February 16, 2022
By Joe Ferronato
I consider myself old-fashioned, and many of my family and friends would agree. I tend to say I was born in the wrong century, as I long for a bygone way of life: scratching out a living from the land and working with my hands to find success. This mindset has always driven me to the classic options when it comes to hunting. Of course, I’ve used modern technologies to make it easier, but there is something to be said for simplicity.
I have shot ARs for years, own several, and love the function that they serve. But they have never held the same value as the lever-action Henry Field Rifle that graces my safe. There is something special about that old-school technology—plus, the Henry is a perfect saddle gun. Longing for the past has kept me from building a modern sporting rifle for hunting. That is, until this year. The AR-10 platform offers many opportunities, and when chambered in .308, it can be a very versatile tool. You can hunt anything from coyotes to elk with this setup—of course, your bullet choices in those two pursuits will differ drastically…but I digress.
Building an AR-10 for Big Game Hunting
So, let’s get to the real subject of this column: the scope I chose to top my AR-10. I needed an optic that had great close-range performance with low magnification to quickly acquire those wily coyotes and wolves as they sneak in close to investigate calls. But I also needed something that would allow me to make an accurate shot at 200+ yards when a chance presents itself. As I was mulling over scope choices, Leupold released the VX-3HD line of optics. This line takes the tried-and-true performance of Leupold’s popular VX-3 and VX-3i scopes and adds high-definition glass for an even better sight picture. The HD line has a variety of scopes that will align with any hunter’s needs, and it just so happens to include a 1.5-5x20 model.
This magnification range was exactly what I needed for my desired pursuits. Some of you may be thinking 5X magnification isn’t good enough for a 200-yard shot. Granted, you may not be shooting sub-MOA groups, but you can easily and consistently hit your mark, making the scope an ethical choice.
When the VX-3HD 1.5-5x20 arrived, I was not surprised to see the quality I always expect from Leupold. Sturdy, lightweight construction lay at the foundation of this scope, and it will stand up to rigorous field abuse. And the matte finish provides a sleek, non-reflective look.
The scope has a low-profile CDS-ZL turret on top to adjust elevation and to be used to easily and accurately align the crosshairs for targets at a multitude of distances. Windage is adjusted with a standard turret on the right side of the scope; a screw-on cap protects the turret from unwanted adjustments. The left side of the scope is bare as no parallax adjustment is needed because it isn’t a long-range optic. (Other scopes in the VX-3HD line do offer parallax adjustment.) Attached to the magnification dial is a throw lever—a handy tool for fast magnification adjustment. Note: The lever is removable if you prefer a sleeker look on your scope.
A cantilever mount helped me fit the scope atop my AR. I had some trouble finding the perfect eye relief, and it took a significant amount of time to find a comfortable placement. It’s the only issue I’ve had with the scope. Once set, the sight picture was perfect at every magnification stop along the 3:1 magnification range.
On the range, I decided to start close: 50 yards. Not having a bore-sighting tool at my disposal, guesswork and hope is about as good as gets. Luckily, my guesswork was good, and my bullets found their mark just three inches below the bullseye. All three shots of my first group were shot at the 1.5X magnification, and all three shots were touching. The glass is clear, easy to see through, and comfortable on the eye.
I prefer going to the range in the early morning when the sun is low, the wind is calm, and the surroundings are still quiet. This is also a perfect time to test the lens coatings for low-light performance. Leupold’s Elite Optical System allows for perfect light transmission, and in dull morning light the image is bright and vibrant—even when viewing targets at the highest magnification.
The proper reticle will greatly affect your shooting ability and your confidence when sending rounds downrange. I always prefer a simple reticle as I get easily distracted when too much is happening inside the glass. Leupold’s Duplex reticle is crisp and makes target acquisition easy. The thick posts taper down into a clean, slim crosshair that is free of clutter and easy on the eye.
Finding my zero was easy. The turrets offer ¼-MOA adjustments that are incredibly accurate. Every time I turned the dial the resulting reticle movement was spot on. Now it was time to test different ranges and positions. Luckily, living in Montana and shooting on public land offers a variety of shot situations, angles, and distances. I took my BOG DeathGrip Tripod along to use as a rest—I planned on it being my go-to choice in any predator-calling stand.
I put my target on small knob and proceeded to work my way around it at different angles and distances. I shot at various distances between 50 and 230 yards, and each time I stopped I would grab the throw lever and easily find my desired magnification for each shot. As the trigger broke, the shots found their mark. I was very impressed with the function of the scope. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the CDS dial during this process. While I was able to quickly set the Zero Lock, I did not have D.O.P.E., and I shot longer distances with a simple holdover rather than the dial. I can confidently say—based on the accuracy of adjustment while sighting-in—that the CDS dial will work flawlessly when used to dial for different yardages.
The VX-3HD line is a perfect option for any hunter who wants high-definition glass at a price that won’t break the bank. With options that will fit the needs of any hunter, you should definitely consider this line of scopes to top your next hunting rifle
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.