Do you like the sound of an American-made optic that can be customized for your exact specifications, is easy to use and is backed with a Lifetime Guarantee? The new-for-2020, VX-3i CDS-ZL riflescope, announced at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, sounds like the jackpot. 

Meet the Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL

While the VX-3i family of riflescopes is not new, what makes these optics especially fresh and interesting is the company’s Custom Dial System now with ZeroLock. There are four models in the VX-3i CDS-ZL series, including two magnifications, 3.5-10x and 4.5-14x, along with two reticle options -- the Duplex or Windplex. According to Leupold’s website, these Gold Ring scopes feature a “Twilight Max Light Management System, which provides maximum brightness in all colors and intensifies contrast across the entire field of view.” 

We mounted the Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL atop our CMMG Mk4 Resolute 300 in 350 Legend. The combo shot ½ MOA groups with factory hunting ammunition. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

The CDS-ZL adjustment system gives shooters allowances for 14.5 MOA of bullet drop, which equals 500 to 700-yards of ballistic travel for most rifles and common calibers, according to Leupold. The beauty of the push-button ZeroLock dial is that it must be intentionally engaged. This eliminates accidental dial movement, which can happen under hunting conditions and is a surefire way to guarantee a botched adventure. 

Field Work

Our test optic is Leupold’s VX-3i CDS-ZL in 3.5-10x40 with the standard Duplex reticle. The scope uses a 1-inch matte tube, second/rear focal plane, and 3:1 zoom ratio. All the standard expectations are found here: waterproof, fog proof, gas-purged, and scratch-resistant lenses. Weight of our test scope is 13-ounces, sans rings. 

A nice three-shot group using the VX-3i CDS-ZL topped CMMG in 350 Legend using Winchester Power Max Bonded ammo. This would be an accurate, low-recoiling, deer hunting machine. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

We mounted the riflescope atop our semi-automatic CMMG Resolute chambered in .350 Legend and went to work slinging bullet weights from 145-grains to 265-grains. The scope tracked perfectly without a single glitch. Further, eye relief is one of the pleasant findings, with 4.4-inches on low power and still a distant 3.6-inches at full 10x power. It’s not as much a concern on a lower-recoiling round, like the Legend, but will be of greater peace of mind on bigger bores. Let’s face it, nobody wants to find themselves thinking about being scoped when they should be focused on perfectly placing a shot. 

Zeroing the optic was a simple affair, but it excels in quick, customized, in-field adjustments. 

Working the ZeroLock

Many hunters are not familiar with dial adjustments or shy away from such optics because they seem difficult to master. That couldn’t be farther from the truth with the Leupold CDS-ZL system, because of both the customized dial and the ZeroLock. 

Turret detail on the CDS-ZL version of the VX-3i riflescope. The Custom Dial System-Zero Lock. Hunters will want to order their free custom dial, which will be engraved with their caliber and info. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Rather than making educated guesses on holdover, the shooter simply presses the ZeroLock button and dials to their prescribed elevation. Then, when ready to return to zero, there’s no need to count either clicks or mark off “lines” on turrets. Rather, simply spin the ZeroLock dial back until it stops and locks. Voila! Back to zero. How does that all work? That’s where the Leupold CDS shines. 

While the ZeroLock is a simple system to master, the real beauty of the Leupold CDS-ZL system is partnering that feature with the Custom Dial System. While the scope ships with a standard CDS-ZL dial with 1/4 MOA adjustments, shooters will want to take full advantage of the included “coupon” for one free custom-tailored dial. As the purchaser, simply sign on to Leupold’s website and provide them with your load data. There are entry details for caliber, bullet weight, and chosen zero distance, as well as load-specific data like the muzzle velocity of your chosen ammunition. There are even location-specific descriptors — like elevation and temperature -- to further ensure complete confidence in your Leupold scope customization. Leupold then custom builds the dial to your exact specifications. When it arrives, installation is as simple as removing a small Allen screw with the provided wrench. 

If you have your custom dial in place with your chosen load, and the buck of a lifetime steps out at 200-yards, simply dial to “2” and make your shot. Hunters who intend to move the scope to another rifle can purchase additional customized turrets for $80 from Leupold. That price is quite reasonable for an easy-install option that essentially grants a custom rifle performance. 

When I next venture to Africa, I plan to use the same scope on a .300 Win Mag. I’ll order another custom dial for my chosen load. If a monster Kudu appears from the tangled brush and stands clear at 350-yards, there’s no need to figure holdovers, but rather, simply dial to 3.5 and send it. If the hunter does his or her part, the scope will more than hold up its end of the deal. 


MSRP on our test scope is set at $649 with online retailers, like, selling for $599. Hunters looking for an easy-to-use, American-made riflescope with a full lifetime guarantee will be pleased with both the performance and value of the Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL. 

Leupold’s Duplex and Windplex reticles. The VX-3i CDS-ZL scopes can be had with either in either 2.5-10x40 or 4.5-14x40.
revolver barrel loading graphic