Vortex Viper VRD-6 

by Chris Blatherwick

A mundane handgun can be transformed into a DVC (Diligentia Vis Celeritas aka Accuracy, Power and Speed) fire-breathing handgun.

Diligentia Vis celeritas is a way of life

Vortex optics is fast becoming the ‘go to’ brand in both the South African and international optics market. The company is now setting its sights on the handgun market, with the release of its new Red Dot sight. We received the Vortex Viper VRD-6 from Whylo Distributors for testing and review, in order to establish if it really is a game changer in the handgun market.

General information

The Vortex Optics brand was established in 2002 by Dan and Margie Hamilton. The Hamiltons, who were not newcomers to the optics industry, owned and operated a Wildbirds Unlimited store from 1983, which predominantly sold optics for outdoors enthusiasts. Dan Hamilton became very involved in the general optics design, believing that consumers deserved high-quality, tailor-made products that were both affordable and extremely rugged. Thus the Vortex brand was established. Vortex produces a multitude of optics, including spotting scopes, rifles-scopes, red dots, rangefinders, binoculars, monoculars and tripods. Product development is headed up by Sam Hamilton, who oversees all design aspects personally, including prototype construction.

Vortex is the undisputed industry leader with regard to customer service. Its products are covered by an unconditional ‘VIP’ warranty. The company prides itself that it will replace any product that breaks with a new optic, irrespective of age or how that product sustained damage. Vortex’s places great emphasis on product design.

Design and ergonomics

Traditionally, handgun Red Dots Optics were rather large and cumbersome, and hugely expensive. The mounting of such devices was limited to ‘open class/race guns’ used in sport shooting, or military units that required special holsters and heavily modified slides, to name but a few. Enter Vortex Optics with the highly impressive Viper VRD-6. The Vortex Viper VRD-6 was released in January 2016 as a multi-platform Red Dot Optic, suitable for either handguns or rifles, and even shotgun platforms. The Viper VRD-6 is constructed from a single piece of aluminum with a hard anodised matte finish that is both lightweight and compact.

It features a fully multi-coated ArmorTek ultra-clear lens with a wide unobstructed field of view, and is also scratch-resistant. When fitted to a pistol platform, the unique design of the Viper VRD-6 provides the end user with the simplicity and speed advantage of a dot sight, while co-witnessing with suppressor/extra high iron sights. The Viper VRD-6 is powered by a single CR2032 battery, with a battery life of up to 30 000 hours (on the lowest power setting). The integrated auto shutdown feature that powers down the unit after 14 hours of non-use. The power/ illumination control on the left side of the optic is extremely tactile and easy to manipulate (depressing the up/on power button increases the dot intensity accordingly).

The Viper VRD-6 is shock- and waterproof. O-ring seals prevent moisture, dust and debris from penetrating the optic, ensuring reliable performance in all possible environments. The Viper VRD-6 has been designed with unlimited eye relief (that is, the shooter’s eye does not have to be at a specific distance from the optic in order to achieve a good sight picture). This aids the shooter in rapid target acquisition for static shooting or shooting on the move. Thus a mundane handgun can be transformed into a DVC (Diligentia Vis Celeritas aka Accuracy, Power and Speed) fire-breathing handgun.

Vortex has developed the Viper VRD-6 to for optics-ready fi rearms such as the Glock MOS (Modular Optics System), Smith & Wesson CORE (Competition Optics Ready Equipment), NF FNX-45 Tactical, Sig Sauer Match Elite, and HS-9 Tactical. Some models could require an additional adapter plate to fi t the Viper VRD-6 and other Red Dot optics. The popularity of the Red Dot handgun optics such as the Viper VRD-6 has resulted in a multitude of companies producing rear-sight insert adaptor plates (the rear sight is drifted out and replaced with a dovetail insert that will accommodate an adaptor plate), to transform the humble 1911 and Gen 3 or 4 Glock, to name but a few, into a MOS platform.


We fitted the Viper Vortex VRD-6 to the rear sight of a Smith & Wesson Victory .22 rimfire pistol. This can be removed and replaced with a Polymer 1913 style rail, transforming it into an optics-ready pistol in seconds. The Victory’s configuration required that we leave the Picatinny mounting base on the Viper VRD-6, as supplied by Vortex Optics. Mounting the optic took less than 30 seconds, and required a total of nine sighting shots before it was dialed perfectly in on our test firearm.

Vortex has identified the need for an affordable, low-profile Red Dot optic that can be used on handguns, rifles and shotguns.

Fitting a Red Dot optic to a handgun provides a significant psychological boost for any shooter. Getting to grips with the Viper VRD-6 on our test pistol required no cross-training (apart from remembering to switch the optic on after it was installed initially), as the shooter’s grip and the rest of the biomechanics involved in shooting the handgun platform remain exactly the same.  The Viper VRD-6 is fi tted with a 6 MOA Red Dot, ensuring the shooter ‘picks up’ the Red Dot with ease. Selecting the correct intensity level via the power button on the left side of the optic was extremely easy.

Engaging targets at variable distances was no problem at all, requiring minimal effort from the shooter. We progressed to engaging targets on the move. These, too, were dispatched with minimal ease and devastating accuracy, thus showcasing the flexibility and user-friendliness of the optic. Red Dot optics are becoming more and more prevalent as the ‘go to’ optic not only for sport-shooting, but also for the global self-defence and private security markets. Thus it is easy to see why micro Red Dot optics is the future in terms of sighting systems for handguns.

Fitting a Red Dot optic to a handgun provides a significant psychological boost for any shooter.


It is easy to see why Vortex Optics is making massive inroads in both the South African and International markets with its expanding optics range. Vortex has identified the need for an affordable, low-profile Red Dot optic that can be used on handguns, rifles and shotguns. It is suitable not only for competitive IPSC, IDPA and 3 Gun Nation sport shooters, but also for end users who deploy their handguns for self-defence purposes only. Vortex is playing a pivotal role in the development of handgun optics for all types of handguns. The Viper VRD-6 is a quantum leap in Red Dot optic design that raises the bar for other manufacturers. It allows a shooter to transform their run-of-the-mill pistol platform into a precision instrument capable of phenomenal accuracy, while ensuring that follow-up shots can be made quicker than ever before, as the shooter does not need to align the weapons platforms sight, as with traditional handgun sights.



Last modified on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 10:07
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