I am not an optics snob by any stretch of the imagination. Through good fortune at work, and in my writing life with access to multiple companies, I often have the opportunity to use and test out different optics that would be unattainable or unreasonable to buy with my police officer salary. That being said, I typically find myself in the “buy once, cry once” camp, and will more often than not, pony up the hard-earned cash for vetted brands such as Aimpoint or Trijicon. I typically calculate my overtime hours in future gear purchases.
I recently had the opportunity to check out and run two different models of a typically-considered “budget optic,” and I have to say, I was pretty impressed. The first model I took a look at is not a new release, it was the HS503GU red dot from Holosun. This micro red dot was released in 2016, and has similar features of the big-name brands, with a few additional technologies that really make this optic stand out.
With an obvious tip of the hat to the Aimpoint Micro T1, The HS503GU is a small, lightweight (6.3oz) micro red dot with a 20mm window and comes out of the box with the standard accessories; a high and low mount, a Torx wrench, lens cloth, and a bikini cover. However, there’s more to it than that. Basic specs are what you’d expect from any quality micro red dot; capped and shrouded windage knobs (the “U” designation in the model number), and it runs on one CR2032 battery that is mounted on the side of the unit (the “G” designation in the model number), but there are some differences that set the Holosun apart from others.
First, is their Shake Awake™ Technology. The micro red dot possesses a technology that automatically puts the optic to sleep after a user-set amount of time, allowing for enhanced battery life. Once the optic senses movement or vibration, it immediately turns back on, and at the same brightness level it was last used at.
Second, is their Multiple Reticle System, or M.R.S. This great feature allows the end user the real-time ability to switch between a 2MOA dot and a 2MOA + 65MOA circle reticle option, allowing for precision aiming, or “good enough” fast-acquisition shots enabled by the 2MOA dot + 65MOA circle. In practice, this allows enhanced options for users that want the traditional EOTech-like dot + ring reticle option in an Aimpoint-sized package on top of the typical 2MOA dot option.
The HS503GU boasts all of these options with a very reasonable price tag; again, the HS503GU isn’t a brand-new optic, and currently advertises with a MSRP of $284.11, but can be purchased at Amazon for less than $200.
I have, in the past, tried out micro red dot offerings from other companies with very mixed results. Poor illumination run times, adjustment dials that spin freely with no end stop, battery caps that freeze shut…in one instance I shot a Primary Arms micro red dot completely off my AK – the mounting screws couldn’t hold up to the force of the AK rounds…so needless to say, I was a little wary of how the Holosun would work. I figured a great way to test it out was to go to a class.
I was given an opportunity to jump into a Centrifuge Training VCQB Instructor Course hosted by Pacific Tactical a couple months ago, which seemed like a great chance to see how the optic would do. Now, if you haven’t taken one of Will Petty’s VCQB classes before, you should know that it involves a ton of positional shooting, weapon malfunction manipulations, injured shooter drills, and a lot of work fighting in and around vehicles. It is typical to see guns go down, holsters to seize up and fail, and for students’ whiz-bang tactical gear get run through to failure.
For the Centrifuge Training course, I mounted the HS503GU onto an 11.5” upper, which I ran suppressed throughout the course of the week. To my guarded surprise, the Holosun performed very well. I found that switching reticles was easy, and in some cases advantageous depending on the course of fire or exercise we worked on. The optic worked very well for the full five day course in full-value sunlight as well as complete darkness; I never felt as if I did not have enough illumination in either lighting extreme, which was comforting.
Additionally, I never noticed the Shake Awake technology; I was switching between shooting firearms and photos/video for the class, so there were several times that my carbine was tossed on the ground for a duration of time. However, as soon as I strapped back up to run a drill and brought my carbine up into my line of sight, the reticle was already on and illuminated at the same setting I had it at previously. The technology seems to work, and work well.
There were only 2 minor criticisms for the HS503GU for the week; first, the provided bikini cover to protect the lenses when not in use was torn off within a day, and I didn’t think to Loctite the optic to the factory-provided mount, so the optic was shot a smidge loose by the end of the week. Other than those two minor issues, one of which was user-induced, the HS503GU seemed like a very solid contender. Of course, I’d want to run one in more extreme weather conditions and over a longer course of time for a full-value evaluation, but it’s a promising start.
The second optic from Holosun that I looked at was the HE515GT-GR. The HE515GT-GR is a newer offering from the Holosun Elite Series that also boasts the M.R.S.and Shake Awake technologies within, but adds a twist with a green reticle (hence the –GR designation). The HE515GT-GR is part of Holosun’s Elite series of optics, so one could expect a bit of a higher end product from a “budget” optic.
For starters, the HE515GT-GR is made out of titanium; which makes it inherently strong and light. The HE515GT-GR weighs in at 4.43oz and comes with two clear flip up covers, a killflash module already installed, and hi-lo mounts. I mounted the HE515GT-GR to another upper and brought it along to the Centrifuge Training course as well. I didn’t have as much time through this optic as I did with the HS503GU as I had it mounted on an Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) – dedicated upper, however both the M.R.S. and Shake Awake features worked just as well and seamlessly as the HS503GU. The HE515GT-GR has an MSRP of $505.87, however once again can be purchased at Amazon in the neighborhood of $430.
Frankly, I don’t believe I have enough time behind the HE515GT-GR to say it’s actually good to go, but I most likely will just buy one and run it through a few more classes to see how it holds up. As always, I’ll circle back around if issues present themselves.