Primary Arms: it’s Primary Optics, Primarily!

Primary Arms operates from a business model that is based on “high-quality products at affordable prices, same-day shipping, and hands down the best customer service in the industry.” Given the excellent reviews that their optics line (and particularly the ACSS reticle) continues to receive, it would appear they’re meeting and surpassing their founding principles. Let’s take a deeper look.

Beginnings

Primary Arms originally opened in the back storeroom of a Houston, Texas barbershop. That’s the same hometown as Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and of course Chris Hernandez. This automatically bumps them up a couple of links on the food chain (at least how we reckon things). Here’s the original storefront.

The old Primary Arms building
The Primary Arms brick-and-mortar, from back in the early years.

Marshal Lerner started the company after a particular discussion on a Glocktalk forum. In the discussion, he noticed that people were looking for affordable AR focused optics. At that time, low-quality eBay clones were the only option they had. According to Lerner,

…the guys were buying the counterfeits off eBay, and I said man, don’t buy the counterfeits. You’re not helping the industry, they’re going to get re-sold as the real thing. And the guys came back and said there’s no alternative if you want a red dot and you can’t afford the higher priced ones. One of the guys said that if you give us an alternative, we’ll buy them.

Working to fill the void, he began by selling red dots on the forums out of the back of the barber shop. (It just so happens that he owned a chain of them, so that’s why he started there.)

We imported our first red dots, and I remember the back warehouse of the barber shop was where we set up and that’s where we started.

Since then the company has experienced phenomenal growth. Not only have they significantly expanded their optics lines, but they have also become world-class retailers and wholesalers in the firearm industry.

Current Operations

Presently, the company has several divisions that serve different customer bases. Their optics are sold by dealers across the U.S. and in 16 other countries. Primary Arms Wholesale supplies its own optics as well as over 100 other brands to gun stores around the country. Beyond optics, their retail site sells complete firearms, parts, and accessories for building AR-15’s, AR-308, and AK-47s, and they have over 5,000 SKU’s from popular brands. Their newest division, which started in the fall of 2018, focuses on supplying Law Enforcement agencies.

According to Primary Arms Brand Marketing manager Dina Sanders:

Primary Arms is defined by a commitment to the firearms community. Our team is made up of competitors, hunters, veterans, and enthusiasts of all forms. We didn’t just want to be a great optics manufacturer—we wanted to contribute, hearing the public voice to deliver a superior product. As the company has grown, we’ve continued to place quality and satisfaction above all else, seeking constant improvement and feedback from our customers

That level of customer loyalty and excellence in manufacturing has driven over a decade of consistent growth, which is why their old headquarters…(see above)…

…now look like this:

Primary Arms Facility in Houston Texas
The Primary Arms HQ facility as it looks today.

What Do They Offer?

With over 5000 SKU’s it can be a bit daunting to comprehend everything that Primary Arms has to offer. That’s why they have their website organized according to Platform and Product Type. If you’re looking for something specifically for your AR-15, AR-308, or AK-47, they cover everything from barrels to magazines to upper receivers. They also have parts kits for those firearms. And if you’re just looking for a certain product, there are twenty different categories to choose from including NFA items, apparel, and plenty more.

Still, Primary Arms is best known for its optics. As mentioned earlier, Lerner started out with the Red Dots, but now they also have back up iron sights as well as a variety of scopes and scope accessories. The ACCS Reticle, though, is most likely the cream of the Primary Arms crop.

ACCS Reticle

About a decade ago, Primary Arms optics division contractor/consultant Dimitri Mikroulis set out to design a new reticle that helped shooters increase their accuracy.

“I gathered info on ballistics, reloading, ranging formulas, what parameters and  attributes are needed by our soldiers to improve lethality.”

Dimitri approached Primary Arms over 7 years ago with the idea to use his innovative reticle in their 3X Prism scope. They signed an exclusive licensing agreement, and that reticle became the original ACSS Utility Patented reticle. It was the first of many patented reticles that are now used across the entire Primary Arms line of optics, as well as in their co-branded optics from Trijicon and Holosun. The reticle is well-received and highly regarded within the firearms world. They are prized because they are engineered to account for wind speed and distance, providing shooters with moving-target leads, range estimation, and bullet drop compensation. Currently, Primary Arms has 39 ACCS optics listed on their website. This number fluctuates with product discontinuation and new product releases, though, so if you want to stay up-to-speed on the ACSS reticle optics they have available, follow this link.

According to Mikroulis, “Math is the greatest weapon of them all.”  Indeed!  To see what he means, watch the video below, in which Mikroulis explains how to use the ACCS.

This is what a standard ACSS reticle looks like:

Primary Arms ACSS Reticle
Optics that feature the ACSS Reticle are Silver-tier rated by the National Tactical Officers Association

According to Primary Arms, the ACSS reticle seamlessly integrates bullet drop compensation, wind holds, moving target leads, and range estimation “…into an easy to use, instinctive sighting system that is very fast from 0-300 yards and very accurate from 300-800 yards.”

Jeremy S. wrote a review of the Primary Arms 1-6x reticle scope over at The Truth About Guns. He says:

Focused more on combat use, the 1-6x scope‘s patented ACSS reticle is designed to range, well, combatants. It blows traditional range-finding reticle technology back into the stone age with the simplest, fastest method of ranging a human-size target, compensating for bullet drop, leading a moving target, and holding for crosswind — short of having Rain Man as your spotter.

Primary Arm ACSS Reticle
Brown silhouettes have been added to the image above to show how some of the reticle’s features work. Image credit: Jeremy S. for The Truth About Guns.

The primary reticle feature is the 12-level illuminated red center tape for use at 6x magnification to estimate target range from 300 to 800 yards. Each horizontal line represents the average width of a male torso, about 18 inches, at the designated range. In the above image, the target is ranged at 600 yards. At 300 yards, the 18-inch wide target fits bottom-most corners of the horseshoe (aka, the circle of death), with the top of the red tape acting as the cross-hair.

The secondary ranging tape in the reticle is the black one to the right. It’s there as a backup in case your target presents at an angle that makes torso-width ranging difficult. It estimates range based on the average 5′ 10″ male height, with target feet at the bottom line. The horizontal lines on this tape also measure an 18-inch target at that range. If the target is only from the waist up, use the waist at the bottom, and divide the range estimate in half. In the above image, the target in the secondary tape is ranged at 600 yards.

Illuminated wind-hold dots are placed at the right and left of the ranging tape. These are in place to represent the necessary hold to compensate for a 5 mph crosswind. The distances can be adjusted according to windage. For a 2.5 mph wind, just cut the distance in half, or double it to a 10 mph wind.

ACSS CQB Reticle

The ACSS Close Quarter Battle (CQB) reticle is designed for short to medium range sighting. It is recognized for its flexibility and performance capabilities. Primary Arms has collaborated with Holosun to create the Holosun HSG503G ACSS QBC red dot sight and the Trijicon TA44 ACOG CQB M5 1.5X scope.

The Holosun HS503G combines the power of the ACSS CQB reticle with a red dot sight. It is recommended for shotgun and rifle shooters who need a non-magnified red dot at the range, while hunting small and medium game, 3-gun competitors, or for lawful personal defense.

Primary Arms Holosun HS503G ACSS CQB reticle
Primary Arms Holosun HS503G ACSS CQB reticle
  • (A ) The horseshoe in this reticle assists the shooter in quick sight acquisition. At the shooter’s prerogative, it can be turned off by pressing and holding the (-) button at the top of the sight.
  • (B) The center aiming point of the HS503G is a chevron instead of a dot, for precision rifle shots. It is easier to see than a normal red dot and the small chevron tip offers greater accuracy. Bullet drop compensation (BDC)is incorporated into the design—on a 5.56 NATO AR-15 with the tip zeroed at 100 yards, the bottom legs have a 300 yard BDC marking.
  •  (C) Three 1MOA BDC dots under the chevron are calibrated to 400, 500 and 600 yards. These BDC marks extend 9mm pistol caliber carbine capability to 2o0 yards.

The Trijicon TA44 ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) CQB M5 1.5X scope combines the special features of the original Trijicon scope, (larger field of view, dual illumination, compact size and weight, and center dot) with the ACCS reticle. This optic is recommended for recreational, competitive, and defensive shooters who need some magnification while keeping both eyes open. It is also recommended for shooters who have astigmatism so that they can clearly focus on the chevron.

