Review: Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X40 Scope, by The Novice
There is a significant tactical difference between cover and concealment. Concealment only protects from observation, while cover protects from hostile fire. But it is true that clearly seeing your target can significantly increase your chances of hitting it. This principle is what can make optics such a significant component in a firearm system.
October 27 through 29, 2020, SurvivalBlog published my range report on the Browning BAR MK3 in .243 Winchester. Leupold was kind enough to loan me their VX-Freedom 3-9X40 Tri-MOA scope with a 1″ tube to help with the evaluation of that firearm. Now I would like to give a more extensive report on the scope itself. The scope is completely designed, machined, and assembled in the USA.
Opening the Box
When the scope was delivered, the shipping box contained the packaging for the scope plus a set of Leupold Browning BAR Quick Release Bases. I needed rings rather than bases, so I ordered the rings from Amazon and did not use the bases.
The shrink-wrapped scope box was well designed to protect its contents. In addition to the scope it contained a helpful manual and a Leupold sticker.
Mounting the Scope
After the Leupold Rifleman rings I ordered from Amazon arrived, I mounted them on the rail I had installed on top of the BAR.
I then removed the top half of the scope rings, placed the scope into the rings, and loosely reattached the top half of the rings. Next I set the scope to maximum magnification, and slid the scope in the rings until it was as far forward as possible while still allowing the sight picture to fill the scope (maximum eye relief).
After this I detached the scope and rings, placed the rifle in a padded vise, placed a level on the rail, and adjusted the rifle in the vise until it was level. I then reattached the scope and rings, rotated the scope in the rings until it was also level, and then gently and evenly tightened the rings in a crisscross pattern until they were secure.
Finally, I focused the reticle by loosening the locking ring on the bezel, pointing the scope at a distant solid color background, and then rotating the focus bezel until the reticle appeared sharp. I then closed my eye for several seconds, and reopened it to make sure that the reticle remained sharply focused. I finished up by tightened the locking ring.
After bore sighting the rifle with a laser bore sighter, I tested the cheek weld by closing my eyes, shouldering the rifle, and then opening my eye to see whether the red dot from the laser bore sighter remained in the center of the crosshairs. Although the comb of the rifle gave me the impression that it was just a little low, I was able to achieve a consistent cheek weld.
Browning BAR Use Summary
I won’t repeat in detail my experiences using the scope with the BAR. The major takeaways were that the scope gives a bright, crisp, crystal-clear sight picture, and the addition of an appropriate cheek rest improved my cheek weld, and tightened up my groups.
Transferring the Scope to Ruger 10/22
After I was finished testing the BAR, I removed the scope and transferred it to my Ruger 10/22. This would allow me to put in some additional scope time without spending a lot of money on ammo.
I had a home-made wooden cheek rest on the 10/22 that was optimized for use with a particular red dot scope. That cheek rest was just a little too tall for optimum use with the Leupold scope, so I removed it. I had an Advanced Technology FN/FAL Universal Cheekrest that I had sitting on my workbench. It was just a little too short for optimum use with the Leupold scope. But when I stuck it in the cheek rest pocket of a neoprene gun stock cover, the extra layers of neoprene made the height just right.
The First 10/22 Range Session
There was a very heavy overcast, creating low light conditions. The temperature was 59 degrees, and humidity was near 100%. There was a gusty wind out of the south with intermittent rain.
I was shooting Winchester M-22 40 grain black copper-plated round nose. As I loaded the magazine for the first time, I noted that the side of one of the cartridges was dented. All of them fed fine though.
The view in the scope was crisp and bright. The first ten shot group from 25 yards was about 5-½ inches low and about 5-½ inches to the right. The group consisted of a single ragged hole. It was the best group I had ever shot with the 10/22.
I adjusted the scope 22 clicks up and 22 clicks to the left. The next group was still nice and tight, but was only about 1 ½ inches higher and to the left. So I adjusted the scope an additional 66 clicks up and 66 clicks to the left.
The next group was about 3/4 inches high and to the right. So I adjusted about 12 clicks down and 12 clicks to the left.
About this time, the windows of heaven opened and water poured forth. (Or if you prefer, “It started to rain hard”). The wind began to blow fiercely, and leaves swirled down from the trees. Although this was a good simulation of field conditions, I briefly retreated with the rifle and ammo into the barn until I could pitch a beach umbrella over the bench rest. Then I resumed shooting.
The paper targets became so saturated with water that the paper tore and the targets fell off the target stand. I reattached them one at a time as I was ready to use them.
Even under the beach umbrella, it was impossible to keep the rifle and ammo dry. I mopped the rifle off from time to time with my bandana. The ammo became quite damp. In later range sessions, this particular batch of ammo exhibited a significant percentage of primer failures. I don’t know if primers are more sensitive to moisture than powder, but the damp sure seemed to have a negative impact on the primers in this batch.
After additional adjustments, my last group was a nice round hole about ½ inch across near the center of the target, with three smaller holes tightly grouped around it. About that time the thunder roared, and I decided that I would leave policing the brass for another day.
I fired 8 ten shot groups in all. I was extremely pleased by the performance of the scope. The groups as a whole were the best ones I have ever fired with my 10/22.
After returning to the house, I gave the 10/22 a thorough cleaning to prevent corrosion. I removed the neoprene stock cover to allow drying because it was damp and I did not want it to damage the wood. There were water-spots on the lenses of the scope. I cleaned them with an eyeglasses cleaning solution and a soft cloth. I removed the stock of the 10/22 for this cleaning, and was glad that I did. There was moisture between the stock and the metal parts of the firearm.
The Second 10/22 Range Session
In this session, I tested the rifle and scope together from a variety of different positions: sitting, kneeling, standing steadying the rifle against the side of a post, kneeling, prone, kneeling supporting rifle with the side of a tree, offhand with no support, and kneeling steadying the rifle against the side of a post.
I was firing Winchester M-22 ammo again. The temperature was 48 degrees, humidity was close to 100 percent, there was little wind, the skies were thickly overcast. The view in the scope was again crisp and bright.
In all, I fired nine 10 shot groups. The scope bounced around the target the most while firing offhand, and least while kneeling and steadying the rifle against the side of a tree, but all positions produced acceptable groups. I got the tightest groups sitting, but none of the positions produced groups as tight as firing from bench rest. Firing prone gave me too much eye relief and put the crosshairs at the point of transition in the lenses of my bifocals. Somehow it still produced satisfactory groups.
I experienced two bad primers strikes out of a total of 90 shots, resulting in a 2.2% failure rate. Later I tried the bad cartridges in another firearm (an SW 22 Victory) along with a number of fresh cartridges. The bad cartridges would not fire, and I had some failures with the fresh cartridges as well. So the primer failures appear to be an ammo problem related to the earlier soaking rather than a firearm problem.
Later in the week I had some friends over for a range day. The occasion for our festivities was my friend, “Flintwood’s” purchase of his first firearm, a Mossberg Shockwave in 12 gauge. We gathered to try out the Shockwave, and to give “Flintwood” a chance to try out our firearms as well.
Near the end of the range session, I asked my friends to each take a few minutes to try out the 10/22 with the Leupold scope and record their impressions of the scope.
“Glock 17″ felt it was a nice scope with a very clear sight picture. He liked the tri-MOA reticle, and thought the scope looked good with a matte black finish.
“Flintwood” appreciated the clear view of the target provided by the scope.
“Rock Hard” fired from the prone position. He liked the clear view provided by the scope even though he also had too much eye relief in that position. He also enjoyed the tri-MOA reticle.
“Bullseye Betty” was shooting a rifle for the first time in over 30 years, and using a scope for the very first time ever. She humbled us by shooting a better group than anyone else. In addition to contributing to our spiritual development in this way, she noted that the scope was easy to use, with a bright and clear sight picture.
“Welly” is having cataract surgery soon, but the scope gave him a clear enough sight picture to keep all of his shots in the bullseye. He felt that the scope was nice looking and appeared to be well made.
The Leupold VX Freedom 3-9X40 Tri-MOA is a good, solid, scope that gives a bright, crisp, and clear sight picture. With a manufacturer suggested retail price of $324.99 (and available widely online for $249.99) it is a great value for the money. I highly recommend it to someone who is looking for a good scope at a reasonable price.
Leupold was kind enough to provide me with the loan of this scope for my testing. I do not believe that this kindness unduly influenced my results.