July 28, 2020
When I was 19 years old, a buddy dragged me out to the shooting range for the first time in my life where I proceeded to thoroughly miss everything I aimed at. Being distinctly uncomfortable with failure, I headed over to the local gun store to purchase a firearm so I could practice. I walked out with my first firearm — a used Glock 31.
So what does it have to do with Meprolight, which this article is about? Well, the very first bit of gunsmithing I ever did was chucking the stock Glock sights and upgrading to Meprolight tritium sights. That’s the first time I heard of Meprolight, but the name kept on popping up over the years.
It so happens that fate took my professional career into electro-optics and on regular trips to Israel. That’s where Meprolight is based and where you see their products on many rifles carried by Israeli soldiers. Meprolight has been around for 30 years, and historically, their focus was on military applications.
Most companies that make sporting optics these days either started out as classic glass-and-metal optics manufacturers or as importers of OEM products. Meprolight has been an electro-optics company from the beginning, and they started out on military projects before entering the civilian market.
They make a broad range of different things that are not typically available to civilians. Some of the more innovative things happening now with weapon sights are at the border between optics and electronics. Meprolight is responsible for quite a few of them.
I am not going to go into any detail on the thermal and night-vision products that Meprolight makes. Similarly, they have rather clever iron and red-dot sights (RDS) for handguns (for instance, their FT Bullseye sight is really growing on me) that are outside the scope here.
The best-known rifle optic Meprolight makes is the M21. It is a dual-illuminated fiber optic/tritium sight that has been the primary optic of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for the last 20 years or so. When the M21 was designed, reliable LEDs with tens of thousands of hours of battery life weren’t yet available. The M21 is still remarkably relevant and can be had with several different reticle options. You can find it being sold for around $450 to $500.
It works surprisingly well for people with an astigmatism, and there is peace of mind in not having to worry about batteries. Still, in recent years, Meprolight pushed the development of their red-dot sights in two somewhat different directions, both involving clever integration of different electro-optic technologies.
The first one is the Meprolight MOR PRO that is similar to the M21 but on steroids with additional battery-powered LED illumination and up to two lasers. It has been in use with IDF troops for a little while and with a few other militaries around the world. The military version has a visible laser (red or green) and a noneye-safe infrared (IR) laser.
Laser apertures are integrated into the housing just below and to the sides of the red-dot window with remote pressure-switch activation. Mine has the green laser only. Despite two separate AA battery compartments, the sight can run on only one battery just fine, but two give you a little more piece of mind and a little more juice for the lasers.
The sight still offers you the fiber-optic and tritium illuminated dot that works without batteries. The lasers consume the lion’s share of the energy, and since I do not run them too much, I am still waiting for the batteries to run out.
Arguably, the cleverest thing about the MOR is when you sight in the red dot, the lasers adjust with it. Single elevation/windage adjustment takes care of both lasers and the reflex sight. MOR is a serious contender for landing on my home-defense gun once I spend some more time with it.
I like the redundancy of different illumination systems, and the integrated laser is a good thing to have in a pinch. I wish they would make a civilian version with some sort of a narrow-beam flashlight instead of the IR laser, but there may be technical issues with that. Still, having both a green laser and decent flashlight integrated into the body of a world-class reflex sight would really make it a home-defense dream. All this technology comes with a higher price tag, with these units ranging in price around $1,140 to $1,200 depending on the color of the illumination.
The other day sight from Meprolight I have been testing is the Foresight. On the outside, it looks similar to their RDSs and shares the housing and whatever optics are visible from the outside with it. Both are full-sized nonmagnified sights that weigh in the 10-ounce range. The RDS, in principle, is a somewhat conventional red dot with a large viewing window and an option of switching between several reticles. That’s not hugely unusual.
The interesting part about their RDS design is in how they achieve that impressively flat and clear field of view in a large 33x20mm window. With nearly all reflex sights, the screen you are looking through is a curved piece of glass — typically a doublet with two glass elements sandwiched together — that reflects the aiming dot and lets everything else through.
