Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope review

Review: Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44 rifle scope


The majority of high-range variable-power scopes are big and heavy but Leupold made its VX-5HD 3-15×44 more compact without an obscene increase in weight or bulk. 

It weighs 560 grams, measures 34cm and includes a number of worthwhile features such as CDS turrets and a 30mm tube that allows significantly more aiming adjustment.

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope review
The VX-5HD is a versatile, powerful yet still fairly compact scope in 3-15×44

The VX-5HD has 75 MOA of both elevation and windage adjustment range, which is ample for a hunting scope. A large adjustment range is not such a big deal until it is actually needed, and then it can make the difference between a hit or a miss.

In the adjustment mechanism, Leupold’s Twin Bias Spring Erector system utilises leaf-type springs and is claimed to increase erector holding force by 30 percent over single-spring systems.

Another key feature, of course, is the 5:1 zoom ratio, which allows practically the same eye relief (94-97mm or 3.7-3.8”) throughout the power range. The white magnification figures on the zoom control and quick-focus eyepiece are inherently user friendly.

When designing the VX-5HD, Leupold engineers sought to deliver a riflescope appropriate for any kind of hunting, regardless of calibre or environs. 

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope review
The VX-5HD features a CDS elevation dial with a 75 MOA adjustment range. Note how compact the turrets are

Its body tube is machined from aircraft-grade aluminium, making it light and durable. The tube is long enough for mounting on a long-action rifle, having a total mounting space of 137mm (5.4”) — 33mm up front and 66mm at the rear.

The end of the objective bell is threaded to accept a sun shade.

A third turret with side focus adjusts the scope’s parallax, making the reticle clearer and have less perceived movement when you’re shooting at different distances. Field of view at 100 metres shrinks from 12.8m on 3x to 2.6m on 15x.

The heart of the VX-5HD is the company’s proprietary Professional Grade Optical System made from high-density (HD) extra-low dispersion glass, which is tested, sorted and matched for the spectrum of light which enhances image sharpness, brightness and colour fidelity, so that any brightness lost to the smaller objective is offset. 

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope review
Power markings are large, precisely spaced and easy to read on a convenient quick-focusing eye piece

Additionally, the calcium-fluoride lenses are fully multi-coated for maximum light transmission. The exterior lenses have Guard-ion hydroscopic coating that sheds dirt and water for a maintenance-free, crisp, clear image in extreme conditions.

Leupold’s modern waterproof and fog-proof technology using advanced internal gases and sealing methods ensures the scope will withstand extreme temperatures, elevation changes and shocks, so the internal lenses and optics stay moisture-free and crystal clear for life.

My sample had the CDS-ZL2 Custom Dial System (CDS), with a turret graduated for different distances which allows the shooter to precisely hit targets at long range. The VX-5HD adjustment worked fine on the collimator and at the range, where several clicks (nominally a ¼ MOA each) moved point of impact right where it should be. My test scope had the standard turret, so I zeroed the rifle for 200 yards (182m).

Leupold’s award-winning CDS turrets can be matched to a particular load. You can order a laser-marked bullet-drop dial to match the exact ballistics and conditions of any cartridge and load you choose. A dial can be tailored for a specific load but this requires knowing the ballistics of the load, the environmental conditions and the height of the scope’s reticle over the centre of the bore.

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope review
Various reticles are available including (clockwise from top left) the Impact-29 MOA, HTMR, Wind-Plex and Duplex; the illuminated Firedot is a Duplex with a red dot lit up in the centre

However, my test scope had the universal CDS turret rather than one for a specific cartridge

The test scope had the duplex reticle, which has no hashmarks on the vertical wire and so relies entirely on the turret to make shifts in elevation. The adjustment dial has two revolutions of elevation adjustment which are easily kept track of by Leupold’s simple marking system, so you don’t accidentally end up one full rotation off.

The VX-5HD can be had with a range of other reticles, including the HTMR mil-dot in the first focal plane, designed specifically for precise long-range target work. Unlike the duplex, these other options gives you hash marks or dots for elevation and windage, reducing your reliance on the turrets to adjust your aim.

The system contains a ZeroLock release button located on the top side of the dial to eliminate accidental dial movement. The dial locks in the zero position, but can be unlocked by pushing the button and turning the dial one or more clicks to raise the elevation. The dial can also be turned five clicks below zero to sight in at a shorter distance. 

To indicate where the rotation of the dial is set, the button remains extended during the first revolution, and pulls in flush with the dial during the second revolution. Long-range shooters can dial this turret quickly by feel and sound without taking their eyes off the target.

Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope review
The windage turret must have its cap removed in order to make adjustments

The turrets feature a zero stop so shooters can quickly return to zero without looking. The turrets can be re-set to your zero after sighting in.

In use, the Leupold optic proved impressive. Its 3-15x magnification range allows you to take full advantage of any kind of hunting situation. Turn the power down to 3x for woods hunting and crank it up when the game is more distant.

The magnification ring adjusted smoothly throughout its range and required little effort. The turrets adjusted easily with nice precise clicks. 

At the shooting range, tracking proved perfect — whatever was dialled in for elevation or windage was what I got. Repeatability was also excellent. This is what separates really good scopes from the rest of the pack.

This hunting scope is a breed apart from typical variable-power optics. Really keen trophy hunters in particular will find a lot to like about this Leupold’s capability-enhancing features. 

This premium, all encompassing, long-range riflescope is not cheap (quality optics never are), but it’s within the budget of most hunters and shooters. Those who can afford it will undoubtably get the best of what Leupold has to offer. 

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Manufacturer: Leupold & Stevens, USA
  • Reticle: Duplex, second focal plane, ¼ MOA adjustments
  • Elevation adjustment type: Locking turret with two revolutions
  • Windage: Pop-up re-zero
  • Lens coating: Professional Grade Optical lens system, HD glass
  • Main-tube diameter: 30mm
  • Magnification: 3-15x
  • Field of view: 12.8-2.6m @ 100m
  • Exit pupil: 14.66-2.9mm
  • Weight: 560g (19.7oz)
  • Length: 34cm (13.5”)
  • Eye Relief: 94-97mm (3.7-3.8”)
  • Elevation and windage adjustment range: 75 MOA
  • Indicative price: Around $1900 (2024)
  • Distributor: NIOA

 

 

 


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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.

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