What do you get with Leupold's legendary lifetime warranty? A refurbishment so complete it's like taking aim with a fresh-from-the-box scope.
What Does Leupold Do When You Send A Scope Back To Its Factory:
- Scope is logged in and tracked through the process.
- Scopesmith disassembles and visually inspects every aspect of the scope.
- All the mechanical processes are checked.
- All surfaces of the lenses are cleaned; if need be replaced.
- It is placed in a low-temp oven to make sure there's no moisture inside.
- It is gas purged.
- Elevation and windage are checked for full range of motion.
- It is hand cleaned and checked to make certain it as the proper dials, caps and indicators.
- It’s been said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Yet, Leupold & Stevens Inc. did just that when it retrained my “antique” riflescope.
What were you doing in 1993? Twenty-six years ago, off the coast of the United States, I was cutting my military teeth — and knuckles, for that matter — as a wide-eyed machinist’s mate aboard the ballistic missile submarine USS Daniel Boone (SSBN 629). It was the beginning of a military-inspired adventure I doubt I’ll rival between now and when I meet my maker.
At the same time, a sleek, black riflescope with the serial number 189681A was rolling off the Leupold & Stevens assembly line. The scope was planned, built and born in Beaverton, Oregon … unlike yours truly, who was made and born in what was then West Germany, thanks to the U.S. Army. Both the riflescope and I have had more than our fair share of adventures since then, but only one of us came with a lifetime guarantee.
Yes, I’m talking about the world-famous Leupold lifetime warranty. Leupold’s legendary lifetime warranty was then, and still is now, why you hear experienced folks say that you can’t go wrong with a Leupold — a priceless endorsement earned from decades of consumer testing. After all, no company can fake a stellar word-of-mouth reputation, nor can it market itself out of a bad one. The bottom line is that if it says “Leupold” on the optic, that’s all the warranty you’ll ever need.
Oh, Yeah? Prove It!
“We repair and work on scopes because they’re built to last a lifetime,” said Leupold & Stevens’ Nic Kyltica.
I not only took Kyltica at his word, but I embraced it by sending in my well-used, well-traveled, as-American-as-optical-apple-pie 1-inch-tubed VX-IIc 3-9X40mm — not because it was broken (it wasn’t), but for a checkup. You can, indeed, send your scope in for preventative maintenance. In fact, Leupold likes it when you do.
Here’s the kicker: I’m not the original owner. In fact, there’s no telling how many owners this old riflescope has had. I bought the scope a few years ago off the used shelf at Clark Brothers Guns in Warrenton, Virginia, because I felt my right-as-rain and steady-as-a-rock backup rifle (a Winchester Model 70 Compact chambered in .308 Winchester) needed a scope that has worked, would work and will work as long as I’m upright.
Think Leupold cared I wasn’t the original owner? Not a bit.
“We see many scopes come in that have been handed down, and the next owner just wants us to make sure everything is working correctly,” said Kyltica. “A lot of them carry some heavy sentimental value. If there’s ever a question about the functionality of the scope, send it in. It’s free, and you don’t have to be the original purchaser or have a receipt or anything like that.”
So, with a heavy heart and a now-optics-barren backup rifle, I boxed up my scope and sent it west. After 26 years of unknown use, I had no idea what the scope mechanics would say to me.
Kytlica’s initial report: “The scope was in extremely good condition, and you could tell it’s been well-cared for.”
Still, if you think time is hard on our bodies, imagine what it does to a tech-heavy industry such as optics.
Kyltica added, “That being said, those optics are no comparison for modern glass. Advancements in lens technology have increased drastically within the past decade. Our entry-level VX-Freedom will outperform an older Vari-X III any day of the week. Our current scopes have to go through even tougher tests than when your scope was manufactured, so that concept definitely doesn’t hold water.” (That’s his way of politely saying, This is a great older scope, but … .)
More Long-Range Shooting Info:
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- Ballistics Basics: Initial Bullet Speed
- The Effects Of Air Temperature On Bullet Flight
- Mils vs. MOA: Which Is The Best Long-Range Language?
“Leupold scopes won’t lose performance as they age,” Kyltica explained. “I hear stories time and time again on how someone’s scope their dad gave them back in the ’80s tracks and holds zero like the day it was made. These precision instruments are truly built to last a lifetime.
