September 08, 2021
I’m sure many of you are asking the same question I did when I first heard that Springfield Armory started a separate optics brand called “Hex”: Why? Surely, we have enough optic companies. There are several U.S.-based brands already, and most have comprehensive product lines.
Then there are all the foreign companies, and there are companies that don’t make anything, those that just package and distribute optics from the same overseas factories many others use. Some of the new names in optics that have popped up in the last few years are nothing more than an office and a warehouse.
Springfield Armory has a bunch of smart employees. They didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to start doing what everyone else was doing. It realized that most people buying firearms want optics on top of them, and a lot of people would like to purchase the pair at the same time. The company earns bonus points if the optic comes pre-mounted. Red-dot sights dominate sales among carbine and pistol shooters, so Springfield Armory looked closely at the optics currently available and decided it could start a new project, independent of its firearms, to produce rugged red-dot sights that would find wide application across its, and all manufacturers’, carbines and pistols. Springfield Armory wanted strong aluminum housings, real glass lenses and a retail price of less than $300. After a lot of sweat and tears, Hex Optics was born (hexoptics.com).
The First Two Models
Hex has launched two optics: The Wasp and the Dragonfly. The Wasp is the smaller of the two and was designed to fit subcompact pistols. Name a major handgun manufacturer and they’ll probably have an optics-ready subcompact 9mm somewhere in their lineup. The Wasp will fit almost all of those pistols because it shares the same footprint as the Shield RMSc ($430), which is probably the most popular footprint in the subcompact pistol segment. Hex refers to this footprint as the “Springfield Micro” footprint but, again, it’s the same mounting design as the RMSc.
Looking at the slightly larger Dragonfly, and other micro red-dots that share its approximate size, mounting solutions get more complicated. The Dragonfly has what Hex refers to as the “Springfield Standard” footprint, which is identical to the Vortex Venom ($350) and Burris Fastfire 3 ($299). Just about every major handgun maker also has optics-ready full-size pistols in their line-up. For Springfield Armory, it is the XD-M OSP models, and the Dragonfly was developed for use with this pistol class. The Dragonfly would also make sense atop a carbine. Of course, since Hex Optics and Springfield Armory are so closely intertwined, we can probably expect to see Springfield Armory’s full line-up of pistols and carbines available with Hex optics at some point soon.
Each of these optics has some common characteristics that benefit the customer. Both attach to the firearm, by means of an adaptor plate or mount, with two screws that pass through the top of the optic and thread down into the slide/plate/mount. There are also round lugs machined at each corner to prevent the optic from shifting during recoil, and to soak up some of the impulse. Neither optic relies on the mounting screws to handle the shearing force from recoil; the screws simply keep the optic from coming off the gun.
When looking at pistols that are machined to allow for mounting an optic directly to the slide, without the additional height of an adapter plate, the Hex Wasp sits low enough in the slide that tall (or “suppressor-height”) sights are not necessary. This means that most standard factory sights will co-witness with the red dot and provide a measure of security should the battery go dead at the worst possible moment. It also means that all of the regular aftermarket sights remain an option for use with the Wasp. Again, this ideal scenario is only possible when the Wasp attaches directly to the pistol slide. Its body is slender, and there is a strategically machined channel in the back of the optic’s housing that makes it possible to still see the front sight, even with the optic mounted. The larger Dragonfly has a thicker body and will likely require taller sights, even when mounted directly to the pistol’s slide.
Metal & Glass
Like many optics on the market, Hex Optics are produced in China to Springfield Armory’s design specifications. Unlike many of the imports, however, each Hex optic has a thick, aluminum body machined from 6061 T6, hardcoat anodized. These were made to withstand abuse. The housing surrounding the glass viewing screen protrudes forward away from the lens, which protects the glass from anything that might make contact with the front of the housing. Some shooters like to use the front of the sight to rack the slide one-handed when training with simulated injuries, or for when one hand is occupied and the other hand has to shoot. The thick aluminum housing is more than capable of resisting this abuse.
Springfield Armory and Hex did a lot of durability testing when developing these optics. The Wasp and the Dragonfly can reliably operate in temperatures varying between -5 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. During testing, each had to withstand repeated drops from 5 feet in multiple orientations (top hits first, bottom hits first, etc). The large shift in temperature caused no cracks to form on the glass lens from potential expansion and contraction of the housing, nor did the drops from 5 feet break the lens.
