Comparing the Nightforce SHV vs Vortex PST Gen 2 Scope Models

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When scope shopping, it’s only natural to narrow down choices by comparing one scope model to another. However, there are times when readers are interested in comparing an entire series or family of rifle scopes to another, and this is one of those times. In this article, I’ll compare the following series of scopes: Nightforce SHV vs Vortex PST Gen 2.

Nightforce SHV vs Vortex PST Scopes

Before we get too far along in this comparison, it’s essential to understand that it may not be a one-to-one equivalence when comparing a family of scopes against another family. However, I’ll do my best to focus on an apples-to-apples comparison.

First, let’s take a quick look at each riflescope family:

Nightforce SHV Scope Models

The Nightforce SHV series of scopes was first introduced at the beginning of 2014 with a 4-14×56 model. The success of that model led Nightforce to offer additional scope magnification ranges in the SHV family.

The SHV scopes were marketed as a more budget-friendly option in the Nightforce line designed to be a versatile option for shooters and hunters. As a matter of fact, the “SHV” designation is an acronym for “Shooter Hunter Varmint.”

Currently, the SHV family of scopes consists of four scope models:

SHV Model

Image

Focal Plane

Illuminated Reticle Option

ZeroSet Feature

SHV 3-10×42

Second Focal Plane

Yes

No

SHV 4-14×50 F1

First Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

SHV 4-14×56

Second Focal Plane

Yes

No

SHV 5-20×56

Second Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

As you can see from the table above, three of the four scopes in the SHV family are second focal plane configurations. The only first focal plane model is the 4-14×50 F1. In addition, each scope model in the SHV family has specific reticle options tied to that model (which I’ll discuss in more detail under the “reticle” section below)

The SHV scopes are only available in a 30mm tube and come in various capped and open turret configurations. In addition, all the SHV scopes, except for the 3-10×42 model, are equipped with a side focus adjustment that focuses down to 25 yards.

The SHV series has been an excellent seller for Nightforce, especially for hunters looking for a top-shelf scope for hunting at a more budget-friendly cost.

Vortex PST Gen 2 Scope Models

The Vortex PST Gen 2 family of scopes was introduced in early 2017 as a replacement or upgrade over the 1st generation of the Vortex Viper PST series of riflescopes. Just for clarification purposes, you may see Gen I and Gen II designations on Vortex PST scopes on the market, and I wrote another post about the difference between those two Vortex scopes here.

The PST name stands for “Precision Shooting Tactical,” although this series features a scope model to meet nearly any shooting or hunting situation.

All the PST Gen 2 scopes are built in a 30mm tube and currently consists of the following scope models:

PST Gen 2 Model

Image

Focal Plane

Illuminated Reticle Option

ZeroSet Feature

Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24

Second Focal Plane

Yes

No

Viper PST Gen II 2-10x32 FFP

First Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

Viper PST Gen II 3-15x44

Second Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

Viper PST Gen II 3-15x44 FFP

First Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50

Second Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50 FFP

First Focal Plane

Yes

Yes

Like most mid to higher-end riflescope models, the PST Gen II scopes have specific reticle options that are determined by the particular scope model or magnification range.

Except for the PST 1-6×24 scope, all the PST scopes are equipped with a side focus adjustment that will focus down to either 20 yards (FFP models) or 25 yards (SFP models).

The PST Gen 2 scopes have been a solid success for Vortex, especially in the precision shooting disciplines.

Scope Magnification Range

The Nightforce SHV series consists of four scope models, with the lowest magnification range being a 3-10×42 and the highest being a 5-20×56. In comparison, the Vortex PST Gen 2 series consists of six scope models, with the lowest magnification range being 1-6×24 and the highest being 5-25×50.

While both scope series are very similar, the most significant difference between the two groups is the Vortex PST 1-6×24 model. This scope is designed and marketed as a short to medium-range scope for the AR platform, while Nightforce does not offer a dedicated riflescope for the AR platform in the SHV series.

The highest magnification or power range is the 5-25×50 models of the PST series in either first focal plane or second focal plane.

Aside from the AR platform option difference, both scope series are comparable in power magnification ranges.

Comparing Focal Planes

Scope focal planes can be a confusing concept, which is one of the reasons that I wrote a more detailed explanation of the differences between the first and second focal plane scopes.

