The scope used in testing and evaluation was a satin-blue finished VX-7 2.5- 10x45mm equipped with an XT Duplex. (Image courtesy of Leupold & Stevens.)
Leupold & Stevens has come a long way since Marcus Leupold, the company founder's son, decided to expand their line of Riflescope products to include riflescopes. The year was 1947 and that revolutionary new scope was called the Plainsman.
During the six decades that followed, Leupold & Stevens brought many new technological advancements to the optics marketplace. Whether the goal is to 'ace out' the competition on the shooting range or to hang an awe-inspiring trophy game head on a trophy room wall, Leupold has turned many of those dreams into reality.
This year Leupold has yet one more top-quality product to offer the discriminating shooters of the world - a new series of top-of-the-line riflescopes called the VX-7. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to test one of these new scopes. Mine came in the form of a satin blue finished 2.5-10x45mm, possessing an XT Duplex reticle. I chose that particular model for my testing and evaluation because I felt it provided the most versatility for the broadest range of hunters. There are, however, three other models to choose from within the basic Leupold VX-7 Riflescope line, including a 1.5-6x24mm, 2.5-14x50mm and 3.5-14x50mm. And if you prefer the benefits associated with a scope possessing a low profile and larger 56mm optics, you can have those features as well in what the company calls their VX-7L models.
A couple of years ago, Leupold introduced a unique and innovative new scope design. Rather than the scope possessing the typical round optics that shooters have grown accustomed to, the 'L series of Leupold scopes has what appears to be a moon-shaped piece missing from the lower portion of the front bell. This change permits the scope to be mounted much lower and closer to the barrelled action of the rifle. This results in better protection from potential damage to the scope and makes the use of larger optics more practical. This year, Leupold merged these unique features with their new VX-7 series scopes, labelling them as their VX-7L models. Currently, there are two scopes available, within this line: a 3.5- 14x56mm and 4.5-18x56mm.
Within this line ofscopes the choices of reticles will vary depending upon which magnification model you choose, but generally your choices include XT Duplex, German No. 4, circle dot, fine duplex, Boone and Crockett Big Game and the Varmint Hunter's reticle designs.
I was anxious to test my newly acquired VX-7 both on the range and out on a little varmint hunting. Unfortunately, at the outset, I overlooked something obvious: all of the VX-7 and VX-7L scopes are made with 30mm main tubes, but I didn't have an extra set of rings to fit the larger profile. However, a quick call to my gunsmith fixed that problem and soon enough, I had the VX-7 mounted on my rifle, boresighted and ready to shoot.
I mounted the VX-7 on one of my more accurate rifles, a custom-built wildcat chambered for .17 Mach IV While this particular calibre isn't usually looked upon as being the best choice for larger game animals, I figured it would provide me with a good tool for evaluation due to its propensity for accuracy. The reticles of most scopes need to be tweaked a bit after boresighting and my VX- 7 was no exception. Even though the bore-sighter told me that the bullets 'should' hit dead centre on the target, the first shot out the barrel was about 2" low. Opening up the SpeeDial Pop-Up Adjustment, I noticed that each click of the dial was intended to equal quarter MOA (0.25" at 100 yards). I have often found that in many cases a shooter can't rely totally on these guidelines for adjustments, but I was pleasantly surprised when eight clicks in the up direction brought my second shot precisely where I wanted it - dead centre of the target bull.
The new Leupold SpeeDial windage and elevation adjustment system on the VX-7 and VX-7L scopes is a tremendous improvement over the older systems. In the past, it usually meant that I would be fumbling around in my pockets to find a coin to turn the slotted adjustment dials, but the ingenious design of the SpeeDial system is a starkly different proposition. In order to expose the reticle adjustment dials, you begin by turning the cap counter-clockwise, just as you would to remove a normal cap, but rather than the cap coming off in your hand, the unit pops up exposing the scope adjustments. By continuing to turn the SpeeDial, the reticles are moved in the direction of your choice. There is no cap to lose and the internal workings are always sealed and protected from dust and contamination.
The 30mm main tube of the VX-7 and VX- 7L scopes are machined from a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminium and finished in either satin-blue or satin-grey to match your rifle finish. Leupold uses a technology they call the Xtended Twilight Lens System for all VX-7 and VX-7L models. This is said to enhance viewing during times of lowlight or marginal light situations, but sometimes I'm just a bit suspicious when it comes to manufacturers' claims like these. It seems that every scope manufacturer these days is promoting their optics with promises of. some type of mysterious light-gathering characteristic.
I was a bit sceptical as to whether Leupold could live up to their assertions of better visibility. Over the years I have owned and used a lot of different scopes. While I assumed that some did marginally better in lowlight situations than others, I had never made a side-by-side comparison of the differences. On this occasion I decided to do just that. Lighting conditions have a tendency to change quickly in an outside environment, so I decided to conduct my light-gathering evaluation in the basement of my house. Looking into a darkened adjoining room provided me with the subdued and consistent light environment that I was looking for. A total of four scopes were compared with my VX-7. These were a Leupold fixed-power M8-12x40mm, Leupold 3-9x40mm Vari-X IE, Leupold 1.5-5x20mm Vari-X III and 3.5- 10x40mm Pentax Lightseeker model. In the case of the Leupold 12x, it could be argued that an accurate comparison was not totally possible because the VX-7 couldn't match the 12x magnification of the fixed 12x scope.
Nevertheless, I decided to include it in the study in order to provide a broader comparison base. With the preceding exception in mind, all other comparisons were made when the scopes were set on the same level of magnification. The results were impressive and in every case, they favoured the VX-7. No matter what level of magnification was used, the VX-7 clearly demonstrated an ability to draw in more light than the other models. I suppose some of the difference could be attributed to the larger optics of the VX-7. The other four scopes all possessed 1" tubes and had smaller objective apertures. It is difficult to say how much influence the larger optics of the VX-7 had on the light-gathering abilities of the scope, but whatever the reason, the Leupold VX-7 clearly exhibited enhanced capabilities in this area.
I generally prefer finer reticles to coarser ones and when I first looked through my VX- 7, I must admit, I was a little disappointed. The outer portions of the duplex reticles are well pronounced and quite 'heavy' in appearance. Before long, however, my preferences began to change. Surprisingly, I found the heavier reticles of the VX-7 were very much to my liking. Whatever the target, whether small varmints or a distant paper target, the object was quickly centred within the scope peripheral and the heavier outer portions of the reticles did not seem to affect the viewing at all. When using the VX-7 in full-light situations, the outer portions of the reticles appear black in color, but when used in lowlight situations, the reticle coloration changes to a light peach color. This change makes the reticles stand out better under lowlight shooting situations.
Leupold indicates that the lens of the VX- 7 and VX-7L are made from lead-free glass of the highest purity. The lens is treated with what the company calls DiamondCoat 2 protection. This technology exceeds the specifications used by the US military. All of the VX-7 and VX-7L scopes are filled at the factory with an argon/krypton gas blend, making them resistant to thermal shock and keeping the scope fogproof and waterproof. This is the latest technology employed by Leupold to protect their scopes from harsh and extreme weather conditions. Whether your outdoor adventures include suffering under the sweltering heat of the African savannah or numbed by the frozen conditions of the Arctic, the VX-7 and VX-7Ls are tested at the factory to resist such extremes in temperature.
The VX-7 come equipped with very high quality machined aluminium Leupold Alumina Flip-Back lens covers that thread into the scope to protect the lens from damage and contamination. In order to open the rear/cover, you must press on a conveniently located spring-operated lever or catch. To open the front cover, you simply push forward on one of the built-in exposed tabs. The VX-7s will also accept the other various optical Alumina accessories produced by Leupold. Leupold backs their VX-7 and VX-7L scopes with the company's exclusive Golden Ring Custom Care Package Guarantee. This is an extensive warranty that provides fast-track lifetime service to its customers. I was amazed a few months back when I toured the Leupold factory and found out how quickly scope repairs were being made at that time. In a little more than one day after receiving a scope it was repaired and on its way back to the owner. While I'm sure that such a quick turnaround time is not always possible, Leupold take great pride on the speed at which they make the necessary scope repairs. But if that isn't speedy enough service for you, the company is willing to provide the owner with a temporary replacement scope in the interim upon request.
I am more of an old-school type of guy and by no means would I consider myself a gadget freak. I'm a 'meat and potatoes' type of guy. I prefer real wood stocks to those made of plastic. I drive vehicles with manual transmissions rather than automatics. And when it comes to innovative designs, I'm not easily impressed. But having said that, I found myself absolutely infatuated with Leupold's new SpeeDial windage and elevation adjustment system. This is a terrific improvement over the removable caps of the earlier scopes. Under all shooting conditions, both on the firing range and in the field, I found my VX-7 to be trouble-free. The clarity was excellent and I saw no signs of parallax problems. While I wasjust a bit hesitant at first to accept the heavier reticles - this was more from a superficial personal bias than anything else - after using them, I grew quite fond of the design. Overall, the quality of the Leupold VX-7 was nothing short of exceptional. Couple these unique characteristics with Leupold's tarnish-free reputation and the Lifetime Golden Ring Custom Care Package Guarantee and I don't think any shooter could go wrong with one of these fine, top-of-the-line scopes.
View All Leupold VX models: View All Available Leupold VX Scopes
The Leupold factory covers 158,000 sq ft for the production facility, plus a further 20,000 sq ft in an off-site distribution area. There are 601 employees, with 475 of them in manufacturing.
Leupold produce more scopes in eight weeks than the top five European manufacturers produce in total for one year. 2007 was Leupold's 100-year anniversary and some products were introduced to celebrate this event. A 3-9x40mm Century Limited Edition riflescope has been introduced. It has retro styling on the outside, but advanced modern features inside. Each scope will be engraved with a unique serial number and packaged in a collectable tin. This also contained a 100th Anniversary Hunting Knife, designed by Russ Kommer, featuring a hollow-ground drop-point blade and a custom leather sheath. A special commemorative coin featuring the Leupold 'L was also included. For 2007 Leupold released the VX-7 rifle scope.
This is a scope made with the very best of components for the discerning shooter who doesn't mind paying a premium price for a premium product. The VX-7 features ultra-pure lead-free glass, which has been given a special coating to target the wavelengths of light found in lowlight situations.
This is known as the Xtended Twilight Lens System. New Speedial adjusters lift up to adjust windage and elevation and provide 20 MOA per revolution. A special DiamondCoat 2 surface on the lens gives exceptional scratch resistance and there is a special rubber guard on the fast-focus eyepiece to prevent eyebrow damage when shooting in awkward positions. VX-7 owners will also receive special treatment from the Golden Ring Custom Care Package. There are numerous benefits, including a complimentary membership in the Boone & Crockett Club or Safari Club International or, if preferred, a Rowland Ward publication.
Also for 2007 there were the Golden Ring binoculars with switch power technology. One can switch from 7x to 12x or 10x to 17x depending upon the model. It's like having two binoculars in one. The 10x to 17x weighs just 24oz.
These are top-quality binoculars and many of us spent time out on the balcony observing things across the motorway and off in the distance.