What customers will see is how older lenses perform against newer, more advanced technology. That doesn’t mean the older lenses are bad; it’s just that technology changes, and certain coatings and processes are refined. For instance, the interior of a Ford F-150 from 1993 definitely looks and functions differently from a 2019 F-150’s interior, but both will get the job done.
According to Kyltica, here’s what happens to a riflescope sent back to Leupold:
1. “When the scope arrives in the product service area, it’s logged in to the system. This allows us to track the scope throughout the repair process and record the work and what parts were used. Then, the scope is sent to one of our highly trained scopesmiths.”
2. “Mechanical improvements are limited on scopes that are already manufactured. The scopesmith disassembles the scope and visually inspects every aspect. The most common improvements made are re-greasing any surfaces that might cause friction and replacing O-rings and cam followers (little parts that help the magnification lens elements move back and forth).”
3. “All of the tests performed are mechanical. All the lenses are cleaned, but there’s no measuring light transmission, contrast or glare. Those aspects of the scope are inherent in the type of lenses that were used and generally won’t change over time; although you will rarely see a lens that has the coatings separating — these fall under warranty replacement and will be swapped out for new modern lenses.”
4. “After the scopesmith is done, it will move to the final check process, which are the exact checks and tests conducted in assembly on new scopes. They’re placed in a low-temp oven to make sure there’s absolutely no moisture inside. Then, they’re filled with gas. The scope is next placed on a collimation tool to check that the scope’s elevation and windage adjustments have full range of motion and that the lenses within the system are all aligned correctly. Finally, it’s cleaned by hand and checked to make sure it has all the proper dials, caps and indicators.”
According to Kyltica, three people touch the scope: the person logging it in, the or scopesmith and the final technician.
Years Of Evolution
So, we know my scope was built in 1993, but how much has really changed in 26 years?
“The glass in modern scopes is much different than even back in 1993,” Kyltica pointed out. “The advancements, especially in low-light performance, is night and day [pun intended!]. We now, of course, have state-of-the-art CnC machines that hold extremely tight tolerances. Back then, we had less-sophisticated cam machines, and maintubes were built in up to five different pieces. Most newer scopes use an argon/krypton blend of gas, which outperforms the old nitrogen gas that was used with your scope. Some reticles are still built with wire and soldering, while some use highly advanced fiber-optics technology and lasers.”
Indeed, the scope is older. I am, too. Unlike me, though, the master craftsmen at Leupold had a few tricks up their sleeves to teach my old optical dog a few new tricks. So, with my permission, they hot-rodded my riflescope. Kyltica explained what the technicians were and were not able to do to improve my scope. (Cue the theme from The Six Million Dollar Man.)
The first thing Leupold did was help me overcome a problem that shooters have battled long before 1993: wind.
“We upgraded the standard Duplex reticle to a WindPlex reticle,” Kyltica told me.
The next thing Leupold did was allow me to adjust my 26-year-old optic without having to take the turret covers off. Again, I let the optics expert speak:
“That reticle works perfectly with our Custom Dial System (CDS), which we installed on the elevation adjustment,” said Kyltica. “This external dial gives the shooter the option to send us their specific ballistic information for the rifle and ammo they are shooting, and we can make a custom dial for them. We take those ballistics, figure out the MOA drop at 50-yard increments and laser them on the dial.”
Still, 1993 technology did retrain the optical wizards at Leupold just a wee bit.
“The one limitation is that we couldn’t install a CDS dial on your windage adjustment (some customers like having both),” said Kyltica. “This model of scope actually is gas-filled through the windage adjustment, so only the original adjustment design will work.”
The 1993 technology was good, but Leupold made it better by enabling me to adjust my elevation without removing my turret cover, and, thanks to the new reticle, I can now adjust for windage without ever having to take my eye off my target.
“The level of expertise and knowledge the entire team has is pretty incredible,” Kyltica pointed out.
One thing he wanted to make sure all Leupold customers knew was this: Feel confident that an expert is handling your product when you send anything back. They also take great pride in what they do, and the majority of them hunt or shoot as well, so they understand the importance of the performance of the scope in the field.
Regardless of what I do with the VX-IIc in the future, one thing will not change: Leupold will remain committed to its craftsmanship, because that lifetime warranty won’t do the one thing we all eventually do — expire.
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