Vortex RAZOR HD II vs. LEUPOLD MK.6
The Vortex RAZOR HD II was tested head to head with what I consider the gold standard of the short to intermediate range variable power scopes, the LEUPOLD MK.6. I chose to not use the MK. 8 in this comparison due primarily to the expense and design features put it in a different class than the RAZOR HD II.
The MK.6 fits with in the Razor’s class both in price and features. LEUPOLD in particular has capitalized off of the relationship with the military and has many lifetime customers just from winning the M24/M40 and the more recent XM2010 optic contract. This allegiance will follow the products into law enforcement, competitive, and recreational circles. This gives the LEUPOLD Mk.6 a certain advantage with credibility and familiarity. In order to make headway against established products with faithful followings, a product must at least meet and exceed the performance of the competition. In this environment the Vortex RAZOR HD II enters as high quality optic with good flexibility and comparable cost. The optics were evaluated on the following criteria: aesthetics, optic/reticule clarity, field of view, reticle, functionality, features, and cost. The scale with be graded with ten points maximum.
Of note, there is one characteristic that will not be tested, durability. Other than aggressive range use, these optics will not be tested for their ability to absorb damage and function normally. This may sway the decision of some prospective buyers. The optics were all tested on the same platforms, multiple AR-15’s and a FN SCAR 17S. The SCAR 17s was equipped with a 16 inch 1 in 12 twist barrel, utilizing a Handl Defense MK17-M110 MOD2 lower and Magpul PMAGs. Both Optics were secured in the same manner, a quick detach ADM mount. The AR’s were of various designs to include Noveske, LMT, POF, and others with various barrel lengths and twist rates.
The LEUPOLD MK.6 is a straight forward simplistic and no frills optic. Simple and effective are the mainstays of the design. Everything about the optic says LEUPOLD, from the color of black to shape of the knobs. The lines of the design are smooth and the knobs and controls are well spaced for easy manipulation. The machining and finish is high quality. The size of the optic does not overwhelm the weapon you place it on. Either on an AR or SCAR it looks the part and fits seamlessly with any of the current designs.
The Vortex RAZOR HD II follows the sleek profile of the LEUPOLD MK.6 but with a modern and aggressive look. The Flat Dark Earth color gives a striking purpose built appearance. Right out of the box, the RAZOR HD II looks like it belongs on a modern battle rifle. It has many of the purpose built looking aspects, like the aggressive knurling notches on the illumination dial. It equals and even exceeds the well machined and finished look of the LEUPOLD MK.6. I do not say this lightly, the Vortex RAZOR HD II is the prettiest Optic in its class, and it looks right at home on a SCAR H. It can look a little overwhelming on a short barreled AR at times. It does have a sleek minimalist and rugged utilitarian look. The overall impression of the design aesthetics of the RAZOR HD II is elevated above all others in its class.
CONCLUSION: The LEUPOLD MK.6 fit and finish is on par or superior to any competitor in its class.
The RAZOR HD II is aesthetically superior to other scopes in its class.
GRADES: LEUPOLD MK.6 8 points and RAZOR HD II 10 points.
The LEUPOLD MK.6 has exceptionally clear glass that allows excellent clear lenses that transmit good amounts of light in all conditions from bright to low light. The CMR-W reticle is clear at all power magnifications. The red dot horseshoe itself is clear and sharp at all power intensities, except at the highest power levels. It does not overwhelm your vision in low light with low to even mid power settings. It is extremely effective in any condition. The lens did not fog in cool rainy conditions. When the reticle was illuminated the illumination would not be visible is the shooter was off center from the gun.
The Vortex RAZOR HD II also has very good lenses and has high quality light transmission in all conditions on par with the LEUPOLD MK.6. The RAZOR HD II has just slightly less light is transmitted in the lower light conditions. The Vortex RAZOR HD II is every part the equal of the LEUPOLD MK.6. There is no over flash from the dot itself. The reflection onto the focal plane is almost always a completely clear crisp dot until the highest power levels. The red dot is day time bright and does not overwhelm in low light conditions. The edges of the reticle are always crystal clear and sharply defined. It allows easy two eyes open operation of the optic.
CONCLUSION: the Vortex RAZOR HD II is on par with the LEUPOLD MK.6. There is a slight amount of
better low light transmission with the LEUPOLD MK.6 but not enough to make a distinct difference.
Both optics do a great job with red dot illumination.
