In this Leupold VX 3 HD review, we are going to dive into the details of this 4.5-14×40 Leupold VX 3 HD rifle scope. Leupold’s new scope that is just a step below their extremely popular VX 5 HD, is a bit more affordable, but still big on performance. Featuring Leupold’s HD glass and a wide range of magnification offerings, the Leupold VX 3 HD rifle scope is the perfect scope for the hunter who doesn’t need ultra long range capabilities, but wants a scope that will perform well on a hunt.
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In this Leupold VX 3 HD review we are going to look at how this rifle scope stacks up as a hunting scope. It’s not a long range optic, so if that is what you are looking for, there are better options. However, if you are looking for a great rifle scope that has the ability to take longer shots, the 14x magnification with the CDS-ZL locking turret can reach out there as far as most of us are comfortable shooting at game. The CDS stands for “Custom Dial System” and the ZL means “Zero Lock”, which we’ll go over below.
The Testing: Leupold VX 3 HD Review
In preparation for the hunting season, many trips to the range were made to get this scope dialed in and to practice plenty to make sure both it, and myself were ready when the time came to make the shot.
What’s In the Box: Leupold VX 3 HD Review
The Leupold VX 3 HD rifle scope comes with all the tools needed to set your zero stop. You also get an integrated throw lever that is very user friendly and not overly large or bulky like some. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a Leupold Sun Shade, the Leupold Flip Back Lens Cover Kit, or the handy Leupold Neoprene Scope Cover.
All of the Leupold accessories are top notch and extremely well-built. They are, however, on the expensive side and if you pick them all up, it adds up quick. This is was bit of a disappointment as the only accessory that comes with the scope is the rubber lens cover, but if you like having a sun shade, flip up caps, or neoprene cover, you’ll have to drop an additional few hundred bucks to get the whole setup.
Leupold VX 3 HD Specs
The Leupold VX 3HD rifle scope is a fantastic rifle scope that’s purposefully built for the hunter who needs a solid, super lightweight scope that also gives you enough magnification to reach out a little ways if needed. It features some pretty impressive specs:
Eye Relief: Leupold VX 3 HD Review
The Leupold VX 3 HD 4.5-14×40 gives you a nice 3.6-4.4 inches of eye relief, keeping your face plenty far away from the scope to avoid getting a nice half moon decoration on the top of your nose/eye. I found that, consistent with the specs, you do lose a little eye relief moving to the top end of the zoom range, but the 3.6 inches of eye relief when at 14x is more than enough.
I tested the Leupold VX 3 HD along side others like the Bushnell Forge 4.5-27×50 as well as the Athlon Cronus 4.5-29×50, the Tract Toric UHD 4-20×50, the Sig Tango4 6-24×50 and the Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24×50 rifle scopes, and the Leupold VX 3 HD hung in there, even among some of those more expensive ones. Now obviously this VX 3 HD is a very different scope than most of the ones just mentioned given its design, size and purpose, but it still impressed when compared to the others.
Turrets & Side Focus: Leupold VX 3 HD Review
Between field testing and range time testing for this Leupold VX 3 HD review, I found the turrets to be perfect for the hunter who wants to keep things simple, but also wants to be able to dial in for the occasional longer range shot when needed and have the ability to set the side parallax with the side focus knob. The elevation turret locks nicely in place and only moves using a spring loaded push button when it’s time to dial it in. The side focus knob works very well and is nice and smooth without too much resistance, however, I do wish it had some yardage reference points.
The turrets are crisp and give you nice audible clicks so there’s no mistaking how many MOAs you have moved it. You get only one rotation out of the dial, but that gives you 15 MOAs, and for most of us, that’s more than enough. 15 MOAs still gets you a long ways out there with most modern hunting rifles.
The windage turret on the Leupold VX 3 HD is capped, but if you remove the cap, you have a nice, easily adjustable knob in the event you want to calibrate for wind. Of course, if you remove the cap and make your adjustment manually you’d need a few extra seconds for that. If you select the Windplex reticle like we tested here, you can make your windage adjustments using the reticle if needed.
The Leupold VX 3 HD gives you an easy to read side parallax adjustment that moves freely enough to not be overly difficult to adjust, but not too freely to accidentally move on you. Side parallax is usually a feature reserved for your long range scopes, but it’s great that Leupuold made this VX 3 HD model with it, given that you have up to 15 MOAs of adjustment with the CDS-ZL dial when you want to make a longer shot. Having that side parallax adjustment makes a big difference once you start stretching the range out.
The Leupold VX 3 HD gives you an amazing 75 minutes of windage and 75 minutes of elevation adjustment. Impressive that you get that much adjustment in this scope!
