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28 Oct

Why My Friday Was Better Than Yours

Posted by Mark Harris on

Grab a compass and maybe pack a lunch, because this blog post goes in a lot of different directions, and covers a lot of ground. 

On Friday, October 16, my Team was in lovely Middleton, Wisconsin visiting the fine folks at Vortex.

My teammate Mike’s turn for blogs was the following week and by every right he should have been the one writing about the experience while it was fresh in his mind.  But out of kindness to me, plus my notes on the annual performance review and possible vandalism to his vehicle, he wrote about something else that week – and left our trip to Vortex for me to write about this week.  So, thanks, Mike, and please notice that no harm has come to your car, and your review will be favorable.  You rock.

I had high hopes for spending some quality time with my own Vortex products over this last weekend, on the annual trip to my ancestral homeland in the Great State of Tennessee, but the weather wasn’t cooperative.  Four of us arrived late afternoon on Friday, and the rain started Saturday morning.  And it was still raining when I left on Tuesday morning.  It was STILL raining when I got home to Illinois on Tuesday evening, 12 hours later.  As a matter of fact, it was still raining when I left for work this morning, and… it’s raining now.

So, no outdoors time, but we had a pretty good pile of DVDs, four different bottles of bourbon and a variety of beer.  And wasps.  And hornets.  A recent cold snap had driven the wasps in to anywhere they could find, and the hornets had apparently spent the summer adding to my house.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that nest is about 18 inches wide, and turns up at the bottom to a point like a rhino horn.

Yeah, it's a crappy photo.  YOU climb up and get closer…

The fireplace has no damper, and the wasps and hornets were using that as a point of entry.  The top of the chimney is capped and screened, but judging by last year’s copperhead that my cousin found in the living room, I either need to check that screen, cut back the tree from over the roof, or both.

The crappy weather means that I can’t regale you with stories of awesome shots with my Viper PST 2.5-10×32 FFP, but thanks to Mike, I still have something to write about – the trip to Vortex a couple of weeks earlier:

That Friday the 16th, we pulled out of my driveway at 5:45 am to be at Vortex by 8:30, and traffic cooperated so much that George and I had an extra 45 minutes for breakfast at McDonalds.  One wrong turn and 15 minutes later, we were pulling up one minute early for our appointment.  You lucky folks who live in the area have seen firsthand the enthusiasm and professionalism of the folks at Vortex, but for anyone in the rest of the country, let me describe the working atmosphere At Vortex Optics to you.

Everyone there has the look about them like they had awakened to the sound of songbirds, fed their thoroughbred stallion, taken a hot bath that was the perfect temperature, opened mail that contained their lottery check, ate a breakfast that included bacon, kissed their supermodel wife/husband goodbye (ideally not one person), walked a short distance down a leafy street and arrived at work to be presented with a mug of hot cocoa and a sleepy puppy, told to take lunch early, and then take the rest of the week off with pay.

You know, happy employees.

Okay, I know that anyone is on their best behavior when someone is visiting – any employee that’s likely to go postal or slip you a note asking you to “send help – being held prisoner” is wrapped in duct tape and put in someone’s trunk until the tour is over – but it’s really something different at Vortex.  Everyone we spoke to was… proud of what they were doing.  I have a fairly high functioning BS detector (honed by exposure to bertrillium and zantitium) and in my professional opinion, these folks at Vortex -along with their products – are the Real Deal.

We discussed what our customers were asking and saying about their products, and they were receptive to our answers.  One thing I mentioned was that if a customer was on the fence between a Vortex product and a competing product, the Vortex warranty was the tie-breaker.  Consider this: A lot of companies have a limited lifetime guarantee on their optics.  Their OPTICS.  Have you ever looked into the warranty on the electronics INSIDE the optics?  Not lifetime.  For example, there’s a company with a forever warranty.  “Forever” on the illuminated reticle means five years.  Kind of puts your wedding vows in a new light, huh?  “Forever and ever, up to five years”.

Ant that five years looks pretty generous compared to another manufacturer’s two years on electronic components…

If you’re in the market for a rangefinder, for example, and company A, whom we will call “Vortex” essentially says “you will never, ever have to buy another rangefinder” and another company says “Buy our rangefinder… heck, buy another in a couple of years, and potentially a couple of years after that, for the rest of your life, HAHAHAHA…”.  Which one are YOU going to buy?

Recently in a forum, someone mentioned proudly (and foolishly) that he was “not a Vortex Kool-Aid drinker”.  

From Wikipedia:

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is a figure of speech commonly used in North America that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. It could also refer to knowingly going along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure. The phrase oftentimes carries a negative connotation when applied to an individual or group. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion.

The phrase derives from the November 1978 Jonestown deaths in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of Jim Jones, committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide.  Although the powder used in the incident included Flavor Aid, it was commonly referred to as Kool-Aid due to the latter's status as a genericized trademark.

