Vortex Defender-ST 6 MOA: Torture Testing

A multi-purpose red dot has arrived from Vortex by way of the Defender-ST 6 MOA red dot. There’s a lot to like about this optic and it comes ready to use on multiple weapons. For anyone wanting a micro-red dot that will work on handguns, sub-guns, and rifles, this is a perfect match. One of the big questions often associated with a new optic is the quality. People want to know if an optic will hold up over time. This is a wise question because some optics just don’t make the cut.

Vortex Defender-ST
Newly released is the Vortex Defender-ST 6 MOA red dot. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
I like to find those products that are both high-quality and budget-friendly. So, in this article, I’m going to put the Defender-ST through some tests I don’t normally do. I tried to get a little more creative with this one just to make it more interesting. If an optic can withstand more abuse than an average person would bestow upon it, we are going in the right direction. If it goes above and beyond, it’s a winner.

Vortex Defender-ST Specs

  • Delta Point Pro footprint
  • Fast-Rack Texturing
  • Top Mount Battery
  • 6 MOA
  • Length: 1.83”
  • Weight: 1.48 oz.
  • Fog Proof
  • Parallax Free
  • Adjustment Graduation: 1 MOA

I normally prefer to subject optics to normal stress levels or duplicate things that can happen in the field. My goal isn’t to try and break the thing by running it over in a tank. But I do want to push it a little further than what most people would subject an optic to in real life. Before starting any of these tests, I placed the Defender on an AR-15 pistol and zeroed it at 50 yards. I want to see how far off it gets after completing all the tests.

Washer and Dryer Test

If you want to perform an overall test of water, heat, and impact, why not just send it through the wash? I decided to give this a try with the Vortex-ST to see how it held up. I turned the optic on and placed it in the washing machine by itself. I ran a cycle with laundry detergent and hot water. I’ve reviewed enough Vortex optics that I didn’t doubt it’s ability to withstand the water.

What I was curious about was the spin cycle. When the washer drained all the water and started spinning, the optic didn’t stick to the side like clothes do. It started smacking around and making a lot of noise. At one point it hit so loud on the metal bin that I thought it must have broken. But when I took it out, it was still intact and still running.

Vortex Defender-ST
The Defender-ST bounced around in the dryer for 41 minutes on high heat before I took it out. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Next, I threw it in the dryer and turned it on. My dryer heats up to 135 degrees and runs for 41 minutes on a normal setting. This is not as hot as I normally get them in the oven, but I wanted a mixture of airflow and some impact. I couldn’t see the optic in the dryer, so I tossed in a Galco-branded Streamlight that I will be reviewing soon.

This helped me see and put the little light through a test as well. When the dryer was done, I removed the Defender-ST and found it to be working correctly. There didn’t appear to be any cracks in the glass from being tossed around in both the washer and dryer for an hour and a half. So far, so good.

Vortex Ice Cubes

My freezer will get down to -10, which isn’t cold enough to really push most optics. I like to leave them overnight and make sure they stay zeroed in at sub-zero temps. This time, however, I decided to place the Defender-ST in water and freeze it. The water will put pressure on parts of the optic as it freezes. I used a large ice-cube mold and left it in the freezer overnight.

Vortex Defender-ST
I froze the Vortex Defender-ST in an ice cube tray overnight and let it thaw the next day. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
My real plan for the ice was to prepare it for a water test. When ice gets into small cracks and then turns to ice, the expansion is like a death grip. If the Defender-ST can withstand water after being frozen, I think it will be safe from water and moisture during everyday use. It took a few hours for the Vortex to unthaw, but once it did, I checked to make sure it was functional and then dropped it in a glass of water.

I left it in the water overnight and dried it off the next morning. It was still running so I cycled through some of the functions to make sure none of the programing options had been damaged along the way.

Shake N’ Bake

Besides the washer and dryer tossing the Defender-ST around, I wanted to do something closer to a vibration test. I stuck the red dot in my trusty Yeti cup and started shaking. I passed it off to the kids so they could keep it going for a while. After about 20 minutes of shaking, we took it out to see how it faired. The idea of this test is to simulate the small impacts an optic may receive over a long period of time.

I’ve had a few optic stops working over the years without any real sign of damage. I find myself wondering if I did something to break them and didn’t realize it or if something just burned up. Once I was done shaking it, I placed it in the oven to get it a little hotter than the dryer did. I turned the oven up to 155 degrees and left the Defender-ST in for about 30 minutes. This was long enough to make sure all the insides were at the same temperature as the surface.

Vortex Defender-ST
The Defender-ST was left in for 20 minutes at 155 degrees. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
After I took the Defender-ST out of the oven, I placed it back on my AR pistol and fired some ammo down range. I did have to zero it again because it was about two inches left and one inch up from center. I was completely fine with this, however, as it still hit within an 8-inch circle at 50 yards.

Is the Vortex Defender-ST a tough optic?

In the end, this is an optic I would trust for any task, including self-defense and duty applications.

The top-loading battery is one feature that makes it so immune to water and moisture. The battery life is rated at 25,000 hours, so it can endure harsh environments for prolonged periods. The icing on the cake with any Vortex optic is the unconditional warranty they offer. Besides the rugged features of this red dot, Vortex guarantees it regardless of where you got it or what happened to it. Those combinations are hard for anyone to beat.

For smaller compact handguns, the Defender-CCW is a great choice. But for full-size handguns, sub-guns, PCC, or shotguns, I would give the Defender-ST a try. It ships with a Picatinny rail mount, Glock MOS adaptor plate, and five bags of various-sized screws for mounting to your favorite gun.

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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