Gear Guide: Leupold Riflescope Roundup

Gear Guide: Leupold Riflescope Roundup

In 1907 Fred Leupold set up shop at 5th and Oak Streets in Portland, Oregon. Soon joined by his brother-in-law, Adam Voelpel (and a bit later by John Stevens), the company didn't make riflescopes in those days. Although scopes existed, they weren't in much demand. In fact, it wasn't until after Fred Leupold's death that Leupold made their first riflescope, but his slogan remains in the corporate culture: "The customer is entitled to a square deal."

The first commercial Leupold riflescope was the 2.5X Plainsman, introduced in 1947 after Marcus Leupold missed a shot at an Oregon blacktail due to fogged lenses. He figured he could make a better scope than that, and the legend began. Today, this homegrown (now fifth-generation) Oregon company has become a world power in sporting optics.

Life was simpler in the 1960s when I owned my first Leupold scope. It was a fixed-power 2.5X, still a fairly standard optic for the day. But things would change. Today, between hunting/shooting and tactical lines, Leupold offers something like two dozen lines of magnifying scopes — excluding reflex "red dot" sights and nonmagnifying scopes. To encapsulate what's offered, we've rounded up some of the best Leupold riflescopes on the market.

HOG Riflescopes

Inspired by the growing interest in hunting wild hogs, Leupold'™s two HOG scopes — 1-4x20mm and 1.25-4x20mm in a 30mm tube — have VX-1 optics with a BDC reticle specially designed for hog hunting. Although designed as a special-purpose scope, the HOG scopes are pretty darned-good dangerous-game optics. I have one on a CZ 550 .375, and it'™s great for close to medium range on boar — or anything else.

Mark 4 CQ/T

The CQ/T is the fourth scope in Leupold'™s extensive Mark 4 tactical line, the 'œCQ' denoting Close Quarters. Appropriately, this is a compact 1-3x14mm scope incorporating an illuminated reticle with a BDC reticle. Intended for the standard M16 or M4 platform, the CQ/T incorporates a carrying handle mount.

Mark 4 ER/T

Within the Mark 4 series the ER/T series is the Cadillac, offered in eight models from 4.5-14Xx50mm to 8.5-25x50mm, all in 30mm tubes with BDC turrets. The Mark 4 scopes are built to higher standards than Leupold'™s pure sporting scopes and are priced accordingly — and they deliver.

Mark 4 HAMR

The fifth and final scope in the extensive Mark 4 line is the High Accuracy Multi-Range Riflescope — HAMR for short. Built to the same exacting specifications as all the Mark 4 scopes, the HAMR is a compact, fixed-power, 4x24mm battle scope with illuminated BDC reticle. It is intended to be used in conjunction with Leupold'™s DeltaPoint reflex sight, which is mounted on top. There are two identical versions of the HAMR, one sold with the DeltaPoint included, the other not.

Mark 4 LR/T

The Mark 4 LR/T is one of Leupold'™s most extensive lines, offered in fully 19 models from 3.5-10x40mm to 8.5-25x50mm. While most LR/T scopes are variables with 30mm tubes, there are two one-inch-tube models and two fixed-power (10x40mm and 16x40mm) scopes. With this many models, there'™s an LR/T just about any way you want it, including models with BDC turrets, BDC reticles or both and illuminated or nonilluminated reticles. There are also two models with the reticle in the front focal plane.

Mark 4 MR/T

The MR/T scopes have less magnification and are intended for use from up close to perhaps 700 meters. There are six models, two in 1.5-5x20mm and four in 2.5-8x36mm, with scopes in both one-inch and 30mm versions, all but the basic one-inch tube 1.5-5x20mm offering BDC turrets and illuminated reticles.

Mark 6

The Mark 6 is one of Leupold'™s costlier lines, offering state-of-the-art tactical features but in an amazingly compact package. There are two Mark 6 scopes, both in six-time zoom on light-gathering 34mm tubes: 1-6x20mm and 3-18x44mm. Both use BDC reticles, and the 1-6X has an illuminated reticle.

