Hello and Welcome

shooter

Hello Gunnies! For quite a few years I’ve been writing on a number of websites about all things to do with firearms, reloading and accessories. Hopefully all firearms enthusiasts will like this blog where my various reviews can be found in one place. Please feel free to leave comments and make suggestions.

Keep scrolling down to find the stories and reviews that interest you the most.

Keep them in the X – Ring !

Bob

That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage
or working class flat is the symbol of democracy.
It is our job to see that it stays there.

George Orwell (1903-1950)

Reviewed – Insite Arms 6XC Custom Build

DSC_0313

Last year I commissioned the build of a Surgeon in 6.5-47 from well known Canadian builders Chou Bros Precision and wrote a detailed review which can be found here:  https://rifletalk.org/2017/02/11/custom-6-5x47l-precision-rifle-build/  and while I love this rifle its coloring really is best suited to the Winter and since I actually do have a Summer – albeit a short one – a rifle colored for Summer conditions seemed entirely in order.  For this build I chose to engage the services of another well-known Canadian outfit: Insite Arms out of Lloydminster Alberta who self-describe as follows “We are a small rifle shop. We build each rifle 1 at a time. We guarantee that the rifle we build for you will be one of the most precise, consistent and therefore accurate rifles you own. A quality precision rifle is a large investment and we understand uncompromising expectations” and who can be found online at: https://www.insitearms.com/

One interesting factoid about the folks at Insite Arms is that they have been helped and trained by the very well-respected US Gunsmith Mr. Robert Gradous whose rifles are amongst the most sought after South of the border.

The Very Winter Colored 6.5-47L

dsc_0174

The 6XC – Much More Suited For Summer  

DSC_0310

Unlike many gunsmiths in Canada who and for any number of likely good reasons require the buyer to accumulate all the components him or her self, Insite are happy to be your “one stop shop” and they keep an excellent selection of parts and materials on hand from which a potential buyer may choose to have a rifle built from. I was totally happy to take full advantage of Insite having a supply of parts in stock and simply asked them to use the parts I wanted and build me a rifle – so very smooth and something that US readers, likely unused to the difficulties Canadians face in regard to sourcing components for a rifle build, may not readily appreciate !

I chose this rifle to be made in 6XC partly because I have pretty much most calibers from .223 to .338L but more importantly because of its reputation as an inherently accurate round for the paper punching that this rifle will be used for.  The 6XC is as many will know a David Tubbs design and has the ballistics of a .243 but does so with less powder and therefore has a much longer barrel life.  So, soft shooting with good ballistics and a ready supply of excellent projectiles – what more can a person ask for.

For this particular rifle I wished to stick with three of my favorite ingredients for a custom gun   – I wanted to use the Surgeon 591 action, the McMillan A5 stock and the simple-but-reliable Timney 510 trigger but – on the recommendation of Insite who had seen great results out of a number of their other builds – I allowed myself to be persuaded to try a new barrel maker; Hawk Hills and, as we will see later, I couldn’t be happier.

I really do like the Surgeon action – in many ways Surgeon have “built a better mousetrap” and have improved upon my favorite factory action the time-tested Remington 700.  In particular, the Surgeon has a machined-in recoil lug and an integral 20 MOA rail.  Additionally, it is clear from cycling the action that Surgeon have tighter machining tolerances – overall, like I said, a better mousetrap.

Heart of a Rifle – A Good Action

DSC_0319While most of my custom rifles use the Badger DBM with one using a PTG and one using a Seekins this time around I chose this time to use Surgeon bottom metal – partly for looks, partly for consistency with the action and partly because it is an ambidextrous release and a funneled magwell.  Originally designed by Terry Cross it is clearly a quality piece of equipment and so far I like it – a lot.

Surgeon Bottom MetalDSC_0323

As far as a stock was concerned, I will readily admit to being a real fan of the McMillan stocks – for me they are amongst the very best of the traditional type stocks and while many people like the Manners stocks (and I’m sure they are very good) since I’ve never been disappointed with a McMillan I see no reason to change.  I wanted a pattern that would complement the Urban Spectre pattern on my 6.5-47L “Winter Rifle” and so I chose for this rifle the Woodland Spectre and, yes, Insite Arms had it in stock !  A real nice looking camo that looks the way I envisioned it to look.

Woodland Spectre – Perfect for a Summer Look DSC_0315

DSC_0324

As mentioned, it was upon the recommendation of Insite that I chose Hawk Hills as a barrel supplier and my only ask was that the profile be M40 as that is my favorite look for a barrel on a rifle where weight isn’t a consideration.  At this juncture I should say that Insite were really excellent in checking in with me as a customer on issues like weight and expressed concern that if this were for a PRS rig I may have gone too heavy.  Of course this rifle is for lying down on my belly and I couldn’t care if the thing weighs 50 lbs but the service and checking -in were really most appreciated.  (Note, finished the rifle weighs 21 lbs with the Vortex Razor II ).  I decided to add a brake even though such a thing on a soft cartridge isn’t at all necessary and I chose to use the Insite manufactured ‘Heathen’ brake.  This brake – which will be the subject of a separate article – is excellent and works as well as the APA Little Bastard without the crushing noise level !

Insite Arms – Heathen Brake.DSC_0325

At the end of the day the fit and finish of the rifle I had built by Insite was simply impeccable – and I’m very picky about such things – with no flaw at all to be found but as nice as a rifle looks the real test is accuracy and in this regard the folks at Insite have built a real tack driver: test fired before it arrived it produced a one ragged hole at 100 meters for fifteen (yes, fifteen) shots and when I took it out it has consistently shot into the .3’s at my load development distance of 200 meters.  Seriously, this is an excellent shooting rifle.

Test GroupDSC_0334

Load Development

DSC_0335

To say I’m pleased with the work Insite Arms did in putting together this rifle would be an understatement – they were excellent to work with an have produced for me exactly what I wanted in a very acceptable timeframe (Feb- Jun) and within the budget they quoted.  I would strongly recommend anyone interested in having a real tack driver built consult with Insite Arms – you will not be disappointed.

DSC_0336

Reviewed: The new Bushnell DMR II – outstanding value.

DSC_0233

Back in April of 2015 I reviewed the earlier generation of this scope and that review can be found here:

https://rifletalk.org/2015/04/02/review-of-the-bushnell-tactical-3-5-21×50-dmr-riflescope/

At the time I wrote the previous review I was a ‘solidly SFP MOA’ scope man and yet I was very impressed with Bushnell’s tactical FFP offering – well, fast forward two and a bit years and now (June 2017)  all my scopes are FFP Mil/Mil and besides owning such high-end offerings as S+B Pmii, NF ATACR and Razor 2 in that configuration I also own a few of the Bushnell Tactical 3.5-21×50 scopes with both of the G2 and Trmr2 reticles so I was more than keen to get my hands on the new generation of Bushnell Tactical – the DMR II with G3 reticle.

My good friend Omer at Precision Optics ( formerly PlainSight Solutions) out of Quesnel BC is not only an authorized Bushnell dealer but always has a good supply of optics in stock and so I’d had a chance to look through and handle the DMT II a few months back.  When Omer called me to let me know the new DMR II was subject to a recent Bushnell 25% mail in rebate program I went equipped with credit card in hand to relive him of one ( ending up with more ! ) of these – already excellent value – optics.

The DMR II comes well packaged and includes a 2″ sunshade and bikini-style scope caps as well as a useful instruction booklet and the warranty cards etc.

Nicely Packaged.

DSC_0230

DSC_0232

So what is different from the DMR to the DMR II ?  Well, let’s start by addressing what is the same – same quality one-piece aluminum 34mm tube, same 3.5-21 magnification range, same stubby overall look and the weight feels the same ( though on the Bushnell website while the grams are the same at 920 the company does say that the DMRII is an ounce and change heavier ??) but, regardless, if there is a small difference in weight it won’t be felt when the scope is mounted on a rifle.

Where the difference is really apparent between these scopes is in turret height – the new DMRII is possessed of shorter turrets and while the older model didn’t have turrets that were overly tall I think shorter to be better.  The other difference is that the new Gen scope comes with a neat little lever that allows for easier manipulation of the magnification ring – Bushnell calls this lever the “ThrowHammer” and I assume someone was paid to come up with that name – myself I will stick to the word ‘lever’.

Under the hood, the big improvement is that the new DMRII has  zero stop which is very useful and Bushnell have, mercifully , done away with the T-Loc elevation turret but (small annoyance to me ) has retained the T-Loc on the windage turret .  The other big improvement is that the new models have 10 mils of adjustment per turret turn versus the 5 on the older models.  Interestingly ( according to the Bushnell website ) total elevation has moved up to 30 mils from the previous 29 mils.

The new DMRII comes with a choice of reticles – the new G3 or Horus H-59 – and mine have the new G3 which is a smidge wider than the G2 ( to allow for the illumination option available on the DMR II i ) but really and no matter what you read online the new G3 is not ‘thick’ and even at max magnification it really will not obscure targets.  With really useful hash marks to allow for quick target acquisition and adjustment without being ‘busy’ the G3 is likely to be a favorite for many precision shooters.  ON the subject of ‘busy’ reticles, I was a tad disappointed to see the Trmr2 discontinued but I’m likely in a minority here.

Mounted up on a test mule I found the DMR II very easy to get behind with good eye relief.  Easy to zero and with an uncomplicated Zero-Stop mechanism I was ready to do some shooting.

Zero Stop System.

DSC_0246

For the testing of this scope I took along a rifle wearing the previous generation DMR ad well as one wearing the new NF ATACR 7-35 which is of course a much (much) more expensive scope.

With the much more expensive NF ATACR 7-35.

DSC_0259

Shooting in a variety of conditions and in differing lights I found the new DMRII to have a cleaner picture than the previous model – new glass coating perhaps ? and while it wasn’t as good as the NF ATACR it was really, very good. No chromatic aberration and a nice sharp image even as light faded.

Though the DMR II has twice the number of clicks per revolution as the previous model they are not too close together so as to over-dial and they have a precise tactile feel to them.  I liked the old turrets just fine but the new ones are, I think, even better – they feel like they belong on a real quality scope and in this area the Bushnell gives up nothing at all to the vastly more expensive Nightforce.

Really good turrets.

DSC_0243

The addition of the little lever ( OK, ThrowHammer) is actually a nice touch and makes magnification changes nice and easy as the Bushnell mag rings are actually quite tight – especially the shooters hands are at all wet.

A handy lever for mag changes.

DSC_0242

DSC_0240

Overall, I found this new DMR II to be a real quality piece of glass and I say that not as someone who has just moved from the $299 Walmart special but as someone who regularly shoots with some nice optics.  Honestly, in every regard these DMRII’s are good scopes.

Would not be out of place even amongst much more expensive offerings.

dsc_0189

When the recent 25% rebate was on these DMRII scopes were by far the best value in optics around but at something like the regular price of  CAN $1900 the DMRII is still an absolutely excellent value.

You can’t just buy one of them !

DSC_0245

Reviewed – Kahles 624i. How does it stack up against the PRS top scope duo ?

DSC_0227

Last year I set out on a mission to sell off my SFP MOA scopes and re-equip all my tactical style bolt guns with scopes that were FFP and MIl/Mil.  This was a slow (and expensive) process but one which was a lot of fun and because I bought (and tried even more) some good and some great scopes, I sure learned a lot.

Other than S&B, of which I have been a fan for a long time ( I use 12-50 SFP Pmii’s on my F-Open and T/TR F-Class rifles) I didn’t really set out to buy any particular brand of scopes but, as it happens, I now have FFP S&B PMii’s, Vortex Razor II HD’s and the newest NF ATACR scopes but what I didn’t have was a Kahles and it seemed somehow that it would be ideal if I could have at least one each of the three most popular scopes in the US PRS game.

DSC_0459

Like most shooters who appreciate good equipment, I knew that the Kahles had a reputation as being a premium optic.   I hadn’t had an opportunity to handle or look through one but, fortunately for me, my good friend Omer at Precision Optics in Quesnel BC is an authorized Kahles dealer and was able to let me play with the scope before purchase and, having satisfied myself that indeed this was a piece of equipment that I wanted on one of my rifles,  gave me a very good deal when it came time to part with the cash.

The scope I chose was the 624i with left hand windage – Kahles bills itself as a riflescope pioneer and the idea of a scope with left hand windage strikes me as pretty pioneering.  All the technical details about this scope can be found on the Kahles website here: http://www.kahles.at/us/products/

In keeping with the way that Europeans seem to package up and present their offering the Kahles comes in a fairly plain box that while a little better than S+B doesn’t begin to compare to the way Vortex of NF present their top end scopes.

dsc_0449

dsc_0451

Packaging is just that I suppose and after all what we are buying is not the box but what is inside the box which brings me to …

dsc_0452

Huuummmm, well what you see is what you get and what you don’t see are any scope covers or a sunshade of any sort!  You do get a ‘scope coat’ but in the field that is of limited use  – a bit disappointing really when one considers that (in Canada) there is very little change out of C$4000 when all is said and done.

Moving on, the overall feel of the scope is of quality – the finish is beautiful and the way the turrets and mag ring moves just exuded quality.  Really, this feels like the riflescope equivalent of a Rolex watch.

DSC_0460

What of course sets this scope apart from the usual is that – as you can clearly see in the photo above – the windage dial is on the left side of the 34mm tube and the parallax adjustment is on the elevation turret.  This arrangement is clearly designed for a right handed shooter so that she or he does not have to break firing position and while I could see mistakes being made early on ( and, in fact, a number of times I did make a windage adjustment when wanting to fine tune parallax ) it is one of those things that if you practice or train enough you will get used to.

DSC_0225

The mag range of this scope is – as name suggests – is 6-24x and the scope is of course FFP.  While I’d have liked a bit more top end magnification, the 24x is enough for pretty much any application other than maybe F-Class and the glass is so clear that the image quality at all settings is simply excellent and very ‘S+B- ish’  which isn’t so surprising really as, after all,  one would expect a premier Austrian offering to closely resemble a premier German offering.

The turrets have a scalloped contour and the elevation turret has a little red button on the top of  which pops up to indicate second rev which is handy and works just like the one on the Vortex Razor II which pops out of the side.  The Kahles turrets really do feel good and, it is worth saying again, a real sense of quality permeates this scope.

Silly as though it sounds when describing a 34mm tubed scope that is gigantic by the standards of 10 years ago the reality is that this Kahles is really quite svelte and certainly won’t feel over large on any heavy barreled rifle.  To illustrate the point, I perched my Kahles on top of the undisputed heavyweight of scopes the Vortex HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 – they say a picture is worth a thousand words

dsc_0457

Rounding out the features of the Kahles 624i are features that nearly all high-end (and many tier two or three) scopes now have as standard – zero-stop and illumination. In the case of the Kahles both work perfectly and are easy to use – so long, of course, as the user remembers that the illumination dial is where one usually finds the windage control !

As good as this scope is I’ve saved its best feature for last and that is the reticle.  I had thought that the EBR2-C reticle found on the Vortex Razor HD Gen II was my favorite until I used the reticle that is available with the Kahles – the SKMR3.

kahles-skmr3-reticle_700

Simply put, while reticle choice has a LOT to do with personal preference this reticle has everything I want in a reticle and more.  Your mileage may vary but I suspect that part of the reason for the Kahles popularity is right here with the SKMR 3.

