By Dave Domin
A couple weeks ago when I was tasked to write 1500 words about the Leupold VX-2 rifle scope for Sportsman’s News, I thought to myself, “Uhh, the Leupold VX-2 is very, very, very, very, very…” Well you get the picture. After some thorough contemplation though, I figured digging back, way back, into how this scope came to be what it is today, would prove interesting.
Starting from humble beginnings, Frederick Leupold came to Portland, Oregon from Germany in 1907, and quickly established a firm to manufacture and repair surveying and hydrographic instruments. Fred’s son, Marcus, broadened the company’s focus in the late 1930s after the avid outdoorsman missed a buck on the soggy western slopes of Oregon’s Cascade Range. (His scope had fogged, as was common for scopes of that era.) Frustrated by the experience, Marcus set out to build a better rifle scope. His quest for quality continues today.
In 1947, Leupold introduced their first rifle scope, the Plainsman. This scope featured a 7/8 inch steel maintube, 2 ¼ magnification with magnesium fluoride lens coatings, graduated sleeves for elevation and windage adjustment, and weighed a mere 7 ounces. The Plainsman was a worthy scope at the time, but its adjustment mechanism was not air-tight and damp weather caused internal fogging. To combat this, in 1949, Leupold introduced the Pioneer. This scope was the first to feature the exclusive Leupold nitrogen filling process. To keep this scope air-tight, the external adjustments were removed from the maintube and incorporated into the Adjusto-Mount system. 1955 brought about one of Leupold’s greatest achievements, the introduction of a waterproof scope that featured a 1-inch maintube and internal adjustments, the Mountaineer.
1959 brought us Leupold’s first variable magnification rifle scope, the Vari-X 3-9, the scope that ultimately turned into the VX-2 of today. Believe it or not, this first variable scope held the reticle in the first focal plane, meaning the reticle appears to get larger as magnification increases. Another unusual feature or lack thereof, was the absence of a self-centered reticle. When one would make adjustments, the reticle would physically move in the field of view. At lower magnification ranges this was not particularly noticeable, but as the power is increased and the field of view decreased, the off-center condition was much more apparent. This condition is normal and is not a defect. It is for this reason that the following notice was packaged in the box with the older Vari-X 3-9 scope: “To obtain the most satisfactory performance from your Leupold Vari-X 3-9 scope, installation and initial sighting-in should be done at the 9X magnification setting. Subsequent changes of the magnification selector will not affect the zero in any way.” If this suggestion is followed and the mount system correctly adjusted, keeping the reticle as near the center of the adjustment travel as possible at 9x, the off-center reticle condition will not be apparent or will be greatly minimized.”
Many shooters and hunters don’t know it, but Leupold introduced the world to the Duplex reticle at the end of 1962. The heavy outer posts of this crosswire-style reticle enabled shooters to find their target quickly and aim precisely with the thin center wires. And what better way to introduce the Duplex than to install it into, what would become Leupold’s most popular scope ever, the Vari-X II. Early Vari-X II’s featured aluminum maintubes with a high gloss finish, a front pivot erector system that delivered 26 Minute of Angle (MOA) of overall travel, a self-centered, rear focal plane, reticle, and ½ MOA friction adjustments. The magnesium fluoride lens coatings delivered approximately 82% light transmission. Leupold expanded this line with a Vari-X II 2-7x in 1964.
It was during this time that Leupold felt it was going through an identity crisis. Companies like Weaver, Lyman, Redfield and Bausch & Lomb were providing tough competition. Leupold needed to figure out a way to differentiate themselves from the others. Consumers needed to recognize a Leupold scope with a simple glance. “This assignment might seem simple given the design and engineering feats evident in a finished rifle scope. But we anguished over it. It had to be visible from all sides and easily applied or installed without changing the dimensions engineered into the optical systems,” said Don Waggoner, former Vice President of Engineering. It was then that George Schray, Leupold plant superintendent, came to the rescue. He fashioned a thin, gold-colored ring that was installed between the objective housing and the objective lock ring. “It was just what we needed. The gold ring is the first thing that a shooter looks for when shopping for a Leupold. It’s what brings Leupold to mind when one sees it mounted on a rifle, pictured in a magazine, or shown on television,” said Waggoner.
Over the next 2 decades, the Vari-X II changed very little, other than the addition of scopes that offered magnification ranges beyond the popular 3-9x and optional matte black and silver finishes. But in 1984, Leupold engineers changed the internal design of the Vari-X II to what is called a center pivot erector system that increased the scopes overall travel from 26 to 56 MOA. This center pivot design is still in use today. These scopes were given the name Vari-X IIc until 2002, when further changes occurred.
The VX-II was introduced at SHOT Show 2002. This scope began using technology that was developed for Leupold’s higher end scopes, the Vari-X III and the LPS. Leupold started applying Multicoat 4 lens coating to the external lenses which increased light transmission to approximately 86%. Multicoat 4 greatly increased the amount of available light delivered to the eye while minimizing the reflections of the sky on the outer eyepiece. In addition to the coating, Leupold incorporated their ¼ MOA click adjustments. These audible clicks allowed shooters to make the appropriate adjustments without having to look at the dial, as with the friction dials.
In 2004, the VX-II was given further enhancements. The entire lens system was upgraded to Multicoat 4 lens coatings. Not only did this increase the image contrast and clarity but it increased the light transmission to 92%, a number almost unheard of in a scope at that price point. A lockable, fast focus eyepiece was developed, allowing the shooter to quickly and easily focus the reticle with minimal effort. Finally, a new tactile power selector was installed, making magnification adjustment a breeze, even with gloved hands.
So here we are today, 2015. A couple years ago the VX-2 changed again and it’s not just the number at the end that looks different. This latest generation VX-2 redefines high performance. Leupold’s Quantum Optical System uses carefully selected lead free lenses with Index Matched lens coatings that are precisely positioned with each other to deliver up to 94% light transmission with the highest levels of optical clarity. The addition of DiamondCoat on the exterior lens surfaces provides the utmost in abrasion resistance. The VX-2 also utilizes other updated design features including an externally threaded fast-focus eyepiece for quick and easy reticle focus. The finger adjustable ¼ MOA dials provide quick and easy zeroing without the use of coins or tools. Some models are even available with the Custom Dial System (CDS) that can be ballistically matched through the Leupold Custom Shop. To keep this scope fog proof for life, it is filled with Leupold’s industry leading second generation Argon/Krypton blend. This blend is drier and more resistant to thermal shock than the traditional nitrogen filled scopes.
The VX-2 is available in six magnification ranges with nine reticle options. They can be used for anything from dangerous game to varmints to simple target practice. The sleek, classic lines and that iconic Golden Ring means that you will be buying a scope that is as durable as it is aesthetically pleasing. All VX-2 rifle scopes are Designed, Machined and Assembled by over 600 highly skilled American workers in Beaverton, Oregon.
So the next time you are in your local Sportsman’s Warehouse looking for a new rifle scope, let them know you would like to see the very, very, very, very, very best, ask to see a Leupold.