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I have owned the PST for about a year now. It sits on my Remington 700 based .308. It has seen extreme rain, cold, heat, wind, dust, mud and the odd bang on the gun cabinet. I know some scope reviews go into serious detail when rating glass. I have neither the equipment or optical knowledge to do anything like that. I am a photographer so I understand the importance of optical quality. Other than that I am just an average guy!
I began reading very positive reviews about Vortex scopes a couple of years ago. Scopes for long range are generally VERY expensive. The most interesting thing for me other than the good reviews was the price point. The Vortex is around a third of the price of competitors with similar feature… I am a full time undergraduate at the moment and I work part time. I have a family to support. We have to be realistic when it comes to the price of shooting gear. I simply cannot afford to spend the equivalent of a second hand car on my scope. My girlfriend would kill me! Every time I buy gun stuff I have to buy her sewing machines and equipment so I tread very carefully!!
I wanted a variable power scope as I use the rifle for practical as well as F class disciplines. Practical shooting can have me shooting distances of 100-1200 yds. The ability to zoom in or out quickly is important. Sometimes the targets are at unknown distance and I use the reticle to range them. For this reason I bought a first focal plane model. In the first focal plane my reticle markings will be relevant at whichever level of zoom I happen to be using. 2nd focal plane scopes must be set at a fixed zoom level to make reticle ranging possible. I wanted the reticle marking to match turret adjustments (either mil/mil or moa/moa). I never understood why any scope manufacturer produced mil reticles with moa scope adjustment. You have to do conversions in your head and it slows you down. Basically any way I can minimise maths! On top of all that I wanted the basics (reliable, hard wearing, good optics) and last but not least it would need enough adjustment travel to get a .308 out to 1200+ yds when sat upon a 20moa canted rail.
I purchased the scope from my good buddies at ACP shooting (www.acpshooting.co.uk). They had a good look over the scope as it was the first PST they had handled and were impressed. I was as well. The scope came well packaged and contained a sun shade, instructions, shims for setting a zero (I will explain), a neat little pin badge and a vortex cleaning cloth. The items were all in perfect order as one would expect. The scope itself had a rugged well made feel and a quick glance outside with it proved clear. To be honest looking through a new scope unmounted is a pretty pointless exercise as your hands wobble ect but at the very least it shows all the glass is intact.
Getting it set up
The Viper has a 30mm tube so the first thing to do was to order some decent rings. I bought a pair from Third Eye Tactical UK which fitted well and hold the scope solidly. I have a Third Eye Tac 20moa picatinny installed already so mounting was a breeze. After a lot of fiddling to remove scope cant and maintain good eye relief I was ready to continue at the range to make final adjustments. You can get the basics done on your living room floor but the fine tuning needs to be done when you can actually shoot and see how it comes together..
Sure enough I had to loosen the rings and adjust a little to get good eye relief. Some scopes are very fussy with eye relief. A few millimetres forward or backward in head position will lose you the sight picture entirely. I found the Vortex gave a generous margin which is a boon for inexperienced shooters or shooting from awkward positions (both of which tend to produce inconsistent cheek weld and head position). The distance from eye to rear lens may be fine in standard prone but what about kneeling shots from barricades or even sitting at a bench? A little flexibility in eye relief is required.
My eyesight is not perfect and I wear prescription glasses to drive. Prescription glasses cannot be worn when using a scope as they warp the image. I guess you may be able to buy special shooting prescription glasses which may work, I have never looked (pardon the pun). Like most scopes the Viper has a focus adjustment which works just fine and is stiff enough to stay in place. I often here people moaning about stiff focus adjustments. I would rather set a stiff one once than readjust a sloppy dial multiple times because it shifted in transit.
How does it perform?
From the first shot to the last I put through the rifle the Viper has performed flawlessly. This is not some kiss as Vortex scenario, I am simply being as honest as I can. The only problem I have run into over the last thousand rounds has been the scope rings working loose. That was user error on my part, I should have snugged them up firmer in the first place.
