You do not have to have an optic on your pistol—not even on your carry guns, whether concealed or duty. However, I do. I have optics on many of the pistols I shoot regularly. One, because they complement my vision. Second, because I want commonality. I prefer that my defensive pistols be set up similarly, and that means they get optics.


There are very few problems finding optics for mid- or full-size carry pistols. Whether you are looking for one that might be more competition-oriented or one that is advertised as being duty-ready, you can and will find them. I have not had any issues getting optics appropriate to those sized pistols and requirements.

However, the market is much less crowded in the area of optics that fit the narrower concealed carry pistols, whether they are single-stack designs or not. There just have not been that many of them that have come to market.

To date, I’m aware of five – the British-designed Shield Sight, Trijicon’s RMR-CC, Holosun’s 507K and EPS-Carry, and Vortex’s Defender-CCW sight. I have a reasonable amount of time behind three of those optics – the Shield, the 507K, and the Defender CCW.

New Option

A close-up of the Defender and some of it’s controls (PC – Vortex)

During this year’s Law Enforcement Range Day at the SHOT Show, I had the opportunity to shoot one of Vortex’s new optics. After a subsequent conference call with them, they sent me a Defender-CCW for an article.

Unboxing the optic went smoothly, as I anticipated. The package included the optic, a manual, a lens cleaning cloth, a battery, an adjustment tool, and bolts for secure attachment to the slide. As is typically the case, the optic features a top-mounted battery. This design choice ensures that the end user doesn’t have to go through the hassle of removing and re-mounting the optic to replace the battery, providing a convenient and practical solution.

Carry Gun

The primary magazine for this Shield is an after-market model from Ed Brown Products.

My day-in, day-out carry pistol is a 4” Smith & Wesson Shield from the Performance Center.  It has a fiber optic front sight from the manufacturer and an after-market U-notch rear sight.

When I got the pistol around the time I retired, it had an original red dot sight on it.  After that optic failed, I replaced it with another red dot. Once the Defender CCW came in, I uninstalled the previous sight before cleaning and degreasing everything for the new install. Then I installed it. What installation procedure did I use? This One!

Once the optic has been installed and torqued to spec, the bolts get witness marks – done here with a paint pen.

After installing the optic, I marked the bolts with a blue paint pen. Those have remained intact through three range sessions now. The optic is still solidly mounted.


The front of the housing is designed to protect the glass in the event the shooter needs help racking the slide. Because of how S&W designed their loaded chamber indicator, optics on their pistols get dirtier than others.

The Defender CCW is made of 7075 aluminum. It’s machined for the footprint shared by the Shield RMSC sight and the Holosun 507K. The optic weighs 0.95 ounces. You can get it with either a 3 or 6 minute of angle (MOA) dot; mine came with the 6MOA.


The control buttons are on the sides of the housing; increasing the brightness is done via the up arrow on the left. Dimming it happens with the down arrow on the right. They give the user ten (10) settings. Two are night vision compatible, and the other eight (8) are for daylight or visible adjustments.

The brightness controls have been fine. The reticle has remained at the brightness level I set it without issues. I was able to dim it sufficiently to zero it and adjust it back bright enough to be seen over the handheld lights I regularly carry.

Here are the dimensions of the optic’s dot and window (PC – Vortex).

While there were issues with one eight-round magazine for the Shield, there were none with the optic.

Dot Size

The Defender CCW’s 6MOA dot.

The 6MOA dot has been fine in usage. There have been few issues with acquiring it from both a ready position and the draw. That is mostly attributable to my work on a consistent presentation, coupled with my use of other optics that only have a dot.

Shots Fired

Zeroed – blame the shooter, not the optic.

I’m just over 460 rounds through the optic. And that is with a single stack 9mm that is a concealed carry pistol.

The first range session involved a hundred rounds of ball, which started the validation process. During the next trip, I fired forty-three rounds of Hornady 135 grain +P Critical Duty, the same load I carry in my Compact and full-size 2.0 M&Ps for defensive use. The first several rounds were done to zero the optic, which I did at 15 yards. I followed them with a mixed bag of factory and reloaded 9mm ball weighing from 115gr to 147gr.

The most recent range session consisted of 210 rounds. One hundred seven were reloaded with 147gr full metal jacket; ten were loose 9mm rounds from the bottom of my range bag; 43 rounds of Staccato branded 125gr jacketed hollow point match ammunition; and, finally, 50 rounds of brass cased Blazer in 124gr. A week ago, four rounds of that load chronographed between 1105 and 1140 feet per second out of a 4.25” M&P.

Vortex lists the Defender-CCW as having an MSRP of $349.99

Final Thought

If you have decided to train with and carry a concealed optic-equipped pistol, I can recommend the Defender CCW.


Defender CCW Optic