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Last s pring I had the opportunity to visit and tour the Leupold Optics factory in Beaverton, Oregon. Then I attended a course at the Leupold Optics Academy in Madras. During that visit I described to my host, Leupold’s media relations guy Shawn Skipper, what I thought would be the ultimate riflescope to cover everything from woodlands treestand hunts to long-range competition.

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm SFP MRAD

This would be a genuinely one-and-done riflescope for the shooter who wants a practical solution for solving 99.9 percent of the problems any of us will ever see in the field. Such a scope would have a 30mm tube, capped windage turret, locking zero-stop elevation turret, no larger than a 44mm objective lens, a total weight of less than 20 ounces, and matching Mil-based reticle (preferably a simple design like the TMR) and turrets. Magnification would be no more than 3X on the low end and no more than 18X on the high end, with an optical design that allows for a generous field of view. That the scope should be American made is a given.

The day Santa in the brown suit dropped of a package holding that exact scope was a good one, indeed. Just in time for Tennessee’s whitetail gun season, I quickly mounted the VX-5HD 3-15x44mm SFP MRAD to my all-time favorite bolt-action rifle, a GA Precision model 700 chambered in .260 Remington. This has been my go-to rifle for nearly everything outside of manicured-range competition for a decade or so and despite many newer and arguably “better” rifles passing through my hands, I keep going back to this old and trusted friend.

Hitting the Sweet Spot

So, what’s the big deal about the VX-5HD 3-15x44mm SFP MRAD? If we look at the developments in rifle optics that have occurred over the last decade or so we see a huge improvement in technical capability. We also see a noticeable increase in weight, size, price, and (in some cases) complexity. This is all good stuff for those situations where a shooter must have absolutely everything all the time to be prepared for anything. For most of us, we need what we need on a practical level and anything more becomes a burden. The challenge is to find a solution that offers everything that you need and nothing that you don’t.

We often see products that are either focused on being as inexpensive as possible while being just barely good enough to squeak by; or products where everything including the kitchen sink and everything else in the house has been thrown into a product, resulting in a higher-priced product than is really necessary. Neither of these approaches is wrong and both have their place in the market. By all means, if you want to buy the most expensive thing on the market, please do. Do likewise when your budget is severely limited. I get that, too. When we see a solution that hits the sweet spot of performance that includes features, form factor, and price, it points to a homerun for both the shooter and the manufacturer.

A Perfect Combination

The VX-5HD 3-15x44mm in second-focal-plane (SFP) form with Milradian reticle and knobs, in my opinion, has nailed the perfect combination of performance. I mentioned that I had laid out my desire for this exact scope when I visited Leupold in 2019 but am in no way claiming any responsibility for the configuration of this scope. This is simply a good example of how having real shooters working for any company making guns and related gear leads to being in sync with what the market needs. It wasn’t too long ago that I would have put Leupold near the bottom of that list, by the way. Let’s look at those specs and their significance again.

The 30mm maintube has fallen out of fashion in the last several years. The amount of elevation adjustment is controlled, at least in part, by the diameter of the maintube. Put simply, a larger tube offers more elevation adjustment. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t a long-range rifleman want a 34mm or 35mm tube on his riflescope.

Not only are there vastly more options available for mounting a scope with a 30mm tube, but a 30mm scope can be mounted noticeably lower on some rifles than a scope with a larger tube. If you want to keep your rig light and simple, using a stock with a fixed-height comb is one of the most obvious ways to accomplish that goal. With a fixed comb height, every fraction of an inch of additional mounting height for your scope translates into more pain in your neck and less consistency in your cheek weld when shooting.

30mm Tube Features

Even when running an adjustable-comb riflestock or chassis, a 30mm tube limits the size of other internal components and helps reduce the weight of the scope. With 21.8 MILs of elevations adjustment, there is still plenty of travel for shooting beyond distances where most of us will engage targets, whether paper, steel, or protein. The VX-5HD 3-15×44 SFP on a 6.5 Creedmoor with a 20 MOA mount has enough elevation adjustment for shots well beyond 1,300 yards when firing the 143-grain ELD-X at 2,700 feet-per-second muzzle velocity under nominal conditions at 3,000 feet above sea level.

Ever-larger objective lenses have been another trend in riflescopes for hunting and tactical use. The idea behind this relates to increased “light gathering,” which is a nonsensical term that deserves to die a painful death. Scope lenses don’t gather light and the size of the objective lens is only one part of the optical system as it relates to the amount of light that reaches the shooters eye. Exit pupil is a thing, for sure, but a 44mm objective lens offers plenty of performance for the absolutely overwhelming percentage of situations most of us will ever experience in the real world. The 44mm lens keeps weight down and does the job. As a note, there are other models in the VX-5HD line with larger objective lenses if that’s your thing.

MOA & MIL

If the previous paragraph didn’t send you ranting to your favorite gun forum, this one might. The VX-5HD was initially launched in Minute of Angle (MOA) format. With the release of models configured with Milradian-based (MIL) adjustments, we now have what are currently the most well-configured all-around practical riflescopes available. Not to rehash the entirety of the MOA vs. MIL debate, but MILs are simpler and more well-supported industry wide. For those of us with a military background, this is even more true. I’d much rather adjust 6.2 MILs than 32.75 MOA.

If I’m spotting for the shooter, I’d far rather give corrections with the smaller and simpler MIL units. The Tactical Milling Reticle (TMR) in the 3-15×44 VX-5HD is a simple and effective option for use in the heat of the moment. At more than point-blank distances, most accomplished riflemen will dial our elevation adjustments and, with very few exceptions that are mostly competition-specific, hold for windage adjustments. The combination of the simple TMR and the capped windage turret on the 3-15x44mm VX5HD give us all the capability we need while keeping weight and complexity to a minimum.

For more information, visit leupold.com.

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm SFP MRAD Features

  • 30mm tube
  • Capped windage turret
  • Locking zero-stop elevation turret
  • No larger than a 44mm objective lens
  • total weight of less than 20 ounces
  • Matching Mil-based reticle (preferably a simple design like the TMR) and turrets
  • Magnification would be no more than 3x on the low end and no more than 18x on the high end Optical design that allows for a generous field of view
  • American made

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