Leupold VX-3 1.5-5x20mm Riflescope

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Leupold VX-3 1.5-5x20mm Riflescope
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

"On behalf of our dedicated employees, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your purchase of this Leupold Gold Ring product. Your choice helps ensure the company remains a vital American family owned and operated company for generations to come."

That seems like a nice statement to print on a riflescope box, even a box as fancy as the one that houses a new VX-3 riflescope. Leupold & Stevens (www.leupold.com) has been in business since 1907 and employs over 600 people in Beaverton, Oregon, U.S.A. For five generations, the Leupold family has owned the company. A good part of Leupold's success is based on their commitment to their customers.

Leupold's Full Lifetime Guarantee and outstanding customer service is legendary in the industry. It is the reason so many other scope makers now offer a Lifetime Warranty in the U.S. market. (Not, you will notice, a guarantee--for the simple legal reason that it is easier to restrict and wriggle out of a warrantee.) Leupold's Lifetime Guarantee is good worldwide; most of the others are not. Some countries, including Germany, prohibit a lifetime guarantee; in those places, Leupold offers the legal maximum protection of 30 years with no strings attached. In the U.S. and everywhere it is allowed, Leupold guarantees their Gold Ring scopes to be free of defects in workmanship and materials for life and Leupold will repair or replace a defective scope without charge, even if you are not the original owner. No sales receipt or guarantee card in necessary.

In the case of a Leupold Gold Ring riflescope, the chances of needing the Guarantee is very low. They are made in Leupold's Beaverton factory, not imported, and 100% quality controlled throughout the manufacturing process. Leupold scope tubes start out as a solid bar of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum that is CNC machined until it becomes a riflescope tube. This is an amazing process to watch and the result is the world's toughest riflescope, bar none.

We recently received a new Henry .30-30 rifle with octagon barrel, solid brass receiver, brass fixtures, select walnut stock and highly polished and blued steel parts for review. For such a glossy rifle, we needed an appropriate scope. Naturally, we first thought of Leupold, as do the overwhelming majority of custom rifle makers. For the fancy Henry .30-30, we wanted a gloss-finished scope to match, not the flat black tube that has taken over most of the riflescope business. Many scope makers no longer take the time to polish and hard anodize to a glossy black finish, but Leupold still offers many models with this traditional, deluxe finish.

Among the choices is the VX-3 1.5-5x20mm scope that is the subject of this review. We feel this is an excellent choice for a .30-30 carbine. It is compact, lightweight and easy to mount in low rings to minimize its effect on the rifle's handling. A call to Leupold's Media and Marketing wizard, Pat Mundy, immediately got a brand new scope on the way. Leupold's service to gun writers is similar to their service to legitimate customers, something for which they seldom get the credit they deserve.

The scope arrived in its beautiful gold and black VX-3 box and included an excellent Owner's Manual (please read, it contains a lot of useful information about riflescopes) and a Neoprene Leupold scope cover, which provides better protection than simple lens caps. The scope itself is a beauty. Glossy black with the Leupold gold ring (actually gold-plated) circling the objective barrel and a gold-plated Leupold crest on the left side of the adjustment turrets. The knurled zoom ring is marked by small gold numbers representing the 1.5x, 2x, 3x, 4x and 5x magnification settings. There are also tiny "+ 0 -" diopter markings on the ocular bell. These numbers are engraved, not just screen-printed. There is, thankfully, no gaudy writing splashed across this scope and none is necessary. It is immediately recognizable as Leupold Gold Ring scope to any knowledgeable shooter.

The tactile zoom ring turns smoothly, but with plenty of resistance to insure that it will not be changed inadvertently. The reticle is focused to the eye by means of turning the ocular bell. This uses a considerably coarser thread pitch (1.5 turns lock to lock) than typical "American style" focusing to effect a fast-focus adjustment, while retaining the locking ring that prevents the focus setting being accidentally disturbed. At the rear of the Ocular bell is a rubber eyepiece guard to protect eyeglasses and eyebrows. Both ends of the scope are threaded for Leupold Alumina filters and accessories.

The windage and elevation adjustment caps are aluminum, not plastic, and beneath them are the low, fingertip adjustable knobs. These click in 1/4 MOA increments for positive and precise adjustment. The index mark is resettable. Inside the windage and elevation turrets is a twin bias spring erector system that exerts up to 30% more holding force on the erector and cryogenically treaded parts for increased durability.

