Leupold VX-6 2-12x42mm Firedot LR Reticle Riflescope
This is one of the latest from Leupold, the 6x zoom range Firedot-equipped 30mm 2-12 x 42mm scope. It retails for $1,249.99 and is product #111980. It is an extremely powerfully specified scope, to say the very least. Street price approximates a thousand dollars.
Magnification: 2.00x / 12.00x
basic features include:
The previously reviewed 3-9x40 VXR Firedot was the best new riflescope tested in 2011. This scope builds upon that; it is the same electronics with double the zoom range. For a 30mm illuminated reticle scope, Leupold has managed to keep the weight down, for its roughly one pound and change weight is only a bit more than an ounce than the 3-9x40 VXR, despite the slightly larger objective. The scope is also improved as far as eye relief consistency, for the 3-9 was 4.2 3.7 inches, while this scope is 3.8 inches at both ends.
In years past, my favorite general big-game hunting scope from Leupold has been the VX-3 2.5-8 x 36, with actual magnification of 2.6 7.8. Not the brightest, clearest, or most powerful scope ever, but more than needed for most big game hunting. The VX-3 is an 11.4 oz. unit, 11.4 inches long. It's eye relief is inconsistent, ranging from 3.5 4.6 inches, perhaps the only real blemish on a fine hunting scope. This diminutive but excellent size is largely overlooked. Both of the examined VXR Firedot scopes offer more magnification and more consistent eye relief, with stronger tubes and better image quality.
The "LR" holdover reticle is a simple, inexact treatment. Cartridges are grouped into two sloppy ballistic groups: A, or C. The FireDot LR Duplex reticle itself, as displayed by Leupold, doesn't make much sense. The fine line width is listed as going from .4 - 2.2 MOA, which indicates a 5.5x zoom range. The thin opening shows a 6x zoom, while the dot goes from 1 - 6.3 MOA, a 6.3x zoom range. I have no idea what Leupold is actually doing here. It seems to me that entire reticle chart is a jumbled mess, for the 300 yard dot from center is 2.19 MOA (LowX) - 5.77 (HighX): a 2.63 zoom ratio, as is the claimed case for the 400 yard dot at high and low magnifications. None of this is possible with a second focal plane reticle. There is also some confusion as to what the adjustment range of this scope is, for Leupold says 34.90 mil elevation and 34.90 mil windage on one part of their site, yet also claims 120 MOA elevation and 120 MOA windage in their Scope Finder app. One milliradian is about 3.6 inches at 100 yards, so the 34.9 milliradian approximates 125.6 inches.
I'm easily confused, so using both values detracts from the message: this scope has over 120 inches of adjustment at 100 yards, a huge amount. That 120 inches of adjustment is double that of many scopes, including the Swarovski 1.7-10 x 42 Z6i that offers 54 inches. The Zeiss Victory HT 2.5-10 x 50, at $2400, has just a 50.4 inch adjustment range to use with its "AVS+" BDC dial. If you are wondering what the big deal is, with a BDC elevation knob, it really is a big deal. Having a Bullet Drop Compensating dial on top of your scope does you no good when you are out of adjustment to actually use it. This makes the Leupold CDS system far more appealing when used in this scope.
Certainly, you wouldn't want to bet on any 500 yard shots for the reticle is only accurate within 10 inches: 35-45 inches of drop at 500 yards is all classed as the same "ballistic group." The Hornady Superformance 130 grain .270 Winchester I've been working with as of late has 33.7 inches of drop at 500 yards, so apparently that would be a "Ballistic Group C" load, with a 24 inch barrel, the way Leupold looks at it. From the reticle description (above), it seems like they are attempting a 200 yard zero system, regardless. The Custom Dial System (CDS), one free custom dial included, "Bullet Drop Compensating" makes for far a more sensible and accurate approach than the ballistic generalizations used in the printed manual. The use of the dial is limited by the amount of vertical adjustment left after you have zeroed your rifle scope and further negates the need for a hold-over reticle at all, as long as you are not out of adjustment for your application . . . an unlikely scenario with this specific scope and its generous adjustment range.
You have lots of choices in high end scopes. This scope competes directly with the Swarovski 1.7-10 x 42 Z6i that sells for around $2950, the Leupold CDS competing with the Swarovski Ballistic Turret / Kahles Multi-Zero. The non-illuminated Z6 sells for $2000; Swarovski bafflingly ads nearly a thousand dollars for their illuminated reticle, close to the entire price of the complete Leupold VX-6 2-12x42mm Firedot LR.
Yet, the Leupold is the better designed scope, with a far cleaner design lacking the eyebox clutter of the Swarovski as shown above. The Leupold also has better electronics, its motion sensor a better treatment of the electronic reticle than the tilt sensor of the Swarovski, and the 12x at the higher end is more valuable as far as far as I'm concerned than the trivial 1.7x vs. 2.0x difference on the low end.
It is hard not to be thoroughly impressed with this VX-6, as it competes with the very best of the best in the versatile hunting scope category, such as the $2K S & B Summit 2.5-10 x 40mm one-inch tube non-illuminated, the non-illuminated $1400 Leica 2.5-10 x 40mm ER, the recently reviewed $1600 German Minox ZE5i 2-10 x 50 (illuminated), and so forth. On the better scopes, I always run out of reticle long before I run out of image, so a clean illuminated reticle is a huge advantage, particularly when the shot is a black blob against a dingy, gray background as has been the case with black bear. At 4 AM, well over an hour before sunrise, I performed a casual comparison at 6x with a dozen of my best optics going through a standard cycle of low-contrast utility box, dingy dog house, and moose hide imaging. While a more comprehensive comparison is a story for another day, the class of the field was this Leupold and German Minox ZEi. If there is a difference in low-light ability between them, another set of eyes will have to find it.
This Leupold VX-6 2-12x42mm Firedot LR is the best versatile hunting scope that Leupold has ever released, by a substantial margin, the best under $2000 all-around hunting scope on the market, and at its current street price point of roughly a thousand dollars, it has no competition at all. It is trim and lightweight for a 30mm illuminated scope, the electronics (as discussed in the 3-9x40 VXR Firedot review) are industry leading. It adds scant little weight as compared to the 3-9 x 40mm VX-R, but does improve the zoom range handsomely (the VX-R is actually a 3.3 - 8.6x), and offers essentially constant 3.8 inch eye relief. The same is true as compared to the VX-R 4x12 (actually 4.4 - 11.7x optic), giving you a true 2-12x zoom range, 3.8 inch eye relief, and a massively larger field of view at the low end: 57 ft. @ 100 yards vs. 21.50 ft. @ 100 yards.
Very few products strike me as those that are a certainty to make the angels sing and the cash register ring, but this is one of those rare times. It isn't just the outstanding image quality or the ability to hold zero which is even more important. It is the proper and consistent eye-relief, the generous internal adjustment range (with a BDC you can use), the excellent Firedot and associated electronics, the relatively lightweight and uncluttered package. Along with a true 6x zoom, the Leupold Full Lifetime Guarantee (transferable), it all adds up to not only a high value package, but one of lasting value and high resale value as well.
Leupold should be quite proud of this riflescope. I think that it is the best hunting riflescope they have ever released and the very best riflescope in this class, regardless of manufacturer.
Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.