A few years ago we reviewed the Diamondback tactical scope from Vortex and had some good results from that more budget minded scope. But we realize it has been a while since we have tested one of their higher end scopes. Additionally, we just recently completed one of our Long Range Precision Marksman classes and as we indicated in our review of that class, the largest contingent of scopes came from Vortex. Yeah, it is time to take a look at one of their newer mid to high range scopes, especially since there have been lots of changes to their lineup. In fact, it did not surprise us that Vortex was the most common scope in our class as they have a large assortment of tactical oriented scopes for just about every scenario and budget. For this review, we felt it was time to re-look at their second generation PST scopes to see how this scope has evolved over the years and see how well it now performs. The subject of our review is a PST 5-25x50mm FFP Gen 2 scope with MIL reticle (EBR-2C) and MIL knobs.
The PST comes in a traditional scope box with the typical Vortex markings and all the normal stuff. Included in the box is the scope, a nice sunshade, bikini style scope caps, a manual and reticle guide, and some other useful items like a lens cloth. While there are no good flip up scope caps provided, the sunshade is a nice inclusion. As is our custom when doing a scope review, the first thing we do is locate the country of origin on the scope so we know what we are working with. Generally, all of the Vortex scopes are manufactured in the Philippines, but their latest low end scopes are made in China, which does not thrill us. Thankfully the higher end scopes like the PST continue to be made in the better factories located in the Philippines.
The eyepiece is a normal fast focus eyepiece that will cover the entire diopter adjustment range in about 1.2 rotations. There is light knurling on the eyepiece itself, but not much and it can be a bit slippery. Thankfully, once the eyepiece is set, it usually doesn’t need to be adjusted much. This is also good because there is no indicator mark in order to give a reference point to return the adjustment to. Some scopes have a rubber ring around the eyepiece to protect the skin and eye in the event of a scope kiss, but the PST does not. If proper shooting technique is used, this is typically not an issue.
The ocular housing is large and is a plain straight cylinder shape with just some basic markings on it and the zoom power adjustment ring located at the front of the housing. This second generation PST has a 5x zoom range going from 5x to 25x and there are markings for various zoom powers written in a smaller white font that is difficult to see from behind the scope. The reticle is located on the first/front focal plane (FFP) so it is not critical that the scope be set to any particular setting for the reticle to be accurate. This diminishes the issue of the zoom markings being difficult to see.
There is also a hard rubber serrated ring on the zoom control knob that provides added grip to adjust the moderately firm adjustment. The adjustment of the zoom power itself is nice and smooth through its entire range with a nice quality feel to it. There is a small indicator dot on the top of the ocular housing to provide a reference point. Directly in front of the zoom power ring, the housing sharply tapers down to the 30mm diameter tube where there is 2.5″ of scope tube for which to mount the rear scope mounting ring.
The shoulder of the scope where the control knobs are located is a rounded design and not large in size. On top of the shoulder are mounted the three main control knobs of the scope that provide four primary functions. These knobs are a large externally exposed knob with knurling on top to help provide a firm grip in all conditions. The elevation knob has a single level of markings with clear numbers going from 0 through 9 and then small numbers in parenthesis above the larger number representing the second level of markings. There are 10 MILs of adjustment per rotation with a small hash mark for each .1 MIL click and then larger hash marks for .5 and a larger hash mark and corresponding number for each whole number. On the top of the knob there is an orange fiber optic indicator above the 0 for a quick and easy reference, though we never seemed to use it.
Vortex indicates that there is a total of 20 MIL of elevation adjustment, which is slightly below 70 MOA, and our test scope here had a total of 25.9 MILs (89 MOA). The clicks on the scope are pretty good, but perhaps a bit light. There is no slop between the clicks and while they are not as muted as some others, they have a decent feel to them. The elevation knob also has a zero-stop feature that is unique in how it is set. To set it, there is an internal knob under the primary adjustment knob that gets loosened and then the scope is adjusted for initial zero with that knob loosened. Its odd because when in this zeroing mode, there are no clicks, just a smooth rotation. Then when this internal knob is locked back down, everything is back to normal clicks and the zero stop is set. Just follow the manual, its fairly straight forward.
There are also horizontal hash marks beneath the knob that provide a good visual representation of how many rotations of up have been dialed into the scope. We also like the U indicators with arrows showing the direction of travel to dial in up elevation. The 10 MIL of adjustment per rotation makes the clicks a bit tight together, but it works well enough and is nicely configured on this scope.
The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevation knob and has the same knurling on top and the same three set screws. The markings count up in both directions, a feature we like, and we especially like the way that Vortex marks the knob, R1, R2, etc. This makes it clear and simple what wind you have dialed into the scope. Of course, there is an overlap at 5 MIL, but this is enough adjustment to allow a 308 to shoot in a 10 MPH crosswind beyond 1500 yards without that overlap coming into play. The factory said there is only 10 MIL of windage adjustment available, but our test scope had 19.5, though there was an odd large “click” at the end of the adjustment range both right and left. It didn’t feel right and left us reluctant to max out the windage on the scope, but those extremes likely should never be hit.
