For me, Leupold has always been the gold standard for riflescopes. I’ve never shot at any distance or with such precision that I needed adjustable parallax, BDC reticles, or anything that has “mil” in the name. Find me a nice piece of glass with good clarity and adjustable zoom and I’m good to go. Leupold has always appealed to me in that regard. I’ve always felt like they made scopes for a guy who wanted really nice optical clarity and a set it and forget it attitude So when the Bushnell scope my Ruger M77 wore for years finally gave up, I made two major modifications to the gun. I had a Timney trigger installed and I bought a VX-II 3-9 X 40 mm Leupold scope. A gun that I liked became a gun I love . . .
Back in 2009, I took ownership of a brand new Armalite AR 15 with the A2 stock, 20 inch barrel, and flat top rail. I fooled myself into thinking that I would just slap some iron sights on it and be done. After about a year of being a fool, I finally broke down and decided to buy a scope.
At this point, I should have left well enough alone, bought the exact same Leupold that adorned my M77, and started putting lead downrange. Instead, I bought one of the Rifleman series in 4-12 x 40mm. My plan had been to play musical chairs and swap the 3-9 out to the AR, and put the 4-12 on my M77. I’d been jonesing for a bit more magnification, and figured that this would be the way to do it.
I ordered from OpticsPlanet with no issues, and took possession the following week. Initial impressions of the scope: it was a well-made product that had been assembled and shipped carefully. The windage and elevation knobs were graduated in ½ MOA increments, which I had somehow missed. Luckily, they aren’t the “click” kind, so you can adjust a bit finer, but it still was a sore point. Looking through my VX-II and this scope side by side makes it clear that the extra money gets you some better quality glass. It was hard to quantify, but objects downrange look clearer and brighter with the VX-II.
After I admired my new Rifleman, I mounted all my scopes in their new homes, and set off for my local range with several hundred rounds of ammo. I started with the M77 first, anxious to see how things would go. The low light conditions at the range brought the optical clarity issue to the front of my mind. I was still able to see, but it was easier through my VX-II. I started putting shots on paper at 25 yards and noticed almost immediately that my faithful M77 seemed to be having some issues grouping. I was seeing spreads of up to half an inch at 25 yards with a gun that had put 3 shots on top of each other within the last month. I checked all my mounts to ensure that I wasn’t dealing with some operator error, and everything checked out.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that I am extremely stubborn. Instead of saving myself the money on ammo, I ran my target out to 50 yards and watched my shots dance all over the paper. This didn’t make sense. This was a Leupold damnit. This is a great scope. It came in a padded box. They would never do this to me. After burning through close to 30 rounds (I told you I was stubborn), I packed all my gear and went home.
I immediately called OpticsPlanet. They informed me that I could return it, and they could have their tech look at it, but I couldn’t trade it back in or get a refund, because the scope had been mounted, and therefore couldn’t be sold in like new condition. I hung up feeling totally dejected. I called the next day and got a new person who had apparently worked there for quite some time. She informed me that my best option was to send the scope to Leupold and have them fix it under the lifetime warranty coverage. Off it went, and 4 weeks later, I got my scope.
At this point, I had done some heavy thinking and realized that I needed to leave well enough alone. I put the VX-II back on the M77, sighted it in, and went on to kill another day. The Rifleman went to the AR. The invoice from Leupold said that they couldn’t find any apparent defects, but had replaced all the necessary parts. I had the pros at my local range mount and boresight it to eliminate operator error. My first three shots at 25 yards were all nestled together, and continued to be so out to 100 yards. This scope definitely outperforms the gun now. Whatever Leupold did in the shop seemed to work.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. If I had it to do over, I would have sprung the extra money for another VX-II and put it on the AR. Whatever savings I realized in the initial purchase went up in smoke in wasted ammo and time. If you are new to optics, or higher end brands, this might be a good fit. If you’ve already owned a nice scope before, avoid this thing like the plague. If you’re like me, you’ll spend the entire ownership kicking yourself for not spending a bit more money. I owe special thanks to the warranty department at Leupold. They helped me out and kept Nikon from poaching a loyal customer.
RATINGS (out of five)
Optical Clarity * * *
It’s good. But, it is not the best. In bright sunlight, you would never know the difference. But, if you need to make a shot with about 10 minutes of legal daylight left, you are going to kick yourself for not spending more
Feel & Function * * ½
The ½ MOA markings are the reason I gave it 2.5 stars instead of 3. That’s a pretty big deal and could really bring a higher level of fit and feel to this scope. Otherwise, all controls are smooth, settings stay where they are supposed to be, and it has a generally solid feel.
Overall Quality * * ½
Anytime I have to send a scope back to the manufacturer out of the box, you are going to get dinged points. Add that to the aforementioned optical clarity, and the ½ MOA adjustments, and overall quality suffers. The scope looks to be of solid construction, and once fixed, worked great. The Leupold warranty bumped this scope from 2 stars to 2.5. Had I been stuck with an expensive fishing weight, I would have been livid. Their warranty ensured that the scope stays on top of my gun and not at the bottom of a lake.
Overall Rating * * *
My review is going to be skewed due to the lackluster original performance. Had it performed out of the box like it performs now, it would get 3 stars with ease.