One of the most respected manufacturers of riflescopes among professionals is the American firm of Leupold & Stevens. The U.S. Army has chosen Leupold scopes for sniper rifles, and the Marine Corps is putting them on the Designated Marksman Rifle. In addition, most police Tactical rifles in the U.S. are topped with Leupold scopes. That armed professionals choose Leupold scopes says much for the quality of the company’s products. A reputation for building high-quality optics has also made Leupold scopes extremely popular among serious hunters, competition shooters, and recreational shooters. With this in mind, I recently took a look at one of Leupold’s more interesting riflescopes, the 6.5-20X50mm Long Range model.
Built with the serious rifleman in mind, this optic is an excellent piece of glass for long-range shooting. It features a 30mm tube for increased tube strength and a greater range of adjustment. Objective lens diameter is a healthy 50mm. Lenses are all multicoated for superior light transmission and a sharp image. Magnification covers a broad spectrum of uses by running from 6.5X all the way up to 20X. Windage and elevation adjustments are made via large target turrets. The turrets are readily adjusted and feature coarse, audible clicks and are clearly marked for easy reading. Full turret rotations are easily kept track of by Leupold’s simple marking system so you don’t accidentally end up one full rotation off. Adjustments are in 1/4 MOA clicks with a total of 72 MOA available. Turrets feature removable protective caps that guard the knobs themselves from abuse or accidental changes. On the left of the mechanism block is a knob for parallax adjustments, which allows a shooter to quickly and easily focus the scope’s image and eliminate parallax. This side location is much easier to access from behind the scope than a conventional adjustable objective, plus it reduces both size and weight compared to a scope with an adjustable objective. A number of different reticles, including Mil-Dots, are available. The reticle is located in the second plane and thus does not change size as you power up and down. On a 6.5-20X scope, I prefer the reticle in this location. My sample scope came with a matte finish, and a screw-on sunshade was included.
In use the Leupold unit proved impressive. The magnification ring adjusted smoothly throughout its range and required little effort. The turrets adjusted easily with nice, precise clicks. At the shooting range tracking proved perfect–whatever I dialed in for elevation or windage was what I got. Repeatability was also excellent. This is what separates the really good scopes from the rest of the pack.
Optically this scope resembled an uppercrust European unit. The image was very bright, and I was impressed by its excellent, and very neutral, color rendition. Image was sharp and clear with excellent resolution and contrast. No curvature of field, pin cushion, barrel distortion, or rolling distortion was observed. The acuity of this scope was very impressive. The most minute details were readily apparent while looking at pine needles and leaves 100+ yards away. However, as is to be expected, image detail began to deteriorate slightly as the magnification was increased. This was most noticeable above 16X. It is to Leupold’s credit that the image quality at 20X is what it is–i.e., extremely good.
Comparing the Leupold 6.5-20X Long Range optically to other quality riflescopes revealed a number of facets. Most apparent was its excellent color rendition. While other scopes looked good, when subjected to a side-by-side comparison with the Leupold a hint of yellow or gray in their images that had gone unnoticed before was suddenly noticed. Next was the amount of minute detail that was plainly visible with the Leupold that was missing with others. The image quality of this scope was also substantially better than an older Leupold Vari-X II I’ve owned for years. Plus its low-light performance was extremely good.
I subjected the 6.5-20X Long Range to harsh Maine winter conditions during testing to see how it would hold up. Despite temperatures of 10 to 19 degrees Fahrenheit, it performed without a hitch on a variety of precision rifles. Constant subjection to snow and ice had no effect. Submerging the scope in water simply cleaned it off. The excellent optics were a great aid to precision shooting with groups as small as 0.375 inch recorded. In the field the wide range of magnification gave both a wide field of view on 6.5X and the ability to zoom in close to an object for positive identification or engagement at up to 20X. The range of adjustment and magnification easily enable a .308-equipped shooter to engage out to 1000 yards.
I came away quite impressed by Leupold’s 6.5-20X50 LR. Size-wise it’s not overly long or bulky like some of its competition. When a scope becomes excessively long it can become difficult to mount on many rifle action types. I also liked the relative light weight of this scope. While I do prefer scopes that are as tough as a bag of hammers, I’d rather they not weigh as much as a cinderblock. I also prefer to mount my optics as close to the bore as possible so I wouldn’t consider a scope with an objective larger than 50mm. The objective on this scope offers all the light transmission most shooters and hunters will ever need without being excessively large.
Negatives? Only one. The eye relief changes noticeably while powering from 6.5 to 20X. However, this is the nature of the beast. (It is a 13.5X change after all.)
Whether for the target shooter, varmint hunter, or police marksman, it is an excellent riflescope. Suggested retail price is $1217 with a Duplex reticle and $1351.80 for a model with Mil-Dots. No, it’s not cheap, but then quality optics never are. For more information, contact Leupold & Stevens Inc., Dept. ST, 14400 NW. Greenbrier Parkway, Beaverton, OR 97006; www.leupold.com.