Listen, I understand how you feel…With inflation, supply chain issues, and the cost of everything going up, it’s hard to justify a new optic for your AR-15, AK, or any other battle rifle for that matter. And when it comes to budget optics, not all of them are created equal.
I’ve bought some questionable optics in my day, scopes that were marketed as “tactical” but really made for nothing stronger than airsoft rifles or maybe a 22LR on a good day. So yes, some budget optics out there aren’t even worth what you could get for them at the scrap yard and paying a couple hundred bucks more could get you some considerably better glass.
I’m glad to say that SFT2 Tactical does NOT fall into that category.
In this review, I’m going to share my experience shooting the SFT2 Tactical Minuteman 1-6 LPVO. I’ll compare these to more expensive and well-known optics, namely the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x LPVO.
And by the end of this review, you can finally answer the question, “Can SFT2 Tactical really be as good as the bigger brands?”
Let’s get to it!
For full transparency, SFT2 Tactical provided me with their optics for this review. The Vortex Strike Eagle I had purchased prior to this review with my own funds. Also, I wanted to extend a special thanks to Ammo.com for providing me with the 5.56 ammo used for the shooting aspect of this review.
The test rifle for this review was an Armalite M15 with a 16” heavy barrel (1:7 twist). The upper receiver is equipped with a free float tube, Harris 1A2 bipod, and a Rock River Arms Tactical Muzzle Brake. The lower came installed with the Armalite two-stage match trigger and the scope base used for both LPVO optics was the Vortex Sport Cantilever 30mm mount.
Testing ammunition was Hornady BLACK 62 grain FMJ 5.56 NATO. Group testing was performed at 100 yards. All shots were taken from a bench to minimize muscle fatigue and truly test the capabilities of each optic.
Atmospheric conditions of the day of testing were overcast with light intermittent drizzle and temperatures around the lower 50’s. In other words, a typical Indiana fall day.
The Vortex Strike Eagle had been previously zeroed on this rifle using my personal 55 grain FMJ handloads prior to testing. All other optics were quickly zeroed to get us on target. To conserve time and ammunition, we did not perform a perfect zero to the center of the target. However, I held point-of-aim at the center of the target for consistency.
LPVO Review – Vortex Strike Eagle vs SFT2 Tactical Minuteman
A low power variable optic (LPVO) is a compact rifle scope that typically has a magnification range between 1-4x up to 1-10x. The LPVO is a relatively new concept that has become extremely popular thanks to 3-gun competitors who need to transition between point blank to 100+ yard shots incredibly quickly.
The LPVO offers shooters a lot of versatility, allowing for both eyes open shooting on 1x to quickly switching to long-range shots with higher magnifications. This has multiple tactical applications, as it allows for positive identification (PID) of your target before you pull the trigger.
For the review, I started with the Strike Eagle first as it was zeroed and already mounted to the rifle. Afterwards, I removed the Vortex scope from the mount and replaced it with the SFT2 Minuteman. Below are my observations of each rifle scope.
Both scopes are rated at 1-6x magnification. Although Vortex claims they have a “true 1x” magnification, this is a bit of a marketing gimmick as no LPVO has a true 1x like a red dot.
Both scopes utilize a knurled knob that rotates around the ocular lens that you twist to increase or decrease magnification. The Strike Eagle has a protrusion that is useful to get a solid grip to change magnification a bit more easily than the Minuteman, but I had no issue adjusting either scope.
Newer model Strike Eagles come with a screw-in throw lever to make magnification adjustment faster, however as I have a first generation model my scope did not come with that option.
Bottom line: The Strike Eagle will be slightly easier to quickly adjust for magnification which can be important for competitive or tactical shooting.
Both scopes have very clear glass for their price point as I could not detect any defects or blurriness in either scope. Of course, we aren’t talking NightForce levels of clarity, but I don’t think most shooters (myself included) will be in a situation with an LPVO where that’s an issue.
