Vortex Razor HD Gen II Review

Vortex Razor HD Gen II Review

First things first: this Vortex Razor HD Gen II Review is my first review of Vortex, and actually my first review of the new optics lines we are now carrying.

That’s right folks, Blue Line Optics now sells, tests, reviews and uses Vortex Optics, Leupold and US Optics.

What this means for you – you now have access to data driven reviews and answers to your questions about all these scopes, as I take them apart one by one and test their Tracking, Features and Optical Quality.

What this means for me – I have a whole ton of new toys to play with, and will be spending more time at the shooting range this summer than I probably have in my entire life.

If you just stumbled across this off Google or Bing, let me welcome you to Blue Line Optics reviews. In our reviews, we perform pretty standard but rigorous testing of rifle scopes.

We test the features, the tracking, the optical clarity. Then we combine all these scores into one final score so that you can use this data to make objective and rational decisions about what you want to buy.

Because really, $2,000 is too much to spend on something you’re going to end up not using. Or something you get in the mail and realize was oversold by the manufacturer.

Which is where we come in – we spend the money on these scopes, test them out, give you the facts, then let you decide for yourself, before even buying anything.

And in this article we’re going over the Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II. This was a flippin’ blast to do and I had a ton of fun with this scope.

But I’ve been really curious about the Razor HD Gen II ever since I reviews the Athlon Ares ETR. The Ares ETR got a very very good score. Okay, the Ares ETR got a perfect score.

And if you don’t remember, we stack the Razor HD Gen II up against the scopes that we review as the benchmark for the features score.

So needless to say, this was definitely the first Vortex scope I wanted to take an in depth review and look at.

So without further adieu, here is the full and unabridged Vortex Razor HD Gen II Review!

 

The Vortex Razor HD Gen II

The Razor HD Gen II is Vortex’s premiere rifle scope. These scopes have been flying off the shelf at retailers all over and selling out at Vortex HQ regularly – trust me, it took a couple of weeks to get some in.

Vortex jam packed the Razor HD Gen II with features, premiere glass and incredible precision turrets that make this one of the top scopes on the market.

Coming in at $1999.99 for the basic MRAD and MOA reticles (okay they’re not basic, but compared to the Horus reticle versions…), they are priced right in the range where folks can justify making a purchase.

They upgraded the turret system to feature L-Tec turrets, which is a brilliant system combining both the ability of a true zero stop and locking Elevation and Windage turrets.

What stood out to me about the turrets was how easy they were to use. It’s difficult and takes some manufacturing dollars to make a true zero stop, and even more dollars to give you locking capabilities.

Most scopes just do the capped turrets. Which, don’t get me wrong, are fine. But for those of us who like to make quick adjustments while still having the ability to lock these adjustments in.

The Razor HD Gen II also features a fast focus knobbed, side focus parallax adjustment, IR capablities, fully-multicoated optics and finally an extensive reticle selection.

Which is what, in my mind, sets the Razor HD Gen II above the ETR and other scopes of similar quality. As you’ll see in the scoring below, the ETR and Razor HD Gen II score pretty much the same, and the ETR is far cheaper.

However, the Razor HD Gen II has a few features that do make it worth the extra money. One of those things is the variation in reticles.

The RHG2 (Razor HD Gen II, it’s a lot of words to type over and over again) can come in an EBR-1C MRAD, EBR-2C MRAD, EBR-7C (MOA or MRAD), Horus H59 and the Horus TREMOR 3. This is one of the cooler features actually.

Horus Vision, for those of you who don’t know, is a premiere reticle maker. Like this is the type of business they specialize in. Other high scope manufacturers feature Horus reticles too, like Leupold and US Optics.

I talked about the Horus H59 in the article about advanced reticle types, so I won’t go into it too much here. But basically what you need to know is the reticle is structured to make your job of hitting the target much easier by featuring more useful holdovers with spacing enough to keep the reticle clear.

 

Well that’s my personal take on the Razor HD Gen II. Now let’s take personal opinion out of the equation and get into the data, shall we?

 

Features Score

So up until this review, I have been using the RHG2 as the benchmark for the features score on optics. So I had to figure out what else to do here.

But then I thought – well, it has all these features that I personally consider to be the best features to have on a scope.

In fact, the Razor HD Gen II has more features than scopes that are sometimes 150% the price! Sometimes even more.

Typically you go for something like a Nightforce when purchasing a scope of this caliber. Even most Leupold’s don’t have all of these features combined in one.

So really, it’s natural for the RHG2 to set the bar right? Then I remembered that it also has the supreme reticle selection. So I came up with the below results:

I put it up against the Ares ETR. Why? Because the ETR had the best features score when standing next to the RHG2.

So I have to apologize here, because this chart puts the Razor HD Gen II at an additional 2 points. But this doesn’t put any of the scores off by much, just a couple of points.

I added an additional 2 points for the RHG2 because of the premium reticle selection. Not: this does not downgrade the ETR reticle selection per se, it just makes the RHG2 better.

