Vortex Razor HD Gen2 4.5-27×56

 

Written by ILya Koshkin, March 2014

Ultimately, this scope should have been included in the most recent of my High End Tactical articles (here), where I was looking at exactly this type of a scope: 56mm objective lens, high magnification and top notch quality.  However, it simply wasn’t available then and even the scope that I got my hands on for this article is a pretty early pre-production sample.  Before I got into some serious mechanical testing I checked with Vortex to see how it is different from future production scopes and they said that some of the optical systems are not as well fixed in place as they will be (they rushed to make these for SHOT) once the production line is fully up and running.  Now, something like that can potentially affect both optical and mechanical performance, and I was a little surprised that they still risked sending it to me.  I suppose that speaks to their confidence in the basic design.  In deference to the pre-production status of this scope I did not test it with 338 Lapua, but aside from that I did not baby it in any way shape or form.  It went through the same basic turret tracking tests as I usually do, so the scope has a bit over 100 rounds of 6.5×47 behind it.  If something was screwy with the mechanics I would find it.  Moreover, I took a pretty nasty spill together with the scope and while there is some rather noticeable cosmetic damage on the outside, the functionality is unchanged.

When production copies are available, I might get my hands on one and test it with 338 Lapua as well, but frankly, based on my previous experience with the Razor HD product line, durability is unlikely to be an issue.

As is my custom, here is the short version:

This scope is absolutely a competitor for the alpha makers and, while not cheap, is a comparative bargain at $2500 street price.  Vortex will most likely do well with this design.  It is heavier than I would like and in terms of pure image quality it is not quite as good as the best (Premier 5-25×56), but it is close enough to compete.  I have looked at quite a few high end tactical scopes over the last few years and optically this scope would not be at the bottom of the pack.  The overall design is superb and this scope is remarkably easy to get behind.  I did not have Hensoldt and Kahles on hand to compare, but it is up there.  All of the other scopes in this category I have seen to date are not quite as forgiving of eye position.

 Now, onto the long version.

I compared the Gen 2 Razor to Premier 5-25×56 and March 5-40×56 that I happen to still have here.  Both are excellent scopes and their strengths are somewhat different from each other.  The Premier is the best optimized 56mm scope I have seen to date; it is “the generalist” design, so to speak.  It has been supercede by Tangent Theta scopes which will use the same optical system with re-designed mechanicals, but for my purposes it is a good scope to compare to.  The March, on the other hand, is “the specialist” that is virtually in a class of its own in terms of centerfield resolution and magnification range, albeit at the expense of the FOV and edge performance.  Comparing the new Razor to these two gave me a very good idea how it stacks up.

VortexRazorGen2-6_zps4708fbb7.jpg

Before I get into the specifics, perhaps a few words about the whole Razor product line are a good idea.  The original Razor HD scopes were the 1-4×24 and 5-20×50 front focal plane designs.  Both were pretty successful, best I can tell, with the higher magnification version of the scope easily garnering the most publicity of the two.  There were some early stumbling blocks that Vortex quickly resolved, and the resulting scopes were very good.  I have seen a few different versions of them, and I was always impressed with what these scopes offered for the money.  The lower magnification 1-4×24 scope was eventually superseded by the first of the Gen 2 scopes the 1-6×24.  This one is a second focal plane design aimed squarely at 3-gun shooters: it features ultra wide field of view and a very bright illuminated reticle.  Fast forward a bit over a year and, in 2014, Vortex introduced two more Gen 2 Razor HD scopes: 3-18×50 and 4.5-27×50, both with front focal plane reticles.  The original 5-20×50 Razor HD will remain in production for the time being as well.

 Here is the spec table that I used for the last High End Tactical article with the Razor’s specifications added in.

