Vortex Viper 1-6 Variable Review: Mid Range, High Value

Vortex Viper 1-6 Variable Review: Mid Range, High Value

 After browsing the interwebs for hours on end looking for a review of the 1-6 vortex viper, I never found one I felt went into detail enough about it. I have looked at them at my local sportsman’s warehouse and if I was confident my wife wouldn’t murder me for buying a scope that she doesn’t think I need, I would have bought one a while ago. I reached out to Vortex for a review opportunity and they were happy to set up this review. At this point, I feel very unfortunate that I have to send this optic back…  From the moment I picked this scope up, I was impressed by the clarity of the glass, the crispness of the reticle and dot, and the overall sturdiness of the build. That’s not to say this scope is perfect, because it isn’t, but for the price vortex is asking for, it is absolutely a great value scope. It feels durable, it looks identical to a Vortex Razor and overall, just looks good on an AR. 

Reticle, Glass, Fit and Finish

The glass quality of this optic is phenomenal! It’s very clear with either extremely little or no distortion on the edges whatsoever. I feel like distortion is such a hard thing to measure though as my eyes may perceive some while the next person may deceive none. Either way, glass is great, very clear and it seems to be true to color, no discoloration.

The reticle of this optic is very usable. I feel bad for always coming back to the ACSS reticle, but it is one of the best reticles available for an LPVO in my opinion. My sample Viper is equipped with the VMR-2 reticle in MOA. My favorite feature about it is the fact that only the center crosshair lights up into a .5 MOA dot, which gives you a true red dot aiming point on 1x magnification. Unlike a lot of other scopes that light up the whole reticle, or have a horseshoe around it, it’s just a DOT, which is simple and idiot-proof.

The illumination dial has on off position between each setting. It’s stiff to turn, but not a pain. Will not rotate without you turning it!

The illumination dial has an on-off position between each setting. It’s stiff to turn, but not pain. Will not rotate without you turning it good job vortex!

The hash marks on the reticle are spaced out in 4 MOA increments. While it’s not a BDC for one specific load, it’s a BDC for whatever load you want so long as you know your ballistic data. In case you are new to variable optics, here is an example… and I’m just throwing numbers out there because I don’t feel like using a ballistic calculator for an example. If the ammo you are shooting out of your gun requires a 4 MOA hold for 300 yards, when you shoot at 300 yards, you hold on the first hash mark. If you need a 12 MOA hold for 600 yards, you hold on the third hash mark. Got it? Good. You can also use the marks to range targets as long as you know how big your target and or something next to it is. While this reticle is usable, it’s not quickly usable. There is no quick ranging feature or specific BDC for it, but you can get a custom BDC should you do your part. In my experience with it, if you don’t put in the time to study your holds and shoot often enough to be comfortable with your rifle and know your ballistics, you won’t take this scope past 300 yards anyway. Learn your drops.

Since this VMR-2 reticle is marked in 4 MOA increments, it is easy to quickly select the correct drop reference line once the shooter knows the bullet drops and windage/lead corrections in MOAs. If the shooter prefers to dial the come ups for bullet drop using the elevation knob, knowing bullet drops in MOAs will allow for much faster adjustments because the MOAs can be quickly read on the elevation knob. – From Vortex Optics VMR2 Manual

Vortex viper (left) Tango6T (right) on their second brightest setting. The viper doesn’t bleed out the front

Vortex viper (left) Tango6T (right) on their second brightest setting. The viper doesn’t bleed out the front, important if you don’t want to be spotted.

As for illumination, the dot is bright! Is it Aimpoint bright? No, but it’s close though. For a LPVO which retails for $600 or less, what more can you ask for? It is very bright and I would say it’s daylight visible in BRIGHT sunny days and daylight bright in anything else. For me here in the NW, it’s good enough. For someone in Florida, Texas, Arizona, etc, that’s up to you to decide for yourself. Something else exciting about the illumination is the fact that when this reticle lights up, it doesn’t spill out the front like most LPVOs. So for anyone hunting with this optic, if you have illumination on to help with a shot super early in the morning or late at night, the animals won’t see a red glow from your position.

The dot only illumination is perfect for an LPVO in my opinion

The dot only illumination is perfect for an LPVO in my opinion

Easy to read MOA increments. The turrets can also be set to “ZERO” after sighting in. Allowing you to dial in if you prefer.

Easy to read MOA increments. The turrets can also be re-set to “ZERO” after sighting in.

One thing of note, when I sighted this scope in… it was very clear that the elevation and windage dials were very stiff and hard to turn, but also extremely mushy at the same time. Like I said, this scope is on loan to me from Vortex, so I am not sure how many people have had this scope before me which might be why the adjustment dials are so bad. In order to pay attention to my adjustments, I had to take my gloves and ear protection off to see how much I adjusted them. My first time adjusting them however was in cold weather (under 40) and the last time I took the scope out, the adjustments were a little better in 65 degrees weather but still stiff, with very quiet/non-tactile clicks.

Update: After playing with it a little more I took the adjustment caps off entirely, they unscrew so you can set your zero. After setting the zero it seemed to help a lot. The clicks became a little easier, less mushy and more tactile. I am unsure if the person before me, be it another tester, or from the factory, maybe the screws were a little too tight and led to my bad experience. It has also warmed up a lot since my initial sight in, so maybe the warmer weather helped? There are too many variables to say what it was for sure, but for some reason I never thought of this during my review. I guess you live and learn! Sorry guys. Anyways. Rotations are good? I leave the question mark because again, variables and I have a sample size of one. It could have been a fluke to begin with.

