Pistol red dot sights aren’t cheap. It costs around $250 just to get your hands on a quality model from an authoritative manufacturer.
One such handgun sight is the Vortex Venom 6 MOA red dot, and it can be considered affordable once you’ve seen what alternatives can cost you.
With its long-time reputation and consistent trend of high reviews, I had to have the Vortex Venom in my own hands.
Target Tamers purchased it, and I set out to field test mounting ease, tracking accuracy, illumination, and build quality.
Some of my expectations were met and some things I learned along the way - discover what in my Vortex Venom red dot review!
What I Like: Mounting
What I Don’t Like: Non-tactile turret adjustments
Best Uses: Home Defense/SHTF, CQB, Range Use, Recreational Use, Hunting, Pistol & Rifle Use
- Magnification: 1x
- Coatings: FMC
- Reticle: 6 MOA dot
- Adjustments: 1 MOA
- Battery Life: 150-3000 hours
- Dimensions: 1 x 1.9 x .1” / 1.1 oz
- Mount: Docter/Noblex footprint / Rail mount included
My Verdict: In general, the Vortex Venom is a high-performing micro red dot sight that’s at home on a pistol but can be well-suited to rifles with the right accessories. It’s tough, clear, and easy to use with two eyes open. The most beneficial advantage is that it’s incredibly fast to use.
Why Trust Me?
After hundreds of hours of hand-testing red dot sight in the field and on the hunt, and thousands more hours researching, writing, photographing and creating videos about them, I feel I have earned the title of expert when it comes to optics!
Optics are not just my passion, but also my full-time job!
I get my hands on as many of the optics I test as possible (through buying, borrowing or begging!) and run them through their paces to make sure they will perform out in field.
Check out our optics testing process here.
Over a decade of experience home defense, recreational use and pistol & rifle use has been integral in putting together this Vortex Venom Red Dot review.
Who is the Vortex Venom Red Dot Best Suited to?
The Vortex Venom is a quality red dot sight. Though it has all the right features and fundamental quality I expect for a pistol sight, it has a straightforward and no-nonsense design. It does away with the locking screws as seen on the Vortex Viper and has a top-loading battery compartment.
Even though it has an illumination sensor to provide a dynamic Auto Brightness mode, it does not have a motion sensor. That’s okay – that technology is left to the red dots that can literally cost twice the price.
Based off its performance in the field, value, and included accessories, I can recommend it for a variety of applications from range plinking to competition, home defense, and maybe duty use if you’re on a budget.
How Does the Vortex Venom Red Dot Perform?
Overall, the Vortex Venom is a great micro red dot sight for the handgun. From its low-profile size to its huge 6 MOA dot and easy mounting process, the Venom is a versatile sight for multiple applications from home defense to competition.
The 6 MOA dot is very round. I like the large size and I didn’t view any dot anomalies that I would normally get with having a refractive error condition. This part surprised me. Given its big 6 MOA size, I thought I would definitely see some dot distortion – but I didn’t.
Those with astigmatism might benefit from lowering the brightness, but worst-case scenario is to leave your corrective lenses on.
I like the look of the Venom red dot. It’s sleek and simple. I don’t care for all the white logos and markings – it’s a bit much. I think the Vortex logo is good in white, but the rest can be ghosted out which would give it a more tacticool appeal.
I like that there are separate up and down buttons to control the illumination. It’s annoying when there’s only button and you have to toggle through all the settings. With the Venom, it’s a convenience feature to have two even though they are small. It’s hard to use to them with gloves on. Due to their size and how hard you must depress them, they will not unintentionally change.
As I expected, it’s been a trooper in rainy conditions. It does get raindrops on the lenses, and it's non-distracting for the most part, but in heavier rain, it was less about what was on the lenses than it was about target visibility and safe conditions.
The Vortex Venom is for rapid target engagement. Thanks to the large dot, wide FOV, and low-profile HUD design, it’s one of the fastest red dot sights I’ve used to date.
Features & Benefits
I knew exactly what pistol I wanted to put the Venom on – a Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry. Back when I was working with the Burris FastFire 3, I went through a heck of a time mounting it to this Sig. Thanks to the unique footprint on this slide, I ended up with an adapter plate purchased through EGW.
