Reviewed: Best $1K Scope on the Market

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If you’re ready to reach WAY out there but demand solid performance at a reasonable price, we’ve found the answer…

by the ShootingDaily staff; promoted by Vortex Optics

We’ve invested some good coin in our AR, trying to find that ideal and often elusive blend of practical defense and long-range accuracy. The Criterion barrel, precision hard-chrome BCG, and fine-tuned two-stage trigger group has, combined with match-grade ammo, put our accuracy squarely into the sub-MOA camp. In the early stages, a red dot optic made sense for our intended use of close-quarter defense and the occasional bouts of pounding steel at 200 and 300 meters.

As with most progressions, however, the pursuit of long-range engagement called to us. We had the capable platform and ammo dope. The only thing missing was an optic that was up to the task. Not being one of the trust fund set, though, the search began for a scope that would let us drop nefarious varmints and paper monsters in the “way out there” zone and still allow us to eat for a few more months. We set a $1K limit and the hunt was on to find the best long-range optic we could get for our budget. Having had great experiences with high-performing, cost-conscious Vortex Optics in recent years, this was our first stop.


Although we had not previously tested the Vortex Viper PST (Precision Shooting Tactical), an acquaintance is enamored with his and bought it for well under a grand. Recalling that Vortex introduced the second-generation Viper PST earlier last year called the Viper PST Gen II. We gave this one a hard look—specifically, the 3-15×44 FFP.


Uh, oh. The $1,299.99 MSRP missed our mark but we managed to find one online for $999. Barely under $1K, but close enough. Done.

If you’re familiar with the original Viper PST, you’ll notice some obvious differences between it and the Gen II model. First, the illumination knob is gone from the eyepiece and is now integrated with the side focus/parallax adjustment knob. We’ve never had an issue with an illumination dial in that location, but the more streamlined profile is welcome. Second are the robust tactical-style turrets. They’re easy to turn while wearing gloves thanks to their size and aggressive knurling, and the laser-etched turret graduations are easy to see. Of course, the Gen II continues with the Fast Focus eyepiece.


Instant gratification comes when looking through the glass. From our experience with past Vortex products, we expected a high-quality field of view from the Gen II, and we got it. An XD optical system with full multi-coating delivers sharp definition and color fidelity edge-to-edge. The highlight, though, is the EBR-2C reticle. The best way to describe it may be “delicious.”

This Viper PST Gen II has a front focal plane reticle, allowing the reticle scale to stay proportional to the viewed images at all magnification levels. At close-range distances, where bullet drop and wind drift are negligible and low magnification is used, the reticle’s finely glass-etched subtensions remain unobtrusive. Roll up the magnification for long-range engagement and the subtensions are clearly defined and, thanks to the reticle’s first focal plane position, are valid at all magnification levels.


The Viper PST Gen II offers subtensions measured in MRAD or MOA to accommodate whichever system you’re used to working with. Either version includes respective MRAD- or MOA-based turrets for making elevation and windage adjustments. Lately, we’ve been favoring the MRAD system for its “whole number” simplicity.

Speaking of turrets, the Viper PST Gen II features the RZR Zero Stop mechanism on the elevation turret. This is an upgrade from the previous Viper PST zero stop. It uses three lock screws to set the zero stop instead of relying on shims, as did the previous Viper PST. We like this system because regardless of the number of elevation knob rotations you make, blind rotation will return you back to your original zero setting.


Another cool feature is the elevation knob’s fiber optic Radius Bar. This is aligned to the turret knob zero position to give you a visible reference point for turret rotation even in low-light conditions.

While we’re on the topic of low light, the Viper PST Gen II, as with its predecessor, boasts an illuminated reticle. There are 10 illumination levels to match the ambient light conditions. What we really appreciate about this system is that each illumination setting is flanked on either side of the dial by an “off” setting. No need to scroll through multiple settings to go from “off” to the illumination you use most. Simply turn the knob fore or aft one click to switch between “off” and the setting you prefer.


With the Viper PST Gen II mounted on a Vortex Pro Series 30mm cantilever mount ($130 online…OK, so we blew our budget by a wee bit), we were off to see just what a grand got us.

Our initial range day with the Viper PST Gen II satisfied us on money well-spent. The scope has robust looks, feel, and solid-block aluminum single-piece tube construction that inspires confidence for a rifle that will never be treated like a bench-rest queen. Optical clarity and definition offered no surprises, being on par with other top-line Vortex scopes we’ve tested previously. The fine detail of the EBR-2C reticle is a standout feature in its own right, and proved its mettle during both the 100-meter zeroing and the long-range sessions. We especially liked the turret adjustment. The knobs are large and easy to manipulate even when wearing gloves.


Another thing to consider with this or any Vortex optic that adds significant benefit and purchase confidences is the company’s VIP Warranty. This warranty covers repair or replacement of the optic if it is damaged or defective for the lifetime of the product—no questions asked, no receipt needed, no cost to you, and the warranty is fully transferable.

Whether you’re looking for a serious distance-duty scope for your bolt gun or, like us, want to maximize your precision tactical rifle’s long-range potential with a solid-performing optic that’s priced right and backed by the best warranty in the industry, you should take a close look at the Viper PST Gen II.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS – Vortex Viper PST Gen II 3-15×44 FFP

  • Magnification: 3-15 x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44 mm
  • Eye Relief: 3.4 in
  • Field of View: 41.2-8.6 feet/100 yards
  • Tube Size: 30 mm
  • Turret Style: Tactical/RZR Zero Stop
  • Adjustment Graduation: .1 MRAD
  • Travel per Rotation: 10 MRAD
  • Max Elevation Adjustment: 22 MRAD
  • Max Windage Adjustment: 11 MRAD
  • Parallax Setting: 20 yards to Infinity
  • Length: 14.3 inches
  • Weight: 28.1 ounces

Available Viper PST Gen II Riflescopes



Vortex Optics


article copyright © 2018; promoted by Vortex Optics

Although Vortex Optics is one of our sponsors, the views expressed in this article are those of the author. receives compensation from Vortex Optics in various forms to help promote their products.