Leupold Scope Survives 11 Years in Idaho Wilderness

Leupold has published images of a Weatherby Mark V rifle found in Idaho wilderness after 11 years of being lost. The rifle is equipped with a Leupold scope and the company claims that it is still fog-free and fully functional. The man who found this rifle brought it to a local sporting goods store, where the store owner identified it as his rifle which he lost 11 years ago during a hunting trip.

As you can see the wooden and steel parts show what time and weather can do. However, the scope looks almost as good as if it was newly installed on the rifle. The most interesting part of this story is that the scope remained sealed. Other than that, it could be expected that there would be no corrosion signs on the scope. Wood and steel are materials sensitive to moisture. So sooner or later the finish will be gone and they will start corroding. However, the major parts of the scope are made of aluminum and glass or polymer materials, which are pretty much resistant to moisture. Even rifle scopes dug out from WW2 battlefields usually have intact glasses despite the broken seal.

Scoped Mauser rifle from WW2 battlefields

These kind of stories are perhaps excellent marketing tools or proof of the quality for hunting scope manufacturers. A couple of years ago Zeiss published a similar story with their scope.

Zeiss scope

It would be interesting to see what would happen to a rifle with a stainless steel barreled action and polymer stock. Possibly it would stay in almost original condition if left in the woods for a decade.

Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at Hrachya@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • Anonymoose

    Wow…the scope is the only thing on that rifle that doesn’t look like crap. The patina actually makes it look pretty classy. I would re-mount it on another rifle and scrap the rust heap.

    • Raptor Fred

      Agreed. Now it will be interesting to see guns with a nitrided finish left out. See if we have the same extent of rust and pitting on the metal surfaces. Im sure there are some good pics of Glocks that were thrown into lakes and recovered. To me It’s just kinda neat to see rifles like this with all of the different materials in different states of decomposition.

      • ProLiberty82

        My biggest peeve with modern firearms is that they are not all nitrided at this point, when the most common pistol in the world that costs around $400 comes with that finish why can’t my $1500 bolt rifle too!?

        • Ted from American Rifle Company did extensive testing of his Mausingfield design and he didn’t want to handle the liability of catestrophic failure of a brittle failure. He went with the lower temp DLC process over Salt Bath Nitride. Maybe TFB should do an article on That?

          • ProLiberty82

            I don’t know about his designs but I know there are a plethora of modern mil-spec rifles that have no problems running nitrided in full auto without causing catastrophic failures during their service life.

            It might be some guns truly are made in ways where nitriding would be problematic (C96?) but I have a suspicion it’s just the cost of setting up a station, prepping guns and waste disposal etc that leads to the usual “Um guise our baked on finish we bought from Brownells is super guud and ur not military bro, clean and take care of ur guns dude, if it rusts ur an idiot mkay”

        • codfilet

          The kind of guy who would buy one of those Weatherby hunting rifles would want that deep, shiny blue finish.

          • ostiariusalpha

            You can still blue a nitrided gun.

        • Aaron

          All depends on the quality of the company that does the nitriding such as the pre-nitriding cleaning of the steel as well as the post treatment. I have had three separate barrels and two had an excellent qpq process, the other not so much. The bitter irony was the two with the better came from a much smaller shop than the one with the bigger name backing it.

        • James

          I tend to agree but it still wouldn’t save your bore which is the most crucial part really.

    • Giolli Joker

      Gorgeous plum bluing indeed!
      Leupold should make it a factory option, think of it on a O/U Express rifle with charcoal blued side plates.

    • Christopher Wallace

      that rust heap could be brought back pretty easily to animal deading gat status

  • Dougscamo

    Kinda takes “Dude, where’s my car” to a whole new level…for me anyway

    • roguetechie

      I had to drive my 16 year old brother around the city one morning in an attempt to find his car…

      His friends gave him “special mushrooms” on his pizza the night before. So, after a night spent taking destroyed pens that he’d bite open and sling around. I made him ride around looking like he bit the face off a live octopus and got sprayed with ink, looking for that damn car!

      • Dougscamo

        SOOO THAT’S where Mello Mushrooms got its reputation!

        • roguetechie

          At the time the situation was anything but funny, and I never really bought the whole they dosed my pizza story…

          Now that it’s been 10 years though every time the family gets together the story gets told and even mom laughs hysterically!

          I wasn’t the mean big brother though, after we found the car and got it back I helped him clean the car and scrub the ink off the bedroom walls!

  • M.M.D.C.

