Vortex has quickly become one of the dominant names in the optic world. They make a little bit of everything, and this includes rifle, shotgun, and handgun optics on top of binoculars, spotting scopes, and similar tools. Today we are going to be talking about their weapon’s optics, but if you are in need of binos and spotting scopes, Vortex is also tough to beat. Today we are going to take a handful of optics out of Vortex’s very large catalog and break down why they are the best optics in that big catalog.
We are breaking down the Vortex catalog via a number of different categories that provide shooters with any weapon an option for optical enhancement.
Who Is Vortex?
Vortex has been kicking around since 1986 and is an American-made and owned company. Vortex is also a veteran-owned and family-operated business with the Hamilton family still at the helm. Vortex started small but has quickly grown into a 300 person team, bringing you a wide variety of optics. Vortex both produces American-made optics and outsources to foreign manufacturers to drive down prices. They make products for professionals and plinkers at a wide variety of price points to offer a little something for everyone.
Breaking Down Optic Types
Speaking of something for everyone, it’s time we looked at all the various optic types that Vortex produces. We’ll define several phrases and terms you’ll see throughout this article here. Hopefully, this will help guide you through the article, and if you feel lost, scroll back here to find your way home.
Red Dots – Red dot optics are the simplest, most intuitive option for everything from handguns to rifles and even shotguns. Toss a red dot on a weapon, and you have an awesome option for 0 to 200 yards or so. The name red dot comes from the fact your reticle is a small, red dot. Once zeroed, all the shooter really needs to do is put the dot on the target and pull the trigger.
Red dots come in a variety of sizes, so I’ve broken the category into standard and mini red dots.
Mini Red Dots– Mini red dots are tiny little optics that are often an open emitter design that’s almost nothing more than a window and small base. They utilize coin-style batteries and are small and light enough to be mounted on handguns. They work well on shotguns and are a great choice as a backup sight to a magnified optic.
Prism – Prism, or prismatic, sights are simplistic fixed power sights that mix the simplicity of a red dot with the features of a magnified optic. Prisms feature lower magnification settings ranging from no magnification up to 5X. These optics are very compact and feature glass etched reticles, illuminated reticles and often feature a robust reticle for range estimation and windage.
LPVO – LPVO stands for low power variable optic, and these LPVOs have become the belle of the optic’s ball as of late. They often feature a magnification range between 1X and either 6X, 8X, or 10X. The wide variety of magnification settings allow these optics to be incredibly versatile for carbines like the AR 15. LPVOs are the future of modern optics, with Special Operations forces and the Marine Corps adopting them.
Variable – Traditional variable optics provide a higher level of magnification on either end of the spectrum. They can range from the modest 2-7X to something like 6-24X and beyond. Variable optics are quite popular with hunters and long-range shooters with full-powered rifles. Into the tactical world, a DM or sniper would utilize the more powerful variable optic.
The Best Vortex Optics
- Red Dot – SPARC Solar
- Holographic – AMG UH-1 Gen 2
- Prism – Spitfire HD gen 2 3X
- LPVO – Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X
- Variable – Diamondback 3-9X
- Long Range – Viper HSLR 6-24×50
- Mini Red Dot – Venom Red Dot
The Best Vortex Optics
Best Vortex Optics Specifications
Below we’ve lined up our list of the Best Vortex Optics. This is a great overview to see the specifications of these products and how they’re similar and how they differ.
|SPARC Solar||1X||2 MOA Dot||2.6 inches||5.9 ounces|
|AMG UH-1 Gen 2||1X||EBR-CQB||3.9 inches||11.6 ounces|
|Spitfire HD Gen 2 3X||3X||AR-BDC4||3 inches||9 ounces|
|Razor HD Gen 3||1-10X||EBR 9 in MRAD or MOA||10.1 inches||21.5 ounces|
|Vortex Diamondback||3-9X||Dead Hold or V-Plex||11.61 inches||14.5 ounces|
|Viper HSLR 6-24x50||6-24X||XLR||15.41 inches||21.8 ounces|
|Venom||1X||3 or 6 MOA Dot||1.9 inches||1.1 ounces|
Best Vortex Optics Reviews
Now we’ll take our list and review each item looking at each of their pros and cons as well as price point.