So, how does the Kahles stack up in the filed against the Vortex Razor II and the NF ATACR ?

DSC_0223

Compared to the Razor while the Kahles gives up a bit of magnification it is only 24x vs. 27 x and the glass in the Kahles is really very special ( of course the Razor is absolutely no slouch in the glass department either ).  Turrets feel nicer – to me – in the Kahles and the SKMR3 is the only reticle that beats EBR2-C.  Zero-stop in the Razor can’t be beat though and, yes I hate to go on about tis again, I can see times when the lack of a sunshade will make some shots harder to make with the Kahles.

DSC_0463

While in the US the Razor is significantly cheaper than the Kahles the same isn’t true in Canada where Vortex Canada charge customers (and offer no veteran or LEO pricing) pretty much the same for the Razor II as Kahles dealers charge for the Kahles 624i so – at least in Canada – there is no price advantage.  Vortex warranty sells a lot of scopes but the Kahles limited lifetime is also a pretty strong backup if anything does go wrong.

When comparing the Kahles to my NF ATACR, the Kahles is giving up a lot in the magnification range 24x vs. the 35x top end on my ATACR F1 7-35×56 and the only areas where the Kahles is clearly superior to the ATACR is in price (the 7-35 in Canada is around C$5K after tax)  and in reticle choice where the SKMR 3 is significantly superior to the reticle choices available in the NF.

dsc_0173

Overall, the Kahles is clearly a top of the line riflescope and it performed flawlessly in the field.  Excellent glass, very nice turrets ( when you get used to the placement of the windage ! ) and a real quality feel is combined with a superb reticle all at a not unreasonable price point.

DSC_0224

Guest Post – Survival Gun Logistics

The following is a guest post regarding an interesting subject – survival guns.  Written and submitted by Mr. Douglas Brooks.  Enjoy

Survival Gun Logistics

This post is about a topic that is neglected by most of the firearms community. That is because most people buy a gun and then only fire a box of ammo through it once or twice a year. These guys will never need spare parts because they are barely breaking their guns in. MSG readers are training regularly and planning for the long haul, however, so a discussion of survival gun logistics is in order.

Logistics is the study of supply chains. Lifecycle Logistics is the study of a product and the supply chains that support it during its useful life. A good example of lifecycle logistics is the automobile industry.

When you buy a car, the original manufacturer agrees to maintain it for a period. Once the warranty expires you will have to work on it yourself or take it to a shop. Since oil and fuel types are standardized, it is easy to find these items just about anywhere. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will still produce parts and have them available for a period of years after your model is no longer made.

Aftermarket companies produce parts too and compete with the OEM to drive down the cost. Because of the system, we have in place it is not uncommon to see cars on the road that have been in service for 15-20 years and many hundreds of thousands of miles.

Here is how you put the same system in place for your firearms.

Ammunition

Part of your logistics planning needs to include ammunition. A common belief in the survival community is that if you choose common calibers, then they will always be available during a disaster. That belief was proved false during the 2008-2009 ammo shortage. During that time ammunition prices soared, and common calibers were on backorder for months.

Common calibers still have a distinct advantage. However, that should make them primary in your survival planning. That advantage is that they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find in bulk now. This allows you to do two things. First is to train regularly. An important part of preparedness is training regularly with your equipment. The second is that they will allow you to stock up affordable before a crisis.

Common calibers in the U.S. include .22LR, 9x19mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 12 gauge, 5.56x45mm, and 7.62x51mm. These calibers are widely used by law enforcement and the military so bulk pricing deals can be had, and suitable defensive loads are easy to come by. Eastern Bloc calibers like 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54R are commonly available as well and could be reasonable choices also. Understand though that the quality of Eastern Bloc ammunition varies and some of it is corrosive. They are not as well supported by the commercial ammunition manufacturers either which limits the availability of suitable hunting and defense loads. Educate yourself and plan accordingly.

Spare Parts

Nothing lasts forever. All machines require regular maintenance including guns. This means you’ll want to purchase guns that have good parts support. This will allow you to do some or all of your maintenance yourself at home. It will also allow you to lay up a supply of spare parts to keep on hand for hard times.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers see making spare parts available a liability. They don’t want to be sued when somebody puts a gun together wrong and then gets hurt. This is especially the case in the working gun category although it applies to some defensive guns as well.

Certain guns are particularly easy to keep running due to parts support. They include but are not limited to the Ruger 10/22, Glock handguns (any model), AR-15 rifles in 5.56mm, and Remington 870 shotguns. These guns have both good OEM and aftermarket support and have remained popular for a long period. Guns like these make ideal choices for your survival battery.

It needs to be said that the quality of parts, and guns for that matter, vary widely and need to be considered carefully. The best case study in this issue is the AR-15 rifle. The patents have expired on this design and its popularity has caused dozens of makers to get into the AR-15 business. Many, if not most, of these companies, are cutting corners by making their parts with cheaper methods, inferior materials, and no quality control. This contributes to the AR-15s reputation for poor reliability. Rifles made to government specifications are very reliable and make an excellent choice for a defensive rifle.

For a few dollars more, make sure you buy guns and spare parts that are built to a standard.

Accessories

I will only touch on this briefly as it is a huge topic. The key takes away here is that certain models of guns have noticeably better accessory support. Choosing these popular models means it will be easier to get magazines, scope mounts, weapon lights, etc. Usually, guns that have been in long-term use by the sporting or military/law enforcement communities will have good accessory support.

The Bottom Line

When making a choice between gun A, that is unique and cool and gun B that is boring but has tons of ammo, parts, and accessories for it I choose gun B every time. It doesn’t matter how good something is if you can’t maintain it or can’t afford to train with it. Consider these issues carefully when planning your survival gun battery and chose wisely.

This post is written by Douglas Brooks. He is the founder of ProReviewly.com . He was enthusiastic about hunting from the first shot. He is also Rifle optic guru.

Comparative Review – NF ATACR F1 7-35×56 vs Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27×56 vs S+B PMii 5-25×56

dsc_0166

The arrival of a new custom rifle provided the perfect excuse to invest ( I like that word – it makes the pain of purchase seem so very much more bearable ) in some new glass. At long last and for all shooting applications other than F-Class, I have finally  “seen the light” and therefore knew that my new scope would be a FFP with 34mm tube, a nice reticle and Mil/Mil turrets and so……. the buying was about to begin.

Initially, my choice of new glass was a done deal and if all had gone according to plan you wouldn’t be reading this article.  Before the new rifle was even built I’d decided  that I was simply going to add another Vortex Razor II HD 4.5-27×56 to my collection but, silly me, I actually wanted a bit of a deal this time around – nothing outrageous, just a bit of sugar to sweeten things up.  I figured a few percentage points discount would be doable but it wasn’t to be the case… even though I have previously bought two of these excellent scopes at full retail, when I approached Vortex Canada about whether they would consider a small “LEO discount” for a serving LE, a ‘threepee buyer’ and a part-time writer/blogger I was politely, but quite clearly, told that Vortex doesn’t do any deals for Canadian LE – fair enough.  I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an American company, Vortex, values US law enforcement (for whom they do offer a substantial discount) more than their Canadian brothers and sisters. Of course it is entirely their prerogative about whether or not to offer mil or LE discounts and no doubt many consumers would likely agree with them.  Vortex’s response to my inquiry did disappoint me though and gave me  ’cause to pause’ which then prompted me to start looking around at other options but, hey, great marketing company that they are Vortex sent me a ball cap and a T-Shirt for asking the question and here I am writing a review of a scope I likely wouldn’t have otherwise bought so, at the end of the day, it all worked out.

That Nightforce Wasn’t Supposed To Be There …………dsc_0202

Back to the drawing board and now in ‘search mode’ rather than ‘buying mode’, I considered a number of other brands of glass.  Two otherwise excellent scopes were quickly discounted: March (who have no Canadian support) and the Canadian-made Tangent Theta whose makers have, in my opinion, simply priced themselves out of contention. I ended up thinking long and hard about three particular brands: a Khales, another S+B or a NF ATACR.  I love S+B scopes and consider the PMii to be the “Gold Standard” against which all other scopes should be measured when it comes to pure glass but the rest of the scope is somewhat dated.  The Khales scopes in FFP have excellent reticles and very nice glass but they max out at 24x and I wanted a bit more top-end magnification ( maybe I was still thinking of my Vortex Razor 2’s  which have a 27x max) and then that the little filing cabinet in the back of the head opened up and I remembered reading that the newest Nightforce F1 ATACR was now available with a max magnification of 35x.   I like Nightforce ( who doesn’t ?) and I own their NXS, BR and Competition scopes so why not take a look at the NXS’ big brother the NF ATACR ?  The big question was could one be found in Canada ?

7-35 and Mil/Mildsc_0176

Calls to a NF distributor in Eastern Canada quickly informed me that I was actually going to spend more money on the new ATACR than I would if I had purchased a third Razor II because, while the NF ATACR 5-25×56 F1 is in the same ballpark as the Vortex, the new 7-35 ATACR F1 has a Canadian MAP that is substantially higher.  Furthermore, the newness of this scope meant there were only a few available in Canada but fortunately my good friend (and authorized Nightforce dealer) Omer Hrbinic at Plainsightsolutions in BC (precisionoptics.ca) had one of the few NF ATACR 7-35×56 scopes that had made it into Canada and so it was from Omer that I made my purchase.  Yes, I spent more money than I would if I’d stuck with a Vortex but I did get a price break off the NF MAP and sometimes, whether it be a rifle, a scope or a new truck, feeling like you got a deal makes all the difference to whether  you, as a consumer, make a purchase or not.

So,what do I think of my new glass and how does it compare to some other quality scopes I own and use?  Of course the words “what do I think” are important as the opinions I have are exactly that – subjective opinions – and where I may say Brand X turrets are the best another user may say that it is the turrets of Brand Y that are better.  But before we get into what I think let us look at some specs for the new Nightforce which can be found on the Nightforce website at: http://nightforceoptics.com/atacr/7-35×56-f1

Besides the obvious maximum 35x magnification some of the specifications highlights that stuck me were the 27.3 mils (100 MOA) of elevation, parallax down to 10m and, while not exactly svelte, the weight still under 40 oz.  In my view these are all good numbers.

I’ve  covered the unboxing of high-end scopes in other reviews but a quick synopsis is this: our German friends (S+B) give you a brilliant scope in what is almost a plain white box, Vortex goes all out and your new Razor 2 is beautifully packaged and Nightforce falls somewhere in between these two – it isn’t the spectacular job of packaging like Vortex but it is much improved over what our friends in Europe provide.  I’m pleased to report that at least with respect to the ATACR models, Nightforce have now included real, useful, scope caps and they are the very best – Armament Technologies’ Tenebraex covers which I like to use on all my top-tier glass and while pricey are well worth the money.  Well done Nightforce !

The choice of rings and bases is entirely personal and in this review the reader will note that scopes get switched around a bit to prevent ‘rife bias’ interfering with what I really think of a scope. Sometimes the new NF sits in a SPHUR mount while on other occasions it rests in NF rings.  I think every reader of an article like this understands that rings and bases are not the places one wants to make economies so I won’t belabor this point.

NF ATACR Mounted on Surgeon 591dsc_0174

Mounted on a Remington AICS Combodsc_0200

At this level of glass I find writing about a scope in isolation isn’t too helpful as, quite frankly, they are all very good and there are no really bad choices so I like to do some real time comparisons and therefore it was time to lay out some rifles and glass.

No Bad Choicesdsc_0189

dsc_0190

In addition to my Razor II’s I added a S+B and the ATACR’s little brother the NXS to the mix and I spent a lot of time just glassing various objects in all sorts of light.  I made observations in the cold, bright and clear days thru to when it was actually snowing and from morning, thru mid-day and to late in the day when dusk turned to darkness. I tried to keep most glassing done at what I figured was a fair magnification of up to 20x so that I didn’t end up allowing simple magnification of an object to inform my brain that the glass in question was better.

I made a particular point of glassing at various distances and at a wide variety of things – trees, targets, animals and pretty much anything that interested me and a lot of this viewing was done without the distraction of actual shooting.  One of the things I spent a lot of time looking at was an optical chart I have pinned to my workshop door – simply reading the typed data in all light conditions. Some may not choose to assess glass this way but I think this is an excellent way to compare glass over time.

Optical Charts and Targets – A Good Way To Assess GlassDSC_0267

This assessment of glass clarity is exactly that – a way of me looking at lots of objects and scenes in varying weather and lighting conditions and figuring out which I considered the clearest/sharpest/brightest with the best color trueness.  I find that with scopes of this quality and regardless of manufacturers claims to the contrary, there really is not a lot of difference between one scope and the next but there were some things that were clear pretty early on:

1. the NF NXS with a 30mm tube was outclassed and was retired early – this was not surprising but to make sure it was not that particular scope, I used rifles wearing a Sightron Siii and wearing a Leupold Mk4 and the results were the same.  Conclusion – the NF ATACR, the S+B Pmii and the Vortex Raor HD II are, really, in a higher tier than the NXS and comparable scopes.

2. In good lighting conditions I found it super tough to make a decision between the ATACR and the Vortex and while most times I felt the ATACR had the edge I just could not be certain.  The S+B’s ( I used a PMii 5-25×56 and a 12-50×60 ) we to my eyes slightly brighter overall but, again, this is a very close game.

So close was this glass comparison that  it wasn’t until looking at the optical chart late one afternoon when it was actually snowing that I finally decided that the ATACR had ever so slightly better glass than the Vortex.  My final assessment of glass clarity is as follows: S+B, NF ATACR and Vortex Razor HD II.

Of course glass is far from everything and so the next thing I assessed was the reticles.  My S+B’s have the P4F, the Vortex’s have the EBR 2-c and the new NF ATACR has the Mil-R.  While reticle choice is based on intended application (and a lot of personal preference) I do feel that NF should work on providing a reticle that is more like the Vortex EBR 2-c or (even better) the excellent SKMR 3 offered by Khales.  When shooting for groups on 25x I thought that while the Mil-R worked fine and, to be entirely fair, it is growing on me  that it lags behind the Vortex as a target reticle.  My assessment of reticles is as follows: Vortex, NF ATACR and S+B.

Other than the usefulness and clarity of what is contained within the scope tube the other thing that users want to know about is how the turrets work and how they feel.  Obviously each of the scopes I own pass box tests and track properly otherwise they would be returned for warranty so a lot of what remains comes down to feel and use in the field.

NF ATACR 7-35×56 F1dsc_0167

Vortex Razor HD II 4.5x27x56dsc_0218

S+B PMii 5-25×56

dsc_0440

The turrets of each of the three scopes work really well but there are some standouts for each – the color change rev indicator on S+B, the Zero Stop (ZS) function on the Vortex and, simple as it sounds, the large lettering on the NF each have their appeal to me.  The locking caps on the Vortex is an appeal to many and it initially really impressed me  but I find in cold weather they are hard to use and have recently been a very minor irritation as, on occasion, I forgot they were locked when going to use them.

