Leupold Mark 5HD Review with Tracking Test

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.

SPECS

Weight (oz)26
Linear FOV (ft/100 yd) – Low28.4
Linear FOV (ft/100 yd) – High5.8
Linear FOV (m/100 m) – Low9.45
Linear FOV (m/100 m) – High1.92
Eye Relief (in) – Low3.54
Eye Relief (in) – High3.82
Eye Relief (mm) – Low90
Eye Relief (mm) – High97
Weight (g)737
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) – High2.4

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.

Visit Leupold for more information by clicking Here.

***Shop GunsAmerica for your next Leupold optic***

 

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Frank Pelaez April 18, 2019, 1:37 am

    You have an excellent weapon nuff said!!!!!

  • Chris Burns December 28, 2018, 8:17 pm

    It amazes me to read all the comments from people who say 10 or 15 years ago this or that. Times have changed and so has the cost of everything. While most would consider a $2k optic ultra high end, they are out of touch with reality. A base model entry level car now costs $20k when 15 years ago an entry level car was sub $10k. If all one is doing is plinking at the range or using an optic for their annual deer hunt and rarely shoot past 300m they won’t have a need for a Ferrari. However if someone has embraced PRS and loves the competition this optic isn’t much above an entry level optic. In today’s sports and pastimes you have to pay to play. Don’t even try to delude yourself into thinking you could be competitive at 800m with your 15 year old Nikon/Redfield/Bushnell, etc… Many of the optics used in long range shooting and the tCtical world are $3-4K plus. Just because one doesn’t have the need to take out a human target at +1000m doesn’t mean they can’t desire to have the skills. It’s not about the need but about the desire to push yourself to be the best you can and challenge yourself to see how far you can go. Slingblade has it right. If you don’t have the need or desire to ever purchase anything like this why read about it and then comment about what a waste of money it is? If you didn’t find anything useful or informative because you’ll never have the need for anything like this why not just scroll on and shut up?

  • BigD1964 December 24, 2018, 2:07 pm

    I agree with Clay on the use of a high end scope. I’ve been shooting precision rifle for nearly 10 years and I didn’t start out with the rig I have now. I began with a Rem 700 in .308 and a Vari-X 3 in 3.5 -10. If I did my part it was sub moa with handloads-and I was hooked. Next I sent it out to be tried, rebarrelled (still 308) and chassisied. Next, a trigger and a Nightforce scope and we moved to half moa. After selling that rig I purchased a used AI AT in 6.5 CM (I’m the third owner) and added a Vortex Razor 2 in 4.5-27 and the difference is remarkable. After some time I found the right load and that rifle and it’ll shoot 1/4 moa if I do my part. We shot a three round group at the 600 yard range in Nevada that the instructor measured at 1”! To me, the journey into precision rifle was very interesting and worth what it cost. Thank you Clay for the great articles you’ve written.

  • Slingblade July 30, 2018, 11:10 am

    I can’t help but chuckle at all the “opinions” about why a scope like is just so unnecessary. YES, DUMMIES…if you are the average schmuck who shoots his .22 at varmints/beer cans and occasionally grandpa’s old .270 with the 30 year old Bushnell 3-9x sitting top at a deer or two (and yes DUMMIES I know you can hit a deer right square in the eye with it every time…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH). That is just about as stupid as going to a Cycling forum to read about high end $10k racing bicycles like those ridden in the Tour de France and then start ranting about how bad-ass your BMX bike was when you were a kid and how that’s all they need as well…LMAO!!!

    • mark February 18, 2019, 10:29 pm

      Thank you sir for writing this. I am both a shooter and a cyclist. you are so spot on with your comment. And, interesting the cyclist argue more for the 10K bike making all the difference than the cheap bike…but then dont go out and ride. Thanks for the great chuckle as I needed that. And providing the sharp wit of human behavior

  • Jay July 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

    The tracking seems way off at the bottom of the card board. Eyeballing it shows about 0.25 mil off at 14 mil making it 1.8% off. I would expect better for a scope at this price range. Am I mistaken?

  • DIYinSTL July 24, 2018, 10:09 am

    Level is horizontal, plumb is vertical. Though I guess you could draw a line “Level with the earth” and check windage tracking too.

  • Guido July 23, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Hello, Clay

    I may not truly need a scope like that, but I would appreciate the challenge of being able to use one to nearly it’s capabilities.

    I’ve begun accumulating some equipment to that effect, and wish I had read your review prior to purchasing my “longest range” scope.

