Now that RF has summoned me back to the TTAG ranch in addition to manning the helm at The Truth About Knives, I’ve decided that it’s time to check back in with some of my old gun and gear reviews to see how they’ve held up in the long run. I’ve been running the Leupold VX-R Patrol for over two years now, which is almost as long-term a test as TTAG can boast of. How’s it doing? . . .

Let’s Get Re-Acquainted, Shall We?

A bit of catch-up is probably in order, since the original gear review went live in December of 2011. The Leupold VX-R Patrol is a variable-power tactical riflescope with a 1.25-4x adjustment range, a 30mm main tube, and a 20mm objective. On the outside, the scope is 9.5 inches long and weighs 11.5 ounces without a base or rings.

Image: Chris Dumm

On the inside, it’s got Leupold’s SPR ‘Firedot’ rangefinding illuminated reticule in the second focal plane. The red dot has 8 brightness settings, powered by a single CR-2032 coin battery and controlled by a single waterproof pressure switch on the left of the turrets. At 4x magnification the circle subtends 10 milliradians, the small pips subtend 2.5 mils, and the center dot covers 0.3 mils. The reticule actually looks larger than this, when you’re looking through it through your eyeball instead of a wide-angle camera lens.

Leupold now offers many other reticule options including duplexes, circles, and one reticule called the ‘PigPlex.’ There’s even a green-dot VX-R ‘Zombie Patrol’, which I’ve handled and which works really well…but only if you don’t mind the silly zombie theme and external graphics, which are at least 18 months past its coolness-factor expiration date.

Update: Ruggedness

Image: Chris Dumm

The VX-R Patrol has been my go-to AR scope for two years now, and in addition to my own weekend shooting it was the test scope for the New Frontier Armory polymer lower receiver. Since the 2011 review ran, it’s guided me through another 1,500 rounds and at least two dozen range days. I’m darned careful not to drop my firearms, so I won’t venture an opinion on how well it takes serious abuse.

But I’m well qualified to report on how it deals with baking heat, blinding snow and pouring rain. Which would be…awesome. Whether dripping wet from soggy snow or literally too hot to touch from sitting out in the July sun, the Leupold has stayed clear and bright and fog-free. The only weather condition that defeated it was a brief snowfall so heavy that we couldn’t see the target stand 30 yards away.

Update: Precision

The VX-R Patrol has kept the same zero for nearly two years, ever since I switched from the ugly UTG riser rail to a Primary Arms Deluxe AR-15 scope mount. I tend to shoot mountains of the same 5.56 ammo, and it’s really nice to know that within 200 yards anything that I aim at is toast. Even with the cheapest steel-cased ammo, Joe Grine and I were ringing the gong out to 350 yards with some generous holdover.

This was particularly nice when I was chosen to take the igniting shot at an inadvisably large charge of Tannerite 100+ yards off, the positioning of which (mostly under a large boulder) only left me a keyhole shot at a target the size of a snuff can. I dialed up to 4x and proned out to make the shot easy, and it was. ‘Bang’ became ‘BOOM’ and a very large rock became many small rocks. Mission accomplished.

The 0.3mil target dot still prevents this from being a truly long-range scope, but you won’t be tempted to use it on distant ground squirrels because it maxes out at 4x anyway. The dot covers an area about the size of a quarter at 100 yards, and you’ll have a really hard time putting your shots into groups any smaller than that.

Update: Battery Life

The scope has a motion-sensing power circuit, which automatically turns off the illuminated red dot whenever the scope is motionless for five minutes. When you move the scope again, it automatically turns the dot on again. This trick gives it almost incredible battery life.

I replaced the VX-R Patrol’s single CR-2032 coin battery about a month or two after I wrote the first review. It’s been running on the same battery since then (about 22 months) through at least two dozen range trips and 1,500-plus rounds fired. When I bought a Magpul MOE pistol grip I stuffed two extra batteries into the storage compartment, but I’ve never had to use them. By the time I need them, they’ll probably have gone stale.

It may not have the 8-year constant battery life of an Aimpoint Micro, but you’ll have to be a very lucky man with lots of free time (and tens of thousands of rounds to burn) before this scope’s battery life will put a cramp in your style.

Update: Magnification Range

When this scope was introduced a few years ago, it delivered an exceptionally wide magnification range for its price. Even though the VX-R Patrol still rocks, the state of the art has advanced a bit since it came out. Burris and Bushnell (and Leupold too) sell variable-power tactical scopes with a true 1x bottom end, and some of them are substantially less expensive.

