Last month, I attended a two-day shooting symposium sponsored by Alpha Munitions at THE SITE training facility in Mount Carroll, Illinois, which is a few hours west of Chicago. THE SITE is one of the country’s premier ranges and is directed by U.S. Navy SEAL Master Chief (Ret.) Jim Kauber. Courses are available in every imaginable discipline, and the trusted class instructors were also SEALs. I’ve never seen so many muscles, testosterone and structural integrity in one place at one time. These people live with and know their firearm tools as well as I know my spoon.
We stayed at THE SITE’s nearby Black Bear Lodge. The class culminated with a timed competition targeting 600yard moving steel plates.
Let’s just say I didn’t win.
Vortex Optics loaned me some products, and I installed a Razor HDII 3-18×50 with MOA adjustments and the EBR-2C (MOA) reticle on my Savage 10 FCP McMillan in .308 Winchester. This is a first focal plane scope. I mated the Vortex 34mm Precision Matched Rings to an Evolution Gun Works Steel HD mount with zero angle. I also used the Vortex 34mm bubble level to complete the outfit.
The current mount du jour seems to be anything with at least 20 MOA built in. This is fine for guns that will be used mostly for long range, but most guns are not. A range of 300 or 400 yards is not really considered long enough to require such a product. Actually, up to 600 yards or so is considered intermediate.
People regularly run out of elevation adjustment because they want to shoot the gun at backyard distances with angled bases. My 0 MOA base had loads of elevation left at 600 yards, although the extra room for the erector assembly to move within the huge, 34mm tube was significant—with up to 117 MOA available!
In addition, today’s shooters think they require a ridiculous amount of magnification for their scopes, when, in fact, less magnification is often much more useful.
I was recently in the desert heat shooting up to a mile. The mirage was so severe that I often could only use up to 12 or 14 power to prevent my reticle from walking all over the target. And being able to find your target quickly at lower power with a larger exit pupil is priceless.
The Vortex rings made by Seekins were outstanding (after mounting thousands of scopes over the years and lapping off collective pounds of steel and aluminum, I have gotten to know metal characteristics and overall quality control). These rings oozed eminence. Although they are made in pairs and matched, they have no index marks to keep ring halves together and in the correct orientation. Nevertheless, Seekins assured me that the rings have such close tolerances, this is not required—and it felt like it—but I’d still like to see them marked. It makes me feel good. In fact, when I lap rings, I put matching witness marks on the top and bottom halves so I cannot install them incorrectly.
The scope was an absolute dream to use. I used MOA adjustments, because my mind thinks more easily in inches than milliradians. And because distance computations are complicated and my mind is like a steel sieve—with stuff running out through all the holes—the easier it is for me, the better. It’s easy to say that adjustments are repeatable, but it’s another to actually test them at distance by shooting the gun in front of an experienced spotter.
The zero stop on this Razor is a firm wall that is easily set, unlike some other competitive offerings. Upon a full rotation of the elevation turret, an indicator pops out from the bottom of it; after two revolutions, it protrudes more, showing one index mark instead of two.
The clarity is commensurate with other Alpha scopes costing almost twice as much. It would take an exhaustive controlled test with competitive products lined up next to each other to compare resolution, color, brightness, etc. But it’s a rare individual who can determine which scope is from what manufacturer if they can only see the image of the scope and not the scope, itself.
A major reason Vortex seems to be taking over the shooting world is value, and this is evident when you see what rifles are “wearing” at Precision Rifle Series and other long-range events. The EBR-2C reticle is one of the easiest Christmas-tree-type reticles I’ve ever used, and it’s not as intimidating or busy as some others.
The illumination is clever and intuitive, with a pop-out dial set in the parallax knob featuring 11 brightness levels that go low enough and off between numbers. This makes it easy to re-summon your preset brightness level. Eye relief was long and forgiving at all magnifications. Mounting positioning was easy because of the generous tube length available. Overall, the scope performed superbly and looked great doing it.
I also used a Vortex Razor HD 22-48×65 spotting scope, which quickly became the favorite of the experienced spotters. Bullet trace was as easy to see as watching a bird fly overhead. One spotter, a U.S. Rifle Team member, insisted he saw the sun glint off a bullet speeding down range.
Alpha Munitions fed all the guns with its superb, U.S.-made cartridges—the prettiest brass I’ve ever seen. This manufacturer has the daunting goal of taking a lot of Lapua business … and it is primed (pun intended) to do just that.
Vortex has been taking high-end business away from the crème de la crème for a reason: Its new 6-24×50 Razor HD AMG scope is 100 percent made in the United States—from the glass to the turrets and every screw and dab of grease. This will further frustrate the status quo.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.