After finding my red dot had completely lost zero while riding around in my trunk I decided it was time to get my hands on a more appropriate optic for my “truck gun”. What I found was much more than that in the form of the Burris Fastfire II.
I really like my Kel-Tec SU-16c but the challenge has long been to find a good 1x optic for my application. The rifle overall is very small which makes installing a full-sized combat optic very awkward. Sure an Eotech 5.12 will fit on the receiver’s small top rail but it is quite high above the bore allowing no co-witness with the low-profile factory sights. Also it adds a significant amount of weight to the top of the gun. The same goes for the Aimpoint full-sized optics. Visually they look rather silly given their relative bulk compared to the rest of the gun.
So, what to do? My solution for several years was to simply install a cheap Tasco red dot sight ($39.95 at Walmart) and call it a day. That did work after a fashion. The sight was small, low on the receiver and was plenty bright if needed although not as visible in bright sunlight on snow as my other 1x optics. One problem became apparent right away: the battery life was not great and it was easy to forget to turn off the sight and thereby drain the batteries. Not the end of the world but I wound up buying a bunch of batteries to have on hand for the inevitable. Unfortunately things got worse.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I am hard on equipment. After one particularly hard session of use I noticed that the front lens of the Tasco had a crack. It was about 20% of the way up from the bottom so I just ignored it. Not great but not a dealbreaker. What I could not ignore was pulling out the gun one day last spring and finding that my rounds were not hitting the target at all. I eventually figured out that the adjusters had both apparently “skipped” over the threads all the way to one end of the adjustment range. Obviously having a sight that self-adjusts due to shock and vibration (the rifle had been in the back of my Jeep unused for probably 4 months) is unacceptable. So again, what to do?
Over the last several years Aimpoint and Eotech have come out with some fantastic small form factor 1x optics. Neither has been willing to provide me with any to review and since I am very pleased with the full-sized versions of their products I could not justify buying these myself if there was a reasonable alternative. Thankfully there is at least one such product currently on the market. After reading a lot about the Burris Fastfire II (FFII) I decided this might be the right way to go. I paid just over $200 for the sight and I have to say it was a great choice.
The FFII is a tough little sight that has some great features. First, it holds zero. Sure, they all should but as mentioned above, they don’t. After initial adjustment I’ve had excellent stability from the sight. Second, it has a self-adjusting light output that is based on ambient light coming into the front of the sight. I was concerned at first that I might not like the automatic nature of the light level but I have been pleasantly surprised. It has always produced the appropriate amount of light for the circumstances. Third, it has amazing battery life. If you forget to turn off the sight and put the gun in your safe or in a case, the low output will allow the sight to work for months or even years. Fourth, it has a wonderful little rail mount that is easy to install, small and locks very solidly to the rail. No chance of it moving around. The optic also comes with a plastic cover that snaps on when the sight is not in use. This keeps off dirt and dust but also reduces the sensed ambient light to nearly zero which is good for the afore-mentioned reasons.
So, what’s not to love? Well, there’s one gotcha: the adjustments. With the very small size comes a limit to the room available for knobs, buttons, etc. To zero the sight is not easy. Burris includes a very small screwdriver with the sight along with an interesting “dial” that rides on the screwdriver to give reference to your adjustments. I did not use it and things worked fine for me but I can see where the dial would be helpful to some folks. Once the adjusters are where you want them there are a pair of set screws that must be tightened to lock down the zero. Any changes require the reverse of this process. It’s not the simplest thing in the world but once you’ve done it you likely won’t ever have to do it again. That and it’s a lot easier having done it once.
One other potential problem could be operating the on/off slider switch on the side. I seriously doubt anyone could do this while wearing gloves. This really isn’t a big deal since I would assume anyone using this optic would simply turn it on when you pick it up or sling it. Nevertheless, it bears mentioning.
And lastly there’s the issue of size. While the low-profile is awesome (just barely partially co-witnesses) and the sight is very light, some folks might want more area in the viewing window. I find it is adequate but sure, it’s not an Eotech 5.12 by a long stretch. For example, you probably wouldn’t try to mount this sight forward on the gun (scout style) due to its small size.
So while I feel like I’ve found the ideal moderately-priced 1x optic for my truck gun, I think this sight is probably well suited to many different applications. I’ve seen them on pistols, shotguns and all kinds of rifles. For the price and features it’s tough to beat.