International optics Romania is the answer. My 3.5 - 18 has been mounted on my 308 for going on four years and it has given me zero issues.
Where exactly can we reference this article? Because I have yet to ever meet someone who compares March to Premier. In fact, in these articles March wasn't very comparable to anything but a Zeiss...Here is a nice write up on the Vortex Razor, IOR 6-24, and The SWFA SS.
IOR Valdada 6-24×56 and Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50
As much as I liked both March and Premier, my chance of being able to afford either one is fairly slim. The next two scopes I will talk about are still expensive, but measurably more affordable.
These two scopes are similarly sized and similarly configured so they make for a good comparison. Here they are side-by-side:
The angle from which the picture is taken makes the IOR look a bit bigger than the Razor HD, but in reality they are very close in size.
Both are large scopes and they seem to be fairly well built. While I did not try to destroy the IOR (I only had it for a fairly short time), I had a longer stint with the Razor. Vortex suggested that there is no need to be kind to it and I wasn’t. The only damage it suffered was a dead battery.
If I had to pick a scope to bludgeon someone to death with, one of these two would easily do the trick (although I have to admit that the eyepiece of the IOR makes a better handle: Razor’s eyepiece-mounted illumination control knob gets in the way).
Both of these scopes are built on beefy 35mm tubes, have large exposed windage and elevation knobs with 0.1mrad clicks and side-focus parallax adjustments. Both have ZeroStop adjustments built into the elevation knob. I think I like Vortex’ implementation a little more, but both work.
IOR also has a “secondary aiming point” built into the elevation knob. It is a little stub (you can see it in the picture above) that rotates around the elevation knob and can be set for a specific bullet drop point that you often use. For example, you can use the ZeroStop for your regular zero (200 yards for my 338, for example), and the “Secondary Aiming Point” for 600 yards if that is a common shooting distance. Honestly, I am not sure I like that particular feature too much, since the environmental conditions likely have a considerable effect on where that secondary aiming point is supposed to be. However, it does not seem to get in the way, so I do not mind it being there either.
The elevation knob on the Razor is probably the tallest I have seen yet:
I generally prefer lower (but still large in diameter) knobs like those on the March. Both Premier and IOR also have lower knobs. I suppose one advantage that a taller knob has is that it is easier to see what setting you are on without moving your head too much (I suspect that red fiber optics indicator is helpful in that regard). The one serious (in my opinion) weakness of this knob design is not the height, however. The height is mostly a matter of personal preference. It certainly gives you a lot of grip area, and for along range precision rifle, it is unlikely to get in the way. While the clicks are widely spaced and easily tactile, the adjustment per complete turn is only 5mrads. I found the 10mrad per turn adjustment of other scopes here to be considerably easier to use (not to mention the 22mrad Premier). I hope that future versions of this scope will offer an option of larger adjustment per turn. On the plus side, the overall adjustment range is very generous at 36mrads, and the adjustment accuracy on this scope has been spot on in my testing (please keep in mind, that I only check the adjustment by shooting so the limiting factor is likely my skills more than anything else).
Vortex Razor has a rather standard reticle illumination knob on the eyepiece. The knob is fairly low profile, but still easy to grab. The illumination brightness range is very well sorted out for operation in low light. While not fancy looking, Razor’s illumination is well calibrated and functional. I think IOR’s push-buttons are a more elegant execution, but I am not sure which is easier to use.
IOR’s windage and elevation knobs were similarly accurate, and I liked the 10mrad per turn of the elevation knob. What I did not like was the 16mrads of total adjustment range. I would like to see more internal adjustment on a scope that is otherwise a very good option for long range shooting. Even as is, it is quite useable, but I would prefer a little more adjustment for my peace of mind.
I have to admit I did not experiment with how well the IOR’s Zero Stop worked, but it seems like a fairly straight forward design: you loosen the collar arounf the elevation knob, slide it down and fix it in place. That makes for a hard stop for the knob, so that it can not move beyond a certain point.
Side focus on both scopes operated quite precisely. Razor HD had a little more travel in the knob and I found it slightly easier to use than the IOR’s faster adjustment, but both worked fine and the difference between them is more a matter of getting used to them.
