December 02, 2019
By Tom Beckstrand
While the Mark 5 line from Leupold may not be its most expensive offering, this family of scopes is my favorite Leupold product. I like Mark 5 scopes because they offer more performance for the money that anyone has a right to expect. I also like the story behind the Mark 5 line. It’s one of good old-fashioned hard work and American innovation.
Ten years ago, Leupold sold hunting scopes and tactical scopes designed to meet military requirements. As a civilian shooter, if I found one of the tactical scopes (Mark 6 or Mark 8) met my shooting requirements, then it was a happy day. However, there were no Leupold scopes designed for civilian precision rifle shooters focused on fun or competition.
There is no special sauce on the military-focused Mark 6 and Mark 8 scopes that makes them extra rugged or allows them to see through walls. They were just designed for the specific size, weight and magnification ranges needed by the special operations community at the time. Other features like turrets and illumination systems were also designed around military requirements.
When I talked to Leupold about the military-centric scopes and why they put so much focus into them, Leupold responded that “we’re an American company and we firmly believe in supporting those that defend our freedom.” I agree 100 percent and am thankful for this approach.However, I was also thrilled to see the Mark 5 come to life because the focus for this line is the commercial market and what it wants. The best example of that are the turrets.
The Mark 8 turrets were designed for a special operations unit that has the authority (and funding) to purchase whatever it wanted. I know the man from that unit who wrote the requirements for the Mark 8 1-8X CQBSS.
He and his unit wanted a turret system that locked in place once dialed. It wasn’t enough to have a turret system lock in the position where it was zeroed; It had to lock in any every position the shooter dialed it.
That made for an enormously expensive turret, because it took a ton of engineering and manufacturing horsepower to make it happen. No one had ever done that before, so Leupold started from scratch.
As a civilian shooter, I don’t want, or need, a turret system like that. I want an exposed elevation turret that locks in the position it’s zeroed and that can be unlocked with the press of a button. It needs to make multiple turns with lots of elevation travel, and give visual and touch indicators showing which revolution it’s on. The turret also needs to be easily slipped to zero once I’ve zeroed the rifle to the scope.
The preceding paragraph describes the Mark 5 turret, and I think it’s a much better turret. The more complexity that’s introduced into something like a turret system, the higher the probability that it won’t work as desired. I want a turret that is simple, reliable and very precise. The Mark 5 beats the Mark 8 and Mark 6 in this category.
I also think the Leupold Mark 5 has better image quality than the Mark 6 and, at a minimum, ties with the Mark 8. When the Mark 8 was first introduced, I spoke to one of the directors at Leupold and learned there was a single lens in the Mark 8 that cost Leupold $800 to purchase from the glass manufacturer. (Leupold makes everything in the Mark 5/6/8 scopes except the glass lenses. Those they design and have made by lens manufacturers.)
That single lens was expensive because it was made from a very uncommon type of glass that, at the time, only existed in small quantities. And was extremely difficult to produce. In the intervening 10 years, that glass type has become much more common and a lot less expensive to manufacture. That very same glass type is all through the Mark 5.
Combining the significant reduction in the cost of materials with how much Leupold learned producing all those Mark 6 and Mark 8 scopes for our special operations folks is what’s allowed Leupold to pack so much performance into the Mark 5 line. Think of it this way: Leupold has more than 100 engineers on staff who come in to work every day. Every day, all 100+ of those folks generate serious skull sweat solving problems and figuring out ways to make a scope better. After 10 years of effort, the product they design and produce today (the Mark 5) should be better than what they designed and produced 10 years ago (the Mark 8) or 8 years ago (the Mark 6), and it is.
Leupold’s newest Mark 5 scope is the 7-35x56mm seen here. It is the very same size as the 5-25x56mm Mark 5, and only weighs 3 ounces more. When 7-35X scopes first started coming out, I thought they would be a niche item and that 5-25X scopes would continue to be the mainstay for all things precision rifle. I was wrong.
7-35X scopes are rapidly gaining on 5-25X models and, in many cases, are outselling the lower-powered optic. I am one of the converts to the benefits of the 7-35X rifle scope. In the case of the 7-35x56mm Mark 5, the shooter picks up an extra 10X magnification on the top end, and only loses 2X magnification on the bottom end.
Like many of you, I buy scopes based on intended application and there are plenty of instances where I want a little more magnification. I haven’t yet had an experience where I wished I had less. This is especially true when comparing the differences between a 5X and a 7X bottom end.
The 7X has 25 percent less field-of-view (FOV) than the 5X, but I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever given the bottom end of my magnification range much thought, other than when hunting. Contrast that with the 10X increase in magnification with the top end. This allows for much better visibility of small objects, better detection of wind speed and direction, and more precise aiming by allowing exact reticle placement on even the smallest targets. Sure, there are times where it’s too hot and there’s too much humidity to use all 35X, but for most of my time shooting the 7-35X I was at or close to the top end. I like to see what I’m shooting at and I’ve learned that 35X isn’t too much.
Every shooter has slightly different needs, but if you’re in the market for a precision rifle scope that’ll be used for dinging steel or shooting tiny groups, look at a 7-35X ahead of a 5-25X. That extra horsepower on the top end has proven useful time and again, and I think your results will be like mine.
Leupold’s 7-35X56mm Mark 5 is their newest addition to the Mark 5 line, and it brings all the latest and greatest technology to an ideal precision rifle scope.
Leupold Mark 5 7-35X56mm Scope Specs
- Power: 7X-35X
- Objective: 56mm
- Tube Diameter: 35mm
- Elevation Adjustment: .1 mil per click
- Windage: .1 mil per click
- Reticle: Tremor 3, H-59, TMR
- Length: 15.7 in.
- Weight: 33 oz.
- Eye Relief: 3.8 in.(high); 3.6 in. (low)
- MSRP: $2990.00
- Manufacturer: Leupold, 800-538-7653, leupold.com
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