Micro Red Dot sites are an interesting animal. Tiny enough to truly be useful on a pistol, these sites come in a wide variety of types, designs, reticle designs and sizes, and quality. In fact, with the growing desire to replace iron sights on everything with a red dot site, more vendors than ever are coming up with their own version of these tiny optics for use by everyone. The first in my series of reviews is the Burris FastFire Micro Red Dot optic.
Entry Level Optics
As a long time optics snob, Burris as a company has always fallen squarely in the entry level category. Not the finest piece of glass or most durable, for the casual shooter who wants something inexpensive to start out with they do OK.
The FastFire series of optics is no exception to this, sporting a price tag in the sub-$300 category. For this price, our lucky purchaser receives the optic and a mount. Mounts are available to adapt the optic to Picatinny rail, most common handguns, and shotguns without any rails by inserting between the stock and the receiver, which is not a bad deal.
The reviews by other owners of this device were mostly positive, citing excellent results on .22s and AR 15s, among other applications, leaving the optic’s reputation pretty positive.
When I received the optic, I admit I was pretty excited. The packaging for the device shows a high-speed competition shooter with the little device sitting on top of a Beretta M9/92, and while I know from years of experience that pictures don’t equate to quality, I was hopeful that this device would do the job.
The optic itself came with a screwdriver needed to unlock and adjust the windage and elevation, a dial to indicate the scale of adjustment as it has no tactile clicks, battery, mount, mounting hardware, and the adapter for the optic.
Since I planned to test this using my trusty .45 ACP 1911, I had purchased also the 1911 Novak site adapter, which I was pleased to see came in a dovetail adapter and profiled plate that firmly sits the optic on the crown of the gun. Compared to other adapters I have seen which simply boost the optic mounting plate above the top of the slide, this actually hugged the slide in a way that made it lower and more pleasing to the eye.
Mounting and Sighting
Mounting the device on the gun was no tough job. A simple nylon drift punch to push out the rear sight, inserting the wedge, then setting the adapter plate and optic on top of the slide, finally screwing it all down until it was tight and didn’t move with a drop here and there of blue loctite to aid the optic in staying in place.
Once the device had been mounted, I checked and zero’d the device using a laser bore sight as I do with all of my guns when experimenting with optics, and got it to a working zero.
This process was less intuitive than I had imagined, as the laser unit in the gun floats unless locked down by two set screws. This was my first time dealing with this kind of issue, and I discovered that this process lead to a less than ideal initial zero process.
Once the laser had been nudged into zero with the windage and elevation screws, tightening the set screws would throw it off, and it took several attempts of back and forth until I was sure it was set with the laser.
The Proof is in the Pudding, or Questioning Your Sanity
With my new red dot site installed, I was confident that my old, outdated, obsolete 1911 was given a new lease on life and ready for the 21st Century. I stepped out back to my shooting range and set up the gun on sandbags for the initial fire-sighting and testing. After a few rounds of proof-checking and working the gun in, I was reasonably confident that my gun was zero’d to the ammo I was using, and began running my gun through its paces.
Now, have any of you ever had the zero on your optic walk? It’s a frustrating, mind-boggling experience that leaves you dazed and questioning your ability with a firearm. After all, if the optic is saying you’re on center of mass and the bullet actually hits somewhere in Tahiti, something’s seriously wrong with your shooting.
Two magazines and a lot of self doubt later, I began to realize that it wasn’t my shooting that was the culprit here, but the optic’s dot moving around.
I checked and rechecked the set screws and they were tight each time. Never the less, I vowed to make extra sure and got out the Red Loctite, set the zero again, then loctited the set screws in place, and resolved to leave it to dry for 24 hours before I retested. After that period of time, I tested the screws and was absolutely certain that those bad boys weren’t going anywhere.
With the gun loaded for bear and a deep burning desire to show this thing who’s boss, I set up again with a fresh target and took a couple of practice swings. Dead nuts zero, and not moving at all. Victory, I thought. Second magazine in, though, my heart sank as I watched my perfect laser-guided groups begin to open up and walk around again. Again I checked the screws, and again everything was tight as it should be.
To be fair to Burris, their customer service was outstanding. I explained the situation and they were kind and helpful, and offered to replace the optic. I obliged after going through all of the steps to make sure that yes, the optic was tightly secured to the gun, and no,the set screws weren’t, in fact, moving.
I received my replacement optic and mounted it up, going through the same procedure to zero, using blue loctite this time to allow me to unscrew and adjust the laser. After a few hours to let the blue loctite set, another box of ammo in hand, I set out to again do some benchmark testing. First mag down, optic zero’d, the gun and optic worked as I expected them to.
Imagine my disappointment when, on Mag 4, using my standard range loads*, the optic began again to wander its zero. Once again, I checked everything twice and double-checked how it was set up on the gun. Once again, everything was where it should be and tight and torqued down.
Another call to Burris, and they accepted both the replacement and the original back with a full refund to me for the purchase price, since I figured going through the process of replacing optic after optic was a waste of time when I could move up to a higher end device and save myself the trouble.
Asking around, I found that of the people that I knew that used the Burris option, all of them did so on .22s, where they had no issues whatsoever. My conclusion, then, was that unfortunately the optic was just not built to take a higher caliber gun and its recoil.
All of that said, this optic well and truly earned a D-. While I would call it a straight F given its uselessness for any handgun or rifle of sufficient caliber, this optic does still function well for .22s and given the price, is cheap enough to be attractive for use on a .22 target pistol for someone just starting out, so there’s that. Hopefully the Trijicon, Leupold, JPoint, and DROptic function better.
Stay Safe and Shoot Straight.
* As some of you may know, I have a penchant for self abuse. MOST of my loads, then, for the .45 ACP start at +P and go up. However, I realize that the majority of shooters aren’t so masochistic, so for the purposes of testing, my range loads are, actually, very nice and gentle, a good 780 FPS in .45 ACP.