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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