Re: Wife said okay to new scope for Christmas, but what one?
I'm not wanting to buck the trend as you've got many good ideas already, but I'd also look at some of the better Bushnell scopes, elites primarily. I know you probably won't get a 6500 series in your price range, but there are many that they have that are really good. I just recently got a Elite Limited Edition w/ the side focus (yes, the china made one) for $200, and I've seen it for less recently. I was surprised at the glass, very bright, clear from ~40 feet to way out. My FIL has a 3200 series that is at least as good as the VX-1 that he also has (I get a chance to shoot regularly).
I know of their warranty through a close friend...they stand by their product without a fuss, but I heard others put through the ringer w/ certain other brands. My 2 cents...