Two American sports optics companies. One more than a century old and the other nearing its two-decade anniversary. Both have some of the best optics available on the market, yet have key differences that divide the hunting and tactical shooting community. What are these differences, and what makes each company so successful – Let’s find out!
Vortex Company Overview
Not many people know this, but Vortex optics is less than two decades old. The company was founded in 2004 and has gained an impressive amount of followers and customers in a relatively short time span. In fact, they make some of the Best Quality LPVO Budget Scopes that I’ve tested.
This success can be attributed to the company’s ability to produce revolutionary products in terms of technology while still having an abiding devotion to the traditional guidelines of what makes a rifle scope great.
The company has a tendency to produce optics that is affordable yet still provide high-tier performance. The V Plex reticle has also become very popular with hunters! Their most popular rifle scope product lines are:
- Strike Eagle
In addition to these, they also produce popular red dot sights like the Venom and Viper. They also have binoculars ideal for bird watching. The company is based in Wisconsin, USA and has become of the most popular sports optics manufacturers in the world, let alone the country.
Leupold Company Overview
Leupold optics, established in 1907, has earned the right to be one of the world’s most venerable sports optics manufacturers. The company is based out of Oregon in the United States.
The company has long supplied soldiers, law enforcement agencies, and hunters with optics and other optic equipment. Some more noteworthy defense agencies that have used Leupold’s products include:
- Navy Seals
- Marine Corps
- Secret Service.
Leupold is the benchmark of high-quality rifle scopes most other optic companies strive to achieve. In fact, they make some of the Best Quality 350 Legend Scopes that I’ve tested. Their product lines include the FX, Mark, Competition and VX. In addition to these, Leupold also has a best-in-class red dot sight, the DeltaPoint Pro, and manufactures some of the best binoculars available.
Vortex vs Leupold Main Differences
1) Accuracy & Magnification Range
Probably the most important factor to consider. After all, we, as hunters, want a scope that is reliable and feels comfortable shooting – knowing that it will have an accurate shot placement.
An accurate scope should have a high level of optical clarity, practical eye relief distance, and a good field of view – both Vortex and Leupold’s scopes offer these features. However, the difference comes with reticles, magnification, and additional features that influence the accuracy and magnification. More specifically Leupold’s TMR reticles which really set their scopes apart!
These differences depend on the type of scope you opt for. For instance – a varmint hunting scope will have an illuminated reticle that may or may not have BDC, or it might be a first focal plane instead of a second focal plane reticle.
Both Vortex and Leupold scopes are incredibly accurate and have magnification ranges applicable to the scope’s intended use case – tactical, close-range, or long-range hunting. Vortex has experimented more with different reticle designs than Leupold – Leupold still relies more on the classic Duplex reticle design.
Ultimately, when it comes to accuracy, you can feel comfortable choosing either company’s scopes.
2) Construction Quality
The industry standard for quality construction is a scope manufactured from aircraft-grade aluminum or even titanium in more premium products. These materials allow the scope to be incredibly tough yet lightweight and agile – both companies use these materials for manufacturing their optics.
Both brands pride themselves on creating scopes that feature excellent craftsmanship. Their scope designs are elegant, shooter, and hunter friendly – regardless of whether it is a red dot or a tactical rifle scope.
Personally, I enjoy the Leupold design more as it is more aesthetically pleasing. However, this is completely personal preference. I have run into some Leupold CDS Dial Issues, but they were relatively minor.
3) Where Are These Scopes Made?
When it comes to supporting local, it couldn’t be more true than with rifle scopes. Although both companies are situated in America, Vortex in Wisconsin and Leupold in Oregon, most of the production for their optics components is outsourced to companies outside the USA.
Vortex scopes are mainly manufactured in China and some in the Philippines. However, some premium scopes have glass that is manufactured in Japan and assembled in Wisconsin, but this is the exception.
The Leupold scopes feature a more local approach to manufacturing than their Vortex competitors. The glass for the optics is manufactured in the USA as well as in Japan and Europe. However, Leupold does all the leg work – building, assembling, testing, and packaging each individual scope in Oregon.
Even though both companies do not source 100% of the scope components, Leupold does have an edge for performing more of the manufacturing process on American soil.
4) Price Comparison
This might come as no surprise, but Leupold scopes tend to cost more than a Vortex scope. You can expect an average of $50-$100 more for Leupold scopes within the same tier level as the Vortex scopes.
For entry-level scopes, the price difference is minimal. And Vortex makes some of the best affordable Canik TP9SF Red Dot Sights that I’ve tested. The gap widens for mid-range scopes in terms of the price difference. The high-end scopes have very different price points.