SPARC Solar Specs
- Magnification 1X
- Reticle 2 MOA Dot
- Length 2.6 inches
- Weight 5.9 ounces
SPARC Solar Review
The second generation of the SPARC series just premiered, and it already dominates over other Vortex offerings. The little SPARC series has grown into the SPARC Solar, which combines a standard 2032 battery with a solar panel for a dual fuel design. The SPARC recognizes external brightness and automatically swaps to solar power. This allows the battery to last up to 150K hours.
The 2 MOA dot is extremely crisp and clear. It’s perfect for carbine usage and well suited for stocked long guns in general. The brightness levels include ten daytime settings and 2-night vision settings. Big buttons mounted to the side made swapping brightness levels on the fly quite easy. Ergonomically the optic is very clean and easy to use. It’s quite light and falls into the compact level of red dots.
Vortex wisely made the mounting footprint compatible with Aimpoint T series optics. This opens up your options for mounts extensively. The SPARC solar comes with both a high and low mount. This makes it easy to use the optic on AR 15s as well as shotguns, PCCs, and whatever else you want to toss it on.
SPARC Solar Pros and Cons
- 150K battery life
- Solar Backup
- Multiple Mounting Options
- Compact and Lightweight
- 1 MOA Adjustment graduations limit the precision with magnifier.
SPARC Solar Deals
AMG UH-1 Gen 2
- Magnification 1X
- Reticle EBR-CQB
- Length 3.9 inches
- Weight 11.6 Ounces
AMG UH-1 Gen 2 Review
Holographic optics often get stuck with the red dot moniker, but that’s not truly accurate. The AMG UH-1 ‘Huey’ Gen 2 is one of two real holographic optics on the market. Holographic optics offer some advantages over red dots, including more complicated reticles, the ability to work with a broken lens. They often provide a square, peripheral vision filling design. Heck, they are a much better choice if you have astigmatism.
The Huey is Vortex’s answer to Eotech. The optic provides a more rugged holographic design with a complete hood from the lens to the rear of the topic. Holographic optics are already tough, but this one takes the cake. The downside is the heavier overall optic, but reliability always has a cost.
The UH-1 utilizes the Vortex QB reticle, which provides a versatile aiming option for a wide variety of scenarios. Obviously, it’s great from 0 to 200 yards. The bottom portion of this big reticle even helps account for mechanical offset so precise CQB shots can be made. When paired with a magnifier, you can easily reach out to the 400-yard line and beyond.
The Gen 2 variant now comes with night vision compatible brightness settings. A special NV button will instantly drop the brightness to NVG-approved levels. Gone from a lit building to a dark night and vice versa has never been easier.
AMG UH-1 Gen 2 Pros and Cons
- Extremely Rugged
- Nightvision Compatible
- Awesome reticle
- A little hefty
AMG UH-1 Gen 2 Deals
Spitfire HD Gen 2 Specs
- Magnification 3X
- Reticle AR-BDC4
- Length 3 inches
- Weight 9 ounces
Spitfire HD Gen 2 Review
Vortex loves long names, and the Spitfire HD Gen 2 3X prism sight is no different. Although, it’s an awfully long name for such a small optic. The Spitfire HD Gen 2 breaks the mold by being roughly compact red dot size. It’s only 3 inches long and weighs a mere 9 ounces. That makes it smaller and lighter than several red dots on the market.
The Spitfire HD Gen 2 provides a fixed 3X level of magnification that grants you much more long-range potential than any red dot. At the same time, it’s nowhere near the size or weight of an LPVO. It falls between the two and offers an outstanding combination of close and moderate range use. At point-blank use, a two-eyed shooting style combined with the brightly illuminated reticle to get on target and engage without hesitation.
The Vortex Spitfire HD Gen 2 packs a great reticle that features a large illuminated portion for close encounter use and a combination of hash marks for windage and elevation estimation. As a BDC reticle, it’s regulated for use with 5.56 rounds and allows you to drop rounds into a target at 600 yards. It’s an awesome option if you want a lightweight optic with a small footprint that also provides some magnification.
Spitfire HD Gen 2 Pros and Cons
- Super compact
- Clear glass
- 1 MOA adjustment on a magnified optic is silly.
Spitfire HD Gen 2 Deals
Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X Specs
- Magnification 1-10X
- Reticle EBR 9 in MRAD or MOA
- Length 10.1 inches
- Weight 21.5 ounces
Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X Review
1-10X LPVOs push the limits to what a Low power variable optic can be. Vortex didn’t create the first 1-10X, but they did develop one of the earlier models, and upon release, it became an instant dominator in that 1-10X space. Mostly because Vortex must have made a deal with the devil to produce a 1-10X optic that’s the same weight and length as their 1-6X Razor Gen 2-E. At the same time, no magnification or lens quality was sacrificed.
