I think of myself as an overachiever. Others think of me as a type-A pest. Regardless, when I decided to take not one, but two, rifles to hunt Cape Buffaloes in Mozambique this November, I knew I needed a new riflescope. This scope would be mounted on my .35 Whelen Improved discussed in a previous review (TTAG).
Unlike the riflescope already on this rifle, the new one would need to be a lower power variable optic (you don’t shoot buffalo at 200 yards, or at least I won’t), possess an illuminated reticle for visibility against a black animal, and be tough as an old boot.
The hunt for a Cape Buffalo will take place in swamps associated with the Zambezi Delta. We will be leaving the Zambeze Delta Safaris camp at around 5 a.m., driving a minimum of three bumpy hours to get as deep into the swamp as possible, and then we will stalk buffalo for the rest of the day. I can’t afford to have my riflescope fail as it bounces around in the vehicle, is wrestled through sawgrass and papyrus, and slides along the ground as we crawl up to the herds.
With all of the above in mind, I approached Vortex Optics. I have quite a bit of respect for their optics due to my earlier experience with their rangefinders, binoculars and riflescopes. Also, when I have asked friends from the military — including those from the Special Forces — for their recommendations for glass, they often state flatly, “Vortex.”
I explained what I wanted in the riflescope, and they suggested the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24. This isn’t an optic that’s usually used in this role. The Strike Eagle 1-6×24 has true one-power on the low end. With the illuminated reticle on, it acts as a red dot scope for close quarters engagements.
Vortex’s reasoning in suggesting the Strike Eagle for my hunt was that it has an appropriate magnification range and a lighted reticle with BDC (bullet drop compensator) hashmarks out to 600 yards. Again, I’m not going to be sniping at a big, mean animal that could make an oily spot out of me if provoked by a poor shot. In fact, the Strike Eagle comes equipped with a fixed parallax adjustment set at 100 yards.
Importantly, even cranked up to 6X, at 100 yards this scope has a field of view of over 19 feet. That will allow me to see additional animals and reference points to aid my PH in getting me on the correct buffalo.
The Strike Eagle 1-6×24 has an etched, illuminated second focal plane reticle with BCD holdover hash marks making it ideal for my use.
When I asked if the Strike Eagle was designed for AR-platform rifles equipped with muzzle brakes instead of heavy-recoiling, big-game rifles the Vortex rep told me, “It’s rock solid – should have no problem holding up.” In fact, the shockproof riflescope’s single-piece tube is constructed from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminum. So, it is externally rock solid. Given the track record of Vortex products I have been using, I expected its internal components to be just as solid.
The Strike Eagle has a low turret profile, with the standard positioning of the elevation turret on the top…
… and the windage turret on the right side.
The lighted reticle control is on the left side of the 30 mm tube.
The Strike Eagle also comes equipped with a handy thread-in magnification throw lever.
Range Workup: Eye Relief
For the range workup, Hornady sent me some of their .35 Whelen ‘Superformance’ ammunition topped with a 200 grain Spire Point bullet to use from my .35 Whelen Improved rifle. I produce brass for reloading by fire-forming .35 Whelen brass. Though not quite as accurate as my reloads, I knew the .35 Whelen ammunition would be sufficient for checking out the performance of the Strike Eagle.
When dealing with a heavier recoiling rifle, sufficient eye relief is a major concern. Scope bite is a thing and just about every rifle shooter has experience it. I have a hunting article due to appear in the near future titled, “Embracing My Inner Idiot”. When a client allows their scope to hit them in the face, African PHs refer to the resulting cuts and bruises as ‘idiot marks’.
The ‘Embracing’ article tells the story of the time I put a gash on my nose when firing this rifle while hunting in Africa. The problem with this rifle (which I inherited) is that the stock is too short for me. I refuse to alter the lovely stock, and that brings us to the second issue; I am an inveterate stock-crawler. Hence, the idiot marks from that previous scope.
Happily, the eye relief on the Strike Eagle turned out to be sufficient that I don’t have to worry about putting another idiot mark on myself from the shooting positions I’ll likely use in Mozambique off of my 4StableSticks rests while either standing or sitting.
Range Workup: Box Test
As is my habit, I did not lock the rifle into a lead sled etc for the box test. I used a Stukeys portable shooting bench, sandbags and an Armageddon Gear Waxed Canvas Optimized Game Changer support bag.
In spite of using the heavy .35 Whelen ammunition and not locking the rifle down, the box test results were very good. I adjusted the Strike Eagle such that each corner of the box should have been approximately seven inches from the nearest corners. Shots 1-3 were perfectly in line with the adjustments. Shots 4 and 5 were slightly outside the seven inch length.
Not shown is a 100-yard group produced prior to the box test. The group size using this ammunition and rest were approximately three MOA (i.e. three inches in diameter). This accords well with the ‘group’ sizes from shots 1-5.
The Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24 isn’t designed to be used for hunting dangerous game in Africa. Most buyers will mount the scope on their AR to be used in 3-gun competitions, varmint hunting or range shooting. It’s an extremely versatile low power variable optic for all kinds of uses. But with its XD coated glass, illuminated reticle and excellent light transmission even in low light conditions, this great scope is not only affordable, but it will work extremely well for me on my Mozambique hunt.
Specifications: Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24
Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
Eye Relief: 3.5 inches
Field of View: 116.5-19.2 ft @100 yds
Tube Size: 30 mm
Turret Style: Low Capped
Adjustment Graduation: 1/2 MOA
Travel Per Rotation: 44 MOA
Max Elevation Adjustment: 140 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment: 140 MOA
Parallax Setting: Fixed @100 yds
Length: 10.5 inches
Weight: 18.5 oz
MSRP: $399.99 ($299 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Glass Quality * * * * *
Like all of my own Vortex optics, as well as others I’ve reviewed, the Strike Eagle has fantastic light gathering, clarity, sharpness and transmission. I used the Strike Eagle 1-6×24 both in full sun, heavy overcast and at dusk. The illuminated reticle brightness is adjustable and that worked well for matching it with the various conditions. I also tested it without the illumination on to check out what would happen if my battery goes dead while I’m in the field. The scope’s optics were more than clear enough in all of the light conditions, even without the illuminated reticle.
Durability * * * * *
The Strike Eagle rifle scope is recommended for rifles used in combat-type competitions that are very hard on the firearm and riflescope. I have fired 100+ rounds of heavy-recoiling .35 Whelen Improved since mounting the Strike Eagle and the scope has been rock-solid. I expect it to stay that way.
Build Quality and Precision * * * * *
Each of the turrets and adjustment rings rings move smoothly and gave positive resistance, making adjustments easy without drift. They have a high quality feel at a very affordable price point. The box test demonstrated that the windage and elevation components were manufactured to a high level of precision.
Overall * * * * *
My experience with Vortex products has been consistent; the optics have always provided excellent clarity and performance. The Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24 was the same. Obviously, I have no intention of using this riflescope out to its 600 yard maximum range. However, under all the light conditions I have used the Strike Eagle, it has provided me the needed magnification and clarity necessary for the expected 100-150 yard shots I intend to use against a Mozambique Cape Buffalo. If something gets screwed up while firing at a Cape Buffalo, it is very unlikely to be because of the Strike Eagle.
Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; links to other articles can be found here.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Frances and Mike Arnold.