Leupold VX-R 2-7x33mm and 3-9x40mm Riflescopes

By Randy Wakeman and Chuck Hawks

This has been an exceedingly good year for impressive optics and these new for 2011 VX-R riflescopes from Leupold are outstanding examples. Leupold remains a family owned business and, like all Leupold and Redfield riflescopes, the VX-R line is made in Beaverton, Oregon, USA.

The new VX-R scopes have most of the latest Leupold bells and whistles, which they share with the VX-3 line: one-piece main tube, second generation Argon/Krypton waterproofing, Index Matched Lens Systems, blackened lens edges, DiamondCoat external lens coatings, lead and arsenic free glass and fingertip click adjustments.

VX-R's differ from the VX-3 line by having illuminated reticles, different internal adjustments, eyepieces with European style one-turn extended range focusing, 30mm main tubes and they are less expensive. They are similar optically, but the VX-R's don’t have quite the breadth of features or the depth across the line for the wide range of shooting that the VX-3 line does.

The VX-R line features illuminated FireDot reticles throughout. The reticle that Leupold calls “FireDot 4 – Metric” is a German #4 style with very thick posts. Randy requested the FireDot 4 reticle in the 3-9x40mm VX-R test scope. FireDot 4 reticle equipped scopes come with European 1 cm per click windage and elevation adjustments, hence the "Metric" nomenclature. Chuck went with the standard FireDot Duplex for the 2-7x33mm VX-R. FireDot Duplex reticle scopes come with standard American ¼" MOA adjustments. The pinpoint fiber optic, LED illuminated dot in the center of all FireDot reticles makes precise target acquisition effortless.

The FireDot illuminated reticle is a work of art, easy to activate with cold or gloved hands with just a quick press of a button in the center of the battery case, which occupies the left side of the adjustment turret. (Elevation is on top and windage on the right, as with any normal riflescope). Leupold's exclusive motion-sensor technology turns the scope off after five minutes of inactivity, yet instantly turns it back on when moved; as far as we know, this is an industry first. There are eight levels of illumination and the push button is handier than any rotating knob. When the scope is turned off and back on, it returns to the previously set illumination level, so you don't have to scroll through the various intensities to return to your preferred setting.

We are not sure exactly what the run-time of the CR-2032 battery that powers these scopes is, but Leupold claims it is “remarkably good.” If the battery is running low, it flashes ten times to alert you when you turn it on. We left the red dot in the 2-7x33 switched on for three days (72 hours) and the reticle looked as bright at the end of this impromptu test as at the start. When we turned the reticle off and back on after three days, it did not flash, indicating that the battery was still good. The motion sensor apparently works as advertised.

Immediately noticeable when you look through one of these scopes is the substantial and close tolerance eye relief, varying only a half inch throughout the zoom range. The twin bias erector spring erector assemblies and 30mm 6061-T6 aluminum alloy main tubes promise extra durability and a wide adjustment range.

Keeping the weight under a pound in a 3-9x40mm illuminated reticle riflescope with a 30mm main tube isn't easy and is rarely achieved, but Leupold has done it. The 2-7x33mm model weighs even less, a little over ¾ pound.

Everything about these scopes is confidence inspiring. The fingertip windage and elevation adjustments are very firm and crisp with none of that sloppy feeling and the power ring is extra-smooth with no binding or hesitation throughout its range. They are also exceedingly well-finished scopes, with Leupold's extra hard and durable matte black anodizing. Here are the specifications for our test scopes.

VX-R 2-7x33mm

VX-R 2-7x33 Riflescope.
VX-R 2-7x33 Riflescope. Image courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

    ·        Reticle: FireDot Duplex

    ·        Actual magnification: 2.5-6.6x

    ·        Adjustment click value: ¼" at 100 yards

    ·        Adjustment range: 75 MOA

    ·        Weight (oz): 12.7

    ·        Length (in): 11.3

    ·        Eye Relief (in): 4.2 - 3.7

    ·        Field of View @ 100 yards (ft): 43.7 - 17.8

    ·        Exit Pupil (mm): 13.2 - 5.0

    ·        Finish: Hard anodized matte black

    ·        Mounting Space (in): 5.1

    ·        2011 Online Retail: $459.99 (Midway USA)

VX-R 3-9x40mm

VX-R 3-9x40 Riflescope.
VX-R 3-9x40 Riflescope. Image courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

    ·        Reticle: FireDot 4 - Metric

    ·        Actual magnification: 3.3-8.6x

    ·        Adjustment click value: 1 cm at 100 meters

    ·        Adjustment range: 60 MOA

    ·        Weight (oz): 15.3

    ·        Length (in): 12.6

    ·        Eye Relief (in): 4.2 - 3.7

    ·        Field of View @ 100 yards (ft): 33.6 - 13.6

    ·        Exit Pupil (mm): 12.12 - 4.65

    ·        Finish: Hard anodized matte black

    ·        Mounting Space (in): 5.4

    ·        2011 Online Retail: $479.99 (Midway USA)

When you mount one of these scopes on your rifle, you will find that their design allows for generous mounting latitude. Adequate space between the front and rear bells is a feature surprisingly lacking in many riflescopes, but not Leupolds. Practically everyone at Leupold is an active hunter and shooter and it shows in the practical design of Leupold scopes.

We compared these scopes against several other high quality 30mm scopes in daylight, 45 minutes after sunset and several hours after sunset (full darkness). For example, the Leupold 3-9x40 put a Bushnell Elite 6500 2.5-16x42 to shame with both scopes set at 6x magnification. The Bushnell costs about 50% more than the Leupold and has no illuminated reticle, much less an advanced fiber-optic reticle.

The color rendition, optical correction and flare suppression in our test scopes is excellent. Objects viewed through these scopes are sharp and contrasty across the field of view. Coma and spherical aberration are very well controlled. Point sources of light at night remained points out to the edge of the field of view, a severe visual test for any riflescope.

Whatever combination Leupold has put together in these scopes, the image quality is astonishingly good. It is like cleaning the windshield and turning the headlights on compared to lesser scopes. They are also an impressive value, as there are no sub-500 dollar hunting scopes that can run with these VX-R's.

There are many excellent big game hunting scopes out there, to be sure. These VX-R offerings from Leupold are standouts, the best general big game and low light hunting scopes we have reviewed in many years. Leupold has brought it all together in these new VX-R scopes, which include 1.25-4x20mm, 2-7x33mm, 3-9x40mm, 3-9x50mm, 4-12x40mm and 4-12x50mm models. VX-R is our choice for the best new big game hunting riflescopes of 2011. They are joltingly good, thoroughly well-designed and executed IR scopes with which anyone will quickly fall in love.

Back to the Scopes and Optics Information Page

Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman and Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.