This plate was actually made for the Vortex Venom. In getting the Burris FF3 mounted successfully I had also opted for the longer 6-48 mounting screws. This made for a perfect setup to mount the Vortex red dot sight to this particular handgun. It was a breeze of an experience getting it mounted.
I should tell you that it also came with a little baggie with two screws and a hex key for mounting to a Glock MOS handgun. Vortex doesn’t mention this as an included accessory, but I got it with mine.
The included T15 mounting screws are what I used to mount the Venom to the Picatinny rail mount that is also in the box. I really like the adaptability and versatility of including a rail mount as an accessory. As is, it’s a perfect red dot sight for my Ruger 10/22 but I needed to use a riser block to put it on my original Bushmaster Patrolman.
With that all said and done, mounting the pistol sight was awesome regardless of what firearm I wanted it on. I knew this would be the case, so that went as expected.
6 MOA Dot & Illumination
The Vortex Venom has a 6 MOA dot. At 100 yards the 6 MOA has 6” subtension on a target downrange. Now, let’s figure that out for the pistol shooter, shall we?
At 10, 15, and 25 yards, that 6 MOA dot is still 6 MOA, but subtension is now 0.6” at 10 yards, 0.9” at 15 yards, and 1.5” at 25 yards. That’s very good for fast dot and target acquisition and is exactly what is needed in various CQB applications.
I found the dot big and easy to pick up. I don’t think it was necessarily due to the shape and size of the 1.11” HUD window but the actual dot itself.
I personally don’t like the dynamic illumination. One range day, the conditions were constantly changing. Keeping a close eye on that dot, I couldn’t tell if the illumination sensor was sampling light or if it was going to fritz out on me as it was continuously flashing. I still don’t know what it was doing. If it was sampling light, it was very distracting. It hasn't happened again though.
The dim setting in auto mode is still pretty bright. Obviously, I like the dim setting in manual mode a lot better, but I still felt like it was bright. It doesn’t get dimmer.
To engage the auto mode, you have to hold the up arrow and watch for the dot to blink three times. The good news is that in auto mode, the Venom will automatically shut down after 14 hours.
Though I must manually power down and manually power the Venom on, I prefer manual brightness. You’ll know you’re in manual brightness when the dot blinks twice.
Overall, like most micro pistol sights, the Venom is small. It’s 1 x 1 x 1.75” in size. It’s low-profile, made from aluminum, and has a large 1.1” viewing window. The Vortex Venom red dot sight has ArmorTek that is an exterior lens coating to protect it from oil, dirt, scratches, etc.
Vortex says it’s about 1.9” long, but I got 1.75”. This is right in line with small red dots for pistols. It weighs next to nothing.
It has been O-ring sealed for waterproof protection, and I have used the Venom out in the rain multiple times during my Monsoon season. It has not failed once. I did make sure I had the battery compartment completely sealed up though. It’s Vortex tough for most applications like range use and some hunting – as expected.
I do wonder about glass protection with the thin HUD frame. Though the Venom is shockproof, if there’s direct damage to the frame, it could very well impact the glass. You might have to spend more to get double frames or a rubberized exterior. I would want more robustness for daily duty use.
Optically, the Vortex Venom has what I would consider good to mid-range optical performance. The dichroic (blue tint) coating is very obvious but non-distracting when actually using the red dot sight.
The dot flares if the brightness is up too high for the conditions. There is some reflection, most notable, the elevation adjustment markings as the coating on the interior lens is reflective. Most of the time, the reflections didn’t bother me, but I did notice it both in day and night conditions.
The thin HUD frame essentially disappears with two-eyes open use. This makes it easy to use in the field and with practice, you don’t have to “hunt” for the dot. Its large size makes it easy to spot – with a strong index, it ‘appears’ in the frame.
Altogether, the optical quality is good. It is a shade darker than I thought it would be, but overall, I don’t have any major complaints with the glass. It’s clear. I can use it with two eyes or one rather easily. The frame disappears from view with two-eyes use.
The Sig P320 X-Carry is a very accurate handgun, so don’t get distracted by looking too closely at my groups. I felt like it tracked accurately. The covered-up holes were initial impacts out of the box to figure out how low I was.