Lessons Learned

  • If you do have to re-zero this scope to accommodate a longer barrel or heavier bullets, it’s a real pain to find an Allen wrench small enough to loosen the tiny set screws. I lost the original wrench promptly (likely because I mistook it for a bent toothpick) but luckily my CRKT ‘Picatinny Tool’ knife has just such a tiny wrench attached to it. I’ve kept the CRKT handy in my shooting bag for this single reason.
  • This scope works much better with a forward scope mount like the Primary Arms Deluxe. Other excellent choices include the Burris PEPR and, of course, Leupold’s own forward AR scope mount. With a nose-to-charging-handle hold, it comes right up on target.
  • Don’t bother trying to co-witness your irons through this scope. If it’s mounted properly, there’s not enough room to mount a folding rear sight underneath or behind it.
  • The red dot is bright enough for any conditions, and can be dimmed enough to be useful in any usable daylight or twilight conditions.

The Wrap-Up?

This scope has held up perfectly through two years of fairly heavy recreational use under a range of sometimes-challenging weather conditions. My AR isn’t a safe queen, but then again it hasn’t exactly been deployed to Afghanistan either and I don’t even shoot 3-gun.

After a lot of days at the quarry and rounds sent downrange, this scope still looks and functions exactly as it did when it was brand new. It holds zero perfectly, and the battery life has been outstanding. I think it has proven itself to be a dependable long-term riflescope, and it has never given me any nasty surprises.

15 Responses to Long-Term Gear Test Update: Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4×20 Riflescope

  1. Thanks for the nice long-term review. I just bought one of these, so I’m glad to hear that it held up well. The only part that bugs me is that it’s not a true 1x. I have a Nikon 1X4 M-223 that works nice for a cheaper scope on an AR, but the Leupold sits on my DS Arms FAL knockoff. You mentioned that there are some nicer and less expensive scopes that have come out recently that have a true 1x. Would you list those for my edification?

    • Leupold itself sells several lower-priced scopes which are functionally similar to the VX-R Patrol, although they lack the illuminated reticule. The Nikon M-223 is also similar but non-illuminated. On the illuminated side of things, the Burris TAC30 and MTAC models and the Leatherwood CMR start in the high $200 range. I’ve never been able to set these lower-spec scopes side-by-side with the VX-R Patrol, so I’m not qualified to say how they’re different or why they’re less costly.

      Some of these other scopes are true 1.0x at the bottom end, the lack of which is the only real disadvantage to the VX-R Patrol.

    • I’ve run a Leupold 1.5 x 4 “turkey plex” shotgun scope on my Beowulf for like 6 years now and the lack of a true 1X hasn’t bothered me one bit. Still really easy to use with both eyes open. I use it for pigs so I do miss the illuminated reticle in low light but not enough to drop $450 to replace it.

    • Calling any 1-4X scope a true 1X isn’t accurate. The only true 1X scopes are non-magnified red dot types. Putting any sort of magnifying lens in the tube will cause distortion of the image. Compare a 1-4 or 1.25-4 or 1.5-5 against each other at close range and you really can’t tell the difference in distortion on an object inside of 25 yards. Even the very high end 1-4×30 Trijicon and Nightforce are not aberration free at 1x.

  2. great, I have been looking at buying one of these for my Saiga .223. sounds like a great optic for low to mid range shooting with a flat round like .223. I had no idea the illumination had a “smart” feature, that’s pretty cool.

  3. Bought the Leupold “Mark AR MOD 1 1.5-4x20mm” scope with a green-dot reticle (NO zombies mentioned) about 6 months ago, for $360 at Cabela’s.- about half the price of yours. It has 5 intensity settings for the dot, but otherwise the reticle looks to be the same as the higher-price version. I have not wrung it out to the extent you did, but I am very happy with it so far. I used the Leupold mount and put it on a Kel-Tec 16C, and it makes a dandy little coyote rifle. As a side benefit, the whole package fits neatly into a $15 Wilson tennis racquet case for very unobtrusive carry.

  4. Chris, just wanted to say I appreciate the info. Just bought the VX-R for my wife’s rifle and we love it. Great product and lots of great detail put out in your review. Keep it up bro!

  5. Do you think the overall scope length is long enough to mount on a long bolt action dangerous game rifle like my 375 H&H chambered Cz550 safari?
    The low power, large 30mm tube and the red dot seem tailor made for close-in dangerous game work. Although the exposed adjustment turrets might not be if they cannot be locked into place.

  6. I traded for a 2-7×33 vx-r a couple years ago, about to swap it over to another rifle build. They will handle recoil, pretty good glass which is good unlike my vortex hslr 6-24×50 $900 scope hyped up with gadgets and clarity that can’t touch the leupold, vx-r really does great in low light. Transferable lifetime warranty, ability to use the CDS dial system make this a wonderful line of optics at a great price point. Tempted to get the 3-9×40 patrol next. Leupold is the way to go if you can’t dump $3k on a tactical optic.

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