Review – Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27×56

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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Big, Beefy Turrets

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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

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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

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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

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

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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

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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.

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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 !

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Review- S+B 5-25×56 Pmii

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I know that the first question that comes to mind when seeing the title of this review is “That scope is so well known why bother writing a review ?” Well, yes, I agree – the S+B 5-25×56 Pmii (short for Police Marksman ii ) has been around for quite a few years and it’s hard to write anything new about it but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt the shooting world to have another opinion out there – especially from an end user who paid retail; isn’t in the business of selling scopes and isn’t one of those shooters beholden to any sponsorship deal or anything like that.

Schmidt and Bender, commonly known as S+B, ( http://www.schmidtundbender.de/en/ ) is a German riflescope manufacturer that has been in business since 1957.  Unique amongst similar companies S+B have only one product line – scopes (and a few small accessories like sunshades and covers) – they don’t sell rings, bases, binoculars or spotters and, no, you can’t even get a T-Shirt off them and, unlike some other companies (Vortex and Nightforce come to mind),  that are seen to really embrace the shooting community it sometimes seems as though S+B is oblivious as to what competitive or recreational shooters want.  Finally, S+B doesn’t try to get market share through offering cheap entry level product lines and doesn’t make a big show of its warranty program.

Now before continuing with the review of the scope, I should say that I suppose I am biased about S+B scopes and I’m on record here and elsewhere as saying that S+B makes some superb glass but I’ve formed my opinion after owning a couple of the 12-50×56 Pm ii SFP scopes and looking through a number of other S+B’s at ranges days and matches.  All to say that my hopes were very high that the 5-25×56 Pm ii would not disappoint.

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Readers who have read my previous reviews and commentaries will recall that because I’m a F-Class competitor  and only a recreational LR tactical rifle shooter, nearly all my shooting is done at known distance.  If I don’t know the distance to a particular target I  have time to use a range finder and I dial rather than hold off so, not surprisingly, my traditional preference (and need) is for higher magnification SFP scopes.  Recently though I decided that with the components for a 6.5×47 tactical rifle in with my gunsmith,  I might want to try my hand at some PRS type of shooting and so a FFP scope would be a very useful addition to the collection of available glass.

Having made the decision to use a FFP scope I decided to buy one of the better known and highest quality scopes available and at day’s end my choice came down to two – the Vortex Razor Gen II 2 4.5-27×56 and the S+B 5-25×56 – I would have very much liked to say that the Tangent Theta was also in consideration ( I reviewed this scope earlier in the year ) but the TT basically excluded itself on price; one has to draw a line somewhere and mine was South of the TT retail.

What finally led to me choosing S+B over Vortex came down to a number of things: price was surprisingly comparable because I had an excellent deal on the Schmidt and, honestly, with recent price raises I now think the Razor to be a bit over-priced, I also worried that at over 4lbs the Razor is also a bit too heavy and while Vortex’s warranty is awesome the fact is that a LOT of people use that warranty.  What I paid little attention to was a controversial review out there that suggests the Vortex glass suffers at max elevation. In my mind the only real de-merit to the S+B was the issue of tunneling from 7x down to 5x but since it is most unlikely I’d be using the scope at those magnifications it really wasn’t an issue for me.

I decided to buy the S+B from Wolverine Supplies which is a  well-known Canadian firearms retailer located in Manitoba and is the Canadian distributor for S+B( https://www.wolverinesupplies.com/). I’ve always enjoyed dealing with Wolverine and  I’ve bought both of my two other S+B scopes from them as well as a number of other items and can say that they are a totally professional outfit whose staff are knowledgeable and who have excellent customer service.

