A few years ago we reviewed the Vortex Diamondback tactical scope and got some good results with this more budget conscious scope. But we know it's been a while since we've reviewed any of their high-end scopes. In addition, we have only recently completed one of our Long Range Precision Marksman classes and as stated in ourreview of this class, the largest contingent of scopes came from Vortex. Yes, it's time to check out one of their newer mid to long range scopes, especially as there have been many changes to their lineup. In fact, it didn't surprise us that Vortex was the most common scope in our class, as they have a wide range of tactically oriented scopes for just about every scenario and budget. For this review, we thought it was time to revisit the second generation PST oscilloscopes to see how this oscilloscope has evolved over the years and how well it performs now. The subject of our test is a PST 5-25x50mm FFP Gen 2 riflescope with MIL reticle (EBR-2C) and MIL buttons.
The PST comes in a traditional scope box with the typical Vortex markings and all the normal stuff. Included in the box is the scope, a nice lens hood, bikini style scope caps, a manual and a reticle guide, and some other useful items such as a lens cloth. While there aren't any good flip-up scope caps out there, the sunshade is a nice addition. As is usual with a scope review, we first look up the country of origin on the scope so we know what we are working with. Generally all Vortex scopes are made in the Philippines, but their latest low-end scopes are made in China, which doesn't excite us. Luckily, the higher end scopes like the PST continue to be made in the better factories in the Philippines.
The eyepiece is a regular fast focus eyepiece that covers the entire diopter adjustment range in about 1.2 turns. The eyepiece itself has some knurling, but not much, and it can be a bit slippery. Luckily, once the eyepiece is adjusted, it doesn't usually need much adjustment. That's good too, because there's no marker to give a reference point for the setting to return to. Some scopes have a rubber ring around the eyepiece to protect the skin and eye in the event of a scope kiss, but the PST does not. If the right recording technique is used, this is usually not a problem.
The eyepiece body is large and a simple straight cylinder shape with just some basic markings on it and the zoom power adjustment ring which is on the front of the body. This second generation PST has a 5x zoom range from 5x to 25x and there are markings for different zoom levels written in a smaller white font that is difficult to see behind the scope. The reticle is on the first/front focal plane (FFP) so it is not critical that the scope be set to a specific setting for the reticle to be accurate. This alleviates the problem of the zoom markers being difficult to see.
There's also a serrated hard rubber ring on the zoom control knob that provides extra grip for setting the moderately firm setting. Adjusting the zoom power itself is comfortable and smooth across the range, and feels comfortably premium. There is a small indicator dot on the top of the eyepiece housing to provide a reference point. Just ahead of the zoom power ring, the housing tapers sharply down to the 30mm diameter tube, which houses a 2.5" scope tube to which the rear scope mounting ring can be mounted.
The shoulder of the scope, where the control knobs are located, is rounded and not large. Mounted on top of the shoulder are the three main scope control knobs that provide four main functions. These knobs are a large, outwardly exposed knob with knurling on top to provide a firm grip in all conditions. The elevation knob has a single level of marking with unique numbers from 0 to 9 and then small numbers in parentheses above the larger number representing the second level of marking. There are 10 MILs of adjustment per revolution with a small hash for each 0.1 MIL click and then larger hash for 0.5 and a larger hash and corresponding number for each whole number. At the top of the button is an orange fiberglass indicator above the 0 for quick and easy reference, although we never seem to have used it.
Vortex states that there is a total of 20 MILs of height adjustment, which is a little under 70 MOA, and our testing scope here totaled 25.9 MILs (89 MOA). The clicks on the scope are pretty good, but maybe a little light. There's no slop between clicks and while they're not as cushioned as some others, they have a decent feel. The elevation knob also has a zero stop feature that is unique in its setting. To adjust it there is an internal knob under the primary adjustment knob that is loosened and then the oscilloscope is zeroed with this knob loosened. It's odd because in this zeroing mode there are no clicks, just a smooth twist. When this internal knob is then locked again, everything is back to normal clicks and the zero stop is set. Just follow the manual, it's pretty easy.
There are also horizontal dashes below the knob which give a good visual representation of how many turns have been dialed into the scope from the top. We also like the U indicators with arrows showing direction of travel to adjust elevation. The 10 MIL per turn setting makes the clicks a little tight together, but it works well enough and is configured well on this scope.
The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevator knob and has the same knurling on top and the same three set screws. The markers count in both directions, a feature we like, and we particularly like the way Vortex marks the button, R1, R2, etc. This makes it clear and easy what wind you dialed into the scope. Of course, there is an overlap at 5 MIL, but this is enough adjustment to allow a 308 to fire past 1500 yards in a 10 MPH crosswind without that overlap coming into play. The factory said only 10 MIL of windage adjustment is available, but our test scope had 19.5, although there was an odd big "click" on both the right and left at the end of the adjustment range. It didn't feel right and made us reluctant to maximize drag on the scope, but those extremes were probably never meant to be reached.
On the left side of the shoulder are the two remaining controls. One for lighting control, the other for parallax focus. The reticle illumination dial is located on top of the focus knob and has 10 brightness settings with an off position between each setting. The controls are very short with only minimal knurling, which can make gripping and turning difficult, especially with thicker gloves. The brightness settings could be adjusted a little better as only the bottom five are really usable. Anything above 5 is too bright and blurs the target, especially at high zoom magnifications. This is a common mistake made by scope manufacturers, and we're not sure why it's not more obvious. We can understand that the top two, maybe three brightness levels are very bright, but half of the ten seems overdone. There is also no brightness level suitable for night vision.
