Leupold VX-6 3-18x44mm CDS Riflescope

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Leupold VX-6 3-18x44mm CDS Riflescope
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

Those who have read our previous reviews of Leupold riflescopes are at least somewhat familiar with the Company history. Suffice to say here that fifth-generation, family owned, 106 year old Leupold & Stevens (www.leupold.com) is the only major riflescope manufacturer in the United States. Leupold is known and respected by shooters around the world for the high optical and mechanical quality of their riflescopes, all of which are designed, machined and assembled in Beaverton, Oregon USA.

The VX-6 riflescopes are, since 2011, the top of the Leupold line; these are Leupold's flagship riflescopes. They are the best riflescopes Leupold knows how to make and they include a plethora of special features. Even the attractive black and gold Leupold box in which they are packaged reeks of quality. The "6" in VX-6 presumably comes from these riflescopes 6:1 zoom range. However, an outsize zoom range is not their only deluxe feature, or by any means their most important feature. (A zoom range in excess of 3:1 has become a big selling point, but it is seldom required in the field.) With any riflescope, the most important factors are optical excellence and physical durability, both of which the VX-6 scopes have in spades. Leupold scopes are renowned for outstanding performance and service while surviving the toughest hunting conditions.

Like all Leupold Gold Ring scopes, the VX-6's are covered by Leupold's Full Lifetime Guarantee. This is not a "Limited Lifetime Warrantee," but a flat-out guarantee that covers Leupold Gold Ring scopes against defects in materials or workmanship, whether purchased new or used. No purchase receipt or warrantee card is required, no time limit applies and Leupold's customer service is renowned for its excellence. There is no better consumer protection anywhere.

Here is a brief overview of some of the features of the new for 2013, Leupold VX-6 3-18x44mm CDS riflescope that is the subject of this review:

  • 6:1 zoom ratio.
  • Knurled aluminum zoom ring with tactile bump.
  • Twin bias spring erector system with beryllium/copper alloy leaf springs with up to 30% more holding force.
  • Crystal clear image quality from edge to edge at all zoom settings
  • Unsurpassed light transmission
  • Blackened lens edges to reduce glare and diffusion.
  • Fast focus eyepiece with unusually wide diopter adjustment range.
  • Knurled aluminum eyepiece focusing ring.
  • Generous eyebox.
  • Nearly constant eye relief throughout the zoom range.
  • Alumina rubber eyepiece guard included with every scope.
  • Pop-up, re-zeroable fingertip windage and elevation adjustments.
  • CDS dial system allows matching the scope to specific ballistic conditions.
  • Xtended twilight lens system matches the optical glass indices and lens coatings of each lens element.
  • DiamondCoat2 exterior lens surface coating for superior scratch resistance and protection.
  • Lead and arsenic free glass lenses.
  • Second generation waterproofing using an exclusive Argon/Krypton gas blend. Absolute waterproof integrity is guaranteed.
  • One piece, 30mm aircraft aluminum alloy main tube for superior strength.
  • Wide windage and elevation adjustment range (75" at 100 yards).
  • Side parallax focus calibrated from 50-600 yards plus infinity.
  • Ultra hard and durable anodized matte black external finish.
  • Full Lifetime Guarantee.
The CDS dial system deserves some additional explanation, since it is quite unusual and, in our experience, unique. As used here, CDS stands for "Custom Dial System." The removable elevation dial that comes standard with the scope clicks in MOA increments. It incorporates the precision and repeatability of match target adjustments with the reduced bulk of a normal, fingertip hunting scope adjustment knob. Just lift and turn to re-set the scale.

However, the owner of a CDS riflescope can telephone Leupold and order a free custom CDS dial built specifically for their cartridge, load and hunting conditions. The custom dial is marked in yardages that are keyed to your particular load. For long range shooting, the custom dial lets you simply set the distance to the target on the elevation dial and hold the center of the reticle where you want the bullet to hit as you squeeze the trigger. There is no calculation, hold-over, hash marks or mil dots to worry about.

When you order a custom dial for your VX-6 scope, the technicians at Leupold will ask you the serial number of your scope; the cartridge you are using; muzzle velocity; the bullet manufacturer, model, weight and BC (if known); height of scope center above the rifle's bore center; sight-in yardage; average anticipated temperature and average anticipated elevation. This information is used to ensure that you will get maximum accuracy from your CDS elevation dial. (If you will use your scope in many different places and conditions, you may wish to specify some sort of "average" test conditions, for example 59-degrees F and 1000 feet altitude.)

Since we never shoot at game animals beyond the maximum point blank range of the cartridge and load we are using, we did not take advantage of this offer and order a custom elevation dial for our VX-6 test scope. The standard elevation dial is all we need.

Leupold VX-6 3-18x44mm CDS Riflescope Specifications

  • Product number: 115001
  • Objective clear aperture: 44mm (1.70")
  • Actual magnification range: 3x to 18x
  • Linear field of view (ft. @ 100 yds.): 38' @ 3x; 7' @ 18x
  • Eye relief: 3.7" at 3x; 3.8" at 18x
  • Windage and elevation adjustment range: 75 MOA
  • Length: 13-3/4"
  • Outside objective bell diameter: 53.1mm
  • Outside ocular bell diameter: 44.6mm
  • Weight: 21.8 oz. (618 grams)
  • 2013 MSRP: $1249.99

We requested the 3-18x44mm VX-6 specifically for use on a flat shooting varmint rifle. With that purpose in mind, it is equipped with a Fine Duplex reticle. Although relatively small and light for its magnification and zoom range, we regard scopes like this as unnecessarily large, heavy and powerful for big game hunting. Our ideal all-around big game scope is the smaller and lighter Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x36mm. (See the G&S Online review of this scope on the Scopes and Optics index page.) However, for use on a long range varmint rifle, the VX-6 3-18x44mm is hard to beat, although a 6-18x zoom range (3:1) in a scope of the same quality would probably be entirely sufficient and less expensive to manufacture.

