Leupold VX-I 3-9x40mm Riflescope

By Chuck Hawks

Leupold VX-I 3-9x40
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

Leupold & Stevens, Inc., located in Beaverton, Oregon, has been building telescopic sights in the U.S.A. for over 50 years. All Leupold riflescopes come with a Full Lifetime Guarantee. You don't have to send in a guarantee card or even be the original owner to take advantage of this guarantee. If any Leupold Golden Ring scope is found to have defects in materials or workmanship, Leupold will repair or replace it for free. There is no time limit on this guarantee.

The subject of this review is the VX-I 3-9x40mm riflescope. VX-I scopes are among the entry level models in the Leupold scope line. Despite their relatively modest price, however, these are solidly built "Golden Ring" scope, guaranteed for life.

The exterior finish is available in either gloss black or matte black. Both are durable and good looking. The 3-9x40mm VX-I scope comes with Leupold's standard multi-coated optics. All air to glass surfaces, inside and out, are coated with anti-reflective lens coatings for good light transmission and freedom from glare. External lens surfaces are multi-coated.

It is built with a two-piece, 1" diameter main tube made of 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum alloy. The coin-slot windage and elevation adjustments of the latest VX-I scopes are of the micro-friction type; the calibration marks are in 1/4 minute of angle increments. Gloss black and matte black finishes are available.

The slow, American style, eyepiece focus is achieved by multiple turns of the ocular bell housing and secured with a knurled locking ring. The reticle remains centered and appears the same size at all magnifications. The 3-9x40 is guaranteed to maintain its point of impact at all magnification settings. It is sealed against moisture and nitrogen filled, making it waterproof and fog free.

VX-I scopes are normally shipped with Leupold's standard Duplex reticle. This type of reticle, with a heavy crosshair that becomes a fine crosshair near the center of the field, was invented by Leupold and has since been copied by virtually all other scope manufacturers. It is the best reticle ever invented for most hunting applications. If you want something different, the Leupold Wide Duplex is also available.

The VX-I 3-9x40mm variable power scope reviewed here came with a gloss black finish (stock #53801). It is about average in size for 3-9 scopes with a 40mm front objective lens. Its overall length is 12.3 inches and it weighs 10.5 ounces. It was mounted on a Browning 1885 Low Wall rifle in .243 Winchester caliber, using Browning mounts, for testing.

This scope's friction windage and elevation adjustments proved rather imprecise and erratic. Four increments of change on the adjustment dial did not always provide the same amount of change in point of impact on a 100 yard target. I don't know if this is typical of all VX-I scopes. I guess I have been spoiled by more expensive scopes like Leupold VX-II, VX-III and Weaver Grand Slam models that feature precise 1/4 MOA "click" adjustments. Once the scope and rifle are sighted-in, of course, this matters little, as the adjustments are seldom changed.

The 3-9x VX-I has a generous adjustment range of 56 MOA in elevation and 52 MOA in windage. A coin or something similar is necessary to change the settings. The outer index ring can be reset after the rifle is zeroed-in.

The scope offers a 32.9' field of view when set at 3x and a 13.1' field of view at 9x at a distance of 100 yards. The optimum eye relief is 4.2" at 3x and 3.7" at 9x. This is better than average, making the VX-I a good choice for magnum rifles.

3-9 power scopes provide plenty of magnification at the higher numbers for use at the rifle range or for a long shot at a relatively small animal in the field, while the lower part of the range provides an adequate field of view for most hunting circumstances. This magnification range is a good match for the trajectories of all-around and long range big game rifle cartridges such as the .243 Winchester, .25-06, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, and .300 Winchester Magnum.

Optically, the 3-9x40mm VX-I scope offered good definition at all power settings. Sharpness from center to edge was better than average, as was contrast. Lens flare is well controlled. No change in point of impact was observed when the magnification was changed. Its generous 40mm objective allows target aquisition in very dim light.

Physically, this Leupold scope appeared to be well built and well finished. The eyepiece bell is reasonably trim and allows considerable clearance between bolt knob or hammer and thumb. It is an entirely satisfactory scope that should give years of service in the field with only minimal care.

At the time of this writing the Leupold VX-I, 3-9x40mm scope has a list price of around $250 but can be purchased online from Midway USA or at local discount sporting goods stores in my area for about $200. This seems like a very reasonable price for a scope of this quality.

The Leupold VX-I line brings genuine, American made, Leupold scopes within the budget of most hunters. They are medium priced scopes of above average quality. They are built to last and are backed by the best guarantee in the industry. A Leupold VX-I scope is a solid choice for the shooter on a budget.

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Copyright 2003, 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.