Located on the left hand side of the shoulder, are the two remaining controls. One for the illumination control, the other for the parrallax focus. The reticle illumination dial is located on the top of the focus knob and it has 10 brightness settings with an off position between each setting. The control is very short with just minimal knurling on it which can make it hard to grab and rotate, especially with thicker gloves on. The brightness settings could use some better adjustments as only the bottom five are really usable. Anything above 5 is too bright and washes out the target, especially at high zoom magnifications. This is a common mistake with scope manufacturers, and we are not sure why it isn’t more obvious. We can understand the top two, maybe three, brightness levels being really bright, but half of the ten seems excessive. There is not a night-vision compatible brightness level either.
The focus knob, sitting under the illumination control, has range markings on it from 25 to 500 and then a final one at infinity. This control is smooth with a good level of resistance to remain in place when left alone, yet not too stiff to make adjusting it difficult. The full range of the focus knob takes up about 80% of a full rotation, leaving a good amount of spacing to allow for an above average level of precision when focusing the scope picture.
In front of the shoulder of the scope, there is another 2.25″ of tube for which to mount the forward scope mounting ring. Then the scope makes a gentle slope up to the full diameter of the objective lens, creating an elongated bell housing. The overall shape of the scope is purposeful and the longer bell has an elegant shape to it. The overall quality appears to be good with a good even finish to the scope, though with somewhat plain markings. It is a single piece tube made from aircraft grade aluminum with a hard anodized finish and has all the normal proofs: fogproof, shockproof, waterproof.
The reticle is the EBR-2C calibrated in MILs and is classified as one of the popular Christmas tree style reticles with multiple, and many, hold off aiming points. There are several different hash marks for precise MIL measuring using the reticle as well as numbers along the vertical and horizontal axis. With the reticle being located on the first focal plane, it grows and shrinks with the zoom power and the details do disappear at the low settings, though it is nicely calibrate to not be too thick on 25x power. The reticle is busy, and the small dots can get lost in the background (see image above), but it works and does what it is designed to. The reticle is also etched onto the glass for the ultimate in durability.
Only the interior crosshairs, the thinner vertical and horizontal stadia with hashes, are illuminated. None of the Christmas tree dots or thicker stadia are illuminated. The glass is XD (extra-low dispersion) glass and is coated with Vortex’s proprietary XR coatings which they indicate provides better light transmission. Our personal use did reveal very bright and clear optics that is up to the task and in line with other $1000 scopes, if not a bit better.
The scope seemed to check all the boxes for features we look for and we liked the overall scope. But a scope is only as good as it performs when mounted on a rifle and put to the test. So we used a set of Nightforce Ultralite Titanium Alloy 30mm rings to mount the scope onto our test rifle, a Remington 700P chambered in .308 Win. This rifle has served our scope testing duties well and if you are not familiar with how we test our scopes, please read the article how we test rifles and scopes now.
The test day was a glorious late spring morning in Montana with the sun shining bright and the temps right around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind was minimal, maybe 1-3 mph and our first test after we zeroed the scope was to shoot the box, which the scope did without qualms and with no tracking problems. We then conducted our 6 MIL measurement test, firing the first group and then dialing in 6 MIL of left adjustment and then firing our second group. Each of those groups measured less than .7 MOA. We then always dial the 6 MIL of right back into the scope and fire one more round to confirm the tracking comes back to the original group, which it did, right on target. The distance between the two groups measured 22.1″ compared to a theoretical 21.6″. This was an error of only 2.3% which falls comfortably below our 3% allowed threshold due to group sizes. So tracking and adjustments sizes all passed well.
Using the scope in the “wild” illustrated the quality of the optics and the nice bright picture that came with the good class. The scope has 3.4″ of eye relief which is perhaps a bit shy of what we prefer, especially for big bore rifles, but it was no problem with our light recoiling .308. The zoom range seemed to work well and with the reticle on the FFP, it was nice to be able to just adjust the scope to our preferences during use, which tended to be about 14-18x depending on use. Keeping the zoom down some increases the field of view as well as the exit pupil, making it easier to get a full scope picture.
We liked using the scope on the rifle, but it was time to take a little more in depth look at how the internal components perform with reticle drift when changing the zoom, parallax focus and when tracking along a straight line. So we mounted the bore sighting grid and continued our testing, starting first with checking for reticle movement with the zoom power. The results were very good showing no detectable movement when going from 5x to 25x and back down. We do this several times looking for any movement we can detect, which was little if any.
With other scopes we have tested that have a close in focus range of 25 yards like this scope, we have noticed a lot of reticle movement on the close range focusing on many of them and usually recommend setting the low end at 50 yards. This second generation PST had far less movement than most others, amounting to only about .1 MIL when focusing from 25 to 50 yards. After that, going from 50 up to infinity, there was even less than .1 MIL. We were very pleased with these results and also when checking for reticle drift when applying either vertical or horizontal adjustments. The crosshairs would stay right on the vertical line when using the elevation and on the horizontal line when checking the windage. All of these tests indicate good initial construction quality on these scopes.
Vortex has done a very nice job with this middle of the road tactical scope and we would say it is a marked improvement over the first generation PST as well. It seems to offer a lot of scope for that $1000 price point. The optics are good, the controls do what they are supposed to and there is a lot of flexibility with the 5x zoom range and a first focal plane reticle. The scope could use some more vertical adjustment range and the reticle brightness levels could certainly use some re-calibration to be more useful. Some of the controls themselves could also be better designed to be a bit more user friendly, but overall, its a very solid offering that should work well on many different tactical rifles. There is no reason not to give this scope the Sniper Central Endorsement tag.
Sniper Central 2019