Review: Leupold UltimateSlam Illuminated 3-9 x 40 Riflescope


The Leupold UltimateSlam 3-9, Product #115368 , retails for $499 and has a street price about one hundred dollars less than that figure. The basic specifications of this extremely handsome and extremely lightweight scope are as follows.


Actual Magnification: 3.20 - 8.80
Linear Field of View @ 100 yds (ft): 33.40 - 13.80
Eye Relief (in): 4.10 - 3.60
Weight (oz): 12.10
Objective Clear Aperture (in): 1.57
Elevation Adjustable Range: 55.00 moa
Windage Adjustable Range: 55.00 moa
Length (in): 12.60
Tube Length (in): 5.60

At approximately three quarters of a pound, it is a lightweight scope: extremely lightweight for an illuminated reticle scope. It is the reticle, called the Sabot Ballistics Reticle combined with the FireDot system that is the reason you just might have to have this scope. This offering saves you a hundred dollars compared to the excellent 3-9x40 VX-R 30mm Riflescope: you do lose the 30mm tube, but you also lose three or four ounces of weight as well.

According to Leupold, “the reticle The advanced SA.B.R. reticle provides precise and distinct hold points from 50 to 300 yards, accommodating sabots with 2-pellet, 3-pellet, 12-gauge, and 20-gauge ballistics.” As you might know from my prior writings and tests, the “precise” part isn't strictly true with this reticle, nor is it true with any reticle. There really is no such thing as 12/20 gauge or 3 pellets ballistics as a matter of high precision, for to suggest that ignores differences in bullet aerodynamics, barrel length, ambient conditions, scope mounting height, and numerous other factors.

I'll suggest a far easier and better way to use this reticle for most deer hunting. Just sight your rifle in, with the load that shoots best, three inches high at 100 yards. For more exactitude, zero it at 150 yards. It is not at all difficult to load a Parker Ballistic Extreme to 1900 fps-2000 fps with Blackhorn 209. With a 150 yard zero, the following chart approximates what you'll come up with. It is still an approximation, for you'll need to print some live-fire groups at any ranges you want to hunt at. Guessing is still guessing: actually knowing beats guessing every single time.

Approximate Exterior Ballistics: Parker Ballistic Extreme / Blackhorn 209 80 grains by weight.

As you can see, your primary job is just to get within 175 yards of your animal. Now, regardless of scope magnification, inside 175 yards just hold center of the body and go pick him up. At 200 yards, you should be able to hold two-thirds up the body, at 225 yards just hold on his back. The complication is often not wonderfully repeatable gravity, but something we never know exactly: the wind. Ignoring just a 10mph cross-wind at 225 yards means your bullet may drift close to a foot, and with higher winds or longer distances it starts getting ugly in a hurry.

The beauty of the Leupold illuminated reticle is that it is not only crisp, clear, and bright, but that it does not add substantial weight or bulk to the unit. A quick press on the side of the scope turns it in and the integral motion sensor works just as Leupold accurate states, “The reticle will automatically switch to “stand-by mode” after five minutes of inactivity, then reactivate whenever the rifle is moved. This eliminates the need for excess movement reaching for buttons, while extending battery life.” Before sunrise and after sunset, you'll be really glad you had the FireDot. On some hunts, like black bear, you may be putting a black reticle on a black blob surrounded by a dark, dingy background. The FireDot can make these conditions easy where they would otherwise be challenging or a shot you'd have to pass on altogether.

The Leupold FireDot makes this scope: it is somewhere in the neighborhood of a $130 premium over the standard UltimateSlam, but worth much more in the field. It is one of those additions that has no disadvantage in size or bulk to the core optic, and can make the hunt. Whether this model, or the other FireDot scopes, I am very happy to recommend them. When you do actually need them, they are priceless.

 Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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