Here’s a quick overview of FFP vs. SFP scopes:

First Focal Plane

The first focal plane (commonly called FFP) configuration is the newer of the two configurations and is especially popular in long range shooting. In a first focal plane scope, the reticle is positioned in front of the magnification lens and towards the front of the scope’s erector tube system.

Scopes in this configuration feature a reticle that enlarges as the magnification range increases. This design makes it easier for ballistic calculations for long range shooting.

Second Focal Plane

A second focal plane (commonly called SFP) scope is a much older design and concept compared to the FFP design. In an SFP scope, the reticle is mounted behind the magnification lens, so the reticle stays the same size as the magnification increases.

Second focal plane scopes are more common than first focal plane models and tend to cost less.

Focal Plane Comparison

While both scope series offer FFP and SFP options, there are some differences between the SHV and PST scopes in the focal planes.

The Nightforce SHV series only features one FFP scope, and that’s the 4-14×50 F1 scope. The Vortex PST Gen II series features three scopes in an FFP configuration:

  • 2-10×32 FFP
  • 3-15-44 FFP
  • 5-25×50 FFP

However, the SHV and PST series features three scopes built in the second focal configuration.

In this comparison, the Vortex PST scopes offer a greater range of FFP options compared to the SHV Nightforce series.

Nightforce SHV 5-20x56 Riflescope

Optical Quality

I’ve mentioned this before in other posts on this blog, but it’s worth mentioning again: a comparison of optical quality is always challenging as its solely based on one’s opinion and perception of factors like:

  • Brightness
  • Image clarity
  • Image color
  • Edge to edge quality

I prefer the Nightforce SHV over the PST Gen 2 scopes in a head-to-head comparison of optical quality. However, in my opinion, it’s a very close comparison, and I rate the SHV scopes as only being just a tad bit brighter and clearer.

That’s taking nothing away from the PST scopes as they have pretty good glass as well.

Scope Length & Weight

The length and weight of a scope may be of interest to some shooters, but it depends on the type of shooting being done.

Weight is almost always a factor when shopping for a hunting scope but seems to be less critical when shopping for an optic for long distance shooting or precision tactical shooting. The only caveat to that will be situations involving competitive shooting disciplines with rifle/scope weight limits.

On paper, the Vortex PST scope models tend to weigh just a bit heavier than their Nightforce SHV counterparts.

Here are a few examples:

The Nightforce SHV 3-10×42 scope weighs 22.2 ounces, while the PST Gen 2 2-10×32 FFP scope weighs 4.1 ounces heavier at 26.3 ounces.

The Nightforce SHV 4-14×56 weighs 26.9 ounces, while the PST Gen 2 3-15×44 weighs 28.1 ounces.

The Nightforce SHV 5-20×50 weighs 29.1 ounces, while the PST Gen 2 5-25×50 model weighs 31.2 ounces.

However, adding an illuminated reticle to a scope always adds a bit of weight. Typically, illumination adds anywhere from 1 ounce to 1.5 ounces of weight to the riflescope.

All the Vortex Gen 2 PST scopes are built with an illuminated reticle, so the weight associated with illumination is already factored into the PST scope weights.

Nearly all the Nightforce scopes in the SHV series feature an illuminated reticle option. As a result, the weight comparison becomes almost dead even with the added illuminated reticle option on the SHV scopes.

Scope Reticle Options

Because the reticle choices for each brand are tied to the specific scope model, I put together the table below that lays out the reticle options for each of the scopes in the SHV and PST scope series.

Brand & Scope Model

Image

Reticle Options

Nigthforce SHV 3-10x42

Two Choices

(1) Foreceplex

(2) MOAR - 30 MOA with Center Illumination

Nigthforce SHV 4-14x50 F1

Two Choices


(1) MOAR F1 - 30 MOA

(2) MIL-R SHV F1


Nigthforce SHV 4-14x56

Two Choices

(1) MOAR - 30 MOA

(2) MOAR - 30 MOA with Center Illumination

Nigthforce SHV 5-20x56

Four Choices

(1) Forceplex

(2) Forceplex - Non-illuminated

(3) MOAR - 20 MOA - Center Illumination

(4) MOAR - 20 MOA Reticle

Viper PST Gen II 1-6x24

Two Choices

(1) VMR-2 (MOA)

(2) VMR-2 (MRAD)

