Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II: Magnification in a Micro Red Dot

Red dots have rapidly become standard fare on pistols and rifles built for competition and defense. In some instances, red dots have also ventured into hunting applications. Magnified optics, however, refused to quietly go by the wayside as Low Powered Variable Optics (LPVOs) encroached on the optic’s market share. Both optics styles have unique pros and cons. LPVOs are large and bulky, whereas red dots don’t offer the LPVO’s benefits of increased magnification and etched reticle. However, the Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II 3x Prism is a recent introduction to the optics market that bridges the pros of both styles of optics while virtually eliminating the cons inherent in red dots and LPVOs.

Vortex Spitfire HD GEN II on rifle
Appearances are deceiving. The Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II may look like a micro red dot, but it’s far from it. The 3x magnification and etched reticle expand this compact optic’s capability and versatility significantly. [Photo: Tom Stilson]
The new Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II is barely recognizable from those of us acquainted with the previous Spitfire iteration. The original Spitfire was simply a beast. At 5.5 inches long and 15 ounces, the original Spitfire covered as much rail space as most modern LPVOs. However, the Spitfire HD Gen II has definitely gone on a diet. Measuring around 3 inches long and weighing nine ounces, the Spitfire Gen II maintains its predecessor’s visual clarity while shrinking to the size of a classic micro red dot. With these specifications, the Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II is an underdog in an optical world overrun with LPVOs and red dots.

Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II

Prism optics are nothing new. The Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) has been around for roughly three decades and remains a tried-and-true prism rifle sight. Unfortunately, the ACOG’s price point, often in excess of $1,000, wasn’t always palatable for buyers when compared to the $400 to $600 cost of most quality red dots. Furthermore, prism sights were relatively large and heavy compared to a micro red dot’s footprint.

Optics compared
The Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II (left) is barely larger than the Aimpoint T1 micro red dot (center) but has almost the same magnification as the classic 4x Trijicon TA-31 ACOG (right). [Photo: Tom Stilson]
Over the years, red dots and LPVOs have become remarkably compact and light compared to the options of yesteryear. Naturally, logic would expect prism sights to follow suit. While it’s difficult to speak negatively about the Trijicon ACOG, many in current production still weigh in at nearly one pound. Meanwhile, the Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II almost halves that weight while offering fixed 3x magnification. A prism sight with those dimensions definitely requires a hard look from anyone looking for compact magnification on a competition or fighting rifle.

After some range time and a little bit of close-distance work, the Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II proved itself a compact, lightweight, and capable optic. While prism optics may not be for everyone, there are a ton of benefits to having a prism setup on your fighting or competition rifle. Here’s what’s to like — and expect from — the Spitfire HD Gen II.

Never Without a Reticle

The beauty of the Spitfire is in its illuminated reticle. With most red dots, the sight is entirely dependent upon the battery and accompanying electronics functioning to project the reticle. Unfortunately, batteries die, electronics fail, and Murphy’s Law takes over. In those scenarios, redundancy and a readily available backup sighting system are important.

Reticle Comparison
The etched reticle (left) is still visible whether it’s illuminated (right) or not. [Photo: Tom Stilson]
The Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II’s etched AR-BDC4 reticle provides an additional layer of redundancy if some kind of failure occurs. Whether it’s illuminated or not, the reticle remains visible through the 21mm objective. This kind of redundancy is convenient and provides additional peace of mind. Regardless, the optic features an auto shutoff after 14 hours of operation in the event you forget to turn it off. While not advertised with the Spitfire HD Gen II, its predecessor featured 250 hours of battery life at max power. The new Spitfire includes 12 brightness settings, with the two lowest settings being night vision-compatible.

For most annual training, range, and personal uses, the battery will easily last a year. On a side note, if you don’t replace any fighting optic’s battery at least annually, start doing so now.

The Vortex AR-BDC4 Reticle

The Spitfire HD Gen II features Vortex’s AR-BDC4 reticle. I’ve been lucky enough to have extensive trigger time on this reticle with their Strike Eagle 1-8x LPVO platform. The illuminated reticle is fast on target at short ranges while allowing for precise shots at greater distances. The reticle includes windage and elevation hash marks for most .223 and 5.56 cartridges. During some range trips out to 300 yards, this reticle on my Strike Eagle performed to expectations. While the Spitfire didn’t get pushed to those distances, I anticipate it would have performed just as expected.

Versatile Mounting Options

With the HD Gen II, Vortex dramatically reduced the Spitfire’s footprint and weight and added more mounting options. The Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II includes mounting plates and hardware for either a traditional AR lower third co-witness with iron sights or a low-profile direct mount.

Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II lower third and low profile mounting plates
The Spitfire HD Gen II includes two mounts for lower third co-witness or low-profile direct mounting. The additional mounting plate options expand the array of weapons systems compatible with this optic. [Photo: Tom Stilson]
These mounting options allow the new Spitfire to adapt to a host of weapons platforms beyond the traditional AR-15. With the low-profile mount, the Spitfire is a perfect setup for .223 variants of the AK platform, along with a host of other current and classic semi-auto platforms requiring lower mounting.

Adjustable Focus

Since the Spitfire HD Gen II is a magnified optic, the image and reticle may not be in focus for those of us with less-than-perfect vision. The Spitfire’s eyepiece conveniently addresses this issue with an easily adjustable focusing ring. While not necessary for my eyes, this feature is definitely considerate for those in the visually challenged spectrum.

The Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II on the Range

Prism optics are a different beast for those who’ve never ran one before. The short eye relief — 2.6 inches — is somewhat different if you’re used to the generous confines of a red dot. However, for those with prior experience with an LPVO or prism scope, the limited eye relief isn’t so much a limitation as much as it’s something to train on.

Shooting rifle and optic on range
The Spitfire’s short eye relief wasn’t a problem for short or long-range engagements. The illuminated reticle was easily adjusted for light, dark, and artificial light conditions. [Photo: Tom Stilson]
With the Spitfire’s short eye relief, unfamiliar shooters may require some adjustment. However, prism optics afford some room for error. If shot with both eyes open, this optic is extremely fast under close-quarters conditions. Effectively, magnified optics operate much like the occluded optics of yesteryear. With some practice, shots out to 25 yards are shockingly precise with a little practice despite the shooter not having a perfect sight picture behind the reticle.

At distances out to 150 yards, the Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II made ringing steel surprisingly easy and precise. For its exceptionally small footprint, it doesn’t feel like you’re shooting a magnified optic until you get behind it. Overall, this optic deserves some fanfare for what it offers. Micro red dot size and weight, Vortex HD glass clarity, built-in magnification, and reticle illumination are just a few of its biggest selling points. For those features, I’d expect a price point pushing four figures. However, the Vortex Spitfire HD Gen II currently sells on GunMag Warehouse at the highly affordable price of $399.99. If you haven’t considered a prism sight yet or are in the market for one, I’d strongly recommend adding this optic to your selection!

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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