The Leupold company is not new to the optics realm, they have been producing some of the best optics on the market for decades. In fact, it was Leupold scopes that served the Marine Corps Scout Snipers for nearly an entire generation. The Leupold brand goes hand and hand with quality, and for the longest time bolt action rifles. Leupold has joined the rest of the optics world in embracing the AR platform.
The Mark AR Mod 1, which for brevity’s sake we’ll call the Mark AR, is a lightweight, variable power optic designed specifically for the AR platform. There is a variety of differ Mark AR optics, including a variety of different magnifications. The line includes a 1.5-4x, a 3-9x, 4-12x and a 6-18x.
For this review I took the 1.5-4x power variant and equipped it on a Smith and Wesson M&P 15, with a 16 inch barrel, and Magpul furniture. The upper receiver is a flat top, and the optic was mounted with a Leupold single piece mount. Ammo used for testing was 55 grain 223 at 31240 feet per second by Federal.
Out of the box the first thing you notice is how light the optic is. Although the objective lens is smaller than most, the scope was still exceptionally light. This is an advantage in my opinion because ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Outside of slow fire bench rest shooting, most AR 15 applications benefit from lightweight.
Field Testing AR Mod 1 With Smith and Wesson M&P 15
Once the optic was mounted we headed to the range, for this test we went to a local public range, with a two hundred yard max rifle range. The manual recommended sighting the optic in at 100 yards to ensure the bullet drop indicators were on point. At one hundred yards we were able to zero the optic in only a few minutes; this was aided by the simple fingertip adjustable turrets.
One thing I love is the fact the optic has the load data that works best with the optic printed on the turrets. Mine was almost perfect, but my loads were a 140 feet per second faster, not a big deal, not even a small deal outside of super long ranges.
This is both an advantage and disadvantage to some. An optic like this is not suited for running a variety of different ammunition loads. For those who run a mix matched source of ammo, or hand load their own this may prove to be a disadvantage. The Mark AR is made with a more standard duplex reticle that does have a specific mil reference for bullet drop.
Firedot-G SPR Illuminated Reticle
The reticle is a little cluttered, but uses mil measurements for both bullet drop and windage holdovers. The center of the reticle is illuminated, the little dot lights up nice and bright, but not so much to be a distraction, or a pain in the eye.
The scope does not require the reticle to be illuminated to work properly; it’s just an added bonus. The reticle is adjustable for brightness, and lets you know by blinking when you’ve reached the max and min. Leupold uses their own proprietary coating, and it shows here, light transmission was excellent and I was seeing everything in ultra HD.
Once the adjustments were made we hitting the bulls eye so much it was a bit boring. Even at two hundred yards it took two rounds on average to get dead center, and it became a bit repetitive to be honest. Since the range was empty due to the fact it was half flooded I could do a little dynamic shooting.
Magnification Level Test
We set targets up starting at 25 yards and placed them at random intervals out to 200 yards. The targets consisted of both clay pigeons, reactive steel ‘spinners’ and paper man sized silhouettes. The shooter did not see the range until the timer sounded off. We alternated shooter/timer positions between shooters.
Starting at 1.5 power I engaged the closest, and smallest targets first. The clay pigeons were toast, a few of the spinners took a few shots to hit, since the smallest were only a little bigger than a golf ball. I had to dial the illumination back a little to see the smallest spinners, the brightness level was washing them out.
Transitions to the longer range targets are where I met the first problem. The magnification ring was a bit stiff, as I tried to adjust it it would barely move. I tried a little harder and over spun the dial, maximizing the magnification at a time where I only needed about 3x.
This caused me to lose time making the adjustment back and getting on target. I believe the ring will smooth out a bit after some use though, as it seemed smoother and smoother as the day went on.
The scope also proved to be a champ when it came to the real world rough and tumble.
- First off we were hit with rain on and off, and it being Florida we were used to this, and it didn’t stop us from shooting.
- Next there was the ‘drop’. The rifle was left leaning against our vehicle (Unloaded of course) as we put up new targets, and it took a fall. Pitching the scope and rifle into the hard and wet limestone. A quick wipe down and the scope was back in action.
- The third factor was Florida in August, after a few months of hard rain. The whole state is humid and muggy, and the scope proved itself to be fog proof and rust resistant. The Mark AR also proved it was water and shockproof, regardless if this was intended or not.
Almost As Good As ACOG ( with half the price )
The Mark AR Mod 1 proved itself to be a viable competitor in the AR optic market. The 1.5-4 power model is a direct competitor to optics like the Trijicon ACOG. However, the Mark AR Mod 1 is also less than half the price of a Trijicon.
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