Three things come to mind here:

First of all, Mr. Not A Vortex Kool-Aid Drinker (who will be referred to hereafter as Mr. NAVKAD), it wasn’t Kool-Aid, it was Flavor Aid (grape), as evidenced by the empty packets found at the scene.  Why, it’s almost like YOU’RE the one just repeating what you hear…

Secondly, Mr. NAVKAD, when I’m in the market for a product, I get to pull out examples of everything I’m considering, and compare them before purchase.  In almost all cases, Vortex was the winner.  I’m spending my own money, and could not care less what anyone else thinks of my purchase – so no peer pressure or persuasion involved – just excellent products, the best warranty and exemplary customer service.  This would be the “critical examination” mentioned above in the Wikipedia listing.

Finally – avoid people who claim to be the reincarnation of reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi, Father Divine, Jesus, Gautama Buddha and Vladimir Lenin – simultaneously.  That Would be Jim Jones, not Mr. NAVKAD.  Or maybe he does as well, we've not met.

In the interests of full disclosure, our legal department has asked me to state that while a guest of Vortex Optics, I was not at any time offered grape Kool-Aid, grape Flavor Aid or any flavor of any powdered drink mix – but I did have a delicious cup of coffee, two bottled waters and a Diet Coke while there.  Plus an unsweetened iced tea with lunch, and survived it all.

Speaking of lunch, after a healthy lunch of fried fish and clam chowder, we drove farther north near Lodi to a private range and spent a lovely fall afternoon shooting at stuff.  I have mentioned in other blogs about not having much open space for longer-range shooting at my farm in Tennessee, so it was an absolute treat to be able to stretch out a little at 550 yards at the range near Lodi.  Thanks to the quality of the provided firearms and optics, I probably shot better than I’m capable of under normal conditions, and as much as I hate how overused the word is, it was AWESOME.  FRIGGEN’ AWESOME, even.

We're shooting at those things, way out there, that you can't see.

So what firearms were provided?  We got to shoot these rifles, and didn’t even have to clean them when we finished:

6.5 Grendel JP Enterprises 18” PSC-11 with all of the standard options along with Silent Captured Spring, Magpul UBR Stock, and Odin Works XMR Extended Mag Release, topped with a Vortex PST 6-24×50 Second Focal Plane MOA sitting in a Bobro Mount.

My personal favorite was the custom built 6.5 Creedmoor, a Defiance Deviant Tactical. XLR Element Chassis, Jewel Trigger. The Vortex Razor Gen II 4.5-27×56 First Focal Plane MOA was just a joy to look through.  There is a 6.5 Creedmoor in my future.

Yes, I like my job.

Our boss Steve, showing us all up.

George, in his happy place.

Mike – you can't see him, but he's there.

And the brave soul who went first, Matt.

There was another custom build, an AR-15 .223 Mega Arms billet ambidextrous lower with a Mega Arms Megalithic Upper. JP Enterprises Low Mass Bolt, JP Enterprises Silent Captured Spring, Timney Trigger and a Brux 20” Barrel.  This particular rifle was paired with a Vortex Viper HS 6-24×50 with BDC Reticle MOA in an ADM Mount.

The rifle that had a line waiting for it was a .308, the shop LMT with a Razor Gen II 4.5-27×56 FFP MRAD.  The LM308MWS can change calibers by swapping out the barrel – just two torque bolts at the back of the handguard.  Available calibers are .243 Win, .260 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, and .338 Federal, as well as 4 or 5 length/weight combos in .308 Winchester/7.62 Nato. The barrel we were shooting with was a 7.62×51/.308 in a 16” configuration.

To recap why my Friday was better than yours, I was in Wisconsin in the fall, we took a tour of all of the Vortex operations, had a traditional Wisconsin fish fry for lunch, shot rifles I can’t afford with someone else’s ammo, didn’t have to clean the guns afterwards and bought a 6-pack of New Glarus Brewing Company’s excellent Fat Squirrel Nut Brown Ale on the way home.  If it weren't for George needing to get home to let his dogs out, Culver's Butterburgers would have been involved and I could have just died happily in my sleep that evening.

But more importantly, we saw some old friends and made some new ones.  Many thanks to Shamus, Joe, Tom, Ruben, Riley, Jeff and everyone we met at Vortex that made our trip the most fun five guys from Illinois can Wisconsin without getting arrested.

And I was getting paid, to boot.  Beat that, Mr. NAVKAD.

Mark H.

P.S. By the way, Vortex is going to rock the industry in January.  Just sayin’.




Mark, who feels uncomfortable referring to himself in the third person, was taught to shoot at age 5 by his father. Mark grew up, or at least increased in age, in east central Indiana. After realizing that he was not going to become an astronaut, he attended design school and spent 25 years in commercial printing before a trip to the emergency room convinced him to abandon this folly. The online purchase of a holster led Mark to OpticsPlanet where he is happier than any person has a right to be, except that his wife refuses to let him buy a dog or a motorcycle. She is, however, pretty darn cute, according to Mark.

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