It is important to note that an increase in price does not mean the product is of better quality. Both companies produce high-quality optics, and quality will differ between individual products.
Therefore, a more inexperienced hunter or one with a lower budget might opt for the Vortex instead of the Leupold. But it is evident that as the hunter’s experience increases, they start to prefer Leupold scopes, specifically because of their quality.
5) Durability Comparison
I already mentioned the construction materials of Vortex scopes vs Leupold. High-quality aluminum and titanium increase the scope’s durability without compromising the shooter’s maneuverability when mounted on the rifle or handgun (red dot optics).
In addition, newer scopes are also shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof. Some might even be purged with a gas, typically Argon or Nitrogen, that enhances its fog proof capabilities.
Both companies offer all these durability features in their scopes. However, I found that the Leupold scope is the winner when it comes to optical tube durability. Their design and construction quality are just better. Durability was one of the biggest Vortex Venom Scope Problems that I found in my testing.
When we compare optical lenses, I have to lean toward Vortex. The ArmorTek coatings on Vortex optics enhance light transmission and minimize light reflection. Additionally, the scopes are also less susceptible to scratches.
So, again it is determined by your use case. But if you are a hunter who likes hiking through mountains and are exposed to snow, dust and rain, then the Leupold might be your best bet. However, the Vortex might be a better fit for you if you are a range shooter.
6) Comfort Comparison
Comfort in high-quality rifle scopes is fairly uniform. Therefore, there is not much to separate these scopes from each other in terms of comfortability. However, some small things can influence the overall comfort of the scope.
A scope that minimizes eye fatigue is one I always look for. Additionally, I want a scope that does not have a bulky design. Instead, it should be elegant and lightweight. The turrets should also complement the scope’s design.
I have hunted with both brands’ scopes for decades now, and I must say that Leupold’s scopes are more comfortable. After all, if you are on a 5-day hunting expedition in the mountains, the last thing you want is to get irritated by an uncomfortable rifle scope.
7) Warranty Comparison
Typically with lower-end rifle scopes, people are not concerned that much with warranty. As soon as the scope hits a specific price point, people start questioning the value of the warranty. As it should be, if you pay $500, you want to be reassured that the manufacturer covers any faults in its products.
I personally had to use the warranty card more times than I would care to admit. Therefore, I can really give you, the reader, an honest opinion about my experience with both these companies’ warranty policies.
Leupold and Vortex provide basically an identical warranty policy on their products. The policy ensures a lifetime guarantee, regardless of having proof of ownership or you bought the scope secondhand – the scope will be covered and will be repaired or replaced.
Take note: For Leupold: you have to pay the shipping cost to their workshop, but they cover the shipping cost from their workshop. For both: optics are not covered if you made any modifications to the scope, this includes having it painted.
Most Popular Vortex Scopes
We love comparing Vortex scopes and including them in our top 5 lists because they are so reasonably priced and practical for hunters – we even did an article on the best vortex scopes for deer hunting!
- Low End: Vortex Crossfire II
- Medium Range: Vortex Diamondback
- High End: Vortex Viper HS
- Red Dot Sight: Vortex Venom
- LPVO: Vortex Strike Eagle
Most Popular Leupold Scopes
- Low End: Was: Leupold Rifleman Scope (discontinued) Now: Leupold VX-Freedom
- Medium Range: Leupold VX-3HD
- High End: Leupold VX-6HD
- Red Dot Sight: Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
Vortex vs Leupold Binoculars
I have always preferred Leupold’s binoculars over Vortex. I just find it easier to spot deer in between the brush or caribou against the snow in the mountains. Plus, my arms don’t get so tired from holding the Leupold binoculars as with the Vortex ones. Also, if I told you the abuse my Leupold binocular had to endure, you would scold me. But it still works – which speaks for its durability.
It is important to acknowledge that Vortex has stepped up its binocular game in recent years. But I am still reluctant to switch over from Leupold. Yes, Leupold is more expensive, but I firmly believe that the performance difference justifies paying extra money for the Leupold binocular. Also be sure to read our post on where are nikon prostaff scopes made to learn more about how another competiror produces their optics!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Vortex better than Leupold?
What scope is comparable to Leupold?
Is Vortex a Chinese company?
Does the US military use vortex scopes?
The Bottom Line
Both Vortex and Leupold produce some of the best optics on the market. However, these two companies appeal to different target audiences – Vortex is a more attractive option to budget-conscious and inexperienced hunters. In contrast, Leupold is preferred by experienced hunters who want the best quality optics. There are examples where the target audience overlaps, for instance – the red dot sights. I, for one, enjoy hunting with both optics, yet my personal preference is the Leupold.