By Kip Staton
It’s official, Low Powered Variable Optics (or LPVO, from here on out) are here to stay. New advances in optics technology have exploded on the scene in recent years, and allow shooters to gain access to 1x red-dot-like performance yet still have enough magnification to really get some actual range out of semi-auto 556 NATO and 308 Winchester carbines.
The only real penalty to running a LPVO over other options is the cost. Extra weight is more than justified with the added capability of magnification for target identification, and the ability to work good reticles into the system. It really comes down to how deep your pockets are. And as it turns out… not everybody’s pockets are just flush with cash.
Vortex Optics has answered the call with a spectrum of LPVO choices ready to address different market segments, from small budgets to I-couldn’t-care-less-the-government-pays-for-my-gear levels. And right in the middle of those extremes lands one of their latest additions: The Vortex Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24mm.
Viper PST Gen II Series Overview
In many ways, the second generation of the iconic PST series grew to be more like Vortex’s premier Razor HD Gen II line. On certain scopes, the zero stop mimics the higher end Razor HD Gen II, and the glass in all models is an improvement over the first generation. Optical quality on the PST Gen II scopes still falls short of the much vaunted dark-brown flagship Razor HD Gen II glass, but it’s definitely no slouch.
Other controls, like the illumination settings, have also been relocated and improved. More popular reticle choices have also been installed as default. In short, the second generation of the PST optics showcase an incremental set of improvements that approach Razor HD Gen II feature levels, while keeping the price tag semi-reasonable. PST Gen II models include:
- 2-10×32 FFP
- 3-15×44 FFP
- 5-25×50 FFP
These are not inexpensive optics, but they are also not out of reach of the serious enthusiast. Vortex chose to use etched reticles in all models, and they are manufactured in the Philippines.
This brings us to the subject of today’s review: The 1-6×24 PST Gen II riflescope, equipped with the VMR-2 MOA reticle. Fair warning, I’ll be going back and forth comparing this scope to the Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24 quite a bit. It’s a scope I have some time on, and I think that most people are wondering how the PST II measures up to it anyway.
Unboxing and Physical Description
If you’ve ever seen or handled a Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24, the PST Gen II 1-6×24 will immediately be very familiar. Built on a seemingly identical scope body, the most striking external difference is the color change from a rich brown to a matte black. All other controls (save for the illumination knob, reticle focus, and perhaps the zoom ring) look and feel identical.
- Magnification: 1x-6x
- Objective Diameter: 24mm
- Field of View: 12.5-18.8 feet/100 yards
- Tube Diameter: 30mm
- Eye Relief: 3.8”
- Total Elevation Travel: 160 MOA
- Weight: 22.7 Ounces
- Overall Length: 10.9”
Included with the PST Gen II 1-6×24 are a large lens cloth, allen wrench (for resetting the turrets), CR2032 battery (for the illuminated reticle), instructions, and a long sunshade that I never used after taking some photos.
It’s an attractive optic, for what it’s worth. And as you’ll see, the performance lives up to the good looks.
Illumination on this optic is definitely day-bright, but not as bright as an Aimpoint or the Razor HD II 1-6×24. It’s perfectly adequate, and adjustable via a large knob on the left side of the scope body. There are 10 settings, with an off position in between each one.
Changing the battery is accomplished by using a nickel or similar “tool” to simply unscrew the center capped portion of the adjustment knob. A standard CR2032 cell drops right in, and is secured in reverse fashion. Parallax is non-adjustable, and set at 100 yards. This is fine.
Turrets and Tracking Testing
The turrets on the PST Gen II 1-6×24 can be run capped or uncapped, depending on your preference. The low profile design is extremely resistant to accidental turning, just like the Razor HD Gen II version.
Most importantly, how do they track? According to my standard “tall target” tracking test at 100 yards, they track very well, down to the click. I’ve had good fortune with the optics I’ve been looking at lately, and this one is no exception. I was impressed, and would be totally comfortable recommending the PST II 1-6×24 for use on a precision-oriented carbine.
