Leupold Vari-X III Questions:

Jon A

Well-Known Member
Dec 28, 2001
Mukilteo, WA
Hi guys, this is a nice site! First let tell you that I definately don't consider myself a "long range hunter," at least not the ranges you guys are talking about...more of a "regular hunter skilled at ranges slightly farther than the average hunter" when the opportunity presents itself.

Anyway, I plan to do a lot more practice at extended ranges than I usually do (400-600yds, maybe farther if I find an accurate enough load, as opposed to the usual 100-300) simply to see what my (and my rifle's) limits are. With a flat shooting load, I've been pretty successful simply "holding over" out to 400 yds or so but it gets pretty tough to estimate x number of inches after that.

I'm thinking about getting some Stoney Point target knobs, as it seems like adjusting the sights is going to be much more accurate at extended ranges.

On to my questions:

My scope is a Vari-X III 3.5-10x50mm. I had always assumed the clicks were 1/4 MOA but just now while perusing Leupold's site ( http://www.leupold.com/pivx3.html )it says they are 4 clicks = 1" at 100 yds. Are they just rounding off on the site?

Second, how accurate are the clicks on the Vari-X III's? Has anybody found they adjust more or less than they are supposed to? Do they reliably return to zero after messing with them?

Anything else I should know?

Thanks guys.
Hi JonA,
First of all I am subnovice to the long range hunting game but I am gearing up for it. Varmit Al's hunting site has some very interesting reading on the exact amount each scope changes and he has a downloadable program to match your drop charts with your particular scopes change per click. Basically the suggestion is to shoot your group(s) make a known click adjustment and shoot more groups. Then measure the point of impact change and divide by the number of clicks. This offset per click is then entered into the program with drop information and out comes your customized drop table for your scope.

Heres the site: www.cctrap.com/~varmint/ashot.htm
I e-mail Leupold a while back about the actual engineered value of the "click". The response I got was that the scopes are .25 MOA per 'click'.

I've never had any trouble with the scopes not being .25 MOA when I match them to the come-ups I enter from the ballistics programs.
Dialing in your scope to the apropriate yardage is the only way to go. The vari-X 3 should be excellent. They seem to repeat very precisely. You can send the scope to Leupold and have them install an elevation target turret for about $50 and they are fast(normally no more than a week). Then, pick a load, chronograph it, and make sure you know the BC of your bullet. Now, get on the internet and search for JBM Ballistic. They have an online ballistic program that is very accurate. Simply enter bullet weight, BC, and velocity. You can get a chart for up to 2,500 yards but I only go up to a thousand. It will give you the yardages and then the drop in inches. Then, you need to figure out how many inches to actually turn your scope. For example, let's say that at 300 yards, your drop is 12 inches. You wouldn't turn scope up 12 inches. You actually divide the 12 inches by 3 (for 300 yards) and that puts you at 4 inches high from your original zero. Likewise, if it drops 60 inches at 500, divide by 5 and turn your scope 12 inches up. Have your target knob set at zero and then turn to the correct number of inches which will be indicated on the knob. It's as simple as that. I can have never shot a rifle past 100 yards and go to the range and drill a piece of notebook paper at 500 yards using this system. It normally takes a slight amount of fine tuning to get your chart to place you in the bullseye but it will get you within a few inches. Give it a try and you'll be surprised at how well it works. Hope this wasn't confusing.
Thanks for all the info guys!

I'm glad to hear people have had good experiences with the Vari-X III's. When I bought the thing for my then-new 300 Win Mag oh, 12 years or so ago, my dad thought I was nuts to spend that much money on a scope when a Vari-X II would be "Better than I'd ever need." Well, I'm glad I did. I had had enough of dealing with cheap scopes (not Vari-X II's, but other brands) and wanted the best.

I suppose if the clicks are a bit off or anything it will show up on the range and I can just modify my charts--as long as it reliably returns to zero. Heck, one of the bullets I'm going to try doesn't even have a published BC so I'll pretty much be making my own drop chart for that....

Prime Time, thanks for the suggestion but I'm a bit hesitant to have Target Turrets permanently installed (even though I'm sure they're nicer than the Stoney Point Knobs). I guess I shouldn't discount them since I don't have any experience with them, but I'm worried about their durability and having them adjust accidently with some of the things I put the rifle through. Heck, with the 50mm Objective and 26" barrel, my rifle will hardly fit into my scabbard as it is. I'm thinking the taller turrets would be abused more than I'd like during all day horseback hunts, etc.

Here's what I'm thinking (and tell me if this is a dumb idea): If I'm going to be rough on the rifle (horseback or crashing through thick brush, etc) I could have the regular caps installed and the target knobs in my pocket. With a 300 RUM (I'm having the 300 Win rechambered) and a 300 yd zero, I pretty much don't need to do anything out to well past 400 yds.

If a shot much longer than that presents itself, the conditions are going to need to be perfect before I'd take it. That means plenty of time to put the rangefinder on the critter, find/make an adequate rest, contemplate the wind for a while, etc.... Those knobs will supposedly install in seconds. I figure if the shot is so far that I'd need them, if I don't have a few seconds to install them then I probably shouldn't take the shot anyway. Does that sound plausible?