GRADES: LEUPOLD MK.6 8.25 points, RAZOR 8.25 points
The base JM-1 BDC reticle of the RAZOR HD II was compared to the CMR-W reticle in 7.62 in the LEUPOLD MK.6. The LEUPOLD MK.6 is offered with 3 reticle options; CMR-W 5.56, CMR-W 7.62, TMR-D (mill dot). The CMR-W in 7.62 has 20 MIL stadia line along the horizontal plane and a 5 MOA (inside) to 7.5 MOA (outside) horseshoe around the center dot. The CMR also has windage/distance holdovers in lower portion of the scope. If that was not enough information to provide there is also a 5 MIL graduated stadia line on top of the left horizontal line. This line is for those who want to determine distance in meters by dividing the target in size in millimeters by the number of MIL. The reticle is easy and quick to use and requires little effort to make accurate shots at distances beyond 600 meters for properly experienced shooters, who understand how to properly make adjustments and calibrate their equipment. This is regardless of Mils or MOA, yards or meters.
The JM-1 BDC reticle has very little information immediately available to the shooter. There is just the horizontal and vertical lines with a few unmarked stadia lines. The directions do show that the distances from the thick so thinner portion of the horizontal lines is 15 MOA. The distances between the smaller stadia lines 2.4, 5.6, 9.5, and 14.6 MOA respectively are not marked on the vertical line. Those MOA marks correlate to 300, 400, 500, and 600 yard distances for the very broad application of all 5.56 rounds 55 gr to 77 gr. With the subtraction of 15 yards per stadia line it gives the point of impact for 7.62 from 168 to the 175 grain weights. None of this information is marked on the reticle.
What also is of great importance is that the scope must be zeroed at 200 yards for the reticle to be accurate. This takes advantage of the fact that 5.56 reaches max ord at about 115 meters. That at 25 meters and 200 meters the round is at the roughly the same height above the ground. Most targets for most shooters are going to fall within that range. I am sure that many have zeroed this optic at 100 meters or yards and had issues with using it accurately. There is no markings or mil stadia to determine distances of known sized targets. Also considering the stadia are set for yards there is no way that shooters who work in meters can use them precisely. Of note the SCAR 17 is 7.62×51 and the JM-1 is not recommended for 7.62×51 guns.
CONCLUSION: The JM-1 BDC is designed to be used by a broad swath of shooters to be quickly and
generally accurate with a wide range of rifles with a various assortment of projectile weights, calibers,
and twist rates. The reticle allows for little to no flexibility. There was effectively no information
marked on the reticle itself, which presents challenges for the inexperienced shooters shooting over
200 yards, and for those who use multiple weapons systems. It was not designed for those who need
to be precise with their specific platform. The LEUPOLD MK.6 CMR-W is that type of reticle. Not only
does it allow for the shooter to be precise when he needs to be it allows for him to make rapid shots
at distance with the ability to account for unknown distances to target and winds. The LEUPOLD MK.6
CMR-W was far superior at mid to long range especially when winds were present.
GRADES: LEUPOLD MK.6 9.5 points, RAZOR HD II 6.0 points
Field of View
The eye box behind the RAZOR HD II is one of the largest I have seen. It is so large that not being properly indexed behind the scope still gives a clear view of the reticle. This even is even if off the center axis or too far back on the gun. There is a deep eye relief that allows the shooter a lot of room to set the the best variable power optics for quick target acquisition I have tested. The LEUPOLD Mk.6 has very good sized eye box in its own right. It is great scope, well built, and very capable. But the eye box of the RAZOR HD II is superior to the LEUPOLD Mk.6.
Reflex use is where the RAZOR HD II shines. For targets from 5 meters to 50 meters the large eye piece and eye box allow the shooter to quickly engage targets. The RAZOR HD II is quite possibly the best in class at short range work. I find it superior to both the LEUPOLD Mk. 6 and even the US OPTIC SRc 8 I had on hand. The LEUPOLD Mk.6 is also very capable in short range work as the 2 MOA horseshoe it allows the shooter to make quick reflex shots in lower power. Yet, the LEUPOLD Mk.6 is still obviously a step behind the RAZOR HD II. The smaller eye box which becomes apparent if the shooter is slightly off axis of the scope, keeps it behind the RAZOR HD II.
The Razor HD II is only held back by the reticle in my opinion, which became obvious during distance use. The LEUPOLD CMR-W 7.62 reticle provided index marks to adjust for winds and distances without making adjustments to the scope. With even mild 5-7 mph winds that would gust to 10 mph, shots could be placed on steel targets past 400 meters without needing to adjust the scope. This was much more difficult with the JM-1 BDC. This was amplified that during shooting unknown distance targets could be milled for distance then accurate shots taken without adjusting the LEUPOLD Mk. 6.