The elevation and windage dials look nice, but terrible to adjust in my sample size of one.

The elevation and windage dials look nice, but they felt terrible to adjust in my sample size of one.


Initial 3 shot group at 25 yards before drop test

Initial 3 shot group at 25 yards before the drop test

My expectations for this scope are pretty high considering how similar this scope is to the Vortex Razor. I didn’t go too crazy though as I have to send this optic back… otherwise I would have done more to it! Anyways, my durability test went as follows: I confirmed zero at 25 yards with a three-shot group. I then unloaded and proceeded to drop the optic at about chest height on all sides of the optic. I then re-confirmed zero and proceeded to drop the rifle from shoulder height with a little toss about 4 feet forward. The rifle hit the ground, which was very solid, and it took some hard bounces directly on the optic. Re confirmed zero and there was little to no change to the point of impact. I constantly threw this rifle around throughout the testing and it took all of the abuse.

Group after some rough drops and hard bounces.

Group after some rough drops and hard bounces.

Vortex Warranty

Other than making phenomenal optics and gear, a big reason people often choose Vortex is the warranty. This is legen-wait for it-dary. They will replace or repair any optic for anyone, the original purchaser or not should your optic break. I have used their warranty before and the customer service is great and efficient. They sent me a pre-paid label and I sent my optic back and got a brand new one within a week or two. It’s a no questions asked, no BS warranty. You don’t have to be the first owner to use the warranty either. So buy any used Vortex optic with confidence because if it is broken, you will get it fixed.  

Who Is This Optic For?

This optic is definitely for a casual shooter and/or a more serious shooter willing to learn their holds. The reason I say that is because of the reticle. The reticle CAN be very useful for someone willing to put in the time, but it’s not an easy button. It is either a MIL or MOA reticle with each stadia line being 4 MOA increments on the MOA version. This gives you a general BDC for any caliber, you just need to remember your holds. This also allows you to find the distance by measuring objects and doing some math to find the distance. If you don’t know how, Google it… someone else will be better explaining it than myself. (Editor- A perfect article that discusses the math behind range estimation at TTAG.) So this scope gives you ranging capabilities, general holds, and a good dot for CQB/high-speed low drag shooting like all the cool guys. For the average shooter that doesn’t shoot often enough to remember their holds, this optic would still make a perfect 0-300, maybe even 400-yard optic.

On StrelokPro with rough numbers, this is with a 1/2 MOA adjustment high zero at 100 yards, the first two stadia lines are dead on at 300 and 400 yards.

On StrelokPro with rough numbers, this is with a 1/2 MOA adjustment high zero at 100 yards, the first two stadia lines are dead on at 300 and 400 yards.

Wrapping Up:

The pros of this optic: the glass quality to price ratio, warranty, illuminated dot, and the price. The price is great! The cost of this scope is about $600, but I see it on sale at my local sportsman’s warehouse for $500 constantly. Check Big Daddy Unlimited for their price! (Hint: it’s less than $500, Join Here) This price range is my favorite value price range for LPVO’s. It’s that Mid-Tier price range which is a great balance of features to cost. You get a great step up in glass and durability without having to fork out over $1k for the next “upgrade” (think vortex razor gen 2 and 3, Tango6T, Leupold Mk6, etc.) The price puts this scope at a very affordable price point with the quality of everything feels like a steal.

Reticle on 1x

The reticle on 1x, non-illuminated


The cons of this scope are minor but annoying: The magnification adjustment is long, stiff, and has nowhere to grab. There is no nub to help move to the magnification ring which makes an already stiff adjustment even more difficult. There is some knurling on the magnification ring but it doesn’t help enough. I have to adjust my grip two or three times to fully switch to 6x or 1x. After using this optic in the rain, switching from 1x to 6x took a couple of seconds. My hand could not get a good grip because you have to grab the whole thing to adjust it and it’s so damn stiff… it is smooth though. I would stand by my word and say that a throw lever is absolutely necessary for this optic. Vortex, please include a throw lever or even a little nub on the adjustment ring at the very least.

Personal Opinion:

 I love this optic. I feel bad, but sorry to all optics companies that I test, I will always compare reticles to the ACSS reticle as it has everything you need. With that being said though, I truly appreciate the simplicity behind this reticle. While it’s simple, it’s also effective and useful. I’m always looking for the best value optic, and this is right up there with my favorites. I have the Tango6T and that is a PHENOMENAL optic, but it’s expensive. I don’t have a Vortex Razor because that’s expensive too. For the price of the Razor or Tango6T, I can buy 2 or 3 Vortex Vipers.

This optic is “Minuteman Approved” says me. I will be coming out with a Minuteman firearm and optic guideline in a few weeks so those of you interested in that series starting read my (minuteman rifle post.) Keep your eyes peeled for the guidelines that I will be basing other optics, rifles, and gear off of!

If your interested in the Vortex Viper 1-6, check it out at

1-6x24mm VRM-2 MRAD Matte Black : VORTEX OPTICS VIPER PST GEN II 1-6X24MM RIFLE SCOPES | Brownells
Written by D.S.

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