VortexRazor HD Gen2 4.5-27×56

Steiner Military 5-25×56

Premier Heritage 5-25×56

Kahles KXi 6-24×56

Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25×56

S&B PM II 5-25×56

March FX 5-40×56

Length, in

14.4

16.61

16.3

15.9

16

16.38

15.2

Weight, oz

48.5

35.3

38.1

33.6

37

38

31.4

Main Tube Diameter

34mm

34mm

34mm

34mm

35mm

34mm

34mm

Eyepiece Diameter, in

1.81

1.77

1.77

1.69

1.7

1.69

1.6

Eye Relief, in

3.7

3.54

3.54

3.54

3.7 – 3.3

3.7

3.8 – 4

FOV, ft@100yards

25.4 – 4.4

11.88@10x

21.69 – 4.29

10.73@10x

22.8 – 4.8

12@10x

20.4 – 5.25

12.6@10x

32.5 – 4.4

11@10x

15.9 – 4.5

11.25@10x

20.95 – 2.62

10.48@10x

Click Value

0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

0.05 mrad

Adjustment range

E: 33 mrad

W: 14 mrad

E: 26 mrad

W: 12 mrad

E: 28 mrad

W: 12 mrad

E: 26 mrad

W: 14 mrad

E: 25 mrad

W: 13.8 mrad

E: 26 mrad

W: 12 mrad

E: 24 mrad

W: 12 mrad

Adjustment per turn

10 mrad three turns

15 mrad

two turns

14 mrad

two turns

14 mrad

two turns

10 mrad

two turns

13 mrad

two turns

5 mrad

Turret Features

Zero Stop with Lock

Zero stop

Zero stop

Zero stop

Zero stop

Locking turret

BDC available

Zero stop

Zero stop

Reticle Illumination

Yes

Yes, 11 levels

every other OFF

Yes

continuous

Yes, continuous

Yes, 7 levels

every other OFF

Yes

Yes

pushbutton

Close focus

36 yards

50 meters

50 meters

50 meters

10 meters

10 yards

Price

$2500

$3096

$3400

$3054

$3300

$3500

$3200 non-ill

$3400 ill

Looking at the numbers a few things stand out:

– FOV of the new Razor is quite wide. Traditionally that is one of the things where German/Austrian scopes has had an edge over Japanese ones.  Not any more

– The eyepiece is larger in diameter than the competing designs

– Overall length is short, but the scope has some serious mass to it

– I hesitate to call this scope cheap since it is still $2500, but it is a lot cheaper than the competition and despite the price difference, it really belongs in this group

-The amount of internal adjustment in the new Razor is very generous.

 Here is snapshot that shows the overall length of the Vortex next to the Premier.  It is a beefy scope with short overall length.WP_20140225_14_17_10_Raw_zps56459944.jpg

 

First, let’s talk about optics a little.

 Side by side with the Premier, the Vortex has just a touch less resolution and contrast across the magnification range, but the differences are small and you need to look for them.  Looking at random objects it was difficult to tell the difference between the two.  I had to start looking at some very tiny and low contrast details to confirm that the Premier shows me a little bit more.  That is nothing to be ashamed of since the Premier is still the best balanced optical design in this category I have run into.  The March resolved a little more detail in the center of the image than the other two, but at the edges both the Premier and the Razor were better.

In terms of contrast, the March was the least contrasty scope here (that is a tradeoff for the crazy resolution it has), with the Razor being somewhere between the Premier and the March.

The color balance of the Razor HD is very neutral (Premier is ever so slightly colder) and similar to the March.

Chromatic aberration is virtually non-existent if you stay right on the optical axis of the scope.  As your eye moves slightly to the side, you start seeing a little magenta CA with he Razor.  Both Premier and March had a little CA under the same conditions as well, but Razor had a touch more.  Still, this is lateral CA only and I have not yet seen a scope that does not show it to some degree.  Also, CA is harder to correct in scopes with short overall length, so this is quite an achievement on Vortex’ part.

There was a small amount of radially symmetric CA on the tangential edges of the reticle.  For the Razor HD it is yellowish, while for the Premier it is bluish.  March reticle is not conducive for showing this type of CA, so I did not spend too much time looking for it.

Flare was well controlled on all three scopes, although with very bright light sources around some sort of shielding (sunshade) is a good idea.  Most scopes in this price range have good flare control and the new Razor is no exception.