CONCLUSION: the Vortex RAZOR HD II is the more effective close to mid-range scope. The LEUPOLD
Mk.6 is the more capable mid-range to long range optic. Both scopes performed very well in close
range use but the RAZOR HD II is obviously the better choice in reflex shooting, because of the
immense eye box. The LEUPOLD MK.6 was superior at mid to long range especially when winds were
present, primarily because of the reticle.
GRADES: LEUPOLD Mk.6 9.25 points, RAZOR HD II 8.75 points
The functionality of each of the optics was tested for use with gloved and ungloved hands. All functions were also conducted in low to no light conditions to see how easy the optics could be manipulated by memory and feel. When accessing the elevation and windage adjustments, they were conducted with tools and without tools.
The LEUPOLD MK.6 is well designed scope and has no glaring faults in its functionality. All controls are easy to manipulate with bare or gloved hands. This did not change when the optic was tested in low light situations. The variable power selection ring rotates easily and has hard stop at maximum and minimum power. It can be done with the support hand without breaking the ready position. I did find the contact with the ring was reduced in gloves. The access to the battery compartment was not an issue and could be done by hand or multi-tool. But it was a bit different than most other designs. There is not a threaded lid with o-ring on the battery compartment. The Mk.6 design has a hinged door with push latch. I do not know if there was specific purpose for this.
No serious issues arise with the adjustments to the elevation and windage knobs, but they could have been better. Even though they were kind of small, the knurling on the caps was good for use with bare hands and was not difficult to use with gloves. The turrets small size did allow for less surface contact. These turrets have a kind of soft feel to them but they are stiff. You will feel the knurling dig into your bare hand when you manipulate them. The rings also require you to use a locking button to turn then which is only on the zero side of the ring. It can be hard to find and might require breaking away for the ready position to find it. The caps are not secured to the scope itself, after being removed for internal adjustment. This is not normally an issue but I would like to see this be addressed for use in low light or red light conditions.
The RAZOR HD II is easily manipulated in gloved and bare hands. The high quality knurling makes itself known regardless of the situation. The battery compartment is accessible with a simple tool, such as a dime or multi-tool, in gloved or bare hands, with minimal effort. The variable power selection ring is easy to grip but requires effort to manipulate. I consider it too stiff for quick changes without dropping the gun away from the ready position. The incorporation of a throw lever I would consider mandatory for anyone who might use the RAZOR HD II on a battle rifle or in 3 gun competition. The illumination intensity selection is a novel idea, requiring pulling the knob laterally then adjusting between settings or off. It trades off security over speed, I found it a good set up regardless.
Nether optic come standard with any type of quick throw device. The LEUPOLD Mk.6 has a small tab to power. I would like to see the incorporation of a quick throw lever, especially considering the relative stiffness in the RAZOR HD II variable power selector ring.
CONCLUSION: the Vortex RAZOR HD II is slightly above the LEUPOLD MK.6 Mk6, in relation to
functionality. The RAZOR HD II turret adjustments are easier, more solid, and secure feeling. The Mk.6
was easier to manipulate the variable power adjustment ring. Other than these two marked
differences there was not much separating the two in functionality. Other than the need to break
away from the ready position to make variable power adjustments, the RAZOR HD II is without issue.
GRADES: LEUPOLD MK.6 8 points, RAZOR HD II 8.5 points
Each of these optics have different features that set them apart from each other. These design details reflect the philosophy of each the companies. These details are the manifestations of the collective experiences and fundamental concepts that guide each of the companies towards producing a low to mid variable power optic with reflex sight capability.
One of feature I always consider in a scope that is intended for a carbine or battle rifle is weight. Of course we always want things to weigh as light as possible without losing durability. The RAZOR HD II weighs 25 ounces, it feels solid and strong. Knowing it is made of T-6061 aluminum should reassure shooters to its durability. The down side to this is that being almost 2 pounds in weight, it can make the rifles feel top heavy. This is very noticeable when mounted to one of the lighter short barrel AR’s. The LEUPOLD Mk.6 comes in at 17 ounces but somehow feels even lighter. It was much less likely to make the rifles it was mounted to feel top heavy. It did not have the same solid feel as the RAZOR HD II but the LEUPOLD Mk.6 is obviously a high quality scope.