Easy To Read Markings on the NF – Important To Medsc_0159

One thing that was raised on a Canadian website was a criticism that Nightforce have chosen to use a 12 mil per rev system rather than a base 10 system.  I asked Nightforce why they chose a 12 mil per rev and the answer was:

“The 12 Mils per turn came about from various end user requests to get more travel per revolution, which ultimately reduced the number of revolutions needed for extended range shooting.  We decided to incorporate the adjustment for commercial models as we found benefit while testing it ourselves, in being able to take most high performance rifle cartridges to 1200 yards or beyond, all within a single revolution of the adjustment.

Also, the 12 Mils per revolution works out to be 120 clicks per revolution.. This provided 30 MOA per revolution, allowing more capability for MOA shooters as well as some parts commonality for ease of manufacturing purposes.
So there you have it – I understand the criticism of those who say NF should, like Vortex, use a base 10 system but I think this issue is overblown and it simply isn’t a problem for me and I feel in good company as I note that the S+B engineers and, for reference, those at Khales don’t consider it a problem either.
Turret feel and how the ‘clicks’ feel is of course totally subjective but to me I like them in the following order: Razor II by a smidge followed by ATACR and then S+B whose clicks even though I have used them a lot still sometimes feel too close together for me.
One of the things that I see NF still using and, to me it is annoying, is a process that means the entire ocular turns when the mag ring is turned.  I consider this a demerit and puts NF back of the pack in this regard.  Time for a change NF.
Magnification Rings – Vortex Betters NF Here

dsc_0209

The illumination feature on a scope is something that I rarely use – I simply don’t shoot when light is so poor  – but it is a feature that many other shooters find relevant to their shooting.  I do think illumination controls should be easily accessible, not take up tube space so as to impede scope mounting and should be easy to switch on an off.  Both of the ATACR and the Vortex achieve these illumination requirements while the S+B ( being of an older design) houses the illumination controls in a third turret which, in turn, limits the space available for mounting.  I personally like the one touch button on the NF and the dual (red-green) color choice and so I place it above the Vortex with the S+B rounding out the three.

NF ATACR Illumination – One-Touch Under the NF Trademark

dsc_0158

Back of the Illumination Pack – the Third Turreted S+B

dsc_0441

So, in the final analysis it is for me pretty much of a wash between NF ATACR and Vortex when it comes to the feel and usefulness of the turrets – initially I preferred the Vortex then I really dug the NF but at the end of the piece I am going to cal it a tie. Of course all my scopes track properly and I find it amusing when people report tracking errors as a scope that does not track accurately is broken which leads to the next issue – warranty.

Each scope is well-warrantied and I’ve never heard of a Canadian user being let down by either of NF or S+B but the warranty is what often sells Vortex ( especially the lower models ) and their warranty can’t be beat.  Put simply – if it breaks Vortex will look after you.  I’m sure none of the other top makers would leave a customer hanging but the bullet-proof warranty of Vortex reassures many people ( me included ).

Of course one would rather not have to use a warranty and while each of the scopes here are well-regarded as being reliable and robust it is the NF range that has a reputation for being incredibly tough.  I don’t torture test stuff I buy, but if industry reputation means anything then the NF may well move to the top of a consumers wish list.

One of the things that the ATACR really has of course over the Razor II and the S+B is that the top-end magnification goes up to 35x.  Usually if shooting at much above 25x I’d likely be shooting a F-Class match at KD and using a very high magnification SFP scope but it is nice to have that bit extra in a FFP scope and I would expect to see this trend towards higher magnification FFP scopes continue.

In the bulk or weight department the NF has an edge over the Vortex (but not of course the S+B ) is in weight – many people trying to save weight get a bit hung up on this though to be honest I can’t tell the difference on my rifles as they are all pretty heavy and so a few ounces is negligible but if it is important to you then note the specs.

As I said at the beginning I bought the NF ATACR F1 because I was a bit put out about the response from Vortex re price discounting for LE  but I’m pleased I spent the extra money on the NF as it is a nice scope with excellent glass and where I shoot the extra magnification can be really useful.  In conclusion, my ratings of my scopes which I own and are not loaners are:

  • Glass – S+B- NF – Vortex
  • Reticles – Vortex – NF – S+B
  • Turrets – Vortex and NF tied – S+B
  • Weight – S+B -NF -Vortex
  • Fit & Finish – All equal
  • Warranty – Vortex
  • Price High to Low – NF- Vortex -S+B

So – perhaps the ideal scope would have S+B level glass with Vortex level reticles and turrets that are the equal to the Vortex or NF with perhaps…….left side windage ????  Mmmm,  my next review might give me just that – stay tuned for my thoughts on the Khales 624i with SKMR3 reticle:

dsc_0452

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custom 6.5x47L Precision Rifle Build

dsc_0174

I own a number of tactical-style precision bolt guns from high-end manufacturers like PGWDTI and SAKO and I also own some excellent custom rifles built by some well-known Canadian shops.  Like many  of us who are – dare I say it – “addicted” to the sport of precision / tactical / long range rifle shooting, I’ve long wished to have that ‘ultimate build’ rifle; that one rifle that was built without any compromises being made, using the best of components and assembled by people who are known for the quality of their work.  This article is basically the story of that journey – a trail that goes from an idea in my head through to the taking delivery of the rifle and to putting rounds down range.

My journey towards having my rifle built actually started with the building of another rifle – a new custom F-Class (F/TR) rifle  – which was built by Chou Brothers Precision out of Ontario, Canada which is a business owned and operated by Will and Kevin Chou who are not only builders of very fine rifles but are World-Class shooters themselves. Readers interested in  F-Class can see that build here :

http://www.choubrothersprecision.com/what-s-new/f-classcompetitionf-trbuildbarnardsactionmcmillanf-classstocktimneytacticaltriggerkriegerbarrelin308win

I was so pleased with every aspect of my F/TR rifle that I asked Messers Chou if they would assemble for me a tactical-type precision rifle. In keeping with the outstanding customer service ethos that infuses their business Will and Kevin confirmed that they would be happy to accept such a commission and so the hunt began for components.

When searching for components and visualizing a build I recommend that shooters figure out what they are likely going to use the rifle for – obviously little is to be gained by building a 20 lbs. rifle if one is planning on using it on a sheep hunt but more nuanced than that somewhat silly example is consideration of whether you are going to be a prone or offhand shooter, mobile or not, shooting off bipod, front rest or improvised etc. etc.  I decided that this rifle would be used in the prone position and shot off a bipod with rear bag; with strings of shots being fired from a fixed position mobility would not be an issue and, while  convenience dictates that most of my shooting is done within 500m, I have access to distances in excess of 1000m.

Caliber (or calibre for my UK friends) selection is usually determined by the application the shooter has in mind and what other chamberings a shooter already has.  I have precision rifles in a variety of calibers from .223 to 338 Lapua but the 6.5 caliber is one that I am particularly fond of – great bullet selection, decent barrel life, 1000 meter plus capability and moderate recoil makes the 6.5 hard to beat.  The question was “what 6.5?”  I already own a .260 Remington and my reading led me to consider the relatively new 6.5-47 Lapua which was introduced in 2005.  This cartridge has good brass availability (Lapua), long brass life, is easy on barrels and is one of the more popular cartridges on the very competitive Precision Rifle Series (PRS) in the USA.  As an added bonus the 6.5-47L is thought to be easy to load for and not at all finicky or temperamental so that settled it – my new rifle was to be in 6.5-47 Lapua.

