In 3-gun competitions, stage designers love to be evil. And the definition of “evil” in this case is setting targets out at 3 yards, and then forcing you to quickly shift and engage some more at 300 yards. Doing that with the same rifle without switching optics is tough, since too much magnification on close range stuff will suck almost more than too little magnification at long range. Normally you’d need to find a balance between the two and settle for something in the middle, but Leupold’s Mark 6 1-6x20mm scope asks the question, “why not have your cake and eat it too?”
Quick full disclosure notice here. For the last year I’ve been shooting with Team FNH USA, and Leupold is one of their sponsors. As such, use of the scope was part of the deal. However, now that the year is over and I’m no longer sponsored by FNH USA or Leupold, I can give a relatively impartial review to something I’ve used and abused over the last year. However, since that relationship did exist at some point in the recent past, I wanted to include this short disclaimer so you can keep that in mind as we venture into the review.
Let me give you a little context behind why something like this is awesome.
This video is from the 2011 FNH USA 3-Gun Championships, back before I received my thorough schooling at the hands of Team FNH USA. This stage is indicative of a major match, where you’ll need to not only hose down some short range targets but also have some long range stages. Larry Houck is especially skilled in the ways of messing with shooters’ heads, and putting extremely small targets (“skinny sammies”) on a 45 degree angle at 200 yards will just about ruin anyone’s day. The way I used to handle this kind of a situation is to have a high magnification scope on the top of my gun and put some iron sights on the side, allowing me to roll the gun over and use the irons for the short stuff and the scope for the long stuff. It’s an okay solution, but it’s not ideal.
This video, on the other hand, is from the LSSA World 3-Gun where I took 2nd place in my division and used the Leupold Mark 6 1-6x20mm scope. Instead of needing to use the less accurate iron sights, I simply dialed the magnification I needed for that stage and ran the gun. Whether it was a close range target or a long range target, I was able to set the magnification I needed to succeed.
The real magic is in the low end of that magnification, though. The scope I used to use had a higher maximum magnification, but it only went down to 3x at the low end. The Leupold Mark 6 1-6x has a true 1x setting, meaning that there’s no magnification whatsoever when set to 1x. At that point it’s almost no difference from shooting a red dot, which allows you to transition between targets much quicker. That’s true the power of a 1-6x variable optic.
Leupold’s Mark 6 1-6x20mm scope uses a 34mm tube, the largest diameter in common usage. That allows the most light transmission and gives you the greatest field of view through the scope, but it also means that the thing weighs a ton. Relatively speaking, of course. It’s heavier than their Mark AR Mod 1 1.5-4x scope, but nowhere near some of the long range optics. That light transmission is really helpful in low light scenarios (such as nighttime or cloudy day shooting) and makes a huge difference in being able to see the target, especially the very, very far away ones. It also means the scope is a little bit taller than the other options, but in competition shooting that doesn’t make much of a difference.
The scope is adjustable in 2/10 MIL adjustments, which is slightly more coarse than I’m used to. For those stuck in the Imperial system, that’s basically 1/2 inches per click at 100 yards. The turrets have Leupold’s new locking system, where you push a button to turn the turret and it locks back in place every full revolution. I like it, since you can zero your turrets and have them lock in place for travel and normal usage, but when you need to turn them it’s an easy button press to get them rolling. I’ve been screwed in the past by non-locking turrets that twisted during a competition, so avoiding that is good.
The glass itself is crystal clear, some of the best I’ve ever seen. And etched into the first focal plane in this model is a BDC reticle, which I’m a little conflicted about seeing. On the one hand, the reticle does in fact line up with the proper holds for the projectile of choice at the stated distances (the 7.62 reticle lines up perfectly with a 77gr 5.56 round when zeroed at 200 yards, and the 5.56 reticle lines up with a 55gr projectile when zeroed at 100), but personally I would have preferred a mil-based reticle. For those who aren’t comfortable at long range the BDC reticle will get you on target, but I know what I’m doing and prefer to do the calculations by hand. It’s like the difference between an automatic transmission and a manual transmission in a car, and I want my flappy paddles.
There is a TMR-D mil-dot reticle available as well, but they didn’t send me that one. Hence my complaining.
One of the nice features about this model of scope is that the horseshoe in the middle of the scope is illuminated by a red LED. If you’re shooting at close range it really does turn your scope into a red dot, which is very easy to see and use. Unlike other scopes the etching is crisp and clear, and the illumination doesn’t bleed into the rest of your field of view. For some of the lower end scopes the entire field of view practically glows red when you turn it on, but this one only illuminates that horseshoe. It’s very well done and I think it improved my short range abilities greatly.
If you couldn’t tell, I really like it. But there is one problem: the price. The thing costs nearasdamnit $2,200 on the street, which is a little more money than I have on hand to spend on an optic like this. But for those who accept no substitutes, let me compare it to the competition for a second.
- Bushnell SMRS 1-6.5x 24mm ($1,299 OpticsPlanet): 1/10 MIL adjustments. Illiminated reticle with either a 5.56 BDC reticle or a mil based reticle, no 7.62 option. And the reticle is… meh. It works, but Leupold’s is better. Also has a smaller tube than the Leupold.
- RAZOR HD GEN II 1-6X24 ($1,399 OpticsPlanet): Jerry Miculek uses this one, but the scope only comes with his special illuminated reticle which may or may not work for you. Smaller tube, 1/4 MoA adjustments.
- Swarovski Z6(i) 1-6×24 ($2,489 Optics Planet): I hate just about everything about this scope except for the amazing glass. 3/20 MIL adjustments, which is wacky.
I know, on the face it doesn’t compare favorably given the price difference between the models. But looking only at the features, Leupold has them beat. Bigger lenses, more reticle options, and made by a company with a track record for making great optics. So in the end, the Leupold is in fact the better scope compared to the competition, but whether it’s the right scope for you depends on whether that Leupold reputation and warranty is worth the extra $800.
Specifications: Leupold Mark 6 1-6x20mm M6C1
Scope diameter: 34mm
MSRP: $2,439.99 ($2,200 OpticsPlanet)
Ratings (out of five)
Utility * * * * *
Strap it on, zero it and off you go. I reliably nailed targets out to 750 yards using nothing but the holds provided in the reticle.
Overall * * * *
The only sticking point here is the price. And after a year of using it in the field, I think it’s worth the money. Then again, I don’t have the money it’s worth.