What’s the difference between the Vortex Viper and the Vortex Venom? That’s a worthwhile question, and I would have given you a blank look a couple of weeks ago if you had asked me.
Between then and now, I got my hands on both a Viper and a Venom and have gone at it. I’ve pressed buttons, swapped batteries, swapped mounts, and put lead downrange to figure out not just the significant differences, but the small ones too.
Vortex was too kind and sent both for this article, so thank you to those fine folks for making this article possible.
- Final Grade : A+
- MSRP : $349.99
- Final Grade : A
- MSRP : $349.99
What They Have in Common
Before we dig into what makes these optics different, we have to dig into what makes them similar. The traits they share are what makes them so hard to tell apart. Both even start with a V. Heck, as I write this, I keep looking over at both of them to make sure I’m identifying the right model.
Both the Viper and the Venom are mini red dot sights. Both feature a red reticle with ten different brightness levels. They feature a battery life measured out at up to 30,000 hours, depending on the setting. At the highest brightness setting, each optic will last 150 hours.
The Viper and Venom both use the Docter/Noblex footprint for mounts and cut pistol slides. This is the most popular mounting system out there, so it’s almost universal, and it’s easy to find mounts for.
Both come with near-identical accessories. You get a Picatinny mount, a Torx wrench, a protective rubber cover, lens cloth, and a flathead screwdriver for adjustments.
Lastly, both optics come with the same durability ratings that include an Armortek lens coating, O ring seals for waterproof performance, and shockproof construction. Both are also backed by the Vortex VIP warranty.
The Most Notable Difference
Right off the bat, I’ll try and save you some time and get to the meat and potatoes of the differences. The Viper is built from the ground up to be a handgun mini red dot sight. It’s intended for easy use on all handguns but is smaller and excels on subcompact weapons.
The dimensional differences include a .07 of an ounce difference in weight. Viper is shorter height and lengthwise as well are narrower all the way around. The Viper and Venom only share one size component, and that’s the height of the window at its peak. This is somewhat necessary to ensure proper co-witnessing with iron sights.
The Venom is larger but will still fit fine on a handgun. The Viper offers a beefier construction leading up to the window, which gives the optic a bit tougher design and eliminates weak points around the window. This makes the optic better suited for engagement ranges where hand to hand fighting is a reality.
The thinner metal around the window of the Venom delivers you less obstructed peripheral vision. When mounted to a long gun, the thicker material of the Viper may block a little bit of your vision and, at moderate ranges, obscure a target. Is this a significant concern? No, but it’s worth mentioning.
I can tell you it’s smaller, but it’s easier to just show you via the specs of both optics.
|Height (Top of Window)||1.02"||1.02"|
|Height (Rear of Optic)||0.41"||0.33"|
|Weight||1.1 ounces||1.03 ounces|
Reticles and Brightness
Both the Venom and the Viper have ten brightness settings, and while the number is in common, the practical effect is different. The Venom offers a much brighter dot than the Viper. Both are practical in bright light situations, but the Venom can ratchet the brightness up.
The Venom has an auto mode as well. That sounds nice, and maybe for daylight competitive shooting, it is. For tactical use, I’d advise sticking to manual mode. The reticle adjusts to the light around you, not the light your target is in. A WML at night can wash out a reticle, and since the light is forward of the optic, the auto mode won’t adjust appropriately.
If you are in a bright environment aiming into a dark background, or vice versa, the dot could be hard to see, and manual adjustments will be necessary.
The Venom has two models, one offers a 3 MOA reticle, and one offers a 6 MOA reticle. The 3 MOA is better suited to long guns and the 6 MOA to handguns. The Viper only comes with a 6 MOA dot, which makes a ton of sense for an optic explicitly designed for pistols.
Adjustments and Turrets
Both optics have 1 MOA adjustment per click, and that’s plenty fine for a mini red dot. The only significant difference is that the Viper has locking turrets. To make adjustments, you unlock the turrets, adjust, and re-lock. This little feature is handy and is insurance against accidental adjustments. The Venom lacks that lockout feature.
The Venom uses a 1632 battery, and the Viper uses a 2032 battery. Power-wise they are identical, but the 1632 is a little smaller than the 2032. The only practical difference that concerns you is that 1632 batteries are a few cents cheaper.