Let’s look at tracking.

 

Tracking Score

Perfect tracking, need I say more? There were only 4 times the reticle missed alignment with the place it was pointing.

Which puts it’s overall tracking percentage at 99.95%, which is right next to the Ares ETR (99.96%). At that point, I consider the differences negligible.

The Shot Group Tracking Test got a 27/30, which is 2 better than the Shot Group Tracking Test for the ETR.

This gives the Razor HD Gen II an overall score of 95%. Note: this does not mean it tracks at 95%, this means the score is 95%. To see how we make this calculation, view the spreadsheets attached and also watch the tutorial here.

 

Optical Quality Score

I was not surprised when we did the Optical Test, because the reputation around Vortex glass has been great.

I’m not exactly sure where the glass comes from but I believe it is China. But to be honest, this is not a bad thing and most big manufacturers are doing it.

In fact, all the Athlon scopes I’ve reviewed so far have been Chinese glass, and they have been getting consistently A and B scores. What most people don’t realize is that China used to be the place to get cheap crappy stuff, but over the past couple of years they’ve adapted to consumer demands and have gotten their act together, for lack of a better term.

As you can see, the Razor HD Gen II got an incredible glass score, even better than the ETR (although not by much, this is a not a statistically significant error).

One thing to note here – the RHG2 features Edge To Edge clarity on it’s glass. This definitely showed on those far away tests we did.

Overall, very impressed with the Optical Quality on the RHG2!

 

Final Score & Conclusion

To sum things up, let’s look at the final score!

It should come as no surprise to you that the Vortex Razor HD Gen II got a solid solid solid A. Coming in at 658.72 points out of 683 total, the scope gets a 96.45%.

Tracking is borderline perfect, Features got above 100%, Optical Clarity was solid. Overall, this is a scope that is very much worth the money.

Now, when we compare this scope against something like the Athlon Ares ETR, which is $800 cheaper, a lot of people wonder – is it worth the extra money?

And that’s a good question. The answer is a bit complicated, because I really can’t tell you – this all depends on your preferences.

The L-Tec turret system is definitely better to use than just a simple locking turret, like the ETR. to to mention the Edge to Edge clarity, and the etra selection in reticle design on the Razor HD Gen II.

Are these worth the extra $800 to you? If so, then yeah, you’ll be happy you spent the extra money. If it isn’t, then the ETR is a great scope to get.

The bottom line is I’ve yet to find anyone who has been disappointed with the Razor HD Gen II. And if you’re looking to get one yourself, we sell them here and you can get 12% of your first order at the store. Head there now.

 

Drop a comment below – what do you like the most about the Vortex Razor HD Gen II?

Athlon Helos BTR Review

Athlon Helos BTR Review

We all know by now that Athlon is doing good work in the realm of making high quality rifle scope for an affordable price. After reviewing a number of their scopes, I was really excited to finally get to the Athlon Helos BTR review.

I’d been looking forward to doing this review for a while, because the Helos BTR is by far one of the most feature packed scopes on the market. As you’re going to see in the features score, it dominates the field, and this is one of the Helos’ most redeeming qualities.

The Helos BTR will cost between 569.99-599.99 (not including the low power close range scopes, these are the 2 high mag models) depending on the magnfication range you want.

So, is it worth the money or is your hard earned cash better spend elsewhere?

I like to let data tell me the answer to these types of questions. Let’s get to it!

Athlon Helos BTR

Like mentioned above, the Helos BTR was released to create a feature packed Rifle Scope that doesn’t max your credit card out. The main focus here was on the features.

It has a lot in common with the Argos: Illuminated Reticle, Fast Focus Knob, Parallax, etc. But it has one important upgrade:

The locking turrets.

These are sweet. They allow you to make your adjustment then lock that adjustment in place. Perfect for competitions and hunting even.

We actually sell quite a few of these scopes. The market for the Helos is very into the price point and everything that comes with it.

Ready to see how it played out on the scores? Let’s get to it!

Features Score

When it comes to features, all i can think of saying is DAMN.

The Helos came in with a 42/44 total points in the features score, giving it over a 95%. This stacks it up next to the Razor HD and Ares ETR as if they’re close relatives.

Now, keep in mind that there are plenty of things that differentiate the Helos from the Ares ETR and the Razor HD Gen II, which we will discover with the other two tests. These make them worth the extra money.

That being said, with locking turrets, ED Glass, the capability of a 34mm tube and 56mm Objective Lens, this is one feature packed optic.

And it is very very rare you find something with these kinds of features for anything near the price the Helos BTR is. Kudos Athlon, you won this round.

 

Tracking Score

The Helos BTR scored very well in the tracking score as well, keeping well under the 1% error:

For the shot groups we missed only 3/30, and when we calculate the total inches off if the average and stdev of the errors were to be extrapolated over 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 yard shots, we get a total tracking score of 88%.

