Budget Low Power Variable Optics

By Jay, Green Ops Instructor

I recently had the opportunity to try out both the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8 and the Primary Arms 1-8 optics. Historically speaking my experience with optics had come in two flavors. The high end expensive items, and very cheap optics that weren’t trustworthy in terms of clarity, zero, or durability. Well there seems to be a new option available for those of you who don’t wish to spend up to the likes of a Leupold, S&B, or similar.

I initially tried the Vortex Strike Eagle out on a friend’s rifle. The clarity was good and the illumination was usable indoors. I don’t know if it would be bright enough to work on a very sunny day, but it wasn’t bad at all. Zeroing wasn’t bad, although the adjustments on the turrets were quite mushy on the example I tried, and figuring out how many clicks I moved the turrets wasn’t the easiest. That said, once I got it zeroed it worked well and held zero admirably during some exercises.

A few weeks later I got the chance to pick up a Primary Arms 1-8 from a friend, and jumped on the opportunity. I took it to the range a week later, and very quickly got it zeroed. The adjustments were much more crisp than the previously mentioned Vortex. Clarity was similar to me, and illimination was probably in the same ballpark. I could certainly get it bright enough to “blossom” and make the rest of the recticle look washed out.

Neither of these scopes is going to be able to compete in the same arena as $2500+ pieces of glass. Features like illumination having off positions between each brightness setting were absent. The clarity isn’t going to be as good as a really high end piece of glass, but the difference wasn’t near as great as I thought it would be. I suspect neither of them is going to be as durable as something like a Trijicon VCOG, but both are covered by a lifetime warranty, so there is certainly piece of mind when buying one of them.

If you have been considering buying a low power variable optic but didn’t want to drop the coin needed to get a high end scope, I’d definitely steer you toward one of these. I was very impressed with the level of value given the pricing on these, which ranged from $389 for the Primary Arms to $449 for the Vortex at the time I’m writing this. For around the same price as an Aimpoint PRO you can have a 1x optic that can easily range out to much further without having to add a magnifier or any other accessories. There is certainly a weight and bulk penalty for adding one of these scopes, but given the added capabilities, they really make sense to me.

Michael Green