Insight Tech Gear MRDS Tactical Sight

With Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount
Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG

Some time ago the folks at Insight Tech Gear sent us a sample of their MRDS Mini Red Dot Sight for evaluation. It looked like a great product and we knew there would be interest in it, but it’s a small reflex sight that is designed to mount either on a Picatinny rail or to be mounted directly on a pistol slide that has been machined to accept it. Not having a modified 1911 and not wanting to machine a slide just to test this product, we were faced with a conundrum. We have access to an AR-15 with a Picatinny rail, and we have access to a couple of military surplus (“mil-surp”) rifles that have had rails added to create budget “scout” rifles … but we had no way to test the MRDS on a 1911, and because this is a 1911-oriented publication that’s what we wanted to do.

So the MRDS sat in the box while life went on. Until one day recently, in the course of looking for something in Brownells’ dedicated catalog of 1911 parts and accessories, quite by accident we stumbled across the listing for an add-on rail mount for 1911 pistols that requires no gunsmithing. Made (or at least marketed) by Aimtech, this mount simply screws onto the right side of the pistol, replacing the right side grip panel. It looked like exactly what we needed to test the MRDS. A quick e-mail to Larry Weeks at Brownells resulted in a sample of the Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount showing up in the mail a few days later. We were in business.

Insight MRDS

Reflex sights are rapidly gaining in popularity as their size and weight decrease. Early red dot sights were essentially red dot scopes with no magnification, but devices sporting somewhat conventional scope tubes ranging from 30mm to 40mm in diameter and three to four inches in length. They worked, but they were bulky, and battery life was limited. On the “tactical” side, the high-speed, low-drag people were shifting to “reflex” optics, which were (and are) different from red dot scopes on that there is no tube, and there isn’t an array of multiple lenses in the tube. The reflex sight works on the same principle as the “heads up” instrumentation displays in modern military aircraft, wherein the display is projected up onto the windscreen. With a reflex sight, the illuminated aiming point (a red dot in the case of the Insight MRDS, but a lighted chevron in other applications) is projected on a single plane lens.

The advantage of this arrangement is that there is no eye relief consideration. If you can see the lens, you can see the dot, regardless of how far away or how near the sight is to the eye. There is also no parallax in the sight itself … the only parallax is a function of the sight’s mounting height relative to the centerline of the bore.

I initially had some reservations about testing a red dot sight. Like many Caucasian males, I have a type of color vision defect called “Red-Green Weakness.” I have tried multiple older red dot scopes on rifles. I found that they were okay shooting indoors under controlled lighting, but outdoors on a sunny day the red dots were completely invisible, even at the highest brightness setting. A more expensive green dot sight of the same type proved to be more visible, and we find it noteworthy that today many of the tube-type dot sights/scopes are combination units, allowing user selection of red or green to suit the lighting conditions. Once we had the Insight MRDS mounted and figured out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a setting for any lighting condition, and that I never had a time when I couldn’t see the dot.

The MRDS arrived in a neat plastic storage box. Inside the box we found the sight itself, a metal protective shield, a molded rubber protective cover, an instruction book, a laminated Quick Reference Guide, a CR1632 “button” battery, and a cleaning brush. Insight also sent us a base that screws to the underside of the sight body to allow mounting on a Picatinny rail. The sight itself includes both 8mm mounting screws (for mounting the sight to a base without the protective shield) and 10mm screws (for mounting the sight to a base with the protective shield). Other base adapters are available to fit dovetails in some brands and models of pistols.

The battery compartment is on the top of the body, immediately behind the upright lens housing. The lid to the battery compartment is secured with two captive, Phillips head screws, and flips up. It is not removable, which addresses the probability of dropping it if a battery change were effected under genuine tactical conditions. Also, it is our understanding that some competitive reflex sights require dismounting the sight to replace the battery. That's not the case with the Insight MRDS; the battery cover is easily accessed from above, with no need to dismount the sight.

The body of the sight includes windage and elevation adjusters for zeroing the sight. The adjusting screws are click adjusting type, with each click representing 1 MOA. The operator manual includes instructions for zeroing the sight with a bore sighter, but these are suited to use on a rifle rather than to a pistol. We found that we were “on paper” at 25 feet out of the box, and it took only a few clicks to get our test bed zeroed.

There are four variations of the Insight MRDS available. Two have a 3.5 MOA dot and are available in black or tan, and two are equipped with a 7 MOA dot, also vailable in black or tan. Our test sight was the 3.5 MOA sight, in black.

Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount

We didn’t know what to expect from this accessory when we asked Brownells if we could borrow one to use with the Insight MRDS. To be honest, we weren’t expecting much, and we were very pleasantly surprised. The mount is made of very solid aluminum, and nicely finished in a matte black anodized coating. Mounting is extremely simple. For a quick and dirty mounting, simple remove the right side grip panel and screw the Aimtech mount on in its place.

