By Trampas Swanson

For the past five years, Vortex Optics has been one of the hottest companies in the firearms industry. They have gained the most fame by bridging the huge gap between bargain budget scopes / red dots to high end products. By offering better pricing on familiar operating designs backed by an amazing “no questions asked” warranty, Vortex has turned a lot of diehard users of other brands to their products. (I know, because I was one of them.) Every time a major brand fails on a company wide basis, it seems Vortex is there with a great new product to help jaded customers join their ranks.

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The Razor AMG UH-1

Over the last two years, one of my personal favorite optics to run on my 5.56 AR platform rifles has been Vortex’s SPARC AR red dot. Coming from a Law Enforcement background serving on the SWAT team for over a decade, I was very familiar with both the Aimpoint and EOTech platforms and their unique advantages. When it came time to replace my outdated rifle optics, the Vortex SPARC AR filled every requirement I had set forth while shopping, including NOT being an almost $1000 red dot. One of the things I always missed about running the EOTech platform was the incredible field of view and not feeling like I was having to look down a tube to see the dot. This partially comes in the fact, the EOTech was never a true red dot, rather a holographic sight. The difference being red dots have a low power LED that produces the reticle, while a holographic sight uses a more powerful laser that bounces around to produce the holographic image of the reticle. Traditionally, the actual noticeable difference for the end user has been battery life with the red dots coming out ahead, but with newer technology coming to the market, holographic sights are gaining more traction.

Over the years, I’ve watched Vortex prove themselves in the industry, and I have done multitude of reviews on their products. When I came across the new Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Holographic Sight, aka “Huey” as it’s known to Vortex employees, at SHOT SHOW last year, I immediately signed up to try one out personally for review. Due to production issues and back orders, it would be just over a year before my T&E sample would arrive. I will admit, right out of the box, it was well worth it.

What made it so special you ask? Well, immediately prior to the AMG UH-1 release, their competitor, EOTech began to have quality and performance issues with their flagship optics. These issues left thousands of diehard EOTech loyalists in a daze, returning their units, even the well working ones, back to the company out of panic it would fail at some point. Not to leave these red dot shooters without an option to turn to, the engineers at Vortex rushed to the market with a product familiar to these shooters. The similarity got the new Vortex product noticed, the innovation and subtle redesign are what sold them. Some speculate Vortex raced to the customers too fast in order to capture their business without the product truly ready for market, hence the wait time and pre-order back up. Whether they were ready for market or not, it appears Vortex is back in full force and ready for the success of the new AMG UH-1. This week, we take a close look at this holographic sight and see how it has performed over the past couple of months we have been working with it.

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First Impressions

When my testing unit arrived, it was packaged in a very professional, black and white cardboard box full of information, logos and even an image of what to expect the reticle to look like when using it. While this is a not the plastic hard case usually associated with holographic sights such as EOTech, it’s really a moot point because I tend to keep my rifle sight on my rifle, not in the case. Once removing the unit from the box, I must say as far as optics go, it’s a very good-looking sight. A bit on the futuristic side with its rearward sweeping rounded square house and clean lines in an all metal design. Noticeably larger than my SPARC AR tube style red dot, it is nowhere as large as variable power optics such as the 1-8×24 Vortex Strike Eagle I run on my .300 BLK SBR.

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Inside the package included with the optic was a lithium CR123A battery which powers the unit. An alternative to this battery is the LFP123A rechargeable battery which can be charged via a Micro USB port found on the right side of the optic. This allows for Private Contractor / Military convoys and Law Enforcement officers to charge their units stored between the front seats or on a cage in the vehicle via options such as a cigarette lighter port. For the average recreational shooter, just keeping a spare CR123A battery on hand and forgoing the rechargeable option keeps things simple. A huge plus to the battery compartment is that the door is tethered to the unit with a cable. This is a solid benefit because I am the king of misplacing the battery compartment door in the short time it takes to switch out batteries.

Once mounted onto my rifle, the optic did not take up as much room as I feared, leaving plenty of space for my back up iron sights (BUIS). With the iron sights flipped up, I could very easily co-witness them with the UH-1’s reticle with a wide field of view around it. If you a strong advocate of shooting with both eyes open like I am, going from a traditional tube style red dot to the Vortex holographic sight is like looking through a peephole then looking through a window. The quick release throw lever made mounting the optic a breeze and held solid as a rock once latched down. To prevent the latch from catching on gear and opening, there is a secondary button that acts as a lock for the latch. With everything in place, I couldn’t wait to get on the range and get started!