Zero Lock & CDS-ZL Dial: Leupold VX 3 HD Review
The Leupold VX 3 HD rifle scope gives you a unique Zero Stop feature that locks into place with a spring loaded button. To move the turret from “zero,” you simply push the button and dial to whatever MOA you need. To bring it back to zero, turn the knob and the button will pop back into its locking position when you reach zero. Pretty slick setup that is pretty fool proof and easy to use. While it’s possible to accidentally push the button and move the turret from zero, it’s very unlikely. Make sure to double check your zero before your shot, though, as that’s always a good idea.
To set your zero on the Leupold VX 3 HD, you’ll need to remove the cap via the small allen screws. Once the cap is removed, you have access to zero your rifle at whatever distance you like, then reinstall the cap and you are set. Make sure to bring the tool to pull the turret cap off with you to the range when zeroing your rifle or you may not be able to make the needed adjustment.
Image quality: Leupold VX 3 HD Review
A good Leupold VX 3 HD review wouldn’t be complete without testing the optical performance throughout the zoom range of the scope. While testing, I found that the Leupold VX 3 HD provides outstanding optical performance, particularly for a rifle scope in its price range. One of the things that really stood out is the impressive field of view and substantial eye relief you get. There is almost no “dreaded donut,” or black ring around the image like so many scopes have. With the Leupold VX 3 HD, you don’t feel like you are looking through a tunnel at all, which is a welcomed feature for such a small and lightweight scope.
Optically, you get a brilliant image that will not disappoint. It’s not quite as top notch as the VX5 HD or VX6 HD as you would expect, but still extremely good. As with most scopes, you do lose a little image clarity at the top end of the zoom range, but not much. The image you get at 14x is still sharp and clear, particularly if you take the time to use the side focus/parallax adjustment and make sure your eyepiece is focused properly.
4.5-14x40mm Magnification & Functionality
With the Leupold VX 3 HD rifle scope you get a perfect zoom range of 4.5x up to 14x, which is really all that’s neccesary for most practical hunting situations. Again, if you are into long range shooting, there are better scopes out there than the VX3 HD to fit that need, but for a hunting scope, this thing is ideal.
The zoom mechanism is super smooth and you get a throw lever included which is really convenient. The throw lever is nice and compact as well, unlike most other throw levers on the market that are much more bulky. The amount of resistance on the zoom mechanism is just about perfect for a hunting scope, but I did find that I preferred leaving the throw lever on there rather than removing it.
The loss in eye relief is noticeable as you move to the 14x magnification and requires you to “suck in” to the scope a bit, but you still have plenty of eye relief when at max zoom.
2nd Focal Plane & Subtensions
The Leupold VX 3 HD is a second focal plane scope. Now, backing up a bit, a second focal plane scope is one where the reticle size remains the same throughout the zoom range (unlike a first focal plane scope which gets larger as you zoom the scope in). The challenge with a second focal plane scope like the Leupold VX3 HD can be that your subtensions change depending on the magnification you are using. As with most scopes, the hash marks noted above are set for when you are at max zoom –14x in this case. This design makes sense in that, if you are holding for wind, you are likely to be at max zoom anyway.
As you can see above, the subtensions are nicely set with windage hash marks to help you hold for wind if you choose to do so. Even the width of the reticle can be used as a reference point, which can be very useful if you don’t have time to dial in the distance. There are no elevation subtensions, however, so you’ll want to utilize the CDS-ZL dial for elevation adjustments if you are wanting to stretch out the distance.
How The Leupold VX3 HD Ranked
Leupold VX 3 HD Review: Conclusion
After taking the Leupold VX 3 HD rifle scope through the paces, I came away really liking this rifle scope. It’s an ideal setup for a hunting scope, particularly if you are someone who likes to play a little bit at longer ranges, and/or at least want the ability to do so and dial in your reticle for those longer shots.
The WindPlex reticle is very functional, but it’s certainly not for everyone either. Some will love it and others might prefer a standard duplex. Personally, I didn’t find the WindPlex reticle too busy or distracting at all. Some of your long range scope reticles can get very busy, and it can simply be too much for a hunting scope. You get a TON of bang for your buck with this scope in image quality, build quality, fantastic zero stop, and great eye relief.
One downside, as mentioned above, is how expensive the accessories are for this scope and that most of the time, you have to buy them separately which is a bummer. If you are someone who likes to have a sun shade, caps and/or a neoprene cover, you’ll have to drop some additional cash to add those pieces to your scope.
At the end of the day, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a better rifle scope around the $750 price point than the Leupold VX 3 HD. It gives you fantastic optical performance with everything you need as a hunter and nothing that you don’t. This lightweight rifle scope features a solid locking zero stop design, non-bulky turrets, a CDS-ZL elevation turret that is compatible with a customizable turret from Leupold, and even a side focus knob. It hits all the marks for a great hunting scope!
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