For those whose reading of a review is enhanced by such things, the specs on the the S+B 5-25×56 Pm ii can be found here: http://www.schmidtundbender.de/en/products/police-and-military-forces/5-25×56-pm-iilp.html

Besides having FFP, the features I wanted on my new scope were mil/mil turrets with the double turn feature and counter clockwise turns to ensure consistency with my other scopes.  I did not want the MTC ( More Tactile Click ) turrets as I simply don’t like them and while I could have ( for a few hundred dollars more ) had the scope equipped with the excellent Horus reticle I chose the S+B P4 Fine reticle  which is what I have on my other S+B scopes and which while not as fancy as some others out there is one I am used to and one that, for me at least, does everything I want it to do.

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Promptly mailed by Wolverine,  my scope arrived at my home while I was away on a training course but immediately upon my return I, just like every other Gunnie out there,  eagerly unboxed the new toy.  Perhaps surprisingly in today’s day and age the packaging of such a fine instrument isn’t accompanied by much in the way of fancy stuff.  The box is pretty plain and other than the addition of Butler Creek caps the scopes comes with nothing other than an owners manual and warranty registration card – no nice stickers, pins or (more importantly) a sunshade from our German friends.

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Fit and finish of the S+B was flawless – there really isn’t any other word for it – and all the controls worked in the crisp, precise way that people associate with fine engineering but it was the glass that surprised me; I’d read elsewhere that the 5-25 was considered by others (notably Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog) to be the pick of S+B’s litter and, yes, I agree as the glass on this model does seem super sharp and crisp.  Sadly, there is no really objective way to tell such things but, using eyeball Mk I, I think it better than the already excellent glass found on the 12-50 Pm ii and that is saying something.

In my opinion while the turrets on the S+B are excellent they are still not as nice as the turrets found on the TT who really have taken turret feel to the next level.  As for feel, and while this is all personal preference, I do think a user could consider the clicks to feel a bit ‘close together’ so, at speed or under stress, a user may worry that they might unintentionally dial in too much adjustment.  In my experience these kinds of issues go away as one gets used to a particular scope and I’ve never found -even under the stress of match conditions – that I’ve had a problem with the S+B turrets which adjust at 3.8 inch pounds per click.

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One of the turrets features I really do like is the Double Turn – when on the second rotation a yellow indicator pops up in the turret cap (see pic above) to tell you that the turrets is on rotation two – a handy feature and one that stops you getting lost on the turret. Another turret feature I really like on the S+B is that the numbers are easy to read – this becomes more important when, like me, you have more grey hair and use reading glasses !

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Like many other tactical scopes the 5-25×56 S+B comes with an illuminated reticle which, quite honestly, isn’t a feature I don’t really ever use but I am sure others do.  On this model the adjustment is off to the left just in front of the ocular and it is easy to use simply illuminating (in red) the central cross of the P4 reticle.

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Others online have commented that there isn’t an ‘off’ between the graduations ( you have to return to 0 for the illumination to be off ) but other than noting this I can’t say that I see it to be an issue.

The magnification ring turns smoothly and there is no loss of clarity at magnification at all.  Of course, being a FFP scope the reticle subtends are accurate at all ranges throughout the magnification range.  Eye relief is also consistent throughout the range and to my eyes at least this is an easy scope to get behind but it should be noted that there isn’t a huge amount of room on the scope to move it between the rings or mount and so you may find you have to move the rings or mount along the rail to get yourself properly positioned.

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Taking this scope out to the filed over a couple of days,  running the turrets hard, shooting at different distances and shooting in really heavy mirage and, later in the day, in poor light confirmed why this scope is considered to be one of the best ( if not the very best ) scopes of its type out there – of course the controls are responsive and repeatable but it is the image quality that I found to be excellent and what to my eyes really makes the scope stand out.  So good is the S+B that one particular afternoon while looking at the target some 350 meters away through my otherwise excellent Nightforce NSX  the mirage was so heavy that it would normally have signaled the end of the session but switching over to the S+B allowed for the target to be seen with clarity and therefore shooting could meaningfully be continued.

Clearly the S+B 5-25×56  is an expensive item and a scope like this will not be for everyone’s need or budget – indeed others may argue that the new Vortex Razor or the Tangent Theta have eclipsed it – but my feeling is that S+B remains hard to beat and I very much doubt that anyone will be disappointed owning one of these truly fine riflescopes.