The literal and metaphorical heart of any rifle is the receiver and while I really like the Barnard actions for my single-shot competition guns I prefer other makes for my mag fed repeaters.  While a trued Remington 700 can be an excellent, and cost effective, choice I determined in the case of this build to use a custom action and while other brands can be considered contenders the choice for me came down to either of a Defiance or a Surgeon; both are excellent receivers and, like as in the case of caliber, are especially popular on the US PRS circuit.  I’d previously  had a very nice rifle made using a Defiance which I found to be super smooth but the integral rail of the Surgeon and the reputation of Surgeon actions for reliability in all climates and conditions tipped the scale – especially as I am a year around shooter and temperature can vary from -30 C to + 30 C.  Really though there is no bad choice here and a future build may well see me revert to using Defiance.

dsc_0154

While I have commonly used Krieger barrels for my builds I have also used Broughton, Shilen and Rock Creek and while some may disagree my sense of it is that all of the premium makers produce a good product and, regardless of the maker, sometimes one barrel will be a stand-out and the chances of a dud are pretty darn remote.  So with these thoughts re barrels in mind I went with a barrel that the Chou Bros had in stock which was a 1:8 twist Bartlein  – single point cut style of course as are all Bartlein barrels – and, since weight is not an issue for me with this rifle, I chose a M40 profile.

dsc_0171

Though not at all necessary with a rifle chambered in 6.5, I nevertheless decided I wanted a muzzle break and my reasoning was threefold:  I usually shoot alone on my own land and so noise isn’t an issue; a break allows me to spot my shots easier and, lastly,  I simply like the look of a brake-equipped rifle barrel.  At this point I must inform readers in more enlightened countries ( including many with much stricter gun laws ) that suppressors are prohibited in Canada so the idea of running a can – as nice as that may be – simply isn’t an option for me.

In the marketplace of today there is quite a wide choice of muzzle brakes and a shooter may easily find him or herself somewhat overwhelmed.  Fortunately a very good test was done by Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog who analyzed over 20 different brakes and so I allowed Cal’s work to guide me and went with the APA Little Bastard brake that performed very well in Cal’s tests regarding recoil reduction, ground signature and staying on target and was also easily available in Canada.  Two downsides to the Little Bastard are that it is really loud ( shooting on own property is likely not an issue but going to the range ….mmmm, you may be less than popular ) and feedback from other shooters is that it can work loose – easily remedied by judicious application of appropriate threadlocker of course.  The post that summarizes the PRB test can be found here: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2015/08/21/muzzle-brake-summary-of-field-test-results/

dsc_0157

With the barreled action sorted out the next big decision often faced is Chassis or Stock ?  I have both and there are merits / demerits no matter what you choose.  I have a particular fondness for the chassis systems from Accuracy International (AICS) and Cadex and have used others as well but, at heart, I am a bit of a traditionalist and have always liked the McMillian stocks and, in particular, the A5.  There are others of course – the Manners comes to mind – but selection in Canada isn’t what it is in the US and a I was reluctant to try something new on this build so I stuck to what I knew and what I liked; McMillian A5 with three way adjustable butt-plate, integral thumb-wheel adjustable cheekpiece and, up front of the sling swivel, a Seekins 3″ rail for mounting my bipod of choice.  I ordered the stock to be colored in “Urban Spectre” which is a fairly new molded-in camo from McMillian.

dsc_0159

I am very happy with the stock coloring as well as the overall quality, fit and finish etc. but there was a long wait for delivery – I ordered in April 2016 and it didn’t arrive until November.  Had I gone with a slightly different stock that was in inventory somewhere the build time would have been significantly shorter but, like I wrote at the outset, I didn’t wish to compromise on this build only to end up thinking “Mmm, that’s nice but I wish….”

I had determined from the outset to use AICS mags; in my opinion they are the best aftermarket magazines one can use and are bettered only by the Accuracy International double stack and the Sako TRG magazines. Trying to save a few bucks by the use of magazines made by Accurate Mag or MDT is, in my view, a false economy.  Having decided to use AICS mags the search was on for suitable bottom metal and while I’ve previously used a variety of makes I was drawn on this occasion to the bottom metal offered by Seekins Precision who offer AICS compatible gear that is ambidextrous and whose trigger guard – while not overly pretty – is large enough to use with heavy winter gloves – where I live that’s pretty important.  A link to this particular item is here:

http://www.seekinsprecision.com/parts-and-accessories/bolt-rifle-accessories/seekins-precision-aics-short-action-no-magazine.html

Of course a rifle won’t work too well without a trigger and this is one component where I expect people to criticize my selection. I opted to use the simple and inexpensive Timney 510.  I decided upon this trigger as I have it on a number of other rifles and I like the way it feels and have found it super reliable in all weather.  I have a Jewell, Barnard and Trigger Tech on other rifles and while the Jewell in particular is more fine none feel as nice to me as does the Timney.  Canadian readers may note that I was an early proponent of the Canadian-made Trigger Tech and may wonder why I didn’t choose that trigger and the answer is that over time I have found them to loose consistency which is unfortunate but I need to have confidence that my trigger will work and work the same every time all the time.

Since this rifle will be shot from the prone with the use of a rear bag the selection of a suitable bipod is very important and bipods are pieces of equipment that I’ve reviewed endlessly. While there is nothing wrong with the ubiquitous Harris it is bettered by the Atlas and significantly bettered by the LRA bipod.  Regardless of what you read on the Internet (and certainly from those with a vested interest is selling stuff) trust me on this: the LRA is the best tactical type bipod available – period.

dsc_0153

The last piece of the shooting system boils down to the choice of glass – over the past year I have been engaged in a process of upgrading my scopes from SFP MOA/MOA to FFP MIL/MIL  – and so I have a number of quite new and very nice scopes to hand.  Initially and as can be see in the pictures that accompany this article I mounted the latest NF ATACR F1 in 7-35×56 using a SPHUR 34mm mount.  This scope – which it would be an understatement to describe as really rather nice – will be the subject of my next review during which I will compare it to the classic S+B Pmii 5-25×56 and the current favorite amongst PRS shooters; the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56.

dsc_0164

Of course anyone reading this story would – I suppose – like to know how the rifle shoots.  Well, with the components used and the assembly undertaken by people like ChouBros Precision it would be simply shocking were the rifle to be found to be in any way inaccurate.  I am still playing with some load development but the rifle is now printing a trial load of virgin Lapua brass, 42g H4350 and 123g Lapua Scenars consistently in the .4’s at 200m which is my preferred load development range. This shooting has been done prone in the snow in -12 and -16 deg C with a cold and getting colder shooter so I am very pleased with the results.  It is simply a  joy to fire this heavy (19.2 lbs as pictured) gun – there is of course zero recoil – and everything looks and feels just about perfect to me.

Obviously a huge thanks must go to Will and Kevin Chou who have done such a nice job on building this rifle for me and whose attention to detail and outstanding customer service simply cannot be bettered.  I would also like to mention the following Canadian suppliers and retailers who made this project a success:  Hirsch Precision (stock), RPS International (Action, bottom metal and trigger) Prophet River Firearms (brake) PGWDTI (LRA bipod) and, of course, my good friend Omer at Plainsight Solutions for the great deal on the NF ATACR.

dsc_0180

 

 

Review – Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27×56

DSC_0258

It is surely unusual to commence a product review with a statement like this but I have to say that the very popular Vortex razor HD II 4.5-27×56 is a scope I really never thought I’d end up even reviewing let alone owning.  What changed ?  Well, two  particular things happened to bring this particular model into my possession – firstly, I have finally dragged myself into the 21st Century and now see the real benefits of FFP Mil/Mil scopes over SFP MOA/MOA scopes which, while arguably still the best choice for games like F-Class, are simply outclassed for all forms of practical or tactical shooting.  Secondly, while I already  own the excellent  S+B 5-25×56, I saw how popular the Vortex Razor HD II scopes are amongst the PRS shooters in the United States and I figured that any scope that the World’s Best take so seriously simply has to be worth looking at.

DSC_0263

Readers of this review should note that – just like over  90% of the items I review – this scope is really owned by me and it is something I paid retail pricing for.  I placed my order for this scope ( SKU RZR 42706 EBR-2C MRAD ) with Wolverine Supplies out of Manitoba, Canada who were, as always, excellent to deal with and are one of a handful of businesses I always recommend people contact when they are looking for higher-end optics or firearms.

Whenever I review a firearm or scope the opinions I express are really just that – a subjective view of what I observed and how I felt about it.  I’m not a firearms or optics reseller, just a regular shooter who gets out most weekends to punch paper and who competes a few times a year.  I suppose  I am the classic ‘end-user’ and when reviewing optics I use the simple ‘Eyeball, Human Mk I’ to asses such things as how bright the image is, how much resolution I can pick up and whether there is anything else I can see that is worthy of mention.

Usually when I review something I try to compare what I am testing to similar products out there that compete for consumer dollars in the marketplace and so in this case I ran my new  Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27×56 alongside my  S+B Pmii 5-25×56 and one of my SFP scopes – a Nightforce NXS 8-32×56.  Of course, the NF isn’t really a direct competitor to the Razor since it is a 30mm SFP scope but it is  roughly comparable and also has very fine Japanese glass.

DSC_0252

Each of the Vortex, the S+B and the NF were mounted on high-quality .308 tactical rifles of comparable accuracy.  The Vortex sat atop my usual ‘test-mule’ which is a custom rifle built of a Remington 700 with a Rock Creek barrel while the S+B and NF sat on top of, respectively, a SAKO TRG 22 and a PGW Coyote.  The Vortex was secured using Vortex (Seekins) 34mm rings while the other scopes sat in SPHUR one-piece mounts.

DSC_0261

When it comes to looking for things not to like in a product it is fair to say that I am one of those people who gets more pickier the higher the price I have to pay for an item and in this case – with a MRSP of Can$4,499 (https://www.vortexcanada.net/product/razor-hd-gen-ii-4-5-27×56-riflescope-with-ebr-2c-reticle-10-mrad-turrets/) – I will be looking for things in the Razor that I wouldn’t bother about were the product a significantly cheaper one.

Anyway this offering from Vortex is now mine and so now on with the business of letting you all know my thoughts ………………

Unboxing and initial thoughts – mmmm, I know one shouldn’t make too much out of this, but I often do judge the quality of a product by the efforts a company makes to package it up and present it to the consumer.  I’m sure others may think me naïve or stupid and argue that consumers pay for the packaging anyway, but I think a nice job in this area speaks to the corporate pride in what a company is putting out.  Anyway, in this regard Vortex simply shines; they  absolutely do it right  and everything about the presentation of the product speaks of quality – from the box itself to the heavy duty foam the product rests in to the manuals that accompany it all is first-class.

DSC_0237

Beautiful – makes me feel like I’ve bought something of value.  Maybe that is a marketing success ?

DSC_0240

Comparatively, Nightforce also does a pretty decent job but S+B….mmmm… well, let us just say our German friends are not big on such things and leave it at that.

DSC_0269

Continuing with the unwrapping, I love the nice big sunshade the Vortex comes with ( again, S+B are you listening ?) and the excellent colour manuals for both of the scope and the reticle – manuals that are written in a version of the English language that I can understand, plain, simple, clear and concise !

Instructions I can Read

DSC_0045

I also appreciate the little tool for making turrets adjustments BUT…….the scope caps ….. really.. ..Vortex …. come on… either provide none at all or provide some decent scope caps – I mean, you guys actually make such things so run off a few more and include them with a scope that MSRP’s over four grand – please and thank you 🙂 .

Destined for the Re-Cycling Bin

DSC_0243

Of course, I knew I wasn’t going to get some scope caps with my new scope so when I placed my order I also ordered some of the excellent Tenebraex covers that I like, are actually Made in Canada, and which are superior to the more common Butler Creek ones that so often break.

DSC_0244

OK, rant about the non scope caps over and on with the review…

DSC_0242

The first thing that I noticed, and I think it is a pretty universal comment, is “wow – this scope is heavy”.  Seriously, if you haven’t held one before the Vortex Razor HD Gen II feels like a tank; weighing just over three pounds (48.5 oz to be precise ) –  I’m not saying this is a negative;  on the rifle I will eventually mount the scope on weight isn’t going to be a consideration but if overall weight of a rifle/scope is an issue then the Vortex’s heft has to be factored in to a buying decision.

The second thing I noticed is that this scope really exudes quality and has a ‘presence’ that tells you ( well, it tells me at least ! ) this is a well made piece of kit.  The controls are smooth and precise and I think the colour is great – unusual for a scope yes but it certainly makes a change from the traditional black ( or, forgive them, they know not what they do, the silver than some people still seem to choose) and I like it.

DSC_0265

I went over the whole scope really carefully and found no flaw …except… mmm, looks like at some point in the QC someone used a coin or screwdriver to remove the cap that covers the battery compartment (no doubt to check the illumination circuitry ) and left a small mark.  Normally this would be a ‘whatever’ and move on but, like I said above, with an expensive item I am very picky and looking for faults or things to complain about and that small blemish is noted – but, and here is where Vortex clearly earns huge points with consumers, a quick call to Vortex Canada and a chat with a very nice lady on the other end and, so I am informed, a new cap is on the way to me.  It is by getting small stuff like that right that a company forges a reputation – brilliant !

Small Blemish – Vortex CSR Makes Right – Excellent

DSC_0046I chose to mount this scope on its temporary ride using the Vortex branded 34mm rings which I am reliably informed are actually Seekins rings and are of a very good quality.  They fit perfectly on the 20 MOA NF Picatinny rail and needed no lapping at all to house this scope.

DSC_0251

Now properly mounted up, I decided to try the first test of the Vortex glass; I had thought of a little reading test and wondered how it would stack up against its field competitors the S+B Pmii and the NF NXS as well as a Leupold Mk4 8.5-25×50 and a Sightron Siii 8-32×56.  I stapled a target and an Eye Test Chart to the door of my workshop which is about 50 meters from the house and under a variety of lighting conditions from bright sunlight through to almost dark I observed what I could see and read with each scope set on firstly 20x and then the scopes’ max magnification.

Eye Chart and Target  @ 50m .

DSC_0267

I am very impressed by how white and bright the glass is in the Vortex and, initially, it actually seemed better than the S+B.  However, and after a lot of observation over the length of an evening and into dusk,  I think that the S+B has a bit better resolution but that slight advantage isn’t really noticeable until as light fades and one struggles to read the words at the bottom of the Eye Test chart ” Find an optometrist.….”.  All to say that on this test the Vortex was very impressive; holding its own until quite late in the day with a Top-Tier scope like the S+B Pmii 5-25×56 is no mean feat.  How about the other scopes ?  Well, on this exercise the Vortex appeared to be a shade better than the NF NXS but it was very close which isn’t surprising as they both use excellent, Japanese, glass. Next I thought was my Leupold Mk4 which was, in turn, better (but only slightly) than the Sightron Siii but, honestly, we are talking about minute shadings of resolution here with the differences coming down to how well I could read the really fine print.

