Introduction

In this review, we have two American brands, which are well established already all around the globe.

Athlon Optics is a fairly new brand which was established in the year 2014, but since then they are rapidly growing thanks to their big selection of various optics, which come for a reasonable price and very good quality.

Vortex Optics, on the other hand, is one of the fastest growing companies in the world of sports optics and is also one of the big names in this market. Also Vortex is known because of its big range of various optics for any kind of use, and Vortex offers products in all price ranges for any user.

In this comparison, we will test 2 new rifle scopes, both designed for precision tactical shooting on a long rage. The first one is the Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 5-25×50, and the second one is the completely new Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56. Both rifle scopes are from the middle price range.

 

Size and weight:

 

A: Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 5-25×50

B: Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56

Weight:

885 g

1035 g

Length:

406 mm

389 mm

Tube diameter:

30 mm

34 mm

Diopter setting:

   

Parallax adjustment:

25 yards / 23 m to infinity

25 yards / 23 m to infinity

Mounting with rail:

NO

NO

Number of Colors:

1

2

Athlon Ares ETR has a bigger main tube diameter, and as you could expect, Vortex is for 150 grams lighter in weight than it’s competitor. Whatsoever, Vortex is for almost 20 millimeters longer. The bigger main tube diameter has also some advantage, but more of it in the turret properties.

Both rifle scopes have an adjustable parallax, so you can easily focus on targets at different distances. The minimal parallax adjustment on both rifle scopes is 25 yards or 23 meters, which is very close for rifle scopes with such a big magnification. Both rifle scopes can be adjusted also to infinity range, but for me personally, the parallax adjustment is much better on the Vortex because the space between 100 yards and infinity is much bigger, so you can adjust the parallax much easier and more precise.

Vortex is available only in matte black color, Athlon Ares, on the other hand, in matte black and matte brown.

TL;DR

Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 is for almost 20 millimeters longer than the Athlon Ares, but is still lighter in weight because of the smaller main tube diameter. Both rifle scopes have an adjustable parallax from 25 yards (23 meters) to infinity, but Vortex is easier to adjust. Both rifle scopes are available in matte black color, but Athlon offers an additional matte brown color for this rifle scope.  

 

Athlon Ares ETR (on the upper side) vs Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 (on the lower side)

Optical properties:

 

A: Vortex Viper PST gen. 2 5-25×50

B: Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56

Minimal magnification:

5x

4.5x

Maximal magnification:

25x

30x

Zoom factor:

5

6,66

Maximal Field of View:

7.3 m / 100 m

8.2 m / 100 m

Minimal Field of View:

1.5 m / 100 m

1.25 m / 100 m

Minimal eye relief:

86 mm

99 mm

Maximal eye relief:

86 mm

99 mm

Light transmission – declared:

   

Tunneling effect at low magnifications:

No

No

Central sharpness – subjective impression at 5x, 15x and 25x magnification:

5x magnification – 5

15x magnification – 5

25x magnification – 7

5x magnification – 3

15x magnification – 3

25x magnification – 1

Edge sharpness – subjective impression at 5x, 15x and 25x magnification:

5x magnification – 4

15x magnification – 6

25x magnification – 5

5x magnification – 4

15x magnification – 2

25x magnification – 3

Inner reflections at 5x, 15x and 25x magnification:

5x magnification – 4

15x magnification – 3

25x magnification – 3

5x magnification – 4

15x magnification – 5

25x magnification – 5

FOV – subjective impression at 5x, 15x and 25x magnification:

5x magnification – 8

15x magnification – 8

25x magnification – 8

5x magnification – 0

15x magnification – 0

25x magnification – 0

Eye-box at 5x, 15x and 25x magnification:

5x magnification – 6

15x magnification – 7

25x magnification – 7

5x magnification – 2

15x magnification – 1

25x magnification – 1

Overall – subjective impression:

7

1

All in all (128 total points)

93

35

I have to say that Vortex did it again. From a total of 128 points, Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 got incredible 93 points and Athlon Ares ETR only 35. This is an incredibly big difference if we consider that Athlon costs more than the Vortex.

Whatsoever, in one category Athlon scored more points than Vortex, and this is in the inner reflections. The reflections (chromatic aberration) in the Vortex are much clearer to see, especially on white surfaces where the light breaks in all colors. The reflections are noticeable also in Athlon, but less than in Vortex.

In all other categories Vortex was better, especially in the field of view Athlon had no chance. The picture is much wider in Vortex on same magnifications, but because Athlon features a smaller minimal magnification, it has a wider field of view on the lowest magnification. The field of view of Athlon on the lowest magnification setting is 8.2 meters at 100 meters, and 7.3 meters with the Vortex.

Because of the bigger field of view on the smallest magnification, the Athlon is slightly better for observations, especially with night vision attachments or thermal attachments. Athlon features also a much bigger maximal magnification, what also has some benefits. For tactical-style shooting, the user normally doesn’t need such a big magnification, but for extreme long range or shooting very small targets it is highly recommended.

The eye-box of Vortex is much better than the one from Athlon, especially on higher magnifications the differences get bigger. On 30x for example, the user has to be almost completely centered for a normal view. Athlon has also a longer eye relief, what is very nice if you use it on a strong recoiling rifle. What I liked on both rifle scopes is that the eye-relief is not changing when you adjust the magnification. With a fixed eye-relief, it is much more comfortable to shoot because your head is always in the optimal position.

 

TL;DR

Vortex won against Athlon in the optical comparison with 93 points against only 35. It has a bigger field of view at the same magnifications, better sharpness, and a better eye-box. The only category Athlon won was in the inner reflections.

Whatsoever, Athlon scores because of the bigger zoom factor, and consequently smaller and bigger magnifications. On the smaller magnification the user has more field of view, and on the bigger, the user can more precisely aim at small or more distant targets. Both rifle scopes have a fixed eye-relief, what is great for more comfortable shooting.  

 

Athlon Ares ETR (on the left) vs Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 (on the right)

Reticle properties:

 

A: Vortex Viper PST gen. 2 5-25×50

B: Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56

Focal plane:

FFP

FFP

Reticle name

EBR-2C MRAD

APRS1 FFP IR MIL

Reticle illumination:

Yes, RED

Yes, RED

Daylight strong illumination:

No

Yes

Illumination intensity tuning:

Yes

Yes

Illuminated dot coverage:

No dot in the middle

0.03 MIL

Minimal reticle thickness:

0.034 MIL

0.03 MIL

Motion sensor:

No

No

Auto turn-off:

No

No

Reticle styles:

2

2

Because both rifle scopes are designed for tactical-style shooting, the reticle in both is positioned in the first focal plane. This is an important feature of a true tactical rifle scope, because with a reticle in the first focal plane, the user can use the reticle for calculating the distance to the target, use it on any magnification for holdovers and windage corrections, or simply read the correction in MIL or MOA so you can adjust the turret for the perfect shot placement.

The reticles in these rifle scopes are both in milliradians, so the lines in the reticle and the clicks on the turrets are always matched. Vortex named their reticle EBR-2C MRAD and Athlon APRS1 FFP IR MIL. The reticle from Vortex is used also in their premium rifle scopes like Vortex Razor HD Gen. 2 and Razor HD AMG, which cost more than double that this Viper PST. Also Athlon is going the same way because they use the same reticle in their best tactical rifle scope, the Cronus BTR.

These two reticles are very similar, but there are still two main differences. The EBR-2C MRAD reticle from Vortex has an open center for easier aiming on small targets, and the APRS1 reticle from Athlon has a very small floating dot, which helps you to quicker concentrate at the target. The small dot in the middle covers only 0.03 MIL, so you can easily aim also very small targets at great distances. A small advantage from Vortex EBR-2C over the Athlon APRS1 reticle is in the ranging lines, which are on 3 places in Vortex, but nowhere in Athlon. These ranging lines have a spacing from just 0.1 MIL, so you can measure the target very accurately. The smallest line spacing in the Athlon reticle is 0.2 MIL, what is also very precise, especially because you have a bigger maximum magnification. But if you can’t use the big magnification because of mirage or other weather conditions, the smaller spacings are definitely better.

Both reticles have a Christmas-tree design, what means that you have many additional lines under the center, which go on both sides of the vertical line. This is great for long range shooting, because you can make corrections very quickly, and you can use the lines directly for windage corrections.

Both reticles are illuminated with red color, and both are not daytime bright. For shooting at lower light, the user can adjust the brightness of the illumination on each rifle scope. Here Vortex scores again because it has 10 brightness settings and Athlon only 6. Because of this, the illumination can be adjusted very precise, perfect for shooting in dusk or dawn, where the light conditions are constantly changing.

Both manufacturers offer 2 reticle options for these rifle scopes, one is in MIL and one in MOA. The turrets are always matched with the reticle.

 

TL;DR

Because both rifle scopes are true tactical rifle scopes, the reticles are positioned in the first focal plane. The turrets are in MIL, so they are matched with the reticle. The reticles used in both rifle scopes are already known, because both company’s use them also in their most expensive rifle scopes. The APRS1 reticle from Athlon has a small dot in the middle, and the EBR-2C reticle from Vortex has an open center. Both have a Christmas-tree design, and both are illuminated.  

Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 5-25×50 EBR-2C MRAD reticle

 

Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56 APRS1 FFP IR MIL reticle at 4.5x and 30x magnification

 

Turret properties:

 

A: Vortex Viper PST gen. 2 5-25×50

B: Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56

Turret Style:

Tactical

Tactical

Click value:

0.1 mrad

0.1 mrad

MTC function:

No

No

Number of turns:

Multi-turn

Multi-turn

Turn indication:

CCW

CCW

Zero stop:

Yes

Yes

Position locking:

No

Yes – windage turret

Elevation in one turn:

10 mrad

10 mrad

Total travel of elevation turret:

27 mrad

34 mrad

Total travel of windage turret:

20 mrad

34 mrad

BDC turret type:

   

BDC turret accuracy:

   

BDC turret flexibility:

   

Turret size:

8/10

7/10

Click sound

8/10

10/10

Click feeling

9/10

8/10

Ease of zeroing

9/10

9/10

All in all (40 total points)

34

34

The turrets on these rifle scopes are true tactical turrets, what means that they are not capped, so the user can quickly change the elevation and windage setting if needed. This is meant for tactical-style competitions, where the shooter has to quickly engage targets at various distances.

Like said before, the turrets on these rifle scopes and the reticles are matched, so you can make 10 clicks for perfect shot placement on a target, or just go with the reticle 1 MIL over the target and the shot placement will be the same.

On both rifle scopes the turrets are multi-turn, so you have multiple revolutions to come from the bottom to the upper side of the reticle adjustment. What I find is great on both rifle scopes is that in one revolution, you have exactly 10 MIL (100 clicks) of adjustment, so you can’t go wrong when you are over 100 clicks.

One downside on both rifle scopes is on the windage turret because also these turrets are multi-turn. The markings go to 5 MIL left or right, but if you dial to that marking, you can quickly make a mistake and dial to the wrong direction back to 0. This means, after you did that, you are 10 MIL off the target. On 100 meters is that an entire meter. Whatsoever, I do like the windage turret of Athlon because the turret is lockable, so if you zero the rifle scope in, you can lock the turret and you don’t have to worry that you accidentally turn the turret when you are carrying the rifle. The lock mechanism works with a push and pull design, what is very easy and comfortable to use.

On the left side of both rifle scopes is the parallax turret with integrated illumination control. Like previously said, I prefer the Vortex turret over the Athlon because you can adjust both, illumination and parallax more precisely. Vortex, for comparison, has 10 illumination brightness settings and Athlon only 6. Because the diameter of the parallax is bigger on the Vortex, the lines for different distances are wider apart, what makes it easier and more precise to adjust. The illumination control on the Vortex is very stiff to turn, and because the illumination control of the Vortex stands out only a few millimeters, it is very difficult to adjust.

Athlon scores in the elevation adjustment range, because you have 34 MIL of adjustment compared to 27 in the Vortex. This is because of the bigger main tube diameter, so the internal parts have more space to move around. Normally 27 MIL is more than enough for extreme long range shooting, even if you don’t have a canted mount. So for most applications such a big elevation range isn’t needed, but nowadays the shooters are pushing the limits out of every cartridge, so you are on the better side with the Athlon.

Both rifle scopes have a downside on the elevation turret because they don’t have a good visible turn indicator. With every turn, the turret gets around 3 millimeters higher, so you see the lines under the turret. These lines are barely visible, so you have to look very carefully to notice in which turn you are.

The clicks on both rifle scopes are really great and are better then I expected. They are very audible and have a nice feel. Whatsoever, the clicks on the Athlon are harder to turn, so it can’t happen that you accidentally turn the turret when carrying the rifle. Because they are harder to turn, it is difficult to make only 1 click, because mostly the turret jumps for one or even three clicks. What I’ve noticed on Athlon’s elevation turret is also that the clicks are somehow nicer when you go with the elevation backwards. Then the clicks feel more positive and you can make easier only 1 click.

Both elevation turrets have also a zero stop function, so the turret stops at 0 (or your preferred position) when you dial it back. This is very helpful when you are in darker areas and don’t see the markings on the turrets.

 

TL;DR

The turrets are exposed for quick elevation and windage adjustments. They are both in MIL, so they are marched with the reticle. Both elevation turrets have a multi-turn design, and both have 10 MIL elevation per turn. Also the windage turrets are multi-turn, what is a big downside from my side because you can easily turn the turret on the wrong direction back to zero when you adjusted windage. The windage turret from Athlon is lockable, what is a very nice feature. Vortex has 27 MIL of internal elevation, and Athlon 34. This is possible because of the bigger main tube diameter. The Clicks on both rifle scopes feel great, are very positive and audible. Whatsoever, the clicks on Athlon are stronger, so you can easily make 2 or even 3 clicks when you start to turn the turret for only 1 click. When you turn the elevation turret backwards, the clicks feel even better on Athlon. Both rifle scopes feature a zero-stop function, which is very easy to adjust.  

 

Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 5-25×50 Elevation turret at 0 and max elevation

 

Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56 Elevation turret at 0 and max elevation

 

General properties:

 

A: Vortex Viper PST gen. 2 5-25×50

B: Athlon Ares ETR 4.5-30×56

Made in:

Philippines

China

Introduced in:

2017

2018

Available original accessories:

Yes

Yes

Warranty period:

10 years

10 years

MRSP Price:

1579 (1249) €

1679 €

Athlon Optics and Vortex Optics are American based companies, but they both produce their optics and equipment in Asian companies because of the lower production costs. This particular Vortex, for example, is made in the Philippines, and this Athlon in China. Both are fairly new on the market, Vortex since 2017 and Athlon since 2018.

Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 5-25×56 rifle scope comes with a 3-inch sunshade, a battery for the illumination, a lens cloth, the manual, and a cheap bikini-style cover. For this vortex many additional accessories are available, like flip-up covers, neoprene cover, throw lever and so on.

In the box of Athlon are even fewer accessories. This rifle scope comes only with a battery for the illumination, a lens cloth, and the instructions manual. The ˝bad˝ thing is, that the only additional accessory you get from Athlon is a 4-inch long sunshade. For flip-up covers and other accessories, the user has to look for aftermarket products.

The warranty on both products in Europe is 10 years, but both manufacturers advertise a lifetime warranty. The warranty of these two products is very similar because they will repair or replace the damaged product, no matter if the product was damaged by the user or if just broke inside. Both companies do not take the product into warranty if the product was misused, if the damage was caused deliberate, or the maintenance was provided by someone other than the authorized service department.

Also the price is very similar, the MSRP of Vortex is 1579€ and 1679€ of Athlon. The difference is, that Vortex is already longer on the market, and that’s why the price went already a little bit down, which is now 1249€. This price difference is already quite big, for almost the same features and more additional accessories.

Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2

Athlon Ares ETR

 

Conclusion

For shooters that are searching for a great quality tactical rifle scope in the middle price range, these are the perfect two to choose from. The build quality is great, even better then we would expect from products in this price range. Whatsoever, both rifle scopes have some room for improvements.

On the Athlon, in my opinion, the clicks of the elevation turret could be improved, so the adjustments would be the same in both directions. For the windage turrets, both rifle scopes could have a stopper, so the user couldn’t get into a second revolution. The locking mechanism of the Ares ETR is great, and in my opinion, this is one of the biggest advantages over the Vortex, because the clicks are easy to turn and could be adjusted accidentally.

The parallax and illumination adjustment are much better on the Vortex, but because of the smaller main tube diameter, you have less elevation adjustment for extreme long range shooting.

We have to say that Vortex features one of the best, if not the best glass on the market in this price range. We have tested it already against the Burris XTR, and the results were equal. Optically this Vortex can easily compete also with much more expensive rifle scopes.

Where Athlon scores is definitely the magnification range. It has a smaller but also bigger magnification than Vortex. Because of that, you have a little bit more field of view on the minimal magnification, and you can be more precise when engaging small targets at long distances.

For a Vortex Viper PST Gen. 2 you have to pay 1249€ and for the Athlon Ares ETR 1679€. The price difference is quite high, and the question is if it’s worth to pay the extra money for more magnification and elevation, but worse parallax, illumination, and especially optical quality.

Disclaimer

 

We would like to thank Optics Trade for letting us use and test the above-mentioned products. We also thank them for letting us use their videos.

This featured test is impartial and we always try our best not to prejudice and favor one product over the other. Our team of enthusiasts who tests these products and writes these articles is doing it from dedication, as rifle scopes are our big passion. We also feel a great amount of joy and satisfaction when we know that we have contributed and shared with you our experiences. We try not to be biased and try to be as accurate as possible when interpreting our sightings. We will do our best to described things as they really are.

How the testing is done:

Our team comprises of two enthusiasts who write the articles for hobby and our very helpful unbiased friends who help us make the evaluations, such as the optical characteristics. As we are volunteers/enthusiasts we are not always present in the same numbers. Our ranks can fluctuate from 5 to around 8 people at the time of a test. Other than the two of us who are responsible for writing the articles our friends have almost zero experience in rifle scopes. They have no prejudice and are as such perfect for our objective observations. None-the-less we always try our best to hide all the labels that can give away the products ID. For that reason, we mount the rifle scopes in parallel on a special stand and cover them so the brand names are not visible.

We accurately fine tune the parallax on all the testing products for observing trees and buildings at 350 m and each person sets the diopter for their specific needs.

After we are sure that the test can be done without preferations we ask our volunteers to test the following parameters:

  • Central sharpness – subjective impression at 5x, 15x and 25x

  • Edge sharpness – subjective impression at 5x, 15x and 25x

  • Inner reflections at 5x, 15x and 25x

  • FOV – subjective impression at 5x, 15x and 25x

  • Eye-box at 5x, 15x and 25x

  • Overall – subjective impression

In this article, we tested optical properties with 8 volunteers, which have no experiences with tactical scopes and have no bias towards any of these two brands. To be exact none of the volunteers even knew any of these two brands before the test. Both scopes were mounted in parallel and people observed trees and buildings about 260 meters away. Parallax was fine-tuned before the test and each person also adjusted the diopter setting for himself. From 8 volunteers 3 were women and 5 were men.

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