I’ve become quite the fan of red dots on my handguns. My everyday carry handgun has one and I rarely leave home without it. I’ve experimented with a wide variety of dots at a wide variety of price points. The more I shoot and train, the more I’ve become enamored with enclosed red dot optics. I’m less enamored with their prices, though. That’s why the Swampfox Kraken caught my eye.
Swampfox has made quite the name for themselves recently. They produce quality optics at a solid price point. Swampfox produce quite a few pistol-sized red dots, but the Kraken is their first with an enclosed red dot emitter.
Enclosed emitter optics are more reliable. An open emitter can be nearly disabled by rain, snow, dirt, debris, and all sorts of fun environmental stuff. As a Floridian, rain is my bane with an open emitter optic.
The Kraken, and optics like it, offer a red dot design that erases the worry of something getting between the emitter and the glass. The enclosed design is more akin to a micro-sized rifle dot, but trimmed down in size to squeeze onto a handgun. Swampfox has does this at a street price of around $310. That’s about $140 less than the Holosun 509T and Steiner MPS and about half the price of an Aimpoint ACRO P2.
Is it worth it, though? Three hundred bucks still ain’t small potatoes.
Inside the Swampfox Kraken
The Swampfox Kraken looks beefy and honestly, it’s not exactly a tiny optic. It’s certainly on the large size for concealed carry, but if you’re already carrying a GLOCK 19-sized compact pistol, it won’t weigh your down. The Kraken fits right in for competition, duty, and home defense use.
At 1.85 inches long, 1.38 inches wide, and 1.27 inches tall, it won’t be mistaken for something to fit on a P365. At 2.5 ounces, it’s a comparatively chunky red dot as well.
There’s a reason for the weight. The body is made from 7075 aluminum, and the Kraken uses glass lenses. Those lenses sit ever so slightly recessed into the body of the optic. This provides a good level of protection from the outside world and allows you to rack the optic off of walls, belts, boots, and more without the lens being damaged.
The optic comes with adapter plates for the GLOCK MOS series or for any optic without an RMR cut. Using plates creates tolerance stacking and makes the optic sit higher. However, without a special cut, it’s the only way to do things. Take care to properly install the optic, use some Loctite, and you’ll be as good as gold.
The Power of the Kraken
The Kraken uses a 3 MOA red dot as your reticle. Green is also an option. The reticle is powered by a CR2032 battery that’s mounted on the side of the optic and is quick and easy to change. That battery compartment is quite large and adds considerably to the overall width of the optic.
There are eight daylight settings and two for night vision. Battery life is somewhat short compared to competitors. A lot of makers exaggerate the battery life of their optics, but Swampfox has been brutally honest in the past. At max brightness, the battery life is 850 hours, and in the medium setting, the Kraken will last 8,100 hours, or just under a year.
Luckily the Kraken is equipped with a very aggressive shake-awake feature. After failing to detect movement fora curiously random 225 seconds, it shuts off. As soon as any movement is detected, it springs back to life and back to the original brightness setting. I’ve found it to be very sensitive to any movement at all. When I open my gun safe, that little bit of movement is enough to turn the Kraken on.
The reticle and glass are surprisingly clear for a budget-priced optic. There is a slight blue tinge that comes from the notch filter. Nothing bad, and it’s only ever so visible in dimmer conditions.
The reticle is quite nice for a budget red dot. It’s mostly clear, with a slight hint of starburst to it. Just a hair. Swmapfox made a wise decision with the inside of the optic. It’s textured and cut to prevent glare, a nice feature that I rarely see.
The reticle’s refresh rate isn’t bad either, especially for a budget optic. The Kraken’s reticle doesn’t lag when you move rapidly from target to target, and when the slide reciprocates, you aren’t looking for a rapidly moving blur. In fact, when it comes to the reticle, the only way to tell this is a budget-friendly optic is if you turn it to max brightness in a dim environment. Do that, and you’ll see a reflection from the emitter.
With the Kraken, we get up and down brightness controls, both positioned on the left-hand side of the optic. The buttons are rubberized and quite tactile when pressed. I’d prefer them to be a little recessed to avoid accidental pushes, but they provide immediate adjustments. Shutting the optic off requires a long press of the down button, but turning it on only takes a quick press of the up button.
At the Range
I zeroed first at 10 yards and then at 25. The adjustments require a flat-head tool or the rim of a cartridge. Adjustments are both tactile and audible and provide you .5 MOA of adjustment per click. Adjustments were dead-on. I fired a group, measured, applied the calculation, and boom was right where I needed to be.
After zeroing in at 25 yards and getting a confirmation group, I messed with the turrets a bit. I pushed the reticle a little to the right, shot a group, then moved them a little to the left and shot another group. It was easy to see that the measurements were consistent.
The Kraken held on and remained zeroed as I blasted round after round downrange. I fired enough ammo to blacken the front of my WML. The Little Kraken never lost zero or needed to be readjusted. Reticle brightness was at seven and easily visible at high noon in Florida.
Worth the Squeeze
I’ve come to love red dots on handguns and have recently tested quite a few inexpensive models for better or worse. The Kraken isn’t exactly cheap, but it is affordable for an enclosed emitter optic.
Affordable doesn’t always mean durable, but in this case, the Kraken is quite strong. We can sink it to a meter for half an hour, and it can take a beating. I racked it off of walls and tables and dropped it over and over from chest height at multiple angles.
Nothing came loose, and nothing fell off, and the Kraken retained that 25-yard zero without issue. It’s well designed and well built.
The Kraken might not be ready to be parachuted into Fallujah for the third battle in that hellhole, but for daily carry and competition, it seems right on the money. Sure, it has a few imperfections, but overall, for the price, it’s surprisingly nice and very capable.
Specifications: Swampfox Kraken Red Dot Sight
Length – 1.85 inches
Width – 1.38 inches
Height – 1.27 inches
Weight – 2.5 ounces
Lens Diameter – 16x16mms
Reticle – 3 MOA Red Dot
Battery Life – 850 to 9100 hours
MSRP – $349
Ratings (out of five stars)
Ergonomics * * * ½
Great adjustments and controls make the optic easy to use. Although size doesn’t always matter, this is a big optic. If they could refine the battery compartment, they could shave the width a bit. Also, the plate system makes the optic a little taller than normal.
Clarity * * * *
The Kraken scores high in the optical clarity department. A slight blue tint isn’t a problem, and the red dot is fairly nice for its price point. It’s crisp and clear, with a good refresh rate and no lag. It starbursts a bit and has a slight reflection problem in certain situations, but overall it’s impressive for the price.
Reliability * * * * *
The Kraken doesn’t tap out. It can take an impressive beating, and for an optic that will likely live its life in a holster, it impressed me. For a budget optic, the Kraken really holds up.
Overall * * * *
The Swampfox Kraken delivers a $300+ enclosed emitter optic that doesn’t just not suck, it forms well all around and gives you a viable closed emitter option at an affordable price.