Vortex Solo Monocular: Durable and Affordable

Optics have come a long way over the last few decades. A market once dominated by a select few manufacturers is now flooded with a wide variety of options at an even greater array of prices. Features and models exploded as competition grew. Ultimately though, sometimes a simple piece of glass is all you need, and the Vortex Solo monocular is a great piece of equipment worth adding to any firearms enthusiast’s toolbox.

While features and options are an important part of selecting an optic for your rifle or handgun, choosing a monocular seems a bit simple. It needs to magnify and the glass needs to be high enough quality to properly transmit what you need magnified. However, not all monoculars are the same. Some are better than others. After owning a Vortex Solo for nearly a decade, I’m confident in its quality and durability. Here’s what makes this little handheld magnifier stand out.

Why a Monocular?

Before delving into why the Vortex Solo is a great handheld optic, let’s get into why you should own one.

While the urge is strong to buy the latest and greatest toy in the firearms world, I’m apprehensive to buy something just because it’s new. Prioritization is key. Some tools are more important than others when building your firearm and accessory collection.

Magnification is important. Handheld magnification is even more important. Whether hunting, scouting, or trying to see your target downrange; a handheld magnifier, whether binoculars or a monocular, is convenient. For example, a handheld magnifier is handy during hunting so you’re not swinging a rifle around to spot your prey; but — most importantly — a handheld magnifier avoids the unnecessary step of pointing a loaded firearm at something you have yet to adequately identify. It enhances safety and convenience.

holding monocular
A monocular gives you magnification in the palm of your hand. More compact than binoculars, but just as effective.

So, why not binoculars? Well, size and weight are arguably the biggest factors at hand. A monocular is exceptionally small and convenient. At only a few ounces, a monocular easily fits in a back pocket or small pouch. Convenience is the name of the game, and that’s why I’ve primarily preferred a monocular for shooting use, as well as in my primary occupation in law enforcement.

Vortex Solo Series

Over the last decade, Vortex has solidified itself as a powerhouse in the optics world. My first encounter with them was while working in a gun store. I came into work one day, and we had some new binoculars on display at a relatively reasonable price. After picking one up and playing with it for a bit, I was extremely impressed by the crisp clarity and bright image. Of course, that new brand was none other than Vortex. It wasn’t long after I purchased a Vortex Solo 10x25mm monocular. Since then, that monocular has seen its share of abuse and occasional misuse while remaining reliable.

Vortex Solo
This Vortex Solo is beaten and abused but continues to perform reliably. There’s a reason why Vortex has developed its current reputation for durable and reliable optics.

The Solo series is Vortex’s line of monocular optics. As expected, Vortex has a variety of options available. Currently, Vortex offers five options in their Solo line: 8x25mm, 10x25mm, 8x36mm, 10x36mm, and the 8x36mm RT. The 36mm variants have a wider field of view and allow for slightly better light collection. While most of my experience is on the 25mm, I suggest the slightly larger 36mm just to get a little extra view and light collection in darker environments. The Vortex Solo RT 8x36mm model features an MRAD-ranging system to assist with determining distances without the need for electronics or laser range finding.

Vortex Solo Impressions

The Vortex Solo I purchased a decade ago is well-worn and well-used. As a new law enforcement officer, I quickly realized the benefit of having something with magnification for reading license plates, conducting surveillance, and range qualification and training. The 10x magnification Solo fits the bill, and I added mine to the growing collection of duty gear.

Over the years, I’ve not been gentle to this monocular. It’s been dropped on the ground, stepped on, hastily thrown on a floorboard, and devoid of any maintenance. I’ve never kept it in a soft case or sleeve as I need it readily available at work. Amazingly, the optic’s glass is in great condition with virtually no scratches. The coated objective and ocular lens are recessed, so it’s less likely to be scratched.

Ocular lens on monocular
While the eyepiece ring shows some damage, this Solo’s glass is still devoid of scratches and crystal clear, despite no protective case.

As expected from Vortex, the glass is exceptionally clear. Even for the 25mm objective variant, light transmission arguably exceeds the price tag Vortex has on the Solo. I’ve used the 25mm Solo in dark and artificial light conditions for years with satisfactory performance. Whether license plates, facial features, or looking for game; the optic has provided excellent resolution for meeting, or exceeding, the demands of that moment.

The Solo’s body is encased by a rubber armor coating. The rubber has worn some over the years, while the Vortex label and markings have faded. Nevertheless, the surface still provides a positive and sure grip. I don’t recall ever fumbling this monocular or losing grip on it. While a simple feature, it’s an important one. Yes, Vortex has a lifetime warranty, but I’d much rather own a product I don’t need to warranty because it’s well-built and durable.

Solo Specs and Accessories

The Vortex Solo is sold with a lanyard and includes a soft case. 36mm models of the Solo have an integral utility clip. While I’ve not had experience with this clip, I expect nothing less than quality from Vortex. As a testament to their durability, the abused Solo in my collection retains the original lanyard loop and quick detach clip. After fishing for this monocular one too many times, it became affixed to a duty bag for easy, consistent access. The plastic lanyard clip was released frequently for use and has yet to break. If a plastic clip has lasted nearly a decade, the metal clip should hold up just fine.

Vortex Solo eyepiece, lanyard, and focusing ring
The adjustable eyepiece, focusing ring, and lanyard are still intact and fully functional. Focusing adjustment is easy and intuitive, while the lanyard and its quick-release clip are surprisingly durable like the rest of the monocular.

The eyepiece features an adjustable eye cup for use with or without eyewear. The eyepiece and focusing ring are a single adjustable unit. The focusing ring’s knurled textures make adjustments even easier. The biggest issue I’ve experienced is the focusing ring rubber worked loose on my Solo. However, the rubber ring has remained mostly attached and in working order for years. Maybe one day I’ll send it to Vortex for a warranty claim but, frankly, it has some sentimental value at this point and still works just fine.

The heaviest Vortex Solo weighs in at roughly 10 ounces (Solo RT) with Solo 25mm models weighing as little as 5.6 ounces. The Solo is a light monocular but feels exceptionally rugged and solid in the hand. It’s light enough to carry in a pocket but durable enough to, within reason, endure some abuse. These two features make this monocular a versatile option for convenient on-the-go magnification.

Final Thoughts

The Vortex Solo series of monoculars is a great option if you’re looking to have magnification readily available under a variety of conditions. Best of all, the Solo isn’t outrageously priced. 25mm Solo models start at $69.99 for the 8x25mm working up to the Solo RT at $149.99. Ultimately, a monocular is like a pocket knife. You don’t realize how handy they are until you start carrying one. Accordingly, the Vortex Solo series fits the bill perfectly for durability, clarity, and budget.

Tom Stilson began his firearms career in 2012 working a gun store counter. He progressed to conducting appraisals for fine and collectible firearms before working as the firearms compliance merchant for a major outdoor retailer. In 2015, he entered public service and began his law enforcement career. Tom has a range of experience working for big and small as well as urban and rural agencies. Among his qualifications, Tom is certified as a firearms instructor, field trainer, and in special weapons and tactics. If not on his backyard range, he spends his time with family or spreading his passion for firearms and law enforcement.

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