Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vortex Optics Strikefire II Redot Dot & Tripler Magnifier Review

Vortex Optics Strikefire II Redot Dot & Tripler Magnifier Review

Over the last 4 years, Vortex optics has jumped in and taken market share from the big brands so suddenly it shocked the industry. Vortex has been around since 2004, however within the last 3-4 years was when everyone really started taking note of Vortex.  After notable success with the uber picky three gun and precision shooting crowd, the Vortex name became synonymous with very high quality and prices on entry to premium optics which retail 20%-30% less than those from the big names like Bushnell, Burris, Streiner, Nikon, and Leupold. At this year's 2014 Shot Show, nearly every major optics manufacturer had specific offerings designed to go head to head with Vortex's price/value leading models and more than a few manufacturers released offerings the noted to specifically go for the throat of Vortex. I noticed that Vortex was not just sitting around waiting for the giants to crush them and introduced many new products and updated models this year.

One of those updates was to the Vortex Strikefire II, the company's extremely popular market dominating red dot. According to Vortex, they wanted to stay ahead of the competition with updates requested most by customers. From a distance anyway, the older and newer models look nearly identical, however the updated Strikefire II includes updated controls, settings, and body.

The main updates were simplified more streamlined controls, 1/2" shorter overall size, and two extra low night vision settings. Features and model variants carried over are models with both red or green dots or the less expensive single color red dot model. Retail on the red dot model is $229, however street price is down around the $180 price which is extremely competitive with similar otics on the market. Other features are the inclusion of a lower third co-witness height  cantilever mount which is always an appreciated addition to the box versus having to spend another $40 on the appropriate mount.

Many people ask why use a larger format red dot versus one of the smaller micro-dot red dots. The main reason is FOV (field of view). You can see more stuff within the optic and the Strikefire II offers a very large FOV. Generally a larger FOV equals faster target acquisition. For instance in a zombie apocalypse, I would want a maximum field of view and the same goes for hunting dangerous game. The Strikefire II is far from bulky, and Vortex shaved the profile down from last year's model just to assure a trim profile as possible to maximize FOV inside and outside the optic as well as driving the footprint down a bit in the process.

My one gripe is that the Strikefire II uses the CR2 battery as a power source versus everyone else on the planet using CR2032 wafer batteries for small red dots. I remember Vortex using a really nonstandard long running battery on my SPARC red dot which thankfully could be hacked to use CR2032 batteries by using a dime as a spacer, however this a bit better. The CR2 is in essence just a smaller CR123 battery and is available at most stores. You probably are not going to pick it up a Lowes, however Walgreens should have a good supply. The advantage with this battery is that it has a much longer running than wafer CR2032 batteries. With an average battery life of around 3000 hours (6000 hrs tops and 300 worse) and an auto 12-hour shut-off, even in extreme situations, you should see at least a year of life out of each battery. I just wish they would have gone the same route as Lucid powered by a widely available AAA battery or full sized CR123, however the CR2 power source works and delivers a long run time in an inexpensive and very light lithium battery format - stick six CR2 in the AR15’s grip and call it good for a minimum of 5-6 years.

The Strikefire II is a quality optic fully fog, water and shock proof with a nitrogen purged heavy duty 30mm body. The optic can take some serious punishment and keep working. To make the Strikefire II even more useful, Vortex introduced the VMX-3T Flip over magnifier aka "tripler" in 2013 to complement any of their own or competitors red dots.

The idea of the tripler was popularized in the military to add a instant magnification option to existing optics for larger shots and target identification.  Vortex’s flip over multiplier is similar to other top quality multipliers on the market. The Vortex VMX-3T is the a standard 3x magnification used across most of the industry, focusable eyepiece, and zero-able windage and elevation so you can use the Vortex tripler with any red dot.  

The included flip over mount on the VMX-3T is a bit different in that the flip mechanism is button operated from the front.  The front mounted button allows the shooter to either reach over with the primary hand or with with support hand. Rearward mounted buttons can be harder to work for the support hand to reach. I like this setup, however I am still more fond of the Eotech spring detent non-locking style flip over mount, however I could buy two of these triplers for the price of the Eotech model. I have witnessed some flip over mounts get a little wobbly, however I found the Vortex to be pretty tight and a bit more than competitors in its class. The mount can make or break a flip over tripler optic and in this case the mount does what it is supposed to.

