Hey guys, it’s Don the bearded barbarian from Minnesota that’s set out on an epic saga. This is the very first stop on the Accuracy-Tech Road Trip series, and the first place I visited was Vortex Optics. Deep in the hills and hollers of Wisconsin there lies a small town with a big claim to fame. Out of a small industrial unit some of the finest treasures known to the precision shooting world are made. If you were to look at it from the outside you’d think it was wholly unremarkable. That is until you noticed the emblem sitting above the main entrance. And if you could read the runes on the emblem you would know that it is the home of Vortex Optics. If you also observe carefully the area around it, you would also get some idea of how truly massive of an operation it really is.
It begins at Vortex Optics
After parking my car I made a quick phone call to my contact at Vortex Optics to make sure everything was well and that he didn’t need to see me through security or anything. Which by the way if you’re reading this Ryan I still owe you a steak. Anyways walking through their front door you are immediately presented with an interesting tableau. To me it was equal parts chaos, storefront, and nerve center. Right away a good portion of the people you see are on the phones talking to customers and bringing you that customer service that Vortex is so well-known for. Immediately to your left and right however you see display cases containing essentially one of every Vortex product available, as well as a very interesting case that displays a number of items that definitely look a bit worse for the wear. If you’re like me though, you realize that your wallet just isn’t big enough right now and it makes you somewhat sad.
Ryan my guide gave me a wonderful dog and pony on behalf of Vortex Optics, showing me many areas of the building. And here I have to apologize to you the readers for not taking more pictures of what he showed me. At the time I was having some troubles with the camera, and I didn’t feel like running around and flashing people who were going about their day at work. How would you like it if a big bearded idiot showed up in your place of work and started taking pictures of you and flashing lights at you? Regardless, as it turns Vortex is a much bigger operation. See they don’t take up just one part of the industrial unit, they take up the whole industrial unit. Size of whole deal here. Most of which is actually warehouse space for their products. Interestingly enough Ryan shared with me that Vortex will be moving their operations to a new and larger facility built for them sometime here within the next two years.
One of the first areas he shared with me was where they work on the Viper series of scopes. See each and every Viper series is rigorously tested to ensure that it meets their specifications. They make sure that there are no problems with them before they leave their facility. I was actually very impressed with how detailed they were in their quality assurance, and that’s not even their top of the line. At that level it’s all hand done by some very skilled workers. Unfortunately I didn’t snap any pictures of this because I didn’t want to disturb the guys working with a camera flash, and I hadn’t figured out how to turn it off yet. That’s what I get for borrowing my camera.
I got my hands on the Razor AMG
After our tour, it was back to the showroom floor. You know, the one that made me feel like a kid in a candy store? I was able to get my hands on a number of products, including the brand new Razor AMG. To try to describe how I feel about that scope, while remaining semi-professional is really difficult. Quite frankly it’s got me excited as hell. The very first point that needs to be made right away is that everything, and I mean everything from the glass to even the smallest screw, is made right here in the USA. They actually make the screws for it in-house. Firstly I have to say the turrets have the wonderful locking feature from the Razor HD II series, and crisp and positive clicks. The illumination goes up to eleven, which really can only be explained as their own Spinal Tap moment. The coating on it is excellent, and I say this as someone who deals in coatings. The finish is more of a titanium gray, which I think actually looks a lot more sharp than the bronze used on the Razor HD II series.
The glass is absolutely superb, it almost felt like it was more clear than looking through my actual eye. The reticle was extremely well thought out, with nice consistent subtensions. There was a slight amount of chromatic aberration at the blue end of the spectrum, but for the most part you have to be looking for it to see it. It’s using a 30mm tube, which yes limits the elevation and windage compared to say a 34mm tube, but it means I can use the mounting hardware I currently have on my rifle instead of having to drop several hundreds more before I even mount the scope. And the biggest elephant in the room, or rather in this case the lack there of, is the fact that it weights a whole 20 ounces less than the Razor HD II 4.5-27x56mm. That right there is a huge amount of weight savings. For the record, at this point in time I would rather have the AMG than the HD II. And since I know some of you are probably wondering, at this current time they are not bringing that reticle to any of their other optics, but they might in the future.
One thing that really stood out in their showroom was the case full of warranty repairs, as well as some of the stories behind them. And actually one of the objects in the case stands out, and is going to be the catalyst for another article that I know I’m going to have to have Ryan help me out with. I’m going to leave it to you guys to speculate right now which one. Some of the stories in there are actually very entertaining. Some that stand out are the spotting scope that fell off a cliff, broke in half, was duct taped together, and successfully still used to take a buck. And yes I did get to look through it and verify it still worked. Another was the spotting scope that was accidentally shot. The story was the scope was sitting on the tailgate of a truck, and someone rather carelessly set their gun down, which then discharged right into the scope. This one definitely reiterates the need for everyone to be vigilant about their safety as well as that of others around firearms. There were also a handful of scopes that were fire damaged, and a set of binoculars and a rangefinder that were actually the results of a puppy chewing on it.
It was at this point that I needed to get moving. I still had another few hours to drive to make it over to Criterion. After some last-minute small talk, and the acceptance of a cigar offered from the Vortex Humidor which I’m going to be enjoying here soon, I was on my way to the next stop on this epic little saga. Oh and Ryan if you’re reading this, I’m definitely going to take you up on that offer of range time at some point. For the rest of you, you’re going to have to wait until next time to see what comes next. In the mean time it was at least 2 hours for me to get to my next destination. Also there will be a gallery dump at the end of this series so everyone can see all of the pictures I took that didn’t make it into the article.