Viper PST Gen II 2-10x32 FFP

Vortex PST Gen II 2-10x32 FFP

Two Choices

(1) EBR-4 (MOA)


(2) EBR-4 (MRAD)

Viper PST Gen II 3-15x44

One Choice

(1) EBR-4 (MOA)

Viper PST Gen II 3-15x44 FFP

Two Choices

(1) EBR-7C (MOA)

(2) EBR-7C (MRAD)

Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50

One Choice

(1) EBR-4 (MOA)

Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50 FFP

Two Choices

(1) EBR-7C (MOA)

(2) EBR-7C (MRAD)

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot with most all the Nightforce reticles available for the SHV and all the reticle options available for the PST Gen 2 scopes. There are one or two Nightforce reticles in the SHV scopes that I haven’t had the chance to test at the range.

While there are a few small things I liked and things I wasn’t crazy about with reticles from both brands, overall, I though all were good quality reticles.

If I had to choose between the reticles available on both series of riflescopes, I’d have to give the edge to the PST reticles. I’m especially fond of the EBR-4 and EBR-7C options.

Build Quality & Durability

For the most part, both of these scope brands build good quality products, and the Vortex PST and Nightforce SHV models are no exception.

In my opinion, just from a feel perspective in hand, the Nightforce SHV scopes “feel” beefier and more durable compared to the PST Gen 2 scopes. Having owned (and still do own) a few Nightforce optics, it’s not hard to understand why Nightforce has such a long and storied reputation for durability and toughness.

However, when you start adjusting controls on the Nightforce (turrets, side focus, etc.), there’s a noticeable difference compared to the PST controls. The controls on the PST Gen 2 scopes feel more precise and heavy-duty than the Nightforce controls. However, despite the differences in controls, the SHV series feels more solid and durable.

Although it’s just my personal experiences, at my day job, I’ve had to assist more customers engaging the warranty on Vortex PST models than customers engaging the warranty on Nightforce SHV models.

That being said, I have owned several different PST scopes in various configurations over the years and only had an issue with one. And Vortex fixed it fairly quickly.

I’d give the Nightforce SHV series the edge in durability and quality at the end of the day.

Vortex Viper PST Gen 2 Scope

Country of Manufacture

The term “country of manufacture” is fancy terminology to identify the country where a product is produced or manufactured.

I’ve already written about this topic for both series in different posts on this site, so I don’t want to beat this topic to death.

Let’s quickly go over where each scope series is manufactured:

Nightforce SHV scopes

All the Nightforce scopes have the glass and components sourced from Japan, and the scopes themselves are put together, inspected, tested, boxed up, etc., at the Nightforce facility in Idaho. The SHV series of optics follows this same process.

Vortex PST Gen 2 scopes

Vortex has the PST Gen 2 scopes built at an optical facility in the Philippines. Vortex engineers layout the specifications, and the optical factory in the Philippines builds the PST scopes to those specifications.

Although this section somewhat ties into the durability assessment above, I do think that the Nightforce SHV scopes are a better-built product compared to the Vortex PST scopes. But, again, that’s not meant to be a knock or criticism of Vortex, but rather a vote of confidence for Nightforce.

The PST scope shown in the pics on this page is one of mine, so it’s not as though I dislike the PST scopes or Vortex scopes in general.

Warranty Coverage

Warranty coverage is a feature that most people don’t consider until they have to engage the warranty. Luckily, these series of scopes are covered by two very good (including one stellar) warranty programs.

Nightforce offers a “Limited Lifetime Warranty” that may require warranty registration and only covers electronic components for three years. In addition, the warranty does not cover modifications made by the owner or any prior owner. Interestingly, the Nightforce warranty page specifically references the SHV scope series stating, “SHV™ models maintain waterproof integrity with their protective caps installed.”

The Vortex warranty may be the best sporting optics warranty on the market because it’s an exceptionally simple warranty program with very few conditions. For example, if the scope breaks, they will fix it, replace it, or replace it with a comparable scope model. Period. Plus, the Vortex warranty stays valid if you paint the scope or Duracote it.

I’ve had the opportunity to test both warranty programs and had excellent experiences with both. However, the Vortex PST series wins this comparison hands down based on the strength of the Vortex warranty.

Again, that isn’t meant as a negative against Nightforce, as they have a good warranty program as well. However, the Vortex warranty offers better coverage than the Nightforce warranty.

