Vortex Optics has made a big splash onto the scene of Tactical Scopes in the past several years with the introduction of their top of the line Razor series of scopes as well as their mid priced Viper PST (Precision Shooting Tactical) line of scopes. The Razor line of scopes is aimed squarely at the likes of Nightforce and Leupold Mk4 series of scopes and the PST series is focused more toward the lower end Mk4 and high end Bushnell Elite series of tactical scopes. We have reviews of those scopes coming in the next few months but before that we had the opportunity to review a standard no PST Viper scope and we thought it might be worth taking the time to look at a scope that might be more focused on the Law Enforcement (LE) sharpshooter arena. Typically we review scopes that are geared toward long range sniping and thought some reviews of scopes suitable for LE work would still be appropriate. Here we are taking a look at the Viper 3.5-10x50mm with standard duplex reticle. The funny thing is that after we received the scope here, we discovered that this particular model has been discontinued, but we figured a review of this scope should still give us a good understanding of the scope line as a whole.
Vortex Optics is actually a “Doing Business As (DBA)” of Sheltered Wings which has been around since 1989 with Vortex Optics being established in 2004. They are based in Middleton Wisconsin and are relatively new when it comes to optics manufacturers. Vortex, like most optics companies, has their scopes produced for them by an OEM scope manufacturer. The different lines of Vortex scopes are manufactured by different companies and in different countries. The high end Razor line comes from Japan while the Viper line is manufactured in the Philippines by one of the higher end manufacturers there. They also have a low end line, the Crossfire, which is made in China and is not recommended by us for use on high end tactical rifles.
The Viper arrived to us in its original box, though with some Leupold PRW rings mounted on it. The scope comes with a Vortex labeled cloth, bikini style scope caps, a Vortex lapel style “pin”, some instructions and a card describing the Vortex warranty. The warranty is a lifetime, no questions asked, fully transferable warranty which is about as good as you can ask from a scope manufacturer. The instruction manual provides some basic information on the use, mounting and maintenance of the Viper and other Vortex scopes.
The size of this particular scope is more in lines with a hunting style scope, which it essentially is, and smaller than the popular large size tactical scopes. With this smaller size comes lighter weight, weighing in at just over a pound. The length is fairly compact as well being just over 13″, making the scope a good fit for a LE sharpshooter’s rifle or even a patrol bolt rifle to be carried in a patrol cruiser. The tube is a one piece tube made from aircraft grade aluminum for durability. The finish on the tube is a matte black anodizing that is evenly applied and appears heavy enough to be durable and has a good uniform appearance over the entire scope. There are not a lot of markings on the exterior of the scope which helps the scope maintain a tactical appearance and the Vortex logo on the cap is semi-matte and not overly bright, as is the Vortex name on the left side of the scope.
The eyepiece is a fast focus eyepiece that adjusts through the entire dioptre range in just under one full rotation, about 340 degrees. The eyepiece, or dioptre, adjustment is used to focus the reticle to an individual’s eye, much like corrective lenses do. The dioptre range of this Viper worked well with my glasses on (yes, I’m getting old and wear glasses) but could not quite focus the reticle all the way without my glasses. This is not critical as I shoot with contacts or while wearing glasses, but just another test to see how much adjustment there is. The eyepiece itself does have a rubber ring to help prevent bodily injury in the unfortunate instance when the shooter might get a bit too close to the scope during recoil. That rubber also provides a good gripping surface for adjusting the eye piece as well.
In front of the eyepiece is the magnification ring that is rotated to change the magnification setting of the scope. We have often commented about various scopes how the user is required to lift their head from behind the scope in order to see what magnification the scope is set at. This is important for second focal plane scopes with mil style reticles in order for the operator to know if they have the scope on the right power to do their range estimation. Well, the Viper line of scopes certainly solves this problem with a rim style protrusion that sticks up from the eyepiece with the magnification numbers on it and then a red mark on a protrusion from the power ring itself to act as an indicator for what power the scope is set on. This makes it absolutely visible and clear from behind the scope as to what magnification the scope is set on. While this is not critical for a duplex style reticle like this scope has, but with the available BDC reticle and mildot reticle available on other models in the Viper lineup, it would be more important. While the rim may look a bit odd, the setup is certainly effective. The protrusion from the power ring with the red indicator mark on it also acts a good gripping point when adjusting the power ring, which happens to be very smooth through its entire range and offers just about the right amount of resistance, not too stiff and not too loose. The rest of the power ring also has rough texturing to provide a good gripping surface.
