I'm 55 years old. Youth may be fleeting, but immaturity is forever. I’m starting to notice the posts in forums where people are complaining about how some optics – notably red dot optics – don’t go well with astigmatism. I don’t have astigmatism myself, but I’m paying closer attention to these things than I did in my invincible 20s.
Astigmatism isn’t a catchy phrase that that guy from Top Gear would say, but rather an optical defect in which vision is blurred due to the inability of the optics of the eye to focus a point object into a sharp focused image on the retina, so sayeth Wikipedia.
Stig from Top Gear – not what we’re talking about. As opposed to…
… astigmatism, which we ARE talking about.
Many shooters are finding a fuzzy dot, a misshapen dot, or multiple dots – not the best situation if you’re going for accuracy, and aren’t just one of THOSE people who shoot into the air on New Year’s and Independence Day (don’t do that).
So, through no fault of your own, you’ve managed to be affected by astigmatism. There is more than one type, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to correct it through contacts or eyeglasses, if you’re not lucky, there’s always refractive surgery, which can't be enjoyable.
About 8 years ago I got an injection into my eyeball to deal with a blood clot, and it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds like. And I was knocked out for it. The eye Doc offered to do the procedure right there, right then, in the chair, with no sedation. Seriously, who says “we can do it right here in the office if you want”? Don’t those guys have a class in eye doctor school where “cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye” is discussed? As a Bad Thing?
The “stick a needle in my eye” phrase was selected because it’s just about the most horrific thing one could do to oneself (not counting certain peircings). So lets examine what can be done without surgery.
Astigmatism seems to be a topic of interest, as a Google search shows around 173,000 results for “astigmatism shooting”. Now, some of those topics could very well be about people who just couldn’t take the astigmatism anymore and went postal, but most are probably about sport shooters looking for a solution. I’ve noticed the name “Vortex” popping up in many of the forum discussions.
The fine folks at vortex have a couple of etched reticle prismatic optics, one a 1x and the other a 3x. If you have issues with reflex or holographic sights, this may be the answer you’ve been – well, looking for (I swear – that was unintentional).
The 1X (someone got a little excited with Photoshop on the base there) and…
The 3X – complete base shown.
The two Spitfire optics have different reticles, based on the magnification. The 1x non-magnified model has a circle-dot reticle called the DRT, or Dual Ring Tactical. It lets you get shots on target quickly, with a 3 MOA center dot and two concentric rings.
The 3x model has Vortex’ EBR-556B reticle, designed specifically for the 5.56 x 45 round, providing holdover and ranging references from 0-500 yards – a good match for the 3x magnification.
The reticle is nice and thin .5 moa in thickness, except at the base, where it is 1.5:
Using the center of the reticle, you have an aiming point for 100 to 200 yards with a 100 yard zero. Using the other markings, you have aiming points for 300, 400 and 500 yards – this is for a 55 grain bullet out of a 16” barrel.
A bonus of the etched reticle is that the reticle is visible without using the illumination – this means your battery lasts longer, and it just might save a hunt if your battery craps out and you don’t have a spare battery handy. That would never happen to me, because I carry a spare 2032 in another Vortex product:
It connects to a picatinny rail and acts much like most insurance policies – as long as I’ve had it, I’ve not needed to use it. But it’s there.
I like the fact that on the 3X the base uses two bolts to attach the optic to the picatinny rail – look at it as another insurance policy. Two is better than one, right? Like the Olsen twins (as adults) or the Barbie twins (ditto) but I digress.
Be forewarned – if you need magnification, get the 3X. Vortex warns that magnifiers do not play well with prismatic optics, so don't expect to mount the fine Vortex XMX-3Tmagnifier behind the 1X and have the best of both worlds, there are other optics better suited to that purpose, such as the Vortex SPARC II and StrikeFire II, but our focus here is on adressing astigmatism.
I have sung the virtues of Vortex here before, and nothing has changed my opinion. After spending 45 minutes in a queue, three times in one day with an unnamed competitor of Vortex (in the named state of Oregon*) I appreciate the fact that no such thing has ever occurred when I call Vortex. I’ll also mention my personal litmus test of any customer support – I don’t hear papers being shuffled around or pages turning when I ask a question, and I don’t get put on hold. The answers are from memory, like people who believe in and use their own products. Good products, good people up there in Wisconsin.
So, before you go the refractive surgery route, give the Spitfire optics from Vortex a try. It's not as expensive, and definitely hurts less.
*see what I did there?