Choosing the right optic for your rifle is actually pretty difficult. Not only do you have to consider at what distance you’re likely to engage targets and pick an appropriate magnification. But you also need to decide on reticles, adjustments, whether you want a variable power optic or not. In short, there are tons of options and it gets confusing. Leupold decided to try and narrow the field for the discerning 300 Blackout shooter by producing what — at least on paper — is the absolutely perfect optic. But how does it do in the field? . . .

Let’s talk specs for a minute here.

Leupold started with their latest model Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm, the M2, which boasts a 30mm tube and their latest incarnation illumination mechanism. Instead of putting the battery compartment on the end of the scope, they mounted it where one would normally expect the parallax knob to go. The windage and elevation knobs are in their usual places though, both sporting 1/2 MoA adjustments (1/2 inch at 100 yards) and screws to allow the knobs to be zeroed.

Speaking of the illumination mechanism, its pretty good. It lights up the main dot and horseshoe pretty well, but it seems to have a tendency to “bleed” around the edges of the other markings. It does this less at lower intensities, though.

The initial specs are just about perfect for what you’d want for an 300 AAC Blackout scope. The 300 BLK is a round designed for short range work, so a low power scope is ideal. But what really makes this a 300 AAC Blackout scope is the reticle.

Instead of some generic design, Leupold has gone for a dedicated 300 BLK reticle. The markings are calibrated for the 300 BLK round with a little assistance from Remington. It has the proper markings for supersonic ammo on the right side and subsonic ammo on the left (the center dot supposedly should be zeroed at 100 yards with supersonic ammo). And, in case you forget which is which, there are some handy pictures at the bottom to remind you.

But this is where we run headlong into the problem with this scope and caliber. For 5.56 NATO, you can assume that the customer is going to be running a 16 inch barrel with a 55 grain round and calculate the ballistics accordingly. But for 300 AAC Blackout, where everything from the barrel length to the bullet weight and velocity are highly variable from one manufacturer to the next, getting a scope to match up with what the bullet’s doing is going to be damn near impossible.

And that brings me to my pet peeve with these kinds of reticles. If you have a standard marking system (like mils or MOA) you can do the math on your own and figure out how high to hold at different distances. But if you have a reticle like this that does the math ahead of time for you, then you’re stuck. And if your ammo doesn’t match up to the markings, you’re really SOL.

So does this reticle match up with the ammo? To find out I brought five flavors of ammunition to the local 1,000 yard range and set to work testing them out.

Out to 250 yards, life is grand. For all five varieties (PNW Match, Remington Premier, Remington UMC, Remington subsonic and my own handloads) the markings on the scope matched up with the point of impact for the ammo. Even the subsonic was hitting dead center. But once I moved past 250 to 500 and beyond, I started having issues.

I hit the steel plate at 500 once. Yes, ONCE. Out of 70 rounds. And even then, I only hit it (or got anywhere close) when I was holding either high or low, but never right on the 500 yard mark. And this was the same range trip where I had a 50% hit rate on the 1,000 yard steel plate with some .308 Win I cooked up.

That’s the problem with pre-calculated ballistics. Especially when — no matter how hard I looked — I couldn’t find anywhere that listed exactly what load was being used. There was a cryptic remark that Remington assisted with the ballistics (hence why I tried both of Remington’s supersonic offerings) but they never specified anything else about what they used.

And that, I think, is this particular version of the scope’s fatal flaw. The range markings are good enough to light up some bad guys with suppressive fire, but nowhere near where they need to be to make a precision shot. The glass is great, the mechanics are good, and the illumination is passable, but I’d much rather have the older version of the scope with the Special Purpose Reticle than the new one. Ballistic reticles are nifty, but whether you’re trusting one with your life or your hunting tags, you want it to be accurate. And I can’t verify the accuracy of the reticle.

Leupold Mark 4 MR/T M2 1.5-5x20mm Riflescope w/ 300 AAC Blackout Reticle

Weight: 18 oz.
Length:
9.8″
Adjustments:
1/2 MoA
Tube:
30mm
MSRP:
$1,749.99

Ratings (out of five)
All ratings are relative to similar products, final rating is not mathematically derived from the preceding ratings.

Optical Clarity * * * *
It looks really great. Not Swarovski great, but great enough.

Feel & Function * * *
The clicks click the proper distance and the knobs and stuff work, but the illumination spilling over the sides of the markings and the fact that I have no idea what ballistics they’re using for the markings make me slightly disappointed.

Overall Quality * * * * *
The scope itself feels well built. I took a tour of Leupold’s factory not too long ago, and the manufacturing quality of these scopes is beyond reproach.

Overall Rating * * *
With this specific reticle, I can’t go above three stars. If they told me somewhere, ANYWHERE, what ammo to use it would have been much higher. But since I have no idea what ammo to use to even begin trying to check out that the reticle matches the actual flight of the bullets I can’t recommend this scope for anything beyond 250 yards.

17 Responses to Gear Review: Leupold Mark 4 MR/T M2 1.5-5x20mm Riflescope w/ 300 AAC Blackout Reticle

  1. I just can’t understand the 20mm objective on these scopes, sure the match up to the NV front optic for low/no light but that only helps those with the logistic back-up and mission specific load-outs. and if NV is the go-to low light solution then why the RED illuminator?
    A 2-7X32 or even some 3-9X40 are way more versitle for the financialy challanged civy shooter

  2. Nick, What type of stock is that on your AR? Im diggin that UBR look but in a clean fixed stock setup. Thanks.

    Edit: Scratch that, found it on the Magpul website. It looks like the MOE fixed stock.

  3. Past a certain price point you are paying for durability as much as optical quality. Unless you are in the field practically every day, all you are doing by purchasing a military grade optic is spending twice as much and adding a lot more weight than you need. You could buy a darn good scope (far better than even premium scopes of not that long ago) AND a back-up for $500 if you’re worried about breaking the darn thing.

  4. Nick, have you ever shot a 500 yard target with the same rifle but a different optic? I’m not bashing your marksmanship –not at all– but I thought that 300 BLK was designed for short range. Is it controllable at 500 yards? I mean, its ballistics are similar to 7.62×39, right? I’ve never heard of anyone hitting a 500 yard target with an AK.

    • I suck at reading the wind. That’s an absolute fact. If you go watch the YouTube video I posted of the McMillan CS5, you’ll be able to clearly see my suckitude in full view. But even then, all of the rounds were landing along the same horizontal line. The elevation was right, but the windage was wrong.

      With this optic, it was the opposite. I had the windage right, but the elevation I couldn’t quite seem to get. It didn’t help any that the 500 yard target had a dark dirt backstop while the longer range targets were limestone (easier to see impacts), but I know that I was hitting either low or high. I just couldn’t determine the extent well enough to walk the shots in.

      I’ve got a good chrono on this ammo I’m using now, I’ll go back and double check my findings with a properly zeroed mil-dot scope. And if I still can’t hit the target, I’ll update accordingly. But my gripe about not telling us which ammo to use remains.

      • Maybe take a spotter. That’s what they are for after all. Most any kid at the range will fall all over themselves to spot for you if you let ’em as well.

        • Hmmm. I wonder what kind of response he’d get if he told a small group of random people at the range that he’s “Ask Foghorn from TTAG” along with the request.

          I’ve seen celebrity hit several people at unexpected times and weird places.

  5. I agree with NR, 300 blk has a max effective range of 500yds. I would not expect consistent hits at that distance without considerable luck/skill (not knocking your ability foghorn, I’m a big fan of your work).

    • Oh no, my skills could definitely use some work. But there’s a difference between “effective range” and “making a steel plate dance” range.

      I should probably put that to a test, preferably with the new 4-24x scope that just came in…

  6. Review is kinda incomplete for this scope. I’ve had ample opportunity to use the SPR reticle version of this scope and there are two very large flaws.
    First, the scope is only 1.5x power on the low end, not a true 1x power. This is very distracting when used fast and close, and is noticeably inferior to a true 1x scope, especially in odd or dynamic shooting positions. This is kind of the whole point in a low to mid power scope.
    Second, like all the older design Leupold scopes there is a very large shift in the usable eye box area when shifting powers from low to high, so it really limits the positioning of the scope on the rifle.
    In short, technological development and the advance of time has made taken this pricey scope obsolete, and it really shouldn’t be considered for any use, give the array of superior options out there.

    • Ando:

      I’d appreciate if you could share the name brand of 300 Blackout scopes which you deemed better design with us! I am looking to buy one now. And the info could help us all!

      Thanks.

  7. Hi Nick:

    A thorough review, especially on the bullet impacting point beyond 500 yards. By the way, what is the brand of the small 45 degree off rail behind the Leupold Scope in the first picture?

    Thank.
    Godfrey Zhu

  8. When you tested it out on the range, what length barrel were you using? I’m puting together one with an 8.5 barrel and was wondering how it would affect it…

  9. Did you zero the rifle at 100 or 200 yards with the recommended 125gr. supersonic rounds? I have read to zero the scope at both 100 and 200 yards with supersonic ammo. Supposedly the center dot is then the aiming point for the subloads (220gr) as well.

    Please advise.

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