Testing the New Vortex Viper HD 3-15 SFP! By:

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Vortex Viper HD 3-15 SFP installed on a rifle outside under leafy green trees

Vortex has just unveiled its highly anticipated HD series of scopes for their 2024 Viper lineup, boasting an impressive range of options tailored to diverse shooting requirements. Among these is the Viper HD 3-15 which I will be deep-diving into. Equipped with a second focal plane (SFP) design, this rifle scope is available with either Vortex’s VMR-3 reticle or Dead-Hold BDC. The illuminated reticle feature further enhances its appeal for those last light shooting opportunities. 

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Table of contents

  • Vortex Viper HD 3-15 Specifications:
  • The Viper HD 3-15 Out of the box
  • Mount
  • Reticle
  • Magnification
  • Illumination
  • Turrets
  • Tracking With the Viper HD 3-15
  • Clarity
  • Vortex Viper HD 3-15 Performance
  • Summary
  • Magnification: 3-15x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 44 mm
  • Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Reticle: VMR-3, Dead-Hold
  • Turret Style: Capped (Dead-Hold), Elevation – Locking Exposed, Windage – Capped (VMR-3)
  • Tube Size: 30 mm
  • Adjustment Graduation: 0.1 MRAD
  • Parallax Setting: 20 Yds – ∞
  • Max Windage Adjustment: 27 MRAD
  • Max Elevation Adjustment: 30.5 MRAD
  • Travel Per Rotation: 10 MRAD
  • Field of View: 39.9’ – 8’ 
  • Eye Relief: 3.4″
  • Length: 13.2”
  • Weight: 21.5 oz (Dead-Hold), 22.5 oz (VMR-3)

Right out of the box, Vortex provides all necessary accessories except for the mount. The package includes a scope cover, lens cloth, sunshade, CR2032 battery, turret cap tool, and a RevStop™ insert. Moreover, the package comes with a reticle pamphlet and an owner’s manual.

Unboxing a Vortex scope
Vortex Viper HD 3-15 unboxing with all of the included contents

A dependable mount is essential for maximizing the performance of any scope. I used Vortex’s 30mm Precision Extended Cantilever mount in this review. Although sturdy and rugged, I would generally advise against a cantilever mount for a 3-15 setup. However, it was the only 30mm mount accessible to me then, so I used it. Throughout the review process, I paired this scope and mount combination with an Aero Precision SOLUS, a S&W 1854 lever action, and another 6.5 Creedmoor bolt gun.

the Viper HD 3-15 is mounted on a S&W 1854 and laid on brown canvas
Viper HD 3-15 mounted up on the Vortex Precision Extended Cantilever mount on the S&W 1854

When analyzing scopes, one of my priorities always gravitates toward a usable reticle. While exceptional glass and additional features hold importance, the reticle truly captivates my attention. The VMR-3, designed to enhance long-distance shooting and ranging capabilities, serves its purpose efficiently. I prefer the “Christmas tree” style reticle for long-range shooting, yet the VMR-3’s simplicity keeps users focused without the clutter of excessive etched lines found in other patterns. Nevertheless, I do wish Vortex had at least integrated numerical markings alongside the etchings in the VMR-3 for quicker referencing. Without them, counting markings for holdover shots can consume valuable time.

An essential aspect regarding second focal plane (SFP) scopes is that holdovers are accurate only at a specific magnification setting. In the case of the Viper HD 3-15, this accuracy is achieved at the highest magnification setting of 15X. Attempting a 500-yard shot with a 3 MIL hold while zoomed in at just 3X will result in overshooting the target significantly. However, at 15X magnification, all holds are precisely on target. Despite the reticle remaining consistent at any magnification, I found it user-friendly when fully zoomed in. The holds proved effective, and utilizing the VMR-3 reticle felt intuitive and reliable.

Looking at the blue sky through a VMR-3 reticle
VMR-3 reticle

As its name suggests, the Vortex Viper HD 3-15 provides a magnification range spanning from 3 to 15 power. At 3X magnification, the field of view widens considerably, offering users a clear sight picture of 39.9 feet at 100 yards. The magnification adjustment mechanism boasts built-in resistance, finely tuned to balance ease of adjustment and stability. It proves easy enough to adjust yet maintains enough firmness to prevent unintentional changes, even when the scope is slung and subject to bumps and jostles.

the magnification ring on a scope
Magnification ring adjusts independently of the ocular bell

Vortex integrates an illuminated reticle into the Viper HD 3-15, powered by a single CR2032 battery. Controlled by a button on the left-hand side, users can select from ten brightness settings. Activation is as simple as pressing the button once to illuminate the center dot, with subsequent presses adjusting brightness levels incrementally. At maximum or minimum brightness, the dot flashes, signaling the reversal of adjustment direction. To reverse the adjustment direction, users reach the maximum or minimum setting. Turning off the illumination is simple. Just hold the rubber control button for 4 seconds. Upon reactivation, the illumination maintains its previous setting.

