One of the silent auction items from the 2021 Marty Brown Memorial™ series of events was a VIP Weekend at Vortex Optics/Vortex Edge. Phil Brown (Revere’s Riders Vice-President and Marty Brown Memorial™ Event Director), Bradley Settle (Revere’s Riders President), Bruce Williams (Revere’s Riders Webmaster, At-Large Board member, and past President), and John Catmull were the winners of the auction.
This past weekend, June 10-11, 2023, they travelled to Barneveld, WI and had an exceptional experience (beyond VIP) at the Vortex Optics corporate headquarters and adjacent Vortex Edge firearms training facility. Vortex Optics is a manufacturer of riflescopes, red dots, binoculars, monoculars, rangefinders, spotting scopes, tripods, and associated accessories. Vortex Optics has been in the hunting, shooting, and outdoor optics business since 1986 and is a family-owned and veteran-owned business. Vortex Optics was recently awarded a 10-year contact from the US Army for the NGSW-FC system.
Vortex Optics is also an extremely generous 5-year sponsor of the Marty Brown Memorial™ series of events (one of only 14 companies to have shown that level of dedication).
On Saturday morning, we met Reuben Aleckson at the Vortex Optics headquarters building in Barneveld, WI. Travis Vogel joined us slightly later after finishing some final setup at the Vortex Edge training facilities (more about that in a bit). The Vortex Optics headquarters sits on a slight rise above the rolling hills and grassland of the adjacent Barneveld Prairie State Natural Area.
Reuben and Travis gave us a tour of the Vortex Optics research & development, manufacturing, assembly and warehouse facilities. These facilities include state of the art equipment such as:
- CNC machines
- Precision measurement equipment
- Custom firearm recoil simulator for testing scope durability
The entire R&D, manufacturing, and assembly areas are contained in a temperature controlled area to ensure that strict tolerances are maintained.
After the facility tour, we were allowed to pick out a few items from the on-site apparel store. A short drive into the town of Barneveld took us to the Ope Haus Pub for lunch.
After scarfing down delicious Wisconsin burgers, waffle fries, and (of course) cheese curds, Reuben and Travis gave us a comprehensive tour of the Vortex Edge firearms training facilities. These include:
- 25 yard indoor range
- 50 yard indoor range
- 100 yard indoor range (rated for .50 BMG)
- 15 yard indoor range reserved for research and development
- a Vitra computerized 300 degree simulated range
After seeing the firearms training facilities, we returned to the 50 yard range to get some training with Vortex Defender red dots on Glock 17 pistols. As “old guys”, all of us had mostly stuck with iron sights on pistols and had little to no experience with pistol-mounted red dots. Going through drills with red dot equipped pistols quickly showed the advantages of such sights in quickly and accurately engaging targets. Afterwards, we may have been looking through the Vortex catalog researching which red dot optic to mount on our personal pistol…
We wrapped up the day at the 100 yard range to confirm zero on the rifles we brought to use on Sunday. Travis went above and beyond to supply John with a mount for his new Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15×50 scope, get it leveled and mounted on his AR-10, and make sure it was properly zeroed (as an ex-sniper in the military, John didn’t need the help, but it sure was appreciated). Phil got his FN SCAR-17 with Vortex Viper PST 2.5-10×32 FFP scope zeroed and Bruce verified the zero on his Armalite AR-10 equipped with a Vortex Viper PST 4-16×50 FFP scope.
We finished the day at Bistro 101 in nearby Mount Horeb with an outstanding dinner of Wagyu steaks, tenderloins, sirloins, bacon wrapped dates, seared scallops, and creme brûlée. Even though it is located in a small town, Bistro 101 is easily the equal of any big city restaurant/steakhouse you’d care to name. If you’re ever in the Madison, Wisconsin area, make a point to eat at Bistro 101. Your tastebuds will thank you.
Sunday was the day to which we all looked forward: shooting on the 1,000 yard long-distance range. Understandably, the long-distance range is a short-drive from the Vortex Optics headquarters complex and is located in the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin farm country. The range consists of several hundred acres of property, a covered firing line, and a beautiful barn with all the amenities you could imagine.
Travis let us through the gate to the property and we met up with Reuben at the covered firing line. Set out on the shooting benches were multiple rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor: a Bergara Premier Competition, two Seekins Precision HAVAK HIT Pros, and a custom rifle. Each rifle had a Vortex Razor HD Gen III 6-36×56 FFP riflescope mounted to it and a Vortex Razor HD 4000 GB rangefinders sat next to each rifle.