IOR 6-24x56FFP has the new illumination system that consists of two rubberized push-buttons on the turret box just behind the side focus knob:
The new illumination system is easy to use and it remembers its last setting when you next turn it on (and it has an Auto-OFF feature, so that the battery does not die because you forgot to turn the bloody thing off). The only part of the reticle that is illuminated is the center dot, which I like. It is unlikely to effect your night vision and it produces no noticeable bleeding even in very low light. Some people like to have the whole middle part of the reticle illuminated (like in the Razor HD), while others think only the aiming point should stand out. I am not wholly decided on which I prefer, but I like IOR’s reticle with only the center dot illuminated.
Speaking of reticles, the IOR has the modified MP-8 reticle (the A5 version designed on SnipersHide by John Boyette of Trace Armory Group) that I am very fond of:
while the Razor came with the somewhat more complicated EBR-2):
I am not really sure which reticle I like more, to be honest. I am very used to the MP-8-A5 and I am probably more comfortable with it than with other ranging reticles. However, for those who prefer to use reticle holdover, the EBR-2 is likely a better choice. That “Christmas Tree” arrangement of dots allows for rather precise hold that compensates for both wind and bullet drop. As far as ranging goes, I thought both reticles were pretty similar in that regard. I suspect that EBR-3 reticle, also available in the Razor, would make for more precise ranging, but I would need to play with it a bit more to be sure. While this reticle may look complicated, with all those dots, in practice, it was not the case. Since the reticle is in the front focal plane, you only see those little dots when you crank up the magnification. For typical usage at lower magnifications, you do not see them and they do not get in the way.
While mechanically, the IOR and Razor HD largely run neck in neck, optically they are very different, and once again the choice comes down to what is important for your specific needs.
In terms of pure image quality, IOR 6-24x56FFP is a better scope than the Razor for magnifications from about 11x on upwards: the field of view is wider, resolution and contrast are a little better, depth of field is about the same. In terms of pure image quality this is the best IOR scope I have seen yet (and just for the record, I have seen a LOT of IOR scopes over the years). Between 11x and 15x it is almost as good as the more expensive Premier, and you can only see that Premier is marginally better during the worst of the lighting conditions where the IOR has a touch more flare. It is that close.
The eyepiece on the IOR 6-24×56 is a new design and I am very impressed with it. The eyerelief does not change with magnification and it is remarkably flexible. It takes a lot of eye movement to lose the sight picture. One interesting side effect of that incredibly flexible eyerelief is that you can induce some longitudinal chromatic aberration by accidentally having your eye too close or too far from the eyepiece. That chromatic aberration is not noticeable when your eye is exactly in the right spot. All things considered, however, I’d rather still have the sight picture even with some CA than not have it at all when my eye is not perfectly place behind the scope.
Now for the bad part: while optically the IOR is quite good, it is really a 9.5-24×56. Below 9.5x, FOV does not get any larger, all you get by dialing magnification further down is additional tunnel effect. I can tolerate some tunnel vision, but I found this to be quite annoying. From 9.5x up to about 12x or thereabouts, there is some visible rectilinear distortion near the edges, but I am not especially bothered by it. I find the tunnel vision a fair bit more disturbing.
The Razor HD is also very good optically, but it suffered a little in this comparison, sitting next to March, Premier and the new IOR. However, in terms of ability to see detail, it was a bit better than the very well regarded IOR 3-18x42FFP that I also had on hand. The field of view of the Razor was not as wide as that of the Euro scopes, but on the other hand, there was no tunnel effect whatsoever. Depth of field was quite good (as expected for such a long scope), as were resolution and contrast. I think that the overall optical design of the Razor is very good for the money, and it is especially impressive that it was achieved together with a very large adjustment range (36mrad). Low light performance was, as expected, quite excellent and the ability to dial down the magnification without incurring any tunneling really helped there.
Looking at this IOR and at the Razor HD in low light, was pretty interesting: as you increases magnification IOR lurched ahead, but as you dialed it down the Razor was beginning to look better in comaprison.
Eye relief on the Razor HD is long and constant; however, it is not quite as flexible as on the new IOR (6-24x56FFP). Still, I did not run into any problems with eye position while shooting the Razor.
Bottom line is that if you are looking for the best tactical scope in this price range, there are not all that many options. The Premier, S&B, Hensoldt and USO are appreciably more expensive.
