There are few things I enjoy better than a great deal. I balk at paying full retail, shun buying name brands merely for the brand recognition, and get schoolgirl giddy when I find something that performs like a Ferrari at a Chevette price. I realize I just dated myself, as a large portion of the folks reading this have no idea what a Chevette is.
My quest for a bargain often backfires, like the only Chevette left on the road today. The adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is applicable more often than not, and the ‘Bargain’ that I found often ends up being a waste of money. “Buy once, Cry Once” they say, suggesting you should fork over the cash and buy quality the first time.
My AR build is complete, and needs nothing except an optic. I built the rifle frugally, buying quality parts and components on sale and second hand. An Aimpoint M4 would be a great optic to put on this rifle, but my quest for value led me to try another route.
I’d heard good things about the Vortex StrikeFire SFRD-AR15, $169 sounded like a great value, so I decided to try it out. I ordered it up from Webyshops.com, and it arrived quickly.
The scope was securely wrapped in bubble wrap in the box. Also in the box was a single scope ring/mount, front and rear flip up scope covers, a screw in 2x magnifier eyepiece, a Torx wrench for the mount, a cleaning cloth and a manual.
Fiddling around with it on the bench, I noted I could select between a red and a green dot, each with 10 levels of intensity. The scope also has a ‘Night Vision’ mode, which produces a very dim dot that is only visible if you are wearing night vision.
The battery compartment is on the top right, and houses a single CR2 battery. The battery compartment, along with the windage and elevation caps, is o-ring sealed.
The power button, along with the reticle intensity adjustment buttons and the night vision mode button, are conveniently located on the left at 3:00, with the power button on the side and the intensity and NV button facing the shooter.
I mounted the scope in the provided mount, utilizing the provided Torx wrench to tighten the six clamping screws. I mounted the scope on my flattop AR, and noticed that there was room behind the scope to mount a flip up rear sight. The fixed sight I have could also be mounted, but there was insufficient room to flip open the rear scope cap with the fixed rear sight in place.
The height of the scope when mounted on a flattop AR centers the front and rear sights exactly in the center of the scope. This would be a great feature with flip up backup sights, but not so great with a fixed front and rear sight, as the dot would always be sitting on the tip of the front sight post and the sights would obscure your scope sight picture.
I took the whole package to the range, and sighted it in. The windage and elevation adjustments are in 1/2moa increments, easily adjustable with a coin, and click firmly, positively and predictably.
After a few rounds, I noticed my groups getting larger, and I discovered the scope had loosened up. I tightened the single hex nut that tightens the mount to the rail again, and commenced shooting. A magazine later, the scope mount was loose on the rifle again. A closer examination revealed that the lock washer under the nut was bound and had not seated fully in its machined recess in the nut. I verified the lock washer was fully seated, tightened the scope mount again, and had no further issue with the mount.
I realized after several magazines that I really preferred the simple 4MOA dot over the crosshair designs of other reticules. The crosshair designs obscure a lot of target at longer ranges and create a busy sight picture.
I tested parallax by moving my head so the dot was at the extreme top, bottom, left and right of the sight picture. This moved the point of impact 1/4” at 50’, which was well within acceptable.
The brightness settings allowed the red dot to be seen even in the brightest conditions, and the subtle green allowed target acquisition in low light with no glare. The selection between a green or red dot is made by clicking the power button. Pressing and holding the power button powers down the reticle.
The night vision button did confuse me once, as I inadvertently clicked it. This put the reticle into ‘super dim night vision’ mode, and I clicked the power button on and off several times, held it on and off several times, before I clicked the ‘NV’ button again and the reticle illuminated visually again. In retrospect, I should have known this, as the scope ships with a handy tag attached notifying the user of this possibility.
I shot several hundred rounds with the scope mounted on my rifle, and was pleased with the clear, open sight picture. The glass was clear and bright, and there was no disorientation or ‘weirdness’ shooting heads up reflex style with both eyes open. The emitter only slightly enters into the field of vision at 2:00 under the battery compartment.
Hoping for some long range greatness, I screwed the 2x magnifier into the eyepiece. BINGO!! I found the fly in the ointment. The magnifier is worthless. At my best estimation, it may magnify 1.5x, but restricts the field of view and the eye relief to unacceptably small levels. The infinitesimal magnification increase resulting in a colossal loss of eye relief and field of view is an unacceptable trade off. The 2x magnifier cannot be used with the rear scope cover. If the provided magnifier is a large part of your purchasing decision, you will undoubtedly be disappointed.
I had no failures or issues with the scope during use, and found the scope to be an attractive, well functioning unit.
I left the reticle on and stuck the rifle in the safe to test the ‘auto shutoff’ feature, and indeed, the reticle did shut off overnight. The manual states it shuts down after 6 hours. I clicked the power button, and the reticle powered right back up again. This is a great feature, as I am a forgetful guy, and I’m bound to leave the thing on after shooting.
Aside from the magnifier and the easy to hit Night Vision button, I really like this scope. I think it’s a great value and a keeper.
Here’s my recipe for success with this scope: Throw the magnifier in the ashtray of your Chevette and forget it ever existed. Buy yourself a pair of night vision goggles so the NV button has meaning, and be happy with a great value.
Mark Spreadborough writes from his family homestead in Kalama, Washington, where he lives with his wife, son, daughter, dog and cat. When not writing, shooting, hunting, fishing or working on his property, he goes to his day job as a HVAC repair mechanic.