Leupold UltimateSlam Sabot Ballistics Reticle
Muzzleloader / Shotgun 3-9x40mm Riflescope

By Randy Wakeman
Leupold UltimateSlam 3-9x40mm Muzzleloader/Shotgun Scope
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

If this model designation sounds like quite a mouthful, it is. I’ve not yet attempted to say “Leupold UltimateSlam Sabot Ballistics Reticle Muzzleloader / Shotgun Three to Nine by Forty Riflescope” quickly ten times, because I can’t always remember the correct order of the words. I’ll refer to this scope as the “Ultimate Slam” to make it easy, if only for myself.

Before getting to the Leupold ballistic reticle, let’s talk about what a good scope is supposed to be and do in the first place. If a scope cannot hold its zero, it is worthless as far as I’m concerned. If the reticle floats or drifts shot to shot, not much else is going to help you.

There is a fundamental reason why folks buy Leupold scopes in the first place: they handle recoil. That is true throughout the line, from their basic scopes to the more fully featured options. Leupold scopes are known to hold their zero. Further, Leupold scopes are pleasant to look through. There are scopes I’ve used, or more correctly attempted to use, where the shooter’s eye position is so hypercritical any minuscule movement of your head (as in breathing) may result in instant blackout of the image. Scopes like that are frustrating to use, and there are more of them out there than you think. I can’t stand fussy scopes. As bad as they are at the range, they are far worse when hunting. Contingent on the weather, layers of clothing go on or off during the course of the day, and that naturally changes the stock mount and eye relief. The last thing anyone wants is putting on a down vest to prevent some chill at the end of a long day, only to discover at the critical time that they can no longer see what they are shooting at, their full image now changing into a little tunnel.

So, as a practical matter, long before reticle obsession sets in, it just makes good sense to settle for nothing less than a scope that holds its zero and gives you a clear image when you need it instantly with no straining or goose-necking. This is as good a time as any to note the basic specs on the Ultimate Slam, so here they are:

Standard Multicoat Lens System, 1 in. tube, 3.3 x 8.5 X Actual Magnification, 4.4-13.3 Exit Pupil, 12 oz. weight, mounting space 5.6 in., 65 MOA elevation and windage adjustment range, and 4.2 – 3.7 inches eyes relief. The Ultimate Slam has ¼ MOA finger click adjustments.

Going over the scope, a couple of things stuck out as being impressive: its light, three quarters of a pound weight, its attractive matte appearance with the distinctive Leupold Golden Ring at the objective, and its essentially perfect eye relief. The eye relief on this scope is not only generous, but you can spin through the entire range while maintaining the full image. For all intents and purposes, I’d call it constant eye relief. In any case, if not technically constant, it is so very close I can’t tell any change despite the zoom setting. Leupold dealers of course are free to set their own prices, but I think it is appropriate to mention that this scope does not go for $400 - $500 at all. It can currently be had for $265 or so street price. Your shopping results may vary.

Alight, it is time to tackle the “Ballistic Reticle” feature as applied to muzzleloaders and certain rifled-barrel shotguns. Many ballistic reticles just plain give me a headache. The reason is that they often clutter up the image so badly, they are more distracting than helpful in many instances. That’s my personal issue with Mi-Dot scopes. When I’m hunting, all I want to do is put the bullet in right spot. I don’t want to pretend I’m a fighter pilot with an HUD, nor do I want to feel like I’m playing a video game. It is all well and good to know that dot-to-dot, a Mil-Dot is 36 inches at 1000 yards and 3.6 inches at 100 yards. Looking through a blob filled Mil-Dot in a hunting application has more the feel of taking a Rorschach inkblot test than just a clear image of what I’m out in the field searching for.

Though this is not a dedicated comparison article, many of my articles have some comparative elements in them for the simple reason that savvy consumers want an opinion of how a product ranks to similar products in the same general price-point. The obvious example that begs for some type of comment here is the Nikon Omega scope, with its “250 BDC” reticle. That particular scope, a “muzzleloading scope,” is one that defines “busy reticle.” Nikon essentially took the Burris BallistiPlex, and stuffed it up by adding open circles instead of clean hold marks, making that scope as good of an example of a bad reticle as I can mention. Another problem with the Nikon Omega that I’ve noted elsewhere is its excessive, 5 inch plus eye relief making proper mounting difficult on many rifles. Assuming you can mount it, you are looking more “at” the scope than through it. I think it is a distracting mess. So, before you buy it is well worth your while to look the through the Omega or any of the other overly busy type reticles to see if you can tolerate them. I sure can’t, but personal preference is just that.