The turrets on the RAZOR HD II are one of its best features. Be it the illumination dial or the windage and elevation dials, the turrets have a precise feel to them. The turrets are captured easily in gloved or bare hands and have precise, positive clicks between positions. I truly like the feel of the movement and the design of the RAZOR HD II turrets. The turret on the LEUPOLD Mk.6 on the other hand were not as easy to work with. The elevation turret requires pushing a release button then moving the turret. The button is only in one location and can get “lost” especially in low light or no light situations. There is not solid clicking during movement of the LEUPOLD Mk.6 turrets. I think this could play havoc on shooters who might use the optic in low or no light situations. This normally requires breaking away from the ready position to make accurate adjustments.
The illumination switch on the RAZOR HD II is aggressively knurled pull to turn, push to lock dial. I like the idea of being able to lock the illumination in place but I do wonder if under duress that it might be another step in order to engage a target accurately. This did not come up during testing but was just an observation. The illumination dial has nice precise feeling clicks and movement. I really like the function of this dial, the mechanical function of this dial should be incorporated into all vortex dials. The illumination dial on the LEUPOLD is much more vague feeling. The Illumination dial on the LUEPOLD Mk.6 has far less aggressive knurling and found to be a problem when shooting in gloves when the optics was wet. This was a common problem with the turrets on the Leupold Mk.6, they are not manipulated well when wet, while wearing gloves. This was not an issue with the RAZOR HD II. The RAZOR HD II utilizes a second focal plane for its reticle. This might explain part of the simplistic nature of the JM-1 BDC. The LEUPOLD Mk.6 uses a first focal plane and provides the shooter with more options to use the optic. This is substantial advantage for the LEUPOLD Mk.6 and might be the determining factor in the purchase for many advanced shooters.
CONCLUSION: The RAZOR HD II has some really nice design items, the Illumination dial and turrets set
it apart, as they are superior to the items found on the LEUPOLD Mk.6. These two functions enhance
the RAZOR HD II’s ability to function in a dynamic environment. The RAZOR HD II is a durable and
tough design. Users that are expecting to use their weapons in rugged environments will gravitate
towards it. The LUEPOLD Mk.6 is a first focal plane scope and it is the strength of the design. Couple
this with the multiple options in reticles they serve the design well. These two optics have strengths
the other does not. The LEUPOLD is lighter and first focal plane, the RAZOR HD II has much better
turrets and illumination dial. Based on this information I find certain shooter will buy one optic over
the other based on these features. Both have shortcomings and neither has a serious advantage over
the other. The fact the LEUPOLD Mk.6 is first focal plane scope puts it ahead.
GRADES: LEUPOLD Mk.6 8.0 points, RAZOR HD II 7.5
One of, if not the most important factor in the majority of shooters decision making process is cost. Many optics, no matter how innovative, often are priced outside of the parameters of the average
shooter. The cost is by far the most prohibitive aspect and greatest restriction on the majority of shooters. Optics Planet and other reputable sites was used as the basis for cost comparisons.
The LEUPOLD MK.6 is $1999 to $2439 for an average of $2219
The RAZOR HD II is $1399 to $1899 for an average of $1649
The RAZOR HD II is on average $570 cheaper.
CONCLUSION: The RAZOR HD II is $570 on average lower in cost than the LEUPOLD MK.6. This is
almost 25% less expensive. That is a significant cost saving that could very easily sway many shooters
to the RAZOR. The RAZOR HD II is the one of the best values on the market. If cost is a very important
factor for the shooter, the RAZOR’s value might be worth the maximum of 10 points. The LEUPOLD
MK.6 is not the most expensive in its class, but it is also not near the lowest in cost.
GRADES: LEUPOLD MK.6 7.25 points, RAZOR HD II 9.25 points
Grading total of 70 total possible points
CONCLUSION: The RAZOR HD II and LEUPOLD Mk.6 I find to be similar in capability, but each scope has
very distinct strengths the other scope does not. The LEUPOLD Mk.6 has multiple options in reticle
choices, which are more precise and informative options. Every advantage the LEUPOLD has stems
from the fact it is a first focal plane scope with a detailed mil delineated reticle with windage
references. The RAZOR HD II is the equal or superior to the LEUPOLD in every other aspect. The RAZOR
is superior in reflex shooting, appearance, fit and finish, functionality, and cost. If the RAZOR was
offered with more reticle options and was built in the first focal plane. The RAZOR HD II would have
ran away with the evaluation. The RAZOR would then need to be evaluated against scopes that are
outside of its class such as the far more expensive US OPTICS SR 8c and the LEUPOLD Mk.8 CQBSS.