Trijicon TA44 ACOG CQB M5 1.5X reticle
Trijicon TA44 ACOG CQB M5 1.5X scope
  • (A) The edges of the horseshoe serve as moving target leads for a target that is moving at 6.1 mph at 100 to 300 yards
  • (B) Center chevron for enhanced target acquisition.
  • (C) Two BDC dots.
  • (D) Four black, etched, nonilluminated bars form a ranging ladder.
  • (E) The bottom bar helps find the range for a standardized target. To do so, align the bottom of the target with the bottom bar and range upwards. Whichever line that the top of the target meets indicates the range distance.

BPR

Primary Arms offers Ballistic Precision Reticles (BPR) for precision shooting. They currently have three MIL and two MOA options available. Watch this video to see how it works.

 

More Than Just the ACSS, Though

Even though the ACSS gets a heck of a lot of attention, (and rightfully so), there are many more products at Primary Arms that’ll pique your interest. Here are just a few of them.

Primary Arms Red Dot Sights

The Primary Arms Red Dot Sights page has a special feature that is especially valuable to shoppers who aren’t quite sure which type of sight they should purchase for their firearm. They have a Buyer’s Guide that explains the different types of Red Dot Sights, which explains “Everything you need to know before you buy, from our in-house experts at Primary Arms.” Cool, huh?

Primary Arms - Red Dot Sights - Tube Style
Tube style Red Dot Sight. Image source: Primary Arms.

After a short tour through Red Dot history, the guide explains the difference between Tube Style and Open Style Red Dots. Then it explains how holographic sights are different than the others as well as their benefits and uses. As explained in the guide EOTech has long dominated the holographic sights market, although other optics manufacturers like Vortex are starting to integrate them into their product lines. Primary Arms currently has 20 EOTech and 1 Vortex Holographic sight available for purchase on their website.

Prism Scopes

Prism scopes use a different optics display system than a traditional red dot or holographic sight. Instead of projecting a dot inside the optic, prism scopes use a roof-prism optical system. These scopes are useful for anyone, but they are especially useful for people with astigmatism whose eyes don’t resolve the focus of objects the same as other people. Shooters who are looking for an optic that compensates for astigmatism appreciate how a prism scope displays a crisp, clear sight picture.

Primary Arms offers prism scopes that have the ACSS reticle etched into the scope. Here’s what Kevin Creighton has to say about the Primary Arms 1X Compact Prism Scope:

This is where Primary Arms’ new 1X Compact Prism Scope comes in handy. Because it uses a roof-prism optical system, the sight picture, even with my astigmatism, is clear and free from blurring, leading to more-accurate shots at longer ranges, and because it’s a 1X optic, your field of view matches what your eyes see, allowing you to pick up new targets quickly.

Here’s the introductory video that Primary Arms released for their 2.5x Compact Prism Scope.

Thermal Scopes

There are three thermal scopes available on the Primary Arms website with white-hot, black-hot, or color mode. All of them are manufactured by American Tech Network.

Handguns

Currently, Primary Arms has 189 complete handguns from 15 different manufacturers available on their site. Caliber ranges are from .22 LR to 10mm auto. They have 41 Glock pistols ranging from sub-compact to full size. Other brands include Sig Sauer, Taurus, Springfield Armory, and more. However, as mentioned before, product discontinuations and new product releases keep that number in flux. To stay up to date on what pistols they have available, click here.

Short Barrel Rifles/ Suppressors

Primary Arms offers products in two categories that fall under the National Firearms Act (NFA) regulations. They are short-barreled rifles, meaning that the barrel is shorter than 16 inches, and sound suppressors. Each of the four short-barreled shotguns available through Primary Arms is manufactured by Daniel Defense. The 22 sound suppressors hail from several different manufacturers including Daniel Defense and SureFire.

Gun Parts

If you need to find a part to fix or upgrade your firearm, Primary Arms has got you covered. According to PA:

With over 100,000 parts in stock, Primary Arms is your ground zero for gun parts and all things firearm related. Specializing in rifle parts, and AK-47 gun parts, Primary Arms carries gun parts for everything from handguns to AR-15s & 308s. Browse our selection of barrels, gas blocks, slings, stocks, and more…

Accessories

The accessories category is practically limitless at Primary Arms. Whether you need something for your shotgun or for a pistol, you’ll likely find it here. Let’s say you need a new slide for your handgun. Simply go to the Primary Arms “Gun Parts” department, click on “Handgun slides,” and you’ll see that they have 53 different slide options to choose from. You can further refine your search by clicking on the brand that you’re looking for. Easy peasy.