However, grip screws and bushing weren’t intended to support the weight of accessories. The Insight MRDS is so light at 0.85 ounces that the grip screws alone would probably have been sufficient, but we went for the whole enchilada. The Aimtech mount includes two pins, to replace the mainspring housing pin and the hammer pin in the 1911 frame. The new pins have a recessed socket in the left end, and the right side of each extends beyond the body of the frame and is threaded to engage the grip panel portion of the mount. When fully mounted, the adapter is attached to the 1911 frame at four points, and is rock solid.

That’s all there is to it. No modifications to the pistol were required, and the mount can be removed or transferred to a different pistol at any time.

Putting It All Together

It took only a moment to attach the Insight MRDS to the Aimtech mount, and we were finally ready to head out to the range. Before we get to that, however, we should make two disclaimers:

First, the MRDS can be mounted directly to a modified slide. Such mounting has the advantages of no external adapters, and the line of the sight is much closer to the bore axis than with the Aimtech adapter.

Secondly, and conversely, by using the Aimtech mount we had a mounting that didn’t subject the MRDS to the continual, repetitive shock that would result from being mounted directly to the slide. The MRDS is designed and engineered to stand up to the shock, and all reports we have encountered suggest that it is up to the task … but we were not able to verify that.

The MRDS has an actuating button, and it was this that gave us the most trouble. In fact, we caused the trouble, for the most part, but it was one of those “guy thing” moments when we finally broke down and had to read the instructions to figure out what was going on.

The power button is located at the rear of the sight body, on the small, vertical rear surface. It is NOT a simple ON/OFF switch, and its use is not intuitive.

Pressing the button for less than one second turns it on. Upon power-up, the MRDS is in what Insight calls photodiode or Auto Gain mode. In this mode, the sight automatically detects the amount of ambient light and adjusts the brightness of the dot to a suitable level. According to the operator manual, in this mode the battery life is an incredible one year.

Another press of one second or less shifts the sight to manual mode, and successive presses will cycle through the four available manual settings and then back to Auto Gain mode. The first manual mode is High 1 (which is VERY bright … it was much too bright for use at the indoor range where we performed our testing), followed by High 2, then Low 1 and finally Low 2. Low 1 is suitable only for dimly lit environments, and Low 2 is so low that it cannot be seen by the naked eye. This setting is a true tactical setting, intended to be used in conjunction with night vision goggles. Pressing and holding the button for more than two seconds turns off the power.

At this point it is important to remind readers that your test cadre in this case has red green weakness. This was initially discovered by the U.S. Army, and caused them to not want me to be the guy who connected the little wires to the big bricks of plastic stuff that go “BOOM!” A number of years later, in civilian life, it was evaluated by an optometrist, who pronounced it a “severe” case. (Overall, red green weakness is found predominately in males, affecting approximately 8 to 10 percent of Caucasian males, 5 percent of Asian males, and 4 percent of African males.)

Although we could detect the red dot in the Auto Gain mode (and also in the Low 2 mode, in dim light), it was never bright enough to be of practical use. Carrying the sight from one space to another and shifting levels of illumination, we could see the level change. But … under no conditions was the dot bright enough to be used for reliable sighting in Auto Gain mode. In fact, looking at strongly back-lit scenes or objects, the dot was not visible at all.

As a result, we tested in manual mode. High 1 was much TOO bright, and we did our shooting using a mix of High 2 and Low 1. Being old enough to remember when a few minutes of constant use was enough to drain most batteries, we turned the MRDS off when changing targets and reloading magazines, which was especially inconvenient because the pushbutton (at least on our sample unit) did not click firmly to provide any tactile feedback that the button press had registered. Reviewing the literature after our range session, we discovered that the battery life even in the manual modes is sufficient that we could have just left the MRDS turned on. There’s a lesson here for us males: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.

Insight rates battery life as follows:

Photodiode mode . . . . Up to one year
High 1 . . . . . . . . . . . 36 hours
High 2 . . . . . . . . . . . 250 hours
Low 1 . . . . . . . . . . . 3250+ hours

In use, once I found a brightness level that was comfortable, shooting with the Insight MRDS was easy. The red dot stood out nicely, and it was a simple matter to place the dot on the intended point of impact and pull the trigger. However, using a device like this is a humbling and sobering experience. It is almost impossible, of course, to hold a handgun entirely motionless unless shooting from a rest. I have always believed that I have a fairly steady shooting grip. Watching that little dot move around as I attempted to “lock in” on a target put all such notions to rest. Especially at first, the reflex sight appears to magnify the motions of the hands and pistol relative to the target.

The other aspect that required some adjustment was finding the dot. This latter “issue” (which really isn’t an “issue,” but we have to call it something) would be much less obvious if the MRDS were mounted directly to the slide. On the Aimtech mount, the center of the reflex lens is positioned approximate 1¾ inches (45mm) higher than the line of the open sights on the top of the slide. After years of shooting through the open sights, the muscles of my hands and arms automatically brought the pistol up to the correct height for using those open sights. In this position, the red dot wasn’t even visible in the lens … the pistol had to be lowered to bring the dot into view.

