The Hi-Lux Leatherwood M-1000 scope doesn’t look like any other optic and it doesn’t work like any other optic. Those big dials at the front allow you to set a cam adjustment tailored to your ammunition, and “frame, aim and shoot,” point of aim, point of impact, out to 1000 yards.
If you have the time to watch this video, it shows you how the scope can be used manually and with the auto-ranging. The guy doing most of the shooting and all the talking is Corbett Leatherwood, the son of the inventor of the original ART scope from Vietnam.
It is based on the ART and ART II scopes from the Vietnam era M21 sniper system, which was an accurized M14. The designer, Jim Leatherwood, updated the technology in 2007 shortly before his death, and his son has carried the technology forward in the M-1000 today.
This is an original M21 system, with the original Leatherwood ART scope, recently for sale on GunsAmerica.
We mounted our Leatherwood M-1000 on the M40 build from Tactialrifles.net that Ben shot into 3″ at 1000 yards. The M-1000 isn’t a piece of antiquity. It is perhaps the best buy in a scope today that you can actually use out to 1000 yards without being a mathematical genius.
These three rings loosen from each other. The middle and scalloped ring use thumbscrews. Do not loosen the screw on the inside cam. This scale, set to 4.4 here, corresponds to a “cam setting” of 440 in the manual. It is the approximate meters that the 18″ boxing square in the reticle will be correct at. Once this is set, you lock the middle ring to the cam.
This is the side view. The cam is an oblong ring that is calibrated to the bullet drop for this setting. When you turn the rings together to frame your 18″ target at distance, the cam raises and lowers the scope on a roller as part of the base.
Those four lines that form a box in the middle of the reticle are your estimating tool. Frame something you known to be 18″ wide or tall downrange and, if your ballistics are set correctly on the “Cam-Puter,” your bullet will hit point of aim, point of impact, with no holdover required. The calculations are done in the geometry of the cam. The extra dots are actual Mil-Dot capable at 10x power besides the auto-ranging system. Note that this is a second focal plane reticle, so the reticle stays the same size and the target size zooms.
I used the Android ap called “Shooter” to give me a ballistics table for my load, and matched it up as closely as I could to the cam setting chart in the manual. All trajectories are not the same, especially once a bullet goes subsonic, so it is best to verify as much of the Cam-Puter reliability as possible.
The Cam-Puter is not the only thing unique on the M-1000. These are capped turrets on the scope. Both windage and elevation have four zero markers, in addition to the zero setting, to hold four different zeroes for 4 different loads or even rifles.
With your cam ring locked to its setting (it is a thumbscrew but a screwdriver is better), you can untighten the thumb screw on the scalloped 2.5x-10x power ring and zoom it in more without disturbing your point of aim, point of impact. Two pins allow you easily re-couple the power ring to the cam ring to re-range for another shot at a different distance.
This is a video of Corbett’s daughters learning and shooting with the scope at distance.
That perpendicular screw sticking out of the back of the rings is to lock the cam ring and its setting ring at one distance so you won’t disturb them by using the power ring. I think there is enough drag from the cam on its roller to prevent accidental movement, and you can leave this screw home. If you don’t want to, the bottom collar tightens down on the cam to make it less likely to fall out.
When it comes to shooting gadgets it is very seldom that I want to jump up and down on my roof and yell “look at this look at this look at this!” But this is the way I feel about the Leatherwood M-1000 scope. I almost wish it was a $2,000 thing, because people would take it more seriously, but though it is based on technology going all the way back to 1970, and the MSRP is $459, with a general street price just under that, it is one of the most excitingly nerdy thingamajigs I have ever encountered in the shooting world. It may be a little ugly compared to the more elegant scopes of today, but this largish awkward looking scope can give you the ability to “frame, aim and shoot, ” point of aim, point of impact between 100 and 1000 meters without ever having to lift your eye from the eyepiece. And you can change from one load to the next, or even one rifle to the next with two minor adjustments. Does that totally rock or does that totally rock?
I have to admit that though I have explained the “Mil-Dot” method of range estimation and bullet drop, every time I encounter the issue I have to go back and re-learn it. Every single time I review the calculations, I ask myself, why isn’t this easier? I can also officially report that I have never actively used Mil-Dot calculations in actual shooting. For me, Mil-Dots have been an intellectual and not a practical shooting exercise. Come to find out, the whole Mil-Dot system was rendered obsolete as far back as the tail end of the Vietnam war.
A man named Jim Leatherwood developed a scope for the M14 sniper rifle, the M21, back in the late 1960s. It was called the ART scope, for “Automatic Ranging Trajectory”. That scope combined all the math of the Mil-Dot range estimation and bullet drop system into a simple “box and shoot” made practical for real shooting and battlefield conditions. If you look in the manual for the M21 sniper rifle, FM-23-10, how to use the scope is actually in the appendix. Many of the original ART I and ART II scopes are still in service today. It takes some learning to understand the concept of how it works, and we’ll get to that, but used correctly, it takes all the math out of range estimation and bullet drop, with no batteries!
Jim Leatherwood returned to later improve the ART design for the military ART II, and then in 2007, shortly before he died, he developed what is today the Leatherwood M-1000, and his son has since taken over the company to continue his dad’s legacy. It is one of the Hi-Lux scopes, and like the others we have seen from this new name in the market, a lot of scope for the money. The major difference between the old ART scope and the M-1000 is that the new scope can be set up for more than one rifle, or more than one ammo on the same rifle, or both. They have taken the “cam” concept from the ART and made it adjustable, using one extra ring.
The founding principle of the ART and now the Leatherwood M-1000 is called “frame, aim and shoot.” It eliminates all calculations for holdover using an oblong “cam” that tilts the scope to a set ballistics drop automatically based on a “box” in the reticle. You frame something you know to be 18″ tall on your target, like the belly button to the chin of a human sized target, or the top two thirds of a normal house window. If you are using for game, the M-1000 manual lists average lengths and heights for common game animals, and you can use these known measurements to automatically range the scope. The manual is a little overcomplicated, but it explains that by framing your target in the box to 18,” you are “telling” the scope how much to compensate for bullet drop at that given distance.
I found that reading the manual out loud to myself while tracking what exactly the letters A-F were in the directions helped a great deal, and the lights went on. I have tried to make sense of it for you using the pictures here, but this is no guarantee you will get it right away. Once you do get it, though, you will have little doubt that this is an extremely advanced system for all snipers and hunting situations, and that you scored what is most likely the most useful scope you will ever own.
With all of the hunting scopes coming out these days that are keyed to a specific caliber, or even custom “tuned” to your specific ballistics with a custom calibration ring (that you pay extra for), the Leatherwood M-1000 ART scope is everything that these custom scopes are, and a lot more. With the custom ballistics scopes you are stuck with the ballistics for that turret, or you can buy another turret. If you want to switch rifles, you buy another turret for that, then re-zero, then re-zero again to put the scope back. The M-1000 doesn’t try to do all of the measurements inside the reticle. The cam is on the outside of the scope. But it makes it so that you can custom tune your ballistics for as many loads as you want, and the capped adjustment turrets will even hold 5 zeros each windage and elevation. The M-1000 is not as elegant as an expensive custom cut turret scope, but in many ways its elegance far surpasses any other scope on the market.
If you look at the ballistics tables in the manual, they are keyed to a cam setting on the scope. If you look in the pictures, it corresponds to those numbers on the middle ring, 2.5-10. This is a little confusing because the power of the scope happens to be 2.5-10x, but that isn’t what these numbers mean. That middle ring is what you loosen to set the scope to your 18″ calculation. The 2.5 to 10 on it corresponds to x100 meters, so for my 150 grain military ball 7.62 (.308 Win.) travelling at 2800 feet per second at the muzzle, I can match up my bullet drop calculations to somewhere between 430-450 in the table, which is 4.3 – 4.5 on the dial. If I set it to 4.4, it will be close to correct out to 1000 yards, and if I take it to the 1000 yard range (which we are doing soon with both the M-1000 and the M-1200), I should be able to bang 18″ targets at any distance I want.