Firearm Maintenance

What happens when you don’t clean your gun? Well, it’s more likely to malfunction, and what serious gun owner wants that? A poorly maintained firearm can accumulate dirt or grease in or around the chamber, causing failure to feed. Failure to eject is another malfunction that can occur if the firearm is dirty or if the chamber is corroded. “Stovepipe” is another name for failure to eject, because the spent cartridge can be trapped in the ejection port sticking straight up in the air.

Stovepipe firearm malfunction
Nobody enjoys this.

Knowing how important proper maintenance is in order to keep your firearm in full service, Primary Arms has nearly 400 tools and kits available to its customers. Their firearm maintenance products range from basic cleaning kits to professional armorer and gunsmithing tools. Here’s how they put it:

Primary Arms has everything to keep your gun in tip top shape. Check out our selection of gun maintenance kits and accessories to keep your firearms in top condition. Maintaining the proper function of your firearm is important. The right lubricants and solvents will make sure that your firearms don’t lock -up, accumulate rust, or begin corroding. Don’t forget, it never hurts to RTFM!

Knives

So far everything we’ve covered about Primary Arms has been somehow firearm related. But there’s one last department we should look at that definitely falls into the tactical/EDC category—knives. There are 45 knives from seven different manufacturers available on the Primary Arms website, including Benchmade and Ka-Bar. They offer both fixed and folding options, with products that fit any budget at prices ranging from $9.49 to $272.

Stepping Up to Market Demand

After looking at all that Primary Arms has to offer, it seems pretty obvious why it has experienced so much growth in such a relatively short period of time. Between its top-notch customer service, wide selection of products in various price ranges, and driven marketing efforts, they’re sure to stay on track with market demand. Anyone who is interested in staying up to date with Primary Arms promotions and releases can sign up for their email list. According to Dina Sanders,

Email marketing is big for us as we over 7k SKU’s on our website and we are always bringing awareness to our customers letting them know our latest sales, new products, and promotions. We also work with our industry partners, vendors and social media influencers on cross-promotions and product awareness.

The Primary Arms Athena BPR mil reticle
On scope! Athena BPR mil reticle.

Learn more about them at PrimaryArms.com.

Follow them on the Book of Face, and on Instagram.

Subscribe to their YouTube channel to stay up to date with their latest streamings.

You can also follow them on LinkedIn, where Primary Arms describes itself thusly:

“Primary Arms is a leading manufacturer and retailer (online & brick-and-mortar) as well as a wholesale distributor (B2B) in the outdoor, sporting goods, and firearms and accessories industry. We are one of the fastest-growing E-commerce retailers known for excellent customer experience and great prices. Great customer service aside, we are also known for our line of scopes that feature the patented ACSS reticle system and currently export to 17 countries including the UK, New Zealand, and Canada with that list continuing to grow. Since founding in 2007 by Marshall Lerner, the company has grown exponentially every year. The current team is over 150 people strong located in sunny Houston, TX in a brand-new office with state-of-the-art facilities. Primary Arms uses advanced technology for most of the applications including ERP and E-Commerce systems hosted in the Cloud. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, Primary Arms is proud to offer outstanding customer service and game-changing products to people around the world.”

Watch for reviews and news here.

Read more about Primary Arms

 

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Stephanie Kimmell

Stephanie Kimmell is the firstborn daughter of Missouri's Pecan King, worthy scion of a Vietnam veteran sailor turned mad engineer-orchardist-inventor-genius. Formerly a Certified Professional Midwife, delivering babies at home, she's now a student at Pittsburgh State University. A Zymurgist greatly interested in the decoction of fermented barley and hops, she is in many ways a modern amalgam of Esther Hobart Morris, Rebecca Boone, and Nellie Bly. She hunts, butchers, and will cook most anything. When not studying or writing, she makes soaps and salves, spins wool, and occasionally makes cheese from cows she milked herself. Kimmell is a driven epistemophilic who loves live music and all sorts of beer.It will be interesting indeed to see what she writes in the coming days.


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