When it comes to riflescopes, I can’t deny I’m a Vortex Optics fan and turn to them first to see if they have something that can fulfill my needs because more often than not they can. Well, I was in the market again for a low powered variable optic (LPVO) and predictably I turned to Vortex to see what they had to offer. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile might be wondering how I found myself in the market again for yet another LPVO after recently replacing the Burris Fullfield TAC30 Tactical Kit on the home defense rifle with a Vortex Strike Eagle and that’s fair. As such, I’ll start this review with a little context.
As mentioned in the Vortex Strike Eagle review, I’ve been spending more and more time behind high end scopes. Even though the Strike Eagle is still hands down my favorite value priced LPVO, the time behind those higher end scopes got me wondering if I could find something better that I could put on a rifle that my life (and the life of my family members) might depend on. Those thoughts combined with several conversations with folks who know way more about fighting with a rifle and the optics they use put me on a quest to find the absolute best LPVO I could personally afford to put on a defensive rifle. That journey ended with the Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen III 1-10×24 FFP riflescope.
Now the box this scope came was huge and provided a beautiful presentation that I could have probably done without. Don’t get me wrong, it was really nice and I’m certain some folks might appreciate it after spending the money required to acquire one of these scopes. However, I can live without a fancy box and presentation because I’m simple and care more about the optic that will be going on the rifle more than I do about packaging. Regardless, the contents of the box were perfect. In the box, one will find:
- A sunshade,
- a lens cloth,
- a CR2032 battery (to power the illuminated reticle),
- a throw lever,
- a L-TEC tool,
- the scope itself,
- a scope manual,
- and a reticle manual.
It’s a really nice package and it includes pretty much the majority of things most folks will want for their scope. A bubble level accessory might be the exception to that, but that’s me nitpicking given the price point of this riflescope.
Let’s talk about this scope from front to back; more specifically from the objective assembly to the ocular assembly.
The objective assembly houses a 24mm object lens which is the characteristically stereotypical size of the objective lens for an LPVO. Perhaps an optics engineer can shine some more light on this, but there is nothing exciting to talk about as far as I can tell except maybe that the assembly is attached to a 34mm scope tube.
The 34mm tube size is interesting because it deviates from the typical 30mm tube size that is used for the vast majority of LPVOs (and riflescopes in general). Larger tubes are a double edged sword because they tend to provide better durability and a wider turret adjustment range. However, those benefits usually come at the cost of more weight and usually a larger sticker price. The Razor Gen III is no exception to either the benefits or the drawbacks which I’ll get to shortly.
Following the tube we find the first focal lens which in the case of the Razor Gen III is etched with a reticle, hence the first focal plane (or FFP) designation on this scope. As of writing, this scope is available in two variants with two different reticles. The MOA variant offers the EBR-9 MOA reticle which seems to be an advanced bullet drop compensation (BDC) style reticle that I don’t have any experience with and haven’t really looked into. The MRAD variant (the one I opted for and got my hands on) offers the EBR-9 MRAD reticle which I’ve reviewed before and think it is a fantastic technical reticle. I personally think it’s important to recognize that the two variants offer different style reticles as this was a key deciding factor on which variant to purchase for me.
I’m certain some folks will end up asking which reticle or variant is better. This answer isn’t black and white. Individual preference for MOA vs MRAD adjustments come into play alongside BDC versus technical reticle preferences. In my humble opinion, the MOA variant with the BDC style reticle is better suited for folks who prefer matching ranges and wind speed to a reference point for longer shots and are okay with taking a shot with a coarser point of aim. Whereas, the MRAD variant with the technical reticle is better suited for folks that prefer referencing DOPE (data on previous engagements) or calculating a shooting solution before taking a more precise and surgical shot. My preference is for the later and why I opted for the MRAD variant with the technical reticle.
This brings us to the turrets. The turrets are low capped. Normally, I would take issue with this since I prefer exposed turrets on most riflescopes with a technical reticle. However, I think the low capped turrets on this LPVO are fine unless planning to engage targets with a cartridge at distances requiring elevation or windage holdovers that exceed the subtensions of the reference dots available on the reticles available on the LVPO variants. While it is possible to uncap the turrets and dial in adjustments for even longer range applications, I don’t see that option as being a great option for applications beyond recreational shooting. I hold this opinion because even though the turrets can be re-indexed using the included L-TEC tool, the scope does not include a zero stop feature which I think is essential for using exposed turrets when it comes to defensive or competitive applications. Regardless, this wasn’t a show stopper for me since my intent was to mount this LPVO on a AR-15 carbine intended for home defense applications.
