If you’re like me, you want your AR-style carbine to be capable of engaging targets from right in front of you, all the way out to its limits (500 meters give or take). I’ve always wanted to maintain the capability of being able to shoot out to 500 meters reliably. Having qualified with iron sights out to this range with an M4, I want my personal carbine to be easily capable of doing so. Some AR carbine owners desire to have a Trijicon ACOG, which is a great optic to help the shooter reach those far-out ranges quickly. However, most of us don’t have $1,000-$1,200 to drop on such an optic. This is what makes the Vortex Spitfire 3x stand out so well; the price! With an MSRP of about $450, it makes a hard price to beat for what you’re getting. Previously, my setup had an Aimpoint H-1 with the 3x magnifier behind it. This worked, but was heavy and didn’t have the BDC reticle I found so useful in using an ACOG during my time in service. So let’s talk about what you’re getting when you purchase the Spitfire 3x…
Before we dive into the details, statistics on the Spitfire 3x can be found on the Vortex website.
We’ll discuss some of those statistics in a bit. For now, let’s discuss what you’re getting in the box:
- Vortex Spitfire 3x Prism optic
- Objective and Ocular lens covers
- Torx and Allen keys
- Short mount screws (for use when mounting optic without the riser)
- Picattiny rails and screws for mounting rear iron sights or Micro red dot (come attached to the optic)
- Lens cleaning cloth
The optic itself comes with the riser already attached, providing a lower 1/3 co-witness height with your iron sights. Because this is a prism riflescope with magnification, it is almost pointless to demand a co-witness as the front sight will be extremely blurry. The reticle is also etched onto the glass, so if your batteries die or if the illuminated reticle stops working, you still at least have the reticle etched in black. If in a situation where I needed to detach the optic quickly, I could detach the optic by cranking on the mounting screws by hand. This is not ideal, but there is a company (ADM manufacturing) that makes quick detach lever mounts for the Spitfire 3x that I will likely end up purchasing. Due to the
required eye relief of 2.8 inches, I needed to mount the optic in a position where I would not be able to flip the rear BUIS without detaching the optic, which negates the idea of having a co-witness even if the front sight weren’t theoretically blurry.
Even with the optic and rear BUIS mounted as far back as possible, I still have to collapse my stock 1 position in from its fully extended position. This is not ideal for me, but it’s a compromise I’m ok with living with.
So, up to now, we’ve only discussed the unboxing, and mounting. So let’s get to the functionality of the optic itself, and my opinion of it.
After mounting, you can adjust the focus of the reticle by popping the ocular lens scope cap off and tuning it to your eye. Once this is done, you can pretty much set it and forget it. Great feature! Zeroing the optic was very easy, and the windage/elevation caps attached by wires to the optic’s body are a good feature for those who tend to lose track of smaller parts. Vortex recommends your zeroing to be done at 100 yards for optimal use of the BDC reticle.
The illuminated reticle works great. I’ve found that shooting outdoors in the sun, an optimal brightness is set at 3 for red, and 5 for the green settings. If we’re comparing the Spitfire 3x to the ACOG (and we kind of are), the ability to adjust the illumination on the fly is a big win for the Spitfire in my opinion. It’s not necessary to shoot with the illumination on all the time, but I’ve found it to be a more enjoyable experience for quicker target acquisition at longer ranges.
Now, let’s discuss using the optic at mid/long-range vs close-range. We’ll call close range 25 yards and in for our purposes here. The ring around the main stadia lines provides decent target acquisition for anything approximately center mass at closer ranges. With any precision shots at close range, I would use the tip of the vertical stadia line as an aiming point. If you’re a stickler for precision shots at these ranges, this optic may not be for you. I imagine you could work with it and fine-tune your training and competency, but that’s obviously really not what this optic is made for.
The farthest I was able to shoot with this optic was about 315 yards. On an 11”x13” steel target, I was ringing steel with pretty much every shot taken, and even managed to get a few hits on the smaller steel popper target we took out. The BDC reticle was right on the money using the 300-yard stadia line.
After 3 separate weekends of shooting with this optic, the zero held just fine, and the mounting screws did not walk out even though they just had some good ole hand-tightening applied.
Now, let’s review the pros and cons, and review who might benefit from the Spitfire 3x.
- Price compared to other similar optics
- Ability to use from shorter to longer ranges
- Illuminated reticle with adjustable brightness for both red and green
- Two different mounting height options
- BDC reticle makes longer range shooting simple
- Ability to mount rear BUIS or Micro RDS to optic (if that’s your thing)
- Did I mention the price?
- Lifetime warranty
- Eye relief may require you to adjust your setup
- Co-witness with irons not really feasible (if you like co-witnessing)
Now, with all this being said, if you’re looking for a “one-size-fits-most optic” that can do dang near anything you’d want an AR-style carbine’s optic to do, then the Vortex Spitfire 3x might be the one you’re looking for. If you’re the type of shooter that finds precision shot placement with fast target acquisition at CQB ranges to be of the utmost importance, then this optic is probably not for you.
With the adjustable illuminated reticle, the ability to shoot from 1-500 yards with it, the price tag, and Vortex’s lifetime warranty, it’s going to be a hard optic for most other companies to beat.
Author – Brian Patterson is a current Army Medic and former Marine. In his off-time he enjoys shooting guns, modifying them, and learning new skills.