The buttons and adjustment turrets on the Viper HD 3-15
Rubber illumination button built into the parallax turret adjustment cap

Through testing this scope in various lighting conditions, I observed that the illuminated reticle isn’t “daylight bright.” However, it does provide valuable contrast when aiming against dark backgrounds, albeit not as vividly as a red dot.

Looking through a scope reticle at a target and some trees
Viper HD 3-15 VMR-3 reticle with the illumination set to the highest level

While the Viper HD 3-15 offers two turret options, the VMR-3 reticle pairs with an exposed locking elevation and capped windage turret configuration. This design effectively prevents accidental adjustments, a common occurrence when rifles are slung during hunting excursions. Once zeroed, I refrain from touching the windage dial, relying instead on the reticle for windage holdovers, which constantly change during outdoor conditions.

Elevation and windage turrets with cap  removed on Viper HD 3-15
Exposed elevation and capped windage turret with the cap removed

Conversely, the elevation turret is easily adjustable by pulling it up and locking it in place with a press down. Each adjustment produces a distinct click, and the labeled caps ensure straightforward operation. Additionally, the elevation turret features Vortex’s RevStop™ Zero System, providing a toolless zero stop for precise return to zero after turret adjustments. This system, easily installed, locks out adjustments more than 0.5 MRAD below the zeroed setting, eliminating any confusion about the scope’s rotation count and ensuring consistent performance and confidence in returning to zero.

Vortex Viper HD 3015 RevStop Zero System
Vortex’s RevStop™ Zero System

The precision of a scope’s turret adjustments is probably the most critical feature for long-range shooting. To evaluate the performance of the Viper HD 3-15’s turrets, I zeroed a laser to the reticle’s center at approximately 20 yards and then dialed the scope up 8.0 mils.

As depicted in the image below, the laser aligns precisely with the 8.0-mil line etched on the reticle, confirming the scope’s accurate tracking. Subsequently, I adjusted the scope 4 mils to the right, and the laser aligned perfectly. Any distortion in the image is attributed to the camera’s positioning rather than any discrepancy I noticed in the scope’s performance. Upon returning both windage and elevation adjustments to zero, the laser precisely realigned with the center of the reticle. This successful test demonstrates that the Viper HD 3-15 features precise turret tracking, aligning with the etched reticle hash marks.

READ MORE: Leupold’s New Rangefinder Takes You Places: RX-5000 TBR/W Reviewed

The Viper HD 3-15 utilizes Vortex’s HD optical system which delivers great light transmission, resolution, and edge-to-edge sharpness. Throughout my time with this scope, I experienced no discernible distortion, enjoying consistent clarity from one edge of the field of view to the other. I only picked up the tiniest bit of blur around the outside, like 1% of the glass, but for me, this isn’t problematic. It was the thinnest sliver at the very edge of the glass. Clarity remained true at any magnification. The scope is argon purged and features fully multi-coated glass, ensuring an anti-reflective coating and enhanced light transmission.

During a side-by-side comparison with the Vortex Venom 3-15, both scopes appeared to have very similar glass clarity and performance.

A rifle and a shotgun with Vortex scopes installed on them
Vortex Venom 3-15 on top, and the new Viper HD 3-15 on the bottom

Throughout my review, this scope worked without an issue. I was able to shoot targets out to 1045 yards, and quickly shoot targets closer up when on 3X magnification. My main complaint is that I am personally not a fan of the VMR-3 reticle or second focal plane scopes in general. For this reason, I would probably opt to run the Vortex Venom 3-15 over this Viper HD even though the Viper HD has slightly better glass, and weighs like 7 ounces less. 

Aiming to get information out at the time of the launch, Vortex sent this scope to me in advance so I could start testing it out and give y’all feedback. I first shot with it in December up in Wisconsin, but for the past month or so I have been running it down in Oklahoma and Texas. I am happy to report that it ran great and I never encountered any problems. This scope features solid turrets, an illuminated reticle, and great glass while being backed by the Vortex Lifetime Warranty.

The new Vortex Viper HD 3-15×44 is available and shipping now with the current street price hovering around the $700 mark for the Dead-Hold BDC reticle, and $750 for the VMR-3 reticle which I tested. While I don’t prefer the VMR-3 reticle, I was still able to consistently hit targets out to 1045 yards so this scope can go the distance.

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