Scopes are like new pets. You either click with them or you don’t; your scope choice depends on your shooting style and needs. Therefore, most experienced shooters tend to fixate on their own scopes and swears by their usability and service. This presents a problem when looking for a new scope because people tend to be very biased to their own preferences.
If you need to make a purchase decision of scopes, you should choose between Vortex vs Leupold as they are two of the best gun optics manufactures in the world.
Before you start drooling-over some optics, please realize that all these things may seem objective and black and white, but they aren’t. You will quickly have an understanding about comfortable yet effective optics. Hopefully, you may find yourself leading their cult following.
Now let’s see who wins this battle!
The OG : Leupold & Stevens
The pride and joy of Beaverton, Oregon is a quintessential story of the American Dream. Founded in the late 1910s, German Immigrant Markus Friedrich Leupold started his survey equipment manufacturing and servicing facility which turned into a full-fledged scope and eye-wear manufacturer as the United States joined the Second World War.
Leupold employs around a thousand employees and wears the Made in U.S.A badge with pride. They are also one of the oldest military and law enforcement contractors in the US, supporting every branch of the armed forces and American law enforcements such as the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, FBI as well as the secret service. We still don’t know if they plan to supply to the brand-new commissioned space force, but we are keeping an eye out for it.
Not every company that has historic origins can keep up with the new kids on the block. Their ultra-modern military grade products match their unparalleled customer service. Thus, they have earned themselves the most popular manufacturer title by the NRA.
Speaking of their customer service, it starts from their Facebook page responses to their beautiful websites. They are professional through and through. Each part of their online experience help you choose the right scope and mounts for you. Their products come with a lifetime warranty. Yet, they don’t cover for user error or misuse.
This one time I heard a remarkable story about Leopold. A friend sent a scope there to get it realigned and cleaned. Leupold felt like that scope was hard to repair in the future so they just sent him a totally new product!
All these positive aspects do come at a significant cost. This is where vortex came in.
The Punk Freshmen: Vortex Optics
Vortex Optics started off in 2004 in Wisconsin amid the tech boom of the early 2000s. Vortex focused on technology and innovation. Their background is in optical imaging devices for birds. They got it from their parent company “Sheltered Wings”, which has helped Vortex to gain huge momentum in the optics industry.
Their autofocus elements were groundbreaking for their time. They still hold the title of the best bird-watching binoculars manufacturer in America.
VIP warranty comes standard with its products. You can send your scope in any condition and expect them to send back one in pristine condition. They will take care of it however it is needed. In fact, in 14 years they have already build a solid reputation through their good customer relations and an expansive warranty program.
One thing is for certain, if you want to focus on pedigree, you can’t beat Leupold.
We should be smarter than that. After all, we are not appreciating art here. These scopes are very important tools and may mean the difference between life and death. Pedigree and beauty, however noble virtues, are irrelevant to our discussion. Let us now look at some objective comparison of vortex vs leupold.
Their most popular product lines include:
- FX: Their cheapest and most popular offering. These are fixed power and so suited for advanced shooters and wild game hunters who prefer lighter weight over a lot of range.
- Mark: This range is made for dessert environment tactical rifles and long-range deployments.
- Competition: Their most accurate product line is suited for competitive gun range shooting.
- VX: It is suited for all types of hunting (depending on the model)
- Razor: It is a very lightweight yet very high-end offering from Vortex. Suited for most critical tactical operations and all types of open hunting.
- Viper: A cheaper line with illuminated reticles. It provides a night-friendly shooting capability to game hunters and military personnel alike.
- StrikeEagle: The budget friendly beast wipes out any competition for the price. With locking turrets and long windage and elevation travel, this is a simple yet effective gateway to long range hunting.
- Diamondback: Their cheapest product line which consists of fully multicoated elements.
Accuracy of scopes mostly depends on two factors: Clarity and Reticle.
Optics clarity depends on the quality of glass and manufacturing capabilities used. Companies use various types of coating to keep the sunlight and snow from behaving badly inside the scope. These coatings and even a sunshade can be a part of the clarity part of the equation.
On the other hand, reticles can also influence your targeting behavior. Reticles can be either etched or illuminated. You can find impressive reticles of various types from both companies including bullet drop, horseshoe and Milliradian (Mil-Dot).
Let’s look at how our contenders do in this category.
Leupold scopes are known for being crystal clear, having decent eye-relief and a full field of view. It all comes down to the price point you can purchase at. Some of their products are much better at holding off weather than others. You should check to ensure that the product you need doesn’t respond badly to bad weather or snow.
Leupold produces several types of reticles and they will happily charge you for any reticle you want to be put in your choice of scope.
Vortex scopes are also known for being crystal clear. Although they seem to have better coating for various extreme weather events. You should consider that Vortex sells a lot more cheaper products than the competition. So regular maintenance may be necessary compared to Leupold offerings for some products. However, these aren’t always this way. You should feel confident about clarity for vortex.
Vortex offer a wide range of reticles too. Their specialty is doing both illuminated as well as etched reticles. However, this feature is available for both leupold and Vortex systems nowadays.
So, there is no clear winner in this category. In a nutshell, in lower price levels, vortex will offer more features that would enhance the experience of accurate shots. If you are looking for a long-term solution and have the budget to back it up, leupold would be the edge.
Reliability is all about manufacturing. It is about using good quality materials which are just malleable enough to withstand weather and harsh treatments. Materials are crucial to a long-lasting product. The quality of glass and its coatings are important to withstand weather related aging too. Micro vapor particles can get into the scope and over years can significantly degrade the clarity of optical elements.
An important factor of reliability is re-coil from shooting the guns. Years of shooting takes their toll on the mounts of the optics and focus mechanisms. So, you need to keep realignments and other types of maintenance in mind.
Leupold has internally developed manufacturing capabilities. They have been machining metal and putting them together for over a century now. All their products are made and assembled right here in the United states of America. Some of their optics come from Japan or other suppliers in the US.
As you know, they have a comprehensive warranty plan. Sadly, their warranty doesn’t cover maintenance.
You must pay them to fix any issue that was done due to lack of maintenance. This can get quite costly if you need to realign your optics every few years. A lot of these scopes are available throughout the world, so parts and other supplies are available too if you feel like taking care of them yourself.
Vortex brings in sophisticated European manufacturing techniques. They are new, and they can leverage newer manufacturing technologies compared to Leupold. Their products are assembled in the US, but a large portion of their products are also manufactured in China. However, we found no major complaints from users about this issue. It boils down to your preference and what you want from a company.
Vortex offer their “VIP” warranty plan that not only covers manufacturing defects but also maintenance provided you pay shipping. This is an enormous help for especially younger less experienced buyers.
Both companies tend to boast about their “aircraft-grade aluminum” or “military-grade steel”. The truth is, neither their aluminum nor their steel is any fancier than the other. However, with people still holding on to their cold war era scopes, we can tell you with absolute certainty that these alloys are as durable as they can be. Both companies take pride in their ultimate American manufacturing capabilities. And it shows. In a pinch, both products can be a good way to defend yourself.
Leupold is the winner of this category. Their American handmade quality is second to none. They have a reputation for such craftsmanship.
Look and Feel
A scope is hard to make distinct and even harder to make inconspicuous. So, most of the scopes seem similar in terms of looks. Most scope manufacturer provides some sort of scope to make them matte or camouflage. They can also come with various types of sunshades.
“Feel” comes from the fit and finish. A good scope has tactile efficient ergonomics. The turrets should be strong, and the finish should have thick metallic paint. The glass should be heavy and clear with no fringing or distortions. The scope should feel heavy and the adjustments should feel crisp.
Leupold vs Vortex
Both companies make amazing feeling scopes and not so amazing ones. You should definitely check this particular matter by hand or from trusted review sources. Looks vary from product to product and it is very hard to talk about this in a brand level.
You should check the turrets and shake the scope. The turrets should move with purpose and presence. When shaken, a scope should not lose its focus AT ALL. Feel is more important than looks. You can buy a sleeve for your scope easily and pimp it to your hearts content.
Looks are subjective and quality varies from product to product. A good rule of thumb here is the higher the price point, the better the feel. Most product lines have similar hand feel so go for a cheaper product from a best product line you can afford.
Price depends on manufacturing, quality of optics and aftersales services. Features such a particular reticle can further drive-up costs. You should always look for better value. You need to ask yourself if you need these features as well. Do you really need the fancy reticle? Is the tactical night vision feature worth it?
According to the NRA, most of the value of a new scope is actually in its optics. Clear heavy and properly aligned optics is essential for the seasoned hunter. You will find that all companies offer great glass. So, you should invest in longevity.
Leupold typically prices higher than others because of their pedigree and brand value. They also hold their value relatively well in the secondary markets. This is due to their wide parts availability and aftersales support.
Vortex products generally undercuts Leupold ones by around 50 to 500 dollars. The difference of quality isn’t as vast as you might think. It may be better for you to invest elsewhere.
They are also significantly cheaper in the secondary market. You know they have good aftersales support so it’s also a good idea to buy them from the secondary market and getting them fixed if need be.
It is obvious that Vortex is the value champion with its comprehensive aftersales support and feature rich products. Leupold has very good value products too. Their value gets better with price. Leupold will price their high-end products better than their low-end ones.
A scope is attached with a mount to your rifle. Mounting systems can be up to around 200 buck investment on top of your scope price. You may look into these companies for good mounting systems.
Mounting systems are comprised of either aluminum or steel. And they are made using two distinct process known as casting or forging. Your metal should match your scope for heat dissipation. That means your aluminum scope should have an aluminum mount.
You should always look into forged parts over casted ones. Cast aluminum can be brittle and in rarer cases can break off due to recoil. Cast steel can respond to heat more and may bend.
Vortex vs Leupold Mounting Systems
In this case you can happily go for vortex over leupold. Vortex mounts are 10-30 us dollars cheaper than the comparable leupold one. So, if your scope fits, go for it. No reason to spend that extra money for a piece of O shaped metal ring. But you should get a forget one.
Vortex again takes the cake. There are no obvious upsides of using a better mounting system. It is better to save that money and maybe go for ice-cream afterwards.
Rational people should test out both of their desired products before they buy them. None of the products offer any testing out period. Both companies have very good reputation and ultimately trade blows on all metrics. You should feel happy buying either.
A good marksman can work with either. You should practice more and more. You do not want to rely on a good scope to make your shot. Going to the range more also has many additional advantages as well.
You should check out other scopes available in the gun range and get a feel for what you may need. Thus, one day your choice will become a matter of personal preference.
So… Who Won?
You did!! All competitions benefit the consumer. You are getting better tech for cheaper price thanks to Vortex’s disruptive engineering. On the other hand, Leupold played a part in the existence of our country as we know it.
Now you get to make a well-informed purchase decision and become a part of the story of these two behemoths of the industry. And thus, you are the winner of vortex vs leupold!