Whether you don’t feel the need to drop many hundreds of dollars for an optic for what you do with your rifle or after completing your latest AR build, simply can’t afford a high-end scope, you may be overwhelmed by the many options in the $100 to $200 range. The issue isn’t finding an optic, it’s picking a good one.
Simply put, if you’re looking for a red dot scope, something without magnification, you can’t really go wrong with Vortex. Two of their models in particular stand out, the StrikeFire and the SPARC.
The Vortex StrikeFire is their lest expensive red dot sight. It comes in two models, a red dot/green dot sight that gives you the option of what color to illuminate your reticle with, as well as a bright red dot model that offers superior brightness in all conditions. The StrikeFire uses a 4 MOA dot for both models.
The smaller SPARC is only available in a red dot model, but it is more compact and uses a smaller, more precise 2 MOA dot. Both are nitrogen purged for waterproofing and constructed from aircraft aluminum for shock-proofing. They’re rated up to .375 Holland & Holland Magnum (4,500 ft/pounds of energy, compared to 1,300 or so for 5.56 NATO). Both can be found for less than $200. They’re pretty lightweight, under half a pound each, although the smaller SPARC has the StrikeFire beat in weight and dimensions by a couple of ounces.
Unlike many much more expensive optics, these red dot sights come with all you need to mount them to your rifle, too. These optics also come with a doubler for increasing the magnification from 1× to 2×. Because they have essentially infinite eye relief, you can mount them as far forward or as far back as you like.
These optics have many, many people who will vouch for them for their durability and quality construction, as well as strong feature-set including night vision compatibility. Many troops have taken Vortex optics into the field and put them through their paces and they’ve proven to be able to withstand a good deal of trauma before giving in. Vortex red dots are popular with law enforcement, as well, since many departments and agencies don’t have the budgets for more expensive hardware.
Why are they so inexpensive? Well, there are two things to take into consideration. First, they aren’t truly parallax-free. This means that when you’re not looking straight through the reticle, the red dot will not be exactly where the point of impact will be. This is more of an issue up close, only inside 50 yards, but if you’re holding your rifle in a less-than-ideal way and not looking down the bore, the red dot can be off by a couple of inches.
And also, they don’t have the best battery life. They’re still pretty good, ranging from 120 or so hours on their brightest setting, to 3,000 to 4,000 hours at their lowest non-night vision setting. The StrikeFire gets the nod for better battery life, especially in green mode.
That being said, for most shooting, neither of those matters much. You can afford to stock up on extra batteries with the money you save with Vortex, and you can still pick up some ammo on top of that.