Thanks for the other info as well, it wasn't confusing at all. The idea of wanting to try this actually came to me when I discovered the Sierra software I'm using will print bullet path and wind drift in 1/4 MOA clicks if you ask it to. After thinking about it that just seemed like so much better than trying to estimate how far to hold over.

Thanks again to everybody for all the info!
The secret will be to have good drop data, in the form of a simple chart either on your rifle (computer lables work well, I put a piece of transparent shipping tape over the label to protect from moisture) or in a handy pocket notebook - or memorized.

I like to actually catch the drop on targets downrange instead of using computer generated figures, whatever works for you. At longer distances 500+ we shoot at large steel plates (gongs) that are spray-painted white so that the bullet splats show up nicely. Just repaint them each time for a re-shoot.

You can speed up the actual dialing by putting a dab of nail-polish on a given come-up location - say 10 minutes for 500 or whatever to help crank the correct setting fairly quickly without having turrets. You wouldn't have to count clicks just crank to the index mark.

One fellow I know actually scratched tiny range numbers at the come-up settings on his elevation dial. Problem with doing anything permanent is you will likely deal with varying bullet weights so the marks can become complicated.

Keep it as simple as you can and trust your turrets.

I did a little test of a 3.5-10 Leupold VariXlll (30mm tube tactal M1) today and it returned very nicely. Zero'd it at 100, then put on eight clicks for a 200 yard zero and 12 more for the 300 yard zero. It came back to the original setting perfectly after four runs up and back. The rifle shot very well and bullets frequently touched or overlapped at the 0, +2" and +5" locations on the target.

For Dave King and anyone interested in the 3.5-10LR M1 here are the adjustment ranges.
From a 100 yard zero the scope had the following adjustments in minutes (Near bases, MK4 rings):
Elevation Up 73.0
Elevation Down 18.5
Windage Right 52.5
Windage Left 38.75

Just do your homework and you will have fun.
Thanks for the info Ian. I guess I'm "doing my homework" right now! The range of adjustment you posted looks good for that scope. I understand that the 30mm Leupolds have a larger range of adjustment than the 1" tubes, right? Do you know how much? What are the chances I'd run out of adjustment with the 1"? If I do, what do I do about it? Shim the bases?

I hear ya on the gong. I built one for my "home range" about 10 years ago and I attribute much of my skill to practicing on that thing. Of course you always need to "cut paper" to test zero and accuracy, etc, but there's nothing that works so simply for practice--whack!...nice shot! Silence..."air bullet!" I marked off 100, 200, 300 and 400 yds and spent many hundreds of rounds from those ranges from various field positions.

The farthest I had ever shot at it before was 500 yds (only a couple of times...missing is depressing!) but there's room on the range to go out to 800 or so before I'd need to jump over the neighbor's fence. One tip, don't ever shoot a Barnes X bullet at such a thing at anything under 200 yds...or it just might come right back at you! Ask me how I know this....
Jon, I am too a student of long range hunting. And while I'm not anywhere qualified to answer questions on this as some of these guys here, these are a few of my opinions on this subject based on my experiences.
You are correct in your thinking that a rifle scope with turrets is a little less handy and (might be more apt to get knocked around).
My ruff duty rifles don't have turrets and are used for conventional distances, 350 yds and less. My long range rifles do and I treat them a little nicer. If you want a longrange rifle to be handy and still be a good performer at over 400 yds you might consider getting a custom scope reticle from some one like Dick Thomas at Premier Reticle. He can install a reticle with a series of dots on a fixed spacing or a custom setup for your rifle and load. I like the fixed spacing so you can use it with multiple loads and rifles and just compute the distances at where the dots will be on at.
If you do go with the turrets and if you play this game long enough you will. I would for sure let Dick or Leupold install them as I have had a bad experience with the Stoney Point ones. I've had Dick work on a couple of my Leupold scopes and have been well pleased. 308
Do you know how much? What are the chances I'd run out of adjustment with the 1"? If I do, what do I do about it? Shim the bases?

I have access to some 3.5-10 Leupolds with one inch tubes, will check the range to compare numbers with the 30mm. Have one not being used here and a buddy with several.

Running out of adjustment will depend how far you reach out to - I am confident that you will have enough elevation "clicks" to get you much farther than you have been practicing to. We use tapered bases that tilt the scope downward - therefore tilt the barrel up - the equivalent of 20 minutes of angle to ensure enough elevation for 1000 and beyond.

You could get some more by shimming but that might induce some stress on your scope body - everyone has done it tho and the scopes seem to work fine.

I suspect that if you start clanging your gong at 700 with regularity and want to shoot farther you will start looking at a scope with turrets. There are lots of good ones available. A huge benefit of turrets is the ease of cranking on and taking off windage - that is going to be your BIG challenge, much more than getting your elevation come-ups.

Have fun and let the LR sport takes its pleasure on you. It will cost you money, frustration, envy and other emotions - and countless hours of planning and dreaming. It is all worth it when that bullet goes where you wanted it to. You will match your equipment to your aspirations. The secret lies in pulling the trigger (lots) and obtaining the skills and confidence to make longer shots than you ever thought you were capable of.
Thanks for the advice guys. I think right now what I need to do most is simply get the RUM back from the smith (this summer), see what kind of accuracy I can get out of it and shoot a few hundred rounds at these ranges to see where I stand. Then, I'll go from there. Who knows where that will take me!

Thanks again.
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