Nightforce SHV vs. Vortex PST


The Nightforce SHV riflescope is slightly more expensive than the Vortex Viper PST, and I decided to compare both in features, and functionality in the field. It’s easy to compare on paper, but the bottom line is in actual performance, and that is what was done for this article. There is just one argument with this comparison, and that is the fact that Vortex is a lower end range product when compared to the middle-range high quality Nightforce. Since Vortex decided to enter this arena with its eyes open, it gets the same treatment everyone else does, no matter the outcome. So here, goes.

Here are the products I compare:

Product ImageProduct NameMore Information
SHV 5-20×56 — ZeroSet™More Information
Viper PST 6-24×50More Information
 Nightforce SHV™ 5-20×56Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50
Magnification5 – 20 x6-24 x
Objective Lens Diameter56 mm50 mm
Eye Relief3.15-3.54 inches4.0 inches
Field of View17.9 - 5.0 feet/100 yards17.8-5.1 feet/100 yards
Tube Size30 mm30 mm
Turret StyleCappedTactical/CRS Zero Stop
Adjustment Graduation1/4 MOA1/4 MOA
Max Elevation Adjustment80 MOA65 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment50 MOA65 MOA
Parallax Setting25 yards to infinity50 yards to Infinity
Length15.2 inches15.5 inches
Weight30.1 ounces23.4 ounces

SHV 5-20×56 — ZeroSet™ — .25MOA – MOAR — Center Only Illumination

NightForce SHV 5-20x56 - ZeroSet™

The Nightforce SHV 5-20×56 is one of the leading 20x riflescopes on the market today. It’s a top-level scope designed by a leading electro-optic fabricator and before I test in the field, let’s look at it on paper.

To start off with, the price is not so high when considering the features and functionality. This model comes with 20x magnification and 56-inch object liens diameter that provides a load of illumination without the use of the battery.

SHV 5-20x56 — ZeroSet™

The main tube is a standard 30mm made from a rugged aluminum alloy and coated with a hard anodize finish. This model gives you ZeroSetTM which is their exposed elevation adjustment system and comes with multiple reticle illumination settings.


The Nightforce™ is a true beast of performance, and it starts with the extra wide objective lens diameter of 56mm which is by all standards wide. This larger objective lens sucks brightness into the tube, however, the wider the objective lens, the heavier the scope. While most objective lenses are around 40 to 44mm, the Nightforce (and the Vortex) go way beyond that.

The weight of this scope is 30.1 ounces, and that is a lot by any standard. As such, this is truly a scope for sniping and not for close or mid-range tactical shooting. You need to set up on the rails, and then rest the rifle on legs or you will end up doing a bodybuilders workout while on the hunter.

The MOAR-20 Center Illuminated reticle comes with bars at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Since this is an SFP, the reticle won’t change when you zoom the scope. The MOAR-20 has ¼” MOA lines, so its obvious use is to gauge and center on small distant targets accurately, and comes with 1 MOA windage and elevation markers, and a floating center crosshair.

Many scopes under 10x magnification don’t offer a parallax adjustment, as it’s not really needed at close range. But the Nightforce offers high magnification as well, so the parallax adjustment of 25 yards to infinity on this scope is a definite plus.

SHV 5-20x56 — ZeroSet™

A standout feature in the Nightforce is the ZeroSet™ that lets you quickly set the scope back to zero, even after multiple elevation adjustments. The windage and elevation control springs are made from a precision processed titanium alloy and the body of the scope is made from industry standard aluminum alloy as used by all scope fabricators.

In terms of eye relief, the 3.15-3.54 inches is a comfortable distance although not as far as the Vortex’s 4 inches. However, this


  • 56mm objective lens
  • Optional illuminated reticles
  • 3.15-3.54 inch eye relief.
  • Second focal plane.
  • Parallax adjustment


  • Large, heavy and expensive
  • Long range only

Viper PST 6-24×50

Viper PST-624F1-A

The Viper PST (Precision Shooting Tactical) riflescope is one of the Vortex top models and is for accuracy and efficiency at all times in both competitions and in tactical use. This is an FFP model; it comes with a first focal plane reticle that is etched into the optics and is illuminated to provide easier and more accurate shots.

Viper PST 6-24x50

The PST objective lens is 50mm, which is still extremely wide by all comparisons, but not as much as the Nightforce. With this objective lens comes a much lighter frame at only 23.1 ounces, and that is significant. The PST comes with a comfortable 4mm eye box, as well as a versatile 6x magnification system when combined with their XD™ Lens Elements. These are Extra-low Dispersion glass that is designed to increase resolution and color fidelity while providing exceptionally fast and accurate windage and elevation control using the etched and illuminated SFP reticle system. The PST also comes with a MAG-View Fiber Optic combined with a Fiber optic turret rotation indicator radius bar.

The XD lenses are fully Multi-coated using XR™ technology. This technology increases light transmission with multiple anti-reflective characteristics. The PST is made from a 30mm long aluminum alloy tube, that is hard anodized and Argon gas purged for fog free performance. The housing integrated 0-rings with multi-coated optics to assure a waterproof, scratch free and anti-reflective performance at all times.

Viper PST 6-24x50

One stand out features on this model include the CRS Customizable Rotational Stop (CRS) Zero Stop that returns to zero after dialing temporary elevation correction. This is also supported by a Precision-Force Spring System with a Precision-Glide Erector System for smooth scoping performance.


  • The apochromatic objective lens system
  • Optically Indexed Lenses
  • Premium HD (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass
  • ArmorTek anti-scratch coating
  • XRPlus Fully Multi-Coated multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces
  • Plasma Tech process provides coating durability and performance.
  • First Focal Plane Reticle
  • Glass-etched Illuminated Reticle
  • Hard anodized 30mm diameter Single-Piece Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Tube
  • Waterproof, Fogproof, and Shockproof
  • External Rotation Indicator
  • Locking Illumination
  • Side Focus adjustment
  • Maximized Turret Zero Adjustment with L-Tec Zero Stop
  • Micro Adjust Zero Setting
  • Friction Reduction System
  • Turret Screws
  • Erector Tube System
  • Fast Focus Eyepiece allows quick and easy reticle focusing.


  • Etched reticle
  • Illuminated and Etched Reticle


  • FFP vs. SFP
  • Quality of Optics in comparison


 Nightforce SHV™ 5-20×56Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50
Focal PlaneSecondFirst
TurretsCappedExposed-Tactical/Zero Stop
Body MaterialAluminum AlloyAluminum alloy
FinishAnodized MattAnodized Matt

The Vortex is priced at the high end of a low-end range of scopes; this means that with all their performance and features, the optics and the materials used are no match for a middle range Nightforce that is designed and fabricated using the best materials and optics when comparing the two.

The Nightforce is for long-range shots, and its weight is a serious disadvantage, essentially, the Nightforce is a different scope, so comparing these two is not fair. The Nightforce is perfect for distance shooting, but no good for anything else. The Vortex is OK for distance shooting but does not reach the same levels of clarity and focus as the Nightforce, for mid-range shooting it is in a class of its own. As such, in terms of price, the Nightforce is worth every cent for the performance you give when comparing the two. The Vortex, as the cheaper model, is lost in direct comparison and you would like best concentrate on the Nightforce.

If, however, you are seeking a classic mid-range scope with excellent magnifications features and is priced low when compared to the competition in the same league, then the Vortex is a better scope for its versatility in different shooting configurations.

In regards to the FFP versus SFP, that’s a personal issue, some swear by either, others are unimpressed by both. So on this issue, there is no competition. However, in terms of weight and dimensions, the Vortex wins hands.

The bottom line: Nightforce wins by a knock out only due to its better optics and overall performance in the range. Yes, the adjustments on the Nightforce are smoother, I take off the caps when I shoot, so that’s not an issue and the overall clarity and focus at long distances is just perfect on the Nightforce, but absolutely not perfect on the Vortex.

Basically, it’s not fair placing a welterweight (Vortex) against a heavyweight.

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