At first glance, these two red dots might seem like they are essentially the same. For someone who doesn’t have strong feelings about red dots in general, that perception is correct.
However, the small and subtle differences between these two red dot options can add up to quite a bit if you’re particular about your optics.
For the non-snob, the Romeo MSR is cheaper, so just go buy that one and it’s unlikely you’ll regret it.
For those of us who spend way too much time chasing the ever-elusive ‘perfect’ optic, however, we’re about to dive way deeper into these two red dots than any uninitiated folk would predict.
What Is the Main Difference Between the Romeo MSR and the Romeo 5?
This is the tricky thing about these two optics: there isn’t one main thing that differentiates them, but there are a lot of little differences. If I were to pick one thing to be the main difference, it would either be the price (MSR is cheaper) or the ability to get a green dot version (again, MSR).
You can get a green dot in the Romeo 5 form factor, but you have to pay even more for the Romeo 5 XDR in order to do so.
Honestly, though the price isn’t that different between the two optics, and it gets even smaller if you have to purchase a separate riser mount for the MSR because you don’t like the one it comes with.
Romeo MSR vs. Romeo 5: A Detailed Comparison and Breakdown
Major Differences Between Romeo MSR and Romeo 5
History and Background:
- The Romeo 5 has been around for longer and has a little bit more of a reputation than the MSR. It’s reliable, functional, and doesn’t skimp in any of the important areas.
- The MSR hasn’t been around long enough to prove itself quite as definitively yet, but all reports so far are that it’s a good offering that holds up well.
A Green Dot Option:
- If you want a green dot, then the rest of this article doesn’t matter: buy the MSR.
- The Romeo 5 doesn’t come with a green dot option unless you go up to the Romeo 5 XDR, which isn’t part of this comparison as it really is a completely different model from the original 5.
- Green dots can be good for folks with astigmatism, as the green light doesn’t flare or distort as much as red light can. Green dots can also be better for daylight use, but in my experience not only are red dots usable in daylight, but you often don’t even need to max out the brightness of a red dot for good daylight usage.
- Some folks prefer green dots for other reasons, and if it’s important enough for you that you don’t mind the sacrifices that come with the MSR, then more power to you.
- MOTAC stands for “motion activated”; only the Romeo 5 has MOTAC.
- The Romeo MSR does not have any form of motion activation. This is in spite of the actual Amazon listing featuring a picture of a product box that claims that the optic has it. No MOTAC for the MSR. Not a thing. I can personally confirm as an owner of an MSR.
- Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a knock on the MSR – there are plenty of people who don’t like MOTAC and don’t want to use it. While you can disable and re-enable the MOTAC on the Romeo 5, why pay extra for it just to disable it? So if it’s a feature that you aren’t really interested in or don’t care about, this could be a good reason to save some money.
The Included Riser Mount:
- Both dots come with a 1.41” absolute co-witness riser mount that will line the sights up with standard mil-spec iron sights on an AR-15 variant. They are also both compatible with other mounts, but the Romeo 5 also comes with a low mount that gets it just barely above the pic rail by itself.
- That could be fine, but probably only on a shorter firearm and mounted in the scout scope position rather than further back like you would normally see. The trick with both of these is that if you want a lower ⅓ co-witness then you’ll need to purchase an additional riser mount.
- The two riser mounts are not stackable. The male and female sides are different and incompatible, so you can’t just stack the low riser on top of the 1.41” riser and get a lower ⅓ co-witness on the Romeo 5. It’s just a question of buying the right riser mount in addition to the optic.
- If you want to mount your optic low, then you won’t save as much money on the MSR as you might think because you’ll have to purchase a separate riser.
- The MSR doesn’t have “turrets” per se, in that turrets usually stick out from the main body of the optic, and the MSR’s adjustment dials do not stick out. They are coin operated, and there is no protection from the elements or bumps and scrapes for them.
- The Romeo 5, by contrast, does have capped turrets to keep them safe in a wider variety of circumstances. That said, the turrets on the MSR being burrowed into the body of the optic itself actually feels pretty well protected, and I’m not super worried about them.
Button-Off Vs. Detent Off:
- This is a functionality question that actually makes a big difference for a lot of folks, and it’s about how you dial to different brightness settings and turn the optic off.
- For the Romeo 5, if you have MOTAC enabled, then you might not worry about turning the optic off at all; you just let the optic turn itself off. But if you’ve disabled the MOTAC, then you’ll turn the optic on and off by pressing and holding one of the brightness buttons.
- The MSR, on the other hand, has a more traditional numbered dial on the top, which is how you go to the brightness setting that you want. To turn the optic off, you just turn the dial between any two numbers, where there is an extra detent to catch the dial and the optic will shut off.
- The Romeo 5 will remember the brightness setting that you last used before you turned off the optic, so when you kick it back on it will start you right where you left off. The MSR can mimic this functionality by letting you use the space between any two numbers as an off-switch. You can just sit next to the brightness setting you want to jump straight to when you turn it back on.
Battery Size & Battery Life:
- Battery life on the Romeo 5 is about double the advertised battery life on the MSR. The primary reason for this is that the Romeo 5 takes a bigger battery.
- The Romeo 5 takes a CR2032 battery while the MSR only takes a CR1632.
