Swampfox Liberty II and Vortex Defender-ST: A Comparison

Swampfox and Vortex both make some impressive optics that retail for reasonable prices. Today, we are looking at the Sampfox Liberty II and Vortex Defender-ST, both of which are made for handguns. Mounting an optic on a handgun is now the “normal” practice after purchasing a new handgun. Finding the one you like best is exciting, tiresome, and everything in between.

A lot of things go into selecting a red dot, with price being the first major factor to consider. Many who search for an optic are not just concerned about the price but the price vs quality factor. Some don’t mind just picking up the most expensive optic on the market and calling it good. Others, however, want the best optic they can find for a reasonable price. And that brings us here, looking at two excellent optics that are both durable and affordable.

Shooting a Glock 45 with the Vortex Defender-ST.
Shooting a Glock 45 with the Vortex Defender-ST. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
The Liberty II and Defender-ST both have some appealing qualities to consider. After moving both optics around to different handguns, I’ve found a match I like with each. I mounted the Vortex Defender-ST on my Glock 45, and it’s an impressive combination. The Swampfox Liberty II is mounted on my Walther PDP Compact with a 5-inch barrel. This combination is just as impressive and shoots extremely well.

Everyone wants something a little different when it comes to optics. And maybe, just maybe, one of these two optics is the one for you. Here’s a quick rundown of the Vortex Defender-ST and Swampfox Liberty II red dots.

Vortex Defender-ST Red Dot

Vortex offers an unconditional lifetime guarantee on its products. Regardless of how it happened or even if you are not the original owner, the company will make it right, no questions asked. This is done through their VIP warranty, which stands for “very important promise.” This remains the best lifetime warranty I have ever seen on any product and makes it an appealing option before you even see the details.

But details matter, so here are the basics of this great contender. The Defender-ST is available with 3 MOA and 6 MOA dot reticles, allowing shooters to select the size of reticle they like best. A textured front, something Vortex carried over from the Defender-CCW, is a perfect surface for racking the slide. I found that I use the optic exclusively to rack the slide on my Glock 45 now. It’s especially nice when you are wearing gloves.

Vortex Defender-ST
Newly released is the Vortex Defender-ST 6 MOA red dot. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
It has an auto shut-off and motion activation feature to ensure the dot comes on and is ready to go when needed. This also considerably extends the life of the battery. Vortex used a polymer insert called a “ShockShield” to help absorb the recoil and reduce the shock to the optic. The frame is made of 7075 aluminum, which is durable and light.

One of my favorite features of the Defender-ST is the top-loading battery. Most optics have an unbelievable battery life. But at some point, all batteries must be changed, and the process of removing an optic to do this is not ideal. I like to add a small dab of blue Loctite to the screws on my optic to ensure it doesn’t come loose. With Vortex’s top-loading battery, I can leave the optic on the gun and change the battery quickly.

Swampfox Liberty II Red Dot

Swampfox is a rising star in the optics world, and they’re making some impressive dot sights at an even more impressive price. I like the overall size of the Liberty II, and its 24mm window is not too big or too small. My first run-in with Swampfox was a review of the Sentinel II red dot. It was impressive how well it held up to the testing I put it through.

These tests included freezing, baking in the oven, soaking in water, and dropping it multiple times. It held up like a champ and continues to run great today. The Liberty II is proving to be just as durable and has one feature that really stands out: the multi-reticle option.

Swampfox Liberty II
Swampfox Liberty II is durable and easy to use. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
While most micro red dots made for pistols have a simple red dot in the middle, Swampfox added a multi-reticle feature. This feature allows you to choose one of four reticles, much like you can with some rifle optics. My favorite of the four is the circle with a dot in the middle. When purchasing, you can choose between red and green dots.

Like the Defender-ST, the Liberty II also has a “Shake N’ Wake” feature and a top-loading battery. It has 10 illumination settings, a shock rating of 1,500 G-Force, and is IPX-7 waterproof. The battery life is listed at 50,000 hours but the Shake N’ Wake feature will only extend the life of the battery. Keeping the quality up, the Liberty II is also made from 7075-T6 aluminum, and the lens is multi-coated and fog-resistant.

Side-by-side comparison

Both the Defender-ST and Liberty II have auto shut-off and motion activation built in. Each one uses a top-loading battery design, which is a great feature. Vortex uses a CR2032 battery to power the Defender-ST and Swampfox a CR1632 to power the Liberty II. Each red dot has one large button on each side for adjusting the brightness setting.

One notable difference between the two optics is the mounting footprint. Vortex went with the Delta Point Pro footprint, and Swampfox chose the RMR. Both footprints are popular options, but make sure to check their compatibility with the handgun you select. Many handguns today use adaptor plates, so they are compatible with multiple footprint options. Others are specific to one footprint.

Swampfox Liberty II and Vortex Defender-ST
Swampfox Liberty II and Vortex Defender-ST. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
As I mentioned in the beginning, I mounted my Defender-ST to a Glock 45, but I’ve also had it on my Glock 49. It’s a great optic and was easy to get zeroed in, which is no surprise. Glock sends out multiple MOS adaptor plates with their guns, so installation is simple. I have multiple plates for my Walther PDP so mounting the Liberty II was also hassle-free.

I’ve shot both optics at the range on multiple occasions during firearms training and range fun as well. Both optics handle well, and each one allows a good sight picture through the window. I like the reticle selection on the Liberty II, but the aggressive front texturing on the Defender-ST is awesome and makes loading much faster and easier.

Which one will it be?

Selecting between these two optics is a tough choice. In many cases, I can easily pick one I like better than the other. But sometimes it’s not that simple. The Defender-ST retails for around $329.99, and the Liberty II for $289. Each red dot comes with an optic cover and multiple screws for mounting to the slide.

I’ve put both optics through the same tests, and both held up great. Picking the one that’s best for you will come down to the mounting footprint, which features you like most, and how much you are willing to spend. Whichever optic you choose, however, will be a great choice, and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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