Chris Parkin finds himself bitten by the Viper as he assesses a nifty £500 optic from Vortex
Vortex’s Viper scope is available in several specification types, but I would label the HS model as their mid-range hunter’s optic. Featuring a moderate 50mm objective lens on the one-piece 30mm tube, the first externally noticeable factor is the smooth, matte black, hard anodised finish applied to the entire body of the riflescope to fend off dirt and debris. I am really starting to dislike the rough finish left on some optics, so that’s a big tick here.
Understated modesty seems to be a Vortex hallmark, with moderate windage and elevation dial caps that show clean cut threads below, spinning freely on and off for adjustment without the chance of any cross-threading. The underlying dials are marked in ¼MOA increments with a good feel for each individual ‘click’. I box tested this optic at 100 metres and found that it performed seamlessly, well within the accuracy level available from the rifle’s ammunition.
Parallax adjustment is to the left side of the central saddle with ranges from 50 yards to infinity given approximate marks on the dial. I found it went a little shorter than marked, too – about 38 yards to my eyes. The dial shows positively sharp knurling for a good grip without a vice-like clench of your fingers, and it runs smoothly with no sense of sound or movement from the internal lens packages within the argon-filled tube. The magnification control behind this shows slightly less aggressive segmentation but still tactile and grippy gloved or bare-handed, operating with equal precision from 4-16x magnification. A red fibre-optic pin sits behind this wheel to give you a quick visual reference in low-light conditions, but I always leave things left wound down to the bottom end anyway. You always have time to wind up. The reticle is in the second focal plane so remains constant in size, allowing you to alter magnification when time allows to attain the correct proportions of the Bullet Drop Compensation hash markings on the reticle’s lower stadia.
This scope features Vortex’s Dead Hold design with markings allotted for 300, 400 and 500 yards after using the reticle’s centre junction for a 200-yard zero. If you want further, 600 yards is represented by the reticle’s thinner central (essentially German #4 layout) post broadening at its base. Vortex offer a full diagrammatical explanation on their website of how to set this up. It’s a fairly conventional method to allow for spontaneous longer-range shots on quarry, but needs careful set-up to find which magnification matches your calibre’s needs. You must make sure you have the correct magnification set when you take the shot, and it’s a close visual approximation. Changing BCs and muzzle velocities between different calibres can alter the shape of your ballistic curve and the multiple points upon it – it’s not just about ‘x’ amount of drop for ‘y’ distance, it’s the ‘flatness’ of the shape between.
Windage markers are also etched at 2, 4, 6 and 8 MOA across the horizontal bar, allowing for slightly more defined windage aim-offs rather than just straight ‘Kentucky windage’.
That aside, the weighting of this non-illuminated reticle certainly suits the likely medium to large quarry for daylight hunting. The hash marks are bold enough to see clearly and not onerously numerous – meaning you won’t waste too much time seeing and counting the bars below zero to aim with. I found it sharply detailed by the ocular lens’ fast focus adjuster, which also features a soft rubber circumference for any likely brush pass on your eyeball. It has 4in per 100mm of eye relief and a decent range of head movement within the eyebox, so I’m not predicting any problems for users. There is also plenty of free tube space to set your desired eye relief, regardless of action length. This helps retain sight picture through the shot and recoil to keep eyes on target, so never a factor to be ignored.
The rubberised rim of the eyepiece serves to avoid clashes with your thumb knuckles operating the bolt. Scopes with nothing but a sharp aluminium edge regularly catch and scrape knuckles, making for bloody fast-fire encounters. I have also seen first-hand what these do to soft tissue around the orbital socket – you get a very neat, but still deep cut!
Picture quality shows a sharp focus of a flat image edge to edge, with minimal chromatic aberration and no difficulty attaining a fully circular exit pupil with a clean black border. Colour balance was neutral in medium to bright daylight conditions without pesky internal reflections within the tube. There were no floaters or other particles swishing around inside under recoil – Vortex are clearly making solidly manufactured mid-line scopes with a decent differentiation between hunting sights and long-range aiming tools. Being able to lift and turn the windage and elevation dials to reset zero position without tools is a simple delight on a rifleman’s rifle, allowing easy adjustment if ammunition type or setup is altered.
The usual advertising slogans and names feature XD and XR for glass design and multi-coating options, but all scopes have something similar in function if not name and, frankly, the actual coatings used are manufacturing secrets, closely guarded in vapour-coating machines and laboratories, so just be reassured Vortex don’t offer their VIP warranty for nothing. Full assurances of shock, fog and waterproofing are given, and they stand by their Armor Tek external finishing lens coatings, whose ultra-hard properties fend off scratches, oil and debris.
As light faded, performance did too, but it was a gentle slope rather than a precipice of ‘now you see it, now you don’t’. You are unlikely to be left surprised after a few moments with your eyeball off the scope, returning to find it useless. If I were to sum up Vortex optics in a short phrase: They aren’t the fanciest kit, but do exactly what they say in the box, well made and finished. Their VIP warranty promises it.
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