Update:  I have recently purchased the Vortex 4.5-27×56. My review is posted and honestly I was very, very impressed – it gives up a little in the glass department to this S+B but the other features are actually better.  Review is here: https://rifletalk.org/2016/08/26/review-vortex-razor-hd-ii-4-5-27×56/

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Review – SPUHR 30mm one-piece mounting system

 

If you are reading this it is likely that you already know how important good rings and bases are to any shooting system though, like me, you probably still see guys at the range who somehow feel it is OK to get buy with the “Made in China” see-through ‘sniper rings’ they got off of Ebay for $20 .  If, by chance, you are one of those guys who uses such cheap stuff then please heed this gentle reminder that the rings and bases are as important to the shooting system as any other component.

I have used many different rings and mounts and a glance around the gun-room shows that while most of my scoped rifles wear TPS there are a fair number that the Burris Signature Zee’s and a few that use the Vortex-branded Seekins Precision, one that has the excellent Badger Ordnance rings and one that has the very fine Cadex one piece mount so, yes, there is quite a variety. After reading a number of favorable comments online I decided to invest in a SPHUR mount to see, for myself, if they lived up to all the hype.

SPHUR bills their one-piece mount as the ISMS – Ideal Scope Mount System and speak of it as follows: “Extremely sturdy scope mount, with possibility to attach multiple optical accessories directly to the mount. Built-in level. 45-degree split of the rings provides unobstructed view of the knobs.”  How close to this description the product comes was my objective in buying one and testing it out.

Made in Sweden by SPHUR AB (http://www.spuhr.biz/) the first thing you need to know is that these mounts are not cheap – here in Canada one can expect to pay over Can $500 so that may come as a shock for any shooter used to the brands one usually sees at the range on any given weekend.  As one might expect with something so pricey it arrives nicely packaged and with a set of instructions though most users will not find instructions to be necessary and for those that do the ones supplied are , to be perfectly honest, not particularly useful.

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Unpacking the mount however one cannot help but notice how well made the SPHUR is – Made of 7075 aluminum it really is a beautiful piece of equipment and even going over it with a magnifier I couldn’t see any single thing that was less than perfectly machined.

Available either canted or flat and in both of 30 mm and 34 mm configurations I chose to purchase the flat 30 mm version as all my rifles already have either 20 or 25 MOA rails and other than my S+B’s my scopes are, in the main,  30 mm tubes.

I think most readers of an article like this will by now find scope mounting to be pretty easy but for those who still find the task a little troubling the SPHUR mount makes it quite easy as a milled line on the mount corresponds to a centre mark found on the elevation turret of nearly all scopes.

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SPHUR also provides a handy little tool that one can use to ensure that the scope is properly indexed and level.

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Each of the clamshell rings are attached by six screws and while SPHUR recommends the use of Rosin (or, I assume a similar product) to provide additional adhesion on heavy recoiling rifles since I decided to put the SPHUR on my PGW Coyote in .308 I figured the rings themselves would provide more than sufficient tension to hold the scope in place just like any regular set of rings would.

Mated to the PGW and with a Nightforce NXS 8-32×56 firmly in its grasp I took the SPHUR out to my favorite shooting spot and over the course of a morning fired fifty rounds of .308 at both of steel and paper.  I made a point of adjusting both of elevation and windage turrets from the prone and found it easy to do so with no obstruction from the mount.  Also, and as advertised the way the mount is constructed makes viewing the dials easy – a small point but one worth mentioning as I had a couple of other rifles with me and noticed – perhaps for the first time – that regular rings do, indeed, sometimes obstruct turret markings.

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I noticed no movement or shifting of the mount ( I would, quite frankly have been very disappointed had there been any ) and at the end of the session the screws remained tight (25 inch/pounds) none having come loose.

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My feeling is that, while expensive, the SPHUR is a very solid mount that like other one-piece mounts offers some advantages over the traditional two-ring way of mounting a scope. For the kind of shooting I do I can’t really say that the SPHUR is noticeably any better than the other one-piece mounts I have used ( Near Manufacturing and Cadex ) but other users may see a big advantage when it comes to adding other devices onto the mount. SPHUR have been able to drill and tap the mount so that it is possible to mount small Picatinny rails in a number of spots and then attach such things as cosine indicators, night vision support brackets and any other  devices a user may feel would help them make the shot.

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The last feature to be mentioned is that the SPHUR comes with a built in bubble level that is mounted low enough to be easily seen with a quick glance so that a shooter can quickly see the cant of the rifle and scope which, again, may help make that important shot.

In summation, I think this is a good piece of kit that, provided you can swallow the cost, should be a welcome addition to any serious shooters equipment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Tangent Theta 5-25×56

 

Of course, like many other people, I like nice things but I am not an “Optics Snob” and many of my reviews focus on finding value in the products I look at. This focus on value means that I’ve really favored scopes like the Bushnell Elite 10x and the Sightron Siii whereas (even though I own a couple) I am pretty neutral on the Leupold Mark 4 and as far as the very popular Vortex scopes go, my only real recommendation until very recently was their PST line (this has recently changed as I have now used the Vortex Razor HD Gen II).

This focus on value means I don’t automatically go “wow” when I pick up a high end piece of glass but I must confess that when Omer at Plain Sight Solutions handed me a Tangent Theta 5-25X56 for review I did have a small, sharp intake of breath and that “wow” sound was being formed before I got hold of myself.

Tangent Theta (“TT”) rifle telescopes are Canadian-built in Halifax, Nova Scotia and are distributed internationally by Armament Technology Incorporated and the scope loaned to me for this review is clearly a very nice piece of equipment and – at the price – it really ought to be as the Canadian retail for this scope is a whopping $5300 plus tax. Yes, you read that correctly $5300 – put into context, this scope is priced higher than some really first-class rifles like, for example, Sako TRG 22 or PGW Coyote. (Update: As of August 2016 the price is over $6,100 Canadian $ )

Of course the TT riflescope is not alone in having a high price tag, in fact the $5,300 retail actually puts the TT right in the middle of the pricing one would expect to encounter for the excellent PMii series of scopes manufactured by the world-famous German maker Schmidt and Bender and clearly it is in this market that the TT wishes to be competitive hoping to pick up sales amongst the professionals who may need a scope like this and the well-heeled amateur users who, while may not needing such equipment, are in a position to afford such a luxury item.

Almost every scope in this category is going to be impressive, well packaged and well coated with the nice even matte black finish we have come to expect from scope makers and in this regard the TT does not disappoint. Packaged up with a nice set of Tenebraex scope covers and an anti-reflection device the scope also comes with a very readable (i.e. written in a version of English native speakers can understand) set of instructions and a laminated card that detailed the reticule subtensions.

 

Initial handling revealed that of course this is a substantial scope – like my S+B it is a 34mm tube – with a 56mm objective lens housed in an objective bell that is 65mm. Overall length of the scope is 425mm and it is 103mm wide with a weight given to be 1150g. The early handling of the scope also really brought home how very smooth everything about the scope was and I was pleased that all controls moved really nicely with an excellent feel to them. In particular, the ‘clicks’ were very precise and nothing felt at all mushy.

It may not be a big deal but one thing I really liked was the design of the turrets – comparing them to the NF NXS and the S+B, they were smooth to the touch but they allowed for me to get a good grip and move easily. Put simply, they felt better.

Again comparing the scope to my S+B I was struck with how simple the TT was – every marking seemed intuitive and nothing seemed at all complicated. Now after using it for so long my S+B doesn’t feel complicated either but I remember when I first got it feeling that it was a bit confusing. It may be a small matter but I do like simple and I think that most end-users would agree that, under anything approximating stress, that ‘simple is best’.

When mounted on my test mule rifle – a full-custom Remington in an AICS 2.0 – it was easy to find the correct reticle focus for my eyes was easy and once the ocular was set it could be forgotten about.

Again, when behind the rifle all scope controls felt natural and easy without any of the guesswork “ was that 3 clicks or 4 “ that sometimes one has when clicks are too close together or the turrets feel mushy. The neat thing about the turrets was the fact that the zero-stop does not require the use of any tools. Trademarked as the Tool-less Re-Zero this is a really great idea and I suspect that in time will become an industry standard.

Regardless of how nice controls are and how a scope looks the one thing we all want to know is how is it to look through.  What I did is I compared the scope to a few others I own that people might be also considering when looking to scope up one of their favorite tactical rifles.  An obvious comparative scope had to be a S+B Pmii and added into the mix was a Nightforce NXS.  I don’t have one of the new top-end Sightron scopes but I do have a nice Siii and so I though that I would bring that along as well.

Looking at objects, targets, leaves and twigs at a variety of distances it was obvious that the TT has simply awesome glass.  The shooting portion of the test simply confirmed that there is no doubt that this is a very well made, quality item and it really did outclass both of the Siii and the NXS which is no small feat.  Tracking and repeatability was perfect and at the end of the day I felt the glass to be on par with my S+B with a slight edge to the S+B at 25x possibly being due to the fact that 25x is the top end of the TT while  the PMii is a 12-50.

Overall the TT is a dream scope but…. yes, there is always a but isn’t there… I wasn’t sure that I would buy one if I could afford to do so as for me I am not sure that 5-25 is the right range for me.  For hunting applications I prefer a lighter scope in the 3-12 range and for target work I prefer 8-32 or better ( there is a reason I bought a 12-50 S+B rather than S+B’s excellent 5-25).  Having said that, I am sure that there are shooters out there for whom a beefy 5-25 FFP scope is exactly what they want and for those folks I say, if you can afford it,  TT has to be a contender.

Once again my thanks go out to PlainSight Solutions for the loan of this scope – as always it was a pleasure to deal with Omer whose enthusiasm for shooting is infectious and whose customer service is amongst the very best.

 

Reviewed – Stevens 555 Over/Under Shotgun

For many years my only shotgun was a Mossberg 590A1 which we keep on the farm for predator defense.  A very solid combat shotgun ( I believe it is the USMC shotgun of choice), the Mossie would also be perfect for any ‘social emergency’ but it really isn’t the ideal tool for many of the applications we often look to address with a shotgun like, for example, providing for one of my favorite in season meals: freshly pan-seared duck !

So, it was that a desire to do some birding and possibly taking up the hobby of knocking down some always in season clays that last year I bought the Stevens 555 over and under shotgun in 12g.  Readers will appreciate that it is quite possible to spend a great deal of money on a sporting shotgun and, indeed, many do just that – in some cases spending more on a shotgun than most of us will on a long-range precision rifle – and for those that do I say “good for you” but for me I just couldn’t justify the expense and so I decided to look for something that was inexpensive, reliable and light enough to, if necessary,carry all day long.

By way of general interest background, I’ve read that at one time the J. Stevens Arms Company was the largest shotgun manufacturer in the world and amongst its most famous offerings was to be found the Model 520, America’s first slide-action hammerless shotgun. In 1936 Stevens ceased being a separate company and was absorbed as a division of Savage Arms under which the Stevens name developed an excellent reputation for reasonably priced, well-designed, well-built shotguns and in recent years Savage have been importing affordable, Turkish-made SxS’s and O/U’s under the Stevens name.

The funny thing about shotgunning ( and perhaps – though I would like to think not – about shotgunners ) is the genuine amount of latent snobbery that surrounds this sport.  When I first mentioned to some shotgunning types that I was going to buy a Stevens the almost universal response was one of “oh dear why would you do that – surely times are not that hard that one has to go so low-end”.  Now this is totally different to the precision  rifle world where while a nice Accuracy INternational or Sako TRG is always appreciated no one is really going to look down their nose at a Remington 700 or Savage 12 that someone brings to the range.

