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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.