Leupold Tactical and a few others are cheaper and generally not as good. For ~$2k, your options are pretty simple: Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50 and a couple of IOR models like the new 6-24x56FFP I just looked at and the similarly new 3.5-18×50 that I have not seen yet. Kahles has a couple of K models in this price range, but they have SFP reticle and non-matching knobs (Mil reticle and MOA knobs). Nightforce’s similarly equipped FFP scope is more expensive, and has a rather different magnification range.
Between the two scopes I just discussed, I would probably take the Razor HD as a better sorted out tactical scope. Lack of tunnel effect and large adjustment range are important. As a target scope, I would probably lean more toward the IOR with its superior high magnification image.
Both scopes looked very much at home on my 338LM, and that is probably an application that scopes this big are best suited for anyway.
IOR Valdada 3-18x42FFP “Snipershide Special”
This IOR model has been around for a while and mine is from the 1st generation batch. I am not going to go into much detail about it, but I figured it is worth saying a few words (besides, I’ve talked about it extensively in other articles).
;I mostly included it in the comparison as a “baseline” since I have compared it to so many other designs out there. Comparing it to March and other scopes in this article gives me an opportunity to figure out how they rank compared to the rest of the field.
It also made me think a little about how this scope stacks up with the competition today. Honestly, it still stacks are pretty well. Despite being pretty beat up, mechanically the scope has not given me any trouble (there was a problem with the first batch of this design, but it looks to have been resolved in subsequent generations).
Optically, it was not as good as the newer and more expensive designs I compared it to. However, it was not all that far behind. There is a little tunnel vision between 3x and 4x, but for the rest of the magnification range the field of view is nice and wide. Depth of field is excellent as are resolution and contrast. I am having trouble thinking of a similarly configured scope for ~$1500 that would be as good. Colors are slightly warm, but that does not bother me. Reticle is rather thick, but the open center does not hinder precision shooting and it is very easy to use in low light (there is no reticle illumination on this one).
This is not a light scope, but it is fairly compact and offers very useful magnification range.
Eye relief is a little shorter than I typically like, but then again, it usually sits on my 338Lapua where it has not hit me yet.
In some ways, this the “poor man’s March”. IOR 3-18×42 and March 2.5-25×42 are similarly sized (IOR is on the right in the picture below), although IOR is a bit beefier. While March is ultimately a more flexible design, the IOR is also no slouch there and it is almost twice cheaper. I would love to be able to afford the March when the FFP version comes out, but in the meantime, I am quite happy with the IOR.
SWFA SS 10x42HD
This is another one of my “baseline” scopes.
As a matter of clarification, this is not the original Super Sniper 10×42, which is a very good $300 scope, but would not in any way belong in this category. This the newer HD model made in a different factory (same place that makes the Vortex Razor HD) and sharing nothing with the original scope except for the name.
It is a very “meat and potatoes” design: fixed 10x magnification, MilDot reticle, 0.1mrad knobs. That’s it, but it works like a charm and the optical quality belies its $800 price tag. At 10x, the resolution is similar to the IOR 3-18×42, but contrast is a touch better and color balance is perfectly neutral.
Mechanical quality is rock solid (I tried to break it, but it laughed at me). Adjustments are flawless. Adjustment range is huge. Eyerelief is fairly long and quite flexible. The scope is reasonably compact and neither very light nor heavy. It is the only scope here that has a rear parallax adjustments. For me personally, I t does not make much difference, but it is definitely easier for lefties to deal with.
I wish the knobs had 5mrad per turn adjustments, but for the money I am not going to complain too much. Besides, there are some nicely visible indicators on the turrets that tell me where in the adjustment range I am. The knobs are very easy to reset.
I have had a chance to look at this scope side by side with the much more expensive Leupold Mark 4 10×40 and the S.S. is a step above. I can only think of one 10×42 scope that outperforms the 10x42HD S.S. and that it the $1800 Schmidt and Bender PMII.
As I warned above, this was not all that much of a comparison since the scopes I looked at were very dissimilar in both design and pricing. After spending a lot of time with them, I did come out with some conclusions though:
If you want the best, you have to be willing to pay for it. Scopes like the new IOR 6-24x56FFP and Vortex Razor HD (which are not exactly cheap to start with) are snapping at the hills of the likes of Premier Heritage and March, but are not quite as good yet.
However, the differences are fairly small and if you are willing to make some compromises you can save a fair amount of money without losing all that much performance.