Bottom line: Both scopes have lovely glass, and you won’t be disappointed with either
This is one area where the Strike Eagle and Minuteman differ in their design. The Strike Eagle utilizes low profile capped turrets while the Minuteman is equipped with exposed zero-reset turrets.
Capped turrets give shooters a sense of security that their zero will not be altered accidentally if the turret is struck or gets caught on something. However, it is also a hindrance if you need to quickly adjust your scope for windage or elevation as you first must remove the cap and then make your adjustment. The caps are also not tethered to the scope, so they could easily be lost in a stressful situation.
On the other hand, the Minuteman uses exposed turrets that lock into place and offer an extremely simple zero-reset that allows you to quickly return to zero after adjustments have been made. To adjust your Minuteman, simply pull up on the turret body and push it back down to lock it back into place. Exposed turrets allow for faster adjustments with less effort than the Vortex.
Both scopes offer extremely tactile and audible clicks when adjusting for windage and elevation, and both scopes use a ½ MOA graduation per click. The Strike Eagle offers slightly more windage and elevation travel range at 140 MOA compared to 120 MOA for the Minuteman.
Bottom line: The Minuteman’s exposed turrets offer faster adjustment which can be important in long-range tactical or competitive shooting situations.
Reticle and Illumination
One of the key aspects of an LPVO is an etched and illuminated reticle, and both the Strike Eagle and Minuteman have this feature. The etched reticle allows the optic to function with or without power while the illuminated reticle feature allows shooters high reticle visibility in variable lighting levels.
Although both scopes feature an etched reticle, the design of each is drastically different.
From a visual standpoint, I prefer the Minuteman reticle as its 7-10 MOA horseshoe and 1 MOA aiming dot felt extremely natural during shooting. The Strike Eagle reticle is similar but uses a segmented horseshoe instead of the contiguous one used in the Minuteman.
The Strike Eagle AR-BDC3 reticle offers a ballistic drop compensator specifically tuned to typical 5.56 NATO ammo and is calibrated for shots out to 650 yards. However, one thing the Vortex reticle lacks is additional windage subtensions, outside of the broken horseshoe, to account for a moving target or adjustments for wind drift.
The Minuteman, on the other hand, has both bullet drop compensation as well as windage marks in their reticle to offer you more precise aiming options.
For illumination, Vortex offers 10 different lighting settings in the Strike Eagle while the Minuteman offers six. However, the Minuteman has a feature I’ve not seen in an LPVO that is extremely useful, and that feature is that every other click on the illumination wheel is an “off” setting.
This may sound cumbersome, but it’s actually extremely helpful. Imagine for a moment that you have a traditional lighting knob and your preferred lighting level is something around 5 or 6. To get your illuminated reticle off you have to traverse the entire wheel. Not so for the Minuteman, as all you need to do is move the illumination wheel either one step up or down and the reticle is off.
This may sound like a minor difference, but I found it to be extremely convenient and takes a lot of guesswork out of knowing if your reticle is on an extremely low setting (and draining your battery) or completely off.
Bottom line: The Minuteman LPVO offers enhanced aiming capabilities with a more complex reticle that offers both bullet drop and windage markings for quick acquisition. The illumination wheel also offers a quick “off” setting in between each different brightness level. However, the Strike Eagle offers a simpler reticle and more brightness level options.
Focal Plane (FFP vs SFP)
The difference between first focal plane (FFP) and second focal plane (SFP) is one of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of magnified optics. Furthermore, it’s a huge difference between the Minuteman and Strike Eagle, as the Vortex optic is SFP while the SFT2 optic is FFP.
To put it simply, the focal plane of your scope identifies where your aiming reticle is etched and how it behaves when you increase or decrease magnification.
For a FFP scope, like the Minuteman, the reticle will increase in size the more you increase magnification. This means that the reticle will be its smallest at 1x magnification and largest at 6x for the Minuteman.
For a SFP scope, like the Strike Eagle, the reticle will be the same size irrespective of the magnification level. It will look the same at 1x, 6x, and anything in between.