Note: this does not mean that it’s tracking at 88%, this just means the score itself got 88%. The scope is actually tracking above 99%, but we use this grade to tell the differences between the scopes in a way that’s easy to understand.

One thing I want to note here is that while doing the shot group tracking, I did lose my zero at round 3. I’m still not sure why, and I hesitate to blame it on the scope because it could be a number of reasons, but I wanted to state that up front as well.

 

Optical Quality Score

Much like the Argos BTR, the optical clarity score is the only real disappointing part of The Helos BTR.

And we sort of expected that, because the Helos and the Argos use the same glass (I have not confirmed this, but based on some research it seems like this is the case).

The issue really comes when you get to the higher magnifications. For some reason the lens gets blurry, and the parallax adjustment and fast focus doesn’t do much to help.

That being said, the optical score got a 75%, so not terrible, just not ETR or Cronus style.

 

Final Score and Wrap Up

Overall the Helos BTR scored a 620.64 out of 748 points, giving it just under 83% and a solid B.

I think this is a very representative score of the scope, because as outlined above, it has some fantastic features but also is lacking in some of the departments we would expect from an A scope.

The optical clarity is the Helos’ biggest nemesis. Not that we are necessarily expecting edge to edge clarity in a scope under $1000, but this score definitely brought the Helos down a bit.

That being said, it has solid tracking and the best set of features for a scope of it’s price that I’ve seen. Overall it’s a solid buy for people looking to get a feature packed scope but don’t want to shell out for something like the Ares BTR.

I hope this article helped you in your buying decision, and if you are ready to get the Helos BTR, we give 12% off your entire order if you are a new customer or an email subscriber. Head to the shop to take advantage of yours!

Athlon Argos BTR Review

Athlon Argos BTR Review

For the Athlon Argos BTR review I wanted to make sure I did it right. This scope has had some unbelievable popularity since it released.

And for good reason. It’s hard to believe Athlon actually pulled off packing as many features as they did into a scope for under $400.

ED Glass, FFP, Christmas Tree Reticle, Illuminated Reticle. Some said it couldn’t be done, Athlon said NAY!

This is probably one of the best scopes for people who are either:

  1. Looking for a budget build (under $1000 for the entire gun and setup)
  2. Just getting started in PRS/shooting in general

It’s not the quality of the Ares (BTR or ETR) so trust me I’m not going to try to sell you on that.

But for the price, this is one hell of a scope. Not only is it packed with features, the features live up to the hype.

1000 yards used to be something people just talked about, the shot we only saw the most hard core and incredibly dedicated men and women hitting.

But scopes like the Argos BTR are making it possible for the hobbyist to hit steel at 1000.

Now, before you tell me how incredibly difficult that is, I know. I know it’s difficult, and you need actual skill to be able to do it.

My point is that you no longer need to invest $2000 in a scope that can take you out that far. You can spend less than a grand on the entire gun build and get a combo that can get you there.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a budget build that has the potential to hit 1000, or if you’re new to the sport and want a low priced but high quality optic to cut your teeth on, the Argos BTR won’t disappoint.

Ready or not, here comes the Athlon Argos BTR Review!

Athlon Argos BTR

I’ve talked about the Argos BTR in some of the other reviews, like the Ares ETR. But those glimpses into this scopes capabilities did it no justice.

The Argos BTR reflects Athlon’s commitment to making a high quality rifle scope for a low price. And it is a testament to their ability to control the manufacturing process in a way that makes this possible.

Let’s back up a bit.

If you didn’t know, Athlon is making a name for themselves as the manufacturer of high quality optics for a low price. The Ares ETR is by far one of the best rifle scopes for the money. But those who don’t want to spend $1200 should take a closer look at the Argos BTR.

Because there is a difference between what we deem a “good rifle scope” :

  1. Good rifle scope for the money
  2. Good rifle scope

Now, the Ares ETR is a “hell of a rifle scope” both for the money and just in general. The Argos BTR is a good rifle scope, not just for the money, but in general.

All of these features you would typically expect on a scope of $800-$1200 easily. But Athlon said F**k it, I’m putting it on an optic for under $400. And I’m going to do it without sacrificing much of the quality.

I said much on purpose. Because I don’t want you to think that you’re going to be getting an Ares ETR. The Argos BTR simply isn’t that.

The glass isn’t as clear, it doesn’t track as well, and some other things will make the ETR worth that extra $800 you spend on it.

But like I mentioned in the intro, this is an optic you can use to learn the game, or put on a budget build that you still want to hit 1000 yards with.

Which was Athlon’s goal from the start. Side parallax adjustment, FFP reticles along with HD glass makes this scope easy to adjust to different distances and calculate holdovers with.

Newbies to PRS will find it easy to learn on, because the reticle isn’t incredibly complicated. Budget builders will find it feature rich and easy to use when hunting ground squirrels, shooting steel or whatever it is they bought the budget build for.

Let’s take a look at the features and stack them up next to a $2000 scope just to see how it holds up, shall we?

