May 21st, 2018 by asjstaff

I’ve rarely been dissatisfied with Leupold optics. Their consistent quality and durability are characteristics I have come to rely on throughout the years. For certain, that gold ring carries some weight.

In late January Leupold announced their newest family of optics, the VX-Freedom Series. One hundred percent designed, machined, assembled, and (if necessary) serviced in the USA, Leupold markets the lineup of riflescopes as highly reliable all-weather, all-terrain scopes with “elite optical performance” at highly a competitive price.

The VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 (above and below) is one of eleven scopes in the VX-Freedom line of optics. It’s an extremely simple and compact 1-inch tube optic. Last month I got my hands on one and once I had it, I didn’t want to let it go.

Specific features of the VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 include:

• 1″ Tube

Duplex Reticle

1/4 MOA Finger-click Dial System

3:1 Zoom Ratio

Scratch Resistant Lenses

Waterproof & Fogproof

Twilight Light Management System

6061-T6 Aircraft Quality Aluminum

Length (A): 9.35″

Mounting Space (B): 5.40″

Illustration (C): 2.17″

Illustration (D): 1.85″

Eyepiece Length (E): 3.50″

Objective Diameter (G): 1.00″

Eyepiece Diameter (H): 1.56″

Tube Diameter (K): 1.00″

Like most optics, VX-Freedom optics are packaged in a double-walled cardboard box and protected by multiple foam inserts. A user’s manual, warranty card, Leupold sticker, and an NRA membership advertisement accompany the scope.

As I lifted the VX-Freedom from the foam, I immediately took notice of its matte black finish. It’s consistent across all parts of the scope and exhibits the slightest bit of texturing (which is very nice to the touch). The finish appeared to be nothing less than top-notch.

Being that this Leupold optic was made in the USA, the word “FREEDOM” on that gold ring felt right.

The optic’s low-profile power adjustment ring is impressively smooth, especially given how tight it is. Over the course of a few weeks the ring broke in a little and became easier to rotate, but it took a little extra finger strength to operate in the beginning.

Under their covers, the VX-Freedom’s polymer turrets were clearly marked. Each click of the turret adjusts the reticle 1/4 MOA up, down, right or left, easily accomplished by hand with Leupold’s Finger Click Dial System. There’s no need for a special tool, super-skinny screwdriver, or pocket change.

As with many capped turret scopes, this model does not allow zero to be reset.

I really like that Leupold chose to forgo O-ring seals and instead uses flat rubber washers. In my experience these seal just as well as O-rings and have more longevity.

The glass in the VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 is phenomenally clear and the duplex reticle exceptionally crisp. It’s one of those scopes you just keep looking through over and over again because it seems to somehow make normal vision ten times clearer.

Leupold also uses Mil-spec lens coatings for excellent abrasion resistance.

Leupold’s proprietary Twilight Light Management System improves low-light shooting while also managing glare on bright, sunny days or in snowy conditions.

Beginning from the right, the series of images above (4x power) were taken at 30-minutes before sunset, 15-minutes before sunset and at sunset on a sunny evening with sunset to my back. Although I could not capture it well enough on camera, the optic brought in more than enough light to hunt almost 30 minutes after sunset.

The VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 isn’t designed to be a dedicated rimfire optic; it can also handle the abuse of centerfire cartridges. But due to its compact size, 4x-power, 1-inch tube, and duplex reticle, I decided to run it on a Henry Repeating Arms Frontier Model Long Barrel 24″, a .22-LR lever action rifle (LAR).

Having previously had great results with the BKL-261 mount on the Henry LAR, I reached for it again.

Once I had the VX-Freedom securely mounted to the Henry Frontier, I couldn’t wait to get it outside.

At the range I set up in a Caldwell Stinger rest, sat down, and found my target at 50-yards.

The VX-Freedom’s clarity at 1.5x is quite amazing and at 4x (above) my camera just can’t do the glass or crisp duplex reticle justice.

After removing the turret caps I began to dial-in the scope. As I rotated the turrets I could easily feel each click-adjustment. Still, the overall feel of the turrets was “mushier” that I expect from Leupold.

Within minutes I was consistently creating 1-inch groups at 50-yards with Federal Premium 40-grain Hunter Match .22 LR. Then it was onto off-hand shooting, smashing every bit of orange clay pigeon left on the 15-yard, 25-yard, and 50-yard berms.

Over the course of several trips to and from the range, over five hundred rounds of various .22 LR, and several show-and-tell sessions, the scope held zero like a champ.

The combination of rifle, optic, optic mount, and ammo have all of my confidence, but the VX-Freedom is now what I enjoy most about the setup.

Leupold continues to impress me with the compact VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 scope. It’s precise with a very crisp reticle, is highly durable and rated for all types of weather and terrain. The turrets and power adjustment ring are tightly sealed yet smooth to operate. This optic’s best feature is the clarity of the glass – it’s quite exceptional, particularly for this price point.

