Leupold Vari-X III M3 LR

Discussion in 'Equipment Discussions' started by Dave King, Aug 23, 2001.

  1. Dave King

    Dave King Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2001
    I've been using this scope for a while now and often see questions posted about the benefits of it and it's shortcomings.

    A few observations and notes of my own.

    I use this scope on my 308 tactical competition rifle. It's mounted using Badger Ordinance Rings and Bases.

    Several years ago a fella I shot with requested info on scope choices, he mentioned the M3 LR. I was familiar with the specs on the scope but had never personally used one, I recommended against using the scope based on his expectations and shooting desires. I still feel that this was a good recommendation and he's happy with the other model Leupold he purchased.
    My reasoning on the recommendation was based on the 1 MOA elevation and .5 MOA windage limitation/advantage. He wanted to shoot paper targets at long range and didn't anticipate using the rifle for anything else.

    I like the scope and personally was instantantly converted to this particular 'CAM' type scope while assisting at a Long Range Rifle class. Many of the students had .25 MOA adjustment scopes but two fellas had the M3LR. One thing that occurs without fail during each class is that a student will be one full turn out on the elevation turret. It's a given, this WILL happen when shooting long range in a class environment. Well, one of the student, one not known for being a 'Rocket Scientist', was ranging (Mil-Dot ranging) and hitting targets out to the max distance of 740 yards with great regularity while many others were having a fairly difficult time. I went over to watch this particular student and that's when I observed his technique and scope, the M3LR. He used the MilDot Master on the meter scale and had the meter CAM on the M3LR. He'd 'mil' the target, check the MilDot Master and dial on the major division distance (hundreds of meters) and then count 'clicks' to the next major division. He'd then decide how much the additional distance was (the amount past the hundreds of meters place) and set the CAM. For example, he'd 'mil' and range at 654 meters, he'd set the CAM at 6 and count 'clicks' to 7, we'll call it 5 'clicks' difference. He'd call the 54 meters past 600, 50% and split the difference on the 5 'clicks' calling it 3. He would then set the CAM to the major division of 6 then add 3 clicks and hold center and shoot, 'ding' hit. Thhis is fairly common and you'll often hear the come-up data for these types of scopes as 4+1 or 6+3, meaning set the scope at 6 (for 600) and then go 3 additional clicks.

    Once I saw this fella perform this without flaw I was, like I said earlier, instantly converted.

    The scope and 'CAM' (not an actual CAM but a replacable graduated turret knob) are great, there's no possibility of being a full turn out on the turret because it can only make one full turn. There are several turrets shipped with the scope and blank turrets can be ordered from Leupold.

    Reliability and repeatability is the same as any other Leupold VARI-X III scope.

    The 40 mm objective is adequate for low light, I change power when light conditions are low so the 'exit pupil' of 4 at high power is of little hindrance to me.

    The scope will NOT accept the Anti Reflective Device (ARD) marketed without a slight modification to the objective bell.

    The side 'focus' knob is handier than the objective adjustment on the majority of other scopes. (The release lever on the Sako removable mounts as used on the TRG41 will probably hit the 'focus' knob so be aware if you are using on of the Sako TRG systems).

    The 1 MOA elevation and .5 MOA windage adjustments. My observations have been that most "hunter's" won't touch the windage knob and few ever touch the elevation other than on 'Range Day'. Even the majority of tactical competition shooters aren't worried about the difference between .5 MOA wind and .25 MOA wind adjustments so that knob is not a real concern.
    The elevation setting of 1 MOA increments is a concern. I routinely hear folks say that the closest you'll ever be able to adjust it to within 1 MOA of the intended Point Of Impact (POI). This is not the case, the FURTHEST out you'll be on an adjustment is .5 MOA. An example, lets assume you're zeroing at 100 yards, the scope is mounted and you fire rounds to zero the rifle. Once you've completed your 100 yard zero group you may need to make an adjustment. We'll say the rounds are 2.5 inches low and 1.25 inches right. You come up 2 'clicks' and left 2 'clicks' and refire. Now you're .5 inches low and .25 inches right so you move 1 'click' up and 1 'click' left and shoot again. This time you'll be ,5 inches left and .25 inches high. This is the MAXIMUM amount of error the system can have and typically you'll find that the 'zero' will be very close to center, perhaps inside the average group size for that particular rifle. If you can't live with the maximum error on 'zero' there's tricks to fine adjust the zero, some folks use fingernail polish on the rings to provide the tiny adjustment needed to get the absolute center zero.

    The 1 MOA adjustments in distance shooting alone and not concerning zero. It's not a big problem, a 5.235 inch adjustment at 500 yards makes it difficult to get hits on targets smaller than 5 inches and I wouldn't recommend this scope for varminting on Prairie Dogs (PD) at long range. Groundhogs at 500 yards is possible, deer at 700 or 800 is easily possible.

    It's a good scope, one that won't let you miss a target because of a revolution count on the elevation turret. It's very quick for adjustments, just range and crank to the yardage +-. It's not going to be a really big sell item at a PD varminting convention.
  2. Ian M

    Ian M Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2001
    Great information. Thank you for your opinions and experience on this scope design. I take it that you feel this is a good choice for a hunting scope.

    I was turned-off by cam-activated reticles when they were primarily available on low-end scopes. I was assured that those scopes would zero perfectly and perform for any caliber, load, rifle, distance and shooter. Quite a few variables there. I also recall some misses that were attributed to "having the wrong cam in the scope"...

    I am going to try an M3 shortly, will keep you informed.
  3. Dave King

    Dave King Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2001

    Yes, it's a great hunting scope for "our" type of hunting. There's no need to remove a turret cap, there aren't any, and the 'clicks' are positive and few. I can look at the scope setting anytime I feel the need or when I'm feeling paranoid about my last 'return to zero' episode.

    On the M3LR the 'CAM' is a bit taller than the one on the Mark4 M3. The M3LR has two rings of numbers, the lower set being the MOA settings (same on all 'CAMs') and the upper set being the distance graduations (different on the various 'CAMs'). The M3LR is not limited to use on a rifle that happens to match the 'CAM' as there are the standard MOA marks to use.

    It's a very good scope for larger game and those 'big steel targets', as I always know where the scope is set with a glance at the dial 'CAM'. For anyone just getting into long range shooting or hunting it's a life saver as it takes a little of the worry and mystery out of adjusting the scope for every shot.

    It's not at all like those older BDC scopes. It looks and feels rugged and dependable, the 'CAM' is made of durable metal, like the rest of the scope. There's no need to worry about it breaking because of a little bump or clumsy stumble.

    I wouldn't use it on a rifle that I intend to shoot small varmints with, or to distances beyond 1000 yards on big game. There's a lot less elevation leeway on a deer (16") or elk (24"?) than there is on an 'E' silhouette (40").
  4. Clint

    Clint Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Dave, thanks for the excellent report. I had considered the M3, but instead choose the M1 3.5-10 LR. More suited to the intended purpose of the rifle. Youv'e made me think the next scope will the be the M3.

    I'll be doing some testing with the M1 in the next few weeks, maybe I'll post some results, good, bad or ugly.

    Thanks again, Clint.