One major difference between the Viper and the Venom is battery placement. The Venom has a removable top cover. This facilitates quick and easy battery changes without the need to dismount the optic. The Viper has a battery compartment built into the bottom of the optic. To swap the battery, you have to remove the optic from its mount, insert the battery, and remount and zero.
The Venom is much more convenient, but this design adds a little size to the optic. The Viper sacrificed convenience for size.
Both the Venom and the Viper use a two-button control scheme to turn the optic on and off and to adjust brightness levels. I much rather have this system than a single button control like the Fastfire 3. The buttons slightly different between each model.
The Viper has larger, rubberized buttons. They are placed a little bit more forward on the optic. This control scheme allows your support thumb to activate the buttons when the optic is mounted to a modern pistol slide. It’s a smart move that allows adjustments without breaking the sight picture.
The Viper’s buttons take a deep, deliberate click to activate. Ergonomically it feels clumsy but serves a point. If the buttons were too easy to press, they could be accidentally engaged when carrying the gun in a holster.
The Venom’s buttons are considerably smaller and positioned almost halfway down the optic. These smaller, more rearward buttons would be less ergonomic on a handgun. However, they are more reactive, take less pressure to activate, and much more responsive. When a button is pressed, the user experiences tactile feedback that forces the Venom to respond instantly.
When turning the optic on, the Venom responded quickly, while the Viper took a half-second of a button press to turn on. The Viper requires a firm touch to utilize, and the Venom does not.
Both the Vortex Viper and Venom are well made, affordable, and featured filled mini red dot sights. Either could serve on a rifle, handgun, or shotgun, but that’s not to say they’d serve equally as well on every platform.
The smaller Viper is better suited for compact handguns. If you want to toss a red dot on a Glock MOS model or a cut slide of any kind, the smaller and lighter Viper would be a great option. The Viper would be the best option for a subcompact handgun in the Glock 26 sized frame.
Here the smaller size will make a bigger difference. When you scale up to full-sized handguns, the extra size the Venom offers it’s a big deal. The Viper is specifically a handgun optic, and outside of that realm, it doesn’t offer the same versatility as the Venom.
On rifles and shotguns, the Venom is a better choice. On rifles and even PCCs, the smaller 3 MOA reticle Venom allows for a less obstructed aiming point for the extra range rifles offer. On shotguns, the 3 MOA allows for longer slug throwing range, but the 6 MOA is a little faster for nothing but buckshot. The wider window size and thinner setup on the Venom allow for less peripheral vision obstruction and is better suited for rifles and long guns in general.
With a handgun, the threat is likely going to be so close that a little peripheral vision obstruction means practically nothing. The likelihood of the fight being close enough to involve wrestling and struggling makes the Viper’s beefed-up design more appropriate.
If you want a mini red dot for a long gun, go with the Venom. If you want a handgun optic, go with the Viper.
If I could choose only one of the two, then the Venom gets my money. I prefer the reactive controls, the ultra-bright dot, and the top opening battery compartment.
Vortex Venom and Viper: Report Cards Compared
10 different brightness settings w/ an auto mode. Super bright with a 3 or 6 MOA dot.A+
Adjustments and Turrets
1 MOA adjustments without locking turret feature.A
Batteries accessed and changed through convenient top loading port. Increases overall size.A
Small, reactive tactile buttonsA+
Perfect for the money.A+
Final Grade: A+
10 different brightness settings. Only 6 MOA red dot size available. Explicitly designed for pistols.A
Adjustments and Turrets
1 MOA adjustments with a locking turret feature.A+
Battery compartment located on bottom of optic. Less convenient, but reduces overall size.A
Less clicky, more deliberate buttonsA
Great value with great warrantyA+
Final Grade: A
Out of the Park
The Vortex Viper and Venom are both well-made optics that come in at a sweet price point. The Vortex VIP warranty is the best you can get, especially for optics that cost as little as the Venom and Viper.
Vortex continues to do excellent work, and here’s to hoping they get into the realm of ultra-small optics like the Shield RMSc because we could certainly use more P365 sized red dots. Until then, the Viper and Venom are worthy options.
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