New: Vortex Defender – CCW™ Red Dot Review

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Vortex Defender-CCW™ sitting on the Stealth Arms Platypus

Vortex Optics just announced their all-new Defender-CCW™ red dot pistol sight. Aiming to get informative, full reviews out at the time of the launch, Vortex sent me this red dot a few weeks ago to begin testing out. This optic is designed to be sturdy and portable for everyday use while boasting a large window size and optics that provide a clear and accurate sight picture with minimal distortion. It is built specifically for modern everyday carry by maintaining a micro-sized body that delivers smoother, drag-free draws, and maximum concealment. Its brightness can be easily adjusted to suit your preferences, and a button lockout function ensures that unintentional adjustments are avoided while carrying. The Defender-CCW™ also has a lengthy battery life and motion activation, giving you peace of mind that it will be ready to go whenever you may need it.

Vortex Defender – CCW Specifications:

Mounting Footprint: Shield RMS

Included Mount Type: Picatinny

Magnification: 1x

Dot Color: Bright Red

Battery Type: CR1632

Illumination Settings: 8 daylight, 2 NV

Parallax Setting: Parallax Free

Adjustment Graduation: 1 MOA

Max Windage Adjustment: 105 MOA

Max Elevation Adjustment: 110 MOA

Dot Size: 3 or 6 MOA

Eye Relief: Unlimited

Height/Length/Width: 1.0″/ 1.6″/ 1.1″

Weight: 0.90 oz

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Testing out the Defender-CCW™ while attending a pistol course hosted by the Vortex Edge training facility

Out of the Box

From the factory, the Defender-CCW™ comes with nearly everything you would ever need. Vortex includes a Picatinny mount, 1-degree shim plate, lens cloth, custom tool, protective cover, and a multitude of fasteners to mount this red dot to nearly all modern optic cut pistols on the market. Vortex’s inclusion of extra fasteners is appreciated, and they have done an excellent job of labeling each bag with the fastener type and compatible pistols, making it simple to identify which set corresponds to a particular firearm.

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
All included accessories that come with the Defender-CCW™

Another big perk is that the Defender-CCW™ ships with a low-profile Picatinny rail mount. This gives immediate possibilities for this red dot to be used on carbines, or the ability to just ditch the mount and run it directly mounted to a pistol. While the Picatinny mount is lower profile than I would like to use mounted to an AR all by itself, it sits just right on top of a riser. Either way, it is good to have options and I appreciate Vortex including this mount. Vortex also is offering both a 3 and 6 MOA version of this optic. I typically prefer the smaller 3 MOA version as it helps me with more precise shots, whereas the larger 6 MOA dot can be a little easier to find. Shown below is a picture of the two versions side by side.

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
3 MOA Defender-CCW™ on the left, and the 6 MOA variant on the right

Housing

The Defender-CCW™ features a housing that is quite unique. Machined into the front face is what Vortex is calling their Fast-Rack™ textured grip to aid in racking the slide off of any surface. This texturing does a great job of preventing the optic from sliding off a slick surface when pressing down against it. While just racking the slide normally with your offhand is ideal, having an optic built to handle some abuse and even aid when performing one-handed weapon manipulations is quite handy. The glass window is recessed away from the housing, so racking off objects didn’t scratch the glass throughout my testing. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Fast-Rack™ front textured face

The top of the housing also features a polymer insert known as a ShockShield™ which is designed to absorb everyday impacts the optic may face. I also see this as a way to lighten up the top of the red dot and shift weight toward the bottom to minimize the amount of torque the slide may face when shooting. While the Defender-CCW™ weighs a mere 0.9 ounces, optimizing the center of gravity helps increase the reliability of the weapon system it is mounted to. 

Battery

Utilizing a CR1632 battery, the Defender-CCW™ is advertised as giving users around 9,500 hours of run time. While the brightness setting for this battery life was not specified, this red dot features a top-loading battery compartment so changing the battery is no hassle. To lengthen the run time, there is an auto-shutoff feature that is set for 14 hours. When Auto-shutoff is enabled, the Defender-CCW™ also features motion activation to turn the dot back on as soon as it is picked up from a stationary position such as one’s nightstand. If the dot is installed on a duty or concealed carry pistol, it would ultimately remain constantly on due to movement. However, a great feature is a button lockout feature that prevents accidental adjustments when carrying. While I haven’t had many issues accidentally adjusting the brightness settings of red dots while concealed carrying, I have heard multiple people complain about it, so having a lockout feature is a nice perk. To activate lockout mode, simply press and hold the up button for 3 seconds and the dot will blink off for half a second and then remain on. This signifies that the brightness settings are locked and cannot be changed. To adjust the brightness settings again, just hold the up button for another 3 seconds and the dot will blink off two times in 1 second to confirm lockout mode has been disabled. 

