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Vortex Strikefire II: Performance Glass For Your AR

Released in 2014, the Strikefire II represents one of several red dot reflex sights currently in the Vortex Optic lineup, and an evolution over its predecessor in terms of battery life and design. Powered by a CR2 lithium battery, it offers shooters a ruggedized and reliable reflex optic at an affordable price.

From the exterior, the chassis of the Strikefire II is made from a single piece of aluminum, resulting in a shock-proof housing. The outer layer of the chassis is then hard-coat anodized in a matte black to provide the shooter with a low-glare surface. Both lenses in the Strikefire II are sealed in multiple anti-reflective coatings that maximize clarity. Both fixed endcaps to the optic cannot be removed in lieu of other aftermarket designs. Finally, the internal space is purged with nitrogen gas to cut down fogging at all extreme temperatures.

The Strikefire II comes in two models (one Daytime Red Dot reticle and another in dual Red/Green) with each featuring a 4MOA dot (the only ones offered by Vortex at a 30mm lense diameter) that is ideal for reflex target acquisitions. The reticle has 10 intensity settings (with the lowest two compatible for night vision devices). Power life for a single CR2 battery in the Strikefire II is approximately 300 hours on the brightest setting, and 6,000 hours on the lowest. To give you an idea of some of the improvements to the Strikefire II’s design, the previous Strikefire model only had 100 hours of battery life on the brightest setting.

The picatinny rail mount for the Strikefire II is a lower 1/3 co-witness, cantilever-style.

STRIKEFIRE-RSpecifications for the Vortex Strikefire II include:

  • Magnification 1x
  • Objective Lens Diameter 30 mm
  • Eye Relief Unlimited
  • Adjustment Graduation 1/2 MOA
  • Travel Per Rotation 25 MOA
  • Max Elevation Adjustment 100 MOA
  • Max Windage Adjustment 100 MOA
  • Length 5.6 inches
  • Weight 7.2 oz

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Good (4/5): At $239.99 the Strikefire II is of significant value for a mid-level, red dot optic with quality glass. Given the size, lenses, hard-coat anodization and other aspects of the optic (in comparison to the market of other similar optics), the price is affordable to most shooters looking to move from iron sights to red dot reflex sights.
  • Comfort – Average (3/5): With its 30mm objective lens, the Strikefire II gives a large amount of eye relief, and is comparable on an AR to an Aimpoint PRO in terms of field of view. Yet given the size of the optic and mount, the Strikefire II is best suited for a full-length rifle, and not an SBR or AR pistol because of rail space limitations when considering other accessories (such as a magnifier).
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): There is an excessive number of videos on the internet speaking to the durability of Vortex optics, and the Strikefire II is no exception. The single piece chassis, O-ring gasket seals, and anodizing ensure the optic will continue to function regardless of impact, temperature, or moisture. But one of the areas Vortex shines over its competitors is its no-questions-asked Vortex VIP Warrantee where if the optic becomes damaged accidentally at any time, they will replace it (although they will want to hear the story). The only note impacting the overall durability of the Strikefire II is its lack of an automatic shutoff feature (found in the original Strikefire version) to extend battery life. With only 400 hours of battery live at max brightness, the CR2s won’t last long.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): In our “Daytime Red Dot” model tested in this review, functionality was easy and straightforward. Adjusting the brightness via the left-side button console was smooth and each button had a slight tactile feel to each click. Likewise, adjusting the optic to zero was easy with both windage and elevation dials having a clear audio and tangible 1.2 MOA click to them. Really the only negative factor to functionality is the limited 400 hours run-time to the CR2 battery, but considering the vintage of the optic and technology at the time, that is to be expected.
  • Weight – Average (3/5): At 7.2 ounces the Strikefire II is comparable to other 30mm lens optics in the current market, and indeed within Vortex’s own red dot line. Yet for its weight and size, the Strikefire II remains very well anchored on the cantilever mount and retains zero. You can’t test the stand-alone center of gravity on the optic due to the cantilever mount, but the user will find a comfortable spot for it on their rail.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link:

IMG_2889I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

G-Code Assaulter’s Belt System: Ready For Battle

Introduced in 2017 as a complete system, the Assaulter’s Belt by G-Code includes all the components necessary for ready-use professional or practical use.

The Assaulter’s Belt includes; the two-part Contact Series Operator belt, two softshell Scorpion pistol magazine carriers and two rifle. In addition, the system has an RTI rotating belt mount and drop platform that can integrate to any G-Code RTI holster. The G-Code Contact Med Pouch on an RTI mount backs up the user, while all Scorpion pouches are anchored to the belt using G-Code’s new R2/P2 mounting clips.

  • The Contact Series Belt – A two-part system that uses an inner belt with outward-facing (female) hook-and-loop material that goes through the trousers’ belt loops, and secured via a low-profile belt buckle stitched into the inner belt. The outer belt is a 1.75” duty belt made of 500D Cordura with mating (male) hook-and-loop on the inside, that when combined with the inner belt, makes for an overall secure platform. The outer side of the duty belt is stitched in MOLLE-compatible sections and has the option to be made with or without a Cordura wrap for added comfort. The duty belt is secured using an AustriAlpin D-Ring Cobra Buckle.
  • Scorpion Softshell Magazine Holsters – Using G-Code’s molded exoskeleton design, and soft-shell interior, the Scorpion line represents G-Code’s hybrid approach of providing shock/impact resistance and longevity to magazine holsters. The elastic shock cordage binds the sides of each holster together, and is channeled to give the Scorpion line universal compatibility. Each Scorpion holster accommodates all types of pistol and rifle magazines. The opening of the Scorpion holsters is flared to allow easy insertion/access.
  • Contact Med Pouch – A general purpose 5” (H) x 6” (W) x 2” (D) medical pouch made of 1000D Cordura uses G-Code’s optional RTI mounting system, and is secured by zipper-pill strings. Inside it features four elastic bands with 14 slots for essential medial items. On the exterior is a field of (female) hook-and-loop for medical or morale patches.

Also provided (but not included in the Assaulter’s Belt System) for review is a standard G-Code OSH holster. It is a folded/wrap kydex design machined formed for maximum retention. It features Pro-Safe tensioning and is compatible to all G-Code mounting platforms.

The Assaulter’s Belt System comes in Tan/Green on Multicam (featured), Black, OD Green, Coyote, Wolf Gray, and Black/Green on Multicam Black. Measurements for the system goes from Small (28”-32”) to 4XL (52”-56”), and for an additional $15 they will assemble it for you (highly recommended).

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): At $295 the Assaulter’s Belt System is on the higher-end of other war belts, but that is offset by the overall value of extra equipment you receive. Considering you could spend $180 on any number of similar high-quality stand-alone belts, then the cost of the Contact Belt with the included G-Code Scorpion pouches and interchangeable holster/mounting system isn’t as traumatic as it would appear. In comparison to the rest of the market where all accessories are sold separately, then the Assaulter system is well priced for all its included components. The OSH holster is also very well priced at $49.50 and below that of its competitors.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): With the inner and outer belt fully adjustable, it is still important to follow sizing instructions on the website, as there will only be enough excess material cut for both belts to adjust up/down four waist sizes max. Otherwise, the Contact Series Belt made for a solid performing platform with no shifts in weight or setup despite stressor drills (lunges & burpees). The weight of loaded magazines had no negative effect to the Scorpion holsters or shock cord, and the rigidity of the Contact Series Belt helped mitigate weight around the shooter’s hip and waist. The optional Contact shoulder harness will further aid in mitigating the weight of a fully loaded belt on the body. Despite the optional outer Cordura wrap, there is no real significant padding between the belt and the body (if you are of a “husky” body type, you could run the risk of it pinching).
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): The Assaulter’s Belt System lends itself to long-term durability thanks to its solid components and integrated design. A key to this durability is the R2/P2 mounting system that ensures positive and secure retention between the belt and all accessories. Thus, these accessories are locked into place and will be around for a very long time. Also, the Contact Belt is comprised of bartac, X-type, and reinforced stitching throughout that adds to the durability of the system. The AustriAlpin D-Ring Cobra Buckle helped ensure the belt stayed secure.  Separately, the OSH holster is made from .125” kydex and thicker than most holsters currently on the market. This translated to greater rigidity and durability against hard use. The OSH holster also has rolled and polished edges for added comfort. The leg drop feature of the RTI mounting system (which also comes in a variety of other configurations) drew a median between a belt-mounted holster and a thigh-mounted one. As with all things G-Code, the Assaulter’s system is covered with their lifetime guarantee should something untoward happen.
  • Functionality Excellent (5/5): There is a lot to unpack with the Assaulter’s system. In essence, if you are looking for a complete or immediate one-time-buy war belt system, then this would do extremely well. With G-Code’s renowned functionality to integrate different aspects of its product line with other accessories, then the ability of the Assaulter system to grow and evolve with the shooter as they progress is immeasurable. As it stands, the current configuration could be augmented with an upgrade package (sold separately) that adds more Scorpion magazine carriers, tourniquet pouch, and holster. But the ability of the two-belt system to remain fixed at the hip, to provide a sound foundation for your choice of firearm and other accessories was excellent, with no notable shifts despite stressor drills (lunges and burpees). The Scorpion and OSH holsters provided a smooth draw, and were extremely solid when re-holstering, with an audible click as the kydex locked.
  • Weight Good (4/5): As a whole, the Assaulter’s Belt System weighs 2.15 pounds (without OTC holster, which weighs an additional 4.6 ounces), and that was due to the amount and type of nylon material and hardware involved with the belt and mounting systems. While the Assaulter system is a bit on the heavier end of war belts currently on the market, in comparison to lighter systems that have the same type of buckle and belt material, the hardware and accessories of the G-Code system is far more likely to outlast any sustained hard use over its competitors.

Overall Rating – Very Good (22/25)

Product Link:

IMG_2889I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


Grey Ghost Gear SMC: Part 2 – Dynamic Applications

Debuted at SHOT Show 2020, the Shoot, Move, Communicate (SMC) Plate Carrier and its associated back panels are the brain trust of developers at Grey Ghost Gear (GGG). Under development for several years, the SMC and its interchangeable back panels enable team members to rapidly customize rear panel loadouts to fit any mission. To see the full details of our review to the base layer SMC, go here.


Made from the new line of laminate nylon material, the SMC and its back panels have an abrasion rating greater than that of traditional 1000D nylon at a fraction of the weight. In addition, the laminate nylon has the added ability to resist moisture saturation and thus shed any excess weight that may be encountered from sweat or rain. Each back panel is attached to the rear panel of the SMC with thick YZZ zippers and (optional) MALICE clips.

SMC 1 to 3 Assault Pack

Intended to give the shooter a lightweight assault pack, the 1 to 3 can be configured to allot for three different types of storage.

When attached to the SMC, the pack’s front allows for a small accessory or device storage in the space on the front of the pack. It’s 6.5” YKK zipper is weatherized to prevent moisture penetration of the greater 10” (H) x 7” (L) pocket. Inside the pocket is a key loop made of webbing nylon. A curved 2” (H) x 6.5” (L) hook-and-loop (female) field is above the zipper to allow for identification patches.

Under the compression straps (the upper two being slide release buckles, and the lower two being cinch buckles) is a second YKK zipper line that runs the around the midsection of the pack. This allows for access to a 24-hour nylon pocket for larger daily items.

Inside the 24-hour pocket is an additional envelope sleeve with elastic side adjustors to accommodate irregular sized objects (such as a radio pack) or a hydration bladder. At the top of the interior 24-hour pocket is a hook-and-loop section to secure hydration bladders and pass-through-access port for hydration tubes or communication cables.

Expanding the pack to a third size, a YKK zipper line runs the circumference of the pack’s exterior that allows for the expansion of four-way elastic material to increase the storage capacity to a 3-Day pack.

The interior of the 3-Day pack is accessible by a roll-over, dry bag opening secured with slide release buckles. The interior of the 3-Day pack is completely lined with hook-and-loop (female) material to attach associated pouches or other items.

The back panel of the 1 to 3 Assault Pack further expands on its application by having a top-access, thru pocket the full length of the pack for breaching tools or bolt cutters.


A semi-rigid polymer panel is stitched into the back panel to prevent hard edges in the pack from giving the wearer any discomfort. The 1 to 3 Assault Pack also has the added advantage of having removable shoulder and waist straps so that it can be worn independently of the SMC Plate Carrier.

Product Link:

SMC Assaulter Panel

Designed for when sh*t gets serious, the Assaulter Panel helps the wearer bring the hate for use by fellow team members when needed.

When attached to the SMC, across the top the Assaulter Panel are three magazine pouches with adjustable hook-and-loop closure flaps. Each pouch can accommodate two rifle magazines each of 5.56 or 7.62 ammunition, or cylindrical items like smoke or flashbang grenades.

The bottom, larger-sized pocket is YKK zipper secured with dual shuttles and sized to accommodate items up to the size of a claymore anti-personnel mine. On the exterior is a small 2” (H) x 5” (L) hook-and-loop (female) field for identification patches.

At the top of the back panel is a top-access, thru pocket the full length of the pack for breaching tools, bolt cutters, or a hydration bladder.  The back panel also includes four nylon webbing MOLLE tabs to add stability and strength when connected to the SMC and avoid overstressing the associated YKK zippers.

Product Link:

Also included in the SMC Back Panel lineup is the SMC MOLLE Panel that provides a “clean slate” for the user to customize, however was not part of this evaluation.