Features Score

This is the most impressive score of the Argos BTR. When comparing to a scope like the Razor HD Gen II, it came in at 37/44 total points, giving it a score of 84.09%!

That’s great for a scope under $400. Like really great actually. The Razor is one of the most feature rich scopes on the market, and the only scope to beat it so far in our tests in the Ares ETR.

So for a company to drop a line of scopes for under $400 that come that close to something that high quality, that is saying something!

And not only does it have those features, they hold up pretty well. To the right is a picture of my own personal Argos, and the one that we have been using for the tests. Very few dings and scratches.

The Parallax knob performs flawlessly, and it starts at 10 yards which is not very common. I zeroed it in 4 shots, and set the zero stop after that.

One note is that the zero stop is not a “true” zero stop, i.e. like on the Ares or the Razor. This is why I gave it a 3/4 on the Zero Stop feature. You have to manually go in and set the zero with the washers they provide.

See this link to get a walkthrough on how to do that.

Tracking Score

If there is one quality that Athlon scopes have impressed me with over the past couple of reviews, it’s their tracking. From the Ares BTR to the Midas HMR, these scopes have consistently turned out superior tracking results.

The Argos does this too, coming in with a 111.65/130, or an 86% on the turret tracking score.

This is impressive for a scope of this price. Most scopes below $1000 (not to mention $400) are around the C mark for tracking.

Making a scope that tracks well is one of the more complicated parts of the manufacturing process, which makes it more expensive to make the scope en masse. So when you come across a cheap scope, you tend to get what you pay for in the tracking department and the optical clarity department.

Not the Argos though. The Argos does a great job here. The turrets are very crisp.

One caveat: the zero stop is set by you and thus isn’t a “true” zero stop. 

That being said, I didn’t have a problem with it once it was set. However if you’re new to the game, you might need to go through some trial and error before you get it right.

Optical Quality Score

This is the area where the Argos kind of let me down a little bit. By no means was the optical clarity score crappy, but it wasn’t spectacular, let’s just put it like that.

What really drew the score down was the max magnification, which was 24x. Keep in mind, I am using the 6-24x model. 

Scopes tend to get a little fuzzy at the max magnifications they go to. So if you get the 8-34x56mm model, the clarity will be better.

All of that said, this is still a great score for a scope under $400. The parallax adjustment helps a lot, which is not a common feature under $400. And the Argos BTR definitely outscores the majority of scopes out there for the same price point.

Final Score And Conclusion

Overall, the Argos BTR gets a 607.64/748 points which is 81.23%, a solid B. Which I think is very reflective of the scope after using it for quite some time.

It’s not a Razor HD, it’s not an Ares ETR or BTR, and it’s not a US Optics B-17. It is a Good Scope, and a Good Scope For The Money.

It comes with some very impressive features for a scope in it’s price range, and based on my impressions and these tests, it seems to lead the market in the price range it falls in. Keep in mind, I have not performed the same tests on the other scopes within the Argos price range though.

Overall, this is a great scope I recommend buying for those looking for a budget scope and those who are just getting into shooting and want to cut their teeth. The multitude of features gives you a lot of value for the money and let’s you learn how to use things like parallax and zero stops without investing too heavily in the optic.

If you’re ready to get yours, use this link to go to the product page and use optics12 at checkout to take 12% off your order.

Now what’s your opinion? Have you used the Argos BTR before? What’s your feedback on it?

Those of you looking to buy one – what gets you interested in it? Will you buy or not buy it based on the data provided now?

Leave your comments and feedback below!

Athlon Midas HMR Review

Athlon Midas HMR Review

We’ll be taking a detour from the regular article with this Athlon Midas HMR review. I say that because the scopes we’ve been focusing on are more focused towards long range precision shooting, whereas the HMR is primarily designed with hunters in mind.

Not that you can’t using it to shoot steel. This also doesn’t mean you can’t use a scope like the Ares BTR or ETR for hunting if you choose – plenty of people do.

But there might be certain features you prefer to have when in a hunting scenario, versus a long range tactical application.

For instance, when hunting you might be running into a low light scenario if you’re out and about in the early hours of the morning. For that, an illuminated reticle can be very helpful.

And in a long range shoot where you have to adjust magnification to hit targets at multiple distances, an FFP scope will be much beneficial than an SFP scope (see FFP vs SFP).

 

That being said, the HMR was designed for hunting. Featuring capped windage and elevation turrets, an illuminated reticle and priced under $500. A lot of hunters are taking a look at this scope.

Today we’re going to take a deep dive into the optic and put it through the same tests we put the Ares ETR and Ares BTR over the last couple of weeks. You can check out the full Athlon Midas HMR review video below, and read on to see even more in depth details about the scope.

The Athlon Optics Midas HMR

Like I mentioned above, this scope was built with the hunter in mind. That being said, the Midas line (including the BTR Gen 2, TAC and HMR) is part of the upgraded series of scopes Athlon released after they figured out how to build really high quality turret systems.

