The Leupold VX-6HD has all the bells and whistles you care about and is possibly the perfect long-range hunting scope. It is comparatively compact, lightweight, has locking exposed turrets, a proven Custom Dial System with a turret matched to your ballistics and a motion-activated illuminated reticle.
The 30mm 6x erector assembly in the VX-6HD 3-18×50 allows for an important wide field of view at 3x and can be increased all the way up to 18x for just about any possible distance-shooting scenario. Mounted on an accurate rifle firing a long-range cartridge, there is really nothing that can’t be done with such a setup on big game or other targets.
And an eye relief of 3.7 inches at 18 power is enough to cushion against recoil from stiff cartridges.
The optical quality of the scope is amazing. Testing my sample VX-6HD against an armload of the competition outdoors in various light conditions revealed a warm picture with leading color and contrast, and brightness exceeding all but the most expensive European examples. The HD version is also noticeably brighter than my earlier-model VX-6 without the HD glass.
ARTIFICIAL VS. NATURAL LIGHT CONDITIONS
Your local gun shop or big box store might have a good selection of the most popular riflescopes on the market that are available for in-house “fondling.” There might be a resolution chart and colorful clothing across the room for comparison-testing of optics.
However, what the average consumer might not recognize is that the expensive and difficult-to-apply coatings are designed to perform the best with natural light rather than artificial light, and what you see in a store is not what you’ll see outdoors. The VX-6HD brings to the table amazing optical quality that excels against the competition in an outdoor environment and at low light—for which Leupold’s Twilight Max Light Management System was developed—and not necessarily the artificial light on colorful clothing in a store.
While I certainly appreciate optical quality in riflescopes, it has never been my primary concern. My primary concern is honesty. “Honesty,” meaning that the complicated and precise series of lenses and metal that make up a riflescope will work for me accurately every time and under all conditions.
THOSE BELLS AND WHISTLES
The elevation turret on the VX-6HD is Leupold’s CDS-ZL2. The CDS dial system is my favorite way to shoot long … and it just keeps getting better. The scope comes with a coupon for a free replacement Custom Dial System (CDS) ballistic dial etched with your cartridge and environmental specifications. Simply turn to the yardage your target is at and shoot. It is as accurate as the information you provide.
The CDS-ZL2 dial on this scope has a protruding silver button you push to unlock the two-turn elevation dial. The button unlocks Leupold’s ZL (Zero Lock) feature, and on the turret’s second revolution, the button sinks below the circumference of the dial for a visual and tactile reminder that you’re over a full turn high. The dial includes an excellent hard-zero stop and is easily resettable.
The windage turret also has a lock to prevent inadvertent movement. The remarkable precision in these turrets is apparent when you push the button to unlock the dial and experience the secure stop when adjusting to just the first click. Most competitive scopes reveal slop and a lot of free play while doing this.
The FireDot Duplex reticle is perfect for a hunting gun with a ballistic turret. It has an adjustable, illuminated dot in the center of the crosshairs, leaving a clean picture without having to look through a busy fly swatter of lines meant to elevate your shot as the CDS dial does, but with a lot more complexity and a busy picture.
An electronic reticle level is also included for longer shots. With this feature selected, your illuminated reticle will blink when your scope is more than 1 degree off horizontal. It is precise enough to use as a level when mounting your scope. The VX-6HD’s Motion Sensor Technology illumination control puts the reticle to sleep after five minutes of inactivity and resumes immediately when moved.
The structural integrity of Leupold riflescopes is rarely questioned—and regularly proven. Battered, years-old scopes issued to troops are still in service, and the Oregon-based manufacturer’s 1,000 G force testing on “The Punisher” recoil machine is legendary as being among the toughest in the business. You might be surprised to learn that the level of recoil testing from most manufacturers does not come close to what Leupold does, even in Germany.
A magnification throw lever is included, as are the positionable Alumina flip-back covers, which have the highest “cool factor” of any covers made. They use magnets to keep them closed and have three O-ring seals for protection against the elements. They flip back all the way, out of the way. They are made only for Leupold scopes, and once you use them, you’ll be spoiled for life.
The VX-6HD 3-18×50 is an elegant “hammer” of a product and should serve well for more than a lifetime of distance shooting. It could be the perfect choice for your long-range rifle.
Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×50 Scope
TUBE DIAMETER: 30mm
WEIGHT: 20.4 oz.
LENGTH: 13.5 in.
FIELD OF VIEW: 38 ft. (low), 7 ft. (high)
EYE RELIEF: 3.7 in. (low), 3.8 in. (high) Adjustment range (W and E): 75.00 MOA
MSRP: $2,210 (as tested)
Steven K. Ledin is a former U.S. Navy nuclear gunner’s mate and current director of a prominent online optics retailer. He’s a CCW and NRA instructor and has been a sponsored competitive shooter and private investigator. He has hunted (and gotten lost) from Alaska to Africa.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.