Over the past five to six years shooting a handgun a handgun with a red dot has gone from a new concept, to a hotly debated one, to the accepted future of the weapons platform. Over the same period of time, night vision has gone from a a rarity in civilian hands, to exploding to be the booming market it is today, with ownership being fairly common. For red dots on handguns, especially those that are used under night vision, one optic has remained the most prolific, the Trijicon RMR.
Released in 2009, the first generation RMR was originally intended to be used on top of an ACOG or other rifle scope. However, after the Rowland Special rose to popularity in 2015/2016, Trijicon released the RMR Type II in 2017, addressing some of the issues people ran into when mounting the RMR to a handgun (mostly flickering from battery connectivity issues, etc).
After the release of the RMR Type II, red dots on handguns took off. While there was some hot debate against it by people who likely owned Springfield XDs, a red dot has become hands down the most popular way to shoot a handgun with and without night vision. As always, we'll cover everything, but we're going to focus on its performance under night vision. But just know up front, it's remained the number one pistol optic for a reason.
Trijicon RMR: Construction
Built like a tank. This is an area where it clearly outshines all of it's competitors, and I'm not aware (and definitely haven't used) an open emitter miniature red dot that's built sturdier.
While most other MRDS sights are simply milled out of aluminum, the RMR Type II is actually forged out of 7075 aluminum. This gives it the strongest possible molecular structure for its material. On top of that, it's patented "bat ears" shape allows it to absorb impacts like drops in a way that diverts energy into the housing and away from the glass as efficiently as possible.
The RMR is built to be waterproof, shockproof, and about indestructible in every way. It's US SOCOMs issued pistol optic, and it's certainly earned its reputation.
Trijicon RMR: Durability
Alright, great. But does it live up to its durability claims?
I would say absolutely so. Across multiple handgun platforms, I would say I have approximately 30-40,000 rounds across multiple RMRs. Some of that was multiple 20-minute 1,000 round burndowns while stress testing handgun components in a previous career. While I have no doubt RMRs have failed, I have yet to see it.
How else have I beaten them up though? Countless slide manipulations against tables, barricades, door frames, and holsters. Airline flights in cases bouncing around against other guns because I lost the foam. Tossing guns on the ground for product photos. Daily carry for several years. Many hunts where my pistol ends up covered in dirt or mud.
I can say without a doubt that the Trijicon RMR is one of the few optics that I trust to not fail me no matter what. In my experience it has earned and deserved every bit of the reputation it carries.
Trijicon RMR Performance
So besides durability, what about overall performance? There's a lot that goes into an optic besides its ability to not die. Before we get into time of day specific things, let's touch on a few other notables:
- Battery Life - Phenomenal. Roughly five years. However, I replace mine every year on my birthday. A battery is a couple bucks, but there is a potentially enormous cost with the battery going down at the wrong time. Better safe than sorry.
- Open Emitter Design - While I haven't had any issues, there is definitely an argument against these designs. It is possible for mud or other elements to cover the emitter, rendering the optic useless when you need it. Again, I've had guns with RMRs very dirty on several occasions, but if I was trusting my life to this gun in an austere environment as a duty weapon, I would probably go closed emitter.
- Adjustable Brightness - The auto-adjustable brightness is great, and it's never failed me. However, it is auto-adjusting for your eyes, not night vision, so manually adjust for that. My only gripe about the RMR is that the buttons are a bit stiff, and I sometimes have trouble turning the brightness down manually, especially when wearing gloves. However, it's better to have that than to have buttons that will be accidentally adjusted.
- Dot Reticle - The RMR reticle is a single dot of varying size depending on the model. There IS a battery-free model with a triangle reticle, but we're pretending that doesn't exist. While the dot is totally functional, I do wish Trijicon had other reticle options.
- Window Size - A bit small compared to some other modern MRDS, but completely usable and functional. Would love to see the window size increased by 10-15%, but I'll take the durability of the RMR over window size any day.
Solid. The RMR does have a blue tint to it, and this can bother some people or not. The window is a little small as mentioned before, but the dot is absolutely daylight bright, even in the brightest of environments. I've used RMRs in the desert at high noon and never had an issue with a dot being washed out.
There is also a bit of edge distortion at the edge of the window. This can bother people a bit more, but it can also lead to parallax issued. If you're taking a shot with a dot at the edge of the glass, your POA/POI is likely to be off. On the flip side, if you're taking a shot with the dot at the edge of the glass, the target is likely close enough and things are urgent enough that might not matter. That's pure speculation. However, the parallax issue is one to be aware of.
Night Vision Performance
Here's where it really shines. Of all the MRDS sights I've used, the RMR by far has the best light transmission under night vision. It is a very nice optic to shoot passively. Of course, the parallax issue does still exist, so practicing proper handgun fundamentals is just as important at night.
My only complaint about shooting the RMR under night vision comes down to the reticle. If I turn on active illumination like an x300v, or I find myself in a higher light environment, the dot can become almost washed out. So sometimes I find myself running it on the lowest visible setting, so that I have a clear dot with illumination, and one that is slightly blooming without.
While other reticles would become near washed out as well, having a little bit more going on still gives you more to pick up on. This is the same reason a lot of people (myself included), prefer an EoTech vs Aimpoint for passive rifle aiming. Single dots can be slower to pick up on, especially when changing the amount of illumination they're against.
Ultimately though, the Trijicon RMR Type II Adjustable is my go-to night vision optic on a handgun.
Summary: Trijicon RMR Type II Adjustable, RM06
In short, the Trijicon RMR Type II Adjustable is the only open-emitter MRDS sight we currently recommend on a serious-use handgun. The Trijicon SRO while great under night vision is just not a duty optic, and the Leupold Delta Point Pro has it's own shortcomings as well. The Holosun MRDS optics we've used have fallen short on both light transmission, as well as durability.
As always, we recommend you buy quality gear. The Trijicon RMR is one of those things. We can absolutely recommend it is a great optic, and a great night vision option whether it's mounted on pistol, or piggybacked to a scope.
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