Vortex has a loyalist customer base, and the affordable, no-nonsense line of Crossfire optics has always been a hands-down winning line.
Because the Vortex Crossfire is one of the most popular, tried-and-tested red dot sights in the market today, we had to purchase it and see if it was all the rave.
The Crossfire (CF-RD2) is a red dot sight that boasts upgrades from the CF-RD1 predecessor. The Gen II improvements are a 50,000-hour battery life from 7,000 hours and two night vision compatible brightness settings. Additionally, the newer Crossfire MSRP maintains the same MSRP the older version had.
Even with its upgrades, the Crossfire red dot is an entry-level optic that has features to please - but also limitations that may be considered deal breakers.
To give an honest take on the Crossfire 2, I give a comparison review in my hands-on field test against a similar but worthy competitor. Keep reading!
What We Like: Turret quality
What We Don’t Like: Illumination knob
Best Uses: CQB, Close to Mid-Range, Target Shooting, Hunting, Recreational Use, Heavy Recoil Resistance, Fully Waterproof, Night Vision Compatible
- Magnification: 1x
- Coatings: FMC
- Eye Relief: Unlimited
- Reticle: 2 MOA dot
- Adjustments: 1 MOA
- Battery Life: 50,000 hours
- Dimensions: 2.5” L/5.2 oz
- Mount: Multi-height
Our Verdict: The Vortex Crossfire (CF-RD2) is not unlike entry-level alternatives in the same price range. It offers the expected, basic features but sets itself apart with Vortex quality and the acclaimed VIP warranty. As a beginner red dot, performance is consistent, and it simultaneously fits the bill.
Why Trust Me?
After hundreds of hours of hand-testing red dot sights in the field and on the hunt, and thousands more hours researching, writing, photographing and creating videos about them, I feel I have earned the title of expert when it comes to optics!
Optics are not just my passion, but also my full-time job!
I get my hands on as many of the optics I test as possible (through buying, borrowing or begging!) and run them through their paces to make sure they will perform out in field.
Check out our optics testing process here.
Over a decade of experience target shooting, hunting and recreational use has been integral in putting together this Vortex Crossfire Red Dot review.
Who is the Vortex Crossfire Best Suited to?
In general, the Crossfire is an entry-level red dot sight from a well-reputed manufacturer and is intentionally designed to be a no-nonsense red dot for fast 0-100-yard work. The price point, optics, and performance are well-suited to beginner budgets and those who often shoot recreationally.
During my field test of the Vortex Crossfire, I unfortunately had the experience of losing my dot to the stiff illumination knob. Though it’s by deliberate design to lack auto-off and motion sensor technology, for these reasons combined I cannot recommend it for professional applications such as law enforcement, military, and security.
How Does the Vortex Crossfire Perform?
Overall, the Vortex Crossfire red dot sight is a decent, budget optic from a reputable brand that comes with a rock-hard warranty. It lives up to its price point as a Vortex optic and provides sound performance in an entry-level package.
From my experience of shooting with it at the range, consistently glassing with it in various light conditions and terrains, and submerging it in water, I determine the Crossfire to be a competent red dot sight for most beginner and recreational applications.
It’s completely watertight and fogproof. I sunk it to the bottom of a water-filled 48-qt cooler with the illumination on and turret caps off. I wasn’t sure if it was going to stay waterproof without the caps on, but it did. It has been working like a champ long after water testing it.
At the range, I put the Crossfire through two semi-auto rifles and put, at the very least, a few hundred rounds through it – it’s so easy to do when one of them is a .22. It was shot with and without the field-tested Sig Sauer Juliet 3x magnifier, used with one eye open and two, and I went from using a front rest to kneeling positions.
It’s every bit a red dot sight. Put the dot on it and shoot. It took nothing to get on paper for the first group. It took little more to get to 100 yards. Whether it was paper, steel, or water bottles, the Crossfire got me on target.
With this in your setup, no target will want to get caught in your crossfire.
Features & Benefits
The Crossfire has capped turrets with 1 MOA adjustments and a total of 100 MOA each in adjustment travel for elevation and windage. The Vortex red dot sight tracks accurately, turrets are tactile, and the metal caps are the tools needed to make adjustments.
I’ve always liked red dot sights where the caps themselves serve as the tool as it’s one less thing to keep track of in your gear. The O-ring seals that provide water-tight benefits are secured at the base of the turret threading on the body.
The highlight feature of the turrets, other than the fact that it tracks fantastically and holds zero, is that they are not effortlessly easy to move. The small amount of friction I could feel with gloves on made it well-suited to deliberate adjustments without overshooting it. Many red dot sights offer all too eager adjustability, but not the Vortex, and I count this as an advantage!
With as much MOA travel as it has and its 2 MOA dot size, you could use this for beyond 100 yards if you have the skills and need to do so. I zeroed the Crossfire for 100, but you may want to add a magnifier to the combo for more accurate point of impacts.
Vortex includes a multi-height mounting system in the box. The Crossfire comes pre-installed with the skeletonized high riser mount, and a low-profile mount is packaged in the box. Extra screws are included.
The high-rise mount provides a lower 1/3 co-witness with BUIS, and I confirmed this with my front MBUS sight. The low-profile mount is excellent for AKs, a lighter weight, being a little more discreet, and it sits lower to the bore axis.
I didn’t experience any issues with either included mount. The Crossfire has a T1 footprint, so it’s compatible with T1 quick detach mounts. I slapped one on using the screws that came with the Crossfire to secure it.
