Vortex Optics XLR-2 Reticle

The XLR-2 reticle is a technical reticle found on the Vortex Optics Razor HD LHT 4.5-22x50 FFP riflescopes. It's a really good implementation with some curious implementation decisions.

It’s been a little while since the last time I did a reticle review. In this review, I’m looking at the XLR-2 reticle which is found in both MOA and MRAD versions of the Razor HD LHT 4.5-22×50 FFP scope. I’ve been looking forward to this review for a number of reasons. First off, I’m extremely fond of technical reticles. It’s the style of reticle I’m most familiar with and the style of reticle that I’ve been searching for in a scope designed for hunting applications for quite some time. Another reason I’ve been looking forward to this review is I think Vortex made some interesting design decisions with this style of reticle for hunting applications. As such, I’m looking forward to sharing my opinions on the implementation.

Before getting into my opinion, let’s consider how Vortex describes the reticle in their own words.

The XLR-2 reticle is an illuminated, long-range reticle with elevation and windage reference subtensions. Great for long-range shooters and hunters who prefer to hold for bullet-drop and wind at distance.

Vortex Optics

There are a lot of things I like about how this reticle is implemented. Let’s start with the center dot and work our way around it.

The center dot is a very fine .04 MRAD dot surrounded by four linear MRAD scales which together provide the appearance and function of a traditional duplex style crosshair reticle on the surface, but provide a lot more information. The top vertical scale provides minor hash marks at 0.5 MRAD increments and major hash marks at whole MRAD increments with even value labels to the right of the scale up to 6 MRAD. Between 4 MRAD and 6 MRAD even smaller hash marks at 0.1 MRAD increments.

The left and the right of the center dot the MRAD scales are slightly different from the vertical scale. From the center out, each scale starts with small hash marks at 0.2 MRAD increments on the top side of the scale and small hash marks at 0.5 MRAD increments on the bottom of the scale with major hash marks indicating whole value MRAD increments. This pattern continues out to the 4 MRAD hashmark. Beyond the 4 MRAD hashmark small hash marks are provided in 0.1 MRAD increments accompanied by medium sized hashmarks at 0.5 MRAD increments along with the full size hash marks in 1 MRAD increments out to 10 MRADs. Like the vertical scale above the center dot, MRAD value labels are provided every two MRADs.

The bottom scale is identical to the scale pattern of the first 4 MRADs of the top scale and continues that pattern for 10 MRADs.

One might be curious as to why the top and two horizontal scales have a different pattern for the first 4 MRADs and then provide finer grained hashes. While I can’t be certain of the designers intention behind this, I can say that I appreciate this design decision. The reason I appreciate the design decision hinges on how I learned to use the different scales found on a technical reticle like the XLR-2. I generally use the top scale to range a target. I do this by placing the top most hashmark (the 6 MRAD hashmark in this case) on the top of a target of a known height and measure the target’s height in MRAD. When the target is faraway, it is generally really small and precise measurements using the finer grained scale becomes important. Targets that are closer will be larger where measurements in 0.5 MRAD increments or 0.25 MRAD estimates are sufficient for estimating range. Then I can use that MRAD measurement along with some math, which I’ve covered in this other post, to estimate the range and either dial in a shot or use the tree component of the reticle, which I will cover in more detail shortly, to apply an elevation and windage holdover simultaneously. The vertical scales come in handy for applying windange only holdovers or leading a moving target, the fine grained hash marks come in handy when making wind calls in strong winds or leading a fast moving target. Otherwise the coarser grained hash marks are more than sufficient. Still one might wonder what the downside of having fine grained hashes along the entire scale might be. In my limited experience, finer grained hashes take more time to read and can slow down a range estimation or leading shot. Having less information to process on the first 4 MRADs of the scale reduces information to process, which in many cases is just noise, and makes those coarser grained hashes much more valuable and useful.

It’s worth noting that only the first 4 MRADs of the top scale and the horizontal scales along with the entire bottom scale are the only components of the reticle that are illuminated. I’m not in love with this design decision, nor do I hate it. I find it curious, but I don’t quite comprehend the reason behind the design decision. I suppose now is a good time to explore it.

At the lowest magnification setting of 4.5x, this first focal plane (FFP) reticle is extremely fine. In fact, it is so fine that I was unable to get my mobile phone camera to focus on it in order to capture it in a picture even when having the illumination set to the brightest value. For me at this magnification setting, the reticle becomes a very fine grained cross hair. Nothing more. Nothing less. The illumination creates a very fine red lowercase t that is very useful when overlaying the reticle on a darker target in low light. It’s useful. Truth be told, I’m not head over heels about it in the way I was about the bright center dot effect the illuminated EBR-9 reticle creates when set to the lowest (1x) magnification setting. However, I understand that that experience is not possible with only illuminating the extremely fine 0.4 MRAD center dot. I also suspect that illuminating the entire reticle might make it difficult to focus on the center point of this reticle and overlaying it on a dark target in less than perfect light conditions. Again this is just me speculating on the design decisions behind the illumination implementation.

At the highest magnification setting, the illumination makes the scales very easy to see and use on dark colored targets in less than perfect light conditions. However, at this magnification setting I do find myself wanting an illuminated tree component on the reticle. I would definitely demand an illuminated tree component for a scope that I was using for precision long range shooting applications. The primary reason for this is because it makes the tree component of the reticle much more usable on dark colored targets in less than perfect light conditions. Which in my mind is pretty much the reason for having an illuminated FFP reticle of this style on a scope this level of magnification and better aligns with the marketing description of this reticle. Hence, why I can’t quite understand the design decisions here. Perhaps this was a compromise in order to keep the weight of the scope down, which is generally a very important factor for many hunting applications. I should point out the Razor HD LHT 4.5-22×50 FFP weighs less than half the weight of the Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 FFP riflescope (21.7oz compared to 48.5oz). Or maybe there was another reason for it and it’s beyond me.

The tree component is made up of ten horizontal scales on the left and right of the bottom vertical scale provided at MRAD along the vertical scale. Each scale is composed of small dots every 0.2 MRAD and a larger dot every 1 MRAD. The first two scales provide dots for 2 MRADs in each direction. An additional MRAD of dots is provided to the next two scales and that pattern is repeated all the way down the tree. More precisely the scales for MRAD 1 and 2 provide 2 MRADs of dots, scales for MRAD 3 and 4 provide 3 MRADs of dots, scales for MRAD 5 and 6 provide 4 MRADS of dots, scales for MRAD 7 and 8 provide 5 MRADS of dots, and scales for MRAD 9 and 10 provide 6 MRADS of dots. At the end of each scale a number corresponding to the vertical MRAD value is provided as well. Overall, I found this implementation to be very useful for applying combined windage and elevation holdovers and easy to read and use. However, I would have preferred this component to be illuminated.

While I’m not thrilled with the illumination implementation, this reticle is executed really well. Frankly, it’s the best technical FFP reticle I’ve come across on a lightweight hunting scope with this type of magnification. Additionally, this reticle was the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak that convinced me to replace the very good Razor HD LH 3-15×42 I previously had mounted on the deer rifle. I’m confident this reticle will work for long distance precision target shooting, but I think there are better technical reticle and riflescope options in the market for that application at the same price point. Now if we are strictly speaking long range hunting where weight is a concern, the Razor HD LHT 4.5-22×50 FFP with this reticle is, in my opinion, a serious contender worth consideration.

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