Recently I was in the market for a new spotting scope. I am planning some hunts out west for next year which will involve much more glassing than the typical midwest hunt. Additionally, I was also planning on using the spotting scope for scouting whitetail deer and shooting at the range. Since I would be bringing the scope on a backpack hunt in the future, weight was a consideration as was durability. My go-to binoculars for the past several years have been a pair of Vortex Vipers, so naturally, I wanted to check out the Vortex Viper line of spotting scopes.
Before I started comparing scopes, I knew that I wanted an angled spotting scope and that it should have an objective lens close to 60mm. While scopes with 80mm and up objective lens tend to let in a bit more light and usually feature more zoom, the added bulk and weight would count them out for most backpack hunts. Vortex has three lines of spotting scopes. The Diamondback, Viper, and Razor all come in at different price points and with slightly different specs. In a 65mm angled scope, the Diamondback is $400, the Viper is $700, and the Razor comes in at $1200. After looking through all three, I can honestly say that they all feature great glass, rugged construction, and intuitive controls. However, I found the largest jump in quality when moving from the Diamondback to the Viper. The Viper features a crisper image and seemed to do a better job in low light conditions. The Razor is an amazing scope with crystal clear glass and the best picture at the top of its zoom range. However, I couldn’t justify the $500 jump from the Viper right now.
The Viper angled spotting scope has an objective lens of 65mm and a zoom range of 15-45x. It weighs in at 59oz, which is the heaviest of the three scopes I looked at, but still light enough to bring on a backcountry hunt. It includes a neoprene cover, lens caps, and can be disassembled to allow it to fit inside a crowded pack easier. At 15 power zoom, it is easy enough to sight through it and get on target. As you approach the higher end of the zoom range, you will need a stable tripod with a good fluid head to use the scope. Make sure and factor the tripod into the cost of the scope as you don’t want to skimp there.
The eyecup can be turned to add in a bit of eye relief, which I found really helpful in getting a good picture through the scope. After purchasing the scope, I went to a nearby state park and glassed across a long valley. I was really impressed with how clear the glass was. Picking out deer-sized objects at 1000 yards was a breeze. As the sun began to set, the scope still gave a great picture drawing in every bit of available light. The following day, I brought the spotting scope to the shooting range to sight in a rifle at 200 yards. At this range, 10 binoculars are not powerful enough to see small bullet groups, but using the scope on about 20 power zoom, I could easily see exactly where my bullets had impacted the target.
Overall, my initial impression of the Viper was that it’s a great spotting scope. While a bit on the heavy side, it is fairly compact and feels really solid in hand. At $700, the price is not cheap, but you get the sense that you are getting more than your money’s worth. Vortex provides a lifetime warranty on all their optics that covers just about anything that could happen to your scope. If you have the extra money and can spring for the Razor, then go for it. You won’t be disappointed. However, the Viper is a fully capable spotting scope made for professional users. Buying the Viper and a quality tripod, rather than the razor and a cheap tripod would definitely be the smart move if between the two. I look forward to picking out many elk, bears, and mule deer on mountain sides with this scope in the near future.