In fact the snobbishness about shotguns even extends to reviews. The website Chuckhawks.com has a review of the Stevens 555 that includes the following:

“While the market for utilitarian over/under shotguns is undeniable, as evidenced by the sales of the Mossberg Silver Reserve, the satisfaction of actually owning one is dubious.”

Really ?  Hmmm, Oh well, different sports……and on with my thoughts…….

Made in Turkey and available in Canada for just under $700 this shotgun is a well finished and good looking gun.  The furniture is Turkish walnut and it has a nice grain to it and the checkering is neatly done and The metalwork is finished in a warm and traditional satin black oxide that was evenly applied and without blemish.

In keeping with the usual practice the single selective trigger is assigned an order of barrel discharge by engaging the tang safety and then moving the safety left or right.  Simple and easy to use.

The Stevens 555 receiver is apparently made of aluminum with steel inserted for strength and durability and the shotgun lifts the spent hulls for hand removal rather than ejecting them like other more expensive shotguns do.  For me this is no big deal – as a precision rifle shooter who wants to keep his brass I am used to picking shells out of the receiver by hand !

The same writer who was moaning about the ‘dubious satisfaction of owning a mass market shotgun’ also commented that the Stevens 555 was nose heavy due to the use of aluminum in the receiver.  Hmmm, for me I didn’t think it was nose heavy for that reason – I figure all shotguns with 26, 28 or 30 inch barrels are nose heavy and the reason is physics: hang a pair of 28″ tubes off a lead receiver and guess what….it will feel a bit “nose heavy”.  Seriously though, this shotgun feels no more oddly balanced than does any other.  It feels like any other double-barreled shotgun which means, yes, slightly nose heavy 🙂

This shotgun weighs approx 6 Lbs 3 oz  and has an overall length of a hair under 45″  which means that I can carry it pretty much all day and it isn’t at all cumbersome to use.  The light weigh does mean that felt recoil is a wee bit stouter than my Mossberg 590A1 but it is a small price to pay for the reduced weight and, seriously, we are not talking about a lot of recoil here at all. Sometimes when I read articles about recoil I figure the writers must have spent their entire time shooting guns on X-Box !  When fired real firearms recoil – deal with it.

At day’s end I figure that for the money I spent the Stevens 555 is a very solid piece of equipment – well built and so far totally reliable.  It is an attractive gun without being all fancy and it is something that I feel comfortable carrying in the field with the bonus that if it falls off the quad or gets bounced about in the truck I wont be crying about a dent or a scratch.

Next time here at Rifletalk

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we go from the economy of the Stevens 555 to the almost stupidly expensive Tangent Theta riflescope which at Can$5300 (yes, five thousand three hundred) really better be something special !

 

Back after a long break

I’m pleased to report that I am alive and well after taking  few months away from the keyboard.  While I’ve not been writing, I have been busy and after much thought accepted the offer to  re-up for one final return to the colours so rather than being early retired I am back in law enforcement.  What this meant was a whirlwind of re-quals and such like which, together with the commencement of winter, really precluded any writing.

Now I m all organized at work I can once again set time aside for my writing.  I have some cool reviews in the works:  a nice over under shotgun for the regular guy,  neat new bipod from my friends at Mystic Precision and the super nice Tangent Theta scope in 5-25×56

Thanks to everyone who has continued to visit.  Stay tuned new content is really on the way !

Cheers !

 

 

Buying LE Trade-In / Used Glocks & What to Look For

Happy New Year everyone. Apologies for not writing for the last few months but a return to Law Enforcement for one more tour of duty has meant little time for anything else. Since I am now back carrying a Glock I really liked this excellent article from the folks at Looserounds.com about buying a used LE Glock and thought you may enjoy it also.