The Razor HD Gen 3 packs a lot of magnification in a relatively small package. The Razor 1-6X series became popular with the SOCOM crowd, and it’s well-proven. Choosing that as the skeleton on which they built the 1-10X makes a ton of sense. They churned out a very versatile and durable optic that allows one optic to be used for a multitude of roles.
It’s perfect for designated marksmen, regular troops, hunters, competitors, plinkers, and whoever else needs a do everything optic. The only thing it would be poorly suited for is ultra-long-range sniping. The Razor packs the awesome EBR-9 reticle, which gives you a pyramid-style reticle for instant and immediate compensation for distance and windage.
Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X Pros and Cons
- Light and Compact for a 1-10X
- Extremely Rugged
- Unbeatable Versatility
Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X Deals
Diamondback 3-9X Specs
- Magnification 3-9X
- Reticle Dead Hold or V-Plex
- Length 11.61 inches
- Weight 14.5 ounces
Diamondback 3-9X Review
The 3-9X magnification range is one of the most classic variable ranges on the market. It provides a versatile magnification range combined with a light and compact optic. The Diamondback from Vortex provides that standard magnification range with all the quality of Vortex optics. It’s perfect for hunters looking to conquer a variety of ranges. 3-9X also packs a punch and gives you an outstanding range for both close and moderate range shooting.
You can really zoom in on your animal of choice and make a precise and accurate shot to humanely kill an animal. The Diamondback also makes it easy to spot that animal regardless of how well camouflaged they may naturally be. The crystal clear glass and high definition lenses combined with the lens coating provide a bright and vivid picture. You can easily see a brown coyote among a field of brown, knee-high grass.
The Diamondback is superbly simple and doesn’t toss a ton of useless features at you that raise the price without raising performance. One reticle allows for ballistic drop estimation and provides a rather clear and unobstructed sight picture. It’s an excellent combination that makes the reticle versatile without providing too much input. The V plex is a simple crosshair reticle if you want something even simpler.
Diamondback 3-9X Pros and Cons
- Super Clear Glass
- Durable and Well Made
- Limited Use Beyond Hunting
Diamondback 3-9X Deals
Viper HSLR 6-24×50 Specs
- Magnification 6-24X
- Reticle XLR
- Length 15.41 inches
- Weight 21.8 ounces
Viper HSLR 6-24×50 Review
Long-range isn’t an easy term to nail down. For some, long-range means 800 yards. For others, it might mean several miles. With that in mind, I think the Viper HSLR 6-24×50 provides a no-nonsense long-range optic that most shooters will agree checks that long-range box. The Viper HSLR 6-24×50 packs a versatile magnification range that will work at 500 yards, or 1,000 yards, or beyond, depending on the target and shooter.
To ensure you can see your target, Vortex utilizes extra-low dispersion glass that grants the shooter the ability to use that 24X power without blurriness or dispersion. You’ll see your target and what surrounds it in vivid color. Your sight picture will always be crisp and sharp. All the magnification in the world means nothing without good glass, and the Viper HSLR 6-24×50 packs a potent punch in its glass selection.
The XLR reticle provides rough features to fill an article with. It’s a pyramid-style design that gives you the on-the-fly options for range and windage estimation. It’s busy but super handy and perfect for long-range shooting. The reticle and fingertip adjustable turrets make it quite easy to get on target and stay on target with the Viper HSLR 6-24×50.
Viper HSLR 6-24×50 Pros and Cons
- Extremely clear glass
- Awesome Reticle
- Relatively lightweight
- Reticle doesn’t come in MRAD
Viper HSLR 6-24×50 Deals
Venom Red Dot Specs
- Magnification 1X
- Reticle 3 or 6 MOA Dot
- Length 1.9 inches
- Weight 1.1 ounces
Venom Red Dot Review
Vortex makes two mini red dots, and in my opinion, it’s tough to beat the Venom. I did a side-by-side examination of the two and found the Venom to be more versatile and better suited for a variety of firearms. The Venom will work with rifles, shotguns, and handguns. It uses the popular Docter footprint that makes it easy to use with various mounts, as well as systems like the Glock MOS.
