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  1. #1
    Certified Regular Guy esrice's Avatar
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    Jan 2008

    Review: Vortex Razor Red Dot

    Back in February I first heard about Vortex coming out with a reflex-style red dot. With available 6- and 3-MOA dots, it appeared that they were going after both the rifle and the pistol red dot market. With a pricetag of $479 they were set to compete with the Trijicon RMR.

    To see how this review got started, and to see specs on the optic, check this thread:

    When Alan (42769vette) at A&A Optics got his Razor Red Dot in, he was kind enough to send it to me for some T&E. What follows is a rolling review of the optic, as I will be shooting it several times over the next few weeks, and updating this thread as needed.

    Now my experience with red dots on pistols is very limited. My first experience was running a magazine through a Ruger MkII with a Primary Arms Micro on top. This was the first time I've ever shot a red dot on a centerfire pistol.

    What Alan sent me was the slide of his Glock 17L with the Razor mounted in a factory pistol mount. Essentially a mounting plate replaces the rear sight, and the Razor is then bolted to the mounting plate. Although this may be less ideal than the current standard of milling the slide down and bolting the optic to the slide directly, it is a very inexpensive method and it allowed me to begin to get a feel for the Razor and what it offers pistol shooting.

    Inspecting the Razor I noticed several things.

    Its construction was much "harder" than I had anticipated. The body is aircraft-grade aluminum, and feels much like an AR-15 lower receiver. The hood is thick and looks like it could take some abuse.

    Its also smaller than I anticipated. And when it comes to pistol-mounted red dots, smaller is better.

    The lens has a special coating that is supposed to block reflections and enhance visual acuity. It may do those things, but it gives the lens a blue tint that I'm not wild about. Just a personal preference really. The curved lens does distort the sight image slightly when you look through the glass, however, and I don't like that. Rather than feeling like a true 1x red dot, it starts to feel like a magnified optic. This hasn't hindered my shooting to this point, but its worth mentioning.

    The Razor also suffers from what I don't like about ANY open-top reflex-style optic-- the dot projection can be blocked by dirt, water, mud, or anything that falls down on top of the emitter. Add to that the adjustment buttons are located right next to the emitter, and often my finger would block it while I was trying to turn it OFF or adjust its brightness, making the dot disappear entirely. As red dots are increasingly used on carry guns, this is a huge issue, and a reason co-witnessed back up sights are important in such a role.

    Battery life is listed at 1-year on its highest setting. That's great! However, it has an auto-shutoff feature that turns the unit off 6 hours after its turned on. That's no biggie for a day at the range, and I'd appreciate it saving my battery if I forget to turn it off. But what about using it for carry, when I need the dot to be ready to go at all times?

    The single dot reticle is quite bright, and the range of brightness settings kept me shooting in bright sunshine and at dusk. Although it never washed out in the sunlight, I did notice that, even on its lowest brightness setting, it was REALLY bright during night shooting. For the person mounting this on a carry gun it would be difficult to have one brightness level that would work well in all situations, from indoors to outdoors and daytime to nighttime.

    One feature that sets high-end optics apart from their cheaper counterparts is how fine their adjustment dials are. To me, nothing says "quality" like windage and elevation controls that click like a fine Swiss watch. So imagine my disappointment when I attempted to make some adjustments and was met with dials that were vague and mushy. At times I couldn't tell if I had rotated it one click or two or three. I'm also not a fan of using a tiny hex key to make adjustments. I prefer on-board controls so that I can make adjustments without a tool. At the rear of the sight body is another hex screw that is supposed to act as a "lock" to the windage and elevation controls. Again, it just seemed vague and didn't inspire confidence that they were actually locked down.

    But enough of that, on with the shooting. . . .

    I started the session attempting to zero it at approximately 15 yards. This quickly became problematic. I first tried shooting from a supported position, thinking I should eliminate as many variables (me) as possible. My hits were somewhat erratic, and I couldn't easily define where it was hitting. After awhile I decided to move up to 7 yards and go offhand. This is where I learned my first lesson in red dots on pistols-- it gets harder before it gets easier.

    I had to treat it more like a rifle, and less like a pistol. Both eyes WIDE open, focus on the target (not the front sight or dot), pull the trigger rearward without making the dot dance. I also had to change my head position somewhat, as I was now looking over the iron sights, not through them.

    Once I had that figured out the zeroing process came together. Before long I had wallowed out a 2" hole just to the left of center where I could send round after round with ease. A few more windage adjustments and I was golden.

    The dot showed EVERY trigger control issue I was having. I really had to buckle down and focus to make the hits. It was crazy how easy it was to get lazy and start missing-- especially when the dot "was just there a second ago!"

    The added mass of the Razor, regardless of how light and tiny it is, plus the longslide of the 17L gave me some issues when I was using some lighter-loaded rounds. I changed up to some hotter stuff and it cycled just fine from there.

    At first I wasn't sure how I would physically run the slide to charge the pistol. I could slingshot it, but the Razor still got in the way somewhat. I ended up getting comfortable with catching the optic hood on the edge of my support hand and running it back from there, almost like you would charge an AR-15. After a while it became quite natural. Obviously using a belt or a shoe or a table edge to refunction the gun during single-handed manipulations would be easily accomplished.

    Speaking of the optic hood, it did get hit with ejected brass frequently. It showed some minor dings but its not something I would worry about, even in the long term.

    One of the initial concerns I had was with "finding the dot" as the gun was brought up to eye level. Because a pistol isn't attached to your cheek like a rifle is, this can be problematic. I was pleasantly surprised that, with just a few repetitions, it wasn't an issue. The gun came up, the dot was there, the trigger was pulled.

    Now that I've familiarized myself with the setup, I look forward to stretching out a bit and seeing if the dot improves longer range accuracy. I will say this . . . Midway through the session I walked over to the 50 yard range where we normally sight in rifles. Offhand, I took aim at an 8" round piece of Bobcat Steel. Paying close attention to my trigger I got a <DING!> on my very first shot! My jaw dropped. I couldn't repeat it on the next shot, but I did manage to hit it 3 times out of a 17-round magazine.

    While cleaning up I did notice the Razor had become loose in the mount. This was after 300+ rounds. Before the next session I'll be sure to hit the threads with some blue loctite and snug everything down.

    So those are my impressions after "Phase 1". I'm eager to get back out and shoot it some more! I'll save any final conclusions for when I get several hundred more rounds with it. Check back for updates!

    Original thread here:
    Last edited by esrice; 07-11-2012 at 11:36.

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