I zeroed the scope at 100yds and reset the elevation to 0. This is easily done with an allen key. As some of you may know the dial may be turned multiple times to hit long range targets. When you dial back down to your zero it can be easy to forget how many revolutions you went up and end up winding down to many (below your 100yd zero). Luckily Vortex have accounted for this by providing a physical zero stop function. The elevation dial can be loosened and slipped off and then shims are supplied which will prevent the dial from winding down below your zero. Screw the dial back set at 0 and you are good to go. Next time you want to return to your zero you can just wind it down until it stops.. While on the subject of elevation I will mention the Viper has plenty.. A touted 65moa in the manual. To be honest I haven’t physically checked it but I shot out to 1200yds with room to spare elevation wise and you do of course have elevation in your reticle should you need more…
The EBR reticle suits me well. I do not like very busy reticles, I am a follower of the KISS theory (keep it simple, stupid!). I have the Mil ret and dials because I like a coarser, faster adjustment than MOA. Coarse adjustments work fine for me in terms of hitting centre. If I am not hitting bulls then it says more about my wind reading than a need for fine adjustment..
Prolonged use and reliability
As I began to use the scope I got “tuned in” with it. I found some neat touches which I began to appreciate. The numbers on the zoom ring are angled to allow reference without much head movement. You also have a couple of little glowing filaments which help you see adjustments in low light. Talking of low light I should really mention glass quality. These days pretty much any scope you buy will have good enough glass to hit even long range targets in the middle of a bright summer day at the range. The real test is when you are in low light/mist/rain/snow and shooting dull targets against dull backgrounds. I shoot all through the winter months and sometimes this takes place in the Welsh valleys. 40mph gusting winds, driving rain, freezing cold, targets made of grey/brown steel out to 1200yds. The Viper just at it up. I did not even bother with the illuminated reticle as the light gathering of the glass was more than sufficient. I rarely use IRs as I find they can often wash out the target in bad conditions. Whats the point of seeing your reticle if the target disappears? Better to see the target and guess the reticle position (clue – it is right in the middle!).
The glass on this scope is more than adequate for long range targets in poor weather. Is it better than Leupold, Nightforce, USoptics ect? I have not got a clue. I own a nice Leupold LRT and I cannot tell the difference in quality between either scope. They have their own functional merits in terms of features but the glass quality is to negligible for my eyes..
The Viper is solidly built. The only downside to this may be for shooters in competitions with restrictive weight limits. It makes sense to put as much weight as possible into the barrel and stock, which increase accuracy potential and have as little weight as possible in the scope and accessories. However that theory has it’s limits. There is no point having a scope made out of wafer thin materials as one little dink and it will be useless. As with everything this calls for a trade off.. The Viper weighs 23.4oz, not the lightest in its class but not the heaviest either. It sits on my Varmint barrelled Remington 700/Manners stock rifle and I happily shoot it off hand in the standing position with no sling. My rifle makes weight for F/TR comps with a fair bit to spare but some custom rigs weigh ALOT more and for them scope weight may be a serious consideration. The bonus side of having a sturdy scope is pretty obvious – It can take a beating! Now I haven’t given it a stress test and stamped on it or anything but it has been banged in transit and has been exposed to bad weather. So far no visible damage and no functional issues at all.
I can honestly say I do not have any serious issues with this scope at all, I love it. The only small change I would make is to reduce the aggressiveness of the knurled edges on the zoom ring. I have caught my thumb a couple of times which is mainly my fault (bolt operation was a little to assertive!). As I say it is a small gripe given the quality and features you get for below £600.
Vortex are a well known brand in the States. They are relatively new in the UK and as such people here are suspicious – are they just rebranded chinese junk? Is one of the comments I have heard. In fact they are assembled in the USA. The parts they use come from various sources/countries. I always smile when I hear people moan about scopes being “japanese/chinese rubbish” yet they are quite happy to use Canon or Nikon cameras and lenses! Personally I couldn’t give a crap where the parts come from as long as they work and have been assembled properly. Vortex offer a cast iron warrantee. If it breaks they will fix or replace. I have read plenty of feedback from customers suggesting this is true. Even damage inflicted through bad judgement of the user has been rectified by Vortex free of charge. Pretty damn good if you ask me.
So far I am very pleased with this scope. I was so impressed with Vortex as a company that I went and bought their Sparc II red dot for my .22 AR. The review of that will come soon. First impressions are great. I am also considering trading in my Leupold for a Vortex 4-16 power as the Leupold is mil/moa and it bugs me! It is also second focal plane which I am not so keen on. We shall see what happens with my wallet first. Christmas was a costly affair this year and I have ammunition to buy and comps to get to. At least the petrols cheaper 🙂
Bottom line, if you need a scope for distance work and your budget is below £1000 then buy this and you will have a good bit of change to appease the long suffering partner…
The Viper keeps delivering accurate hits as long as I do my bit.