During this exercise I played with the Vortex  turrets a lot to get a feel for them and to compare them side by side with the S+B and NF NXS and I really like them – the clicks are precise, audible and I’m pretty certain that a user wouldn’t over or under click as they are evenly spaced.  Really, very nice indeed and of the three scopes I liked them the most !  Honestly, the only turrets that I remember liking as much were on the Tangent Theta scope I reviewed earlier in the year which, sadly, was a borrowed item that I had to return and so isn’t currently available for direct comparison.

DSC_0248

Big, Beefy Turrets

DSC_0245

At this point let me address something that was raised in another review written by a fellow Canadian shooter and competitor (who, to be fair, one should note is also in the business of selling brands of riflescopes other than Vortex) who thought that after moving the elevation turret to max the  “image that I just raved about absolutely TANKED”. At full up, the quality was not much off entry level scopes”  That review certainly caused a bit of a buzz on the shooting forums and may even have put off a few prospective buyers – I must admit that I had some trepidation about buying after reading this observation of his.  I’m all in favor of ‘calling it as you see it’ but with my scope I checked, double checked and triple-checked and I observed no such diminution or lessening of image quality. I cranked the elevation of my Vortex to the max and back and max again and did not observe what the other reviewer claims he observed; had I done so I’d have been pretty upset and I would be reporting it here but I did not see anything like what he claimed he saw.

Off to the field for the good stuff – how is the glass at distances and how is the Vortex at tracking, box test etc. and how do the various features feel …..

Scopes To Be Compared

DSC_0255

I did all my shooting on my own property at distances out to 500m over a period of three days – I shot in early morning clean air, later in heavy mirage and quite late when the light was failing and the bugs were out as well as in the rain when it was just crappy.

All Ready To Go

DSC_0271

I used a handload of proven accuracy ( 185 Bergers over Varget out of a Norma Case ) that has worked well out of the .308 Test Mule and the targets were the Champion brand ones which have a nice grid pattern.

The Target Stand

DSC_0270

After boresighting I fine tuned and then set a 100m zero using a Sig Kilo 2000 LRF to ensure all distances were measured accurately.

DSC_0277

Zeroing the Vortex Razor HD Gen II is a bit different than with most other scopes in that you can obtain a really fine tuned, perfect, zero using the L-Tec turrets.  It sounds a bit complicated when you read the manual but, really, it is dead simple: make sure turrets are set to zero; take off the top covers; loosen the three set screws on each turret and then use the flat head screwdriver part of the Vortex tool to fine-tune the brass center screw.  When you have the zero set you re-tighten the set screws pop the cover back on and away you go.

A View of the L-Tec Turret Adjustment

DSC_0273

The tool is really handy but any appropriate flat head screw driver would, of course, work.

DSC_0276

Initially I did some tracking tests and shot a box test and, as expected, the Vortex passed with flying colours.  At this point I think I really fell in love with the turrets – like I said above, I think (with the possible exception of the TT) that they are the best I’ve used; the diameter and feel is just perfect and the locking feature (down to lock and pull up or out to use) is just great.

DSC_0286

There is only one small niggle and that is the parallax markings – my scope is in mils (which, wrongly I suppose, I think of as ‘metric’) and I guess I considered it odd that the parallax was marked in yards rather than meters. Having said that, the yards so marked corresponded perfectly to the meters marked on my S+B so I shouldn’t really complain but, either way, I find it better to do what NF does and just use marks rather than anything else.  I guess that perhaps Vortex being an American company marks the parallax in units that most consumers recognise ? Anyway this is no big deal – just something that struck me as somewhat incongruous.

DSC_0266

Getting behind the Vortex is really easy as they eye box is not at all fussy and the glass – in both the morning and afternoon shooting – gave up nothing in colour or contrast to the S+B.  Again, there was the tiny bit of resolution edge going to the Schmidt when it came down to the finest detail but, really, you had to work to find it.  As I said earlier as far as glass is concerned this Vortex can go toe to toe with a class-leader and that is impressive.

DSC_0278

The reticle I chose to buy was the EBR-2C MRAD one and I have to say that I am very pleased with it as I really was in two-minds about whether or not it would work for me as, generally, I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Christmas Tree’ reticles -often finding them too ‘busy’ and distracting but Vortex has got this one right.  I especially like the open centre of the EBR-2C and I don’t find it at all cluttered. I figure this may well be the perfect reticle for the PRS shooting that is so popular in the USA and yet is still very useable for known distance paper-punchers like me.

Optically, when comparing the colour, contrast and edge to edge  of this scope to anything else I have used (including the S+B’s) I’m satisfied that the Vortex deserves a place in anyone’s list of what a top-tier optic should be.  Like the S+B Pmii this Vortex punches through mirage to allow for the taking of shots that other scopes wouldn’t allow. When the mirage got really heavy the Vortex was bettered by my Pmii but clearly outperformed the NXS and would eat alive any Sightron Siii or other mid-level scope that some people make high claims about.(I’ve never bought the pitch that scopes that allow you to see the mirage and not the target are somehow superior; to me that is sales BS)

DSC_0288

Running the elevation to max a neat little ‘pointy thing’ ( official, scientific, terminology)pops out of the side of the elevation turret to show you are on second and then third revolution. Is it the best way to indicate revolutions ?  Well, I don’t know –  I am partial to the colour change in the S+B turrets but it is a neat thing and contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, I don’t think this indicator from Vortex would break off or catch on anything; it does the job and is just one of a number of solutions to the problem of ensuring someone doesn’t get lost on their turrets.

Picture Of How The Indicator Looks At Max Elevation

DSC_0055

In the evening as the light faded I played with the illumination control which I really liked – and I appreciated an ‘off’ position between each setting.  It is likely I won’t really use this feature much, if at all, but for those that do shoot late into the day I don’t think you will find a better system.  The advantage the Vortex (and the NF for that matter) have over the S+B is that the light housing doesn’t take up valuable tube real estate and therefore doesn’t restrict the mounting options available.

I haven’t made many comparisons to my NF NXS and to do so wouldn’t be entirely fair – I’m a big fan of Nightforce optics and think the NXS is a great scope but it is a 30mm tubed SFP scope that is priced (in Canada) considerably less than the Razor.  A much more fair comparison would be to put this Razor up against a NF ATACR F1 or NF BEAST but, lacking current access to either of those scopes, it will have to suffice to say that in my view my NF NXS was bested in glass and controls by my Razor and leave it at that.

DSC_0279

Conclusion

Until owning this scope I didn’t really give Vortex the credit they deserve; I’ve said here and elsewhere that while I considered the Vortex Viper PST to be good value I didn’t really think Vortex was an Alpha scope maker and usually dismissed the idea that they could be considered to be in the same bracket as, for example, the Nightforce offerings.  I can now say that I was wrong in my assessment of Vortex Optics as this scope; the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56, is a serious Top Tier scope that in my opinion outclassed the NF NXS and gave up very little to the Class-Leading S+B 5-25×56.  To my eye the Razor’s glass is 95% of the Schmidt’s  and the turrets are better, the illumination controls are better and the zeroing system is better.  I don’t know how robust the Razor is compared to my NXS or S+B as, frankly, I can’t afford to ‘torture test’ something I paid full retail for but everyone knows that of all the scope makers out there Vortex has an awesome warranty program – if something does break they promise to look after it for you.

In summation, my opinion of the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 is that it is a really top shelf scope and anyone in the market for a FFP scope with excellent glass and great controls really has to put this scope of their short-list.  This Vortex Razor is so good that, quite honestly, if someone offered me a swap straight across for my S+B Pmii 5-25×56 I’d be tempted – sorely tempted – and frankly I just wish I’d bought one of these scopes when they were cheaper.

For those who like all the spec stuff here is a link to the Vortex website: http://www.vortexoptics.com/category/razor_hd_gen_II_riflescopes

All comments or observations are most welcome !

DSC_0280