Perusing the Leupold booth at the 2017 SHOT show, I was reminded of the old saying – “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.” Sure, the guys in the crisp short sleeved shirts and the pocket protectors might not be the trendiest or flashiest, but they do a competent job on time and in full.
Similarly, Leupold hasn’t really given everyone a thrill on their scope lineup unless you consider last year’s revisions titilating. They’re still part of the old guard and for most purchasers, you simply cannot go wrong buying the gold ring.
Meanwhile, Nightforce, Vortex, and Bushnell have continued to innovate to the point that the line of guns at any local rifle competition is mostly dominated by a few select brands. In an attempt to get on the gravy train that is the long range hunting and shooting market these days, Leupold has chosen to further improve the VX-3i lineup I covered last year, along with the VX-6, and Mark 8 line.
Starting with the VX-3i LRP, it looks like Leupold is making an effort to get in on the “budget” precision rifle scope game. With the introduction of the production class in precision rifle shooting, capable but affordable scopes are now more in demand the ever. As such, Leupold’s VX-3i LRP takes the changes they brought out last year in glass and adds a zero stop enabled large “tactical” turret for elevation with a capped windage knob. The LRP is available in either .1 mil or 1/4 MOA adjustments with reticles to match.
Seen above is the elevation turret. Unlike most turrets that rise in height as you dial for more elevation, the LRP features a constant height and a skirt that drops down with each revolution to keep track of your current setting. In the hand, the turrets have a good feel with positive clicks and a lack of mush or sponginess. I’d expect nothing less from Leupold.
That said, this turret is stupidly tall. I’m unsure if I’ll actually get one at this point since I’m pretty sure their PR guy overheard me tell Dan that I was going to beat the elevation turret on the LRP against a tree until it broke off. Seriously, I’ve seen F-class scopes with shorter turrets. I’m sure it’s a fine scope, but that big sore thumb of a turret alone is enough to chill my enthusiasm for using it any situation where I could get it hung up on a pack strap or wrapped around my sling.
As a nod to competitive shooters, Leupold included a knurled power selector knob to help make the change from one power to the next a gross motor function. Speaking of power changes, the LRP will come in 4.5-14x50mm, 6.5-20x50mm and 8.5-25x50mm flavors and both first focal and second focal plane editions. Available reticles will be the Impact-29 MOA, Impact-32 MOA, T-MOA, TMR, and the new CCH. MSRP will range from $1105 to $1235 but it looks like online prices will start in the mid $800s and go up from there.
The deliciously upmarket VX-6 series now includes the HD line which includes an illuminated reticle with an electronic leveling system. When the scope is tilted more than 1 degree past level, the reticle flashes. Once level, the reticle remains illuminated. I tilted the VX-6HD every which way on the show floor and confirmed that the new leveling system does just what it says it will. I look forward to comparing it with a plumb line during my testing. Leupold has also upgraded the lens coating to a much more robust hydrophobic coating that repels water as well as fingerprints.
On the turret side of things, Leupold has updated the elevation turret and called it the CDS-ZL2. The CDS-ZL2 can be laser engraved to match a specific bullet profile.
New for this year in the turret is the locking setup – the silver lever above. At the set zero stop, the turret is locked and cannot be moved. Depress the lever flush, and dial to your desired hold. After one revolution, the level goes below flush to indicate that you’re on the second revolution. The VX-6HD line will come in 1-6×24 mm, 2-12×42 mm, 3-18×50 mm, 4-24×52 mm.
All will utilize a 30 mm main tube with the exception of the largest magnification model which will go to the larger 34 mm style. Leupold will offer a variety of illuminated reticles including the CM-R2, FireDot Circle, FireDot-G BDC, FireDot Bullet-Drop, Impact-23 MOA, Impact-29 MOA, Impact-45 MOA, and Varmint Hunter.
At a starting MSRP of $1625, going up to $2375 for the most expensive model, the VX-6HD is firmly parked in the “expensive” category of today’s optics. That said, it feels right on the money. The adjustments feel great, the glass looks very clear, and there’s enough cool features that it just might be worth the money if it tracks well.
The last big update to the optics lineup is the 3.5-25X56mm Mark 8. Where the original, and still available, Mark 8 featured a bulky turret, illumination, glass quality and build construction that pushed the price tag to a base MSRP of $5375, the newly revised Mark 8 goes to a more simplistic 10 mil per revolution turret similar to the upgraded VX-6 HD scope above and drops illumination. These changes bring the base MSRP down $3900. An extra $390 more will get you a Horus H59 or Tremor 3 reticle. Tube diameter is 35 mm, unchanged from the previous model.
As the flagship model in Leupold’s tactical scope line, it’s no surprise that the Mark 8 is the most expensive model in the Leupold catalog. But at $5375, they really were pushing the boundaries of what a consumer can pay. Bringing the price down to the $4000 mark is a good thing, though I think the list of potential buyers is still very small.
Ultimately, I think Leupold made some modest improvements to their already established lines of rifle scopes. The VX-3i LRP needs a shorter turret, but the VX-6 and Mark 8 lines seem to have seen some modest improvement that make them more attractive to consumers.