The Vortex tripler works extremely well, is crystal clear, and solidly durable. If I put the unit side-by-side with Sub-$300 tripler competitors like Burris, I like the Vortex VMX-3T a bit better even if you don’t own a Vortex optic… but you, know, you probably should considering their quality.

For testing, I mounted the Vortex Strikefire Ii and the VMX-3T to my WMD NiBx coated Beast AR15 rifle chambered in 5.56 Nato. The WMD Beast chassis is an awesome rifle and the perfect “standard AR15” configuration platform to test what the Vortex setup delivers. The WMD Ultimate Chassis was completed with an ALG Defense Forend and Mission First Tactical grip and stock, and PWS Brake. 

The Vortex Strikefire II and VMX-3T setup mounted perfectly without problems. Like almost every red dot optic in the sub-$500 price range, the Strikefire II dot is a bit splashy and looked something like a teeny tiny squashed Nike logo identifiable when using the VMX-3T magnifier. I have come to expect that crisp totally uniform dot size is something you have to pony up big bucks for in a red dot and you just are not going to get that feature and level of quality in a sub-$500 red dot.  That noted the Vortex dot uniformity is still far above average and still better than some higher dollar red dots.

The Vortex Strikefire II remains one of the best deals when it comes to a robust military grade quality in something affordably priced in the sub-$300. The features are solid, the design is well thought out and the final performance and value is well above the price. On the WMD AR15 Beast, the Vortex combo delivered everything I could ask for from a defensive focused short range AR15 with the option to still accurately place dinner plate shots at the 300 yard mark.

My last and final observation on this Vortex Strikefire II and VMX-3T magnifier is that Vortex has not yet released a combo of what could be an awesome optic combo. These are sold separately as separate units, however I really…. really encourage Vortex to consider packaging these together as a kit for just a bit of a discount. I think it would be yet another great way for Vortex to continue it’s competitive strategy.
Cantilever Mount
Red/Green Dot or Red Dot Options
Lower 1/3 Co-Witness Cantilever Mount
Eye Relief - Unlimited
Magnification 1x
Length 5.6"
Weight 7.2 oz

Fully Multi-Coated Multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces increase light transmission.
Red/Green Dot Option Allows shooters a choice of dot color.

Single-Piece Chassis Compact and lightweight.
Waterproof O-ring seals prevent moisture, dust and debris from penetrating for reliable performance in all environments.
Fogproof Nitrogen gas purging delivers fogproof, waterproof performance.
Shockproof Rugged construction withstands recoil and impact.
Hard Anodized Finish Highly durable low-glare matte finish.
Operating Temperature Rated from -22 degrees to +140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cantilever Ring Mount Puts the optic bore center 40 mm above the base, providing lower 1/3 co-witness with iron sights on flat top AR-15 rifles.
Unlimited Eye Relief Non-critical eye relief for rapid target acquisition.
Adjustable Dot Intensity Provides ten variable illumination settings—the lowest two settings are night-vision compatible.
Battery Life 12-hour auto-shutdown feature maximizes battery life. CR-2 Battery. Typical battery life is 300 hours at maximum brightness and 6,000 hours at minimum brightness setting.

Simple, fast, effective—the push-button design of the VMX-3T engages and disengages the flip-mount, allowing the magnifier to lock in place. The result, 3x magnified or unmagnified views at will. Optics are fully multi-coated for optimal light transmission. Lightweight and tough; hard-coat-anodized machined-aluminum construction ensures durability. Internally nitrogen purged for reliable waterproof/fogproof performance. Ultimate magnified versatility for virtually any AR-height red dot sight.

Allows for lower 1/3 or absolute co-witness mounting heights and is ideal for shooters who want to increase the effective range of their red dot sight.
VIP Warranty Nitrogen Purged Waterproof
Magnification 3 x
Eye Relief 2.2 inches
Field of View 38.2 feet/100 yards
Tube Size 30 mm
Length 4.3 inches
Weight 11.9 oz
Product Manual (PDF) Download

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1 comment:

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