I did not have a sunshade for the Gen 2 Razor, but I made a makeshift one to experiment with.  It helped a little with off-axis bright light sources.  Still, there really wasn’t all that much of a problem to deal with, so I am not sure I would worry about it much under just about any conditions.  When I carefully set up the nastiest possible lighting conditions for my scope tests I look to find the smallest flaws and amplify them to the point where they are noticeable.  In real world use, you are unlikely to notice many of the phenomena I look for.

While the sunshade helps with the Razor I am not convinced I would use it a whole lot if it were my scope.  If you are worried about flare or reflection off the objective going out there, investing in a good ARD may be worthwhile.

Depth of field was quite good on the Razor which surprised me a bit: scopes with short overall length usually struggle with this.  It was definitely better than I expected and just a touch shallower than the Premier.  Depth of field of the March was visibly shallower than that of the other two scopes here.

Mechanically, despite its pre-production status, I found the scope to be excellent with good tracking and repeatability.  The turrets are the best Vortex has made to date and better than most I have seen.  It definitely has the best feel I have seen to date in a locking turret.  The folks over at Vortex tell me that full production scopes will be even better.  I would like to see that.

VortexRazorGen2-7_zps4b419ca2.jpg

The version I looked at had MOA knobs, but both MOA and MRAD scopes will be available.

 I am a mrad guy, so getting used to MOA turrets and reticles always takes a bit of extra attention.  MRAD turrets offer 10 mrad per turn adjustment with three turns available (this is mounting dependent of course).  The MOA knobs are 25 MOA per turn.  There is a tactile and visible indicator on the bottom left of the turret that tells you what revolution you are on.  I spent a few minutes with the MRAD turrets at SHOT and I spent a lot of time with the MOA turrets while testing this scope.  I like them.  A lot.  The new Tangent Theta turrets do have better feel, I think, but these lock.  To unlock the turret you lift the knurled collar up a little and to unlock you press it back down.  That requires some barely perceptible wiggle room in the turret position, but since the clicks are rather widely spaced, that is barely noticeable.

The rest of the adjustments were smooth and repeatable.  I did not find hysteresis with any controls and the turrets did not require any settling after adjustment.

The scope focused down to a bit over 30 yards at peak magnification, but the image was reasonably in focus at closer distances if you dialed the magnification down.

The reticle designs carry over from the first generation of Razor scopes with a few changes: the fine lines are thinner with 0.03MRAD thickness vs 0.06MRAD lines on the original 5-20×50 Razor.

The reticle in the scope I tested is the MOA version of EBR-2C.  It has extensive ranging capabilities and a rather useful “Christmas tree” arrangement for trajectory and wind holds.  The center of the reticle has a 0.25MOA open space.

WP_20140225_13_29_27_Raw_zps96d5bdf8.jpgWP_20140225_13_29_58_Raw_zps1a013ac8.jpg

The snapshots above are solely to show you what the reticle looks like at low magnification and high magnification.  In low light, you will really need that reticle illumination which is nicely worked out on this scope with a pullout knurled ring on the side focus turret.

If your battery is dead, turning the magnification all the way down allows the thick bars to get close enough to the center for use, but it is not optimal.  I suppose that is the trade off of FFP reticles.  It is hard to make a design that both gives you precision at high magnification and visibility at low magnification.

To wrap all this up, if you haven’t yet figured it out, I am very impressed with this scope.  I wish it was a little lighter, but aside from that I’ve got nothing to complain about.  Despite the weight, it felt quite at home on my Desert Tech rifle and were I in the market for a scope of this type, this one would be one of my top choices (of course, this assumes that full-blown production units will be as good or better than the one I looked at).

A few notes on the gear I used to test this scope:

– The rifle is a Desert Tech SRS with a 6.5×47 barrel.

– The ammunition used consisted of two different batches of my handloads with 130 gr Berger bullets at comparatively sedate 2750 fps.  Ramshot Hunter powder for some reason did not get me as high of a velocity as I expected, but superb accuracy and low ES spreads.

– All of the shooting was done at the Angeles Range here in Southern California at distances anywhere from 100 yards to 600 yards.

– All of the tracking tests were done at 100 yards.

– The mount I used was the first generation Aadmount since that is what I had available.  It never gave me even a hint of trouble and came back to zero every time I needed to remove the scope.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm