GOOD Low light scopes

Vern Harrison

Well-Known Member
Sep 23, 2003
Central Virginia
Hi Guys,

12 years ago, I traded a bunch of gun parts and ended up with two brand new Leupold 24x's. At the time I had two 6mm Rem. VS for short range varmint shooting. I decided to put one of the 24x's on my 6mm. I took it out side my house and sighted it in a 100 yds. Long about the 9th shot, it started shooting all over the place. Knowing it wasn't the rifle, I took the scope off and replaced it with the other Leupold 24x. After about a dozen shots it did the same thing, started shifting impact.

I boxed them up and sent them to Leupold, three weeks later I got them both back. With the scopes they sent a computer print out of what was wrong with them, listing between 7 to 11 things they found wrong. I got on the phone and called them asking how that many things could be wrong with a new scope? After a 15 minute conversation it got ugly and the guy told me "Leupold didn't care if I was upset, they sold thousands of scopes and if I didn't like them not to buy them". Well until this year I didn't. I really liked the looks of their 8 1/2x 25 LR M1 with mil-dot system. So I got one! Dang thing after ahalf dozen shots started shifting impact. I boxed it up and sent it back, with a note I needed it back for the Nationals here in Va. Well they sent it back and it worked fine, but again had a list of things wrong.

I know that any scope maker is going to have a problem from time to time. It's just now I have no confidence in this scope and I'm scared it will let go again but this time in a match.

When I can save some money I will go back to NF. They seem to be the only company out there that year to year get better.

Thanks, Vern

PS. I payed $960 for this scope, I would take $850 for this tomato stake if anyone interested.


Well-Known Member
Jul 27, 2001
My recent hunting may be helpful with the low light question. Was set up for a mule deer overlooking a clear cut 300 to 450yds away. Got set up in the pitch black waiting for the sun to come up.

At first glimmer of light on the horizon, I started glassing with my new Nikon Monarch 8X42. I could not see anything with unaided eyes but with the nikons I could make out moving objects. With a few more minutes of light, I could see them as deer and make out the 3X3 I eventually took home. Still was too dark for me to make out any object unaided.

Got my Gibbs ready to shoot and peered into the grey with my B&L 4000 set at 12X. There was the buck. Cranked up the mag to 20X and got ready for a broadside shot. At this time, I could make out the shapes as deer at 330yds unaided. Took the shot, watched the deer stumble, took another and got out the knife.

Both of these Japanese optics allowed me to see deer in light too dim for the unaided eye (about 10 to 15 min of additional light). I would certainly recommend these to anyone looking for low light optics.

The Japanese have made great strides in the coatings arena which really is what separates good from great. I think you will find that most of Leupold line has multicoated lenses, not "FULLY" multicoated ones. There is a substantial difference of about 15% of light transmission. Only their top of the line products are fully multicoated. However, for the money, almost all better Japanese brands (Bushnell/B&L, Nikon, and Pentax/Burris) give the same/higher level of coatings for much less money. Nikon is certainly moving quickly to the front of the pack.

Going to super big objective lenses is not necessarily better if the lenses are not coated properly. My B&L are 40mm. Also, the 1" tube would limit light travel. You may need to look at 30 to 34mm tubes to really get the most from the big objectives. Make sure the internal glass are sized as big, not 1" stuff in a big tube.

Another option is to look at European scopes designed for use at night. They are extremely pricey but should work.

Also, almost all lenses for optical gear is manufactured somewhere in Asia, even for some "made in the USA" products. The Nikons binos that I am in love with were made in China.

Go figure...



Well-Known Member
Aug 12, 2003
They're not called NIGHTFORCE for nuthin. I sent $1200 for the brightest scope I could find. My Leupolds and Nikons just don't seem bright at night to my eyes. Those foxes and yotes are in trouble.

Nate Haler

Well-Known Member
Dec 27, 2001
occupied, USA
Leupold VXIII scopes are most certainly FULLY multicoated. (I can hardly believe I'm going to bat for Leupold, as I think most of their lesser product line does not deserve nearly the reputation the 'Leupold' name has with lots of shooters...)

Regarding your Ultimate Illuminator, do the math. 56mm divided by 9x equals an exit pupil of 6.22. More at lower power. Yes, that's a HECK of a lot brighter than a Leupold (or any brand of conventional riflescope) will provide at 20x with a 50mm objective.

And regarding Leupold ignoring the wave of gigantic objective lens scopes, maybe they understand that cheekweld issues are a HUGE concern for some of us.

Lastly, some of you are kinda silly to seemingly ignore what DC says about his Leupold optics. He's got more trigger time than half the board readers combined.


Ian M

Well-Known Member
May 3, 2001
Sask. Canada
Great point, as a matter of fact Leupy lenses probably come from the same Japanese manufacturer that supplies many of the "lesser" brands. One thing for sure, the are NOT made in the U.S. A.

Have to remember that all of the light is concentrated through a tube not much bigger than a pencil, so 1" or 30mm does not make a huge difference re brightness. Also, no lenses can "gather" light, just don't work that way, they ain't sponges.

Info like you provided is the real world, stuff that is very interesting for hunters. You pretty much get what you pay for, some guys are well served with optics of varying value - what makes me happy might be junk to someone else.

Most incredible low-light scope I have used is an old 56mm objective, Redfield Ultimate Illuminator 3-9 power. I made shots on deer in full darkness, could not see your hands in front of your face, was amazing because the deer and crosshairs showed up well. Dep. situation, deer needed killing, forty below, farmer made the mistake of saying "If you can kill them - I will gut them them." Got **** cold but the scope had done the job.
Nowadays the Nikon Illuminated reticle type scopes are the answer. We shot at the Badlands one night in full darkness with the Nightforce NXS illuminated reticles - out at the 1000 yard steel man-targets. Guy would fire and a few seconds later you would hear the clang, no way we could see the target without good binos or the NXS scopes. The illumination made it easy to place the crosshairs on the targets, even at extreme range.

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