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SPECS

  • Height: Approx. 2.25”
  • Length: 3.5”
  • Weight: 11.8 oz
  • Center Dot: 1 MOA
  • Levels of Illumination: 15
  • Levels of Adjustment: 0.5 MOA per clicks
  • MSRP: $699

Range Time

Soon after the unit arrived, I was able to head to the range with the UH-1 mounted on one of the AR-15 platform rifles I use for teaching firearms classes. Using the integrated quick detach mount, the UH-1 locked up on the Picatinny top rail tightly with zero room to wiggle. The rifle, chambered in 5.56mm, was built around a Sons of Liberty Gun Works receiver using top quality products in the industry and has proved itself to be a reliable and accurate tool. Like several of the other AR-15’s in the Swanson Media Group armory, this rifle wore a SPARC AR red dot. The new Vortex optic would have to compete against its own brother in the product line in order to stay!

Using the optic’s rear facing brightness adjustment buttons, I powered up the unit by pressing the UP button. To turn the unit off, simply press both UP and DOWN buttons at the same time and hold for 1 second. Since I often forget to turn battery powered optics off, the UH-1 is equipped with an auto-shut off feature after 14 hours which can be disabled easily if needed. With its 12 brightness options, this unit is fully night vision compatible as well.

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Since I knew the iron sights were already dialed in on target, I simply turned the UH-1 unit’s power on and used a quarter to turn the UP / DOWN and LEFT / RIGHT adjustments located on the sight’s righthand side. With each click of the adjustment’s equaling .5 MOA, it didn’t take but a few each way to place the reticle in the center just above the front sight. I then folded the iron sights down out of the way and took my first 3 shots on target. The quick sight adjustments paid off. All 3 shots were touching at 15 yards approximately 2 inches low. By switching to the small triangle located at the bottom of the reticle, my next three shots were dead on target.

Moving out to 50 yards, my next 3 shots were dead on. I quickly noticed I was getting on target faster with the UH-1 by using the reticle’s circle to frame out the target then centering the small 1 MOA dot. At this distance, I began placing 2 shots each on 3 different targets in each string of fire. Due to my eyes being able to pick up the circle faster than only a small dot like my SPARC AR, transitioning from target to target is without a doubt faster.

As I moved out to 100 yards to test the optic’s precision capabilities on a pair of 6”x4” popper targets, it began to rain. Although the UH-1 was getting soaking wet, it is certified from Vortex Optics to be completely waterproof up to 80 ft, even with the USB Micro port door open! Since our team’s unofficial motto here in Florida has always been, “If it’s raining, we’re training,” I pressed on. Holding the center dot center of the popper target, my rounds struck approximately 2” high of center, sending them toppling over. The wide window of the UH-1 allowed for me to have a great field of view while still focusing in on small targets. Moving from each distance, I noticed there was no parallax distortion with the new optic.

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Final Thoughts

One of the failures of the EOTech was a condition called thermal drift. Prolonged exposure under negative 40 degrees and over 120 degrees would cause the unit’s sight to be off as much as 6” – 12” inches off center at 100 yards. This extreme drift could cause a complete miss on a human size target at such a relatively short distance. Due to the thousands of EOTech users being sent back in for full refunds, I remember being amazed there were evidently that many folks shooting in the Arctic and Sahara-like environments outside of military applications. Good news for these polar people and cactus lovers, according Vortex’s in-house testing, this is not the case with the UH-1 unit. Early tests have already seen temperatures over 120 degrees for weeks on end with private contractors with rave reviews thus far.

Overall, I liked the AMG UH-1 a lot. Initially, I admit, I was very skeptical to the intentions of the optics release. According to Vortex, this design had been in the works for years to offer a more diverse product to their customers, but with the timing of EOTech’s troubles gave cause to invest in the UH-1’s completion. Having used several models of EOTechs for years, I can honestly say the AMG UH-1 is a better overall product. Unlike the EOTech with its plastic housing and metal cage guard, the UH-1’s all metal construction, sleeker design and easier to use controls all make for a much better product.

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Retailing for $699 MSRP ($499 at 1800GunsAndAmmo.com), the UH-1 is competitively priced in the market and will certainly give shooters a viable option for users who prefer a better field of view and zero light signature from down range. Using human torso sized targets, I am confident to get critical hits from 3 to 300 yards with this optic.