In recent years my focus has shifted from practical long range rifle competitions to big game hunting. I still participate periodically in the local match and enjoy shooting recreationally. As I listen to input from our clients regarding their hunting rifle builds, I have gotten used to taking into consideration the weight of every single component in a rifle. When building a competition gun, the finished weight is not nearly as critical as with a hunting rifle. Your optic selection is important because you can save a significant amount of weight based on the scope you use, but if you’re a long range shooter you might be disappointed with the features.
Growing up the popular scopes for hunting were second focal plane and utilize some type of bullet drop compensated reticle (BDC) or Duplex. You would commonly find turret graduations in minute of angle or inch per hundred yards and externally adjustable turrets or “target knobs” were not the norm. Premium brands made lightweight scopes with outstanding optical performance but fell short on features that appealed to long range shooters. Fast forward to present day and we’re seeing signs that things are changing.
The scopes I use for long range shooting are first focal plane, have adjustable parallax, MRAD turret graduations and MRAD reticle subtensions but tend to be large and heavy. This type of scope isn’t always what you want on a hunting rifle, especially one you plan on carrying over long distances. I began looking for scopes that incorporated the features I wanted as a long range shooter but came in a package that was compact and lightweight. I didn’t begin my search with a budget or price point in mind although that is often the biggest factor to take into consideration.
The Leupold VX-3i Long Range Precision is a stand out because it’s available in first focal plane with a CCH or TMR MRAD reticles and externally adjustable 0.1 MRAD turrets. The 4.5-14x50mm is compact by today’s standards and comes in around 20.3 ounces! That is light! The scope is side parallax adjustable and offers a threaded cap to protect the windage knob. Leupold has a lifetime limited warranty and the MSRP for the VX-3i LRP is around $1,250.00 with sale prices around $1,000.00.
We have watched more hunting scopes become available with external adjustments and matching reticles/turret graduations but the industry hasn’t fully made the jump to offering scopes in MRAD across their product lines. Leopold isn’t the only manufacturer offering rifle scopes appropriate for hunting with this particular feature set, Bushnell and Vortex also come to mind. Please do not think that if a scope isn’t MRAD/MRAD and first focal plane it’s no good. I’m only expressing my opinion on what I would like to see more of based on my preferences. Hunters have been harvesting game with all types of optics for years and as the 2018 big game season approaches those looking for something new have some outstanding options.