SEE MORE: Top PRS Glass? Vortex Razor HD Gen II — Tracking Test

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Battery cap labeled to help orient the single CR1632 battery correctly into the compartment

Buttons

While buttons are just buttons, the brightness adjustments for the Defender-CCW™ are on both the left and right-hand side of the housing. The up arrow turns the brightness up, and the down arrow turns the brightness down. Vortex fabricated a raised lip on the housing that aligns with the button tops, to prevent unintended changes. This design ensures that the controls remain concealed and protected against inadvertent bumps. The adjustments are tactile and audible. There are 10 brightness settings, 8 daylight settings, and 2 night vision settings. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Brightness down adjustment is located on the right side of the housing

Turrets

To adjust the zero for this optic, Vortex uses an elevation turret on the top of the housing and a windage turret on the right side of the housing. Simply use the etched markings to adjust for the bullet’s point of impact. So once installed and sighting in, if the first impact is high right, dial the adjustments down and to the left. Each click moves the bullet’s point of impact by 1 MOA. Although the turrets are not very tactile, one can slightly feel the clicks when adjusting for windage and elevation. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Elevation adjustment on the top of the housing and the windage on the right side

Glass

The window for the Defender-CCW™ is considered the largest “in its class” and this seems to be true. Featuring a Shield RMS footprint, the glass is quite impressive for its slim size. The window is larger than the Vortex Viper® and Venom® MRDS while being much more durable than both of them. The aspherical lens also offers a distortion-free sight picture which is a big improvement over optics such as the Trijicon RMR. In addition to this, the glass offers much truer colors with only a very faint blue tint. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
From left to right: Sig RomeoZero Elite, Eotech EFLX, Vortex Defender-CCW™, Trijicon RMR

Using the Vortex Defender – CCW™

The larger window helped me to find the dot quickly, while the clear and distortion-free glass allowed me to keep my full attention on my targets downrange. My main complaint about this red dot is the refresh rate used. While not noticeable when stationary and looking through the optic, when moving the dot appears to slightly flicker from one position to another. This is unavoidable except for at the highest brightness setting. Using this slower refresh rate is supposed to help with battery life, but to me, it is not worth the distraction of a strobing dot when shooting quick transitions. This is not a huge deal, and still easy to shoot with, but I do find it annoying. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
The Vortex Defender-CCW™ is also apparently fire-resistant as this photo shows it taking some back blast from the chamber

One other interesting thing I noticed with the Defender-CCW™ was the weird reflection I could get when pointing the red dot at a specific angle relative to a light source. Whether the sun or a bright lightbulb inside my house, when a light source was about 30 degrees forward and up from the angle of the muzzle, I could see this very distinct image when the red dot was turned off reflecting up into the window of the optic. When the optic is turned on this makes the dot look like it is blooming out, and when it is turned off it is still visible. I have noticed this with other red dots such as the Eotech EFLX, Leupold Delta Point Pro, Holosun 509T, and Sig Romeo Zero Elite, but it is slightly more pronounced on the Defender-CCW™. Again, this is not much of an issue, but rather something I thought was worth noting.

SEE MORE: Best Entry-Level Rangefinder: Vortex Impact 850

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
The red dot is turned off, and this is only visible when pointing about 30 degrees below a bright light source
New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
The red dot is turned on and there is some slight bloom around the dot that is from the reflection seen in the image above even when the dot is turned off

The last complaint I have over this optic is the bloom when the brightness is set between 7-10. The center dot flares out a decent amount (less than my Trijicon RMR), and there is a fairly well-defined ring around the center dot similar to that of the Eotech HWS which I thought was interesting. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Bloom when the dot is set to brightness setting 10/10

Vortex Defender CCW Durability

While I have only had this red dot for a little over a month, I have been able to put around 400 rounds downrange with it mounted to 9mm pistols, along with a decent amount of buckshot and slugs when mounted to the Beretta A300 Ultima. I never had any sort of issue come up throughout my testing. The Vortex Defender – CCW™ held zero and ran flawlessly even after a few table racks testing out the front Fast-Rack™ front face. 

New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Racking the slide using the Defender-CCW to simulate one-handed emergency reloads
New: Vortex Defender - CCW™ Red Dot Review
Defender-CCW holding up like a champ while burning down some drills with the Beretta A300 Ultima shooting 12gauge buckshot

Summary

Overall, I think the new Vortex Defender-CCW™ packs a lot of performance for the price. It has an MSRP of $349.99 and comes with a Picatinny mount right from the factory. The red dot utilizes the common Sheild RMS footprint and features a snag-free micro-sized housing. Providing a best-in-class window size, the Defender-CCW™ delivers distortion-free viewing with great clarity. Add in a top-loading battery, solid adjustments, a unique front Fast-Rack™ front face, and solid durability, this is going to be a solid option for everyday carry. 

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  • JeffK March 20, 2023, 9:20 pm

    This looks like a solid buy, the ability to use the “Defender” to aid in slide racking is a big plus as my arthritis advances, but without a circle-dot reticle option it’s not for me. At 71 my vision is still quite good even without correction and I’ve used reflex and holographic sights of one flavor or another for 15 plus years. For whatever reason I’ve never been able to acquire a single dot with the speed necessary for serious use, whether mounted on a handgun or long gun. My preference is a 65 MOA circle (dot size has never been an issue), but something to draw my eye to the center works; I even have a Sig Romeo with the “Varmint” reticle consisting of green bars in a triangle configuration and central dot that does the job. Aside from drawing my eye, circle dots help gauge holdover at range and lead on moving targets. Thanks for the comprehensive review!

  • Dennis McCarty March 20, 2023, 9:12 am

    Too wide for CCW. Make it narrower.

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