There’s only so much you can do with iron sights. I’ve seen people hit the 10 ring from 1,000 yards away using nothing but a M-16 with aperture sights, but what if you’re not on a flat range with a gigantic black dot as your target? What if you need to hit a deer at distance, or a small metal plate? What about if you absolutely cannot miss and lives are on the line? For those who need to make precision shots from long distances and actually see what they’re hitting Leupold has developed the Mark 4 riflescope, and I got my hands on one to test out.
My first impression of this scope was that it is MASSIVE compared to every other piece of glass I own. The thing weighs 22.5 ounces, almost double the weight of the Trijicon Accupoint I have on my competition rifle. That extra weight really is noticeable on a firearm, and putting a scope like this on a firearm basically restricts it to being the precision equivalent of a crew served weapon — you set it up somewhere and then don’t move it a lot. Which works, because you can see for MILES with this thing.
And now I can’t get The Who out of my head. Moving on…
There are a number of features I really like about this scope, some I could do without, and one specific feature that is slightly infuriating. Let’s start with the good stuff, shall we?
The best part about this scope is the magnification of the target it provides. The highest power scope I personally own is a 9x magnification, but this one STARTS at 8.5x and goes all the way to 25x. That’s about enough magnification to see the holes you’re putting in the target from 600 yards out, useful if you don’t want to lug a spotting scope out to the range along with this boat anchor. It also helps if you’re shooting small targets from extreme distances because the first requirement in hitting a target is being able to actually see it.
With increased magnification comes a dimmer sight picture and a shallower “depth of field,” which brings me to reason #2 I like this scope — the adjustable parallax.
If you don’t understand how parallax screws up your shots I have a convenient article about that right here which I recommend you take a peek at. In short, if you don’t have it adjusted properly you could find your group sizes suffering greatly. The parallax adjustment knob (left side) allows you to quickly fine tune the focus of the scope and make sure you’re eliminating as much parallax as possible between the reticle and target.
There’s tons of other features that are nifty and useful, such as flip-up lens covers (included at no additional cost), knobby adjustment knobs, and clear directional markings to tell you which way you turn the knob to make your bullet go up or down. But there are a couple things that I didn’t exactly appreciate.
The reticle on this bad boy is a “mil dot” crosshair. The distance between each dot is supposed to be exactly one “milliradian,” or about .001 radian. Like minutes of angle (MoA), milliradians provide a method of identifying and quantifying the angle made by the point of impact (POI) relative to the point of aim (POA) of the scope. Or something like that. The point is that MIL and MoA are different measurements and not interchangeable.
This becomes a problem when the reticle is set up using MIL and the adjustments for the scope are in MoA. In an ideal world you should be able to look down the scope, count the distance between POI and POA using the markings, and adjust accordingly. When the scope is set up using both MoA and MIL you either need to convert from one to the other using a calculator or simply guess and adjust. It’s not as fast, but once the scope is dialed in you can still use the scope markings to adjust your hold for elevation and windage on the fly depending on the conditions.
MIL dots would still be slightly useful (despite the MoA adjustments) if the reticle was in the right focal plane. Which it isn’t. The reticle on this scope is in the second focal plane, which means that it stays a constant size relative to the shooter’s perspective while the target gets larger. This is an issue because it means that the MIL dots are practically useless unless you set the scope to the “proper” power, and if you never change the zoom on the scope then you’re not really getting your money’s worth out of it. And that is slightly infuriating.
I get the feeling that the reason for the second focal plane reticle is so Leupold could add their funky illumination to the reticle and make it light up. I never understood the appeal of an illuminated reticle, but then again I’ve never tried to shoot anything before dawn or around dusk and never intend to. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t. All I know is that I could live without it.
That seems to be the recurring theme — it’s nice but I could live without it. It’s a fine scope that has some great magnification, but for me the bells and whistles ruin it instead of enhancing it. I don’t need an illuminated reticle or MIL dot crosshairs or anything like that, I just need something that shows me where I’m aiming and makes the target look bigger. Sometimes the simpler solution is the better one.
Specifications: Mark 4 8.5-25x50mm LR/T M1 Illum. Reticle
Weight: 22.5 oz.
Adjustments: 1/4 MoA
Eye Relief: 3.7″
Ratings (out of five)
All ratings are relative to similar products, final rating is not mathematically derived from the preceding ratings.
Optical Clarity * * * *
Fairly sharp picture approaching the quality of a Swarovski Optik scope, but not quite.
Feel & Function * * * * *
The scope functions just fine. Clicks seem to be 1/4 MoA, and it holds zero OK.
Overall Quality * * * * *
The build quality of this scope is fantastic. The exterior is sleek and polished with intuitive controls that are easy and ergonomic to adjust.
Overall Rating * * *
For $1,400+ I expected the scope to at least be a first focal plane reticle. Like I said, the bells and whistles ruined it for me. The magnification is great, the optical quality is great, and the scope holds zero like a champ, but it just seems “meh” overall to me when you take into account the price, the usefulness of the features and the weight.
FYI, for $100 more you can get a scope that fixes all of these issues — a Leupold Mark 4 ER/T 8.5-25×50 M5 Front Focal TMR. That would easily soar into the four star range, assuming everything is the same quality as this scope. MILs just take time to understand.