAK-47 in 7.62x39S. I would never have recommended something to a family member, especially for a defensive weapon, unless I believed it would be 100% reliable. Especially when he is just starting to earn a living as an adult, and a $200 and something optic is still a stretch on the finances.

Over the years I’ve bought and used a lot of scopes. Some fell short, some didn’t. From the examples I own of Primary Arms scopes, buying a PA optic (especially the ACSS models) is “winning” for the economically, challenged Survivalist who is just trying to “kit up” as best they can. You are not sacrificing quality for savings in this case. I would never sacrifice the well being of my family for any amount of money, especially by buying cheap crap for my defensive weapons. In this instance, I fortunately didn’t have to.


"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.




The Art of Deer Camp

The Art of Deer Camp


A cold, wet day in Deer Camp is still better than a day at work.

Training. Preparedness. What do these words mean to you? Are they a lifestyle, or just terms you use to pigeonhole your attempt at sounding “ready” for the calamity that many believe is coming? Have you lived in the woods for more than just an overnight camping trip? Have you used ALL THE GEAR you’ve collected for your survival if that calamity occurs. What about that dutch oven you bought on sale, but have never actually used?

Some of the best “Survivalist” oriented training I’ve ever done was during my weeks in “Deer Camp”. I hear from many people who tell me they don’t have an area to train in, and that they can’t carry a firearm in their State parks unless it’s hunting season. Then they ask how they should go about getting the experience needed for bad times. If they’ve mentioned the “hunting season” comment, I tell them they’ve answered their own question to a large degree. If they haven’t mentioned it, I advise them that they should go do the “Deer Camp” thing for 4-8 days every year.

“Why Deer Camp?” you ask. It’s simple really. First, Deer season in most States is during the colder part of the year, hence, harsher living conditions. Second, You get to go out and use you wilderness living gear in conditions that usually aren’t stellar in terms of comfort or convenience. Third, You get to actually experience carrying a weapon through the woods with support gear, all while trying to maintain a low profile. The low profile is necessary if you plan on actually seeing and killing a deer.

A very wet day, but the gear did as advertised and we bagged a few.

Yeah, if you’re rifle hunting for deer, you probably have to wear blaze orange. So what? You’re not hiding from people in this instance. You’re hiding from something that is infinitely harder to pic out and hide from in certain aspects. Adding a blaze orange vest, a hat or both over your gear is not a big deal, and honestly, a vest that covers up you ammo vest from prying eyes is not a bad thing in this era of PC BS. I had to download my semi auto mag to the allowable round count, but even that wasn’t a big deal. The main thing was getting out with your gear and using it.

It used to be an annual event with a number of my preparedness Buddies that we would go to a State forest an hour away and set up “Deer Camp” for anywhere from 4-8 days. Some guys would filter in or out during that week, due to work schedules. Even that had a commo schedule and SOP to let us know they were nearby and coming in to base camp. Everybody loaded their vehicles with the gear they would bug out with. Everybody had a list of what that consisted of, and brought it along for practice, even if they knew it wasn’t gonna be used that particular week.

Sleet and snow for 2 days straight will help you figure out how well your tent and waterproof storage gear works.

Takeaways from those many years of activity showed us what worked and what didn’t. Tents were a big thing. If your tent couldn’t survive a week of cold, crappy weather in “Deer Camp”, you could not plan on it surviving weeks in the woods after the apocalypse. Heat for the tents all the way from Propane IR and ceramic heaters, up to packable “Outfitter” or Army “potbelly” tent stoves were used. Some worked great, some were a pain till we figured out the sequence needed to make them run efficiently.

Deer camp doesn’t need to be elaborate. A tarp and sleeping gear is good to practice with to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Sleeping gear was put through it’s paces. Some failed, some thrived. Cooking gear durability and techniques of use were experimented with, with plenty of success. Clothing, especially cold weather clothing was tried and shown to be “Good to go” or complete crap and not brought back the next year. Finding gear and food storage methods that were weather and water proof, especially in extremely cold weather was an eye opener.

You had better practice with that cooking gear before relying on it. or your abilities with it.

Hunting in and of itself is good training. Combining that with living in the woods for a bit just increases the training value. If you ever have to Bug Out of your home, your best bet is to act as if you are hunting, but the difference is EVERYBODY out there is the quarry that you need to see first to be successful (staying hidden from). Success in this case is surviving. Whether it’s turkey hunting, predator hunting or deer hunting, seeing your quarry first is prerequisite to being successful.

If you don’t hunt, you are missing some good training opportunities. If you do, but have never done the “Deer Camp” thing, you are also missing on some good training opportunities. I’ve been hunting for over 40 years, and I still learn things in the woods every year. Besides being able to add to the larder in my freezer, being in the woods hunting is one of the most relaxing activities I can do. Communing with nature is it’s own reward, regardless of whether I get what I’m going for that particular day.

