Many serious hunters want quality optics without breaking the bank, and the Leupold VX-Freedom line was purpose designed with them in mind. The budget-friendly line of American-made Leupold VX-Freedom riflescopes found a welcome audience last year, but 2020 sees even more interesting additions to the family, with our hands-down favorite being the illuminated-reticle FireDot line.
Leupold VX-Freedom FireDot Twilight Hunter
Our test model VX-Freedom FireDot riflescope is the Twilight Hunter in 3-9x50mm with a 30mm main tube. There’s a finger click dial system as well as a matte finish exterior suitable for hunters. The FireDot lighted reticle is operated by a push-button located on the left-side turret, where the parallax adjustment would be on some optics. It illuminates a multi-brightness red center aiming point that excels in low light situations. The reticle on this particular model, bearing similarities to a standard Duplex, is called the Illuminated Twilight Hunter reticle.
All of the VX-Freedom FireDot scopes are built around the 30mm main tube, though several reticle options are available, including the Duplex, Tri-MOA, Twilight Hunter, and MIL-Ring. Options include 1.5-4x20, 3-9x40, 4-12x40, 6-18x40, 3-9x50, and 4-12x50.
In addition, the FireDot can be had on numerous other Leupold models, including the VX-6HD, VX-5HD, and the VX-R, for those seeking the higher-end optics or more tactically-based platforms while still taking advantage of the illuminated dot.
We mounted our VX-Freedom Twilight Hunter as part of an in-depth feature on the Marlin Model 1895 Dark in .45-70 Government. Not only did this Leupold handle the recoil from over 100 rounds of the heaviest hunting rounds of .45-70 Gov’t with no problem, but it also helped put out sub-MOA groups.
We fired Remington 300-grain SJHP, Barnes Vor-TX 300-grain TSX, Federal Premium Hammer Down 300-grain, Federal Fusion 300-grain SP, Hornady LeveRevolution 250-grain MonoFlex, and Hornady Subsonic 410-grain. Our 100-yard groups, shot from the bench, ranged from 0.85-inches to just over MOA. That’s serious performance from any hunting combination and certainly speaks volumes to the optic’s quality. Eye relief is excellent, with an advertised 3.7- to 4.2-inches, and we found more than ample distance even when firing from the heavier-recoiling 45-70 Gov’t.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, the scope tracked and held zero like a dream. The power ring, though low-profile, has a grippy feel that will work well for both gloved hunters and inclement weather use.
Illumination for Hunters
Knowing accuracy and durability is on point, we must examine the namesake of this optic—its red-illuminated FireDot. Even on full power, the center point is minimally visible in full daylight, but that’s not when it’s needed. Much of the best hunting occurs nearer to dusk and dawn—or in cases like predator hunting, in the dark of night—so reliable illumination becomes important. Some illuminated scopes can create distracting flare, but we didn’t notice that with the Twilight Hunter unless it was cranked to maximum brightness in full darkness, something that is never needed. The lowest settings in the dark provide plenty of contrast without being distracting, allowing the hunter to focus on the shot.
The Twilight Hunter reticle proves to be an ideal companion to the illuminated center dot for whitetail hunters, as it pulls the eye quickly to the center with its thicker outer lines narrowing to the center dot. When the red illumination is engaged, the eye naturally focuses immediately on the center, making acquisition on game quick and easy. However, it works equally well as a standard, non-illuminated reticle when the glow is not needed.
Other VX-Freedom Models
The first VX-Freedom riflescopes were the plain ‘ole bread-and-butter Duplex reticle versions. Since then, however, the line has greatly expanded beyond even our FireDot. There are caliber-specific scopes, including the .350 Legend and .450 Bushmaster, which allow shooters to make simple dial adjustments with the pre-calibrated dials.
Leupold offers a pair of VX-Freedom Rimfire optics in 2-7x33 and 3-9x40. Specializations continue with both a Muzzleloader specific 3-9x40 with a sabot-specific reticle, as well as a 1.5-4x28 Scout scope with up to a 6.90-inch eye relief. Retail prices on the wide array of VX-Freedom models span from $259 to $779.
The bottom line is this, the Leupold VX-Freedom line of riflescopes, including our 3-9x50mm Twilight Hunter, is purpose-built for hunters at more reasonable price points than much of the competition. Best of all, buyers are getting optics that are designed, machined, and assembled right here in the U.S., dressed in the recognizable gold-ring, and backed with Leupold’s Lifetime Guarantee.
MSRP on this optic in this configuration and magnification is $649, with real-world prices on this all-American riflescope coming in considerably lower.