Leupold VX-II 3-9x33 EFR Rimfire Riflescope

By Chuck Hawks

Leupold VX-II 3-9x33 EFR Rimfire
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

On a gray, damp, and blustery Western Oregon winter day (which is to say typical) some good news arrived at my doorstep in the person of the UPS delivery man bearing a new Leupold VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR Compact Rimfire riflescope. (EFR stands for "extended focus range.") I had requested this scope for review, and also to be used on one of the rifles in our upcoming .17 HMR varmint rifle comparison article. Patrick Mundy, Leupold's Senior Marketing Communications Specialist, had wasted no time sending me what he said was a new version of one of his favorite scopes. I had requested the scope only 5 days ago!

Being a kid at heart, I wasted no time opening the outer cardboard shipping container, revealing the handsome gold box in which Leupold scopes are packaged. Removing the cellophane and sliding open this box gave me access to the scope (wrapped in a black cloth), a product registration card, and a Leupold Riflescope Owner's Handbook.

The latter has a 40-page English language section crammed with useful information. I know how difficult it is to get customers to read an instruction manual, but the time devoted to reading this one is well spent, even for experienced shooters. Some of the informative chapter headings include: "Know your scope," "How to install the scope," "How to sight-in," Making precise windage and elevation adjustments," "What you should know about variable power scopes," and "The best consumer protection in the business."

The latter statement is absolutely true, as all Leupold Golden Ring scopes are manufactured in the U.S.A. and covered by the Leupold Full Lifetime Warranty. This Warrantee is brief and to the point:

"If any Leupold Golden Ring product is found to have defects in materials or workmanship, we will, at our option, repair or replace it. Free. Even if you are not the original owner. No warranty card required. No time limit applies."

Removing the scope from its protective cloth wrap left me holding an attractive, matte black, compact scope with the trademark Leupold "Golden Ring" around its adjustable objective. Unfortunately, lens caps are not provided, which seems a strange oversight for a scope in this price range.

On the left side of the adjustment housing "Leupold" is written in tasteful gold letters. And the power adjustment ring just forward of the focusing ocular bell is marked in small gold numbers starting at 3 and ending with 9, interspersed with hash marks. These are stamped on a slanted surface facing the shooter, which is a thoughtful convenience. Also in gold are faint "+ 0 -" markings on the top surface of the ocular housing, intended to indicate which way to rotate the focus to increase or decrease the diopter correction.

Continued examination of the new scope revealed that the front objective lens is recessed about 3/4" in the objective bell, which constitutes a sort of built in lens hood. The ocular bell is threaded to accept Leupold filters. The front parallax adjustment ring is marked for the exceptionally wide range of 10 meters to infinity with little gold numbers.

Both the adjustable objective and the zoom ring required considerable force to turn, but were smooth in operation. This is as it should be, to prevent inadvertent change. The Zoom ring has a rectangular raised area that serves as a tactile indication of where the ring is set. I found that the zoom ring comes to a positive stop at the "3" and "9" ends of its range. The front parallax adjustment, however, turns well below the minimum 10 meter setting in one direction, and far past infinity in the other direction. A little overtravel is usually built-in to allow for expansion of the scope in very hot environments, but this is excessive.

Looking through the scope for the first time, I was awarded with the sharp, clear view that has made Leupold scopes world famous. I found that the focus was fast and easy to adjust to my eye, unlike many scopes with "American" style eyepiece focus. There is a knurled lock ring to keep the focus from changing once set. If you screw the adjustable ocular bell all the way out, it will not detach from the scope because of an internal lock ring, a thoughtful touch.

Remove the threaded caps that protect the windage and elevation adjustments and you see coin slot, 1/4 MOA click adjustments with a moveable index mark and surrounded by a fixed, calibrated dial. As with other Leupold VX-II scopes I have owned, the adjustments were easy to use and reasonably accurate.

It would be a minor convenience if Leupold would see fit to eliminate the coin slot and go to fingertip adjustments such as the Weaver Grand Slam and a number of other premium scopes now provide. This is not a big deal, as once they are initially zeroed most shooters do not find it necessary to readjust their scopes very often.

Like most scopes today, Leupold VX-II scopes are fully sealed and are designed to be waterproof and fog proof. Unlike most scopes, the Leupold is waterproof even without the windage and elevation adjustment caps in place, although they should be used to keep out dust and dirt.