In the morning we would be shooting these rifles and utilizing the Razor HD 4000 GB rangefinder synced via Bluetooth to the GeoBallistics app on our phones. This combination of high-tech gear allowed each of us to quickly get on target with the expert assistance and spotting skills of Reuben and Travis. Each of us fired our first shot on the 100 yard targets — child’s play with these rifles, scopes , and rangefinders!
Skip the 200 yard berm as we all wanted to get out to the “serious” distances. Range the target with the Razor HD 4000 GB, dial in the scope setting that GeoBallistics displayed, and fire for effect. At 300 or 400 yards a couple of us found that the come-ups called for by the GeoBallistics app were slightly off (we were hitting low). Travis and Reuben explained that this is typically due to the “box velocity” of the ammunition being measured with a 24″ “test barrel”. Real world barrels are nearly always shorter than this and consequently produce lower muzzle velocities which result in more bullet drop compared to the “box velocity”.
Here is where the GeoBallistics app shines. Just input the range you are at and the actual scope setting used to get hits on target — GeoBallistics then automatically adjusts the muzzle velocity to match that scope setting at that distance. This “trues” the ballistics calculations to be dead-on even at longer target distances. Its like chronographing your ammunition without having to invest in an actual chronograph!
All of us kept progressing out to longer and longer distances using the scope settings called out by the GeoBallistics app (the Razor HD 4000 GB syncs via Bluetooth with GeoBallistics so you get immediate display of the necessary scope setting in the rangefinder display; no need to consult the GeoBallistics app on your phone unless you wanted to drill down into the details).
Occasionally we would need to hold fire while wild turkeys wandered aimlessly around a berm we were targeting (they are visible in the left-hand “through the spotting scope” photo below as black “blobs” between the right-most berm at 900 yards and the 1,000 yard berm behind it; note that you can just make out the rabbit steel on the far right of the 900 yard berm).
Each of us was soon at 1,000 yards and hitting torso sized steel within the 2nd or 3rd attempt. Misses were generally due to a wind change; elevation was either spot-on or within a scope click or two. Behind the spotting scopes, Travis and Reuben called out windage corrections to get us back on target. 1,040 yards is the longest available target and each of us pinged steel at that berm (squeeze trigger, one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three, PING!).
Back at the barn, Travis expertly grilled burgers for lunch (on toasted pretzel buns with Wisconsin cheese, of course). The burgers were accompanied by chips, crackers, burnt ends BBQ dip (out of this world delicious!), salmon dip, assorted pasta and potato salads. We were all still full from our dinner the night before at Bistro 101, but somehow managed to pack in all of this delicious food. Nobody asked to stop for dinner on the drive back home…
In the afternoon we left the bench behind and worked on PRS (Precision Rifle Series) style shooting off of a variety of practical rests to include a 4×4 post and a tube-style corral gate. If you’ve never tried to shoot long range off these kind of rests, its as difficult as you might imagine it to be. Even so, a couple of us succeeded in hitting a rabbit size steel at 900 yards off the corral gate.
Finally, we brought out our personal rifles to get some DOPE out to their maximum range. This is data that none of us had managed to previously collect for our rifles given the scarcity of ranges that extend to these distances. The opportunity was not wasted and we all left with DOPE out to 700-900 yards.
Before leaving, Reuben and Travis extended to us the honor of signing their competition trailer.
I only know Marty through the stories that Phil tells at Marty Brown Memorial™ events; hearing those stories, I feel as if I missed the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman. Even so, I’m pretty sure that anyone who refused a “port” in their right shoulder so they could continue shooting while getting chemotherapy infusions would have had a blast with us (the port was put into Marty’s left shoulder instead). I sincerely hope that Marty was looking down on each of us and able to vicariously enjoy the thrill each of us felt while having one of the best weekends of our lives. And then, with God’s good graces, Marty was able to go to the long-distance range in heaven and hit some steel out at distance herself. Because in heaven you get to do what gives you joy and do it with your best friends, right?
Maybe Vortex Optics in Barneveld, Wisconsin was a little bit of heaven on earth. At least for a weekend, anyway.
Join Us at an Upcoming Marty Brown Memorial or Revere’s Riders Event
I’ve met some of the most generous and genuine people in my life via involvement in the shooting sports. If you’d like to met some of those people, learn some rifle or pistol marksmanship skills, hear some American history, and perhaps win some fantastic items donated by generous companies to our Marty Brown Memorial™ series of events, join us at one of our upcoming events: