The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Vortex UH-1 Gen II: Through the Looking Glass

At RECOIL, we review every product fairly and without bias. Making a purchase through one of our links may earn us a small commission, and helps support independent gun reviews. Learn More

Conceptually, a holographic sight is an excellent idea. There’s a reason why it’s one of only a handful of weapon-sights issued to the U.S. armed forces. The market on this style of optics have largely been the sole domain of the supergiant L3Harris/EOTech, but Vortex Optics is once again shaking things up with their Razor AMG UH-1 Gen 2, frequently referred to as the Huey.

Vortex Optics brought one of the first real competitors to EOTech in 2017 with their Razor AMG UH-1 Gen 1. This new optic offered a true holographic image made with lasers, not the LEDs Vortex’s previous red dots. It operated on a rechargeable battery with an external charging port enclosed in a ruggedized housing. Fast forward to 2020, Vortex Optics improved their UH-1 substantially. The Vortex UH-1 Gen 2 replaced the internal battery and charging port with a CR123A contained under a tool-less battery cap, made some aesthetic housing changes, and added a night vision mode. It also lost about a quarter ounce in weight; otherwise, it’s essentially the same optic.

vortex amg uh-1 gen ii vortex red dot

We’ve had the opportunity to run the UH-1 Gen 2 now for nearly a year. We’ve put it through its paces and shot it in realistic temperatures during both day and night. So how does it stack up? Should you be rushing to ditch your EOTech sights, change religion from red dot to holographic and swear fealty to the UH-1?

Let’s start off by talking about the mount and housing. There’s no getting around this one, it’s a bit of a big chungus. The body itself extends almost 4 inches in length and 1¾ inches wide, not including the battery cap or latch. On one hand, this provides the user with an incredible field of view, reminiscent of the heads-up display in a fighter jet. When aiming downrange, the housing almost disappears due to the clever conical shape of the housing.

PWS MK111 Vortex AMG UH-1 mounted_

There’s a reason this optic is spotted on many CQB and 3-gun rifles. Simply put, the Vortex UH-1 is fast and a pleasure to look through. However, when stowing the weapon, despite being smaller than an Aimpoint PRO, it takes up considerably more space than red dot sights like the Vortex Sparc Solar. In comparison to other holographic sights, its form factor can be a snag hazard, requiring deliberate planning and deployment.

Both the elevation and windage adjustments sit in the right side of the housing. Those familiar with the Elcan combat sight might see some similarities to the way this optic is zeroed. When the user adjusts the windage, the upper portion of the housing rotates in place. One wouldn’t notice unless they sat looking through the Vortex UH-1 adjusting the windage back and forth. This creates an incredibly rugged sight. The vertical adjustment is internal to the optic body and both adjustments move the reticle ½ MOA per click.

The housing attaches to a standard 1913 rail with a quick detach lever cleverly designed with a simple lock, so you won’t be ejecting your optic on accident if the lever snags on kit, webbing, or a sling. It'll be important to memorize the location of the battery cap because you’ll probably be changing batteries a lot.

Vortex UH-1 Gen II B&T APC9K JK Armament Inforce WML
Pictured: B&T APC9K, with Tailhook brace, Vortex UH-1 Gen II, Inforce WML White/IR, JK Armament 155LT MST.

As we alluded to earlier, the Vortex UH-1 has a very nice sight picture given its field of view. The glass itself is crystal clear with barely a hint of a blue dichroic coating to preserve battery life. The UH-1 has a more than adequate 15 levels of brightness that go from invisible to an uncomfortably bright setting. Those who shoot in the winter or the desert however know that an ultrabright reticle is a must. The “EBR-CQB” reticle has a well-designed layout with a 1 MOA dot in the middle with a 65 MOA circle around it. The larger circle can be used for fast shots, and the edge of the circle is ideal for movers, and a delta at 6 o’clock to designate height-over-bore for close-quarters engagements and a bullet drop reference point for shots at range.

Users of the Gen 1 requested a night vision mode so much that the Vortex UH-1 Gen 2 included it. With night vision ownership on the rise, and more “near-peer” darkness capable threats on the horizon, being able to passively aim with night vision has become significantly more important. By relying less on a laser/illuminator devices and instead, looking through the optic itself under night vision, one is less likely to give away their position to an enemy with NVGs.

Holographic sights directly cater to the needs of those who work in the dark via a more forgiving field of view when using the sight while wearing night vision goggles. The Vortex UH-1 Gen 2's 4 night vision settings, unfortunately the lower two available are too dim to be used in most settings. Settings 3 and 4 are somewhat useful, but struggle in situations with variations of ambient light. We would have liked to see a few brighter options to further expand the viability in more dynamic environments as in varying lighting conditions, even setting 4 was easy to lose or get washed out and transitioning to the lowest visible setting was far too bright. This is a sticking point with this optic because it’s a huge reason why someone might be in the market for a holographic sight in the first place.

Looking Through a Vortex UH-1 while wearing a pair of DTNVG's with L3 Harris, White Phospher from Night Vision Incorporated. Crisp Reticle, some shadow.

Contemporary red dot sights and holographic optics include a “rest mode” where the reticle powers off if it remains stationary for a set amount of time. Often paired with a “shake-awake” feature, this means that if the optic goes into its rest mode, it will power up again at its previous setting when moved. The Vortex UG-1 has both features that can be disabled if unwanted. 

The Achilles Heel of Holographic Sights, the shorter battery life requires regular attention. Unfortunately, the Vortex UH-1 is par for the course. Through the last year we’ve gone through nearly a dozen CR123A batteries to keep big chungus running. Keeping spare batteries on hand helps, but nothing’s worse than getting to the range and having to change batteries out, let alone needing the weapon in a moment of crisis only to find out that the UH-1 is lifeless. Scheduling a regular “replace battery day” every two months keeps the optic running as intended. One feature that we wish the optic had was a simple “off” option, but strangely doesn’t have this. Instead, we have the permanent “rest-mode” feature, which is detrimental when the UH-1 travels often as a part of a truck gun build where the optics constantly burns through batteries due to its shake awake setting as opposed to simply powering down the optic, then back on when you need it next.

vortex uh-1 izhmash siaga AKM
The Unity Fast Riser gives this AK the aesthetic of “Part Night Fighter, Part Cyberpunk.”

The UH-1 most certainly has its drawbacks. Battery life, lack of an “off” option, and less than stellar night vision performance puts the optic in a somewhat strange place. The UH-1 excels on the competition field, and when used as a CQB sight in the daytime the optic sings. Lacking certain features needed in an optic designed primarily for night shooting and personal defense, and this seems to be a glaring mistake. Is the optic right for you? It comes down to what you plan on doing with your optic.

Vortex AMG UH-1 Gen II

Dot and Ring Size: 1 MOA Dot with 65 MOA Ring
Brightness Levels: 15 Daylight, 4 Night Vision
: 3.9 inches
: 11 ounces
Approximate Battery Life
: Estimated 1500 hours
Battery: CR123
: $800

More on Optics, Sights, and Scopes

Enter Your E-Mail to Receieve a Free 50-Target Pack from RECOIL!

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL

For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).

Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.

You want this. Trust Us.


Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

View Comments

Subscribe to the Free