To be truly nonmagnified, which is critical for an undistorted view especially toward the edges, the front and back glass surfaces have to be perfectly parallel to each other. In quite a few budget and not-so-budget RDSs out there, there is a slight amount of magnification and distortion toward the edges of the window because of this parallelism requirement and edge-effect buildup.
Rather than try to solve that problem, Meprolight got rid of it entirely. All of the optical wizardry is happening in the base of the sight. The collimated beam with an aiming point is directed upward where there is a flat optical element at an approximately 45-degree angle reflecting the aiming dot toward your eye. That flat piece of glass is what you are looking through with the RDS or Foresight. All the curved optical elements are hidden in the base of the sight.
Also, in this design, the window you are looking through is all the way in the back of the sight body. When combined with a complete lack of magnification, these sights work well with magnifiers.
The Foresight shares that same fundamental optical design with the RDS but adds many layers of additional electronic sophistication. While you can run it as a regular RDS (they call it a low-power mode), the real fun starts when you turn on the augmented view. You are immediately greeted with additional information including an electronic compass, a sight leveler, display brightness and battery status. The last two disappear after a few seconds to keep the view uncluttered.
The Foresight has an integrated ambient-light sensor on the front of the housing, so the display automatically adjusts brightness (there is a manual mode, too) based on where the sight is pointed. Unlike the RDS that runs off of a regular AA battery, the Foresight has an integrated battery that is recharged via a USB-C connector hidden underneath a rubber cover. Recharging times are impressively fast.
With the reticle that is electronically generated, there aren’t really any moving parts inside the sight once everything is cinched down during the assembly. The zeroing process is a digital exercise.
Available for around $700, the Foresight comes with built-in Bluetooth connectivity and connects to Meprolight’s phone app that lets you select from a large array of reticles. It also opens the door to future reticle options and functionality.
For example, the shot counter and automatic zeroing (where you fire a group on a paper target and once you take a picture with your phone the app automatically calculates your zero) are currently in development. One useful feature that is already implemented is support for multiple firearm profiles. The app can save up to 10 distinct profiles with different zero settings and reticles.
The Foresight comes with an integrated quick-detach (QD) mount in case you plan to move it from gun to gun. Personally, I am mostly interested in keeping it on the same gun and supporting a good range of different ammo with and without a suppressor.
For example, with my .300 Blackout, I have plinking subsonic ammo, hunting subsonic ammo and hunting supersonic ammo. Once you throw a suppressor into the mix, that is six different profiles right there that the Foresight can easily support and seamlessly switch between. I think we will see a lot of development with augmented screens in weapon sights, so Meprolight is definitely ahead of the curve there.
I know this is article is appearing in Red Dot magazine, but we shouldn’t overlook the opposite end of Meprolight’s product line – their FRBS Self-Illuminated Backup Iron Sights (BUIS). Self-illuminated means tritium, and Meprolight has a long history with making tritium-equipped iron sights. Plus, you should never be without backup sights. You can find them online for around $150.
One of the problems I have always had with tritium sights is that when it is dark enough to see them, it is not always obvious how they should be best lined up since you see so little of the sight body. Meprolight solved that problem by integrating four small, round tritium vials into the body of the rear ghost ring and using a differently shaped and larger tritium insert in the front sight.
Regardless of the lighting conditions, lining up the sights is very distinctive. Aside from that, these take very little space on the rail and require no tools to adjust once mounted. The rear sight accommodates the windage adjustment and two apertures: a ghost ring and a small precision aperture. The front sight has an integrated toolless elevation adjustment. Both front and rear sight are securely held in open and closed positions by beefy springs, so they stay put.
Overall, Meprolight has a lot to offer, and most of their products are built to true Mil-Spec standards with battle-proven history. Meprolight has a U.S. facility to support warranty service and to better address the civilian market.
They sometimes march to the beat of their own drum, but they are innovative and worth a look.
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