Since 2004 all VX-II scopes have come with Leupold's Multicoat 4 lens coatings throughout, which provide excellent light transmission and flare suppression. This is one of several upgrades that have been applied to the VX-II scope line since it was introduced. Others are the redesigned zoom ring and lockable fast focus eyepiece mentioned above.

The only maintenance required is to keep the front and rear lens elements clean. (Clean them as you would a fine camera lens.) The exterior of the scope is made from 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum alloy. Simply wipe off dirt and fingerprints with a clean, dry cloth. Leupold scopes are permanently lubricated and require no user lubrication for the life of the scope.

Here are the basic specifications for the VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR Rimfire scope:

Length - 11.3"; Weight - 11 ounces; Actual magnification - 3.2-8.6; Field of view - 34' to 13.5' at 100 yards; Optimum eye relief - 3" to 4"; Tube Diameter - 1"; Objective Diameter - 1.8"; Objective clear aperture - 33mm; Windage and elevation adjustment range - 64 MOA; Product number - 58710; 2005 Discount price - $349.99 (Midway, U.S.A.)

Since the .17 HMR rifle for which this scope was destined had not yet arrived, I mounted the 3-9x33 Rimfire on my .223 Remington caliber NEF Synthetic/Stainless Handi-Rifle for testing. This is my dedicated scope test rifle, and it is equipped with a one-piece Weaver base and Millett rings. Although not a rimfire rifle, its recoil is light and the Leupold's 3-4" eye relief is more than sufficient for the caliber.

Once the Leupold was mounted in the NEF's Millett rings and bore sighted, it was ready for a trip to the range. I might add that the moderate size of the objective and ocular bells and the relatively long tube space between the adjustment turret and the bells allowed plenty of fore and aft movement between the mounting rings. This made it easy to mount the scope the proper distance from my eye.

Little touches like this, and the non-critical eye relief, the generous 64 MOA elevation and windage adjustment range, and the multiple reticles available in Leupold scopes (the test scope has a Fine Duplex rather than the standard Duplex) are among the details that set Leupold scopes apart from the field. Some of these features are not readily apparent to customers looking at scopes in their local sporting goods store or online. But their absence sometimes becomes glaringly apparent down the road in scopes that do not have them. Leupold is a fourth generation, family owned company that has been making riflescopes since 1947, and that experience shows in the refinement of their scopes.

The weather came in partially sunny the following day, with a predicted high of about 45 degrees. A fine winter day, so the expedition to the Isaac Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon was a go.

As always, the first chore was to get the scope and rifle zeroed at 25 yards. Given the load used, a 50 grain Sierra Blitz bullet at a MV of 3200 fps, the bullet should impact about 0.4" low at 25 yards, but anywhere in the "10" ring would do for my purposes. The trajectory of that load is such that the bullet should hit -0.4" at 25 yards, +1.5" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -1.3" at 225 yards, and -2.9" at 250 yards.

It took 6 single shots to put the last bullet where I wanted it at 25 yards, but that was because I insisted on using the imprecise windage adjustment screws in the Millett rings rather than the scope's internal adjustment to correct for an initial 4" windage error. When available, it is always wise to use the adjustment in the mount to correct gross windage errors. Shooting at 25 yards did give me a chance to try the scope's parallax adjustment at short range, where it worked as advertised.

Then I moved back to 100 meters. First I readjusted the adjustable objective to eliminate parallax at the new distance, and again it worked like a charm. Then I fired some 3-shot groups, using the scope's windage and elevation adjustments to set the point of impact 1.5" directly over the center of the target.

That accomplished, I intentionally dialed in two more inches of elevation (8 clicks) and shot another 3-shot group. A quick check through my 30 power Celestron spotting scope showed that the group had hit about 2 1/8" above the last group. Then I adjusted the elevation down 8 clicks to see if the group center would return to its original point of impact, and it did. This is very good performance from a hunting scope's adjustments. Quality tells.

Throughout all of this testing and fussing around the 3-9x33mm Rimfire scope had been giving excellent views of the targets. It is sharp and clear with good contrast and low distortion throughout its power range.

As reported, the parallax correction worked properly at 25 yards, 100 meters, and when I moved to the 200 yard line, at 200 yards also. That is the maximum distance available at the Isaac Walton rifle range. The fine duplex reticle is especially nice when shooting at small targets at long range, since it is easy to see and yet subtends little of the target.

By the time I had put a box of cartridges through the NEF single shot rifle it was apparent that this new Leupold VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR Rimfire scope was a chip off the old block, so to speak. It is simply the best rimfire riflescope that I have ever used.

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Copyright 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.