Report from the Field: Optics

Author takes a bead with a Magnum Research rifle and Greybull-modified Leupold scope.
Author takes a bead with a Magnum Research rifle and Greybull-modified Leupold scope.

Greybull Precision



Ballistic performance has many measures. Most venerated among hunters is reach – long-range accuracy and payload. Extending reach is, after all, a fundamental purpose for firearms. One shooter who has made long reach a mission is John Burns, a Wyoming gun-builder who, with Coloradans Scott Downs and Don Ward, runs GreyBull Precision. They fashion mid-weight hunting rifles for hunters who expect to shoot far.

Optics are a key component of GreyBull rifles. The firm contracts with Leupold to install Greybull’s own reticle in Leupold’s 4.5-14x VX III sight. It’s essentially a Duplex with a few fine horizontal lines for range estimation, and one-minute tics to help you shade for wind. The elevation dial is meant to move; each is cut for a specific load and marked so you can quickly dial the distance and hold center.

This Leupold 4.5-14x50 VX-3 has been modified for long shooting by GreyBull Precision.
This Leupold 4.5-14×50 VX-3 has been modified for long shooting by GreyBull Precision.

Adjusting windage dials, most hunters agree, is unwise. Wind changes speed and direction, and you can get lost correcting yourself off zero. So GreyBull scope dials have numbers scribed above distance marks. They show minutes of adjustment needed in a 10-mph crosswind. Testing these scopes, I’ve found yardage and windage marks spot on. Of course, a laser range-finder is all but necessary to get accurate distance reads. I enjoyed the opportunity to test the Greybull scope on a Greybull rifle, and both performed magnificently. (Greybullprecision.com.)

Leica

Best known for its superlative Ultravid binoculars and Geovid range-finding binoculars, Leica now offers 8+12×42 and 10+15×50 Duovid glasses. These aren’t “zoom” or variable binoculars. Such mechanisms are too heavy and bulky for binoculars, and those that have appeared from less prestigious firms show substandard images. The Duovid is an “either-or” instrument. Switch from 8x to 12x (or 10x to 15x) for a close-up view. At 37 and 44 ounces, Duovids aren’t light. But they’re relatively compact and certainly more portable than spotting scopes. Optical quality is excellent – so too that of the Geovid, now with 42mm objectives as well as light-gobbling 56s.

Geovids have been up-graded with the HD fluorite glass of Leica’s Ultravid HD binoculars. These fluorite lenses enhance brightness and resolution and can reduce overall weight. All four Geovids (8×42, 10×42, 8×56 and 12×56) have alloy frames and deliver accurate range reads to 1,200 yards. The Ultravid has replaced the time-honored Trinovid binocular. The line includes 8×20 and 10×25 compact models, and full-size roof-prism glasses from 8×32 to 12×50. HD versions feature fluorite in every lens, proprietary AquaDura coating on exposed glass.

The big news at Leica this year is two new riflescopes, the company’s first under its own label. The 2.5-10×42 and 3.5-14×42 feature 30mm tubes, rear-plane reticles and AquaDura lens coating to shed water. This hydrophobic compound (also featured on Leica binoculars) beads water and makes lens cleaning easy. At 15 and 17 ounces, these rifle-scopes are lightweight. They’re also good-looking and have plenty of free tube for mounting. Four inches of eye relief make the new scopes a logical choice for hard-kicking rifles. (Leica-sportoptics.com.)

Leupold

Author banged this gong repeatedly from 540 yards with a Leupold/Greybull scope on a .243.
Author banged this gong repeatedly from 540 yards with a Leupold/Greybull scope on a .243.

Last year Leupold quietly bought the Redfield name. It is now producing a new line of Redfield riflescopes and binoculars. Hard to believe! During my youth, the two firms were fierce competitors. They represented, with Bausch & Lomb, the best of American-made hunting optics. The new Redfields are made at Leupold’s Beaverton, Oregon, facility. Starting at $160, they’re priced to sell! Choose from 2-7×33, 3-9×40, 3-9×50 and 4-12×40 “Revolution” scopes, all with fully multi-coated optics and finger-adjustable dials.

Leupold VP Andy York joined me on an elk hunt last fall, to initiate the Redfield line. Alas, neither of us killed an elk; but Andy assures me the Redfield name had nothing to do with our luck! I like the 3-9×40’s classic profile, sharp images, generous eye relief. The satin finish complements any rifle. Three knurled rings on the eyepiece are signature Redfield – as distinctive as Leupold’s gold ring. Subdued red logos grace the turret and objective bell. A 4-Plex reticle (remember, it’s not a Duplex unless it’s a Leupold!) and a range-finding “Accu-Range” reticle are both standard. The latter is a plex with a circle at the field’s center. At 4x, I found the circle subtends one foot at 100 yards.

There’s a dot on the bottom wire for precise aim to around 400 yards with most cartridges. These affordable 1-inch scopes should appeal to any hunter. Mount them in low rings, like the one-piece, lightweight Talleys I prefer.

Though it’s hard to trump the new Redfield series for value, shooters who insist on the best optics still have many choices at Leupold. Two years ago, Leupold introduced its top-end VX-7 scopes. The low-profile VX-7L, with a concave belly up front, followed (3.5-14×56 and 4.5-18×56, complementing the VX-7 in 1.5-6×24, 2.5-10×45 and 3.5-14×50). These sights have European-style eyepieces and “lift and lock” SpeedDial turret knobs. Xtended Twilight glass features scratch-resistant DiamondCoat 2 lens coating. The power ring is matched to a “Ballistic Aiming System” so you can tailor magnification and reticle to the target and distance. Nitrogen was replaced by argon/krypton gas to better prevent fogging.

The VX-7 is still top-of-the-line. But it’s being crowded by the VX-3 series introduced last year to replace the Vari-X III. Nearly 40 models are listed. Cryogenically treated stainless adjustments move 1/4, 1/8 and 1/10 m.o.a. per click in standard, competition and target/varmint versions. An improved spring system ensures precise erector movement. The fast-focus eyepiece has a rubber ring. These features also appear on the new FX-3 6×42, 6×42 AO, 12×40 AO and two scopes designed for metallic silhouette shooting: a 25×40 AO and 30×40 AO. Choose from 18 reticle options for the VX-3 and FX-3 series, and five finishes for the 1-inch and 30mm 6061-T6 aircraft alloy tubes.

To accommodate the AR-10 and AR-15 platforms, there’s a new Mark AR series: 1.5-4×20, 3-9×40, 4-12×40, 6-18×40. The Mark 4 tactical line includes an ER/T M1 4.5-14×50 sight with front-plane reticle. As in European scopes, this reticle stays in constant relationship to the target throughout the magnification span, so you can range a target at any power. The smallest of Leupold’s scopes – FX II 2.5×20 Ultralight – remains one of my favorites. It sits tight to the receiver in extra-low rings, slides easily into scabbards, weighs just 7-1/2 ounces and has all the power you need for big game to 200 yards. For bolt rifles with longer reach, I prefer the 4×33 and 6×36 FX IIs.

Long shooting at small targets calls for the 6.5-20×40 Long Range VX-3 – and other sights in the LR stable. New pocket range-finders, the RX-1000 and RX-1000 TBS, boast better light transmission – three times what you get from some others, according to Leupold. In open country last fall, I downed an elk far away with a VX-3 4.5-14x. The extra magnification helped. (Leupold.com.) 

This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest 2011. Click here to get your full copy!

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