For those of you just getting into the PRS business, a high quality tracking system is rare. And scopes manufactured in China aren’t known for their high quality tracking systems. This is usually reserved for the European brands – hence the extra $3k on the price tag.

Athlon seems to be getting this perfected though, which is testament to their innovation. All of the lines of scopes from the Midas on up have this High Precision Erector System.

The systems are processed by computer numerical control machines, or CNC machines. This allows incredibly precise manufacturing capabilities.

(If you want a good example, check out the turrets for the Ares ETR to the right. Not bad right? The Midas Line has similar turrets).

Furthermore, Athlon seems to have much more control over the manufacturing process than their competitors do. This is the source of their innovation in the supply chain.

The emphasis on hunting is why we see a Second Focal Plane setup instead of First Focal Plane. SFP is advantageous over FFP in this situation because the reticle won’t obstruct the shot, since it doesn’t grow when you magnify the scope.

More features important to hunters are the capped windage and elevation knobs, an illuminated reticle and a heat treated one piece aluminum tube. (Obviously, tactical shooters will find these useful as well).

Your magnification range is lower, going only from 2.5-15x. But most hunting shots don’t actually need much more than that anyways – 24x and beyond is usually only for longer applications.

Which made it a bit challenging for us to review, because our review system was set up for the 24x systems. But we make do.

Combine all of that with HD glass, you get a scope built for that perfect hunt. But does it hold up under pressure?

 

Let’s find out!

Features Score

For testing the HMR, I had to decde if I was still going to stack it up next to something like the Vortex Razor when it comes to features. If you remember we did that for the Athlon Ares ETR Review.

A criticism of continuing to do this approach would be – “Hey Ryan, this scope is designed for hunting, so shouldn’t it be judged off of hunting scopes?

Agreed, it is a scope built for hunters, as per the advertisement. That being said, these reviews (as they currently are) are not meant to be reviews for different kinds of scopes but rather all scopes in general.

For that, we need to have a standard, and compare the scope to that standard. Eventually we can go into the different types of scopes, but for now let’s just get a general gist shall we?

With that being said, here’s how the Midas HMR scored:

As you can see, we didn’t even have to worry about the HMR being blown away by the Razor. Most of the features the Razor advertises, the HMR has too.

And that should be expected. Points were docked for missing an illuminated reticle, a small Objective Lens, smaller Tube Diameter, no edge to edge clarity (although still clear glass) being an SFP instead of FFP scope and having less Elevation Adjustment.

This brings a grand total of 35/44 points on the features score, which is a 79.5%. The Midas HMR is $489.99, and the Razor Gen II is $2k. Big price difference.

 

Turret Tracking

Like mentioned above, the Midas, Ares and Cronus lines at Athlon feature the incredibly accurate and incredibly high quality turrets Athlon has figured out how to make for 1/3 the cost of rivals.

Our tracking results for the HMR are below:

 

This sucker tracked damn near perfectly. This both should and shouldn’t be surprising at the same time.

It shouldn’t be surprising, because it features the same turret system as the Ares ETR which as you might recall tracked perfectly too.

But it should be surprising, because this is a $500 scope. I don’t know many $500 scopes that track like that.

Most will have some sort of error in there. But the Midas was damn enar flawless. And if you don’t believe me, just check the data. Numbers don’t liee.

Final point allocation was 122.05/130, which gives the Midas HMR turet tracking a 94%. Outstanding!

 

Optical Quality

Again we run into a bit of a problem here: the HMR only goes up to 15x magnification. If you recall, our optical test is designed for low, mid and high magnifications, with the high magnification usually being 24x.

This obviously wasn’t possible with the HMR, so I had to decide:

Do we do the full test and grade off that? Or do we average it out to account for the quality it could match?

Well I think we have to do both, which is what I ended up doing.

(Note: there is an error on the “Max” field. The points are labeled next to the 24x, but we measured with the 15x)

All in all, I think the resulting score was pretty fair. We get a 148/181 which gives the HMR an 82%, so a solid B.

What I think should be noted here, is that it’s likely the HMR would have been A in terms of glass quality, had it had that extra magnification power. 

Notice I said “it’s likely” because we can’t be sure about that. The higher the magnification, the blurrier the glass gets.

So the HMR gets a B, mainly due to the lack of power.

 

Final Score

So we come to the final score, the moment you’ve been waiting for.

In short, the HMR gets a solid B, coming in a 148/181 points which gives an 85.93%.

The biggest things working against the HMR in terms of points was the Optical Quality and the Features Score.

 

This had more to do with the fact that the scope was being compared to $2000+ scopes like the Ares ETR and Vortex Razor HD Gen II. Considering the grading curve, the HMR performed very admirably.

 

Considering the price tag of $489.99, the HMR performs beautifully. Capped turrets, crystal clear glass and a more or less perfect tracking system makes this a very competitive scope for it’s market.

Now I want to hear from you: what do you think about the Midas HMR? Would you use it to hunt? Why or why not?