New IOR gets you close in high magnification image quality, while the Razor HD is a superb allround design.
If you are really opposed to spending more than $1k on a scope, with S.S. 10x42HD you can still get mechanical and optical quality that is right up there with the really expensive stuff, but be prepared to give up some features. Still, as far as the basics go, the S.S. HD can hang in there with some very expensive stuff.
Here is where the scopes used in this article came from:
March 2.5-25×42 was provided by Kelbly’s
Premier Heritage 3-15×50 was loaned to me by my friend Jeff
IOR 6-24x56FFP was provided by Liberty Optics
Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50 was provided by Vortex Optics
IOR 3-18x42FFP and SWFA S.S. 10x42HD were provided by ….. well, me. These are my two favourite scopes of all the ones I own.
Copyright ILya Koshkin 2010. All Rights Reserved
Posted by ILya at 6:13 am
That part usually means "do not reproduce or copy my content without express written permission." Do you have that? Pretty sure a link to the source would be sufficient and in keeping with common practices on the web regarding respecting other people's content. Though it does not surprise me that it was not done that way. I for one think the bulk of that article should be deleted from your post, as ILya deserves a "click" from those that want to read his content, as does every other writer. Show some respect.Copyright ILya Koshkin 2010. All Rights Reserved
Where exactly can we reference this article? Because I have yet to ever meet someone who compares March to Premier. In fact, in these articles March wasn't very comparable to anything but a Zeiss...
Here it is.
High End Tactical Scopes: East vs West » OpticsThoughts
He must have missed that day in class where they talked about plagiarism and properly citing another author's content.That part usually means "do not reproduce or copy my content without express written permission." Do you have that? Pretty sure a link to the source would be sufficient and in keeping with common practices on the web regarding respecting other people's content. Though it does not surprise me that it was not done that way. I for one think the bulk of that article should be deleted from your post, as ILya deserves a "click" from those that want to read his content, as does every other writer. Show some respect.
Thanks, Orkan.That part usually means "do not reproduce or copy my content without express written permission." Do you have that? Pretty sure a link to the source would be sufficient and in keeping with common practices on the web regarding respecting other people's content. Though it does not surprise me that it was not done that way. I for one think the bulk of that article should be deleted from your post, as ILya deserves a "click" from those that want to read his content, as does every other writer. Show some respect.
That is why I left your name on the bottom of it. So everyone would know where it came from. No disrespect intended as I'm sure none was taken.Thanks, Orkan.
There are a couple of reasons I put that copyright notice in there.
For the most part, I like to know where it goes, so I can join the discussion if need be and elaborate further as needed.
Another is that I have occasionally seen people somewhat unscrupulously use my work to help them sell scope without proper attribution.
When my article is copied I do not know that it is copied. However, when it is linked, I get a notification, so I can check in and follow the discussion as time allows.
If anyone wants to copy some portions for use on a forum, I am unlikely to have any issues with it, but I like to be alerted.
Have I ever told you what I do as a dayjob?The night vision/thermal industry is one that could use more independent and qualified articles/reviews. Wouldn't hurt my feelings if you targeted that type of equipment.
Sweet! Sounds like you're in a far better position to test NV gear than anyone else in the industry, and you've proven a passion for it. I look forward to it. Some subjective reviews on some of the new digital NV units and low-cost thermals would be a nice place to start.
My job is just like any other job: it is really cool at times and mind-numbingly boring at others.Good to have you here mate, more technical knowledge is always good to have. Is you day job as cool as it sounds?
I am looking into that. I need to somehow convince the makers of these devices that it is worth their while to let me borrow them for a bit for a comparison.Sweet! Sounds like you're in a far better position to test NV gear than anyone else in the industry, and you've proven a passion for it. I look forward to it. Some subjective reviews on some of the new digital NV units and low-cost thermals would be a nice place to start.
I've been in that position more times than I can count. I've been contacted by numerous manufacturers to write an article about their product. Then after telling them what I intend to do to test it, the tone of the call shifts quite drastically. You'd think after taking a look at my previous work, which is what leads them to call me in the first place, they wouldn't be so surprised that I intend to show their product for what it is, and not what they want me to say it is. It's amazed me just how many manufacturers know their products are not worth what they are charging. Shocking, really.I suppose, it comes down to how confident they are of their products.