Vortex Viper Review - Is this Red Dot Sight Worth It?
Our Rating: 7.6
In a Nutshell
Vortex decides that low profile red dot optics are such a bustling market that they should offer two products at the same time. Spoiler alert: the Vortex Viper is the worse of the two.
What's the Scope?
Extraordinarily lightweight, the Viper is intended to be a go-to choice for people who need a low profile red dot on a low profile budget. It’s great for people looking to slap a small sight on their pistol or handgun; for other people, probably not ideal.
Size (LxWxH in mm)
Up to 30,000 hours
Lens Cover Type
$369 retail, can be found for $300 or less
Let’s start this out the same way we always do: a hypothetical. Let’s say you pick up the optic - what do you see? In the case of the Vortex Viper, you’d see fairly clear glass, which is nice. In fact, the image is really clear. But, unfortunately, the view is a little tainted by the distracting blue tint on the lens. It’s a shame, but if you like tinted sights, then hey, there you go.
The Viper comes by default with a very large 6 MOA dot. I’ve made it clear before that I don’t like big dots. I think they’re impractical up close and I think they obscure the important stuff when you’re far away. I also think that the Vortex Viper isn’t going to be the exception to this rule. But these are all matters of personal preference, so maybe that’s a little unfair. On the (literally) bright side, the dot is very bright, and numerous different brightness settings make certain that you’re going to be able to pinpoint your target no matter the ambient light. The brightness adjustments are also really easy to work with. On the other hand, the lack of an automatic brightness function may leave some shooters a little disappointed by the fact that they have to manually set dot brightness according to the situation.
The battery life is standard for the size of the sight, the brightness of the dot, and the price range. What is not standard is one of the most unfortunate design oversights in this whole sight: the fact that the battery cover is on the bottom. This means that you have to unmount and remount the sight every time that you want to change the battery. While this wouldn’t be a big deal, it’s a bit of a pain due to the fact that the Viper is a little difficult to unmount. The good thing is that at least removing the sight doesn’t seem to affect zero as far as we can tell. In fact, it seems to hold zero really well overall.
The design of the Viper is one of it’s shining points. It features nice buttons that are hard to miss and easy to find when the moment counts. That said, they are a little difficult to use. At the very least, it’s easy to turn on or off when the moment calls for it, and it’s hard to accidentally turn it on by bumping it around in a gun case or something similar. It’s also really low profile and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. In fact, it’s small size in general makes it a great choice for handguns in tactical situations, but the same can be said for its better-designed and equivalently priced sibling sight, the Venom. At any rate, it’s super light and super ergonomic, both of which make it a joy to use.
Mounting the sight is as easy as any, and for people who like to cowitness, they’ll find the Viper an apt fit for them. Different mounting options and a low profile design make it an ideal choice for using in conjunction with other sights. Vortex claims that the Viper is “mechanically zeroed” and that it shouldn’t really take much adjustment to zero in. This is true enough. When adjustments are necessary, there are locking windage/elevation knobs that keep your settings consistent and makes certain that they don’t get knocked about. Unfortunately, the locking adjustment screws are hard to reach for some weapons and mounting setups, and the elevation and windage adjustments tend to be a little vague. There are no click stops and the entire adjustment experience is a little mushy.
The overall construction of the Viper shares the same attention to craftsmanship and durability that all Vortex products do. If, for some reason, you do have a problem, you also have the wonderful Vortex warranty. The Vortex VIP warranty covers any and all damage and defects that may come to the sight, and it’s fully transferable. All you do is send the sight to them, maybe with a description of the problem, and they’ll either repair or replace it with no questions asked and no cost to you. This deal alone adds a significant amount of value to all Vortex products.
All in all, I’m not a huge fan of the Viper. I think that it falls short in a lot of important ways that the Venom doesn’t. I don’t like the 6 MOA dot and I don’t think it’s the best low profile red dot sight that you can find. Is it a necessarily bad sight? No. It’ll get the job done for certain. For the price range, too, it’s really hard to say that anything as well-built and -designed as this is is bad. But it is lackluster, and it’s not even the best low profile red dot sight that Vortex offers.
Should You Buy It?
I’m going to be pretty brief here: No, you shouldn’t buy it. There is very little that the Viper does better than the Venom. If you’re in the market for a low profile red dot, you should opt for the Venom. It’s a much better value in pretty much every way, unless you absolutely want locking adjustments.
- The Viper Red Dot Sight has a super low-profile making it perfect for handguns with cut-out slides.
- The Viper's low height allows it to co-witness with iron sights and the 6 MOA dot is easy to pick up and get you on target fast. Power and illumination controls are easy for shooters to access and adjust.
- The fully multi-coated, ultra-clear lens offers a wide, unobstructed field of view while Armortek coatings protect your lens from oil, dirt, and scratches.
- 1 MOA windage and elevation adjustments move the dot to your point of aim.
- Waterproof and shockproof construction ensure your Viper Red Dot is ready for all conditions. Vortex Optics hat included, hat color may vary.
It’s a curious phenomenon when a company decides to openly compete with itself. It’s not uncommon: the entire cereal aisle is owned by the same one or two companies. But for a company to slap its name on two products when one is clearly better than the other in a lot of ways? Far less common. A strange choice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Viper were to be discontinued in the near future.