If you’re looking for the best in low-light viewing and sighting, a scope with a large objective lens that funnels in great quantities of light is the answer. Game is often spotted early in the morning and late in the day when the light level is not high. In some cases the only shot you will get occurs when there is almost not enough light to see well. It’s frustrating when you spot a trophy clearly through binoculars but cannot see well enough through a scope to take a shot. This happened to me a few years ago when I spotted one of the largest mule deer I’ve ever seen at daybreak.
The problem with light-gathering scopes that have large objective lenses is that when they’re mounted the line of sight is too high. The objectives in such scopes are often so large that the highest scope mount rings are required to keep the lens bell off the rifle’s barrel.
The result is that the scope is so high it prevents natural line of sight aiming when the rifle is shouldered normally and quickly. A shooter must raise his head off the stock to see through the scope. Besides all this, even if there is plenty of time in a hunting situation, a shooter cannot get a cheek weld on the riflestock for optimal shooting.
Cheeking the stock solidly, firmly, and in a repeatable manner results in better shooting than when the stock comb barely touches, clear down on the shooter’s jawbone. Furthermore, scopes mounted this high result in rifles that just do not look right. For all these reasons, I’ve avoided using scopes with large objective bells. Until now.
Solves The Problem In A New Way
Leupold (Dept. ST, 14400 NW. Greenbrier Parkway, Beaverton, OR 97006; 503-646-9171; www.leupold.com) has changed all this with the introduction of the VX-L, which has a recess in the objective bell housing to accommodate a rifle barrel. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and the result is that the large objective scope can be mounted for a much lower and more appropriate line of sight. You can get a scope with the advantages in light gathering without the traditional disadvantages.
Designing a scope like the VX-L is somewhat of a technological breakthrough. Scopes must be sealed to prevent fogging, and it is relatively simple to seal the edges of the forward lens in a conventional scope. Internal rings screw into the bell housing to hold a round lens securely.
This cannot be done with Leupold’s VX-L. Designing a lens recess or cutout as Leupold has done while maintaining this seal during recoil with the relatively large glass is an enormous feat. The manner in which it’s done is proprietary, but it allows the scopes to be sold with the legendary Leupold full lifetime guarantee. Accommodations are made even for the famous gold ring around the bell housing.
The VX-L is available in 3.5-10X 50mm, 4.5-14X 50mm, and 3.5-10X 56mm with a one-inch-diameter main tube. You can also get the VX-L with the oversize 30mm main tube in 4.5-14X 56mm and 6.5-20X 56mm models. There is even a 6.5-20X 56mm Extreme Varminter model for long-range varmint shooting.
The 50mm objective VX-L mounts as low as a typical 36mm riflescope while the 56mm VX-L sits as low as a typical 40mm scope and lower than standard 42mm and 44mm models.
Other features that set the VX-L apart from other riflescopes include Leupold’s Index Matched Lens System with new blackened baffles and lens edges for maximum light transmission. Leupold’s new second-generation waterproofing utilizes an exclusive blend of argon and krypton gases to keep the scope fog proof and waterproof. Also new are titanium nitride coated stainless-steel adjustments that are designed for smooth, precise operation and additional strength and ruggedness. The adjustments are backed by a dual erector spring system to ensure that the internal workings of the VX-L can withstand hard use and the heaviest recoil.
Possesses Legendary Quality
I received a Leupold VX-L 3.5-10X 50mm with a matte finish. And I just happened to have a brand-new custom .30-06 rifle that was made in my shop. It’s built on an FN action and is stocked in English walnut with 24-line checkering and a ribbon pattern.
The stock wears a skeleton grip cap, shows two-screw sling swivel bases on sculpted pedestals, and is fitted with custom designed bottom metal. The rifle sports a Timney trigger, three-position safety, and titanium striker. The metal is bead blasted and rust blued. The rifle has Leupold rings and bases that were also bead blasted for a matte finish and blued along with the rifle to match. I figured the elegant new Leupold scope would be a perfect fit for this elegant rifle.
The new scope has a wide gold band on the bell housing, and the turret caps are slightly concave. With a turret cap removed you can see distinct gold markings on the knob, and the marks clearly indicate the direction of rotation for point of impact movement.
Also indicated on my scope is that one click moves point of impact 1/4 minute of angle. This is approximately 1/4 inch at 100 yards. The increments on the scope correspond to true click movements, unlike other scopes without audible and felt clicks. I like to be able to adjust a scope by feel, and to be honest, I cannot see the markings clearly without reading glasses. If a scope has click adjustments that are easily felt, a hunt
er does not have to see the markings. The scope is easily adjusted by feel alone. The click movements for point of impact alteration and the collar rotation for magnification change are snug and smooth. The scope exudes quality–to the eye and to the touch.
With the new scope mounted on my new rifle, I was ready to bore sight and test fire the combination. After bore sighting, the first shot landed two inches low left of the aiming point. My plan was to sight-in so that the bullets would impact low left when I began my testing, which I’ll describe in a moment. Point of impact moved around a bit as the initial few shots settled the barreled action into the stock.
I fired a three-shot group on a clean Leupold 100-yard target then moved the turret knob for 16 clicks of upward point of impact shift. I fired another three shots, moved right 16 clicks, and fired three shots. I moved down 16 clicks and fired three shots, then left 16 clicks to fire the final three shots.
The ammunition I used for this test was from Hornady and loaded with the 150-grain Spirepoint InterLock bullet. I had not fired the rifle before, so I had no idea how the rifle would group with any factory ammunition or handloads. I chose the Hornady ammunition because I have found it to shoot well in other rifles.
The test requires 15 rounds of ammunition and reveals a couple of things. For one, it’s important if the first shot after scope adjustment is right where subsequent shots are. You may have experienced other scopes where it takes a shot to jar the crosshair over to where the turret knob was supposed to have moved it. It is important that movements be positive both right and left and up and down without requiring a shot to jar the crosshair into position.
The other thing this test reveals is whether the point-of-impact adjustments made in the scope turret knob show up on target as they should. The three-shot groups should form a square, and the final three shots should impact right among the first three shots fired.
The new Leupold scope scored right on the money on all aspects of this test. I fired groups measuring from 1.75 inches to less than an inch, and the scope adjustments were as precise as could be determined by the rifle’s groups. The barrel was getting pretty hot during the test, and I waited for it to cool for the final three shots. The last three shots impacted among the first three shots, and the rifle fired a very tight group for these final three rounds. The rifle was likely still settling into the new stock during the first few shots.
I was surprised that the large-objective scope really looks good on a rifle. It’s almost as if the scope is truly mated to the rifle with the lens housing accommodating the barrel.
If you want added light gathering capability but have avoided large objective scopes because they cannot be mounted low, check out the new Leupold VX-L. It does what no other scope can.