Swampfox Sentinel: Your Next Hellcat Red Dot?
July 21st, 2020
6 minute read
When the U.S. military adopted the M68 Close Combat Optic in 2000, there was no way of predicting the decades of war that would shortly follow. The success of the M68 CCO on the battlefield paved the way for later red dot, reflex and holographic sights to enter common use.
The result was that what was once exotic and rare became normalized and common, making it so it now seems unusual to see an AR-pattern rifle without at least a 1x optic. I know I have one mounted on my Springfield Armory SAINT rifle that is my primary home defense gun.
But, while the long gun world quickly shifted over to the electronic sight world, the transition of the handgun world to optical sights has been much slower — apart from specialized roles in the competition world. Getting the technology down to a small enough size, while also being tough enough to handle the violent cycling of a slide forward and back, was a very tough needle to thread. Also, having platforms capable of easily accepting them prevented growth of this market.
But, in recent years technology has finally caught up and given manufacturers the means to produce electronic sights that could fill this role. And the introduction of the Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP gave CCW fans a compact EDC pistol that was capable of accepting micro red dots, and also direct mount them so they can co-witness with the pistol’s iron sights.
A New Contender
One of the newest micro red dots on the market that fits this increasingly popular niche is the Sentinel from Swampfox Tactical Optics. I believe it has the right blend of features and price to make a serious impact in the shooting world, and I recently had a chance to try it out on a Desert FDE Hellcat OSP pistol I had in for review.
Priced at an MSRP of $299, the Swampfox Sentinel is one of the sights that can make a significant difference in the market adoption of red dots as it appears to offer a solid combination of performance, features and affordability.
The 1X optic is compact and light, weighing .62 of an ounce and featuring a 16mm diameter lens. Possibly the best feature on this optic is the always-on, auto-brightness 3 MOA red dot. The system eliminates the reliance on manual switches and controls that have plagued some miniaturized optics.
With the dot being always on, I have no concerns about the optic “waking up” as I draw the pistol. Further, the dot instantly adjusts to the ambient light to provide an aiming point that is bright without being overwhelming.
The optic uses a single CR2032 battery that is rated to run for up to two years. I set a reminder on my phone’s calendar app and will swap the battery in mine out every year.
Physically, the optic is small enough to fit on most pistols. With an RMSc footprint, it mounted directly to my Hellcat FDE with no adapter plates needed. Yet, the window seems large to my eye without any sense of constriction.
The base of the Sentinel is thin enough to situate the optic low enough to allow you to use the Hellcat’s normal sights should the red dot ever fail. This is not possible with all optic and gun combinations on the market, so I consider this a major point.
Construction of the Sentinel appears to be top-notch. The body is made of 7075-T6 aluminum with a hard-coat black finish. For the window, Swampfox uses fully multi-coated glass for clarity across all environmental conditions.
The pricing is quite attractive. With quality construction and the auto-adjusting feature, the full retail price of the Sentinel-A optic as mentioned above is only $299. If you prefer manual controls, there is a second version of the Sentinel dubbed the Sentinel-M that is available for $20 less. The M model has 10 brightness setting modes.
On the Range
The proof of any self-defense gear is on the range. So, that is where I went to give the Sentinel a workout.
After mounting the optic with the included screws and drivers, I sighted the optic in. I made a few gross adjustments then minor fine-tuning with the included screwdriver. Once locked in, I never needed additional adjustments.
Durability is always a concern for pistol optics. Even though it was highly touted, I had another brand’s optic on the range, and the glass window shattered within 50 rounds.
I was confident the Swampfox Sentinel would perform better than that – and it did. While it is a relatively easy shooting pistol, the Springfield Armory Hellcat is a subcompact 9mm. With +P 9mm ammunition, the recoil can be a bit snappy.
Even so, the Sentinel soaked up every cycle of the slide with no obvious issues. The glass showed no signs of weakness, nor did the dot lose zero.
I pressed against the optic with every manual cycle of the slide. Further, I ran several one-handed reload drills using the optic as the slide’s anchor point when cycling the gun on my belt and clothing. Again, the Sentinel seemed to absorb the use without any problems.
The red dot was quick and easy to find when presenting the pistol. As advertised, the auto-brightness feature kept the dot bright for an obvious aiming point. At no point did the dot become too bright and overwhelm the sight picture.
It was my experience that the sight worked well throughout my testing. I had zero complaints and no hesitations on recommending it to others.
Although the future is never set, I believe slide-mounted optics for pistols are here to stay. The Swampfox Sentinel is an example of what you should expect from these sights. It really seems to be the complete package.
One of my major concerns about some optics is the amount of manual input they need. My Sentinel automatically adjusted to the ambient lighting to provide an appropriately bright aiming point. With the constant-on feature, I never had any issues with waiting on the dot to turn on.
I look forward to many years of shooting with the Sentinel and seeing where Swampfox Tactical Optics helps move the industry.
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