September 19, 2018
Last March, I never grew tired as I patiently waited for a mature tahr bull to join a herd of nannys for an evening graze. Although the gathering never happened, the afternoon of scanning gave me time to consider the scope mounted on my rifle: a VX-Freedom 4-12x40mm that I was using to hunt three animals during the next seven days in New Zealand.
With temperatures ranging from the high 80s on day one to near freezing the next, we hiked up the Southern Alps' Dobson Valley. When the temperture rose again, I was faced with glassing through dense fog that produced moisture on both lenses before being showered by torrential rain. However, it wasn't a fight between me and the scope, as the coatings on the lenses (the same used on the lenses installed on Leupold scopes for the U.S. military) beaded up and shed the moisture out of view.
"Our new VX-Freedom line delivers the versatility and performance hunters and shooters have come to expect from the Leupold brand, all while remaining budget-friendly," said Tim Lesser, vice president of product development for Leupold & Stevens, Inc. "Whether you're looking for your first scope or your 40th, there will be a VX-Freedom that suits your needs."
Lesser was right. When Leupold launched the VX-Freedom line at the 2018 SHOT Show, they were prepared to offer the most popular magnification ranges including 1.5-4x20mm, 2-7x33mm, 3-9x40mm, 3-9x50mm and the 4-12x40mm. These are all scopes with 1-inch main tubes given second focal plane (SFP) reticles, which means that the reticle size remains the same even if you dial the magnification up or down. Price? Depending on configuration, they retail between $235 and $390.
At the 2018 NRA Convention in Dallas, Leupold rolled out six additional models to its VX-Freedom line, which Guns & Ammo is in the process of evaluating. They include an extended-eye-relief 1.5-4x28mm Scout, a 3-9x33mm Extended Focus Range (EFR) model with a fine duplex reticle (ideal for rimfires and airguns) and a 3-9x40mm that's compatible with Leupold's Custom Dial System (CDS). There's even a VX-Freedom being developed for rifles that shoot the .450 Bushmaster in 3-9x40mm.
The VX-Freedom line is designed, machined and assembled in the U.S. Leupold focused development on providing the majority of American hunters, rimfire plinkers, AR-15 owners and long-range shooters with the most benefits in an affordable package.
One area the designers didn't go cheap on were the lens coatings. Coatings are important to understand when shopping for a scope because they can function in several ways.
Many people simply think that a lens coating on a scope is either a film that makes the objective lens appear as a certain color or something like the clear protective sheet that we peel off of a new TV screen or smartphone. Rather, a scope's lens coatings are an amalgamation of elements that blend qualities identified by smart people that wear lab coats who work to prove the theoretical. For Leupold, the end result also has to last because the company backs each VX-Freedom scope with a full lifetime guarantee.
Let me take a pause to talk about customer service because Leupold fans who have had to use the guarantee seem to all share the same experience. For example, I sent in a pair of binoculars that I didn't realize were no longer offered. The service department attempted to repair them, but certain parts were no longer made or unavailable. In return, I received a new (and better) pair of binos.
No matter what scope company you consider, they all have catchy names to describe the solution of elements on their lenses. Leupold calls one of its VX-Freedom's proprietary coatings the Twilight Light Management System. When combined with the scope's physical elements, the coatings work to transmit the maximum amount of light while improving the vibrance of colors and contrast of highlights and shadows at low-light hours such as dawn and dusk. Further, the coatings applied to the VX-Freedom include technology that reduces the effects of glare, which can occur when you have to look in the direction of the rising or setting sun. My experience in using the VX-Freedom 4-12X these last few months told me that Leupold's engineers were those students who always spoke up in chemistry class with the right answers.
Using the optic's controls can be just as important as looking through it. A textured lock ring ahead of the ocular lens can be loosened to allow focusing of the reticle's sharpness. In front of that ring is the power ring, which offers quick power adjustments without a tall shark fin to avoid interfering with a bolt action's bolt handle.
In the middle, notice that the turret erector system lacks a parallax adjustment dial on the left side. Parallax has been fixed, which helps keep the cost down on these scopes even further. Even if this optic had a parallax adjustment dial on it, I probably wouldn't use it that much. It's not a feature that I've often remembered to use while hunting.
Under the turret caps are finger-click adjustments for windage and elevation. What I love about the turrets are that the numbers are easy to read and they are available with either 80 minutes of angle (MOA) or 23.3 mils of adjustment range. I have never had a problem zeroing the VX-Freedom. I also love using Leupold's CDS, which allows a shooter to dial elevation adjustments for specific ranges based on their ballistics information gathered at the test range and then sent to Leupold for laser engraving on a custom dial, syncing up load and scope.
Eye relief is generous, between 33/4 inches at the higher magnifications and almost 5 inches on the lowest settings. The scope's weight (13 ounces) was hardly noticeable atop the rifle thanks to the use of lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum and the absence of the parallax feature or an illuminated reticle system.
Unlike other brands' entry-level scopes, Leupold didn't skimp to get the price down on the VX-Freedom. It's every bit as worthy of wearing the gold ring as any other scope Leupold makes.
- Power: 4-12X (tested)
- Objective: 40mm
- Tube Diameter: 1 in.
- Adjustment: .25 MOA per click
- Windage: .25 MOA per click
- Reticle: Leupold Tri-MOA
- Length: 12.17 in.
- Weight: 13.1 oz.
- Eye Relief: 3.74 in. to 4.92 in.
- MSRP: $390
- Manufacturer: Leupold & Stevens, 800-538-7653, leupold.com
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