The VX-6 3-18x44 is available with an illuminated reticle for an extra $250, but we ordered the standard (non-illuminated) version. We don't see much point to an illuminated reticle for varmint hunting.

Outstanding features and specifications are an indication of superior performance, but what matters most is execution and attention to detail; how well it all works together. In the case of our VX-6 test scope, the answer to that question is, "very well, indeed." Leupold has learned a great deal about making riflescopes over the years and it is all on display in this VX-6.

The resolution, contrast and overall optical quality are excellent. Distortion is low, aberrations are well corrected, lens flare and internal reflections are minimized and sharpness from edge to edge is very good. Every lens element is given optically matched, anti-reflection multi-coatings. In addition, the exterior of the front and rear lens elements receive Leupold's ultra hard DiamondCoat2 protective coating. The edges of the lens elements are blackened.

The one-piece scope tube is machined from solid 6061-T6 aluminum alloy bar stock. The interior of the tube is baffled and fully blackened. The scope's interior is purged, filled with Leupold's Argon/Krypton gas blend and sealed. The exterior of the tube receives Leupold's extra hard anodizing to resist scratching and marring, which we believe to be the most durable external scope finish in the industry.

Threaded metal caps protect the fingertip, MOA windage and elevation adjustment knobs, but the scope remains waterproof even with the knobs removed. There are small index hash marks at the rear of the elevation and windage adjustment dials. Lift the dial to reset the zero mark without changing the adjustment setting.

Leupold variable magnification (zoom) scopes have a power selector ring in front of the eyepiece bell. The zoom ring is easy to adjust, but has enough resistance to avoid inadvertent changing. The VX-6 remained sharp at all magnification settings.

The fast eyepiece focus ring rotates just over 360-degrees and has a very wide diopter correction range. It should allow for correction of almost any near or far sightedness problem without wearing eyeglasses.

The side mounted parallax correction dial is smooth and easy to use. The front objective and ocular lens bells are threaded to accept Leupold Alumina filters and accessories. The scope is supplied with an Alumina rubber eyepiece guard, scope caps and a Leupold scope cover. It is hard to think of anything more a person could ask for in a premium scope package. Optically and mechanically, the VX-6 is as good as Leupold's 106 years of experience manufacturing optical instruments can make it.

The VX-6 is marked with Leupold's trademark gold ring around the front of the objective bell. "Leupold" is printed on each side of the ocular bell in smallish letters and there is a small, round, gold Leupold logo in the center of the parallax focusing knob. (See photo at top of page.) That is it for brand markings, a tasteful and welcome change from some premium scopes that are plastered with brand names and logos. The magnification numbers are engraved on the zoom ring, "VX-6" is engraved on top of the ocular bell and + 0 - are engraved at the back of the ocular bell to indicate the direction of rotation for the European style fast focus eyepiece adjustment.

Since the arrival of the varmint rifle for which we ordered our 3-18x44 VX-6 was delayed, for this review we mounted it on our usual scope test rifle, an NEF single shot .223 with a one-piece Picatinny cross-slot type scope base. Leupold medium height rings should work for most installations. Mounting was easy and we encountered no problems.

Bore sighting was done with the aid of a Bushnell magnetic optical bore-sighter, which we know from experience will get us on the paper at 25 yards. We initially zero at 25 yards, then move back and refine the zero at 100 yards.

Our time at the range with the VX-6 was pleasant, but boring, which in this case is great. What we mean is, there were no problems and the scope worked exactly as advertised.

We focused the eyepiece to our eyes while looking at a blank area of the sky for the sharpest possible crosshair image. We focused the parallax correction knob on the left side of the scope's turret for the target distance (100 yards in this case). This provides the maximum image sharpness and freedom from parallax. The scope then delivered sharp, clear images of both the Fine Duplex crosshair and the target.

We know from experience that the Fine Duplex is an excellent, very precise reticle for aiming at small varmints in daylight conditions. It is also a good choice for shooting at paper targets.

We had a good spotting scope on our bench rest, but we could see the .22 caliber bullet holes in our "Crosshair Sighting-In Target" through the VX-6, one advantage of a razor sharp, high power riflescope at the range. We found the windage and elevation adjustments accurate and repeatable.

At one point a fly landed on our target and we were sorely tempted to shoot it. However, while the scope's Fine Duplex crosshair was sufficiently precise for aiming at the unwary insect and our Lead Sled DFT (sans lead) an adequately solid rest, we knew from experience that this rifle is not quite accurate enough to reliably make such a shot.

At another point in the proceedings, three deer (two does and a fawn) walked across the range just behind the 100 yard targets. The Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon--where we do our test shooting--supports a healthy population of deer, wild turkey and other wildlife and the members always stop shooting when animals wander onto the rifle range. Wildlife has the absolute right of way. We have had to walk downrange to shoo deer away from the target stands when they pause to graze and fail to move along.

Anyway, we spent a pleasant summer day at the range and determined that the VX-6 is as good as Leupold claims. Try as we might, we failed to find anything to criticize. If you are looking for a premium riflescope with a very wide zoom range, do yourself a favor and put a Leupold VX-6 on your short list.

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