The downside of the M-1000 ART system is its physical size. The scope is very tall because of the cam adjusted base, and the front ring system is nothing short of downright ugly. I think that is why, from what I have seen around the web, most people take pictures of this scope on an M1A. It was designed for this rifle, and the historical significance outweighs the ugliness. If you buy one of these for your own M1A, you will want to get a period correct raised cheekpiece if you want to be able to acquire a proper cheek weld with the M-1000. It is very high. As you can see from our pictures, we set it up on our M40 USMC sniper build from Tacticalrifles.net. It has a raised comb and fits the scope nicely. Once you understand the elegance of the external cam, the scope gets prettier, no matter what gun you put it on.
From a practical perspective, it would be a shame to view this scope through the lens of antiquity. The ballistics chart in the back will match close to whatever your actual drop works out to, and there are also factory ammo specifics for the cam setting for calibers ranging from 17 Remington up through 375 H&H and even the 750 grain Hornady A-Max .50 caliber. To switch from a varmint caliber to a muscle caliber you loosen a thumbscrew, turn the cam, and re-zero the rifle. On the adjusting turrets themselves you can save up to 5 zeros for both windage and elevation. Look in the pictures. This is an amazing feature for those of us who use several bullet weights and brands in the same rifle. You can go from a 180 grain Remington green box to a 150 grain Hornady Superformance with two adjustments, frame, aim and shoot, up to 1000 yards, with no calculations at all, in less than 30 seconds. Amazing, and in 1970 technology no less.
The quality of the M-1000 itself, like the CMR scope from Hi-Lux we have used in past articles, is above its price point, but not perfect. The three interlocking rings on the scope are a little scratchy and heavy when you turn them together, but because you are actually tilting the scope with the cam on a roller, it probably isn’t fair to compare it to the zoom ring on a traditional riflescope where all of the adjustments are inside the tube. Side by side, the glass clarity and light gathering ability of the M-1000 isn’t on the level of the high end scopes, but it is easily as good if not better than other scopes in its price range. Both the 2.5x-10x M-1000 and the 6x-24x M-1200 (the 1200 meter big brother we don’t have one of yet) have 1 inch tubes, and as you can see from the pictures, they come on the custom tilting base that fits any standard rail, or Weaver mounts.
It is important to think of this scope as a “working rifle” tool. If you want to properly set yourself up for real zombies out to 1000 yards, find a range that you can shoot out to at least 250 meters and zero the scope at 250. You can zero it at 100 yards using the top cross line, or hashmark, of the box (see the pictures), but this will be a crude measurement. The ballistics tables in the manual also will not specifically match your bullet drop. I used the Android ap called “Shooter” with generic variables, and my setting was close to a setting of 440, or 4.4, but not dead on. When we take it to the range and Ben shoots it at distance, we will find the exact setting for several loads and switch back and forth between them.
Something I feel I should mention is that screw you see that is sticking out of the back of the rings. Even though it has a locking sleeve on it so you don’t lose it, you may just want to leave it home. Its only function seems to be to lock the cam and cam adjuster ring at a specific distance calculation, and I have no idea why you would want to do that. There is plenty of drag on the rings already to hold them at measurement, and it is easy to decouple the zoom ring from the distance ring once you have your 18″ measurement. If you loosen the thumb screw on the zoom ring, the one with the scallops in it, you can pull it forward and zoom the scope without affecting the bullet drop calculation. That odd perpendicular screw is not even really mentioned in the manual other than to name it as F, the locking thumbscrew. I see it is a superfluous part itching to get lost. These scopes will eventually dry up, or move on to the next version, and become collectable, and you’ll want to not lose that screw.
And above all else with the Leatherwood M-1000 ART scope, when all else fails, READ THE MANUAL! Once you understand the mechanics of the scope it will all seem very natural, but until you do, it may feel like a high priced Rubik’s Cube. For what you get it isn’t really high priced at all, and it may be the last scope you ever buy. We will return with this M-1000 for a range report, and hopefully try its big brother the M-1200 6x-24x as well. It may have taken 40 years for this revolutionary technology to be thought of as revolutionary, but it ain’t no snake oil in optics, and the M-1000 may make you want to jump up and down on your roof too.