    Bravo, Sir, on the book.

  • DKD July 23, 2018, 3:06 pm

    I like reading about Ferraris, I like pictures of the Mona Lisa, I like reading about $10K Mausers and $2k+ scopes. BUT. Even if I had the money, which I don’t, I would NEVER consider paying that kind of money for any of those things. I kind of get the Tactical Ninja crowd, they’re a lot like Ferrari drivers, the image seems to be as important as the act, however, daddy didn’t raise a fool, “keep it simple” and “keep it real” were his favorite phrases and words I still live by. I liked the story, I liked the gear, but don’t blow smoke up my ass, the stuff is extreme, in performance and price, but it’s not a “deal” and it isn’t necessary, just like a Ferrari. I shoot just about everything from Ar’s to Encores, micro derringers to scoped Contenders and I have a whole lot of real world fun with them, I’d probably really like a sniper rifle too…I just can’t justify spending that much money to fix, what is for me, a non-existant problem.

    • Slingblade July 30, 2018, 10:53 am

      If you were racing a Ford Pinto then yes a Ferrari would be overkill, however if you are lined up against another super-car in an actual race (match) then not so much, because you will in fact lose every single time. I fail to see the relevancy of anything you have said. If a Bushnell (Pinto) is your thing then so be it, but what the hell does that have to do with this article? Why do you read (comment) about stuff that you would never consider buying and think to be just foolish image items?

  • Charles M Lamb July 23, 2018, 1:01 pm

    I too have had 4 700 Remington bolt guns, all purchased well over 20 years ago. Out of the box, scoped, all would shoot under MOA. I had 700 in 17 Remington that was an absolute tack driver, shooting an incredible 1/4 MOA, and with no mods to the gun.None of these firearms costed anywhere near 1000 bux. Mostly in the 450 buck range. I’ve learned that unlike the real gun writer like Col Cooper, today its all about the sale of the week, or day. Whatever is tested is a buy.

  • Charles July 23, 2018, 10:07 am

    Let me say first, I am a hunter/shooter and surely like accuracy in rifles and scopes. I am also about fed up with all this “tactical” stuff. I understand this stuff is really neat but for the average shooter not very practical. I understand also that we have real snipers out there that need this higher tech gear. The various government agencies pay for most of their equipment. But the average guy just can’t afford this equipment…and the average guy just can’t shoot well enough to use this kind of stuff. I know I will get a bunch of flak\about this post. A lot of people are going to buy this high end stuff and they are going to be 2000 yard shooters right off the bat. For the average and even great shooters out there that isn’t really true and if you are a hunter is way past the ability of most shooters and the rifle/cartridge for ethical hunting situations. We have very few shooters that need to even think in the terms of sniper. Yeah I have been involved in the business of shooting at and getting shot at. Not what I consider a great lot of fun. Yep this is neat equipment and not very practical for us normal every day shooters . I mean a cost of 3 times that of a rifle?

  • NormB July 23, 2018, 9:39 am

    “Even 15 years ago, you would be lucky to match that at any price outside of a benchrest rig. ”

    Ahem.

    20 years ago, I paid $750 for a new in box Remington 700 PSS with a 24 inch barrel and detachable mag (I later had a Badger bottom put in so I could use higher capacity magazines) – seller threw in a dozen boxes of .308 ammunition from milspec to hunting loads of various kinds.

    I bought rings, scope base and a Leupold scope for about $1200.

    That setup, for less than $2,000 shot under one-half MOA with factory loads, better with hand loads.

    If the point of shooting is to have the bestest, biggest, priciest stick at the range, deep pockets will always win that game.

    One doesn’t NEED a $15,000 Perazzi shotgun to play at skeet or trap, nor a $400,000 Lambourghini to do the daily shopping or commuting.

    Point being – I made my point.

  • triggerpull July 23, 2018, 9:25 am

    Once again nice review–I never thought about the mils check technique check you mention–thanks for that. I don’t know much about optics manufacturing–but I’ve been told that wider tube optics–anything wider than 1″ tube–is extremely difficult for the manufacturer to cut the lenses to accurately function through the range of magnifications–thus the tendency to keep things in the “easy” dimension of 1″ tubes.

  • Ron Dennis July 21, 2018, 5:06 am

    Check out Athlon Optics. They are new to me, but I took a chance on their Cronus BTR 4.5-29×56 Model which has APLR first focal plane illuminated MOA reticle. Awesome glass!

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