Ben Ryder 03.02.21
In this review, I take a look at two different scopes from the all new Leupold VX3-HD line of rifles scopes.
Over the last year I’ve found myself in the incredibly fortunate situation to have my hunting plans relatively unaffected by covid lockdowns. Even though I missed out on a black bear hunt in Newfoundland last spring due to the Canadian border closure, the lower 48 and even Alaska remained fair game for hunting and traveling. In a roughly 8-month period, I put more miles on my truck and logged more air miles than almost any year prior, all in pursuit of the hunt.
I’ll be the first to admit that bowhunting is not my passion and because of that, all of my excursions over the last year have been rifle hunts. I hit the Northern Brooks Range of Alaska for caribou; I traversed the great State of Texas hunting whitetail, red stag, black buck, hogs, and predators; I also braved some extreme weather in my native State of Michigan for whitetail and coyote. Throughout my travels I’ve used a wide variety of rifles and scopes, some of which I loved and some that did the job but weren’t keepers.
Two scopes that I have really enjoyed using were from Leupold’s all new VX-3HD line. Now, Leupold is obviously no stranger to the world of hunting. Founded in 1907 by brothers-in-law Fred Leupold and Adam Volpel, the company has been guided over the past 100+ years with the enduring legacy of family and a seriously solid set of core values that permeate throughout their products.
As I’ve aged, I’ve really come to care more about the finer details of the products I encounter, whether they are put to use in my pursuits as an outdoorsman or just in my day to day life. I more often than not find that the products which are produced as part of a privately held business or family run operation tend to be higher quality. It seems to me that when someone’s family name and legacy are put on a product, an extra layer of attention is given to the final output.
I may be a dying breed in today’s world in that I have a profound love of the idea that in America, an idea born from a dream and fueled by personal passion can become something more than just that initial spark. When I look at a company like Leupold, I see so much more than an optics manufacturer, I see a living lesson in the fruits of relentless labor.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on two scopes from the VX-3HD line in late fall of 2020. The VX-3 line should be something that most hunters are familiar with, even if they have not had the benefit of owning one prior to reading this review. The VX3-HD has built on to the award-winning line of VX-3 gold ring scopes which first launched more than 40 years ago. With the lineage of this scope line aside, I think hunters across the board will love what Leupold has brought to the table with the VX3-HD line.
As someone with average eyesight and glasses that I wear most of the time, albeit a light prescription, I find myself in a situation that most hunters have surely found themselves towards the end of the day. What should be adequate light during dusk hours is generally not quite enough for me to make an ethical shot on an animal. To that end, I was really excited to see what the VX3-HD line had to offer me in terms of light transmission.
Just recently I packed up both the VX3-HD 3.5-10X40 and 4.5-14X40 and traveled down to West Texas to help a friend reduce some of the red stag population on his ranch. Our hunt was set to take place smack in the middle of the winter blast that Texas was hit with, so we ended up waiting out the weather and traveled down just days after most of the State regained power and utilities. By the time we rolled into town, the weather was just as you would expect in Texas, 75 and sunny with almost no cloud cover.
Since we were set to cull multiple animals, I was able to put both scopes to the test. The VX3HD-4.5-14X40 was paired with a Tikka T3x Chambered in .308 Winchester and the VX3-HD 3.5-10X40 was mounted to a Bergara B-14 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Both rifles were chambered in rounds that were more than adequate for the application and also gave me some variability when shooting with the Leupold scopes.
We started the trip out with a quick zero check on a steel plate, distanced at roughly 200 yards. I had been able to get both of these rifles zeroed to my liking prior to the trip down which was step one. Much like anyone else who has traveled with scoped rifles you know you that confirming zero upon arrival isn’t just a nicety, it’s an absolute must. After a 1,500 mile drive down both rifles had held their zero which I was extremely happy about.
With the entire VX3-HD line, Leupold has integrated their CDS-ZL elevation dial. This stands for Custom Dial System-Zero Lock. You read that correctly, custom. The word “custom” has permeated all aspect of the gun world and there are few things shooters love more than touting the custom features of their rig. Now, custom when it comes to scopes can be hit or miss. I personally think the CDS from Leupold is a hit. A hit in the sense that you don’t need to worry about cracking open a dope sheet while you are hunting or stressing about holdovers. The CDS is as easy as zeroing your rifle and dialing up to the number that corresponds with your target’s distance. So if you have a 400 yard shot, you dial up to 4 on your elevation, aim dead on, and fire. It’s really that easy.
After you purchase your scope, you have the option of heading over to the Custom Dial System page of Leupold’s website to begin your journey. The idea here is that you enter all of your variables in to the form and what you get back is a new dial, laser etched to your needs. If your scope comes to you with CDL on it, you qualify for one free dial, every new dial after that is $80. Consider this as your scopes dedicated version of the Applied Ballistics app. Now on to the hunt.
