Leupold’s Mid-Range Variable Optics
When it comes to scope selection for either rimfire or centrefire rifles, the modern shooter has never been so spoilt for choice. In a world seemingly obsessed with 300m varmint shooting, adjustable objectives and 56mm objective lenses, it is very refreshing for a hunter like me to discover optics which work and will do their job without showing off. The Leupold lines of binoculars and rifle scopes have established themselves in recent years as being at the forefront of optics advancement. The firm, which celebrated its centennial year in 2007, released its first riflescopes just after WW2, in 1947. In the last almost 70 years they have continued to be responsible for advancements in the field of precision shooting optics. Their mid-priced VX1 and VX2 scopes are among the most popular in the current line-up. Being a fan of light rifles, and scopes proportioned to suit, these scopes offered immediate appeal to me.Let us examine each of these two scopes in detail, what they are good for and what uses they are best suited to.
The VX1 is Leupold’s entry-level scope. There are currently four scopes in this series, a 2-7×33, 3-9×40, 3-9×50 and 4-12x40mm. All feature a one-inch tube. Unlike most other rifle scopes, the VX1 does not operate on a quarter minute-of- angle click adjustment value system for elevation and windage. The adjustments are made in the customary fashion by the use of micro-friction dials, which are simply turned until the desired zero is obtained. The dials are marked in quarter MOA increments, so instead of counting the number of clicks to adjust, you merely turn the dial to the desired setting. In reality, this system is superior to the quarter inch click value system, as it permits the shooter to select a literally infinite range of adjustment within one minute-of-angle.
The VX1 also features Leupold’s standard multi-coated lens system. This system aids in transmitting light. Every time light passes through glass, some doesn’t make it out the other side. By adding anti-reflective lens coatings, Leupold has ensured that as much light as possible can be transmitted to the eye. The lenses of a riflescope transform light into a beam, which is then transmitted through the scope tube to the eye. Some of the lenses within a scope aid in sharpening the light, resulting in a clearer image, while others act to magnify it. At any rate, the glass and multi anti-reflective coatings used by Leupold are excellent and results in a magnificently clear and sharp sight picture. The VX1 is also available in three different finishes, gloss black for traditionalists, matte black for a non-reflective more durable finish and silver, which is available on the 3-9x40mm only, at time of writing.
Three types of crosshair reticle are available. Standard duplex, wide duplex with a wider centre gate for faster target acquisition and the new LR (long-range) duplex with two aiming points below the crosshair intersection for more precision on long shots. Like all Leupold sporting scopes, the VX1 incorporates a lockable fast-focus eyepiece design which means that once secured in its mounts, not only can the scope be adjusted back and forth to achieve your personal eye relief, but the eyepiece also allows more fore and aft movement by means of a ring and thread. The ring is loosened by the fingers, and the entire eyepiece can then be rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise to either extend or retract away to or from your eye. An ingenious feature.
The VX2 series scopes are Leupold’s most popular, but a twist has recently been added. A select few have now become part of the Ultra-Light line-up of Leupold VX2 scopes. They retain all of the lens coatings and features of their regular VX2 counterparts, but are made with up to 17% less weight, or a saving of almost one fifth.
The Ultra-Lights are, in my view, the pinnacle of short, light scope refinement.Currently, they are offered in four styles. A 2.5×20 fixed power, 2-7×28, 3-9×33 and3-9x33EFR (extended focus reticle) which has an adjustable objective lens for close focus capability making it a grand choice for air rifles, rimfire rifles and 50m benchrest competition. Like all Leupold scopes, the Ultra-Lights are available in an array of finishes and reticle styles. These include gloss black, matte black and silver on select models. They have the same three reticle styles available on the VX1 series,but the 2.5x20mm is offered in Leupold’s heavy duplex reticle style. This reticle has thick, bold posts and heavier crosshairs for the big-game hunter and is a good scope for low light conditions as the posts really stand out. Leupold’s proprietary multi-coat four lens systems are used on all VX2 scopes, Ultra-Lights included. This results in exceptional brightness and clarity. The VX2 doesn’t feature friction adjustment dials.Instead in utilises the traditional quarter inch MOA clicks.
