Leupold VX-5HD scope review

Chris Parking tests the Leupold VX-5HD CDS-ZL2 3-15×56, a scope that has been designed to maximise the light available to the hunter

Leupold scopes continue to maintain a quality reputation that rarely disappoints. The VX-5 3-15×56 range is one for the hunter in low light wanting to maximise light entry and a broad field of view, yet retain excellent mechanical adjustability for ease of zeroing setup and longer shots.

Tested on a haenel Jaeger 10 Varmint, Chris found it clear and crisp to focus, with a fine reticle

Leupold’s 345mm-long optic is still compact, with threaded objective and ocular bodies to accept optional Leupold flip-up lens covers. I’m not a lover of hard anodising on the T6061 aluminium 30mm main tube, which is matte, often looks dusty and is hard to wipe clean with dust on your fingers. It is tough and durable against other wear and tear, but to my eye it just gets grubby too easily. The Zero Lock (ZL2) dials for windage and elevation are the most striking visual characteristic, with small grey push buttons locking the dial at zero setting.

After initial zeroing, use the supplied Allen key to slacken the dial, rotate it to signify ‘zero’, and all is ready, with no possibility of losing your location and with the ability to dial it back to zero in low light with tactile feel alone. It will also never get nudged out of zero when brushed up against foliage or clothing, and is perhaps easier to operate in gloves than the lift-to-turn competition (although these do have the advantage of locking in any rotational position, not just at zero).

Intuitive illumination control is sited within the parallax dial on the left of the saddle, with automatic shutoff after five minutes of inactivity

Leupold makes scopes that track reliably, assured by a lifetime guarantee, and nothing here corroded my confidence in that fact. It performed flawlessly with the twin spring erector tube system placing the mean point of impact exactly where it was altered to each time. There are 20 MOA (80 x ¼ clicks) elevation travel per turn. The locking button remains flush into the second turn so acts as a rotation indicator, as well as never interfering with the longer shots. The lateral windage turret locks in centre zero position with markings clear to left or right. These turrets are compact, light and tactile – one of my favourites for sure and, if you are so inclined, a custom CDS dial can be added for your personal ballistics, though there is enough space to wrap the turret with tape and mark the drops yourself if desired.

The 5x zoom adjustment spans 3-15x, turning clockwise to increase magnification before the rearmost fast focus eyepiece, which enables crisp focus on the ‘German 4’-like duplex Fire Dot reticle in the second focal plane. Side parallax adjusts from 50 to infinity with marked locations, but I rarely use these, preferring to alter it with focus as my primary concern through the optic, and then, with the gun as stable as possible, tweaking my head position to see if the reticle does remain stationary relative to the target. I got clear picture on full magnification down to about 32 metres – particularly handy for such a premium optic, making it useful on a broad arena of firearms and even my FAC airgun.

The compact build packs in an extensive mechanical range of adjustment within the
30mm tube

Lamination is initiated with a press to the centre control button within the backlash-free parallax drum, and six further presses increase the intensity before it flashes at the brightest setting, and then further presses dim it back down in a cyclical loop. A long press extinguishes it at any time, and it memorises the selected intensity for when it comes back on. Most optics commonly show a two-year warranty on electronics, but Leupold has gone a little further with five years, which is reassuring. Additionally, the motion sensing technology automatically turns things off after five minutes of inactivity, to save on battery life from the common CR2032 cell within the left side parallax/illumination turret. The cell is easily replaced with a knurled cap so you don’t need any tools.

I found all adjustments accurate and loved the turrets, which were lightly sprung but well defined for feel, with easy grip in gloves. I especially like that, whether at the range or in the field, you don’t need to dismantle intricate mechanics, with the risk of losing small parts, just to alter your setup for different ammo. The glass gave a sharp image with good contrast and resolution from a bright image in dusky conditions, enabled by the low magnification ratio and 56mm objective.

The reticle’s uncluttered nature was ideal, with a fine dot, never bleeding colour or obscuring smaller targets at long range, and I found the generosity of the eyebox and a sharper reticle focus present on modern Leupolds, which I didn’t have ultimate confidence with in the past. There is just 3mm variation from 94-97mm on the eye relief, with a generous exit pupil easy to attain and retain through multiple shooting positions when hunting. Parallax was repeatable with no backlash, and, like all other discernible mechanics, gave smooth movement with no noticeable tight spots or noise from internal mechanical lens packages moving.

Multiple optical coatings carry the usual trademarked names with advertised features, but the core facts are that it was, and still is, fully waterproof, with an argon/krypton inert gas filling to avoid fogging. I’d really prefer a near-£2,000 scope that didn’t remain coated with dust from contact, particularly where the continual abrasion with the hand operating the bolt is encountered, but I cannot deny that, where Leupold used to be a slight step back optically from European glass but with better mechanics, they are now side by side, with great functionality and ease of use.

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Posted in Optics, Reviews

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