Athlon Ares ETR vs Athlon Ares BTR

Athlon Ares ETR vs Athlon Ares BTR

Seriously, why on earth would you pay 3k-4k for a scope when you can get the same quality for around $1200?

 

I mean you would have to have some serious brand loyalty to do that. And even then, you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of people willing to part with that extra 2 grand.

 

The problem with Rifle Scopes though is that until recently, there had been really no way of getting the features of a $3k optic for under $2k, let alone $1k.

 

Then Athlon came along, with their incredibly effective manufacturing process and took the industry by storm when they released the Ares BTR. This puppy has features usually seen on scopes for $2k+, and their price? $849.99.

Actually if you read this in time, you can get it for $599.99. March 2019 has the Ares BTR $250 off.

 

About 2 years after the BTR, Athlon released the Ares ETR. And this has proven to be just as popular as the BTR (if not more).

 

 

With this popularity comes an extra whopping $350 onto the price, bringing in the Ares ETR at $1199.99. Which begs the question:

Is the ETR really worth that extra change?

 

In short, yes, and if you haven’t seen the review on the Ares ETR, check it out here.

 

But still, it’s worth looking at what the differences are between the two. This way, you’ll know which one is right for you, and whether you want to spend the extra money on the ETR or not.

 

The Athlon Ares BTR – The Answer

We’ll start off with an overview of the Ares BTR.

 

The Ares was (and is) dubbed “The Answer” as in “The Answer to your request for an optic with a bunch of great features that doesn’t break the bank.”

 

And for that, it definitely does what is advertised to do. We did a full review on the Ares BTR, and if you missed it (or don’t want to take the time to go read it) basically here is a synopsis:

1) It has incredibly Valuable features like:

  • ED/HD Glass
  • Multi Coated lenses
  • Etched glass reticle
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Precision Zero Stop system
  • Argon purging

(this list is not extensive)

2) Turret tracking is great

The machine tracking test we did resulted in a B grade (83.47/100 points). This is a lot better than most scopes out there, and proves that whatever issues were around with the BTR turrets are now in the past.

Basically, the BTR originally had complaints about the turrets being a little mushy. All new BTR’s now ship with the new turret system, and this mushiness is a thing of the past.

3) Optical clarity is phenomenal

The tests we ran use a combination of a basic Snellen Eye Chart and the USAF 1951 Resolution Exam. Out of 335 total points possible to earn on tests conducted at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards (along with a maximum distance test), the BTR scored 313, giving it a solid A or 93%.

 

Basically, everyone in the optics world thought this kind of quality could only be done if it cost a lot of money.  The features were great, and the reviews the BTR got made this easily one of the most popular (and highest quality) scopes on the market.

 

Athlon Ares ETR

Which brings us to last July (2018) when Athlon finally released the newest addition to it’s lineup: the Ares ETR.

They wanted to improve on the BTR more, and from what I can tell, the goal was to make a scope that lay somewhere in the middle between the BTR and the Cronus BTR.

 

The Cronus BTR is Athlon’s flagship product, and stands toe to toe with some of the highest quality (and priciest) scopes out there. However, it costs $1799.99.

The BTR was a bridge between something like the Argos BTR ($369.99) and the Cronus – i.e. something really high quality but not to pricey.

 

The ETR was the attempt to close that gap even further. Whatever they could do to improve on the BTR, they did.

 

Athlon brought out a whole new turret system (we’ll get into that even more in a bit) and upgraded the tube by moving it from a 30mm to a 34mm. Then boosted the Objective Lens from 50mm to 56mm to let in more light.

 

Other than that, on paper these scopes look pretty similar. So what exactly is the difference?

 

The Difference

On paper, there are quite a few differences, primarily:

  •  The ETR has a 34mm Tube, BTR has a 30mm
  • ETR has a 56mm Objective Lens, BTR has a 50mm
  • ETR has ED Glass, the BTR has HD Glass (turns out this isn’t really much of a difference)
  • The ETR has an extra 3x in magnification
  • ETR has total elevation and Windage adjustment of 32 Mil (110 MOA), BTR has 24 Mil (80 MOA)
  • The ETR is quite a bit bigger, weighing in at 36.5 oz (BTR is 27.3oz) and 15.3” long (BTR is 13.8”)
  • The ETR also has a locking Windage Turret

However, when using the two and running them through the same basic tests for tracking, optical quality and features scoring, you start to see where the differences are.  

 

For starters, the glass on the ETR did not blow the glass on the BTR out of the water. This was surprising, and yet not surprising simultaneously.

 

I mean there wasn’t much to improve on the BTR in terms of glass quality. If you remember, we gave it a 93% on the optical quality score through the review, so a solid A. The ETR ended up getting a 95%.

 

The difference between those two scores I consider to be within the margin of error, as our tests on optical quality are more for practical use and not to use machinery to test. i.e. we’re using Snellen Eye Charts and USAF 1951 Resolution Tests at various distances and measuring the resolution and our ability to see the letters.