Mark 8

Eight times zoom? The Mark 8 is a big scope offered in two versions, 1.1-8x24mm and 3.5-25x56mm, the former with 34mm tube, the latter with 35mm tube, offering the large-tube advantage of extremely wide fields of view. Both have illuminated reticles in the front focal plane. The two Mark 8 scopes are the costliest riflescopes cataloged by Leupold, obviously intended for the most precise tasks.'‚

Mark AR

The majority of Leupold'™s tactical scopes are higher-priced scopes intended for the most serious use. The Mark AR is more of an entry-level, affordably priced scope, suitable for sporting rifles but intended to be ideal for the AR or Modern Sporting Rifle platform. There are four Mark AR scopes: 1.5-4x20mm, 3-9x40mm, 4-12x40mm and 6-18x40mm. All have the Mod 1 BDC turret calibrated for the .223/5.56 cartridge, and all have BDC reticles. The 1.5-4X and 3-9X models are offered with illuminated reticles; the two larger variables are not. I have the 1.5-4X Mark AR on my left-hand Rock River AR, and it'™s a lot of scope for the money.


The Rifleman is Leupold'™s most affordable riflescope, a simple, no-frills scope available in just four models: 2-7x33mm, 3-9x40mm, 3-9x50mm and 4-12x40mm. Dial turrets are not available on this model, and only the 3-9x40 is offered with BDC reticle, but the Rifleman is still a Leupold and I'™ve used this basic scope with perfect satisfaction.

Rimfire Riflescopes

The eight specialized Leupold Rimfire scopes include VX-1 and VX-2 models and include the FX-I Rimfire 4x28mm and FX-II 2.5x20mm models. All incorporate Leupold'™s Fine Duplex reticle for precise shooting on small targets. These are the scopes for that special .22 or for the serious squirrel, rabbit or rimfire varmint hunter.


The VX-3 is Leupold'™s basic 'œgreat hunting scope' line. The VX-3 is Leupold'™s largest line, with 25 models ranging from 1.5-5x20mm to 8.5-25x50mm, with some models offering turret adjustment, side focus, illuminated reticles, 30mm and one-inch configuration, and quite a bit more. The VX-3 has become Leupold'™s top hunting scope line, and while I doubt that anyone can claim experience with all the options, I'™ve used quite a few. A VX-3 4.5-14X variable has long been a favorite for mountain hunting and is pretty hard to beat.


The VX-3L is the rather weird-looking model that has a huge objective lens with a half-moon cutout at the bottom that allows a larger objective to be mounted low for proper spot weld and sight picture without lifting your head. It features a one-inch tube in 14 configurations, from 3.5-10x50mm to 6.5-20x56mm, with numerous options, including illuminated reticles and side focus. The larger objective lenses clearly offer greater light-gathering potential. Usually, the larger the lens, the higher the scope must be mounted, but the VX-3L makes this unnecessary. It was (and is) an awesome breakthrough.


The VX-6 is the top of the line in Leupold 'œhunting' scopes, with six-time zoom in two power ranges — 1-6x24mm and 2-12x42mm. This is a scope that I have a lot of experience with. I have a VX-6 2-12X with a reticle/turret from the Leupold Custom Shop calibrated to the .300 Weatherby load I use most frequently. I'™ve also used it out of the box in both the 1-6X 'œdangerous game' scope and 2-12X 'œgeneral purpose configuration.' With the turret calibrated to Nosler's Varmageddon .223 load, the VX-6 2-12X is the basis for the Varmageddon scope available"" target="_blank">Nosler/Noveske AR of the same name. There are three 30mm tubes and one one-inch tube in this line. Regardless of what variant it is, it'™s a great scope.


This new addition, known as the VX-R, incorporates Leupold'™s new FireDot fiber optic LED illumination system. There are nine models from 1.25-4x20mm to 4-12x50mm. The FireDot system is really cool, with a touch system on the Leupold logo that times out (and saves the battery) and returns to the last setting when touched — and has eight levels of intensity that you can set depending on the light conditions. The one I'™m most familiar with is the 2-7x33mm model, a bright little scope that we got some great use out of this past fall, including on a snowy hunt in British Columbia in December. The hallmarks of the VX-R are 'œslim and trim.' This is not fully possible in any scope with a 50mm objective lens, but the VX-R comes pretty close.

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