Leupold VX-3 2.5-8 x 36mm Review: The Definitive Hunting Scope

Every once in a great while a product comes along that defines the breed and also defines the company that offers it. That is precisely the case with the riflescope being reviewed here, the latest incarnation of the VX-3 2.5 x 8 x 36mm from Leupold part #66340. For a long while, we have made some illogical decisions when it comes to hunting scopes. Often, we are over-magnified, but underscoped. We fall prey to the promise of busy reticles, heavy, oversized objectives, and scopes that do not compliment our rifles.

From time to time, folks will comment about how many Leupolds are seen on custom rifles. Some might theorize that custom riflesmiths are optical engineers and perhaps often select Leupold because it is miraculously better scope based on their work with the Hubble telescope. The answer, in my view, isn't nearly that intricate. Leupold Golden ring scopes makes rifles look good with evenly applied finishes and tasteful accents. If I was selling a custom rifle, I'd want everything on it to make my product look good. Who wouldn't? Aesthetics is one of the primary appeals of this scope. Anyway, putting a scope on a custom rifle that makes the rifle look good first and foremost is my story and I'm stuck with it or sticking to it.

How often have you seen, or used, a two pound blob of melted sand and plastic with giant plastic knobs and turrets on what could have been a clean, fast-handling, sporting rifle? It doesn't make a great deal of sense to want a pleasant to carry, responsive type of hunting rifle and then plop the giant fun tube of oversized mystery on top of it, to destroy what you once had? It happens. It is something like curb feelers on a Volkswagen to me or a wristwatch on a Roman gladiator. Whatever it is, it doesn't belong.

This VX-3 has the latest bells and whistles from Leupold. A few of the touted goodies are:

—The Xtended Twilight Lens System™ optimizes the transmission of low-light wavelengths, so you see the details of low-light scenes in greater, brighter detail than with any other riflescope available.

—DiamondCoat 2™ lens coatings on exterior lens surfaces provide the highest level of scratch resistance Leupold has ever offered.

—The twin bias spring exerts up to 30 percent more holding force on the erector, virtually eliminating erector system backlash and stress on the vital internal workings of the scope, for longer life.

—Blackened lens edges reduce light diffusion, so more usable light reaches the shooter’s eye, for a brighter image with increased contrast.

—Finger-adjustable, cryogenically treated, ¼-MOA click windage and elevation adjustments with resettable pointer dials marking the zero point.

—Tactile power indicator also features built-in range estimation functions and graphite O-rings for easy operation.”

It might surprise you that none of these features are the main reason to buy this scope? They aren't, although locking fast focus and super-smooth power ring are two things I immediately appreciated. Many of the other features already existed (more or less) on the 2004 VX-III Leupold series, the 2.5-8 Leupold of that vintage already having more optical quality than middle-aged human eyes can often discern. VX-III's hold their zero which is the most important thing any scope can do. The VX-3 may well be a slight upgrade from a VX-III, but the primary reason to get a VX-3 is that they no longer make a VX-III. I'm also delighted to say that this Leupold does not have a “Boone & Crockett Reticle.” I have nothing against the B & C reticle, specifically. It doesn't seem that Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett ever used a reticle, but that isn't the reason. For most big game hunting, a clear, simple view is the quickest and easiest. The Leupold Duplex reticle offers just that.

The marvel of this scope, actually a 2.6 – 7.8 power scope, is its form factor, weight, and general utility. It weighs under three-quarters of a pound at 11.4 ounces, has generous eye relief at 3.6 inches, and a better than average internal adjustment range of 74 inches at 100 yards. With a 36mm objective, it means about a 4.62 mm exit pupil. Your eye doctor can measure your maximum dilation for you, but middle-aged human eyes rarely quickly dilate past about 5mm. At low power, where my hunting scopes normally reside, the VX-3 2.5-8 yields around a 13.85mm exit pupil. With a .270 Winchester using the Hornady SuperFormance 130 GMX load #8052, the six inch kill MPBR is conservatively 315 yards. Even so, a ten mph crosswind can move your bullet a bit over six and a half inches at that range. The great fail of ballistic reticles is the focus (pun int.) solely on drop to the exclusion of windage and all else.

At the same time, I hardly question that Leupold's latest coatings, gas-filling efforts, and addition of a twin bias spring does make a fine scope even better, incrementally. What makes this scope the definition of a great hunting scope and the definition of Leupold & Stevens itself is a combination of attributes. At the same time, you might think that a premium scope of this nature is going to cost more than your fine rifle. That too, is a pleasant surprise as the VX-3 2.5-8 x 36 has street price of around four hundred dollars.

The VX-3 is brighter than most, clearer than most, has better eye relief than most, has a wider field of view than most, has more internal adjustment than most, can take more recoil than most, is lighter than most, and is better-looking than most. That makes it the most big game hunting scope most hunters will ever want or need. For all of these reasons, it is in many ways Leupold's best all-around big game hunting riflescope and the scope that you shouldn't fail to consider.

Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


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