July 16, 2020
By Tom Beckstrand
Several years ago, I attended the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Advanced Course where we had to shoot multiple qualification drills out to 1,000 yards. My optical companion for that school was a Leupold Mark 4 LR/T 3.5-10X scope, and I did well with it. I never felt like I lacked magnification at any point.
The 3rd Special Forces Group company I belonged to at the time had the mission of hostage rescue, so I also spent a lot of time doing close quarters battle (CQB). The hostage rescue mission was dominated by holographic and red-dot sights because no optic allowed for faster rounds on target than those at 1X. Back then, if anyone would have claimed that one optic could allow me to do both missions, I would have laughed at such a ridiculous statement. Well, that was a long time ago, and today that single optic does exist.
What you get.
Vortex Optics announced the new Razor HD Gen III 1-10x24mm at the 2020 SHOT Show. Guns & Ammo was fortunate enough to get our hands on a couple before the show to spend some time at the range with. The result of that time behind this glass is my belief that a trained shooter can do everything from CQB to long-range precision work with this one optic. The magnification range, reticle and illumination system all worked seamlessly together to create such a capability.
Putting all this flexibility and performance in one place doesn’t come cheap. While gun stores and the web offer them at $2,000, retail on the Gen III 1-10X is advertised at $2,900. Either way, that’s a chunk of change, but every bit of the money spent buys easily identifiable performance.
First up for assessment is its optical performance, a component that is difficult to quantify. The best description I can give is this: 1-10X maintains the same standards as other Vortex Razor HD scopes, for which there are numerous reviews and opinions. The optics in these scopes are what I call “professional grade.” They allow the shooter to see their target even in difficult lighting conditions.
When comparing this 1-10X optic with scopes costing less, I’m reminded that the only way to get the best optical performance is to spend money. Targets larger than 2 MOA and sitting in direct sunlight are visible with even the cheapest optics. Most of us shoot almost exclusively under these conditions, so inexpensive optics work fine most of the time.
Professionals have to perform in any lighting condition. Put that same piece of steel in deep shadow and keep the shooter in bright sunlight and then you’ll see the difference between using affordable glass and professional-grade glass. The professional-grade optic allows the shooter to still see and make out target details that cheaper scopes will not. Shooting on overcast or rainy days with targets in shadow is another good scenario to demonstrate the differences between inexpensive and professional-grade optics.
The optical quality of the new Gen III 1-10X is excellent, but it’s also paired with a well-designed first focal plane (FFP) reticle that functions effectively across the entire magnification range. FFP reticles change size as magnification changes, so the distance between each line remains constant. This makes it possible to have accurate hold-overs no matter where the magnification sits.
The historical problem with FFP reticles is they get too small to be usable when magnification moves to the low end of the range. Vortex designed both a non-illuminated and illuminated solution for this problem.
The non-illuminated solution involved making the edges of the reticle at 10X very large so that when magnification moves to 1X, those large crosshair segments remain visible in the center of the field of view. This gives the shooter three segments that all point to the center and work well enough to give a reliable point of aim at the low end of the magnification spectrum.
The illuminated solution is much more elegant. Regardless of how many times optics manufacturers state their low-powered variable optic (LPVO) has a reticle that is “daylight bright,” most are not. The historical and inexpensive solution was to use an etched reticle and shine red light onto it. A small percentage of the light reflects off the reticle and bounces back to the shooter’s eye. This system makes the reticle visible until the shooter is standing in moderately bright direct sunlight.
Vortex’s solution was to put a lens on the red LED light and focus it on just the center of the etched reticle. This forces almost all of the light to bounce back to the shooter’s eye and illuminates the reticle in even the brightest direct sunlight conditions.
Placing a lens on the light emitter is not as simple as it sounds, and it costs money. Very few optic companies have made this investment, but it is one of the only ways to make an FFP reticle truly daylight bright. The companies that have this type of illumination system in their FFP LPVOs are Leupold, Nightforce and Vortex.
Trijicon’s 1-8X VCOG, the one that just won the big contract with the Marine Corps, has a very different illumination system that is also daylight bright. Trijicon powers its system with an AA battery. There is no lens to focus light output on the center of the reticle, but the horsepower from the AA battery throws so much light that the system doesn’t need to be super-efficient to be effective.
The LPVOs of the manufacturers listed in this article all retail within $100 of each other with the exception of the Nightforce NX8 1-8x24mm. This doesn’t mean that those manufacturers all conspired to keep prices high, it just goes to show us how much money it costs to create a well-made low-powered scope that has a daylight-bright FFP reticle. If you truly need the capability, it takes some money to get it.
The predecessor of the 1-10X is Vortex’s 1-6x24mm Razor HD II, an optic that has been in service with some of our most elite Special Operations Forces for years. The Vortex 1-6X has been roaming the battlefields across the Middle East and has earned a reputation for durability and ease of use.
The Razor HD Gen III 1-10X retains all of the features of its predecessor, while offering a 66 percent increase in available magnification. Vortex made no sacrifices to get it. The two scopes are the same length and weight, and have almost identical behind-the-scope characteristics. At maximum magnification, both make it equally easy to acquire a full field of view.
I suspect the new Vortex Razor Gen III 1-10X scope will supersede the 1-6x24mm, and the 1-10X will continue to serve in those same elite units. The Razor HD line of optics from Vortex has been quiet for a few years, and this 1-10X is the reason why. It took Vortex 3 years to develop the optical design that allows a 1-10X to be as user friendly as a 1-6X while still retaining the Vortex’s reputation for durability. Along the way they also had to incorporate a new illumination system, too. It took time, but it was definitely time well spent.
Vortex Razor HD Gen III 1-10x24mm
- Power: 1X-10X
- Objective: 24mm
- Tube Diameter: 34mm
- Elevation Adjustment: .1 mil per click
- Windage: .1 Mil per click
- Reticle: EBR-9C
- Length: 10.1 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 5 oz.
- Eye Relief: 4 in.
- MSRP: $2,900
- Manufacturer: Vortex, 800-426-0048, vortexoptics.com
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