At the end of the day, learning to enjoy the little things and those around you that make life enjoyable is what it’s all about. Training doesn’t have to be hard or miserable to be valuable.


"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.


The Field Portable Reloading Kit

The Field Portable Reloading Kit

Portable Reloading Kit16

As a teenager I read everything I could about Survivalism, and wanted to be as prepared as possible to carry what I needed on my back. Although I no longer think that the “Backpack Bugout” plan is the primary thing to do when the SHTF. I still like to keep things as portable as possible, or at least have a portable back up to something more heavy duty in my home.

Portable Reloading Kit10

Portable Reloading Kit19

One of the things I was concerned about was my ammo supply, and how I could maintain it if I could not access factory loaded ammo. I read some articles in Survive/American Survival Guide (Feb., Mar ’84/ Feb ’85 and Dec ’87, yup, still have ’em) about portable hand loading and case improvisation (.45ACP/.308, 9mm/.223, etc.), and the Lee hand Press kit, and realized it was the perfect base to build a portable reloading kit from.

Portable Reloading Kit4

Portable Reloading Kit5

OK, so we’ve started with the reloading press that comes with a few accessories such as the Ram Prime for priming cartridges, a tube of brass resizing lubricant, and a powder funnel. Next, you need reloading dies for your specific cartridge. In this kit I have Lee Precision dies for 7.62x39s rifle, and .45ACP pistol, because they both work very well with cast lead bullets.

Portable Reloading Kit2

Portable Reloading Kit1



Next I have Lyman bullet moulds for both cartridges. The 7.62x39s has a 160 grain two bullet mould, and the .45ACP has a 225 grain two bullet mould. I like the Lyman moulds because I can use one set of handles for both. Along with the bullet moulds you will need a lead dipper (mine’s a Lyman)  to pour lead into the moulds. I also use a small cast iron pan from Cabelas (Cracker Barrel has ’em too) to melt the lead initially, as it can be held over a fire with a multi tool, or attach a thick green branch to its handle with hose clamps.

Portable Reloading Kit8

Portable Reloading Kit9

Portable Reloading Kit6

If you are making/casting bullets, you will need sizing dies for those bullets to make them all of a uniform diameter. I use the Lee sizing dies (7.62x39s and .45ACP) because I can size them using the press instead of a separate sizing press.

Portable Reloading Kit3

Last but not least will be a case deburring tool (mine’s a Lyman) for taking the burrs off of the case mouth after you trim it. You will be shortening the brass as it gets stretched out from being fired. The shortening can be done with a multi tool file, but you definitely need a deburring tool after doing so.

Portable Reloading Kit12

Portable Reloading Kit13

Portable Reloading Kit14

Portable Reloading Kit17

After all is said and done, you have a portable reloading kit that weighs a little under 10 pounds. With the addition of your empty brass, you’ve hung on to, and the smokeless powder, primers, bullet and case lube and gas checks (if needed for one or both of your cast bullet types) you have in your cache, you can completely reload your cartridges in the field.

Whether you want to carry your kit with you, or place it in a cache, this kit will do what you need, when you need it to, and it’s as compact as a complete reloading kit can be. There are some who would use one of these. It dispenses with the need for a press, but without the press, you can’t size bullets or full length resize your brass.

Portable Reloading Kit20

I will not discuss loading data here. There is a number of factors that go into it, and you need to do your own research on that info. This post is just to give you some insight into my kit, and maybe some ideas to send you in the right direction.

I have multiple kits like this for different calibers. When I first wrote this post a couple years ago, I used the 7.62x39S/.45ACP kit because it was sitting in the storage room and my .308/,45ACP kits were in a pack or a cache because they are my go to calibers (did you know you can make .45ACP brass out of .308Win brass?).

The contents of THIS kit have never been used, but other kits have, and in the field. The only item difference between my .308 kit and the 7.62x39S is the caliber specific die set. The bullet mould and everything else is the same. Keep something in mind, reloading in the field is not “optimal”. Casting bullets in the field, whether for smokeless or blackpowder firearms, is not “optimal. Having to scrounge empty brass in the field is definitely not “optimal”!

DSA brass catcher mounted on a ParaFAL

I have the ability to save brass in the field when using my primary rifle (FAL). This is with the help of a brass catcher made by DSA. It plugs directly into the upper receiver and gives me the option of holding the brass or opening the bottom, velcro secured, opening to let the brass fall at my feet. Brass catchers are available for most semi automatic mil type rifles (one AK type here).

Two views of the brass catcher with the bottom open and closed.

If you have the option, you won’t be scrounging wheel weights for bullet casting because you’ve layed up copper jacketed, commercially made bullets in the multiple caches you have extra powder and primers in. This is after you have laid back AT LEAST a case or two of commercially loaded ammo for the calibers in question and a ton of spare parts.

This post is about options for worst case. I can reload in the field. I can make bullets for my rifle and pistol in the field. If it’s not that bad, so much the better.


"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.