I’ve struggled a bit with writing this review. I guess part of the reason is that I have been spending more and more time behind high end scopes. In truth it’s hard to not to allow my bias for high end scopes to influence this review. On the other hand, when folks ask me for a recommendation for a quality but affordable scope the Vortex Strike Eagle is my first suggestion because it really is a terrific scope at a very affordable price point. In fact, it’s a scope I’ve personally purchased on more than one occasion and is quite frequently used.
This particular Strike Eagle scope falls into the low powered variable optic (LPVO) riflescope category. This category is composed of scopes that start a 1x power magnification on the low end and can be adjusted to higher magnification levels. All LPVOs, to the best of my knowledge, characteristically have a 24 mm objective lens making them easy to spot. The vast majority of LPVOs max out a 4x magnification on the high end, many are available with a high end magnification of 6x, and a handful offer a high end magnification of 8x. As of writing, I’m aware of one LPVO that offers a 10x magnification on the top end but it is in an entirely different price tier. The Strike Eagle I’m covering in this review is one of the handful of LPVOs that offers an 8x magnification on the top end, which is pretty nice considering it’s sub $500 MSRP price point.
Let’s break this scope down. For around $400 street price, we are looking at a scope that weighs in at 17.6 ounces with 30mm tube size. Like other LPVOs, it has a 24mm objective lens. The field of view is magnificent at 109 feet at the 1x magnification setting and a respectable 14.4 feet at the 8x setting. The parallax is fixed at 100 yards (common among other LPVOs). It has low capped turrets that have a 1/2 MOA adjustment graduation and a total travel of 140 MOA for both windage and elevation adjustments. We also get an illuminated reticle (which I’ll cover in more detail soon). Additionally, included in the box is a thread-in throw lever, flip caps, lens cloth, and a CR2032 battery. Overall, the scope covers pretty much everything I would expect from a value priced LVPO with the exception of the throw level which is a very nice touch.
Not very exciting, I know. Right about now, you should also be wondering why this is my first choice for a value priced LPVO. So let’s get into that.
The included throw lever is a really nice addition. Granted, throw levers aren’t an expensive accessory, it’s something that really makes adjusting the magnification up and down a lot faster. Having spent significant time behind a lot of variable power scopes, I can say that a throw lever makes a huge difference when time is of the essence. Whether it’s during a competition, while hunting, or any other high stress situation, being able to go from a wide field of view at 1x power to max power in order to make effective use of the second focal plane reticle quickly matters. Having the throw lever available out of the box is just nice and not something I’ve seen commonly included in other value priced scopes.
While the throw lever is nice, a more notable characteristic is the quality of the glass. To be perfectly clear, this is an entirely subjective opinion. However, having spent much time behind other value priced scopes, such as the Burris Fullfield TAC30, I’m constantly amazed at the clarity of the Vortex Strike Eagle glass. Not to say that other scopes in this price point have terrible clarity, rather its that this scope is the bar that I compare others against because, in my opinion, I find it usually more pleasant to look through.
Another reason I tend to recommend the Strike Eagle is that I think Vortex Optics’ no questions asked fully transferable lifetime warranty is the absolute best in the industry. Frankly, one could send in a scope their buddy gave them after having absolutely destroyed it only to have it repaired (or replaced) by Vortex with zero hassle. That’s insane! Granted an unreliable product with a top notch warranty is still crap. However, I’ve owned and regularly use (and abused given the warranty) several Vortex products and have yet to need to use their warranty.
Ok. That’s cool. If you are thinking a throw lever, a subjective lens clarity, and solid warranty is not a good enough reason to make this an individual’s top choice for a value priced LPVO, then I’d agree with you. Where this scope breaks away from the pack is when one shops for an LPVO under a $500 price point. Under $500 today, we only have a couple of scopes to choose from that offer an 8x magnification on the top end. There are a few other options if we double the price point to $1K. But then I have to ask, are we comparing apples to apples? I mean at what price are we no longer looking at value priced scopes and looking at higher tier scopes. Do we really want to compare a $500 LVPO against a $3K LVPO? I guess we could. And that’s where my complaints about this scope come in.
I’m going to dive into my complaints about this scope now. As you read on, please keep in mind that I’m injecting my bias towards higher priced higher tier scopes. As such, take my complaints with a grain of salt.
My first complaint is the 1/2 MOA adjustment value on this scope. It’s too coarse of an adjustment for my tastes. I’d rather have a 1/4 MOA adjustment value. Honestly, I’d also like to see a MRAD variant as well, but given there is only one reticle option (which as promised I will cover soon) I can understand the lack of an MRAD variant. Nevertheless, 1/2 MOA adjustments leave something to be desired for me.
One of the drawbacks of second focal plane reticles is that all of their features cannot be used accurately unless the scope is set to the correct magnification for which the reticle is calibrated to. In most cases, and the case for the Strike Eagle, that is the highest power magnification. This means that the highest magnification has to be engaged if a reticle mark other than the central dot (or crosshair) is required to make a shot or if it’s needed for ranging at target. On a side note, this makes the included throw lever even more valuable. It should also be noted that first focal plane scopes (that allow all the features of the reticle to be used at any magnification) are not currently available in a sub $500 price point, at least not to the best of my knowledge.
Last but not least is my complaint about the AR-BDC3 reticle, which happens to be the only reticle option available for this scope. This reticle, along with prior generations of it like the AR-BDC2 (which I also own), is a ballistic drop compensator (BDC) reticle. The idea behind these styles of reticles is that the marks on them can be used to predict how much a bullet will drop at a given range. However, when they are designed they are calibrated to a specific projectile with a specific muzzle velocity using a specific zero distance. While I could go into a diatribe about the reticle (and prior generations of it), let me just say that I’m not a fan of BDC reticles (perhaps I’ll dive into them in a future post).
With all that said, I still stand by the Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8×24 as being my number one recommendation for a value priced LPVO. I’m constantly looking for another LPVO to top this at this price point and have yet to see it. I personally have this LPVO mounted a couple of modern sporting rifles – one is a recreational rifle, the other is a home defense rifle that I train and compete with extensively. Are the better LPVOs on the market? Yes. Are there better LVPO options under $500 on the market? I don’t think so, but please let me know if you think otherwise.