 

So they’re both killer scopes in terms of optical quality, but this doesn’t justify an extra $350 onto the price in my humble opinion.

 

So what does, you ask?

 

The Turrets, that’s what!

The Difference That Makes A Differece

Okay, let’s start this section off by saying that I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Ares BTR turrets. Our tracking test returned a solid B on tracking.

 

When the scope originally came out, some of the reviews came back stating there was something wrong with the turrets. Some reviews stated them as being mushy and not enough definition between the clicks to notice the change.

The Ares ETR Turrets track as well as the $3k-$4k scopes.

Athlon fixed the problem and releases all new BTR’s today with the new turrets, so if you buy it new from a dealer you will be getting the newest version with solid tracking.

 

Anyways, a solid B on tracking, that puts the BTR in the top 10% of scopes out there (this is my estimation). And typically, scopes that track better than the BTR are going to cost 3-4 thousand dollars.

 

That is, until the ETR.

 

The ETR is, let’s just say it, by far one of the best tracking systems out there. With the manual adjustment test on a tall target we ran, it was rarely ever off. In fact it scored an A in a test that is, let’s face it, kind of like those Physics 222 tests I used to have to take in college:

 

Everyone studied their ass off for 4 weeks, showed up and failed. Class average was a D or a C.

 

Well, the ETR is sort of like that guy who wouldn’t show up for class, just do the homework and study the night before the test and show up and get an A-. Those damn curve setters, let me tell you.

 

And that’s honestly what the ETR is – a curve setter. The clicks on the turrets are extremely defined and firmed. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below:

 I ran this through not only my regular use of the optic on my Ruger American, but also through the manual adjustment test and a group shot test at targets with 10 seconds in between shots to adjust and settle (hopefully simulating a competition like scenario).

 

Never did I have problem with knowing what Mil I was on, the reticle landed where it should have landed, and for the most part my shots landed within what’s normal for my shot groups on my Ruger.

 

So, the BTR turrets are great, but the ETR turrets are the curve setter especially for optics in this price range. I have no clue how they made it for that cheap, but I can’t wait to see if they can keep releasing systems like this.

 

Additional Important differences & Wrap Up

The total elevation and windage adjustment for the ETR gives you a whopping extra 8 Mil / 30 MOA of adjustment, which is nothing to sneeze at.

 

You can hit 1000+ yards with the BTR so don’t think you’re necessarily sacrificing anything if that ends up being your scope of choice. But the ETR is build for those of you who are ready to take your long range shooting to a completely different level.

 

Which I think is the most important part to understand about the difference between these two juggernauts: they both are incredibly high quality and very much worth the money. But the ETR just set a brand new standard for what we can (and soon should) expect out of optics for under $2k.

 

Scratch that, for optics under $1500.

 

Athlon obviously has something going on with their manufacturing process that’s letting them drop the price of building something of this quality. Some folks in the industry have ben skeptical as to whether they could keep it up.

 

I think both of these scopes show they can. I mean there wasn’t really much to improve on the BTR with how it was priced, and yet they did it any way.

 

To sums things up: which one you go with will be determined by whether you are wanting just a high quality scope, or if you think you’re ready to take your game up not just a notch, but to buy a new belt entirely. The choice is yours.

 

For those of you that have used both, leave us in the comments below:

 

What did you notice were the main differences between the two, and which one did you end up preferring and for what reason?

Athlon Ares ETR Review

Athlon Ares ETR Review

Last week, we started off our review series by taking a look at the Athlon Ares BTR. This week, we’re going to apply those same principles and do an Athlon Ares ETR review.

 

We got great feedback on the Ares BTR Review, and by great I mean both things people liked to see and also things people said we could improve on.

 

I didn’t have a chance to incorporate all these changes, as some are going to take some time to do. For example, we’re currently investing in a calibration machine that is going to make it possible to do a much more controlled tracking test.

 

What we’re currently doing to test tracking is putting the scope through a tall target test without the shooting part. Meaning we’re putting a tall target (like the one below) at 100 yards and moving the reticle up various Mil and MOA values then measuring how off it lands compared to where it should be.

This works better than just shooting a gun because

1) we’re not relying on how good my groups are that day and

2) factors like wind and gravity won’t have an effect on the result.

 

For now, I think what we’re doing is working pretty well. But we did make a couple changes to the features scoring and the features quality scoring.

See the full video below then feel free to read through as well to get a full idea about what the scope is like. As always, I appreciate any and all feedback, both positive and negative.

Let’s check out the background on the Athlon Ares ETR.

 

About The Athlon Ares ETR

Athlon came out with the Ares ETR in July of 2018. It was a follow on to the incredibly popular Ares BTR, but with some upgrades based on feedback they got from customers who used the Ares BTR.

 

From what I can tell, they were wanting to improve on the Ares BTR without jacking the price up to what the Cronus BTR runs which is $1799.99 (the Ares BTR is $849.99). Remember, Athlon’s specialty is making these high quality scopes affordable for the average shooter.

