I have been using sniper-type scopes for close to twenty years. I started with taking standard target scopes and matte finishing them. Or to using the old ART Scopes. Neither was perfect. Both had advantages and disadvantages. Range finding was not easy to be accurate with either type of scope and required many hours of practice. We did the best we could with what we had with the tools of the time. In the early nineteen eighties Leupold came out with the Ultra series with "MultiCoat 4" lens coating. I bought one in the M2 version. Now this was a scope that was so much better than any other brand that I only used Leupold for the next fifteen years. I changed rifles but scopes came from Leupold. I have used the Ultras in the M2 and M3 versions and loved both. My purpose for sniper rifles has always been for law enforcement. Our average distance of engagement is about seventy yards, so I found the fixed ten power too much for up close work. I was torn because the Ultras were so far better than anything else I hated to give them up, but alas they stayed on recreational rifles and the 3.5x10 Variable with target knobs went to the working rifles. I wished for Mildots but none were available at the time. I used this set up for many years but always longed for a 30mm tube and Ultra/MK4 style adjustment knobs.
Years went by and the Ultra Scope became the MK4 with the only difference being that the Ultras had glass etched reticles and the MK4s had wire reticles. The Mildots on the ultra were round and the MK4's were football shaped. Many of a debate has been fought over which is better so I won't get into that issue here.
Eventually VariX3s came out with wire reticled Mildots in all types of powers. All with one inch tubes and the standard target knobs. I have never truly liked the design of the VariX3 Target Knobs, but they worked so I used them. The newer VariX3's had the lens coatings upgraded to "MultiCoat 4". This does not mean the lenses are coated four times (they are actually coated eight) it is the type of coating used. Now this was getting to be a good scope for law enforcement. I still wished for the 30mm tube and MK4 style adjustments, but I had no real complaints.
In 1998, Leupold responded to Military Requests, and came out with the Vari-X III 3.5x10 Power Long Range M3 Tactical Scope. It has been reviewed before and needless to say it is a fine scope. It was designed for the Military and it has MK4 M3 style adjustments. It goes from 100yards to a 1000yards with one complete turn of the dial (a military request). This is a military requirement and it left the scope with one minute adjustments for the elevation and half minute adjustments for windage. I have used this scope and love it for military style shooting but the adjustments are to coarse for law enforcement use. I started thinking just change the knobs to the MK4 M1 type and the perfect law enforcement scope would be made.
Late 1998, my wish was granted and Leupold came out with the VariX3 3.5x10 Power Long Range M1 Tactical Scope. I ordered mine as soon as I learned it was available. It came a few weeks later. I opened the box and there it was with MK4 M1 style adjustments. I looked through the scope and compared it to the image of MK4 and Ultra scopes. It was no different. Just as clear and bright as any scope I have ever tried.
I mounted it on my rifle and went to the range. I obtained a zero and played with the adjustments. Four minutes up adjustment was four minutes up. I went six minutes to the right and the scope's adjustments were perfect. I did ten or twelve series of adjustments and found the scope to track perfectly. This is a test other brands have failed many times.
I left it on the rifle and used it for several months. The scope was perfect in every way. The image is sharp, bright and clear. The mildots are accurate. Eye relief is plentiful. The finish is excellent. The price of about seven hundred dollars is very good for a scope of this quality. This is the scope I have been waiting for.
I wanted more information so I called Leupold and was delighted to talk with John, of the Technical Service Department. John was very helpful. He said the U.S. Military had requested the VariX3 Tactical scopes and gave a brief history. When the Ultra Scopes were designed, in the 1980's, the U.S. Military gave Leupold instructions to spare no cost and make the finest scope for a sniper rifle. We could debate this for hours, but based on my experience Leupold did so with the Ultra and later the MK4 Series. The only problem is the scopes cost a small fortune. The higher the price of the scope the smaller number of Sniper Weapon Systems you can field. Well in the late 1990's the Military again approached Leupold and this time they asked for the best scopes for sniping on a limited budget. Leupold already had a proven winner, the VariX3 Series with a 30mm main tube. It was simply a matter of making some modifications to come up with what the U.S. Military wanted. They did like they always do. They tested design after design and did not release the products until the scopes worked as intended. The finished products were then given to the Military to see if they had succeeded. The Military tested and loved the scopes. Many units, that have to remain nameless, have the scopes in use.
The VariX3 M1 and the M3 share the same lenses and lens coating techniques as the MK4s and Ultras. They use the wire MilDot Reticle that the older MK4s had. The Ultras and this year's model MK4s have a glass etched reticle. The only real difference is the shape of the MilDots. The wire reticles have a football shape and the glass etched have a round shape. Both work equally well. I have not seen either type break. The internals and tube thickness of the Ultra/MK4s are more robust than the VariX3 M1 and M3. This is not a problem as simply put the Ultra/MK4s are overkill in the areas of durability and the ability to withstand abuse. Most rifles will never see the kind of use that would damage any quality scope.
Leupold has done what they intended to. They have developed two scopes worthy of any sniper rifle, for a price that is affordable. I finally have the perfect police rifle scope.