Hands-On: Leupold VX-5HD Review And Alternatives

Leupold VX 5HD 3-15X44 Riflescope

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As a boy on a farm in North Central Texas, I would roam the woods with a bolt action single-shot .22 topped with a dime-store four power looking for a squirrel or rabbit for the stew pot. I could only dream of one day owning a "big game" rifle with a real scope for deer hunting. Names like Leupold and Weatherby were spoken with reverence. Luckily for me, that day would come.

leupold vx-5hd

Boyhood dream! (image courtesy of Leupold)

After a lifetime of evaluating hunting gear, I have found that there is truth in the phrase, “Don"t just buy a great rifle and put a scope on it. Buy a great scope and put a gun under it.” In my case, that"s exactly what I did. After researching features, I bought the Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 online for just under $1,000 bucks, and it"s worth every penny. You can get one here.

Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44

Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44

The price of Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 varies, so check the latest price at

My search for a great rifle led me to the Weatherby Accuguard chambered in .257 Weatherby magnum. The Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 on top of the Weatherby is one of my all-time favorites. Stay tuned, and I"ll tell you why.

Review Summary

The Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 is in a class of hunting scopes reserved for the top tier offerings from the world"s best scope manufacturers. I found the Leupold to have stellar quality glass with superior edge-to-edge sharpness. Its lightweight, easy to use, and rugged. There is one feature that sealed the deal for me on this scope review. We"ll get to that later.




Eye relief

3.7 - 3.82 inches

Field of View

38.2 - 7.9 ft @ 100 yards

Tube Size


Turret Adjustment

1/4 MOA

Internal Elevation Adjustment

75 MOA

Internal Windage Adjustment

75 MOA

Parallax Setting

Side Focus


Leupold Duplex or Duplex Fire Dot Reticle

The Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 Is A Hunter"s Dream

We all agree that it"s a lot easier to make precise, ethical shots on game animals with a high-quality rifle scope. This is especially true in low light conditions and for long range shooters. A long-range "beanfield" rifle like the 257 Weatherby magnum demands the best from any scope. The Leupold VX-5 delivers in every category.

A lot of scope buyers may think “bigger is better” when it comes to hunting scopes. Magnification ranges that reach beyond 20x or even 30x may be tempting, but they come at a price.

Scopes with higher magnifications often come with compromises in weight, clarity, and distortion. Those that don’t, usually come with stratospheric price tags. The vast majority of game hunters will never encounter a shot that requires more than 15x for an ethical, well-placed shot.

The Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 allows even the most demanding hunter to reach out with confidence and precision.

The Leupold Duplex Reticle

Leupold FireDot Duplex Reticle

Leupold invented the duplex reticle in 1962, which many riflescopes still use. The duplex reticle leads the eye to frame the target quickly. It’s uncluttered and easily understood. If you are dialing in elevation, it’s all you need.

Using a ranging reticle with a “known” target size to compute distances takes practice and a steady hand. On the other hand, laser rangefinders are accurate and affordable. The Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 is perfectly suited for dialing in range.

The FireDot option provides an illuminated center dot for low light conditions. The center dot is visible, even in bright sunlight, and it has a one-button control for 11 brightness levels.


Quality glass is the most critical element for a rifle scope. After all, if you can’t see your target, nothing else matters. Leupold set the bar high with the VX-5HD line of scopes. The HD stands for high definition, and they aren’t kidding. We found the glass to be crystal clear and the image distortion-free from edge-to-edge.

Leupold applies a “Guard-ion Hydrophobic Lens Coating” This water-shedding lens coating is ionically bonded to the molecular structure of the lens, it’s absolutely permanent and very effective. Guard-ion removes water from the lens, as well as dirt, fingerprints, and oils.

leupold vx5hd

The glass incorporates a proprietary lens coating system that Leupold calls “Twilight Max Light Management System.” Leupold maximizes light transmission, and the coatings enhance the color spectrum tuned for the human eye. As a result, the scope has excellent low-light performance for those dusk and dawn shots. It could very well mean the difference between bagging that trophy buck or going home empty-handed.


Leupold ZL2 “Zero Lock” Turret

Remember that “seal-the-deal” feature that sold me on this scope? Well, this is it. The Leupold ZD2 zero lock is hands down the best positive zero set system I’ve seen on any scope. Sight the rifle in, loosen the elevation turret, set the zero stop button, and you’re good to go.

Leupold offers a custom turret matched to your ammo ballistics with the scope. Submit the data online, and your custom CDS dial turret, marked in yards or meters, is on the way. Extra turrets are available at an additional charge.

I use a variety of ammo, so I use the MOA turret. I do the ballistics online and print out the appropriate come up card in yardage /MOA. Tape the card to the stock, and you have an instant reference. (I removed the card for the photoshoot).

The turret zero button pops out any time the turret is turned to the zero set position from either direction. It locks the turret on the exact zero click. To dial in an elevation, push and turn. On my gun, with a 200 yard zero, 115 gr Noslers have a 500 yard come up of 5.6 MOA (22 clicks). Set it and shoot. The clicks are firm, positive, and stay put when set.

The windage turret has the same positive click adjustments as the elevation turret. The low profile on both turrets reduces the possibility of accidental bumps.


leupold vx 5hd

The zoom control has a nice tactile feel. It’s firm without being stiff. The integral zoom thumb piece makes for easy zoom adjustment. An extended throw lever is available. Weight is 19.0 oz, which is light for this scope profile. If you are going to pack a rifle all day, ounces count. The Leupold design is great for a lightweight mountain rifle.

Length is 13.5 inches, which is par for a hunting scope, and the 30mm main tube allows for 75 MOA of internal adjustment, which is plenty for shooting at any distance.

