Today we will be comparing two red dot sights from the same brand, the Aimpoint ACO and the Aimpoint PRO, two very similar and popular sights that can be hard to choose between.
On one hand we have a very capable and successful patrol rifle optic and that has become hugely popular among forces and civilians alike, on the other we have a carbine optic designed specifically for modern sporting rifle and aimed at civilian use, wrapped in a friendly price tag.
Which one is right for you? We’ll sum up some key differences in the following table, then delve into the details of the brand and each optic.
Aimpoint is a top name in red dot optics, and quite rightly so as they produced the first electronic red dot back in 1974. With this revolutionary step, Aimpoint have worked hard over the following years to maintain their name and continue to produce high quality products for a range of shooters.
When the US army switched from using iron sights to the far superior red dot sights, naturally, Aimpoint sort of blew up in both law enforcement and civilian worlds. They are best known for manufacturing durable equipment that can really deliver in real world situations.
For those who swear by the Swedish quality of Aimpoint, there is still not a straight forward choice when it comes to choosing your ideal sight. They have plenty of options for military, law enforcement, hunting and sports shooting. Let’s see how two of Aimpoint’s top quality yet affordable products fair against each other.
In this standoff between two great products, we should start by stating which features are the same and which are different.
Both the ACO and PRO have a lot of similarities, for example they look very similar as they share the body tube and lenses. Both optics have unlimited eye relief and are parallax free and both have a 2 MOA red dot.
Furthermore, both are designed by Aimpoint, so in both cases a highly durable product is guaranteed. But the two gun sights have some fundamental differences, too, and these are what will help you decide which is right for you.
Price and Affordability
The Aimpoint Carbine Optic (ACO) came out after the ever popular Aimpoint PRO as Aimpoint’s second entry level optic. It was more specifically designed in order to satisfy a market of amateur buyers who at the time were going for the overqualified Aimpoint PRO as their entry level optic. Targeted at civilian and sporting use, the Aimpoint ACO was designed so that first time sight buyers wouldn’t have to shell out so much cash to get a sight with a range of features they might not require, e.g. a home defender or amateur shooter, but was still similar to the popular PRO.
Range of Uses
You can either view this as a positive, or a negative. The lower price means less features, so you will find that the ACO is not night vision compatible, neither does it come with lens caps. Some see this as a huge downside, since when you add the price of the caps to the optic (which are necessary when using your gun outside, as hunters will find) then you may as well go with the Aimpoint PRO and get the other added features, for practically the same price as your ACO plus caps. But others will argue that there’s no need to pay more if you don’t want or need the other features.
As for the lack of night vision due to different lens coatings, the Aimpoint ACO makes up for it by having 9 daylight brightness settings whereas the PRO only has 6, but of course the PRO is night vision compatible and comes with an additional 4 night vision settings. Which sight is best suited to you depends on your use and needs. If you don’t shoot at night or know you will never use night vision but you value the extra brightness settings, then its an easy choice.
Another point where the Aimpoint PRO excels above the Aimpoint ACO is on battery life. Although they share the same battery, the battery life of the ACO is only 10,000 hours, a third of that of the Aimpoint PRO. On the other hand, Aimpoint have not carried out testing on the battery of the ACO, so it is likely the battery life would actually be similar, but that would only be a guess. The uncertainty is enough to sway many who really value the guaranteed longevity of the PRO’s power.
A final difference between the two sights is the kind of mount. The Aimpoint ACO comes with a fixed mount which means, once centered, it is always ready to use. This also provides absolute co-witness and due to the fixed mount, this cannot be adjusted to 1/3 co-witness, which may or may not be a problem according to your preferences. For those who prefer a clear view when shooting (one of the draws to using a simple red dot in the first place) it may be worth investing in the PRO which has a more versatile mount.
In review, both models are great optics and share the high quality and durability of an Aimpoint product, but for those on a tight budget or for those who only require the most basic of features, the Aimpoint ACO is the sight for you. It was designed and marketed for people like you, and while it doesn’t have the fancy features like night vision compatibly or being waterproof to 45m, it is still waterproof to 5m, has a good range of brightness settings, and is simple yet effective. Ideal for civilian use, from sporting competitions to home defense.
On the other hand, if you’re not so concerned about your budget, even if you are an amateur and don’t require anything fancy, paying a tiny bit extra for the Aimpoint PRO is 100% worth it to get a boosted battery life, night vision compatibility, a more versatile mount, and all the added bonuses.
At the end of the day, even though the ACO was designed for entry level shooters and civilians whereas the PRO was aimed more at low budget defense departments, the PRO wins out, especially when you consider the price difference.
As noted, even just adding the price of buying your own caps for the ACO evens them out. If you’re already prepared to pay around $385 for a sight, are you really going to shy away from an extra $35? Not to say that the ACO isn’t a great optic that gets the job done, and if you can find it on sale you’re sure to get an excellent deal there, too, just a larger price drop would make more sense.
Related Reading - Aimpoint PRO review.