Leupold VX-3HD 4.5 -14x50 CDS ZL
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- Last updated: 20/06/2023
Leupold was established in 1907. Roll on 115 years, and they are still producing USA-made optics of excellent quality. They have always been famous for their scope warranty, regardless of the number of owners a scope has had. This indicates pride and trust in their manufacturing techniques and the materials used in their rifle scopes.
When I was a teenager, we couldn’t afford Zeiss or Swarovski, so Leupold was ‘the’ next premium brand for fox or deer stalking duties.
On test is the new VX-3HD 4.5-14x50 CDS ZL scope, and yes, the name is a bit of a mouthful! To break that down for you, VX-3 indicates the 3x power range, HD stands for High Definition optics, and the 4.5-14x50 tells us the zoom range and objective size. Also, CDS is the Customisable Dial System and ZL relates to the zero lock dial. This optic is part of the FireDot Twilight Hunter series of scopes, which is designed for low-light hunting. It is impeccably made, lightweight, and optically very good. It retails for £1225.
Dimensionally, I like the lightweight Leupolds, as they really don’t overburden a rifle, especially when a moderator is fitted. This scope weighs only 19.5oz, measures just 12.33” in length, and has a 30mm aluminium main tube with a matte black finish.
I think the VX-3 has a perfect power range. 4.5x mag provides a wide field of view that measures 20.5 ft at 100 yards, and this is great for close-range shots. At 14x mag, the field of view drops to 7.6 ft at 100 yards but allows more precise, longer-range shots to be taken with confidence. Of course, you still need good glass to define the image, and Leupold uses their Elite Optical System lenses. These boost low-light conditions for extended dawn and dusk shooting, a critical time of day for the hunter. Combined with a good anti-glare system, the scope achieves clear images with good contrast.
Being part of the FireDot range, you have the illuminated FireDot reticle, which offers seven brightness settings. It can be turned on by pressing a push button that’s located on the outside of the left-hand turret. This is powered by a single CR2032 battery. The reticle is in the second focal place and only the centre dot is illuminated. I like the combination of the thick outer edges to the reticle and the thin inner lines, as they focus the eye centrally without masking the game.
When we take a look at the zeroing the VX, it has the one revolution, CDS ZeroLock and ZeroStop dial system. You push the silver button on the elevation turret to unlock it, adjust the dial, and then rotate it back to the initial zero stop to lock it in place securely. This means you don’t accidentality turn the dial a whole revolution in the wrong direction. You also have the Custom Dial System (CDS), which allows you to get Leupold to mark the elevation turret according to your specifications.
Finally, Leupold was at the forefront of the original anti-fogging, shock-proof, and waterproof scope designs, with stories of lost scopes being found years later in the wild and still remaining crystal clear. I can vouch for that.
As I have mentioned, I like a lightweight scope these days for everyday stalking, as it not only balances a rifle better but means there is less to heft about the hills! The 50mm objective lens gathers more than enough light, even in the dimmest woods, and I have to say that rabbits were easily spotted hiding in the recesses of the hedgerows. It does have a fixed parallax distance of 150 yards, making it better suited for centrefires, but at lower magnifications, it was fine. The FireDot reticle is impressive too, as it has a very subtle low setting, ensuring it does not destroy your eye’s natural night vision when it gets darker. Plus, at full power, it can give a precise dot for aiming in full sunlight.
Crucially, you also get good adjustments with the VX. Each click is positive, with no backlash or skipped clicks. Importantly, there is enough pressure from the sprung system to keep your rifle zeroed, even after a significant impact. Also, the maximum elevation and windage adjustments are more than enough for normal shooting ranges.
The CDS ZeroLock/ZeroStop dial system works well, but personally, I can take it or leave it. However, I like the extended zoom ring spur, as it really does help with positive magnification changes through the near-perfect zoom range. I also like the longer eye relief that Leupold uses on their scopes, as it makes it easier to shoot from odd angles and shoulder positions without the risk of ‘sniper’s eye’. Especially when using heavier recoiling cartridges.
I had some very nice rabbits out to 75 yards in pretty gloomy conditions. The VX performed admirably, delivering a precise headshot each time on the new Anschutz Whisper rifle. I use Leupold scopes myself, as they have always been 100% reliable. Overall, the VX-3HD offers very good optical performance in a lovely, compact, and lightweight package.