The focus knob, which sits below the lighting control, has range markers from 25 to 500 and then a final one at infinity. This control is smooth with a good amount of resistance to stay in place if left alone, but not too stiff to make it difficult to adjust. The full range of the focus knob occupies about 80% of a full rotation, leaving a good margin to allow above-average precision when focusing the scope image.
In front of the shoulder of the scope is another 2.25" tube for which the front scope mounting ring can be mounted. Then the scope makes a gentle tilt to the full diameter of the objective lens, creating an elongated bell jar. The overall shape of the scope is utilitarian and the longer bell has an elegant shape. Overall quality appears to be good with a good consistent finish to the scope, albeit with somewhat plain markings. It's a one-piece tube of aircraft-grade aluminum with a hard-anodized finish and has all the normal proofs: fogproof, shockproof, waterproof.
The reticle is the EBR-2C calibrated in MILs and is classified as one of the popular Christmas tree style reticles with multiple and many aiming points. There are several different hash marks for accurate MIL measurement with the reticle and numbers along the vertical and horizontal axis. Because the reticle is at the first plane of focus, it grows and shrinks with zoom power and detail disappears at the low settings, although it's well calibrated to not be too thick at 25x power. The reticle gets busy and the little dots can get lost in the background (see image above) but it works and does what it was designed to do. The reticle is also etched onto the glass for ultimate durability.
Only the inner crosshairs, the thinner vertical and horizontal stages with diamonds, are illuminated. None of the Christmas tree dots or thicker stadiums are lit. The glass is XD (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass and coated with Vortex's proprietary XR coatings, which the manufacturer says offer better light transmission. Our personal use has resulted in a very bright and clear optic that is up to the task and on par with other $1000 scopes, if not a little better.
The scope seemed to tick all the boxes for features we're looking for, and we liked the overall scope. But a scope is only as good as how it's mounted on a rifle and put to the test. So we used a set of Nightforce Ultralite Titanium Alloy 30mm rings to mount the scope on our test rifle, a Remington 700P chambered in .308 Win. This rifle performed well on our scope test duties and if you are unfamiliar with how we test our scopes, please read the articlehow we test rifles and scopesNow.
Test day was a glorious late spring morning in Montana with bright sunshine and temperatures hovering around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind was minimal, maybe 1-3 mph, and our first test after zeroing the scope was to fire at the crate, which the scope did without hesitation and no tracking issues. We then ran our 6 MIL meter test, firing the first group and then dialing in 6 MIL of the left setting and then firing our second group. Each of these groups measured less than 0.7 MOA. We then always dial the 6 MIL from the right back into the scope and fire another round to confirm the pursuit returns to the original group, which it did, right on target. The distance between the two groups was 22.1″ compared to a theoretical 21.6″. This was an error of only 2.3%, well below our allowable threshold of 3% due to group size. So tracking and adjusting the sizes all worked out fine.
The use of the scope in the wild demonstrated the quality of the optics and the beautiful bright image that came with the good class. The scope has an eye relief of 3.4″, which might be a bit shy of what we prefer, especially for large caliber rifles, but it wasn’t an issue with our .308 light recoil. The zoom range seemed to work well and with the reticle on the FFP it was nice to be able to easily adjust the scope to our preferences during use which was typically around 14-18x depending on use. Keeping the zoom a little lower increases the field of view as well as the exit pupil, making it easier to get a full picture.
We enjoyed using the scope on the rifle, but it was time to take a closer look at how the internal components behave with reticle drift when changing zoom, parallax focus, and tracking along a straight line. So we mounted the bore sight grid and continued our testing, beginning with checking reticle movement with zoom performance. The results were very good, showing no discernible movement when going from 5x to 25x and back again. We do this multiple times, looking for any movement we can recognize, which has been little or none.
On other scopes we've tested that have a close focus range of 25 yards, like this scope, we've noticed a lot of reticle movement at close range, focusing on many of them, and usually recommend keeping the low end at 50 yards set. This second generation PST had far less movement than most, and was only about 0.1 MIL when focusing from 25 to 50 yards. After that, from 50 to infinity, it was even less than 0.1 MIL. We were very happy with these results and also when checking for reticle drift when applying vertical or horizontal adjustments. The crosshair would stay exactly on the vertical line when using elevation and on the horizontal line when checking the page. All of these tests indicate a good initial build quality of these scopes.
Vortex did a very good job with this tactical midfield, and we'd say it's also a significant improvement over the first-gen PST. There seems to be a lot of headroom for that $1000 price point. The optics are good, the controls do what they're supposed to and there's a lot of flexibility with the 5x zoom range and first focal plane reticle. The scope could use a bit more vertical adjustment range and the reticle brightness levels could certainly use a recalibration to be more useful. Some of the controls themselves could also be better designed to be a bit more user-friendly, but overall it's a very solid offering that should work well on a wide variety of tactical rifles. There's no reason not to give this area the Sniper Central endorsement tag.
Good to know this scope is made in the Philippines and not China! I understand the reasons for moving production overseas, but it's still frustrating to see that a company that advertises itself as a US veteran-owned company can't find a way to keep production at home.
Very few scopes are built in the US, but at least avoid China