Both the Wasp and the Dragonfly are also certified IPX7 waterproof, which means that each can be submerged to a depth of 3 feet for 30 minutes. These optics can be mounted on guns and then shot in a hurricane, and the water still won’t be an issue. Short of taking one for a swim in the deep end of the pool, they will remain functional even after being submerged.
Unusual for micro red dots retailing for less than $300 are the glass lenses that both sights feature. Optics in this price bracket usually have polymer lenses, and those will never be as durable or offer the optical performance of glass. Sure, polymer will never crack like glass can, but the real problem lenses in red-dot optics face is scratching and image quality. Glass lenses are harder than polymer lenses, so they are less likely to scuff or scratch when the owner racks his pistol on the edge of the table, or “cleans” the lens with the edge of his T-shirt. Image quality through glass is better than polymer as well. Put any glass-lens mini red-dot sight next to a polymer lens sight and you’ll notice immediately that the glass lens is like looking through a window and the polymer lens is like looking through a tinted window that may be fogged. Polymer will never allow light to pass through as cleanly as glass, so it often looks discolored. This isn’t a big deal until lighting conditions degrade such as on an overcast day. Then, a polymer lens struggles to resolve targets placed in shadows. The older the shooter’s eyes, the more apparent the difference between glass and polymer lenses becomes, too. I know of no other mini red-dot sight near this price point that features a glass lens.
Electronics & Battery Life
While the Wasp is smaller and slightly more expensive than the Dragonfly (because it’s harder to make electronics small), it still has impressive battery life. One CR2032 battery is rated for 65,000 hours of life in a Wasp. Once installed, the optic never shuts off and will run for years before requiring replacement. That said, considering various user needs and the role of the optic on a defensive pistol, Hex suggests a 2-year maintenance schedule for swapping out the battery.
Just as there is no on/off switch, there are no dimming controls on the Wasp. It auto-adjusts to ambient lighting conditions. The dot visible on the viewing screen is 3.5 MOA, so it’s big enough to pick up quickly and small enough to shoot tight groups.
The Dragonfly is the bigger of the two and offers some additional control, as well as a lower price. It, too, takes a single CR2032 battery and has approximately 100,000 hours of life per battery. The longer battery life is possible thanks to manual controls that allow the shooter to turn it on and off and adjust the brightness setting. There is also an automatic shut-off feature. Hex suggests a 3-year maintenance cycle, again erring on the conservative side of the battery’s energy potential. Using the left-side push button, the shooter can select one of eight illumination settings for the 3.5-MOA dot.
These optics come with a lifetime warranty against defects, and a 5-year warranty for the internal electronics. That means that if the lens ever falls out, Hex will fix or replace it. If, in the first 5 years the optic sees a ton of shooting and, one day, the red dot doesn’t come on, Hex will fix or replace the optic.
I predict Hex is going to sell a gang of these micro red-dot sights in the near future. Since Hex is a Springfield Armory program, I’m sure the Wasp and Dragonfly will have the same distribution as the Springfield Armory products, which means by the time you read this they are probably already in your local gun shop. If robust, mini red-dot sights that feature aluminum bodies, glass lenses and a retail price of less than $300 sound interesting to you, watch out for Hex.
HEX Wasp Red Dot Sight
- POWER: 1X
- OBJECTIVE: .85 in. (wide) x .52 in. (tall)
- ELEVATION ADJUSTMENT: .5 MOA per click
- WINDAGE: .5 MOA per click
- RETICLE: 3.5 MOA
- WIDTH: .95 in.
- HEIGHT: .86 in.
- LENGTH: 1.6 in.
- WEIGHT: 0.7 oz.
- MSRP: $299
- MANUFACTURER: Hex Optics, hexoptics.com
HEX Dragonfly Red Dot Sight
- POWER: 1X
- OBJECTIVE: .86 in. (wide) x .64 in. (tall)
- ELEVATION ADJUSTMENT: 1 MOA per click
- WINDAGE: 1 MOA per click
- RETICLE: 3.5 MOA
- WIDTH: 1.14 in.
- HEIGHT: 1.01 in.
- LENGTH: 1.9 in.
- WEIGHT: 1.2 oz.
- MSRP: $249
- MANUFACTURER: Hex Optics, hexoptics.com
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