- Supposedly the MSR will give you 20,000 hours of battery life while the Romeo 5 will give you 40,000 hours. Actual performance is probably going to be far less than that, but considering that the 5 has MOTAC to keep it from draining battery when you forget to turn it off, there is likely a significant difference in practical use.
Flip-Up Lens Covers:
- The MSR comes with flip-up (or down) lens covers to keep things protected. The Romeo 5 has a rubber bikini-style lens covers that are molded so that they only fit over the lenses if you turn them to exactly the right angle. It’s hard to explain without showing.
Brightness settings: (10 vs 8)
- As another point for the MSR, it has 10 daylight brightness settings compared to the Romeo 5’s 8. Now will this matter in practice? Nah, probably not, but it’s still nice to have just in case.
- For clarity, the extra two brightness settings seem to be on the high end of the spectrum, so you can get a little more visibility in the brightest daylight shooting situations compared to the Romeo 5.
- Keep in mind: if you do this you’ll significantly reduce your battery life, so make sure not to leave it on unless you are actively using it.
- I have found the Romeo 5’s brightness to be flexible enough to use in both low light and daylight situations without any issue, but it did disappear pretty much completely in the snow during the day.
Major Similarities Between Romeo MSR and Romeo 5
2 MOA Dot:
- Both of these optics have a 2 MOA dot, but at least for the two that I have in-hand, the dot on the MSR is noticeably crisper. I think this is something that probably varies from model to model, but it’s worth noting the difference.
- A 2 MOA dot is what I would consider to be generally the most versatile size of dot. It’s large enough to see clearly without a magnifier, but small enough that if you use it with a 3x magnifier then it is still only a 6 MOA dot and it doesn’t occlude your target area very much.
- If your priority is short range shooting with faster target acquisition, then you can shave some milliseconds off by getting an optic with a larger dot or a different reticle like a circle-dot combination or something similar. You won’t find those here, though.
1 MOA Adjustments:
- I would personally have appreciated ½ adjustments, but I’ll admit that’s mostly just a weird quirk of mine. 1 MOA just seems too large.
- Self-deprecation aside, it does make these dots less appealing to pair with a magnifier (Sig makes a magnifier specifically for the Romeo series, aptly named the “Juliet”). It’s less compelling to go through the expense of extending the range of the optic with a magnifier when you can already maximize the accuracy of the optic with your naked eye.
- Both have pic rail compatibility and come with a 1.41” mounting riser.
- The Romeo 5 comes with a low riser as well, but neither come with a riser that works for lower ⅓ co-witness.
- The connection between the optic and the riser is not standard picatinny or weaver, so you’ll need to buy a riser made specifically for the Romeo series if you want something at a different height.
Night Vision Compatibility:
- Both dots have 2 night vision compatible settings. I do not have a night vision device, so I have not personally pitted the two dots against each other in this manner, but from what I’ve been able to find online, they seem to be essentially equivalent.
- They both work well and will give a night vision user a functional aiming point without damaging the NVD.
Field of View:
- Since they are both 1x and are made by Sig, they have the same field of view. I haven’t noticed any difference between the two and I would consider them to be on par for the tube style of red dot sight. You’ll get more field of view out of a reflex-style open sight, but either way it’s hard to go wrong.
- These sights are both IPx7 waterproof, which means that they can theoretically be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. I have dunked them and tried them out and they both continued to function just fine.
- I have recently been told, however, that after submersion, the lifecycle of the product shortens dramatically. So the product will continue to work immediately after submersion and everything will seem to be fine, but then the product will stop working much sooner than it otherwise would.
- I have not had the opportunity to verify that one way or another (my Romeo 5 still works fine and I submerged it months ago), but it’s something to be aware of.
How to Choose Between the Romeo MSR and the Romeo 5 For Your Needs
Essentially, you should choose the optic that seems like a better fit for your situation.
If saving some money is going to make a big difference, then the MSR is a better choice. If MOTAC is important to you, then the 5 is a better choice.
Again, most of the differences between these two red dots are subtle in nature and come down more to personal preference than objective quality or basic functionality. Choosing between them has more to do with how you want your optic to operate rather than something you specifically need it to do.
The possible exceptions would (again) be MOTAC, long battery life, a green dot option, or an extra couple brightness settings.
I would argue that Holosun is better from a purely spec-based perspective, but that the Romeo line offers better value for the money. Holosuns are expensive, especially if you want the best they have to offer, while the Romeo line is priced competitively with far inferior models while offering pretty awesome optics.
There is no difference. Tread is just branding the 5 as being compatible with Sig’s M400 Tread rifle. They are the same optic, just with different packaging.
No, it does not. Yes, the amazon listing for the MSR is lying, and the MSR does not have any kind of auto-on, auto-off, or motion activation function. This is a big deal for a lot of people, so it’s important that we make that very clear.
Having both, if I had to choose to keep only one, I would probably choose the Romeo 5. I feel like it gives me more options with being able to use MOTAC if I want, and I don’t really notice the lower peak brightness in my usage of the red dot.
Bottom line, either of these dots will do just fine at any of the tasks that red dots in general are well-suited for: CQB, home defense, and even hunting out to 100 yards or so are all firmly within the capabilities of these two dots. The differences between them will only matter as much as you want them to.
If you want to shoot further out, do precision shooting, or want something more versatile, you might consider an LPVO or pairing one of these dots with a magnifier.