On to the Leupold Ultimate Slam’s reticle, which has many features. The first feature is one that I don’t care anything about at all: it is “range-estimating feature.” To use it, you are required to crank the scope up all the way and bracket a deer that is broadside between marks. If the deer is larger than the bracket, it is presumed to be closer than 200 yards away. If smaller than the bracket, it is presumed to be farther than 200 yards away. This feature is nonsense, as far as I’m concerned. Good grief, you are about hit the switch on a buck and you don’t know the range? It entirely defeats the purpose of a ballistic reticle. Long before the gun comes up to your shoulder, when firing at longer ranges with a “loopy trajectory” muzzleloader or slug gun, you already need to know the range. Hopefully, you are able to do a lot better than just closer or farther than 200 yards; you need to be more informed than that for this or any bullet-drop reticle. With the quality of rangefinders out there, like the Leupold RX-1000 reviewed on this site that is simply superb, you already have a far more precise knowledge of range than scope bracketing can offer. Leupold must have had some reason for including this, but it escapes me. As far as I’m concerned, laser rangefinding use for long-range muzzleloading is requisite.

The Ultimate Slam has hold points for 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300 yards. Additionally, there is a 50 yard hold point by using the top of the circled center. The 50 yard hold point makes no sense to me for big game hunting, but it is there nevertheless.

The Ultimate Slam is matched to three different hold point arrays contingent on where you stop the power ring: slug gun, two pellet, and three pellet. As long-range aficionados will likely be interested in the three pellet array, let’s look at what the ballistics are.

Depending on which Hornady data set you might be reading, the 250 grain SST pushed by three pellets equates to 2200 fps at the muzzle with 1389 fps residual velocity at 250 yards. Based on the velocity at 100 yards (1852 fps) we have an approximate ballistic coefficient of 0.21.

Here is our little conundrum. Based on these ballistics (which vary significantly by individual gun and ambient conditions) using the Maximum Point Blank Range method, assuming a six inch kill zone, zeroing 3 inches high at 100 yards means a 172 yard zero and a MPBR of 202 yards. Phrased differently, a rifle with these ballistics means hold center of the body and pull the trigger out to 200 yards with no adjustments. MPBR hunting is smart hunting, as far as I’m concerned, and something to try to stay within if at all possible. The reason is not the wonderfully repeatable notion of gravity, but the problem of doping the wind as ranges increase.

Let me explain what I’m talking about. Just a 10 mph crosswind at 300 yards moves the bullet nearly two feet, a calculated 23.32 inches. Our large diameter .452 bullet is hanging out there in the wind for over half of a second at that range, .542 seconds, so though our gun may be MOA and our Leupold may be better than that, what is minute of white tail when minute of wind is added in? That’s a major consideration. There is no easy answer for this that I have to offer.

So, back to the Leupold system, a rough approximation of this load based on a 100 yard zero is .31 inches high at 50 yards (see why that 50 yard hold point is a bit goofy?), 0.00 at 100 yards, -2.93 at 150 yards, -8.88 inches at 200 yards, -18.49 inches at 250 yards, and –32.67 inches at 300 yards.

Here’s my opinion of a practical way to use the Leupold Ultimate Slam, the only opinion I’m equipped with. Inside 150 yards, hit the switch. Whether you crank up the power to the appropriate setting and use the 150 yard hold point or not, nothing can live on the difference. From 150 to 250 yards is where this reticle is the most useful. Even at 250 yards, we have approximately 15.54 inches of wind drift from a 10 mph crosswind, so the maturity and restraint of the hunter necessarily comes into play. Beyond that, let your conscience be your guide.

Leupold has wisely noticed that dots can obscure your target at longer ranges, so the 250 yard dot is commensurately smaller than the 200 yard dot, something many scopes of this genre ignore. Leupold refers to this scope as “versatile,” and that is a huge understatement.

For from being a muzzleloader only scope or a slug gun only scope, the suitable applications for this scope are huge. It works for 100 grain volumetric black powder genre 250 – 300 grain saboted loads up to 150 grain by volume 250 – 300 grain loads and everything in between. It is applicable to the .44 RemMag out of a rifle, the .444 Marlin, the .444 Marlin, the .45-70 Government, and the .450 Marlin as well. One match-up that seems supremely well-suited is the Hornady LeveRevolution powered 325 grain .45-70 load that seems an ideal cartridge for use with the Ultimate Slam scope. It seems apparent that this scope can be easily adapted for use with any rifle that fires a bullet in the 1650 – 2200 fps range, with a B.C. in the rough area of .18 - .22. That covers a very large spectrum.

So, despite a few minor caveats such as the 50 yard aiming point and the +/- 200 yard buck bracketer, this is a very desirable scope. It is priced right, it looks great, it easy to look through, light in weight, and adds field performance to traditionally short range firearms as long as the shooter takes the necessary time to precisely learn the individual trajectory of their rifle, and is aware that no scope makes a rifle more accurate or compensates for varying winds between you and your target. Used with care and responsibility, it can increase your personal “maximum point blank range” by about 25% with precision, as long as you do your homework. Most of all though, the Ultimate Slam is a very satisfying scope to look through and use, whether you decide you need the ballistic aiming system.

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Copyright 2009, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.