The SMC Back Panels are available in Multicam (featured), Black, and Coyote Brown.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): Obviously the cost per SMC Back Panel differs based on quantity of material involved and complexity. For the 1 to 3 Assault Pack you have a dynamic piece of gear that allows the wearer to carry either immediate-need essentials, items needed over a 24-hour period, or expand to a fully independent 3-Day pack for $185. Meanwhile the Assaulter Panel comes in at $120 that allows the user to bring considerable storage into the fight for team members. Considering that market alternatives for plate carrier assault packs or magazine carriers include T3 Gear’s Hans Backpack ($282), the Helium Whisper Backpanel Assault System ($187) by Velocity Systems, or the Flatpack Plus by Haley Strategic ($159) that show the SMC’s 1 to 3 Backpack is priced to be in a good position among those using new fabrics and design, or more traditional.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): Obviously these SMC Back Panels are worn on the exterior of the rear plate carrier so for a comfort aspect, during evaluations we were really looking at if the panels were either unbalanced or shifted to the point of becoming cumbersome. A number of physical stressors were completed in an effort to shift the various back panels around while worn and loaded. The key was that the SMC Plate Carrier itself be properly fitted, as the back panels merely became an extension of it. With no excess movement in the plate carrier, and the back panels properly attached, there was zero shifting and the weight distribution remains centered and high up on the back so as to prevent excess pulling on the shoulders. The only notable point against the SMC Back Plates from a comfort aspect was the shoulder straps of the assault pack, which have zero padding (something intentionally done so as to be easily stowed when attached to the SMC and not in use). However, given that this is part of the purpose of the design it is merely something the consumer should be aware of if wearing it as a stand-alone 3-Day pack as the straps may begin to dig or pinch.
  • Durability – Average (3/5): GGG has recently expanded on its new laminate nylon line of products with the SMC and its associated accessories. This material represents some of the more leading edge of textiles in the tactical market because of its high abrasion resistance and fraction of weight in comparison to traditional nylons. As such for the back panels, most of the materials used stem from this new laminate nylon, with the assault pack also using four-way elastic sections for expansion and rubberized nylon for the stuff sack opening. And while there is the presence of bartack and X-pattern stitching in high stress areas as one would expect (the YKK zipper line for SMC attachment and assault pack straps), it did not appear to be consistent throughout—something that influenced the evaluated score.
    • For instance, the Assaulter Panel was simplistic in design and did have the all the necessary stitching reinforcement to the pouches and closure flaps that ensured a secure fit. We gave the panel an independent score of “4” as the flaps and YKK zipper had good reinforcement and could fit securely.
    • Oppositely, the zipper line to the assault pack’s 3-Day configuration had a good amount of material left exposed after opening, and if snagged does risk the material. Likewise, the four-way elastic nylon sections did not appear to have anything more than the typical stitch line to reinforce the fabric’s connection to the laminate nylon, despite the variances in materials (and their associated strengths). We gave the assault pack an overall independent score of “2” for durability because some lacking finishing touches may influence the product’s durability over time and use. (Editor’s Note: It should be noted that in discussion with GGG, the vendor stated the amount of overtravel for the zipper was in the initial run of the assault pack, and that those currently being sold no longer have that amount of excess zipper material)
  • Functionality Average (3/5): The SMC and its associated back panels are something new from GGG—an effort to build multiple plate carriers into one by making the back panels easily interchangeable for a variety of mission sets. And the varied back panels accomplish that in spades. The rear carrier/back panel YKK zippers slide easily and each is designed to make a single person on a team a greater resource for all by allowing greater carrying capacity or ammo provisions. But again, looking at the two (the Assaulter Panel and the 1 to 3 Assault Pack) there was a difference both in complexity and finished product that ultimately split the score in this category.
    • The Assaulter Panel was simpler in approach and utility, thus felt a more finished product. The ammo closure flaps with their hook-and-loop retained a solid hold on fully loaded rifle magazines, and the ammo pockets themselves had a semi-rigid opening to aid in magazine insertion/draw. It should be noted that if storing two magazines in each pocket (for the evaluation PMags were used) there was slightly more clearance to insert mags ammo-down. Inserting them ammo-up caused some spacing conflicts when baseplates against one another and trying to get them inserted into the pockets. Otherwise the Assaulter Panel would give team members ready-access to any components stored. We gave the panel an independent score of “4” as its design placed magazines and other accessories within immediate reach of other team members as needed for assault or sustained operations.
    • The 1 to 3 Assault Pack was more complex and felt to be missing some of the more finished details. For instance, on the assault pack, the four side compression straps have no retention cuffs (yet the optional shoulder and waist strap do) despite an extensive length. And the enclosure zipper for the 3-Day Pack had an extensive overtravel to the point it had a good amount that snagged on protrusions. (Editor’s Note: See comments above in Durability) This could be remedied with a button snap on the end to attach it to the pack, or to simply end the zipper where it disconnects from the pack. Either way it was a good amount of excess. Lastly, the enclosure for the dry bag didn’t have any means of securing the opening, and when filled, would just sit there (which is good for adding immediate SSE, but not really good for securing items over longer distance or movements). A band of hook-and-loop on the inside of the nylon enclosure, or an alternate set of slide release buckles on the side to fold over the dry bag opening, could help resolve that. While these are all inherently minor issues in the 1 to 3 Assaulter Pack’s hardware, and do not detract from its overall design, it was what split the overall score between that and the Assault Panel to an average. We gave the assault pack an overall independent score of “2” for function because some lacking finishing touches may influence the product’s performance over time and use.
  • Weight Excellent (5/5): The overall empty weight for the Assault Panel (15.1 ounces), and the 1 to 3 Assault Pack (1.11 pounds) demonstrate the lightweight characteristics of GGG’s new laminate nylon products. By themselves these panels add little weight to the overall SMC, but there is a fixed volume of weight one can put inside them. The user should bear in mind that the more they add, the more weight will be borne. In comparison, T3 Gear’s Hans Backpack (2.3 pounds), or the Flatpack Plus by Haley Strategic (1.3 pounds) both demonstrate that regardless of design, the laminate nylon of GGG’s products still places the back panels as among some of the lightest on the current market that dominantly uses heavier traditional nylon blends.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link:

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


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