Eye relief is 3.8 inches with a generous eye box at all zoom levels. There is plenty of distance between the shooter and the scope to prevent any contact from recoil. The fast-focus eyepiece is quick and easy to use.

The one-piece main tube is constructed from high-quality aircraft-grade aluminum finished in non-glare matte black. Leupold pioneered modern waterproof and fog-proof technology using inert, mixed gasses and sealing methods that withstand extreme temperatures.

No Leupold scopes, regardless of price, has ever failed me in the field. Despite its light weight, you can depend on Leupold’s legendary ruggedness and durability. Leupold’s lifetime guarantee backs their reputation.


Some of the other scopes that compete in this category with the Leupold VX5 are:





Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42

Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42

Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: Dot
  • Length: 13.3 in

Zeiss Conquest V4 6x24x50


Zeiss Conquest V4 6x24x50

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 6-24x
  • Length: 14.5 in

Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40

Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnification: 4.5-14x
  • Length: 12.7 in

Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14X50mm

Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14X50mm

Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14x50mm

  • Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 4.5-14x
  • Weight: 24.9 ounce

1. Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42

The 19 oz Vortex Razor provides a sharp, distortion-free image at all magnifications. It comes with a push-button illumination system similar to that of the Leupold. It has a pull-to-turn elevation knob and features Vortex’s RevStop Zero stop. The laser-etched MOA SFP reticle has MOA hash marks for windage and elevation. It’s a good choice for a lightweight mountain rifle and comes in at about a $1,000 price point.

Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42

The price of Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42varies, so check the latest price at

2. Zeiss Conquest V4 6x24x50

best hunting scope under 1000

If you absolutely have to “Go big or go home.”, here’s a good choice. The Zeiss 24 x magnification and 80 MOA of internal elevation adjustment will have you shooting into the next county if you have the skill to do so. The external turrets feature the Zeiss Ballistic Stop positive zero stop. It’s longer (14.5 inches) and heavier (23.0 ounces) than the Leupold but still packable by any standard.

Zeiss designed their V4 as a lightweight, high-performance product line for demanding hunting and shooting applications. This scope comes in at about $1,200 ($1,249 for the illuminated model). Check out the deals here.


Zeiss Conquest V4 6x24x50

The price of Zeiss Conquest V4 6x24x50 varies, so check the latest price at

3. Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40

Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40

If you are budget conscious and want a good scope for a moderate price, consider this offering from Leupold. While not in the same class as the VX-5HD, this scope will give the hunter a bright, crisp image with little optical compromise. Leupold offers a CDS (Custom Dial System) turret made for your specific ammo ballistics (optional). Just dial in the yardage and shoot.

The original VX-3 line surprised all of us with its price/performance factor. At about $500, the VX3i (improved) line gives hunters even more bang for the buck. Check the latest deals here.

Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40

The price of Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40 varies, so check the latest price at

4. Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14X50mm

Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14X50mm

Yes, I have one on a Sauer 9.3x62 big game rifle, yes it really works, and yes, it’s really cool. At 800-900 bucks for the scope and rangefinder, it’s an incredible piece of hunting gear. I could go on about the superb optics of the Sig Sauer Sierra3 scopes and their ruggedness, but you can read about that later in my hands-on review.

Here is the quick low-down. BDX stands for “Ballistic Data eXchange.” The scope has an illuminated digital reticle mounted inside the top-notch optics. With Bluetooth, your phone programs the rangefinder with your ammo’s ballistics. The rangefinder connects with the scope via Bluetooth.

When you range the target, the scope automatically illuminates the correct windage and elevation for the shot. Buck Rogers never had is so good. There are rumors that the next version will brew your coffee. Check out the latest deals on the pair here.

Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14X50mm

The price of Sig Sauer BDX 4.5-14X50mm varies, so check the latest price at

Shooting With the Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44: The Final Verdict

leopold scope reviews

At the range, the VX-5HD performed as expected. Targets were crisp and clear. The scope was sighted in with precise ¼ inch clicks at 100 yards. Vertical elevation checks were exact, and return-to-zero was on the money. The zero stop button never failed to extend, even with rapid turning of the elevation turret.

In the field, the scope has been flawless. Did I mention that I love this turret system? So does my son. I spotted for him on a recent coyote hunt near Palmer, Texas. It was late in the evening, with dusk closing in. Suddenly, a bogey at ten o’clock 326 yards. Dial-up 2.0 MOA (8 clicks) hold three inches left. Bang! .18 seconds later ... dead coyote.



  • Superior HD optics at a mid-level price
  • The ZL-2 turret system can’t be beaten for hunting
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Illuminated FireDot reticle with 11 brightness settings is available.
  • Leupold Lifetime Guarantee


  • Illuminated FireDot reticle costs extra bucks.


Usability: 4.5/5

This scope has all you need and nothing you don’t. It may be the last hunting scope you put on your rifle. CDS may take some getting used to.

Optical Performance: 4.5/5

Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 optics are superb. The only reason it doesn’t get five stars is that there are “price is no object” scopes out there with better glass.

Mechanical Design & Construction: 5/5

Leupold riflescopes are all designed, machined, and assembled in their Beaverton, Oregon, manufacturing facility. The design on Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 makes it quite possibly the best mid-range hunting scope on the market.

Value: 4.5/5

At the $1000 price point, you just won’t find many scopes that offer the same level of performance and design as the Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44.

Bottom Line:

I trust this scope on top of my Weatherby Vanguard for my most critical hunts. I think you can as well. Save up a grand and look for the Leupold VX-5HD CDS ZL2 3-15x44 from these vendors.

If you want to know more about leupold scopes then must check ot our guide.

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