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Vortex Razor HD Gen III 6-36x56mm FFP Riflescope: Full Review

The Vortex Razor HD Gen III 6-36x56mm first focal plane (FFP) riflescope provides the best optical performance available. Here's a full review.

Vortex Razor HD Gen III 6-36x56mm FFP Riflescope: Full Review

(Photo by Mark Fingar)

Most potential optics consumers are going to take one look at the $4,000 price of Vortex’s new 6-­36x56mm Razor HD Gen III scope, startle, and then look to something else. I understand. This is the riflescope equivalent of a supercar and, while many may be interested, most will never buy. The reason I get excited about this scope is that it shows how far and how fast the world of riflescopes is improving. What was impossible just a few years ago is now available.

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Included with the Razor HD Gen III is a 3-inch sunshade anodized to match the hard-anodized Stealth Shadow finish. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

Unfortunately, the biggest optical advancements cannot be seen while looking through glass at the ceiling in a gun shop. The new 6-­36X model from Vortex provides an exceptional image that is clear and sharp and shows wonderful color. Looking through it in the store, or even on a sunny day at the range, will not illustrate the importance of its optical performance. For me, the best example of a time when optical horsepower matters occurred about a year ago. I was at a rifle competition in Wyoming facing a steep hillside that had all the targets in shadow with the sun just peeking over the horizon. I was looking almost directly into the sun trying to find pieces of shot-­up steel that were more than 800 yards away and hiding in the hill’s shadow. The scope I was using at the time had just enough performance to get the job done. This Vortex scope is every bit its equal. Scopes costing $3,000 to $4,000 like this these appear excessive to most shooters, and that’s fair. Where they make sense are for the guys who are buying plane tickets and renting cars to shoot matches around the country. Also, there is a sizable contingent of precision rifle enthusiasts who like to shoot things that are far away regardless of environmental conditions. This 6-­36X Gen III is a good fit for them as well. When compared to car enthusiasts, precision riflery is comparatively cheap. (That’s what I tell my wife, anyway.)

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Glass elements are selected for sharp resolution and to cut chromatic aberration, maximize light transfer and color fidelity. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

Optical performance aside, there are several engineering marvels about this scope that make me proud to be a scope nerd. One term that gets discussion among scope guys is “eye box.” There are two components that make up the eye box — I hate that term, by the way — but the one that leapt out to me was the Gen III’s eye relief threshold. The eye relief threshold is the distance the shooter’s head can move closer to or further away from the scope while still seeing a full field of view through the scope. This dimension is critical because the bigger it is, the more forgiveness the shooter has when getting behind the rifle. If his head isn’t in the exact same place, he can still shoot just fine. Also, a big eye relief threshold makes it easier to spot the round’s impact through the scope because the shooter is less likely to lose the scope’s image during recoil. By my measurements, this scope has about one-and-a-half times the eye relief threshold of its competitors.

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The ocular and objective lenses feature XR Plus anti-reflective and ArmorTek coatings for peak clarity and scratch resistance. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

Another aspect of this scope that is hard to wrap my head around is the amount of travel the shooter can dial on the elevation turret. With rimfire shooters going after targets several hundred yards away, and the rise of Extreme Long Range (ELR) events that place targets out to 2,000 yards and beyond, the need to dial a great deal of elevation increases. The problem is there’s a general rule among riflescopes that as magnification increases, the amount of travel in the scope decreases. The longer composite focal length found in higher magnification scopes is the reason why. Vortex is not the only manufacturer to figure out how to get a lot of elevation travel, but they offer the most travel (36 mils) at the highest magnification (36X).

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The EBR-7D is a hashmarked ranging reticle in the first focal plane (FFP). The windage tree provides fast follow-up corrections. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

Having a ton of elevation travel is wonderful, but the travel must be precise in order to matter. Scope aficionados refer to this as “tracking.” I like to test how well a scope tracks by dialing as many mils as will fit on my target paper and then measuring the distance between the holes. I dialed 14 mils between the extremes during my tracking test and could only detect a 1-­percent error. To put that in perspective, my 6.5 Creedmoor shooting at 1,375 yards will exhibit more vertical dispersion with a 10 foot per second (fps) velocity change between rounds. The tracking error I measured could just as easily been induced by me as a shooter than the scope’s limitations. It is well within the noise of the test, and the Gen III’s results were exceptional by any measure.

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The L-Tec+ Zero System is notable for having all parts captive and only one set screw to loosen and tighten. Zeroing was quick and easy. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

The mechanical marvels of this scope continue to the turrets, which are some of the easiest to operate. Historically, an exposed elevation turret like the one on this 6-­36X scope had to have the turret cap removed and some screws loosened to set a zero-­stop. A zero-­stop allows the shooter to just spin the turret until it stops moving to return to zero. It is wonderfully convenient because it’s fast and eliminates the possibility of being one revolution off when dialing.

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There are infinite zero setting positions that allow the zero to be set between clicks for accuracy. The slot allows use of a coin for a tool. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

To zero this Gen III riflescope, just loosen one set screw and then turn the top dial until zeroed. Tighten the set screw down and it’s all set. There are not multiple screws to loosen or a cap that needs removing. There’s also enough engagement area with that single screw that the tiniest bit of tension on it almost guarantees the turret will never slip.

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An external rotational indicator protrudes from a ring on the elevation turret. It provides a quick visual and tactile position reference. (Photo By Mark Fingar)


One of the characteristics Vortex is known for is durability; the 6-­36x56mm Gen III continues that proud tradition. Vortex beds the lenses of these scopes, which involves squirting epoxy around lenses and lens housings once installed in the maintube and objective bell. The epoxy cures and immobilizes the lenses. When a scope receives an impact, especially from the side, the most common cause of a point of impact shift (loss of zero) is lens movement. Moving a lens just .001-­inch will noticeably move the bullet’s impact on the target. Bedding the lenses eliminates this common problem. It is part of the reason why scopes like this cost as much as they do. One of the reasons Vortex optics are used in the U.S. Special Operations community (and in those of our allies around the world) is their smart design and extreme durability. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this scope join the short list of those serving our nation in the future.

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When turned towards scope’s zero, the elevation turret’s position indicator retreats inside the ring. (Photo By Mark Fingar)

While the Razor HD Gen III 6-­36x56mm scope isn’t for everyone, it represents the latest and greatest of what’s going on in the riflescope world. Manufacturing and engineering continue to advance, and this scope is the end result. Those who want or need the best optical performance available, combined with maximum amounts of travel, all wrapped up in as durable a scope as can be made, should look no further than Vortex.

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The glass-etched reticle features 11 levels of illumination with off positions between each. One CR2032 is required. (Photo By Mark Fingar)



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