    Not to nitpick, but aluminum will corrode when exposed to the weather. The scope has been anodized to prevent this. I have heard of poorly anodized reproduction car trim oxidizing in a year, so leupold has some bragging rights there also.

    • Swarf

      Well, if you want your nits microscopic: aluminum is corrosion resistant precisely because it is always oxidized: it has an oxide layer about 4 nanometers thick. This layer prevents further corrosion.

      When I weld it, I have to scrub aluminum with a wire brush just prior to welding to remove this oxide layer because it’s melting point is much higher that the non-oxide layer just beneath it.

      You may know all about that already.

      • Sunshine_Shooter

        If we are going to pick nits, your scrubbing only exposes new aluminum which immediately becomes oxidized as soon as an oxygen molecule contacts it. It may weld much easier because the oxide layer is like 1 molecule thick instead of several nanometers, but it is always oxidized.

      • M.M.D.C.

        The aluminum trim on my 48 year old truck looks pitted in places. Perhaps this is due to impurities.

        • Swarf

          Oh no, I wasn’t saying it doesn’t corrode, you’re definitely right with everything in your post.

          I was just relating some info about welding and oxidation, and adding to the descending size of the nits.

          Just like SunshineShooter, who is of course also right about the fact that the scrubbed aluminum immediately oxidizes (because, you know, oxygen).

          I’m sure someone else will find an even smaller bit to pick.

          • M.M.D.C.

            Right. I understood. I was just surprised to see pitting, which I hadn’t seen on aluminum before. This is on and old Camper Special truck that had a camper on it for decades, causing condensation in some places. Funny thing is that it was in southern California so there is no rust on any of the steel body but fairly pronounced pitting on the anodized aluminum trim. Weird.

          • Brasstard

            Aluminum corrodes very quickly over here in the desert if it’s buried. I have seen those aluminum tent stakes used by the army oxidize away in a few years if left in the ​ground

          • M.M.D.C.

            Interesting! I wonder if dust and condensation would have a similar effect. The pitted areas on my truck are on the back window and around the tail lights. This is what my truck looked like with a camper, so those areas would have been quite dusty and prone to condensation. (Sorry about the non-gun related rabbit trail here.) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/038c54d5bc8bb2aab62a25a20c375526873f48402c43ba72d261a2cc2420c997.jpg

          • Swarf

            Classy ride!

          • jim

            That model truck, in the same color, was the first vehicle I ever bought! (Was an F250. but it didn’t have the side trim strips) Your picture brings back some memories.

          • M.M.D.C.

            It’s a fun truck to drive. It has all the old-school design but it’s safe to drive at interstate speeds. You should pick one up before they become ‘collectible.’

          • BraveNewWhirled

            Nice rig.

          • Jerry McBurney

            I bet you when you see all the pitying other things from being buried or on vehicles it’s because you’re having galvanic corrosion

          • Winner there. Marine boat building, fabrication and commercial fishing is the family business. I did 13 years of that. I’ve seen “50,000 years to degrade in the environment” pop cans crumble to lace in 4 day periods in an inflatable boat with a couple odd pieces of metal in the same puddle. Aluminum will plate itself onto anything else and end up as dust pretty quickly. Also, I’ve seen defective cold rolled Alcoa aluminum that basically had layers like damascus steel. Normal Alu is hot rolled, and Alcoa thought they had a sneaky way to save energy. That resulted in boats in which random panels of the hull turned to flakes you could crumble with your hand in a 2 year period. The fissures could be 4 feet wide sheets that enter one side of a plate and exit the other side 10′ further down the sheet. That means there’s a wavy plane of crumbly crud almost as big as a sheet of plywood running through there. Aluminum with that flaw can plate off of itself onto itself, leaving flaws where the metal etches away. those flaws draw in moisture and electrolyte via capillary action and accelerate the process.

          • BraveNewWhirled

            I wonder if that has anything to do with the silica interacting with the aluminum.

          • Phillip Cooper

            This is why you use AC to weld AL. The different parts of the waveform alternately blast the crap off the aluminum, then fuse it.

            I’m MASSIVELY oversimplifying this, of course. But yeah, AL oxidizes pretty darn quick.

        • MrBrassporkchop

          That’s what my guess would be.

      • Jerry McBurney

        I can weld it without brushing it

        • Swarf

          You can, and to be honest, I often do, but your arc has to punch through that top layer. I don’t recall the numbers of the top of my head, but the difference in melting points is significant, and this can lead to push-through and increased puddle drop (not just for old guys!). You also risk pushing contaminants in to your weld.