Our VX-3 was supplied with the standard Leupold Duplex reticle that we prefer. (The original is still the best!) Other reticles available for the 1.5-5x20 include the Heavy Duplex and German #4. If you need something different, the Leupold Custom shop offers a plethora of reticle and other options.

Inside the VX-3's one-piece, 6061-T6 tube is Leupold's fully multi-coated, Xtended Twilight Lens System. This deserves some explanation, for it is not just a marketing slogan. The optics use index matched lenses with blackened edges that pair enhanced lens coatings with each lens element, based on its specific glass type and index of refraction. A similar process is used in the finest (professional) camera lenses, but rarely in riflescopes, binoculars and other consumer optics.

For the VX-3 line, Leupold pushed this technology even farther. The Xtended Twilight Lens System uses wavelength specific lens coatings to optimize the transmission of light at the blue/violet end of the visible spectrum. This is the light you see just before darkness falls and often the light by which you must shoot. The bottom line for a hunting scope being that you get a little more light through the scope to your eye in those critical pre-dawn and post-sundown shooting times. Daylight color rendition, by the way, remains excellent.

To insure waterproof and fogproof integrity, all VX-3 scopes use Leupold's advanced Argon-Krypton gas blend that reduces the diffusion of internal gasses, resists thermal shock and prevents fogging better than dry nitrogen. VX-3's are triple-purged of air, multiple O-ring sealed and waterproof.

Here are the specifications of the VX-3 1.5-5x20 riflescope:

  • Part number - 66360 (Gloss finish, Duplex reticle)
  • Length - 9.5 inches
  • Weight - 9.3 ounces
  • Main tube diameter - 1 inch
  • Objective tube diameter - 1 inch
  • Ocular bell diameter - 1.6 inches
  • Actual magnification - 1.5x to 4.5x
  • Linear field of view at 100 yards - 23.8 feet (5x) to 68 feet (1.5x)
  • Eye relief - 3.7 inches (5x) to 4.4 inches (1.5x)
  • Windage and elevation adjustment range - 120 MOA
  • Objective clear aperture - 20mm
  • Available finishes - gloss black and matte black
  • 2009 discount retail price - $429.99 (Midway USA)

It is pretty hard to beat the CNC machined steel precision of Leupold scope mounting rings, so we went looking for a set of low, gloss blued rings to match the scope and rifle. Would you believe that the local stores carried only matte finish rings? Ultimately, we were forced to call Leupold's Pat Mundy again, this time to request a set of polished and blued, low, QRW rings for the cross-slot mount base on our Henry rifle. Once again, Patrick came through for us.

Leupold QRW scope rings are of the quick detachable type, secured to the mount base by a thumb lever. Although we didn't need the quick release feature for this application, we have used these rings in the past with complete satisfaction and trust them to stay put.

Once we got the rings, the actual scope mounting was simple. There are many ring position slots in a one-piece Weaver base and the VX-3 1.5-5x20mm scope allows excellent mounting latitude. It would be hard to find a rifle this combination would not fit. Because the scope's proportions are restrained, low height rings are usually appropriate. The lower a scope can be mounted (and the lighter the scope), the better, as is puts the line of sight close to the line of bore and has less effect on the balance and handling of the rifle.

Viewing through this scope, it is immediately apparent that the optics are, well, VX-3 quality. The VX-3 has become a sort of a de-facto standard to which other riflescopes are compared. Sharp, contrasty, crisp views of the target are what you get from center to edge. Optical aberrations, including coma and lateral color error, are very well corrected and Leupold's Index Matched Lens System, wavelength specific multi-coatings and ultra-hard DiamondCoat 2 ion-assist exterior lens coating suppress flare extremely well. The latter also serves to protect the exposed glass surfaces against scratching and abrasion. Optically, this scope may be better than it needs to be, but it sure is nice to look through! (Yes, you can see the difference between a VX-3 and a lesser scope.)

Mechanically, everything worked exactly as it should. The windage and elevation adjustments proved accurate and repeatable. Leupold builds the most recoil-proof scopes on the planet, so a nine pound .30-30 is not much of a challenge to a VX-3. We expected no problems and we had none. The full length review of the Henry .30-30 rifle can be found on the Product Review Page and documents the results of our range sessions. Here it will suffice to say that the Leupold VX-3 1.5-5x20 and Henry .30-30 proved to be an accurate and deadly combo that shoots as good as it looks.

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