In all other respects the turrets are magnificent. The texture around the turret dial is excellent for confidently manipulating the turret without having to worry about the hand slipping. The 0.1 MRAD (or 1/4 MOA) adjustments clicks are tactile and definitive which leaves essentially zero doubt as to whether or not one actually felt an adjustment click. The motion between clicks is exceptionally smooth which also helps eliminate adjustment click doubt. The maximum elevation and windage adjustment ranges are both 30 MRAD (or 120 MOA) which is plenty.
The reticle’s illumination is controlled using the illumination knob to the left of the elevation turret. The CR2032 battery is housed within the knob. The knob locks in place to prevent accidental illumination adjustments. It must be pulled out in order to be unlocked. The knob provides for 11 different brightness levels with an off position between each level. Like the turrets, the illumination knob has very smooth movement between brightness and off positions while also providing tactile feed back as each position is engaged.
As we continue moving towards the ocular housing we find the magnification ring. The movement of the ring is very smooth. It offers just enough resistance to minimize unintentional adjustments, but not so much resistance that one has to wrestle with it to make adjustments. The included throw level makes those adjustments a breeze.
I do have a small complaint regarding the throw lever. Not the actual throw lever itself, but rather an issue with the installation instructions. While the step-by-step installation instructions are thorough, they can be challenging to follow by somebody who isn’t familiar with the anatomy of the throw lever or isn’t mechanically inclined. For example, step three instructs to apply one drop of lubricant to the ball of the ring. That might make sense to somebody familiar with the throw lever or some body with a mechanical background or inclination, but to a layman it can sound completely foreign. In my opinion, including more pictures with the instructions or a reference diagram to point out exactly where the ball of the ring is located along with other parts of the ring referenced in the instructions would be a good improvement.
Arriving at the ocular housing, we find the ocular lens and focus ring. Unsurprisingly, the focus ring is well implemented. The ring has sufficient texture to allow adjustment without slipping of the hand. The resistance of the focus ring is heavy which, in my opinion, is a good thing because eye focus is a “set once and forget about it” kind of thing. Additional focus adjustments, especially unintentional ones, are not a welcome thing when running the rifle.
Clarity and eye strain. It should be obvious that I think the Razor HD Gen III is well built and seems to have just about all the bells and whistles one expects from higher end LPVO. One thing I haven’t mentioned is what it’s like to spend time looking through this scope. It’s important to note that the experience behind a scope is a bit subjective depending on one’s own experience with higher end scopes. That said I will tell you that the glass on this LPVO doesn’t disappoint. The Razor HD glass is superb and is in line with my time behind other Vortex products that use this glass (like the Vortex Optics Razor HD LH 3-15×42). The glass has amazing light transmission and excellent edge to edge clarity. I haven’t noticed any eye strain even after spending several hours using the scope.
The eye relief of 3.6 inches is a bit shorter, as expected due to the nature of first focal plane (FFP) scopes, than what is found on other second focal plane (SFP) LPVOs. It’s important to be aware of this as it implies one should take additional care when mounting the scope to be sure the distance between the ocular lens and the eye is properly adjusted.
A fellow reader asked me to compare this LPVO to the Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24. Since I haven’t spent time behind the Gen II or the Gen II-E, I can’t provide an experience comparison. That said there are a few specification comparisons that are worthwhile to note. These are enumerated in the table below.
|Secification||Gen III||Gen II-E||Gen II|
|Tube Size||34 mm||30 mm||30 mm|
|Adjustment Graduation||.1 MRAD (1/4 MOA)||.2 MRAD (1/2 MOA)||.2 MRAD (1/2 MOA)|
|Max Elevation/Windage Adjustment||30 MRAD (120 MOA)||43 MRAD (150 MOA)||43 MRAD (150 MOA)|
|Weight||21.5 oz||21.5 oz||25.2 oz|
Summarizing the comparison, the Gen III provides more magnification and finer grained turret adjustments over the Gen II-E and the Gen II. The larger tube size of the Gen III suggests it may be more durable and rugged than the Gen II-E and the Gen II while also being lighter than the Gen II. However, the Gen III gives up some eye relief and turret adjustment ranges. Lastly and arguably most importantly, the first focal plane reticle of the Gen III allows the shooter to make full use of the reticle features regardless of the current magnification setting which is a vast usability improvement over the Gen II-E and the Gen II.
In closing, I firmly believe the Razor HD Gen III 1-10×24 FFP riflescope is currently the best LPVO in the market today and is perfect for an AR-15 rifle intended for serious defensive or competitive use. I understand a street price of $2000 is likely to give some folks pause. However, I think the price is very fair considering the caliber and capability of this particular scope. While it isn’t inexpensive, scopes of similar quality and build tend to have even higher price points.