As optics companies strive for ever better and cheaper scopes, a clear winner has emerged. The consumer. We live in the golden age of optics and weapons, as evidenced by this weeks test of the Leupold Mark 5HD. At a combined cost of under $4000 for optics and rifle, using .60 cent per round ammo, I was able to test a sub half MOA weapons system. Even 15 years ago, you would be lucky to match that at any price outside of a benchrest rig. Obviously, I think a lot of the Tikka T3 TAC A1 and Hornady ammo. I have written about both of them at length. So when it comes time to prove out an optic, that is my platform of choice.
In the hot seat this week was the Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18, relatively new to the market. Leupold was looking to hit the sweet spot at an MSRP of$2300, a price that can be reached by normal humans without a trust fund. That might seem pricey if you are used to sub $500 hunting scopes, but in the world of precision long range, it is a bargain. A quick glance at the PRS circuit would show this level of investment to be about the average. As for more expensive scopes, of course, they exist. But most people can’t afford them, me included. To put that in perspective, I was a military sniper for two decades, and I don’t own a scope priced past $2500 either. Thiry seconds spent on Google revealed that you can actually get one of these Mark 5HD’s purchased for $1799.99 with FFP TMR reticle which is a true bargain.
When it comes to glass you have to be able to see the target to shoot it. The glass in the Mark 5HD is stunning and based on memory only, right there with the glass in the Leupold Mark 8. You won’t be disappointed. The glass is on par or better than the very best.
The absolute most important feature after durability is how a scope tracks. Durability is first because a scope that won’t hold zero is useless. It might as well be binoculars. It is generally difficult to test though unless you are willing to go all the way to full destruction in the process. So time will tell on the MK5 for that one.
Tracking on the other hand, we can test. Why does it matter? Tracking is like a speedometer in your car. It has to be right. In an age of ballistic calculators and laser range finders, a lot of unknowns have been removed from long range shooting. Those firing solutions have an Achilles heel though. In order for your data to work in the real world, your input adjustments to the scope have to be correct. The number one problem I see when shooters swear to me that a ballistic calculator is wrong is the scope tracking. And regardless of price, a lot of scopes out there today absolutely fall apart after about 8 mils of travel including ones that cost over $2500.
A tracking test is a relatively simple affair to construct. Set up a very tall target ( with a very tall backstop), and use a level to draw a straight line. Level with the earth, not your overgrown popsicle sticks. Then draw lines every 3.6 inches or 10 centimeters, depending on your use of yards or meters for zero. Zero on the bottom dot. Then, still using the bottom dot as a point of aim, add one mil to your turrets and shoot again. So on and so forth until your scope tops out.
A properly tracking scope should impact every line, in a straight line up, within the capability of your rifle and ammo. And super good news, the Mk5 passed with flying colors, all the way to 15 mils.
So, with the mechanical necessities out of the way, how about the rest of the package? In that regard, the Mk 5 is packed with goodness. The glass is remarkably clear, even at the edges. The zero stop is the easiest to set of any scope I have reviewed. And most important for me, it comes with a Horus reticle as an option.
The zero stop feature is one of the easiest to set and is secured mechanically. Off zero, a simple button press lets you rotate the elevation. The windage turret is capped, the preferred method of most modern shooters. The parallax knob is thin but large in diameter, and quite easy to use.
The biggest breakthrough on this scope is the weight. Leupold advertises it as 20% lighter than the competition, and I believe it. It is almost unbelievable to hold in your hand and is sure to be popular amongst people that carry rifles for a living. That kind of thing might not matter much from your truck to the bench, but it matters a lot at 6000 feet and ascending on foot. As you can see in the photo, it weighs 1.59 pounds or 25.44 ounces which is absolutely incredible.
One strange thing about the Mark 5HD is the tube diameter. We have seen the popular size of scopes jump from an inch, to 30mm, to 34mm. The Mark 5HD is a 35mm, the price of 29 mils of internal movement in elevation. I was initially a little stressed out about that until I consulted the Badger Ordnance website. Badger Ordnance is one of the brands I trust for “hell and back” scope mounts, left over from my military days. And, when you are shooting for precision, rings are just as important as the scope. Badger makes several options in 35mm, any of which are guaranteed to get the job done. Leupold, among other companies, also makes 35mm rings.
Another interesting bit of engineering is the size of the elevation knob. Having used it, I don’t count this as a positive or a negative, it is just different. Instead of being an even 10 mils per full rotation, it is 10.5. No big deal if you know that going in, or if you are counting your clicks anyway. But it does look a little odd to go back around to zero and add 5 clicks to be at 11. The windage and elevation clicks are .1 mil, which I also count as a positive.
|Linear FOV (ft/100 yd) – Low||28.4|
|Linear FOV (ft/100 yd) – High||5.8|
|Linear FOV (m/100 m) – Low||9.45|
|Linear FOV (m/100 m) – High||1.92|
|Eye Relief (in) – Low||3.54|
|Eye Relief (in) – High||3.82|
|Eye Relief (mm) – Low||90|
|Eye Relief (mm) – High||97|
|Elevation Adjustment Range (MOA)||100|
|Elevation Adjustment Range (MIL)||29.1|
|Windage Adjustment Range (MOA)||80|
|Windage Adjustment Range (MIL)||23.3|
|Exit Pupil (mm) – High||2.4|
Overall, I like the Mark 5HD, a lot. The 18x is dimensionally short and compact, which is awesome combined with it’s light weight. It’s only 12.06 inches long! Mechanically, it worked perfectly, which is all you can ask. The glass clarity is fantastic, something we expect from the Leupold name. Overall, this scope is the one to beat in the $2000 price range. If you feel like really stepping up, it is available in a 5-25x as well for an extra $250.
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