This is not a criticism of the Insight MRDS. It is simply a fact that has to be recognized and dealt with. When M1911.ORG tested the STI Steel Master competition pistol some time ago, I and all the other shooters who tried the Steel Master observed the same problem. It just takes a bit of time to retrain the muscle memory to automatically bring the pistol to the right height for sighting through the reflex lens.

The Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount performed flawlessly. There was never any hint of looseness or movement of the mount relative to the pistol. We wanted to use the Aimtech on a full size 1911 and, because I am partial to Commanders, the full-size pistol we had available was an Argentinean Sistema M1927. This pistol is an exact clone of a U.S. military M1911A1, made in Argentina. As a clone of the M1911A1, it did not have a lowered and flared ejection port. We experienced a couple of random hangups when the ejected case got wedged between the ejection port and the Aimtech mount. Because 1911s with lowered and flared ejection ports tend to eject more horizontally and toward the rear, I doubt very much that this would be encountered using the Aimtech mount on any “modern” 1911. Since it adds a standard Weaver rail to a 1911 without any gunsmithing whatsoever, it’s a great way for anyone who wants to try using a scope, red dot sight, or reflex sight to do so without having to make any modifications whatsoever to their pistol. And different types of scopes can be swapped onto and off the pistol at any time.


Both the Insight MRDS Mini Red Dot Sight and the Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount performed above our expectations. The technology behind these optical sighting devices is progressing as rapidly as that of tactical flashlights (which Insight also makes), and today’s reflex sights are orders of magnitude smaller and more reliable than what was available even a few years ago. It is not, however, cheap … or even inexpensive. As befits a high-quality, tactical sighting instrument, the MRDS with shield and M1913 mount carries a list price of $699.99. Street prices will vary and we saw one Internet source advertising it at $559.99, but that’s still not “inexpensive.” The Insight MRDS is a top quality, precision sighting device that is intended for serious use under all conditions. For example, it is supposed to be waterproof to a depth of 66 feet for up to two hours. That’s not especially important to me, because I don’t make a practice of shooting under water. However, for a police officer on a duty weapon or for military personnel on tactical weapons, durability and reliability are paramount.

In fact, in discussing the draft of this review with a friend who is an LEO firearms and tactics instructor for one of the western United States state academies, as well as a certified 1911 armorer, he commented that he is seeing more and more uniformed officers using small, reflex sights such as the MRDS on their duty weapons. Compared with night sights, the reflex sight makes a lot of sense. There is no "in between" time of day, when there isn't enough light for unaided sights but it isn't quite dark enough for the illuminated vials of the nights sights to really stand out. And there's no need to acquire a sight "picture." With the reflex sight, if you can see the red dot on the target ... you're aimed. It isn't necessary to align any sights, or wonder whether the reason you don't see the front sight is that it's behind/below the rear sight, or if it's because the vial broke or got tired. In short, it appears that the Insight MRDS is on the cusp of an increasing trend.

The Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount lists in Brownells’ 2010 catalog for $66.99. Considering that using it rather than a gunsmith-fitted rail mount would probably save more in labor than the entire cost of the mount, it appears to represent a true bargain. The only downsides are that it does not work with an ambidextrous thumb safety or slide stop, and it won’t fit most holsters. There may be some competition holsters that will work with it or could be modified to work with it, and the mount would be ideal for bullseye type competitions (when optical sights are allowed) in which the pistol is not presented from a holster.

A final note regarding the Aimtech mount: It's versatile. Unlike mounting a specific device directly to the firearm, the Aimtech mount allows almost instantaneous changes from devices like the Insight MRDS to the older style red dot scopes, like this

and then to conventional pistol scopes, like this

M1911.ORG is grateful to Insight Technologies for the opportunity to evaluate the MRDS Mini Red Dot Sight, and we are especially grateful to Larry Weeks and Brownells for providing the Aimtech mount to allow us to test the MRDS on a 1911 pistol.

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Insight MRDS

Aiming Dot: 3.5 MOA or 7.0 MOA
Dot Intensity: Auto Adjust and Manual w/ 4 Settings
Run Time: Up To 1 Year
Run Time on High 1: 36 Hours (1.6mA)
Run Time on High 2: 250 Hours (0.433mA)
Run Time on Low 1: 3250+ Hours (0.04mA)
Interface Options: Fits Existing Doctor® Sight Mounts
Dimensions: 1.9"L x 1.1"W x 1.2"H (48mm x 28mm x 31mm)
Weight: 0.85 oz. w/Battery
Waterproof: To 66 Feet & Meets MIL-SPEC 810G
Lithium Battery Power: (1) 1632 Battery
Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty
MSRP: $699.99

Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount

Material: Aluminum Alloy
Finish: Black Anodized
Length: 5½” (140mm)
Height: 6” (153mm)
MSRP: $66.99


Insight MRDS

Insight Technology Incorporated
9 Akira Way
Londonderry, NH 03053
Tel: 877-509-2040 (Toll-free in U.S.)
Fax: 603-668-1084
Web Site:

Aimtech 1911 Grip Scope Mount

200 S. Front Street
Montezuma, IA 50171
Tel: 800-741-0015
Web Site: