Vortex Defender-ST: Big Brother to the Defender-CCW

— Jason MosherCADRE Dispatch

If you liked the Vortex Defender-CCW then you are going to like the new Defender-ST. Vortex continues to develop new designs and technologies for modern optics. They hit a home run when they released the Defender-CCW, a compact reflex sight that uses the RMSc footprint.

Well, now the Defender-CCW is all grown up and its big-boy name is the Defender-ST. It has a 3 MOA reticle just like the Defender-CCW, and a 6 MOA version is available for those who prefer larger reticles.

Vortex Defender-ST 3 MOA
Vortex Defender-ST 3 MOA is a bigger version of the Defender-CCW. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

After performing a series of heat, cold, emersion, and impact tests on the Defender-ST and Defender-CCW — and no issues with either one — it’s safe to say these are durable optics. With that in mind, let’s move on to other areas of interest.

The feature I like most about the ST is the top-loading battery, which I’ll talk more about below. The first thing we will look at is the basics of unboxing the Defender-ST. It comes with a few more accessories than I expected.

What’s in the box?

For those that have seen David Fincher’s 1995 movie “Seven,” Brad Pitt leaves you afraid to ever look in a box again. But don’t worry, Vortex has a good surprise in their box.

Besides the Defender-ST, Vortex includes a Picatinny rail mount, so you are not limited to only handguns. I have purchased rail mounts for other micro reflex sights so it’s nice to find one in the box.

Vortex Defender-ST 3 MOA
You get a lot of things in the box including a Glock MOS adaptor plate and Picatinny rail mount. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

The second surprising find is a Glock MOS adaptor plate. With Glock being one of the most popular guns in the world, this is a great idea. I have both a Glock 45 and 49 MOS, so I appreciate it.

Also, in case you don’t have the right screws to mount your new optic, Vortex provides five bags of optic screws. You also get a heavy-duty optics cover, cleaning cloth, battery, and wrench.      

About the Defender-ST 3 MOA

This new model builds upon the DeltaPoint Pro footprint with its large hard-coated aspherical lens to deliver distortion-free imagery and true colors. It has a large sight window, unlimited eye relief, and a 10-minute auto-shutoff to preserve battery life.

I mentioned earlier that the Defender-ST has a top-loading battery like its smaller counterpart, the Defender-CCW. The location of the battery always stands out to me because some require the entire optic to be removed to change.

Vortex Defender-ST 3 MOA
The top-loading battery compartment is one of my favorite features with the Vortex Defender-ST. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Bottom-loading batteries normally don’t have a cap. Instead, they rest on the top of the gun. Complete enclosure, as provided in the Vortex, helps protect the optic from water, moisture, dust, and debris.

A CR2032 battery powers the optic for about 25,000 hours which isn’t bad at all. This is only half of the 50,000-hour battery life other optics have, but the battery takes less than a minute to change with the handy little wrench that comes with the package.

Installing and using the Defender-ST

I decided to mount my Defender-ST on a Glock 45 MOS using the adaptor plate Vortex provided.

Vortex Defender-ST
Vortex Defender-ST on a Glock 45 MOS. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

If you haven’t mounted an optic on a Glock MOS pistol before, it’s a simple process. Remove the plate and install the adaptor plate with the provided screws before attempting to mount the optic. Vortex labels each bag of screws with the weapons they are compatible with. This makes finding the correct screws a simple process.

To turn it on, press the button on either side. A lock feature is built into the Defender-ST to secure the brightness setting where you want it. To turn the lock on, press and hold the up button until you see the reticle blink. The same process turns it off as well, just press and hold the down arrow. Keep in mind it has auto-off/on as well.

Because Glock pistols need an adaptor plate, the optic sits flush with the top of the gun, meaning the sights are not visible in the optic window. If you want the use of iron sights, you will need to swap them out with another pair.  

Fast-Rack Texturing

When Vortex released the Defender-CCW one thing I liked about the ergonomics was the heavy texturing on the front of the optic. They put this feature on the Defender-ST, as well, to provide a “Fast-Rack” platform. This means you can push against the optic to rack the slide instead of gripping the slide itself.

This is handy for multiple reasons. First, if you have gloves on, it can make gripping the slide of the gun more difficult. It also helps when your hands are wet, or when the slide has a stiff spring and is difficult to grip hard enough to move it.

Vortex Defender-ST 3 MOA
The textured front of the Defender-ST allows you to push against it when racking the slide. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

At the range, the sun was in full view making it a good day to test the brightness of the reticle. I started off cranking it up all the way but found it was too bright even for this sunny day. Once I turned it down a few clicks it was easy to see against my targets.

The adjustment settings on the Defender-ST are 1-click for 1-MOA and a small flathead screwdriver is required when zeroing the red dot. I zeroed mine at 15 yards and it took about eight shots to get it where I wanted it.

Shooting With the Vortex Defender-ST

I fired about 250 rounds from multiple distances to get a feel for the Defender-ST. Since I was using the optic to rack the slide a great deal, I did a lot of mag-change drills to see if this would bump it off zero after a while. A shout out to AmmunitionToGo.com for providing 115gr 9mm Sellier & Bellot ammunition for the review.

I fired from up close and out to 40 yards with various drills while holstering, changing mags, and switching hands. By the time I burned up my 250 rounds, the Defender-ST was still shooting a good group and hadn’t moved.

The taller window view made it easy to acquire targets and I liked where the buttons are located. You can move your thumb up to press the up arrow without changing the grip of your support hand.

shooting Glock 45 MOS with Vortex Defender-ST
Shooting a Glock 45 MOS with the new Vortex Defender-ST. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

I use Safariland holsters for most of my handguns, so I wanted to make sure the optic worked with them. It should fit in any holster made for “standard” size optics like the Trijicon RMR.

On the range, I wore my 7360RDS duty holster that has a flip-up hood to cover the optic. It fit perfectly as did the other holsters I checked.

Does it live up to the Vortex name?

The Vortex Defender-ST 3 MOA and 6 MOA red dots are a great new addition to the Defender series. I don’t think I found anything I didn’t like with this optic. It’s a great price for what you get.

Vortex offers an unconditional lifetime warranty which is another big plus. So, it’s just really hard to say no when you see one on the shelf.  

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