After getting an initial zero, I capped the turrets and never touched them again. While they can certainly be used to manually input your drop at longer distances, this optic really works better in a role where the generous eyebox at 1x and good reticle subtensions at 6x are fully taken advantage of.
I do want to note that the turrets became difficult to rotate in extremely (for Texas, at least) cold weather. Once the mercury dropped to about 10 degrees fahrenheit, rotation was very stiff. Not impossible to turn, but stiffer than when in a more mild climate.
I’m not sure how much of this was due to my frozen fingers trying to work the very short, somewhat sharp turret gripping surfaces, but I thought I’d mention it just the same.
Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24 VMR-2 MOA Reticle
Reticles for the PST II 1-6×24 are taken directly from the Razor HD II version, which is a good thing. The combination of a red dot and a useful set of subtensions is ideal for many of the circumstances an AR-15 is deployed, whether that’s hunting, competition, or something more serious.
My sample optic was configured with the VMR-2 reticle in minutes of angle. The subtensions correlate to the following distances with 556x45mm NATO PMC 55 grain XP193 ball ammunition, and Hornady Match 168 grain AMAX loads in 308 Winchester:
556x45mm NATO PMC 55 Grain XP193 Ball
- 280 yards
- 385 yards
- 466 yards
- 534 yards
- 600 yards
- 641 yards
308 Winchester Hornady Match 168 Grain BTHP
- 260 yards
- 380 yards
- 480 yards
- 571 yards
- 650 yards
- 726 yards
All of these distances are valid with the magnification set on 6x, and the optic zeroed at 100 yards.
At the very center, the VMR-2 reticle features a bright red dot. This was one of my biggest curiosities with this optic: Would the reticle be bright enough for daytime use? As I mentioned, it’s plenty bright enough, even in full sun.
The battery is a standard CR2032 cell, which makes it easy to keep spares on hand. While brightness may be comparable to common red dots, battery life is not. I didn’t get an exact measurement on battery life while the scope was on my rifles, but Vortex says it will last about 150 hours in regular use. The fact that it’s a common, easily available battery type is definitely a bonus.
Much like the Razor HD Gen II, this scope really needs a cattail for some leverage. It’s very stiff, and takes some work to get it from 1x to 6x.
Obviously it’s possible, but a throw lever would make it a lot easier. It’s something I would consider a must-have. The knob is knurled and moves smoothly, not much else to add.
Comparative Optical Evaluation
I really dislike this part of doing optics reviews. It’s so subjective, and for us bloggers that don’t own an optics lab, I’m finding that it really is fairly pointless to wax eloquent about how it appears to our eyes, under our lighting conditions, at our distances, in our humidity, etc. Just remember that even “bad” glass these days is pretty darn good, and that you generally get what you pay for.
It’s been a while since I’ve looked through a Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24, but I can tell you that the optical performance on that scope blew me away. I’ve found little else that compared, at any level. It could have been some sort of confirmation bias tied to the “holy grail” of LPVO, but it was nonetheless quite impressive.
The PST Gen II didn’t have that effect on me. It’s not bad glass by any means. I would say it’s above average in this price range. I’ve said it before, but with good glass, when shooting on steel targets within the capabilities of an AR-15, misses are 99% of the time not because you have “bad glass.” Even cheap glass these days is good enough to see your target and get repeatable hits.
I have found that the really expensive glass does actually make a difference early in the morning and late in the evening. Most of the time though, I don’t shoot in those conditions. I did take this optic hunting on the last legal day for whitetail in my area, and was able to positively identify things as “not deer” all the way up to the end of legal shooting light with ease. That’s good enough for me.
This is “good” glass, borderline “great.” I do realize none of those words really mean anything, but I’m coming to realize that optical comparisons in a review of this nature rarely do. Just know that you won’t be disappointed in the quality for the dollars paid.
Not much to say here, it’s a Vortex. Their VIP warranty (Very Important Promise) will take care of you with no questions asked, anywhere, or anytime.
It’s fully transferable, there are no warranty cards to fool around with, and you don’t need to keep the receipt. If you have an issue, they fix it. And that’s all there is to it.
Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24 Riflescope In Use
Most of my use with the PST II 1-6 was on my hunting/steel target rifle, the old standby Ruger Predator in .308. This may seem like an odd combination, but it was actually really great. Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to deer hunt from a stand right up until the season closed, but unfortunately didn’t see anything to shoot. Well, except for armadillos. But they were just doing ‘dillo things, so I let them alone.
This one was about 50 yards away, with the scope at 6x. It was really fun to watch him fool around in the open for almost 30 minutes, rooting around and sniffing the air:
Some optics seem to provide a “better than life” image when things get darker. If you’ve seen this phenomenon, you know what I mean. I’m happy to report that the PST II 1-6 has glass like this as well, which came in handy around dusk.
One thing I noticed about this scope that mirrored my experience in general with LPVO: I either have the scope set to 1x or 6x. The powers in between minimum and maximum just don’t get used on my guns. This works well with the second-focal plane design on the PST II 1-6×24.
When I moved the PST Gen II 1-6×24 to my 14.5” AR-15, I used a Nikon BLACK single-piece scope mount to unite the two. I’ve actually been really impressed with the BLACK optic mounts, they are a definite step above Nikon’s other single piece mounts in terms of features and quality. This Vortex optic paired very nicely with the BLACK mount.
After hunting season ended, the rest of my use with the optic consisted of a few hundred rounds fired from 25 yards to 200 yards, mounted on the AR-15. No real surprises here, it has a great eyebox and simple layout that lends itself well to practical shooting.
Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24 vs. Razor HD II 1-6×24
Let’s face it, this is inevitably going to be called the “budget Razor.” This comparison is pretty much unavoidable. The only way the PST Gen II beats the legendary Razor HD II 1-6×24 is in weight, and that’s by barely an ounce. And the newest version of the Razor HD, the Gen II-E, actually does weigh in less than the PST II. Weight discussions like this are rather semantic, though. I don’t really care too much about an ounce here or there on something as important as the optic.
Glass on the Razor HD is obviously better. Other than that… I honestly can’t see much of a difference. The controls are identical. Reticles are a wash. The Razor HD II is probably “built” better, but for the average guy, I don’t know that it matters that much. And if you aren’t the average guy, I think you know what you need to do anyway.
Here’s where I would come down on the two: If you’re going to use your scope a lot, go ahead and get the Razor HD II. If you’re going to be doing range-only work on a less-than-weekly basis, the PST II is more than fine.
Just be realistic with what your needs are. The biggest difference between the two is probably the money. Vortex got really close to the Razor HD II with the PST II, and impressively so.
Let me put it this way: As a regular guy, there was nothing I did with the Razor HD II while it was in my posession that I couldn’t have gotten done just as well with the PST II.
Is the Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24 for You?
Short answer: Probably. Having used the Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24 extensively, I can say that the PST II 1-6×24 gets you within 90% of the capability, while saving several hundred dollars.
As always, if somebody with more experience than me tells you something different, listen to them. And if you’re going to be using your rifle and optic every day, or for serious business, you already know you need to get the Razor HD II.
For the rest of us, there is no reason not to strongly consider the PST Gen II 1-6×24 instead. It’s that good.
Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24 Review Final Thoughts
Vortex really outdid themselves with this optic. They managed to take an already popular line, the PST series, give it a significant upgrade in the theme of their high-end products, and bring it to market without too much of a price increase.
They lack that last 10-15% of capability that the Razor HD Gen II optics possess, but if most of us honestly look at how we use these things, that’s perfectly fine. I’m a fan.