During the time I was testing the optic Leupold released an AR-specific version, the VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 AR, designed for .223 Rem / 5.56 NATO / .308 NATO. The two primary differences between the two models are the reticles and the turrets.

No matter if you’re looking for a top-quality compact adjustable power optic for your rimfire, AR-15, or AR-15 rifle or pistol, Leupold’s VX-Freedom 1.5-5×20 will rise to the task without breaking the bank.

Specifications: Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 Riflescope (Duplex Reticle)

Weight – 9.6 oz
Length – 9.35 in.
Eye Relief (in) – Low 4.17
Eye Relief (in) – High 3.74
Elevation Adjustment Range (MOA) – 125
Elevation Adjustment Range (MIL) – 36.4
Windage Adjustment Range (MOA) – 125
Windage Adjustment Range (MIL) – 36.4
MSRP: $259.99

Ratings: (out of five stars):

Quality: * * * * *
From glass to housing, Leupold’s VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 compact scope is a very high-quality optic. Built with very tight tolerances and finished with a highly durable best-of-class matte black anti-reflective finish, this optic won’t let you down in the field.

Durability: * * * * *
Made from 6061-T aircraft quality aluminum and coated with an excellent matte black external finish as, well as Mil-spec lens coatings; the VX-Freedom can handle abuse from all weather conditions and types of terrain.

Glass: * * * * *
Phenomenal clarity of glass from 1.5x through 4x. The Twilight Light Management System improves low-light shooting while also effectively managing glare.

Reticle: * * * *
The duplex reticle is very crisp. The absence of any hash marks reduces the usability of this AR-rated optic on those platforms.

Power Adjustment Ring: * * * * *
Very tight at first, but still extremely smooth and reliable.

Overall: * * * * *
Once again Leupold has met the mark of high-quality optics, while also managing to offer the VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 at an extremely reasonable price. The VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 scope is highly a recommended option for anyone looking for a very crisp and clear compact variable power optic.

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January 19th, 2017 by asjstaff

The stylish Henry Octagon in .45-70 Government is a hardworking short-range rifle with a quick and smooth action.

 

STORY & PHOTOS BY OLEG VOLK

 

For a cartridge introduced in 1873, the .45-70 Government has enjoyed some serious staying power. The same may be said of lever-action rifles that date back a decade further. The combination of the two, first made in 1881, logically joined two good things into something perennially popular.

Bone Orchard offers a .45-70 Government cartridge with a 300-grain bullet.

Bone Orchard offers a .45-70 Government cartridge with a 300-grain bullet.

Today, several companies make such rifles. Henry offers three models, with the Octagon being the most visually striking of the lot. The fit of the metal and wood is tight, and the finish is even and well applied.

A 22-inch blued octagonal barrel is installed on a brass receiver, with brass buttplate on a straight-grip stock of quality walnut completing the first impression. Weighing in at about 8 pounds, the rifle feels substantial without appearing heavy. For field carry, it comes with sling swivel studs already installed.

The magazine tube holds four cartridges and loads from a port underneath, the same as Henry’s rimfire rifles. While slower than gate loading, this approach is easier on the shooter’s fingers and doesn’t damage soft bullet points. And, considering the power of the .45-70 cartridge, 4+1 capacity is generally sufficient.

The Octagon sports a quality American walnut grain stock and checkering on the grip.

The Octagon sports a quality American walnut grain stock and checkering on the grip.

WHILE HISTORIC .45-70 LOADS used bullets in the 405- to 500-grain range, most modern hunting ammunition is 300 grains. Loads such as Winchester and Federal with expanding bullets develop velocities in the high 1,800s, and recoil is correspondingly brisk. For this reason, a slipon recoil pad is a recommended accessory.

For people who use .45-70 for fun rather than hunting, such as cowboy action shooters, Velocity Munitions sells a mild 1,100-foot-per-second cast-lead load that makes this rifle an absolute pleasure to run. Other companies make more specialized loads, including Hornady with Leverlution polymer-tipped 325-grain, Lehigh Defense with Xtreme Penetrator fragmenting and multiple projectile rounds, and Buffalo Bore with several hot-loaded magnums in the 3,600-foot-pound muzzle-energy range. The magnum loads, however, are not recommended for use in Henry rifles, as regular 300-grain loads only develop 2,600 to 3,000 foot pounds. The intensity of recoil and muzzle rise with the extraenergetic ammunition can get unpleasant.

The magazine tube holds four cartridges and loads from a port underneath.

The magazine tube holds four cartridges and loads from a port underneath.

Accuracy was the same for all three loads tested, an even 3 minutes of angle. Points of impact differed significantly between the full power and the plinking cartridges, as was to be expected. It appears that the barrel band holding the magazine to the barrel has some impact on overall point of aim. When we single loaded each round – cycling them through the magazine – for accuracy testing, the groups were roughly circular. When 4+1 were loaded up, the first shot was always low right, the next two would overlap each other about 1.5 inches away, and the last two would again overlap, another 1.5 inches away, with the three holes forming a straight diagonal line.