The benefit of a FFP scope is that the ranging hash marks will be consistent at any magnification, meaning your holdover will be exactly the same at 1x or 6x magnification. This is not true for a SFP scope, as reticle subtensions for the Strike Eagle are calibrated for maximum magnification only.
This means that if you mistakenly think you are on 6x magnification for the Strike Eagle and use a reticle holdover, it’s likely your shot will not land where you expect it to.
The downside to a FFP scope is that the reticle is typically very small at lower magnification while a SFP reticle will be completely visible at any magnification level.
FFP scopes are typically more complex to construct and command a higher price point (we’ll cover cost later in the review) while SFP scopes are simpler and generally less expensive.
Bottom line: The Minuteman FFP LPVO offers correct ranging hash marks at any magnification but the reticle is small at 1x. In contrast, the Strike Eagle is a SFP scope that has a consistent reticle size at all magnification levels, but ranging is only accurate on 6x.
Now we come to the big question, which scope is more accurate? To make a long story short, both performed admirably and are likely more accurate than I do them justice.
Overall, group sizes from 100 yards were between 1.4” and 1.7” (center-to-center) on the extreme spread for 10 shot groups. The smallest group was attained with the Strike Eagle at 1.41” (note: this was my first group of the day) while the largest group was shot with the Minuteman at 1.71” (this was a rapid-fire group, at about 1 shot/sec). Overall, I’m very happy with this performance from both the ammo, the scope, and my mediocre shooting ability.
From a zeroing experience, I had no issues with the Minuteman. I was only slightly off paper for our first shots after mounting the optic and had it zeroed within 15 rounds. Not too shabby for mounting an optic in the field!
While zeroing, the Minuteman LPVO tracked extremely well and had no issues holding zero throughout the day. Although I can’t say that I really abused the scope or put it through a training course, I’m very happy with the performance and would have no qualms about keeping this optic on my DMR (designated marksman rifle) or competition rifle.
Bottom line: Both scopes were relatively equivalent in terms of accuracy and had no issues holding zero throughout the day.
If there’s one major distinction between these two scopes, it’s clearly their cost as the Strike Eagle is over double the cost of the Minuteman based on MSRP. At the time of writing, Vortex has their Strike Eagle marked with a MSRP of $499.99 compared to the SFT2 Tactical Minuteman currently listed at $239.99.
I don’t know about you, but a $250 difference is pretty significant to me. It’s not like you can find that stuck between my couch cushions these days! Now the question is, do you get an extra $250 worth of value or performance if you opt to go with the more expensive option?
In my hands, I’m not seeing a huge difference between these two optics in terms of value. Both perform extremely well, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. But $250 is still $250, and with the increasing cost of ammo you could easily justify going with the less expensive scope and putting the savings into some extra ammo.
Furthermore, the SFT2 Minuteman offers you an FFP scope at a fraction of what competitors charge for their FFP scopes. What I’m trying to say is that SFT2 Tactical is not only comparable to more expensive brands, but you get the same or better performance and features that other manufacturers will charge you 2-4x the price for.
Bottom line: The SFT2 Minuteman offers shooters incredible value for the price point.
Although “budget optics'' is sometimes thought of as a dirty word in the shooting community, there are options out there that can get the job done and save you some hard-earned cash in the process. The SFT2 Tactical Revolution Series Minuteman 1-6x LPVO definitely falls into this category.
The Minuteman can easily hang with some of the bigger names in the industry and offer you exceptional performance at a bargain price point. This scope is effective and more than dependable enough for hunting, self-defense, or any disaster scenario.
So, if you’ve been wondering, “Can the SFT2 Minuteman really be that good for the price they are being sold at?” You now know that the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Written by Chris Dwulet
Chris is the lead writer and editor for Ammo.com. He's an avid supporter of the Second Amendment, a former USPSA Production class shooter, and loves nothing more than spending time with his family or at his reloading bench.