 

By far the biggest improvement is the turrets. Holy smokes folks, this scope tracks incredibly well, and if you watched the video you can hear how clear and pronounced the clicks are.

 

Then there’s the 34mm tube, giving you 32 Mil (110 MOA) of total adjustment, versus the Ares BTR  which was 24 Mil (80 MOA). And the 56mm Objective Lens which ups the clarity on the scope by taking in more light.

It’s almost like they were trying to put as many of the features from the Cronus BTR they could on the Ares without jacking the price up to $1800. Of course, whenever companies try an approach like this quality is the first thing that should be scrutinized.

 

Which is what we will be scrutinizing heavily in this review. The ETR comes in at $1199.99, so it’s not like this is just pocket change.

Still, these kinds of features usually come with a price tag of almost double what the ETR is coming in at. This has made the ETR incredibly popular. In fact, we regularly sell out of the Black Mils (MPN 212100) and the wait list can sometimes be as long as a month because Athlon just can’t make them fast enough.

 

But is this just hype? Or are we actually dealing with a revolutionary optic?

 

To answer these questions, we’re going into 5 different testing categories which have a total amount of points possible each. We’ll give the scope a total amount of point earned in each category, and at the end we’ll total it up to give a final number of points out of points possible. This will also give us a solid letter grade to work with.

 

So no fluff here folks! This is the hard data. None of this is my pure opinion of the scope (although I do have one), it’s all backed up by results.

 

Let’s start with the first test:

Features Score

Some of the feedback we got from the last review was that it was too long, and I agree.

 

One of the areas I decided we could shorten it with was the Features Score. What I did here was move the Features Quality and Durability Scores into the Features Score.

 

And we also made this more objective by stacking the scope in question up with a market leader – The Vortex Razor HD Gen II, a scope that runs around $1999.99.

 

I gave the Vortex a “perfect” score on all the features, and determined a perfect score was 2. Some features had multiple features within it, and for that I gave it a 4 for a max score.

 

I then scored the Ares ETR based on whether 1) it had the feature and 2) whether this feaure lived up to the advertisement. If it missed either of these, it missed a point.

 

Here are the results:

The only thing it missed was the Edge To Edge Clarity. The ETR does get a little fuzzy at 30x.

 

But it ended up beating the Vortex when it came to elevation and windage adjustment. The ETR has 32 Mil total for both of these adjustments.

 

For that, I gave it an extra point, so 3/2. This gave it an overall features score of 44/44.

Tracking Test

We did the same tracking test as last time (only this time with Mil instead of MOA) and measured how far off the reticle was when we adjusted for 2, 4, 6 and 8 Mil, then back to zero.

 

We also added (by request) a tracking test of shooting groups at paper. 

 

For this I used my Ruger American Standard with 308 Win 150 grain (Winchester Brand) ammunition. This reliably will shoot under 0.8 Mil at 50 yards for me when I give myself 5 seconds per round.

 

This is not using a lead sled or anything, so mind you that I much prefer the machine testing. But you all wanted to see what this looks like when we shoot groups, so we shot some groups, I’m not complaining!

 

I have a set of targets that have 0.8 Mil boxes all 1 Mil from each other and basically moved turret accordingly while still mainting the center dot on the center box. I did 5 rounds,, gave myself 10 seconds to adjust the turret and aim, and I missed a point every time the round landed outside the box.

 

The results for this and the machine test are below:

We get a total of 89%, or 116.08/130.

I will say this: I think that this scope is probably the benchmark in terms of tracking and the curve setter. This test is like my physics 221 exam from college: everyone and their dog got a D, then there was that one dude who showed up having barely studied the night before and got an 89% and that was the highest grade in the class. The Ares ETR is that dude.

I want to find a better way to grade tracking, as with the current system it would be nearly impossible to get an A. That being said, this is the unobstructed data so you can see for yourself.

 

Optical Quality Test

We didn’t change anything from this test and the ETR performed miraculously, as was expected.

 

It was hard to beat the BTR in the first place, which came in with a score of 313/335 total points. But the ETR stepped up it’s game and came in with 318/335, giving it a total score of 95%, a solid A.

 

Again for this we used both the USAF 1951 Exam, and the Snelle Eye Chart to measure both resolution and practicality.

 

Conclusion

Bottom line – this is a bomb a** scope, no doubt about it. If you can stomach the $1199.99 price tag, you’re going to be very happy with the results you get.

Overall score (when weighted accordingly) was a 580.12/615, giving it a solid A.

(Note: We multiplied the features score by 2 and the tracking score by 1.5 to make it more weighted in the final score)

 

This might still be a little out of your price range, and if you’re still new to the game, then something like the Midas TAC or the Ares BTR might be more up your alley.

 

Still, if you can swing the ETR, I highly recommend getting it for your next gun build.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? I’ll take them all! Leave them below, let me know what you’re thinking and I’ll get back to you as well.