October 18, 2021
When it comes time to shop for a scope, some get nervous when they hear the name “Leica” recommended, especially those of us with limited funds. Leica has a reputation of being among the “Big Three” in Europe, and they’re well-known for producing premium-quality optics in binoculars, spotting scopes and riflescopes.
The new Amplus 6 line from Leica, while still offering premium optics, is arriving in America with a price that is within reach of many. We’d expect that they had to cut quality or features to lower the price, but that didn’t happen. Leica has leveraged its unique capabilities and company organization in order to build a $1,600 scope that competes above this class.
Leica is the original optics company. In 1864, Ernst Leitz started working at the Optical Institute in Wetzlar, Germany, and in 1869 he took over operations. He renamed the institute “Ernst Leitz Optical Works,” which, 117 years later, would be renamed “Leica.” This company has been around for a long time and has an extensive resume in building instruments ranging from microscopes to cameras. Leica also has the infrastructure in place to build everything their engineers can design.
The optics industry is a strange place. Pick your favorite riflescope and there’s a good chance it comes from the same factory as its competition. About two-thirds of all scopes sold in the U.S. are produced by a few factories in Japan, the Philippines and China. It is not uncommon to see optics rolling off the line in one of those countries from one U.S.-based company and then see competing scopes on the next bench over. Each of the U.S. optics companies sets the specs on their products and might even contribute some of the mechanical engineering. However, the fact remains that the majority of optical designs and manufacturing often come from the same few places.
This is where Leica separates itself from the pack. The reason the factories in Asia produce so many scopes is because American consumers love the lower prices. American- and European-made optics are always more expensive due to labor and technology costs. Politics aside, there exists a sizable portion of the riflescope consumer market that shops first on price and second on features. The downside with buying from the same factories that everyone else uses means that there isn’t much difference from one optic to the next, regardless of the brand on the box. Marketing types everywhere will weep when they read that, but it’s true. In contrast, Leica is significantly different with how they lowered the prices of their scopes. Their solution was to build a Leica factory in Portugal.
The Portuguese factory saves Leica a lot of money by getting away from German labor rates and German taxes. They pass those savings along to the consumer—and the numbers are considerable. Unlike just about every optic not made in the U.S. or Germany, Leica owns their Portuguese factory, so there is no need to protect Leica’s intellectual property when passing along optical or mechanical designs for production. The building and machines belong to Leica, and the employees work for Leica, just as they do in Germany. Leica’s operations in Germany and Portugal complement one another. Portugal gets nearly two centuries of Leica’s experience and supervision from Germany, and Germany gets Portugal’s reduced labor rates and lower taxes. Every other optics company that has scopes made in Asia must find a balance between sharing their engineering designs and intellectual properties with the people who will actually turn that design into reality. Leica has no such disadvantage.
The Amplus 6 line of optics is designed to offer maximum Leica performance for a product that will sell for $1,200 to $1,600. Leica optics usually sell for about a thousand dollars more than that, but because of the reasons mentioned, Leica saved a bunch of money and passed those savings on to us. The Amplus 6 line uses an internal 6-power erector assembly, so models in this line come in 1-6x24mm ($1,199); 2.5-15x50/56mm ($1,399 to $1,499); and 3-18x44mm ($1,399) models. The 3-18x44mm Amplus 6 that I’ve been testing would be my top pick for general use. It has a magnification range appropriate for hunting, competition or recreational shooting.
Unique to the Amplus 6 series is the exposed elevation turret on this 3-18X. Having a turret that allows the shooter to quickly dial elevation corrections is what opens this scope up to long-range hunting and competition shooting. Not content to have an exposed turret that offers 20 MOA per revolution, Leica designed the turret to offer tool-less zeroing. This highly useful feature means you don’t need a tiny Allen wrench to remove and re-zero the scope. Spin the elevation turret until the rifle is zeroed and then unscrew the turret cap and pull the turret sleeve off the turret. Turn the turret sleeve until the “0” lines up with the witness mark on the turret housing, push the sleeve back on the turret and tighten the cap.
Leica placed a ballistic reticle in this scope, but used unfortunate word choice to name it. Leica’s use of the term “Ballistic Drop Compensation” (BDC) in their reticle system implies that it is geared around a specific ballistic coefficient (BC) at a certain velocity window, as is common here in the U.S. That is not the case. This scope has a second focal plane (SFP) “Christmas tree”-style reticle that subtends in 1 minute-of-angle (MOA) increments, and the elevation turret adjusts the reticle in .25-MOA increments. The traditional use of “BDC” doesn’t apply here.
As far as SFP reticles go, this one also possesses the ideal illumination system. A small CR2032 battery sits in the side-focus turret and powers a fiber-optic illumination system featuring a small dot in the center of the reticle. The system is highly efficient and the dot gets as bright as any lighting condition might require, thanks to Leica’s use of fiber optics.
Finally, the left-side turret can focus the glass on objects as close as 20 meters (about 651/2 feet), so we can add rimfire rifles to the list of platforms on which this scope would be appropriate. Combining all of these features into a scope that weighs a paltry 24 ounces and measures 121/2 inches long means the light, compact optic fits in just about anywhere.
Leica has specialized in obscenely expensive European-themed scopes since they got into the riflescope business in 2011. They have not failed to notice the rise in popularity of long-range hunting and precision rifle shooting here in the United States. The Amplus 6 series — including my preferred 3-18x44mm model — is likely the first foray of many by Leica scopes designed to pursue these shooting demographics. Its factory in Portugal allows the company to keep the manufacturing costs down while leveraging the institutional knowledge within the German campus to design these types of optics. I predict that in the next year or two we will see more offerings like this arriving on American shores, and we should all be happy to welcome them.
Leica Amplus 6 Scope Specs:
- Power: 3X-18X (tested)
- Objective: 44mm
- Tube diameter: 30mm
- Elevation adjustment: .25 MOA per click
- Windage: .25 MOA per click
- Reticle: Ballistic
- Length: 12.5 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 8 oz.
- Eye relief: 3.5 in.
- MSRP: $1,600 (tested)
- Manufacturer: Leica, 800-222-0118, leicacamerausa.com
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