Vortex Viper: Are You Red Dot Ready? — Full Review

The Vortex Viper, which lists for $329 but can be easily found for $229, offers shooters a lot of red dot capability in a small and affordable package.

One of the fastest growing trends in the handgun world is red dots. Now manufacturers are incorporating milled out slides, Picatinny rails and other options to give shooters the ability to affix an optic or red dot.

Several manufacturers now offering red dot-ready variants of their most popular handgun models. Use of red dot sights on handguns continues to gain popularity, and legitimacy, as organized shooting sports add new competition classifications for red dot equipped handguns.

The Viper, from Vortex Optics, was designed specifically for mounting on handguns with red dot-ready milled slides, or those with Picatinny sight rails. The low-profile sight positions the red dot as close to the bore line as possible so shooters that want to co-witness their red dot and iron sights can do so by installing taller iron sights typically used on handguns equipped with suppressors. The waterproof and robust Viper is also lightweight. Increasing the handgun weight by only 1.1 ounces when mounted directly to the slide, or 2.1 ounces when mounted with the included Picatinny rail mount base.


  • Magnification:1X
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Dot Size: 6 MOA
  • Adjustment Graduation: 1 MOA
  • Max Elevation Adjustment: 120 MOA
  • Max Windage Adjustment: 120 MOA
  • Parallax Setting: Parallax free
  • Length: 1.8 in.
  • Weight with Battery: 1.1 oz.
  • Weight with Picatinny Mount: 2.1 oz.
  • MSRP: $329
  • Manufacturer: Vortex Optics

The Viper package includes a fitted cover and Picatinny rail mounting base. Additional mounting plates are available for specific firearm models.

The Viper features a 6 MOA red dot. That means the dot will cover 6 inches of your target at 100 yards, 3 inches at 50 yards, and 1.5 inches at 25 yards. It’s large and bright enough to be easily seen in the brightest conditions, but it doesn’t cover very much of your target at the shorter ranges handgun shooters typically engage with their targets. The red dot activation controls are located on the left side of the sight. A single press on either of the two buttons turns on the red dot. Tapping the forward button increases brightness, tapping the rearward button decreases brightness. Tapping and holding the rear button for 5 seconds turns off the red dot. If you accidentally forget to turn the sight off, it will shut down automatically after 14 hours of inactivity. One very nice feature of the Viper is the memory of your last brightness setting. Turning the red dot on brings you back to the last brightness setting used when the red dot was previously turned off.

The Viper uses a common CR 2032 3-volt lithium coin cell battery. Battery life is very good. Expect 150 hours of battery life at the brightest setting. Running the sight at the lowest setting extends battery life to 30,000 hours. “Name Brand” CR 2032 batteries can be found at most mass food and drug stores for about $5 per battery. Online shoppers can buy the same brand of batteries from Amazon in bulk packaging for 45 cents per battery when buying 10 batteries at a time.

The common 3-volt lithium battery loads from the bottom of the sight housing.

Since I was reviewing the Viper, I took the time to read through the excellent instruction manual included with the sight. I originally planned to use the sight on a red dot-ready centerfire handgun and try my hand at USPSA Carry Optics Division and Steel Challenge club matches. Plans changed and instead I used the included Picatinny rail mount to install the Viper on a Volquartsen Scorpion that has a section of rail machined into the receiver and barrel. Following the instruction manual, I had the battery installed, sight attached to the Picatinny base, and the whole assembly mounted on my pistol in less than 10 minutes. I was ready for the range.


At 25 yards the high velocity .22LR bullets impacted exactly where the red dot indicated they would as I sighted in the Viper from the bench. The red dot was crisp and bright with no visible scatter around the edge of the dot. I had an NSSF Rimfire Challenge match coming up, so I adjusted the red dot so the bullets would impact about an inch above the red dot at 25 yards. I do this because I will occasionally shoot under some targets after long transitions between the steel plates. Using the included windage and elevation adjustment tool, and the instruction manual made the adjustment a simple exercise.

Additional shooting with the Viper included a few hundred rounds of practice and a day of match shooting at the NSSF Lonestar Rimfire Challenge. I also shot one last target just to confirm the sight had held the initial zero set at the start of the review. It did. The sight worked perfectly throughout the entire evaluation.

Mount the Vortex Viper on an accurate pistol and you have a smile-producing machine.


The Vortex Viper proved to be a great little red dot sight for pistols. It should work equally well on rifles and shotguns where targets are engaged at 50 yards or less and great precision isn’t required. The 6 MOA dot is just too large for precision shooting. Vortex makes other red dot models with smaller red dots for precision shooting.

Windage and elevation adjustment screws are recessed. Locking screws provide additional security against accidental adjustment. Vortex supplies a tool for these adjustments.

On/Off and brightness controls are rubber-armored and easily manipulated.

When you consider the quality of the sight, unique features like last brightness memory and the very competitive price, the Viper stands out as a great buy in red dot optics. If you also consider the Vortex VIP Warranty and replacement policy covering everything except loss, theft or intentional damage, the deal gets even better. If you are shopping for a red dot optic to mount on your handgun, you should check out the Vortex Viper before you make your final decision.

This is a realistic view of how the sight works. Eyes focus on the target while the sight housing blurs. The 6 MOA red dot remains in sharp focus.

For more information, visit http://www.vortexoptics.com/product/viper-red-dot-6-moa-dot.

To purchase Vortex Optics on GunsAmerica.com, click https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=vortex%20optics.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Skip Vedell July 9, 2020, 6:22 pm

    Had a viper and would not keep zero even when locked. Upgraded to a venom. Much better due to holding zero, battery on top and no need to lock adjustments

  • Ron March 25, 2018, 9:29 am

    Aren’t the sight adjustment locking screws on the back of the Viper sight covered up by the rear sight of most pistols? It looks like they would not be accessible when mounted. It looks as if the sight can be mounted far enough forward on the picatinny rail of the Scorpion so it’s not a problem. But it looks like that is what would happen if it was mounted on my S&W M&P CORE. Wouldn’t that be a problem?

  • Methadras July 17, 2017, 9:16 pm

    I prefer the Venom as well because of the smaller dot size, but the most important feature to me is the fact that the venom allows for the battery to be removed from the top of the unit. With the Viper you have to unmount the unit to change the battery and you end up losing your zero. If that design change alone was fixed, I’d go with the viper.

  • Methadras July 17, 2017, 7:51 pm

    I also prefer the venom for its smaller dot size, but for the more important feature in that the battery is accessible through the top without having to unmount the sight and upset your zero. The Viper fails in this regard and will keep me away from it until that is fixed.

  • Craig Schroeder July 17, 2017, 9:02 am

    I’ve got the Venom version mounted on a Henry lever in .41 Magnum for Wisconsin deer hunting in brushy woods hunting. It’s perfect in this duty as it allows easy two-eyed siting and doesn’t upset the excellent balance of the little lever action rifle the way a traditional optical scope would.

  • Rich W. July 17, 2017, 5:23 am

    I prefer their Venom model personally. It has a smaller dot, which makes for a more precise shot but is still easy to pick up. I use one on a modified HK USP and on my Vepr 12 shotgun. As far as brightness settings on it, I just keep it on the automatic setting and it sets the level of brightness based on the ambient light in the area.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend