Leupold VX-II Riflescopes

By Chuck Hawks

Leupold VX-II 1-4x20
Illustration courtesy of Leupold & Stevens, Inc.

Leupold & Stevens, Inc., located in Beaverton, Oregon, has been building telescopic sights in the U.S.A. for over 50 years. Leupold is a fourth generation family owned company. Leupold scopes bear a distinctive gold ring around the objective bell to aid in identification, thus the term "Golden Ring" scopes.

Leupold has been responsible for several important innovations in the riflescope field. The most important of these are the development of the first nitrogen charged and sealed waterproof scope, the Duplex reticle, the compact scope, and the first use of Torx Drive mount fasteners.

All Leupold 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. There is no time limit, and no need for a guarantee card.

I have always considered Leupold to be a "4-star" or "deluxe" scope manufacturer. The 2003 Leupold catalog, however, shows several lines of variable power riflescopes ranging from the medium price 3-star category to the 5-star ultra-deluxe levels.

Today the VX-II line represents Leupold's midrange, 4-star product line. These scopes are the lineal descendents of the popular Vari-X II line. These are premium scopes of proven durability, built to last for generations.

VX II scopes offer bright, fully multi-coated optics that appear sharp from center to edge. All air to glass surfaces are coated with Leupold's proprietary Multicoat 4 anti-reflective lens coatings for very good light transmission and freedom from glare. They are built with two-piece, 1" diameter main tubes made of 6061-T6 aircraft quality aluminum alloy. The accurate, coin-slot, 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 "American style" faster focusing eyepiece is secured with a locking ring. VX-II scopes are guaranteed to maintain their point of impact at all magnification settings. They are sealed against moisture and nitrogen filled, making them waterproof and fog free.

VX II hunting scopes, depending on model, are regularly available with 6 different reticle styles. These include the Duplex, Leupold Dot, Post and Duplex, German #1, and German #4. The Leupold Custom Shop can install any of Leupold's 16 reticles (which include several specialized types not regularly available).

Most Leupold VX-II scopes are shipped with the standard Duplex reticle. This type of reticle, with heavy a crosshair that becomes a fine crosshair near the center of the field, was invented by Leupold and has since been copied by virtually all other scope manufacturers. It is the best reticle ever invented for most hunting applications.

The VX-II 1-4x20mm is the smallest and lightest scope in the line with an overall length of 9.2" and a weight of 9 ounces. Its actual magnification is 1.6x to 4.2x. It comes with a matte black finish and either a Duplex or CPC reticle. It offers the widest field of view, 75' (1x) at 100 yards and a generous eye relief of 4.3"-3.8". The windage and elevation adjustment range is 67 MOA. This is one of the best scopes on the market for a woods rifle, and also for use on a dangerous game rifle. At 4x it offers all the magnification necessary for shots out to 300 yards on medium size big game animals. The Leupold 1-4x20 is the model with which I am personally most familiar, and I have used it on rifles chambered for cartridges as diverse as .30-30, .338 Win. Mag., and .350 Rem. Mag. with perfect satisfaction.

The VX-II 2-7x33mm is one of the most under appreciated scopes on the market. About the size of a fixed 4x scope, it is 10.9" long and weighs 10.5 ounces. It can be mounted low and has less effect on a hunting rifle's handling than larger scopes. As an all-around scope for big game hunting I regard a 2-7x as superior to the more popular 3-9x scopes. Either has sufficiently high magnification for any big game hunting situation and the VX-II 2-7x has a greater field of view at low magnification, 42.5' at 100 yards. Eye relief is 4.9" at 2x and 3.8" at 7x. Finish is matte black, and both Duplex and Leupold Dot reticles are offered.

There are actually three VX-II 3-9x scopes, a 3-9x40mm hunting scope, a 3-9x40mm Tactical scope, and a 3-9x50mm hunting scope. The two hunting scopes are the ones that concern us here.

The 3-9x40mm is probably the best selling of all VX-II scopes. It is available with gloss black, matte black, and silver finishes. Standard available reticles vary with finish. The silver scope comes with a Duplex reticle only. The gloss black scope comes with either a standard Duplex or a Heavy Duplex. The matte black scopes have the most reticle choices, which include the Duplex, Leupold Dot, CPC, Post and Duplex, German #1, and German #2. Regardless of finish, the 3-9x40 is 12.3" long and weighs 12 ounces. The 100 yard field of view is 32.3' at 3x and 14' at 9x. Optimum eye relief is 4.7" at 3x and 3.7" at 9x. Windage and elevation adjustment rage is 56 MOA. 3-9x scopes are widely regarded as the all-around variables, and are suitable for a wide range of all-around and long range big game rifles, as well as medium range varmint rifles. The 3-9x40 can be mounted in low scope rings on most rifles.

The VX-II 3-9x50mm is bigger and therefore less desirable than the 3-9x40mm, but its larger objective lens does admit more light. Enough to permit the use of 7x magnification even with fully dark-adapted eyes. (The 3-9x40mm permits magnifications up to 5.7x under the same circumstances.) The 3-9x50mm is 12" long and weighs 13.7 ounces. It will have to be mounted in medium or high rings on most rifles. The 100 yard field of view is 32.3' at 3x and 14' at 9x. Optimum eye relief is 4.7" at 3x and 3.7" at 9x. Windage and elevation adjustment rage is 56 MOA.

The VX-II 4-12x40mm Adj. Obj. is a large combination varmint and long range big game scope. Finishes offered are matte black and silver. Available reticles include the Fine Duplex only in silver scopes and a choice of Fine Duplex, Leupold Dot, German #4, and Mil Dot in matte black scopes. The 4-12x40 is a good match for most varmint rifles, and a possibility for combination varmint and big game calibers such as the .243 Winchester, .243 WSSM, 6mm Remington, and .257 Roberts +P. The adjustable objective feature lets the shooter correct for parallax at any range desired. The 4-12x40 is 12.3" long and weighs 14 ounces. The 100 yard field of view is 22.8' at 4x and 11' at 12x. Optimum eye relief is 4.7" at 4x and 3.7" at 12x. The windage and elevation adjustment range is 55 MOA.

The biggest of all VX-II scopes are the 6-18x40mm Adj. Obj. models. There are two models, a standard model and a Target model. The Target has tall target type windage and elevation adjustments and weighs 1.8 ounces more that the standard 6-18x model. All other specifications are identical. Both 6-18x models come in matte black only, are supplied with a choice of Fine Duplex or Target Dot reticles, and have adjustable objectives for parallax correction. They are 13.4" long and the standard model weighs 14 ounces. The big scope's 100 yard field of view is 14.5' at 6x and only 6.6' at 18x. Optimum eye relief is 4.7" at 6x and 3.7" at 18x. The windage and elevation adjustment range is 56 MOA. These are specialized long range scopes. The standard model is probably most commonly seen on specialized long range varmint rifles chambered for cartridges such as the .220 Swift, .243 Winchester, and 6mm Remington.

Lou Vespia wrote a full review of the VX-II 6-18x40mm Adj. Obj. scope, so I will not repeat it all here. Suffice to say that he was very pleased with the quality and performance of his big Leupold, which has a Fine Duplex reticle and the target knob option.

Lou has his 6-18x40 mounted on a very accurate Savage 110FP rifle that is chambered for the 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge. He uses this rig mostly for long range coyote shooting, and has made one shot kills out to 400 yards. He credits the high quality of the Leupold VX-II scope for making such shots possible. Of course, Lou is a fine shot and practices regularly at the range.

The standard windage and elevation adjustments of VX-II scopes are accurate and easy to use. I always appreciate 1/4 MOA adjustments like these that are both visual and tactile. The outer index ring can be reset after the rifle is zeroed-in. A coin or something similar is necessary to change the settings.

Visually, the VX II scopes offer good definition at all power settings. Sharpness from center to edge is good. Lens flare is well suppressed. They are good scopes to look through and rugged scopes with which to hunt.

The Leupold VX II line is one of the best in the 4-star class. A VX II scope is a good choice for almost any hunting rifle. Their price is about average for a deluxe riflescope, but they offer better than average value and performance for the money.

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Copyright 2003, 2015 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.