The elevation and windage knobs are a low profile turret style knob that are finger adjustable and have dust covers. Typically for long range tactical work, tall tactical style turrets, either exposed or with dust covers, is preferred; but as we indicated at the start of this review we were reviewing this scope as a potential Law Enforcement scope where engagement ranges are typically less than 100 yards. For those purposes this style of knob is perfectly suitable. The top of the knobs have a fine knurling type texture to help with gripping which seemed to work okay. The clicks are a nice muted click with a nice tactile feel to them and are very positive. Each click is .25 MOA and there is total of 12 MOA per revolution which is enough to take a 308 out to 500 yards in that single rotation, after that things would get tricky as there are no visual indicators or markings to help keep track of how many revolutions you have made. If the operator needed to, or wanted to take the rifle and scope to long ranges, the scope itself has plenty of adjustments with an advertised total adjustment range of 82 MOA, though this particular sample had ‘only’ 78 MOA.
The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevation knob with the same nice clicks and the markings on the windage knob do count up in both directions. The overlap would start at 6 MOA and at the shorter ranges this scope would be used for in a LE environment this amount of windage adjustment would compensate for anything up to gale force winds.
Recently there have been more and more scopes coming out with easy resetable turrets for zeroing the knobs on the scope. While this feature I do not consider being overly important, in some cases it may be handy. This Viper had such a feature where all you needed to do to reset and zero the knobs after zeroing the scope, is to lift up on the knob until it detached from the internal mechanism, which happened with a click, and then while holding the knob up, rotate it around until it is on the zero mark and then push it back down onto the mechanism. The knob has a spring resistance to keep it locked down unless specifically pulling it up. The spring felt like enough force to keep it from unintentionally getting moved, provided the spring does not wear down over time.
Vortex also offers custom marked BDC dials for this scope, as well as their other higher end scopes with turrets. This would be a good addition to this scope and I could see a dial marked up to 500 yards making a nice combination on a LE rifle. Vortex, Leupold, and others are making this an easy to order setup and one I personally prefer over a “one size fits all” BDC reticle. The Vortex custom dials can be ordered from the Vortex Optics web site.
This particular model Viper does not have an adjustable objective (AO), or parallax adjustment, and it is setup to be parallax free at 100 yards. This is a bit shorter than most non-AO scopes which are normally set at 150 yards, though the shorter parallax free range does suit the scope nicely for LE work where again, engagements are mostly sub 100 yards.
Vortex uses what they call proprietary XR fully multi-coated lens coatings to increase light transmission and image brightness. They also utilize Extra-low Dispersion (XD) glass to increase resolution and keep a sharp crisp image. When looking through the scope the glass is good as is the brightness. The 50mm objective does help gather light in low light scenarios such as dawn and dusk and the scope shows good performance in those situations. At longer ranges, the shorter parallax adjustment range of 100 yards hurts it as the image was not as sharp and crisp when we were engaging medium to long range targets (400+ yards) with the scope.
For the shooting tests we mounted the scope on our Remington 700P test mule rifle which is chambered in 308 Win., using the set of Leupold PRW rings that were mounted on the scope and then mounted the scope to the 20 MOA tapered steel rail. With everything mounted up we headed to the range for the shooting tests. While it was not snowing during our shooting sessions, the ground was snow covered which is always a good test for contrast when trying to see into shadowy areas.
We shot the scope through a small box, a group at each corner separated by 6″ and the tracking was good with the final group being on top of the first and a nice square box on our target. As is now one of our standard tests we also fired one group and then adjusted the scope 10 MOA to the left and fired another group to measure how accurate the MOA clicks were on the scope. In a perfect world the groups will measure 10.47″ (10 true MOA) apart. The groups with the Viper were 10.2″ apart which puts it very close and probably within the margin of error from the group sizes themselves as both groups measured about .75″. Shooting the scope at 100 yards and then adjusting up to 400 yards and then back down to 100 yards proved to be repeatable indicating good tracking and repeatability. The duplex style reticle performed as you would expect, offering the standard point of aim and would work fine in a shorter range LE environment.
To conclude, the Viper is a good scope in the sub $500 class of scopes and we feel it would prove to be a satisfactory scope on a Law Enforcement precision rifle. The magnification range is just about right to cover the shorter ranges yet still provide good magnification for precision shot placement which is very critical for hostage and other LE situations. The good light gathering from the larger objective and good glass will help in low light scenarios, though an illuminated reticle would be helpful here as many call outs happen during the late hours. The mechanicals of the scope seem to be solid and as a whole the scope performed well. The lack of an AO and good target style knobs hinders its ability as a long range scope, but for shorter range work it should work well. We look forward to the Vortex Viper PST and Razor reviews to see how their long range sniper focused offerings perform.
Sniper Central – 2011