Operational Controls

While both series of scopes offer good quality operational controls and control features, I prefer the PST Gen 2 operational controls over the SHV models.

The turrets, side focus, and power adjustment feel smoother and more precise than the SHV controls. In addition, I prefer the zero-stop configuration on the PST models over the zero stop on the SHV. The Nightforce zero stop set-up on the SHV scopes isn’t bad, but the PST zero stop is easier to configure and easier to use (in my opinion).

I also feel that the illuminated reticle integration and adjustment are more ergonomic than the SHV models’ illumination controls.

I’d give the edge to the PST models regarding operational controls and features.

Cost

The final comparison point is cost. Typically, with scopes, there are three price points:

  • MSRP
  • Street price
  • MAP price

MAP is an acronym for “Minimum Advertised Price,” and it’s a price point set by the scope manufacturer that identifies the lowest pricing allowable for marketing purposes. In many cases, MAP pricing ends up being the street price.

Since the MSRP pricing is just a suggestion about pricing, I prefer to use the average street price as the price point to use in a cost comparison.

Using the average street pricing per scope and comparing the closest power range to power range across the brands, the non-illuminated SHV scopes tend to cost around $150 more than a comparable Vortex PST Gen 2 scope at street price.

If you opt for an illuminated reticle within the SHV scope line, the cost differences go up to $250 more than the PST models.

Vortex PST 5-25x50 Power Magnification Ring

Vortex PST Gen 2 vs. Nightforce SHV: Which is Better?

First off, I honestly don’t think either is a poor buying decision at the $1000 price point (with a $100 +/- range) for a top-tier mid-range scope.

I’ll make the following buying suggestions:

  • If you’re strictly shopping on costs between the two series, the PST scopes will be the lower-cost option.
  • If you’re more interested in an FFP option within these two series of riflescopes, then the Vortex PST will provide you with more FFP options compared to the SHV scopes.
  • If you’re focused on optical quality, then the Nightforce SHV will offer slightly better glass.
  • If you feel that both series are nearly even in features and performance, but are trying to decide based on the warranty, then the Vortex PST scopes are a better option for you.
  • If you want the best quality and durability that either series offers, then the SHV Nightforce models are your best bet.
  • If features are your primary focus, then I’d suggest looking hard at the PST scopes as they offer more features at a lower price.

Shopping for a Nightforce SHV Scope

If you decided that the Nightforce SHV is a better option for your needs, here are a few locations where each of the specific Nightforce SHV scope configurations are available for sale:




Nightforce SHV 5-20x56

$1,195.00
in stock
11 new from $1,195.00
2 used from $1,064.36
as of June 11, 2024 8:17 pm
$1,195.00
in stock
15 new from $1,195.00
as of June 11, 2024 8:17 pm
$1,345.00
in stock
10 new from $1,345.00
1 used from $1,210.11
as of June 11, 2024 8:17 pm
$1,345.00
in stock
14 new from $1,345.00
as of June 11, 2024 8:17 pm

Shopping for a Vortex PST Gen 2 Scope

If you believe that the Vortex PST Gen II series is a better option for your needs, here are a few locations where each of the specific Vortex PST Gen 2 scope configurations are available for sale:





Vortex PST Gen 2 5-25x50 FFP Models

$972.85
$1,299.99
in stock
20 new from $972.85
2 used from $914.86
as of June 11, 2024 8:17 pm
$988.58
$1,299.99
in stock
19 new from $988.58
as of June 11, 2024 8:17 pm

 

FAQS

Here are some frequently asked questions that I see associated with a comparison of the Vortex PST scopes vs. Nightforce SHV scopes:

I came across a great deal on a Vortex PST Gen 1 scope. What are the differences between the Gen 1 PST and the Gen 2 models?

I wrote this detailed post explaining the differences between the PST Gen 1 and PST Gen 2 models.

What was the Vortex PST Gen 2 release date? (H3)

Vortex debuted the PST Gen 2 scope models in January of 2017 at the 2017 SHOT Show.

Do all the Nightforce SHV scopes have side focus or adjustable parallax?

Every scope in the Nightforce SHV series is equipped with a side focus option, except the SHV 3-10×42 model. That specific model is built with a fixed parallax setting at 125 meters (136 yards).

I’ll update this post with new information as it becomes available.