By John Haviland
The VX-L is shaped like no other hunting glass but provides a bright image and a wide field of view.
Leupold’s new VX-L scope looks a bit unusual because of the big crescent cut on the bottom of its large objective bell. The scallop, though, makes the scope much easier to use.
The whole idea of the VX-L line is to provide the wide field of view and bright image of a 50mm and 56mm front lens, but with the scope low enough over a rifle barrel so a shooter can keep his cheek tight on the stock comb for better rifle control and quick sighting. The scopes accomplish this with an objective bell nearly wrapped around a rifle’s barrel.
“In certain regions of the country where most hunters only walk a short way to a deer stand, scopes with a 50-millimeter objective lens are very popular,” says Patrick Mundy of Leupold. In other regions, large scopes aren’t so popular because their bulk makes them difficult to carry all day while chasing a mule deer or elk up a mountain. “I think you’ll see hiking hunters change their mind, though,” Mundy says, “because a VX-L scope mounted low over a rifle’s receiver and barrel makes a much more compact package.”
VX-L scopes can be mounted very low. A VX-L with a 50mm objective lens can use low rings. With some rifles, extra-low rings with a reticle height above the bore line are comparable to a scope with a 36mm objective lens. A VX-L with a 56mm objective lens can use low to medium rings. Its reticle height is similar to a 40mm scope. “We’re finding the scopes can be mounted so low that they sometimes get in the way of a rifle’s bolt handle, and the power ring comes into contact with the base of the mounts,” Mundy adds.
Leupold’s advertising literature states a large-objective lens provides substantially more light than a smaller lens. A 50mm objective lens provides nearly half again as much light as a 36mm lens, and a 56mm lens makes available nearly twice the light as a 40mm lens. That sounds right.
Large-objective scopes are clear and bright, but often are mounted so high, a hunter has to creep up on the stock to get a proper sight picture. Leupold’s solution is a scope that appears to have been “melted” around a barrel.
But I wondered how much surface area the crescent cut out of the bottom of the VX-L’s objective lens reduces the lens’ surface area and available light. I measured the surface area of the objective lens of a VX-L 3.5-10x-50mm and compared it to a full-circle 50mm lens. Punching the numbers into a calculator indicate the crescent-shaped lens has about 5 percent less area than a full 50mm objective lens. That’s still 40 percent more than a comparable 36mm objective lens. I did notice that the outside diameter of the VX-L 3.5-10x-50mm objective bell is 64mm, compared to 58mm of the objective bell of a VXIII 4.5-14x-50mm. The extra diameter is to accommodate the seal around the inside of the bell housing and the VX-L’s lens.
VX-L scopes are comparable to Leupold’s VX-III line, but include several additional features, says Mundy. A new blend of argon/krypton gases keeps the scope fogproof and waterproof. Leupold states this provides better protection because “... argon/krypton molecules are significantly smaller than nitrogen molecules, reducing the diffusion of gases sealed inside your scope even more than our proven nitrogen waterproofing already does.” The Index Matched Lens consists of blackened edges on the lens for better light transmission and contrast.
The VX-L scopes borrow the new dual stainless-steel adjustment system from Leupold’s Mark 4 scopes. “These springs provide more thrust against the erector system and make it more rugged,” Mundy notes. “The springs provide smooth movement of internal moving parts for positive and repeatable adjustments.”
Leupold’s LPS scopes lend their DiamondCoat lens coatings to the exterior lens for additional abrasion resistance and enhanced light transmission.
In the Field
I mounted a VX-L 3.5-10x-50mm on my favorite hunt-everything rifle, a Ruger Model 77 .25-06. The scope fit in the same low rings that had held a Leupold 2-7x scope, with room to spare between the objective bell and the barrel. The old rifle with its new scope grouped right at 1 inch at 100 yards shooting Winchester Supreme ammo with 85-grain Ballistic Silvertip bullets.
I carried the rifle on a coyote hunt this past winter. I started hiking into the foothills at first light through a shallow snow. I had a heavy load with a backpack full of gear and the rifle at 9-plus pounds. But the rifle wasn’t bulky with the big scope low against the receiver and barrel.
I called at a few spots with no luck, hiking a half-mile between each stand. By midmorning, I was three miles into the hills. I found fresh coyote tracks coming and going out of a creek bottom onto a wide flat.
I snuggled into a snowdrift and turned on the electronic caller. I was about to move after 20 minutes, but I froze in place when the head of a coyote peered over the crest of the ridge. The predator came straight in. It stopped 200 yards out, turned broadside and looked back. I rolled over, and the snow bank held me like a huge feather bed with nothing really solid for my elbows to rest on to hold the rifle steady. I pulled the rifle tight against my shoulder and clamped my cheek on the stock comb. That steadied the crosshairs. The coyote spun at the shot and went down, and the day was starting to look up.
Reprinted from the August 2006 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine