When it comes to precisely-calibrated, reliable, and accurate scopes, the one of first names that comes to most people’s minds is Leupold, and for good reason. Leupold has consistently provided top-notch optics for serious marksmen, whether short-range, medium-range, or “how far was that shot?” shooters. Leupold is, first and foremost, an optics company, producing pretty much anything with a lens, from firearms optics to eye protection. So, when they sent me the latest optic in the Mark 5HD series, I was more than a little excited to try it out.
The Mark 5 series has been a bestselling for Leupold since its introduction, mainly because it is middle-of-the-road price-wise but delivers excellent views, precise aim points, and rugged durability. Leupold sent me the latest Mark 5HD iteration—the 2-10x30mm—to test, and I was not disappointed.
I’m a marketing junkie, so initial impressions are everything to me. Leupold’s unboxing experience is second to none, with series presentation chops. From the beginning, it felt like I was getting something special. It only got better from there.
With the help of some mounting hardware, the Mark 5 was sitting atop my AR-15 within about 10 minutes. Scope mounted, let’s get into some of the specs and what sets it apart. This review will not be overly detailed, as most people don’t geek out over the minute details, but we’ll look at the general functionality and what I found when I tested it.
Only some scope works for some applications, just like not all tools do the same thing. The Mark 5HD 2-10×30 is a medium-range optic designed for more tactical-style rifles such as the AR platform and shorter barrel bolt actions for hunting. It’s also great for hunting at night, as it’s easy to affix a thermal or night vision clip-on to the front for a nighttime hog hunt or varmint reduction outing, targets typically shot inside 200 yards.
Housing & Controls
The main tube is 35mm in diameter, a smidge wider than many other scopes in the same class. This slightly oversized setup allows for better lens travel and shares the same chassis design as the rest of the Mark 5HD line for the economy of scale, according to Leupold product manager John Snodgrass. The controls are also identical to make it easy to switch from one to the other, should you need to use one with greater magnification for a different application.
Reticle adjustment comes via a locking top turret that reduces inadvertent movement from bumping. I found this especially helpful as I did bump it a few times, carrying it across a plowed cornfield as we set up our make-shift testing range on a chilly March afternoon in the Midwest. The wind was kicking up a bit but not consistently, making for some fun windage testing. We moved several times to test from various distances, including 50, 100 and 200 yards. My original plan was to go out even farther, but this scope is not designed for greater distances, so I stopped at 200 to keep it realistic. Could I have hit the steel silhouette from farther? Probably, because the reticle clarity was still super clear that far out. But that would have just been showing off. (And it might have revealed any flaws in my trigger pull, so I saved myself the embarrassment.)
The housing is aluminum for lightweight carry—especially important if you’re lugging your scope-mounted rifle around—yet is durable enough to pass copious mil-spec testing. In fact, all the testing Leupold puts the Mark 5HD through is specified in their military contracts, including:
- Hit 5,000 times at 975 Gs of recoil
- Military 810H standard testing
- Waterproof down to 66 psi and 2 atmospheres for 2 hours
- Hot and cold operational use testing in extreme temperatures
Leupold has been supplying the US military scopes for a long time, including two current contracts for the Mark 22 Barrett M-Rad with the Mark 7 scope and the Mark 5HD 6-18x for the M-110 rifle. The second contract necessitated applying the testing standards to the entire Mark 5HD line.
According to Snodgrass, one critical component of the Mark 5HD design was to have soldiers work with the scope in the field to ensure proper eye relief and correct ergonomics so they felt comfortable using it. After all, what better way to help solidify the mil-spec side of the design? The finished product underwent a long period of real-world testing before it went into manufacturing. The thinking was that if soldiers under the stress of training and combat conditions were good with the setup, the rest of us would be, too, which seems to ring true. During my testing, I was happy with the eye relief distance, the aiming lens visibility, and the overall function of the scope, including the adjustment turrets, which were simple to use.
The magnification throw lever is large and in charge but not so big that it looks out of place. It was easily be moved with bare hands or gloves.
As mentioned above, the 35 mm main tube design allows for better lens travel within the body, providing tiny, precise adjustments not commonly found in other scopes. Additionally, the top turret has a three-twist radius with a twist indicator that goes up and down to indicate which twist you’re on for easier tracking of adjustments. Each adjustment click was sure, firm, and audible, with no additional travel, and the turrets did not move until deliberately turned for adjustment. I even knocked the rifle onto the ground at one point by accident, but when I picked it up to shoot, the aiming point had not budged.
One common flaw in middle price point scopes is lens warp on the edges, especially under magnification. As the target appears closer, the edges of the scope picture begin to bend, which can be not only distracting but a little unnerving as you start to question the validity of what you’re seeing. Not so with the Mark 5HD. At full 10x magnification, there was zero edge warping. The sight picture was clear and clean all the way out to the housing, with absolutely no distortion. It was so clear, in fact, that I hadn’t even thought about it until the buddy I was shooting with pointed it out. He had experienced some distortion with lesser-quality scopes in the past and noticed the difference with Leupold Mark 5HD almost immediately.
The Leupold Mark 5HD is not an inexpensive scope at $1,999 MSRP. If you’re looking for a quick and dirty bargain scope, this isn’t the one for you. But if you want an excellent quality, rugged, reliable glass setup that you can mount on a working rifle, put this one on the top of your list.
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