          Having said all that, I build scenery, not airplanes, and I am not rigid in my rules. If I’m in a hurry, the application isn’t critical and I’m welding material that is a mid thickness, I often won’t bother brushing.

          If I’m building something that will be overhead or that will take a person’s weight– like truss– I don’t be in a hurry, use the brush before and after, and inspect every weld.

          • Jerry McBurney

            I weld high visual stuff and stuff that ppl walk on, with ac there is no need to brush it. Ten years of welding

  • nuartyboy

    How do you “lose” a rifle?

    • GaryOlson

      I’m guessing you don’t have any grey hair yet?

    • Swarf


      • Al Shartpants

        A friend of mine lost a 5,000 dollar 338 Lapua AR10 with a 5,000 dollar night vision scope on a night we both drank way too much. Fortunately for him, I ended up finding it over the side of a road bank. It had a nice camo covering of gravel and gravel dust and could have easily stayed hidden there for years..

    • Person

      You ever lost your car keys? Phone? Knife?

      • Drew Coleman

        Guns are a lot bigger and harder to lose.. Plus more expensive.

        • TheNotoriousIUD

          Plus, if youre out in the woods hunting its kinda the most important thing you have, like the one item you should constantly be in mind of.
          Thats Jim Beam for you.

        • Mike Homcha

          Hell, I’ve lost my car after a long night at the bar.

          • Humpy

            Lmao, been there done that when I was young and stupid.

    • jamezb

      Easy – it falls out of a 4 wheeler sheath or saddle scabbard mounted behind the rider and its absence is not noticed for miles.

    • Just Say’n

      I’ve heard of people shooting a deer (or elk, moose, etc), packing out the meet and leaving the gun hidden to come come back for it later, never to find it again. Not the smartest choice, but maybe in a life-threatening situation where it’s you or the gun?

      • Smedley54

        Mountain Man plans and Tweety-Bird legs mean the load has to lghten.

    • RobertNorwood

      Exactly. Didn’t want to burst everyone’s bubble. Thanks for bringing it up first. I mean, I can see – maybe – a pistol, but a rifle? Good thing he wasn’t alone with hungry Grizzlies sniffing around.

    • Jerry McBurney

      Ok mr perfect

    • Humpy

      Falls out of a scabbard, especially riding horse or mule, happens more than you think.

    • BeoBear

      I still remember during basic training when a soldier lost his rifle during training one day. Somehow he managed to make it all the way back without anyone noticing. Wasn’t until the armory guys were taking inventory that they realized the rifle was missing. They woke everyone up (around 3am iirc), even those not in his training company like us, marched them out on the parade grounds and made us stand there while they took the guy out with a bunch of other people to search for it.

      Apparently he admitted that he decided to take a nap and set his M16 up against the tree he was under. When he woke up he realized he was in trouble and panicked running back to his platoon minus the rifle. He was too scared to tell anyone he lost the gun and I guess he figured once the guns were turned in nobody would know what happened. He obviously wasn’t too bright to begin with and never considered the fact that he signed one out but never signed it back in so getting caught was inevitable. They let us all go just in time to get ready for the day so it took them 2-3 hours to find it.

      We were told that it happens almost once a year. They said they lock down the entire base until it’s found but I don’t know how true that is. Something about having an unaccounted for automatic weapon gets them all bunged up lol. I don’t know what kind of trouble he got in but i’ll bet it sucked to be him.

      • jaeger

        we had to walk back our entire company (a couple of miles) search the woods including a bog. all for ONE special saboted round to a .50cal

        we did not find it and everyone that had handled the fiddy were interrogated by our state police

        those guys didn’t feel so special after that 😛 they had had somewhat of a holier than thou attitude before that and after that extra march and search everybody hated them, I even think their families were called

        sorry didn’t want to sound one-uppity, just a similar funny story

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Im guessing his rifle went missing soon after his sobriety.

  • Aaron

    400 series Stainless will still succumb to rust. I have personal experience with that.

    • SGT Fish

      YEP! it is Stainless, not stainPROOF!
      it rusts for sure, try titanium, might have better results. the titanium parts of the aircraft I work on seem to hold up well. Aluminum corrodes to white powder

  • .45

    Eh, I have an Arisaka that looks that rusty and still works. I’d try cleaning that puppy up and seeing if it shoots alright. Heck, if the bore isn’t shot (see what I did there? Haha), then the scope might still be zeroed.

  • Jim

    Call me a skeptic, but isn’t that a great coincidence that the guy who found the rifle brought it in to a random sporting goods store who’s owner just happened to be the owner of that rifle? Sounds to me that the store owner was sniffing a dollar for the advertising rights. I think I would have the local police run a serial number trace through BATF to confirm ownership. Just sayin’……..

    • Bierstadt54

      I was thinking the same thing.

    • milesfortis

      ATF? hah. They’d go to Weatherby, who would start them down the line until they got to the first retailer.
      The Sporting good store owner? FFL Dealer; Right? Acquisition and Disposition Bound Book and Personal Collection record book. Right?

      Yep, I would bet he had the entry when he got the rifle delivered and entered into his record book, then signed it out to his personal collection, just like the regulations call for.
      Just sayin’.

      • jcitizen

        Yep, that was how I did it, when I had an FFL!

        • milesfortis

          We can only hope all FFL dealers do such, because the BatBoyz have no sense of humor when it comes to following their precious regulations.

          • jcitizen

            Yeah they give you a lot of hell if you get inspected and the records are not perfect; I’ve been on the butt end of that situation before.

  • 22winmag

    So there are lot of scopes “better” than Leupold you say?

    Hit your better scope with a hammer, roll it in the sand, freeze it, bake it, abandon it, then report back to me.

  • mazkact

    Ya that’s my rifle, that’s it see it. Don’t believe me ? Just ask my wife Morgan Fairchild.

  • Arie Heath

    Ah yes, i too lost all my guns in an unfortunate hunting accident.

    • Ben

      I had a similar situation as you except it was a tragic boating accident on a white water river. They just got swept away. Dang it.

  • Rogertc1

    They are great scopes.

  • c azook

    I am amazed that they are able to cycle the Bolt on the rifle!

    • Matthew Zagone

      Where did it say that?

  • 1inidaho

    How does one lose a rifle? Just wondering.

    • comatus

      I have been told that a canoe is usually involved in some way.

  • RobertNorwood

    It’s a great story but not unusual for really good optical device makers. I once found a small pair of French made opera glasses in the moss below a forgotten escarpment in our town forest. It had been there most likely since the late 19th Early 20th Century based on it’s all brass design and features: ivory eye cups & focus wheel – no wood. I cleaned it off and it worked fine.

  • Spear Fish
  • Sam

    I”m sure… the guy finds a rifle, takes it to a gun shop, and it just so happens that it belonged to the gun shop owner, so he could testify it was lost for 11 years, Riigghhttt!!! What a load!!!!

    • jcitizen

      You forget that the gun shop owner has to keep impeccable BATF records on every serial numbered gun both in inventory, and what is sold for 20 years. I’m sure he had the paper to back up his claim – easily.

  • treebasher

    “An action needs to have a margin of safety to resist the dangerously high loads resulting from misuse. The margin of safety stems from both proper design and proper heat-treatment of the steel from which the action is made. Therefore, the Mausingfield action must never be subjected to temperatures above 400°F (204°C) for any reason, because doing so will significantly weaken it and compromise its safety margin. The Mausingfield must not be subjected to high-temperature surface treatments such as ferritic nitrocarburizing or salt-bath nitriding, because such treatments are conducted at temperatures ranging from 900-1200° F (480-650° C). These treatments are marketed under several trade names, including Nitrotec®, Tufftride®, Tenifer®, QPQ®, and Melonite®. While these finishes might be suitable for some firearms, they are not suitable for the Mausingfield and may not be suitable for other bolt actions either. Remember, safety margins are established so that you will not be seriously injured or killed in the event that you do something really stupid or careless. Under no circumstances should you subject any American Rifle Company firearm to an environment that will reduce its safety margins.”

  • John Cheek

    UH! I don’t know about everyone else, but my biggest problem with this is, being former military, WHAT THE HELL IS THE DEAL WITH ALL THESE RIFLES BEING “LOST” IN THE FIRST PLACE ?!?!

    • jcitizen

      R. Lee Ermey forgot to make them drop and do 20 when they did it the first time! 😉

  • John Cheek

    You notice they don’t provide any views THROUGH the scope.

  • disqus_1IXWD6GbBr

    And nobody asks “how does one simply lose their hunting rifle?”
    Sat down to rest while hiking out, put it down and got up walking away, then days later “Oh hell, where did I put that rifle again?”
    Seriously, HOW?!?

    • maodeedee

      How? Maybe he was eating some of the wild mushroom that grow there.