After the excellent experience I had with my Zeiss, I went looking for another high-powered tactical variable-power scope. I found what I was looking for in the Vortex Viper PST 4-16x50mm First Focal Plane. Like so many of my optics and accessories, I purchased the Viper PST through Primary Arms.

I’ve used the Viper PST  on a variety of different weapons and barrels. The first was a Ballistic Advantage 16 inch Medium Heavy Rigid barrel. I was so impressed with it that the Viper PST (in an American Defense Recon Mount) became my standard optic for use in evaluating barrel accuracy. The PST is the scope I turned to when testing both the Tactical Government and Pencil profile 14.5 inch middy barrels from Ballistic Advantage.

The Viper PST mounted on the Shashka 2.0 carbine.

The PST will be used to evaluate my current project, a Ballistic Advantage 20 inch SPR contour barrel in 5.45x39mm.

Vortex PST on my 20 inch AR-15 rifle

Vortex PST on my 20 inch AR-15 rifle

It’s spent months mounted on my Mauser rifle using Vortex HS 30mm Quick-Release rings.

M48A Yugoslavian Mauser in an ATI Stock with a Timney trigger.

M48A Yugoslavian Mauser in an ATI Stock with a Timney trigger.

However, I found that this ring/scope combo worked just as well on a STG 58, turning it into a decent designated marksman’s rifle:


The Vortex mounted on a STG 58 a friend built while I was in my first year in Iraq.

First, let’s talk about the glass quality. Going from a Zeiss Conquest to the Vortex, you see very little discernible difference. In fact, I would venture to say that the Vortex has better glass than the German scope, which is in itself no mean feat. Of course, they both retail for around a grand. Both have tall turrets with very solid adjustment. Both have excellent optical quality.

Of course, Zeiss is made in Germany and Vortex in the Philippines. Before you let that turn you off, let me say the Vortex warranty is exceptional. If your scope breaks, they’ll take care of it. If you buy a Vortex PST second-hand from someone and it breaks, Vortex will take care of it. If you accidentally drop your rifle while in the tree stand and your PST breaks on a rock… you guessed it. Vortex will take care of it. They’ll repair or replace your scope. Freaking phenomenal.

This is a good thing. You would think that as much of a miser as I am, that I’d take excellent care of my expensive optics. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You can see from the picture here that I have dropped, scuffed, and otherwise abused my Vortex, though I haven’t yet dragged it through the parking lot like I did my Trijicon SRS. Let me be clear that the drop test is no small feat. True, a scope doesn’t have to be super-tough to resist its own 22 ounce weight. However, attach that scope to a 10-pound rifle and then drop it, on the scope. The Viper PST will scuff, but doesn’t break. Yes, I accidentally did this at the range.

The adjustments on the turrets are solid. The PST has high, uncapped turrets. Adjustment is made via ¼ MOA clicks. These clicks are both audible and tactilely crisp. You can feel them, even through gloves.

Customizable Rotation Stop (CRS) allows you to set the zero for the scope, so that you can return to it later. The shim system means you can zero your scope and then have it set to that exact point, which is critical during long-range shooting.

Illuminated Crosshairs

One feature I’m not particularly impressed by is the illuminated crosshairs. The PST has 10 illumination levels. The illumination can be turned off between each level, which means that you don’t have to twist the dial around from zero to your preferred setting. This would be more meaningful if the crosshairs lit up with more than just a faint glow. The only time I’ve been able to notice illuminated crosshairs (outside of a dark room) was when I was using it at the maximum intensity and shooting near dusk.

Though a minor gripe, it’s nonetheless disappointing that this particular feature couldn’t live up to the high standards of the overall scope.


The combination of optical quality, incredible customer service/warranty, excellent features and robust durability lead the Vortex PST 4-16x50mm to be my favorite scope. I am incredibly pleased with it and hope that you will check out their products.

-By Allen Cosby


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53GR is an avid shooter, hiker and tinkerer. Introduced to guns at an early age, the hobby became a passion in his early twenties. After two years in Iraq as a contractor for a defense company, he developed an unhealthy addiction to military surplus gear. Though he's currently in treatment, the prognosis is that the condition is chronic.

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