SIGHTING IN ON: AMMUNITION ‐ Vortex Crossfire RifleScope


Sighting In On: Vortex Crossfire RifleScope

By Steve Tracy

Quality and Reliability on the less expensive end of the optics spectrum

The Modern Sporting Rifle has become extremely popular with U.S. law enforcement officers over the past decade. Shotguns gave way to pistol caliber carbines and short barrel rifles and today full-size patrol rifles supplement our duty pistols. We carry a handgun because, as Border Patrol Officer Bill Jordan said, it is portable and convenient. But if we knew we were going to be getting into a gunfight, we’d bring a shotgun or a rifle. That’s because shoulder fired arms are excellent offensive weapons compared to handguns, which are primarily defensive.

In the world of winning a force-on-force scenario, one-upping your opponent is a practical tactic. A threat armed with a handgun should not be taken on with another handgun if time permits. Responding to the scene and arming yourself with a long gun keeps distance between you and the threat. That distance is your friend.

Many officers today arm themselves with their own department-approved, personally owned weapon. The AR-15 style rifle is the most popular, although other designs are found in use around the country. Iron sights and red-dot electronic optics are popular, but a magnified scope can be utilized on MSRs quickly and effectively.

Patrol officers do not necessarily want to turn their rifles into sniper-style super weapons, nor do we want to claim the capability of sub-MOA sniper quality shooting. But taking a shot at 100 yards should be no problem for the average AR-15 rifle, even with iron sights. But a low power scope can assist older officers’ eyes and the magnification can improve shot placement over iron sights.

Picatinny top rails common on MSRs allow quick mounting of scopes, especially when equipped with a one-piece mount and quick-release levers. Once sighted in, the scope and mount can be kept with the rifle and attached in seconds if needed for a longer distance shot.

There are plenty of expensive scopes available from big names in the magnified optics business. But we’re cops and we don’t usually have the big bucks to spend on the best of the best. Oftentimes police officers are looking for what works well while keeping in mind that we still have to eat. There will always be those with $3,500 rifles with matching $3,500 scopes. But what about the cops with $799 AR-15s looking for scopes under $200?

Inexpensive, But Not Cheap

Vortex is a name in magnified optics that seems to be popping up more often in the sphere of law enforcement firearms. So are they any good?

A Vortex Crossfire 1.5-4×32 scope was obtained for testing on a Sig Sauer 516 gas-piston Patrol Rifle. The only modification on the 516 was the addition of a Battlecomp flash hider, which greatly reduces muzzle rise. Gas-piston AR-15 rifles have a bit more snap to them as their metal pistons smack the bolt carrier. There is a softer push from the gas used in Stoner’s original impingement operating system.

The Vortex scope was secured in a Burris P.E.P.R. (Proper Eye Position Ready) mount with quick release levers. This system allows fast attachment and removal to the rifle’s top rail while returning to zero every time. Vortex has already updated their Crossfire line with a new model called the Crossfire II. However, the tested model still showcases the features that make Vortex riflescopes a great bang for your buck.

The Crossfire II model ($169) from Vortex is their least expensive model. Climbing the ladder in price are their Diamondback ($239), Viper ($399), Viper HS ($489), Viper PSD ($579), Razor HD ($1599), and Razor HD Gen II ($1899).

Top-of-the-Line Unlimited Lifetime Warranty

Vortex Optics has gained a name for itself by offering tough scopes that work well without budget-busting pricing. Vortex has also established a reputation for outstanding customer service. Their Very Important Promise warranty does not require a warranty card or receipt and Vortex says they will fix their scopes with an unlimited lifetime warranty that is fully transferable if the optic becomes damaged or is found to be defective.

A warranty like Vortex’s usually means their products don’t fail very often. Optics Planet ( sells an awful lot of riflescopes because their prices are very competitive. Their customer reviews stack up fast and can be an excellent resource for researching products under consideration for purchase. Vortex’s scopes are often the “best rated product” in their category.
The Crossfire model is built from a solid, one-piece aluminum alloy for strength and ruggedness. Neutral pressure nitrogen purging withstands the elements. Fully multi-coated optics provide clarity from edge-to-edge with 90-percent light transmission.

The Crossfire model tested weighed 14 ounces and was finished in a matte black. The low-profile turrets were easily adjusted by finger and did not require a coin or screwdriver. Each click was one-quarter MOA with a maximum elevation and windage movement of 30 MOA.

One of Vortex’s notable advantages is the power magnification marking that faces the shooter on the adjustment ring. From a shooting position, the dial has a bump and knurling for quick adjustment with your fingers and you can actually see the numbered markings from the rear of the scope. The focus can also be quickly adjusted at the rear of the scope if necessary.

Rounds Downrange

At the range, the caps came off the adjustment knobs and rounds were fired downrange. The windage and elevation knobs were truly simple to move with finger pressure. The V-Plex reticle was easy to place on target and wasn’t too big to cover the target or too small to see. The glass was clear and bright on the sunny day at the range. Shouldering the rifle on cloudy days or at dusk still showcased a bright and clear picture through the tube’s glass.

The Crossfire scope was dialed up to its maximum power of four and tight groups at 50 and 100 yards were no problem. My 14-year-old nephew accompanied me to the range and he tried a couple head shots at 200 yards, making them easily off a sandbag rest with the Vortex Crossfire topped Sig 516 5.56mm rifle.
The Vortex optic worked well and held up to the 5.56 round’s light recoil. Even the Crossfire model is rated to survive magnum calibers with ease, so the standard AR-15 round was a breeze.

A patrol rifle is sometimes utilized as an entry weapon, but 16-inch barreled guns are difficult to move around corners with. A patrol rifle is not really meant to act as a sniper rifle at extreme distances either. However, a 100-yard shot by a trained patrol officer is not out of the question with a personally owned rifle, sighted by that particular officer who knows its capabilities.

In the law enforcement community, we can all relate to a “man with a gun” call where an intoxicated subject is waving a gun around. Distance is always our friend during this type of call. We do not want to take on the subject armed with a handgun with just a handgun of our own. We want to “one up” the armed subject with a rifle and keep our distance.

The patrol rifle equipped with a magnified optic is an excellent option to possess. Magnification does not have to be high, but rather just enough to clearly see the threat at 100 yards or less. Most urban areas provide brick or concrete cover at this kind of distance. 100 yards is a bit far for a handgun shot, but very effective from a shoulder-fired, low-magnification optic-equipped rifle.

Vortex scopes are made at factories in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines. The company is headquartered in Madison, Wis. and the owners travel to their manufacturers to make sure quality is kept to a high level. Warranty returns are handled under their VIP program at their U.S. facility.
For law enforcement officers seeking a magnified optic for their patrol rifle, Vortex’s scope lineup has a model for every need. And a quality scope for every price range. PM

Steve Tracy is a 25-year police veteran with 23 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at

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