In total, the Vortex Crossfire red dot sight is a basic, entry-level optic designed without the bells and whistles for nothing but dependable and accurate performance. At this price point, the optical features include nothing more than FMC (Fully Multi-coated Coatings).
FMC indicates that all air-to-glass surfaces are coated to reduce reflections and glare while also increasing light transmission throughout the optical path. Though there is somewhat of an industry standard that FMC offers the best there is, coating layers, density, formulas, etc. are not standardized. So, without being in the inner circle and privy to vault secrets, it’s close to impossible to clearly define what FMC means for Vortex.
As far as my hands-on field testing, I felt the optical quality was good for its price point but above average for an entry-level red dot sight. This most certainly has to do with having been manufactured by an established manufacturer in the industry.
The glass is mostly sharp from edge to edge helping to achieve natural and rapid two-eyes-open target acquisition and engagements. The only negative complaint I have is that it seems to have a cool blue tint to the color fidelity. This may be a superficial drawback for you and was hardly noticeable when I was actually shooting with it.
Dot & Illumination Quality
The Crossfire red dot sight has a 2 MOA dot with 11 brightness settings that includes two night vision compatible settings and is powered by a CR2032 battery. On setting six, the battery lifetime has been rated for 50,000 hours. The first battery is included in the box.
The illumination knob starts from 0 where settings 1 and 2 are night vision compatible. I would rate max illumination to be reasonably daylight bright. It’s visible against the sky, harder to find against shoot ‘n see orange or red but is easily picked up against darker targets and busy terrains.
Most of the time, I felt forced to sit in the higher settings at 10 and 11 for the most comfortable dot visibility. I found it difficult to keep track of the dot at brightness 7, and at 5, forget it.
However, for as how dim those settings are, they worked very well in lowlight conditions without blooming from 4 through to 8. I could not see the dot at all at setting 3, 2, and 1.
Vortex Crossfire VS STNGR Axiom II
Contrasting the Vortex Crossfire to the field-tested STNGR Axiom II is an appropriate comparison as they have similar features and performance. Both are often in the same price range of under $150, and they come with industry-best warranties.
The differences between the two red dot sights came to mind while I was in the field with the Crossfire. I must give it to the Vortex red dot that it’s obviously more compact than the Axiom II, has a fantastic balance between resistance and easy turret adjustment clicks, and its objective lens size is 22mm instead of the typical 20mm.
However, with my personal preferences weighing in on the decision, I prefer the Axiom II. The slightly bigger size makes for more room between the illumination knob and the windage turret. This makes it easier to grab and rotate the illumination knob.
Secondly, the knob is so much smoother to use than the tough Crossfire. You can also rotate past zero both forwards and backwards, and this is a feature I’ve come to heavily appreciate on red dot sights.
Thirdly, I could comfortably sit in the middle settings (6-8) for brightness intensity, whereas with the Vortex, I was consistently in the 9-11 range. As another point, the STNGR red dot sight is cheaper!
If you want another comparison of the Crossfire with similarly priced red dot, check out our Sig Sauer Romeo 5 vs Vortex Crossfire article.
The Crossfire has an oversized illumination knob that proves to be a much-needed design, but its full convenience is inhibited. Due to the compactness of the Vortex red dot, the windage turret is very close to the illumination knob. This makes it difficult to engage the knob with natural ease.
You lose up to, what I would guess to be, about 25% of rotating movement to conveniently turn the illumination knob easily and naturally. Given that the knob is rough to rotate to begin with, it only makes things feel harder.
The illumination knob does not rotate both ways past 0. You must dial all the way up to get to max brightness and then dial all the way back down to deactivate illumination.
The Vortex Crossfire red dot sight does not have shake awake that automatically activates illumination. Neither does the Crossfire have automatic off or standby modes. To activate it, rotate the illumination knob upwards from 0 (zero). To deactivate, return knob to setting 0.
On average most Vortex optics, if not all, are completely fog and waterproof. The Crossfire red dot sight is 100% waterproof and has not shown signs of internal fogging and has also been determined to be fogproof. Submersion was performed with illumination on and turret caps off.
The Vortex Crossfire red dot sight has two night vision compatible illumination settings at levels one and two. This means that dot illumination is not visible to the naked eye but should be visible with use of night vision equipment.
In total, many red dot sights now require CR2032 cell batteries for powering dot visibility via illumination. Following this common standard, the Vortex Crossfire 2 requires a CR2032 battery to operate. A single battery is included in the box.
According to Vortex, the Crossfire can be mounted to rimfires, centerfires, and shotguns. The included mounts are bolt-on and are known to be more dependable than quick detach mounts. In all probability, it will hold zero adequately with most calibers including 30 cals, 44 mags, and 12-gauges.
At the end of the day, the Vortex Crossfire red dot sight certainly comes up to snuff as a beginner optic and a daily workhorse for target shooting, some hunting, and all recreational applications.
Though it may not be the absolute best option in the under $150 price range, it’s certainly a viable one as a legitimate optic from a renowned manufacturer that comes backed with an unbeatable warranty.
If you’re not ready to buy from another brand, the Crossfire will meet most of your needs. The limitations may be acceptable to you and is proof that not all personal preferences are the same.
When you get the Vortex red dot sight, I wish you nothing but enjoyment for all bottle shooting and steel pinging you head out to do. I sure do when I head out with the Crossfire!