Can a cheap scope compare to a more expensive one?

How does a cheap scope compare to a more expensive one?

Vortex Strike Eagle Vs Steiner M5Xi

How does a cheap scope compare against the more expensive counterpart scopes? For this article, I compare how the Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25 x 56 EBR-7C stacks up against the Steiner M5Xi 5-25 x 56 Tremor 3 scope. Both of these scopes are very similar in specifications and intended use.

The general rule when purchasing a scope has always been to purchase the best scope you can possibly afford. And usually, this means that the optic on the gun is worth more than the rifle itself. This has been true with all of the accurate long-range rifles that I have owned.

FN Ballista with a Steiner Scope
Steiner M5Xi mounted to a FN Ballista Rifle

I have been using Leupold and Steiner scopes for a while now and have been very happy with them. A few years ago, I bought my first Steiner scope and spent more on an optic than I thought possible. However, since using that scope I can see the difference, “Literally”, and why you spend the money on a good quality scope.

How does cheap scope compare?

When I first saw the Vortex range of scopes and the price tag that they came with, I must admit I doubted the quality. Having purchased cheap offshore built scopes in the past and having had bad luck with them, I thought the vortex sights would be the same. The first one I purchased was a Diamondback Tactical 6-24 x 50 MRAD scope for a AR 15 build in 6.5 Grendel. 

Vortex Diamond back scope
Vortex Daimondback Scope in the foreground fitted to an AR15

I did not have very high expectations of the scope. I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I received it. The glass quality was good and the windage and elevation knobs had nice positive clicks between adjustments. After mounting the scope onto the gun, I was impressed by how well it sighted in. The reticle was clear and crisp, and the graduations were accurate. The sight was very responsive and was able to return accurately to its zero point.

Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25 x 56 EBR-7C

When I saw the Vortex strike Eagle model scope that on paper looked just like my Steiner M5Xi. However, instead of costing $4055.99, it’s listed at $699.99 on Amazon. Needing a new scope for one of my rifles I thought I would give it a try.

Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25x56 Scope
Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25×56 Scope

Strike Eagle build specifications

Optical Features

  • Extra-low dispersion lens: This is a common treatment used on scopes and camera lens to correct for optical color defects.
  • Fully multi-coated lens: Helps to increase light transmission to brighten and sharpen images viewed through the scope.
  • First focal plane reticle: This means that the scope can be used to measure target size to calculate range or shot corrections at any magnification setting.
  • Glass etched reticle: The reticle is laser etched onto a piece of glass then sandwiched between two other pieces of glass.
  • Illuminated reticle: Reticle can be illuminated for use in low light conditions.
  • 5 – 25 x 56 optics package: Magnification range between 5 times to 25 times and a front objective lens size of 56 mm
  • Multiple Reticles: Available in MOA or MRAD reticles

Construction Features

  • Armortek lens coating: A form of ceramic coating to help prevent the lens from scratches.
  • Shockproof: Built to withstand recoil and impact
  • Fog proof: Scope is purged with nitrogen gas to help prevent fogging in extreme temperature changes.
  • 34 mm Tube Size: This allows for a greater range of elevation and windage adjustment
  • Side focus knob: Used to adjust image focus and parallax correction.
  • Built Using Aircraft Aluminum: Lightweight construction industry standard.
  • Anodized Matte Finish: This is standard industry-wide. Anodizing adds corrosion protection and makes the aluminum surface finish stronger.
  • Locking Turrets: Turrets have a locking function to stop them from moving.

Range of adjustment

  • Adjustment increments: ¼ MOA or 0.1 MRAD depending on model
  • Elevation Range of adjustment: 110 MOA* / 31 MRAD*
  • Windage adjustment: 78 MOA / 23 MRAD
  • Travel per knob revolution: 25 MOA / 10 MRAD

(*) = without the zero stop control piece installed.

Not sure what the difference between MOA and MRAD is?

Scope dimensions/weights

  • Length: 14.6” / 370.8 mm
  • Mounting length: 4.6” / 116.84 mm
  • Weight: 30.4 oz. / 861.8 grams
  • Eye Relief: 3.66” / 93 mm

Steiner 5 – 25 x 56 M5Xi rifle scope build specifications

can a cheap scope compare to a more expensive one. Steiner M5Xi
Steiner M5Xi Scope 5 – 25×56

Optical Features

  • Broadband anti-reflection multi-coated lens: This helps to increase light transmission to brighten and sharpen images viewed through the scope. It also has the added benefit of being anti-reflective for a tactical use
  • First focal plane reticle: This means that the scope can be used to measure target size to calculate range or shot corrections at any magnification setting.
  • Glass etched reticle: The imprinted reticle laser etched onto a piece of glass then sandwiched between two other pieces of glass.
  • Illuminated reticle: Reticle can be illuminated for use in low light conditions. There are 11 intensity settings compatible with Night vision googles
  • 5 – 25 x 56 optics package: Magnification range between 5 times to 25 times and a front objective lens size of 56 mm
  • Multiple Reticles: Available in different reticle designs, MSR, G2B Mil-Dot, and Tremor 3. All reticles are in Milliradians.

Construction Features

  • Shockproof: Built to withstand recoil and impact
  • Fog proof: Scope tube filled with nitrogen gas to prevent fogging in extreme temperature changes.
  • 34 mm Tube Size: This allows for a greater range of elevation and windage adjustment
  • Side focus knob: Used to adjust image focus and parallax correction.
  • Built Using Aircraft Aluminum: Lightweight construction, industry standard.
  • Anodized Matte Finish or Ceramic coated Coyote Brown: Anodizing is standard industry-wide. This adds corrosion protection and makes the aluminum surface finish stronger. The Coyote Brown coating adds an increased protection level. It also adds to the cost of the scope.
  • Built-in Fast Throw Lever: The built-in magnification fast throw lever makes it easier and faster to adjust magnification settings
  • Oring Seals on all parts: Makes the scope waterproof to a depth of 10 Meters, (30 Feet)

Range of adjustment

  • Adjustment increments: 0.1 MRAD
  • Elevation Range of adjustment: 26 MRAD
  • Windage adjustment: 12 MRAD
  • Travel per knob revolution: 15 MRAD for Elevation, 12 MRAD Windage

Scope dimensions/weights

  • Length: 16.6” / 422 mm
  • Mounting length: 4.3” / 109.2 mm
  • Weight: 36.3 oz. /1030 grams
  • Eye Relief: 3.5” / 88.9 mm Optimal

The first impression of the Strike Eagle

The first impression of the Strike Eagle was good. Out of the box, all the dials and fittings looked good and responded well to movement. Looking through the scope the glass was clear and easy to focus. All included instructions were clear and concise about how to mount and adjust the scope. The scope box also included a lot of added extras.

Items included in the box.

  • Front objective shade
  • Fast throw lever
  • Windage and elevation turret adjustment tool
  • Allen wrench for the throw lever
  • Lens caps*
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Battery for the illuminated reticle
  • Zero Stop Device

Mounting Vortex Strike Eagle to the rifle

Mounting the scope to the rifle was quick and easy. I was able to set the eye relief very quickly and it repeated each time I laid my head on the rifle. The ocular focus was also easy to set and the reticle was clear and crisp.

AR-10 with Scope mounted
Vortex Strike Eagle Mounted on the AR 10 rifle

Read how to mount a new scope to your rifle and how to choose the best AR 10 Scope mount

Sighting in the scope to the rifle

After mounting the strike eagle to the gun, I purposely did not perform any bench zero operations. I wanted to see where the scope would hit straight out of the box. The rifle I used to test this scope was a AR 10 in 6.5 Creedmoor. I have a lot of data on how the rifle performs so it was a good way to test out this scope.

The sight in process took about 5 rounds. This is a little more than my usual 3 rounds with other scopes. The first round impacted low and left. I was able to measure the impact point using the reticle and make the appropriate adjustments to the scope. As measured the first round hit was 2.0 Mils low and 1 Mil left.

Sighting in the Vortex Strike Eagle Scope
Sighting the Vortex Strike Eagle Scope.

The elevation adjustment responded well and immediately brought the bullet impact height to where it should be. The Windage adjustment took a little more work to dial in. Leaving me to wonder how well the adjustment system worked.

Learn how to sight in a scope to your rifle

Setting the Zero Stop on The Strike Eagle

To set the elevation zero stop on the strike eagle range of scopes means installing a supplied aluminum stop ring. The instructions provided very clear directions on how to install the zero stop ring. On my Leopold’s and Steiner’s scopes, setting the zero stop is easier. To set a zero return point loosen the set screw on the knob and then rotate the knob to zero. Then re-tighten the set screws.

Adjusting the windage knob back to zero
Adjusting the Windage knob to show zero after sighting in

For the Vortex, you have to remove the entire elevation knob. Then install the stop device and re-install the knob. Definitely a lot more work though not hard to do. What I do not like about it is the usable range of the elevation adjustment is reduced from 31 MRAD to 18 MRAD. On my rifle after being zeroed and the zero stop ring installed, I had only 15 MRAD of adjustment remaining. This is less than half of the starting range.

Installing the Zero Stop
Installing the Vortex Zero Stop Ring requies removing the entire turret.

Shooting with the Strike Eagle scope

To test the scope, I used my usual shooting spot with targets starting at 100 M out to 700 meters. I was able to use the reticle to estimate the range to target with a good degree of accuracy. When applying elevation changes to the scope using the elevation knob, I was able to get first-round hits on all targets at all ranges. I was also able to record first-round hits using the sub tensions in the scope to hold over and also hold under on all targets.

Shooting with the Vortex Strike Eagle scope
Testing the Vortex Strike Eagle scope at ranges out to 700 Meters.

I was easily able to engage all targets from 100 meters to 700 meters without issue. After dialing up for a 700-meter shot, I was able to easily dial back down to zero and fire at a 100-meter target and have a first-round center hit. All of my groupings were within 1 MOA or better and at 600 and 700-meter targets were sub-MOA. 

What I did not like about the scope

There are a few things that I did not like about using the scope.

  1. Locking turrets: I did not like this option. Maybe because none of my other scopes use this feature. What I found was that I would forget about the lock and reach up to make a quick change then I would have to lift my head to see why the knob would not turn. Only to remember that I have to lift the turret to unlock it first.
  2. Parallax adjustment knob: The parallax adjustment wheel diameter is too close in size to the illumination control knob. When I would reach up to adjust the focus, I ended up just turning the illumination on.
  3. Throw lever size: A throw lever comes included with the sight which is great as it makes it easy to adjust the magnification level. Although, I found it to be a little on the big side. I would catch it on my jacket when lifting the rifle up to shoot.
  4. Lens Covers: Included with the scope a set of lens covers. I found them to be really cheap and cheesy and not usable in the field.
Parallax knob on the Vortex scope
Parallax knob and illumination knob are very similar in size making it easy to mix them up

How the Vortex stacks up against the more expensive Steiner M5Xi

Though the Strike Eagle sight performed well there are several differences between it and the Steiner I have compared it to.

EBR-7C versus Horus Tremor 3 Reticle

There is a large difference between the two reticles. The EBR-7C reticle from Vortex only gives a limited amount of graduations to use. The MRAD measurements only continue for 8 Mil on either side of the center line and 10 Mil elevation up or down. The reticle is limited to Mil markings only. It does not include different combinations of markings to aid in rapid ranging. I also found the fine 0.1 MRAD scale appeared somewhat cluttered and messy. The reticle also lacks any standard lead scales for engaging moving targets.

Strike Eagle EBT-7C Reticle
MRAD EBR-7C found in the Voretex Strike Eagle Scope

In comparison, the Tremor 3 reticle gives you an edge to edge measurement in the scope of about 70 Mil at 35Mil aside. The reticle also gives several measurement options to use while ranging targets. There are moving target graduations for targets moving from 2 to 10 miles an hour. It also has built-in wind hold dots that allow the shooter to accurately hold over for elevation and wind at the same time. A calibrated wind hold system is built into the reticle. Wind hold dot values can be matched to wind speed, bullet weight, and actual environmental elevation using an app or the Horus website. This reticle is designed to be a complete spotting and targeting system as opposed to just being an MRAD calibrated sight.

Horus Tremor 3 reticle found in the Steiner M5XI scope
The Horus Tremor 3 Reticle used in the Steienr m5Xi Scope.

Horusvision has a great website that allows you to practice using this reticle for wind holds and elevation holds. Try it by clicking here

Eye Relief Vortex versus Steiner

I found the eye relief on the Steiner scope to be much more forgiving. When dropping my head on to the rifle quickly for a shot I could acquire the scope view much fast than I could on the vortex scope. With the strike eagle, if I was not perfectly aligned, I could not get a good sight picture quickly.

Eye Relief while looking through the scope
Eye Relief is the distance between your eye and the scope for you to be able to focus clearly and see through the scope.

Windage and elevation adjustments

The tactile feedback on the Vortex scope was not a solid as that on the Steiner. Once the knobs were unlocked, I could easily feel each click it was just not as positive as the Steiner scope. The windage knob on the Strike Eagle has two much adjustment. So much so that you could get lost on the dial ending up a full 10 MRAD left or right. The Steiner is limited to 6 MRAD left or right and has a positive stop.

Steiner M5Xi windage and elevation knobs
The Windage and elevation knobs on the Steiner scope are very easy to use and offer a very positve feedback.

The elevation knob on the Strike eagle does not have any indication that you have past zero, (10 MRAD up). Making it possible to get lost on the dial having to return to zero before dialing the intended elevation.

Reticle illumination

The reticle illumination in the Steiner scope uses a very precise set of ranging dots. Whereas compared to the Strike Eagle scope where the illumination tends to just blast over the entire reticle. The control Knob for the illumination on the Steiner is very easy to differentiate from the parallax adjustment wheel.

Illuminated Reticle comparsion Strike Eagle versus Steiner
Reticle Comparsion, the vortex illumnation tends to be overbearing at the higher settings

Overall size and weight comparison

The Steiner is a dimensionally bigger and heavy scope than the Vortex Strike Eagle. This can be seen in two different lights. It can be seen as a positive in that it is built stronger with heavy components. This can also be seen as a downfall in that it adds more weight to the rifle. It can also be said that heavy scopes can be more susceptible to the effects of recoil because of their weight.

Conclusion of how does a cheap scope compare to a more expensive one?

Although on paper both sights are very similar in reality, they are very different. The Strike Eagle scope is a good entry-level scope for someone getting started in the long-range shooting sport. I was easily able to acquire and engage targets out to 700 meters and I am sure beyond that as well. The quality of the sight is representative of its price.

Good Entry Level Long Range Scope
Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 5-25x56 First Focal Plane Riflescope
$699.00
  • The Strike Eagle 5-25x56 First Focal Plane Scope in MRAD and MOA reticles
  • XD Optical System delivers impressive resolution, edge-to-edge sharpness, and Anti-reflective coatings.
  • The RevStop Zero System and tactical locking turrets.
  • An illuminated reticle eases use in low light and against dark backgrounds. The included throw lever can be installed for quick and easy magnification adjustments.
  • Scopes are nitrogen purged and o-ring sealed for water and fog-proof performance.
  • The one-piece, aircraft-grade aluminum, 34mm tube is shockproof.


Compare at Optics Planet Compare at Amazon
Prices correct at the time of publishing

In comparison, the build quality of the Steiner product is hands down better. The Steiner optic is built for the serious long-range tactical shooter. This scope purpose-built as a military scope. Designed to take a lot of abuse while still delivering deadly accuracy.

High End Military Grade Optic
Steiner 5-25x56 M5Xi Military Riflescope Coyote Brown Horus Tremor 3 Reticle
$2242 to $4060.00

Steiner is a High-End Military-grade scope. These Scopes are designed to engage targets at long ranges with ease and accuracy.

Compare at Optics Planet Compare at Amazon
Prices correct at the time of publishing

The question you have to ask yourself is do you need that military toughness and accuracy. The average shooter is highly unlikely to put the Steiner scope through anything close to what the military shooters will. I find that the large majority of shooters do not know how to use their existing optics to anywhere near their potential.  At $699 it is hard to pass up on the Vortex Strike Eagle scope.

NRA image banner

Popular Articles

Our Pick
Big Dawg Targets 250 Target Roll - 3" Inch Adhesive Splatter Targe
$19.95

splatter targets are a great way to improve your shooting day. They offer immediate feedback and you can easily see your hits all the way out to 300 yards.

Buy Now
Prices correct at the time of publishing
10/26/2021 08:15 am GMT
where are nikon scopes made

Where Are Nikon Scopes Made?

Nikon is an established brand that manufactures a wide range of high-quality imaging and optical equipment. The company has also made strides in the scope

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like What You Just Read?

Want to get new articles in your inbox?
Sign up to our mailing list and we will email you as soon as new content is posted.
Don’t worry we won’t share your email address with anyone…

Like What You Just Read?

Want to get new articles in your inbox?
Sign up to our mailing list and we will email you as soon as new content is posted.
Don’t worry we won’t share your email address with anyone…