Scope Test: Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×40 EFR CDS

If you’re someone who shoots targets at known distances, Mike Morton suggests you take a look at the VX-3i 6.5-20×40 EFR CDS from Leupold

The scope’s construction is first-rate, with the metal components coated in a matt-black finish that is far less reflective than usual

Key Specs

Maker: Leupold (
UK Distributor: Viking Arms (
Model: VX-3i 6.5-20×40 EFR CDS
Price: £952
Weight: 17.8oz/505g
Field of view – Low mag: 14.3 feet at 100 yards; 4.8 metres at 100 metres
Field of view – High mag: 5.6 feet at 100 yards; 1.9 metres at 100 metres
Eye relief – Low mag: 5in/127mm
Eye relief – High mag: 3.7in/94mm
Elevation adjustment range: 49 MOA
Windage adjustment range: 49 MOA

Most of the scopes we put on top of our air rifles are jacks of all trades. They’re usually reasonably good, and sometimes very good, at a balanced blend of plinking, hunting and target shooting. The Leupold VX-3i 6.5-20×40 EFR CDS is definitely not one of these scopes. Instead, it’s firmly focused, literally and figuratively, on a certain type of target shooting – but what it does do, it does extremely well.

The rear of the scope reveals the lockable ocular focus ring and the 6.2-20 magnification ring – both controls are smooth to operate

The nomenclature on Leupold scopes may sound confusing, so let’s demystify it straight away. The term ‘EFR’ stands for ‘Extended Focus Range’, which just means this scope is made to focus, or parallax, all the way down to 10 metres, even when it’s been set on its highest 20x magnification, making it perfect for airgun use. Leupold’s claim was borne out in practice – in fact, I managed to get the scope to parallax down to a mere nine metres. The optic is thankfully rated for air rifle use, mounted on either a pre-charged pneumatic or a springer.

The scope’s construction is first-rate, with the metal components coated in a matt-black finish that is far less reflective than usual. This will be important to people who shoot on an indoor range, where there is a greater risk of being distracted by artificial light reflecting off their scope.

The reticle is Fine Duplex, which is comprised of incredibly thin posts and crosshairs, making it easier to acquire small targets and take precise shots

Parallax adjustment is delivered via an adjustable objective. While AO scopes can be a bit awkward to use for hunters when they have to lean over the scope tube to make an adjustment, this system is fine for target shooters in a scenario where parallax is adjusted once then left alone for the rest of the shooting session. When it does become time to adjust the ring, the movement is silky-smooth, with just the right amount of resistance.

The VX-3i seen here is equipped with a Fine Duplex Reticle, which offers a wonderfully clear aim point. The ret was inspired by the classic Leupold-designed Duplex reticle, but offers thinner posts and crosshairs, making it better for precision shots and making the acquisition of small targets easier.

There are no reticle markings for holdover or windage – and that’s been done on purpose, to keep that sight picture as clean and uncluttered as possible. This is not a drawback, because the scope is intended to be used to dial in a shot rather than using holdover – hence the ‘CDS’ designation, which stands for ‘Custom Dial System’.

With the caps removed, the target-style turrets offer a total adjustment of 49 MOA for both elevation and windage

Custom turret dials are usually associated with long-range centrefire scopes, but this system should work well for airguns too. Out of the box, the scope is fitted with target turrets that can be equipped with removable dials graduated in either 1/4 MOA or .1 mil. But each scope also comes with a voucher that lets the owner order a set of custom dials for free.

When you’ve found your perfect pellet, you’ll need to give Leupold some details including the pellet’s ballistic coefficient (which can be found online), its weight and its muzzle velocity, after which Leupold will supply a set of turrets calibrated for your specific combo so you can dial in your shots. That seemingly empty reticle now makes much more sense, as you can aim directly at your target regardless of the distance, without being distracted by any unnecessary alternative aim points of the kind you’d find with a regular mil-dot reticle.

If you want to fit the scope to another rifle and pellet combo, you can order another set of dials, but you’ll have to pay for these: only the first set is free. As this particular scope was on loan for testing, I wasn’t able to order up a set of custom turrets and try them out, but will hopefully be doing exactly that with another scope soon.

Instead, I put the VX-3i through its paces on top of a target-shooting friend’s BSA Gold Star, adjusting the elevation turret any time I changed distance from my set zero so I could always aim on. The turret clicks are ultra-positive, exhibiting a precise return to zero after dialling in for the various different distances we shot the rifle over.

The tall windage and elevation turrets are capped – leave them on if you don’t need to dial in for your shots

We both agreed that the VX-3i was one of the clearest scopes we’d ever looked through, offering a crisp sight picture in varying lighting conditions including outdoors in bright sunshine, outdoors in overcast and rainy weather, outdoors in fading light and indoors in artificial illumination.

So who would want one of these scopes on their air rifle? While it’s not intended for hunting, a hunter could certainly make use of it by dialling in with their custom turrets. And while it could be used for air rifle benchrest, the 20x magnification is adequate rather than optimal. Where this scope would excel, however, is in the discipline of Light Sporting Rifle.

LSR, also variously known as Lightweight Sporting Rifle or Light Sport Rifle, is probably the most widely shot target sport in the UK today, as it allows the use of air rifles alongside .22 rimfires. It’s shot in an unsupported standing position, at either 20 yards using a PL14 target or at 25 yards using a PL19. Here, the optical clarity and type of reticle really come into their own, making the VX-3i an excellent choice.

Is the VX-3i a jack of all trades? No. It’s a master of one.

The objective bell shows off Leupold’s signature gold ring as well as the adjustable objective, which is firm, but smooth to adjust

Verdict: 90/100

Build Quality: 19
Optical Clarity: 19
Features: 18
Ease of Use: 17
Value: 17

“The VX-3i is a specialised scope that fulfils a very particular need. If you’re looking for a target scope to shoot at a known, fixed distance, this could be the one.”

This article originally appeared in the issue 108 of Airgun Shooter magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store:

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