On our first night, we were hunting from a box blind overlooking a pretty expansive cut of land with a feeder roughly 320 yards out as well as opportunities for longer shots upwards of 500 yards at the ridge line of a rolling hill. Sunset was right around 6:30 and the image below was taken just after 6:00PM local time.
You can see the sun beginning to dip out of view and the conditions were creeping in to that questionable time I mentioned before. With the VX3HD-4.5-14X40 that I was using on night one, I found the scope to be very capable in regards to light transmission and also glare reduction. As you can see, our blind was facing towards the sunset and I often found myself glassing from areas of dim light to more extreme lights without any trouble on the transition. The image was crisp and while we didn’t have any stag wander in to our lane, I would have been more than comfortable taking a shot in those final moments of daylight.
Day two came and we opted to skip the blind in favor of a more safari style hunt. I started the day behind the Tikka T3x again paired with the VX3HD-4.5-14X40. After a fair amount of time hoofing it through the ranch, we came upon a group of 5 stag hinds and settled in to our hide waiting for a shot to open up. Our distance to the stag was just under 300 yards with almost no wind, so I dialed my elevation and waited for my opening. After what seemed like an eternity kneeling on a pile of rocks, one of the larger hinds walked from behind her cover and began grazing in a small opening, standing broadside. Now was my opportunity.
We had opted to not bring shooting sticks with us for our morning stalk, but our guide had brought his Two Vets tripod along which had his bino attachment on it. I decided to improvise and used his tripod as a shooting rest so that I could get as stable as possible. I settled in, ran through my pre-shot mental checklist and squeezed the trigger. One shot fired, one stag down. Our morning was off to a great start. As the morning passed by, we successfully harvested two more stag, one of which I personally shot at roughly 150 yards.
As far as the VX3HD-4.5-14X40 is concerned, this trip was further reinforcement to the late season whitetail success I had in Northern Michigan with this scope. Whether in use during a winter storm with,snow, high winds and 15 degree temps or warmer days down in West Texas, the VX3HD-4.5-14X40 did exactly what I needed it to do while delivering a crisp picture and some really great low light performance.
Now on to the afternoon where I switched things up and opted to take out the Bergara B-14 topped with the VX3-HD 3.5-10X40. I’ll start this out by saying the two scopes I had for comparison are very similar in terms of their product specifications with a couple of key differences. Both scopes feature a duplex reticle, 1″ tubes, and an eye relief of 4.4 – 3.6. The VX3HD-4.5-14X40 pulls away a bit in terms of it’s elevation and windage adjustment ranges(75 MOA vs. 55 MOA) while the VX3HD-3.5-10X40 has a greater linear field of view(29.7-11 vs. 19.9-7.4). With the final obvious difference being magnification power.
What’s really nice about these scopes is that they only sit $100 apart from each other, which means you can comfortably decide which is best for you and not feel like you are compromising because of cost. The VX3-HD 3.5-10X40 sits at an MSRP of $499 and the VX3HD-4.5-14X40 has an MSRP of $599. In today’s optics market, these are very fair prices for higher end glass.
Back to the hunt. We took the opportunity in the early afternoon to process the animals from the morning so that we wouldn’t have a mountain of meat in front of us to work on in the dark. Once that process was complete, we got ready to head out in search of the final two stags that we would harvest on our hunt. My buddy Andy jokingly said before we headed out, “I bet we are done within 45 minutes”. While it wasn’t 45 minutes, it was damn near close.
We started out with a walk through the area where our blind from night one sat and as we came over the ridge that overlooked the small valley below we saw 3 stag hinds grazing in the relative open of the grasses below. Our distance to the small group was just north of 310 yards with no obstructions. Having learned our lesson from the morning, we both brought our sticks with us this time and set up for our shots. I was on call to take the first shot so I got on my sticks, dialed my elevation and let my shot loose. Another successful harvest for the day and my first for the trip with the VX3-HD 3.5-10X40.
With a couple of successful hunts under my belt using 2 different scopes from the VX3-HD line from Leupold, I can say that I have found a new and very capable family of scopes to tap in to for my upcoming hunts this year and beyond. If you are in the market for a new scope and are already dreaming of your next hunt, you should head over to Leupold’s website to take a look at the VX3-HD line of scopes and all of the other products that Leupold offers. If you want to head directly to the product pages for the scopes I used, you can see the full specs and direct links below.
- MSRP – $499
- Power – 3.5 -10
- Tube Diameter – 1 Inch
- Reticle – Duplex
- Eye Relief – 4.4 – 3.6
- Linear FOV – 29.7 – 11
- Elevation Adjustment Range – 55
- Windage Adjustment Range – 55
- Leupold Product Page
- MSRP – $599
- Power – 4.5 -14
- Tube Diameter – 1 Inch
- Reticle – Duplex
- Eye Relief – 4.4 – 3.6
- Linear FOV – 19.9 – 7.4
- Elevation Adjustment Range – 75
- Windage Adjustment Range – 75
- Leupold Product Page