While the rifle comes with open sights – brass-bead front post and semibuckhorn rear – the receiver is also tapped for a Weaver 63B or EGW Marlin Picatinny Rail. Having conducted accuracy testing with a 1-4x Trijicon Accupower scope, I would recommend a mildly magnified optic only if you intend to hunt past 75 yards. Up to that distance, and especially for dangerous game, a red dot would be slightly quicker, a little closer to the bore, and more appropriate to the mechanical accuracy of the firearm.

Since the Henry Octagon is intended to be a short-range rifle, the 3MOA dispersion is irrelevant. At 25 yards, it amounts to a 3/16-inch maximum deviation from the point of aim on targets that have much larger vital zones.

The rifle comes with a brass-bead front post and a semi-buckhorn rear sight (shown).

The rifle comes with a brass-bead front post and a semi-buckhorn rear sight (shown).

THE LEVER ACTION ITSELF is quick and smooth, with the trigger crisp but a bit on the heavy side. Again, for a dangerous game rifle, that’s an appropriate design decision that makes accidental discharges under stress less likely. At the same time, it’s unburdened by the dangerously senseless “lawyer” cross-bolt safeties that plague the current Winchester and Marlin competitors. Those block only the striker, making a trigger pull while on safe appear to be a misfire. The Henry has a transfer block, so “safe” is carrying with the hammer down on a live round.

Of the three models Henry offers in .45-70, the All-Weather, the round barrel carbine, and the brass-receiver Octagon, the last is the most stylish. It also brings 4 extra inches of sight radius to the game, along with a slight uptick in velocity and less glare in backlight, thanks to the faceted barrel. It’s also the only one with the oversized lever look for easier use while wearing thick gloves. Strictly from the stylistic perspective, it would look best with some traditional-looking low-magnification scope.

The receiver is also tapped for a Weaver 63B base or EGW Marlin Picatinny Rail.

The receiver is also tapped for a Weaver 63B base or EGW Marlin Picatinny Rail.

Among the rifle’s appeals is its simplicity of maintenance: just open the action and undo the lever retention screw. The lever then comes out, and the bolt follows. For normal cleaning, that is the full extent of the disassembly required.

The Octagon .45-70 is a fashion statement as much as it is a capable tool. But unlike most fashion statements, it’s timeless, eminently practical, and will most likely become a multi-generational heirloom. MSRP is $950.

The Octagon feels substantial without appearing heavy, and weighs in at about 8 pounds. For field carry, it comes with sling swivel studs already installed.

The Octagon feels substantial without appearing heavy, and weighs in at about 8 pounds. For field carry, it comes with sling swivel studs already installed.

For more, see henryrifles.com. ASJ

The Henry Octagon in .45-70 Government is one of three models the company manufactures for that classic cartridge.

The Henry Octagon in .45-70 Government is one of three models the company manufactures for that classic cartridge.

 

 

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , ,

November 26th, 2016 by asjstaff

Lyman has reintroduced their popular #2 for the Uberti 1873 and other lever-actions.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

The current sustained popularity of the guns of the Old West convinced Lyman to reintroduce some of the fine accessories they used to manufacture in the 1800s. That’s a general statement, but it also leads us right into this short conversation about their #2 Tang Sight, which is made especially for the 1873 lever action as manufactured by Uberti.

After installing Lyman’s #2 Tang Sight on his Uberti 1873, the author shot a nice five-shot group.

After installing Lyman’s #2 Tang Sight on his Uberti 1873, the author shot a nice five-shot group.

Lyman patented their #1 Tang Sight in 1879. The #2 followed either very shortly after if not at the same time. The only difference between those two types of sights is that the #1 had the combination apertures, with the fold-down small aperture, and the #2 came with removable discs, a feature that came to be favored by target shooters.

Putting one of these sights on an Uberti copy of the 1873 Winchester will usually require drilling and tapping for the forward sight hole, and Lyman includes directions on how to do that, including tapping the hole for 10-32 threads. I needed that to be done on my Stoeger/Uberti rifle, but that was the only modification I had to make before the sight was installed. Then it was lined up with the open sight before the open sight was removed.

Let me give one tiny warning: be sure the very small Allen screw on the lower part of the upright is good and tight. That’s what holds the sight stem in place.

Shooting with the new tang sight was a blast! I used loads with 200-grain cast bullets over 33 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F black powder. My first group was a bit high, so the sight was lowered. The next group is what you see pictured, five shots in a very tight group. I was aiming at 6 o’clock so the sights were left as is, to hit with a dead-on hold.

Lyman’s list price for one of its #2 Tang Sights is $99.95 and they are available directly from Lyman or most sporting goods stores. The sights are also made for the 1866, 1886, 1894 models, and the Marlins.

For more on the entire Lyman line, visit lymanproducts.com. ASJphoto-1

Posted in Gear Tagged with: , , , , , , ,