In my view, these scopes will cover almost any conceivable hunting situation.There has been a trend in the last decade or so toward scopes with large objective lenses. The 40mm lens has been standard for years, but we are now seeing 45, 50 and even 56mm objective lenses on scopes. It is a fact that the larger the lens, the more light it is capable of gathering. Unfortunately, the larger the objective, the higher the scope must be mounted atop the rifle. Leupold have sort to remedy this situation by introducing its VXL series which have an objective shaped in sort of a crescent moon-type of shape to permit lower mounting. They appear just as bulky as a regular large scope and are offered in very high magnification therefore making them more suited to precision target work. My personal preference is for a scope with a small diameter objective, light weight and the standard one-inch tube. Scopes with a 30mm tube, in the European style are beginning a slight comeback.The main advantages to the larger 30mm tube are more light transmission and an increased range of elevation and windage adjustment. Personally, I see little need fora scope where the full range of adjustment can be measured in yards. Once a scope is zeroed, there is very little requirement for changing of the settings. I do own a 40mm scope; it too is a Leupold, a VX2 with their German #4 style reticle. It sits atop my Winchester model 70 Featherweight deer rifle chambered in 7mm-08 Remington. It is an excellent reticle for both open terrain and close country hunting. A better woods reticle would be difficult to imagine. With these smaller scopes, however their compactness and slimness of line make them more suited to smaller and lighter rifles,and it was rifles of this type I decided to mount them on for testing purposes.
One of my favourite small game rifles is a Brno number 2 rimfire, made in 1957 with a 25 inch barrel. The VX1 2-7x33mm was mounted on this rifle with Leupold low rimfire dovetail ring mounts. I had chosen the wide duplex reticle. Since this scope was to be mounted on a rifle which was a small game taker anyway, it made sense to select a reticle style which was very thin and would obscure little of an already small target. With the rifle bore sighted only, I took it to the range with a large selection of rimfire hunting and target ammunition to see just how accurately it would perform once it was shot in. My best results were obtained using Winchester 22-Auto and Winchester Supreme ammunition. At a range of 50m with the VX1 on a magnification of six, I was regularly able to obtain five shot groups of around a third of an inch. For a scope designed for hunting work, it certainly had enough accuracy,clarity and field of view to double for target work. With hunting ammunition, the Brno was capable of shooting groups which paralleled those obtained with the target velocity ammunition, although, in fairness, the hunting ammunition groups were a little larger at 50m, hovering around the half inch. Winchester Power Points, PMCZappers and Remington Golden bullets were the top performers.
The Ultra-Light VX2 3-9x33mm offered a little more magnification so it was decided to mount it on a rifle with more reach to see how it performed at longer distances. First, it was placed upon a Brno model ZKW465 bolt action rifle in .22Hornet. I used reloads consisting of the 45-gr .224 calibre Sierra soft point, a projectile designed explicitly for the .22 Hornet, Winchester brass, Winchester small rifle primers and a charge of 11.5-grs of ADI AR2207. This load had been chronographed using a Chrony F1 at 2780fps. With the VX2 set on a magnification of six I managed several five shot one inch groups at 100m. The scope was wound up to full nine power magnification and the target moved back to 150 metres. At this range the humble Hornet is fast running out of steam, yet I still managed to shoot groups between and inch and a half and two inches at this range from the Brno’s 23 inch barrel. Next, loads concocted utilising the 36-gr Barnes Varmint Grenade and 12-grs of 2205 produced a velocity of 3100fps. Point of impact was very different, yet groups were under the inch at 100m with the nine power setting. This scope also featured the wide duplex reticle, making precision shooting easy.
The scope was removed and placed on a Winchester model 70 in .250-3000 Savage with a 26 inch barrel, a rifle which had already proven itself to be exceedingly accurate. Loaded with 100-gr Remington Core-Lokt projectiles in Winchester brass with large rifle primers and a charge of 35-gr of ADI AR2208 for a chronographed velocity of 2920fps, I managed to shoot a very respectable seven shot group at 150m which measured just a shade over an inch and a half on the nine power setting.Groups shot at the same distance after sighting in with reloads comprising 37.2-grs of 2208 and the 87-gr Speer Hot-Cor for 3100fps printed slightly higher and to the left,but one and three quarter inch groups were the norm. I have been using the loads listed here for several years in the Savage cartridge for goat and small deer hunting.They have already proven themselves to be accurate hunting loads, the VX2 Ultra-Light offered brilliant clarity and the fine cross hairs of the wide duplex reticles certainly aided in precision shot placement.
It is my firm belief that these Leupolds represent top value for money and offer the hunter an exceptional sight picture at all practical hunting ranges. They are easy to use, affordable, simple to maintain and above all, offer repeatable accuracy. By this I mean that when playing with differing magnifications at the same range, there was no discernable change in point of impact. The only changes I could detect were attributable to the simple fact that a target is easier to see, and thus easier to hit accurately at higher magnification. They are offered in a very useful spectrum of magnifications and finishes to suit most rifles and cartridge capabilities. The ability to select a reticle style for your own specific hunting requirements is a feature that knowledgeable hunters will certainly appreciate. In fact, I liked these two Leupolds so much that once the testing and evaluation process was complete, I put my money where my mouth is and bought both of them. I remain impressed.