Leupold VX-III 2.5-8x36mm Riflescope

By Chuck Hawks

Leupold VX-III 2.5-8x36
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

Leupold & Stevens, Inc. has been building telescopic sights in the U.S.A. for over 50 years. Located in my home state of Oregon, Leupold is a fourth generation, family owned company. This longevity has given the folks at Leupold an opportunity to find out what works and what is necessary in the real world, and it shows in their riflescopes. Leupold scopes are marked with a distinctive gold ring around the objective bell to aid in identification, hence the moniker "Leupold Golden Ring Scopes." I have owned and used Leupold binoculars, scopes, mounts and rings for many years and can personally testify to their quality and value.

All Leupold Golden Ring riflescopes come with the Leupold Full Lifetime Guarantee. You don't even have to 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, period. There is no time limit, and no need for a guarantee card.

The subject of this review is the Leupold VX-III 2.5-8x36mm variable power riflescope. VX-III scopes are the heart of the Leupold scope line, with the most models and options from which to choose.

The VX-III 2.5-8x36 scope features Leupold's Index Matched Lens System. All air to glass surfaces, inside and out, are coated with Leupold's proprietary Multcoat 4 anti-reflective lens coatings for excellent light transmission and freedom from glare. It is built on a one-piece 25mm (1") main tubes made of 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum alloy. Windage and elevation adjustments "click" in 1/4 minute of angle increments. The reticle remains centered and appears the same size at all magnifications. The fast eyepiece focus is achieved by turning the ocular bell, and there is a locking ring.

All VX-III scopes are guaranteed to maintain their point of impact at all magnification settings. Leupold scopes are sealed against moisture and nitrogen filled, making them waterproof and fog free.

Most Leupold VX-III 2.5-8x scopes are shipped with the standard Duplex reticle, but some 16 different reticles are available if you include the custom shop options. The test 2.5-8x36 scope came with a matte black finish and a Mil Dot reticle. (Gloss black and silver finishes are also available.)

It is a reasonably trim scope due to its 36mm front objective lens. This will allow the use of low mounting rings on most rifles. Its overall length is 11.4 inches and it weighs 11.6 ounces. For this review it was mounted on a Remington Model 700 rifle in .260 Remington caliber using a Leupold base and rings.

Its windage and elevation adjustments proved accurate and easy to use when sighting-in. Four clicks of windage or elevation delivered the advertised 1" of movement at 100 yards. An adjustment range of 50 MOA is available in both windage and elevation. A coin or something similar is necessary to change the settings. The outer index ring can be reset after the rifle is zeroed-in. I always appreciate 1/4 MOA adjustments like these that are both visual and tactile.

The VX-III 2.5-8 power scope offers a wide 37.3' field of view when set at 2.5x and a 13.7' field of view at 8x at a distance of 100 yards. According to Leupold, the actual magnification range is 2.6-7.8 power. The optimum eye relief is a generous 4.4" at 2.5x and 3.5" at 8x, making it a good choice for rifles with heavy recoil.

This scope has plenty of magnification for use at a 200 yard rifle range (where it was tested) or for a long shot at even the smallest medium game animals in the field. Its 2.5-8x magnification range is a good match for the trajectories of all-around big game rifle cartridges on the order of the .260 Rem., 6.5x55, 7mm-08, 7x57, .270 Win, .280 Rem., .308 Win., .30-06, and 8x57JS.

Visually, the VX-III offers excellent contrast and definition at all power settings. Sharpness from center to edge is very good. Lens flare is exceptionally well suppressed. No change in point of impact was observed when the magnification was changed. It is a very nice scope to look through.

The Mil Dot reticle has a very fine central crosswire with uniformly spaced little dots strung along the central portion of each wire; the outer portion of the crosshairs are heavy, as per a Duplex reticle. The fine central area of this reticle, which subtends a larger than normal area, would be harder to see in dim light in the field than Leupold's standard Duplex reticle. It is, however, excellent for use at the rifle range or for hitting targets of known dimension at long distances.

The mil dot reticle has four 0.2 mil dots on the central portion of each cross wire. The little dots are equally spaced one mil (milliradian) from center to center, radiating out along the vertical and horizontal wires from the intersection point. From the intersection of the crosswires to the beginning of the heavy (Duplex) part of each wire is a distance of 5 mil.

The Leupold catalog explains the system this way, "Using the mil formula, a table can be created that is based on the size of the object being targeted. Just look through the scope, bracket the object between dots, and refer to the table for an estimated distance to target." Scopes with Mil Dot reticles come with complete instructions on their use. There is a mil dot table on the Guns and Shooting Online Rifle Information Page.

I had no opportunity to experiment with the mil dot system at the range, but I am sure it can be useful if the shooter has plenty of time, as is often the case with far off game that is not aware of the hunter's presence. Personally, I generally prefer to stalk to within the maximum point blank range of the cartridge and load I am using so that I don't have to think about holding over.

In my opinion the Leupold VX-III 2.5-8x36mm scope is one of the best in its class. It is relatively expensive, but delivers quality and performance commensurate with the price.

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Copyright 2004, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.