Adjustments followed. I could probably make more adjustments but I’m pretty sure some of my low and right impacts are due to my bad pistol fundamental habits and not the fault of the sight.
I’m glad I had a tiny flathead screwdriver in my gear because this particular day I forgot the tool that came in the box at home. Thank goodness adjustment references are marked because they are not tactile at all.
Even though this makes for a tedious experience, it tracked accurately and I don't see why you couldn't take it out to 50 yards on a handgun.
The Venom red dot sight takes a CR1632 cell battery. Battery life will vary greatly based on use, if it’s left on, and illumination setting used. Vortex states battery life to be anywhere between 150-3000 hours.
Though the battery type could be a nuisance for me since I tend to have more CR2032 batteries around, it’s not too uncommon of a battery to find in stores.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the Venom is about the battery cap. People have a hard time getting it threaded back in. For once I don’t have this issue, and yes, I’ve experienced the cap popping off when firing a round, but it hasn’t happened with the Venom.
There’s a trick to it. Place the battery in the compartment and put the cap on. Use the tool to thread the cap in reverse – counter-clockwise while slightly pressing down on it as you reverse thread. You’ll feel and hear a click. Now thread clockwise until snug and secure, and it’s done.
You will see that due to the design of the surface that there is a cutaway about a third of the size of the cap. This cutaway somewhat exposes the O-ring seal that is underneath the cap. The seal provides waterproof protection to the battery compartment. It’s normal to see this as it’s due to the design of the surface – the cutaway. As you can see for the rest of the two thirds of the surface, the cap is pretty much flush.
Limitations of the Vortex Venom Red Dot
Non-Tactile Turret Adjustments
The non-tactile adjustments is my biggest beef with the Vortex Venom. They are not positive or audible. This requires focus on the actual adjustments you’re making and I’ll admit to losing count more than once.
I wouldn’t say this is unique to the Venom as the Burris FastFire 3 adjustments are pretty much identical in performance. (Check out my Burris Fastfire 3 vs Vortex Venom head-to-head here). In comparison to the field-tested Leupold DeltaPoint Pro, there is no competition. The DeltaPoint Pro is far more tactile than both.
Shake Awake is the Holosun term for motion sensor technology. The Vortex Venom does not have motion sensor technology. In Auto Mode (brightness settings), it will automatically power down after 14 hours. Other than that, it is a manual off, manual on red dot sight.
The primary differences between the Vortex Venom and the Vortex Viper red dot sights comes down to two primary features. The Venom has a top-loading battery compartment versus the bottom-loading compartment on the Viper. The Viper has two adjustment lock screws that the Venom lacks.
Venom (left) - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers VS Viper (right) - Image Credit: Vortex
In general, a co-witness with iron sights may be difficult to achieve. The base height is 0.41”. Add an adapter plate to that and it still might be too high. If it’s mounting directly to the slide, it’s possible. This setup on a Sig Sauer P320 does not allow for it as the rear sight must be removed.
On a rifle, you can acquire a co-witness with BUIS or iron sights depending on the height of the riser block used (purchased separately).
Not an actual co-witness but it can be done (A2 front sight as seen through Vortex Venom) - Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers
The Vortex Venom red dot sight can be used for hunting on a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. I recommend considering illumination and a consistent cheekweld or strong indexing. The dimmest setting is still bright, and due to the small window, dot acquisition is less forgiving of inconsistent positions.
Vortex Venom: Fast & Versatile!
Overall, the Vortex Venom is a good red dot sight for the money. It’s in the same quality category as alternatives like the Burris FastFire 3 and the Vortex Viper. When on a budget, the Venom will satisfy most demands for many applications especially since it can be mounted to a rifle or shotgun.
I think it could use a beefier frame and dimmer illumination. If something does happen to the build integrity, good thing Vortex has the VIP warranty. I did have a good experience with tracking/accuracy, mounting, and the battery cap/compartment.
All-in-all, it’s an uncomplicated user experience for rapid dot and target acquisition. In that alone, it’s no wonder at all why it’s still a trending red dot sight for the money!