Leupold has long been recognized as a producer of quality hunting scopes. Until recently, I was unacquainted with the company’s offerings of tactical riflescopes. In a range test of their new Mark 5 3.6-18 x 44mm scope, I found some great features that are competitive and, in some ways, better than comparable models.
Using a 20 MOA rail mount provided by Leupold, the big scope was installed on a Savage MSR Recon, an AR 15 with a 16-inch barrel. The Mark 5’s 33mm tube and housing for the 44mm objective lens cleared the Picatinny rail with room to spare. A 7075 aluminum housing makes this scope a light 26 ounces for its size; the Recon was perfectly manageable with it.
Approximate zeroing was first done at 25 yards, and having confirmed that rounds were landing on paper, final zeroing was done for 100 yards. Windage was near perfect out of the box. Considering the 20 MOA base and rather diminutive caliber, it was little surprise that elevation required substantial adjustment. In fact, it provided an opportunity to operate one of the scope’s modern features—zero stop adjustment knobs.
For those unacquainted, zero stop dials allow for the windage/elevation knobs’ dials to read -0- in sync with the shooter’s chosen actual zero. This trait of quality, modern tactical scopes makes going back to the last known zero faster and easier, and eliminates a lot of guesswork in the field—assuming a body remembers to return to true zero after making more than a full revolution.
Operating the elevation turret is a joy. It locks down so it can’t be inadvertently moved, but is easily pulled up to rotate. The windage turret is covered by a screw-on cap, a mixed blessing. The cap’s matte surface hides the setup’s white dials, making it less visible in a tactical or hunting situation. But adjustment means unscrewing and keeping track of the cap. Since windage in the field changes dynamically with wind and is normally a hold, not a dialed-in change, the cap is good protection. The picky side of me doesn’t like the mismatched look, but looks really don’t matter!
The Mark 5 as sampled, with the Tremor 3 reticle, has mil-to-mil adjustments and reading, which is to say both the reticle hash marks and windage/elevation click values are set to metric, AKA milliradian, mRAD, or mil, increments. Each smooth click on the elevation knob equals a 0.1 mil adjustment at 100 meters. This is another trait of today’s advanced long-range riflescopes, and much easier to use than many made during the transition of the long-range scope market, in which a milling reticle and minute of angle (MOA) dials were combined on the same scope.
While it’s an intellectual leap to move from the traditional American MOA system to mRAD, it’s even more challenging to keep the hands operating MOA dials while the eyes read mils.
Speaking of the reticle, the Tremor 3 model on the sample scope is now among my favorite “milling” reticles. It’s set on the first focal plane, another advantage for the shooter as the relationship of hash marks to target doesn’t need to change to stay accurate as magnification is altered. Additionally, first focal plane reticles are easier to “read” on target at long distances and/or high magnification as compared to more traditional second focal plane reticles. Not ever reticle in the Mark 5 series is on the first focal plane.
The Tremor 3, a Horus design, is both richly detailed and easy to read at distance. Instead of just hash marks, its X axis has bubble-shaped gradations too, which largely eliminate the need to mentally count “one-two-three-“ and so on when trying to locate a hold, for example 2.5 mils left. Using the Tremor 3 is as intuitive as current technology can make a reticle. It’s as useful in and detailed in terms of precision as the Horus H9, also available on the Mark 5, but faster to use. That’s a huge advantage in the field where targets don’t stand still forever.
A more traditional crosshair reticle called the TMR, the Horus H9, and another “Christmas tree”-like milling reticle, the FFP-CH, are all options on the Mark 5. An illuminated version of the TMR is also an option. Although I didn’t test the others, it’d be hard to persuade me away from the Tremor 3 after this test—it offers the best features of them all for precision rifle work, save for illumination.
The glass on this scope is clear and without perceptible flaws, as we’d expect from Leupold. A side parallax adjustment is included; at 600 yards I could perceive little difference when moving it off the infinity setting, so left it there.
Within 15 minutes of installing the Leupold Mark 5, the little Savage Recon was hitting a 12-inch gong with near-boring reliability, with 55 grain FMJ, in a variable 8- to 12 mph wind. The Mark 5 enabled this AR to perform at a high level with average ammunition, in a short time. On the long-range precision rifle this scope is built to match, paired with only a basic understanding of ballistics, incredible results are within reach for just about any shooter.
The Mark 5 is priced in the ballpark of other precision riflescopes of this type, with the advantage of a wide range of reticle choices. The sample scope, is priced at $2,729.99. The bottom of the price range features the non-illuminated TMR reticle, at $2,399.99, and the same reticle, in the illuminated version, is represented at the top, $2,989.99. Actual retail prices will vary.