Shooters can choose between a 3 or 6 MOA dot. A 3 MOA dot is more precise for use with PCCs and rifles, and the bigger 6 MOA dot makes finding the dot faster for shotguns and handguns. The dual controls allow you to adjust through 10 different brightness modes. It’s certainly bright enough for bright daylight situations.
Swapping batteries is simple because the battery compartment is on top of the optic—no need to dismount the optic to swap it around. The Venom comes with a low-profile Picatinny mount, or it be directly attached to a pistol cut for an optic. It’s a stout optic that can take recoil and abuse with a smile on its face.
Venom Red Dot Pros and Cons
- Top Loading Battery
- Not Duty Level Tough
Venom Red Dot Deals
Best Vortex Optics – Buyers Guide
Maybe you’re asking, why Vortex? Vortex makes a wide variety of optics, and when I’m shopping for a particular optic, I always check Vortex. These days they seem to be embracing making their optics better while also keeping them lighter and more compact. I appreciate that innovation, and that often gets them my hard-earned money.
Additionally, their warranty is tough to beat. It’s a lifetime warranty that doesn’t require a receipt and is transferable between owners. They’ll cover flaws and defects without complaint on all their optics. This includes their premium optics as well as their more budget-friendly options. It’s all covered from the ground up, and Vortex customer service scores high in my experience.
Who Uses Vortex?
A good way to measure a company’s performance record is to look at who uses Vortex optics. Examine the professional shooters who choose Vortex over other optics. These could be pro shooters, police officers, firearms instructors, and even the United States military. All of these provide living testaments to an optic’s overall quality.
Vortex famously found acceptance in the Special Operations community with the Razor Gen 2 1-6X LPVO. The optic founds its way onto the rifles of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Marine Recon Commandos. In a paper by the Department of Homeland Security called the Magnifying Patrol Rifle Scopes Assessment Report, Vortex scored a second-place victory among optics with much higher price points.
The Precision Rifle Series is a high-level competition that involves dynamic shooting at various ranges with precision guns. Since 2021 Vortex has remained represented by PRS shooters and is used by at least 15% of PRS shooters. These numbers come from the Precision Rifle Blog.
Vortex has become such a recognizable brand for a reason. They make damn fine optics.
Which Optic For What?
Before we go, let’s talk a little bit about the various roles optics fill. Since Vortex makes so many optics, it’s easy to do all your optic shopping with one company. So let’s talk about home defense uses and what optics from Vortex will work best in these roles.
Home Defense – SPARC Solar or UH-1
Home defense is all about close quarter’s shooting. In this realm, there is nothing better than a red dot or holographic sight. The unlimited eye relief and essentially open eyebox make it easy to get on target quickly, fast, and in a hurry. In that role, both the UH-1 and SPARC Solar dominate.
Hunting – Diamondback – SPARC Solar – Venom – Razor Gen 3 HD
Hunting can be done with nearly any optic. Different ranges will separate magnified optics from reflex optics. Individual needs of the shooter vary widely depending on the terrain. Almost any optic can work for hunting, and shooters should match their optic to their environment. The Diamondback provides a very versatile option for most environments, and there is a reason why 3-9X rules the hunting market.
Competition – UH-1 – Venom – Razor Gen 3 HD – Viper HSLR 6-24×50
Competition is an open realm with several subcategories. If you are shooting 3-Gun, you might want a UH-1 for your shotgun, a venom for your handgun, and a Razor Gen 3 HD for your rifle. For a USPSA PCC match, the UH-1 dominates, but for long-range precision shooting, the Viper HSLR 6-24×50 is going to be tough to beat.
Tactical – UH-1 – Razor Gen 3 HD – Spitfire HD Gen 2
The tactical world requires more than just a clear optic, but you need a tough optic. This will toss out some of the more common options. The UH-1 provides a reflexive optic for close-range use but can be perfectly paired with a magnifier to extend your range. The Spitfire gives you a rugged prism optic that has a very small footprint. If you need something that maximizes versatility and weight, and size doesn’t matter, check out the Razor Gen 3 HD.
A Spinning Vortex
Vortex optics has done a fantastic job of quickly conquering the market. They make a little bit of everything at basically every price point. From budget to pro-grade, Vortex offers every shooter something for nearly any weapon platform. It’s tough to pick just a few, but I think I covered the best Vortex has to offer for various roles.
What do you think? Let us know below.
February 6, 2023
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