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Leupold Mark 6 1-6, c Nick Leghorn

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 Mark 6 1-6, c Nick Leghorn

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.

Leupold Mark 6 1-6, c Nick Leghorn

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.

 Leupold Mark 6 1-6, c Nick Leghorn

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
Weight: 17oz
$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.

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    • Additionally, Vortex’s warranty is awesome. I’ve seen scopes come back quicker (and actually fixed) from Vortex than from Leupold. This was actually brought up with the Leupold Rep that came to the precision long range business development day at a local manufacturer.

    • I have a Nikon P-223 3-9 on my AR right now and I am building a second AR for more tailored for 3 gun. I have been seriously leaning towards the Vortex as my optic and have seen good reviews. I will not be a pro 3 gunner so the price point is more in line with my occasional shooting habits.

      • I am a huge fan of vortex oPtics. I have a viper 4×16 on my savage precision 308. I have the cheaper crossfire on my 17 and like their sparc red dots as well.

        • I was leaning towards the Viper PST also. Even the Razor is more than I want to spend on an optic but it is half of the price of the Leupold. Sure you are giving up 5 and 6 power, but I know most matches I may shoot in will probably be just fine with 1-4x.

        • I love Vortex Optics. I still have some high-end optics around, but I’ve thinned that herd after using every product Vortex makes. I made that decision about a year ago, after a year and change of heavy use of their dots/scopes/LRF/etc. The PST 1-4 was on my primary rifles and 3-Gun rifles, they still sit on my primary rifles. The 3-Gun rifle was changed for the Razor HD II 1-6. But, the driving factor on that was based on shooting more major matches. The more I shot major matches, the more I realized that the 6x was more or less needed at 300+. If you are shooting local matches or are getting into the game, the PST 1-4 is plenty and worth every penny.

  1. correct me if i’m wrong, but you keep saying that the ‘tube’ is 34mm. The ocular lens is 20mm. It’s a 20mm scope. The tube itself could be 90mm, it wouldn’t make a difference. right? Light transmission is a factor of the ocular lens size vs the magnification, (exit pupil).

    furthermore, i guess it’s complicated to make a legit 1x variable power scope, and that’s why they are so expensive? i’m not a scope engineer. What’s wrong with a good ol’ 2-7 scope? at $2300 cheaper, get the right reticule, and your good to go.

    are you able to go ‘both eyes open’ with these 1x scopes like a red dot?

    • If my geometric recollections are correct the formula for the area of a circle is radius squared times pi. That means my Redfield 2-7’s 33mm objective has an area of as opposed to the area of a 20mm lens would be 314.159, so the 33mm objective should collect 2.7 times as much light. Maybe this doesn’t work in practice like it does in theory, but never having owned a 20mm scope I can’t imagine it could be as bright at 6 power as the Redfield at 7.

    • I shoot the ACOG with both eyes open, at short ranges I don’t use the actually scope, but just hover the horseshoe over the target and the left eye lines it up. It’s very fast and more than accurate enough at short ranges.

      I’m a huge fan of being able to shoot with both eyes open, it’s allows you to keep track of what is happening much better.

    • In many of the larger-tube sights it is the electronics that dictate the larger tube, which does not increase light transmission. A typical example of this can be found by comparing the VX3 1.5-5 illuminated versus non-illuminated (30mm tube versus 1 inch). I actually like the VX6 1-6 version. I don’t shoot past 400 yards, ever, and so can live with simple duplex reticles of known plex dimensions in MOA.

    • > are you able to go ‘both eyes open’ with these 1x scopes like a red dot?

      I have a 1-4x scope (Trijicon Accupoint) mounted on my AK, and yes, with 1x, you absolutely can shoot it like a red dot with both eyes open. It’s not quite as good, because any magnifying scope is going to have some distortion near the edges of the lens even if it’s a true 1x scope; but it’s small enough that you only see it when scanning, and even then it is not annoying (to me, at least).

      One other trick that you can use with many non-1x scopes is to close the front cap on the scope – this way your right eye only sees the highlighted element, in my case a triangle, the left eye sees the target, and it all overlays nicely. Kinda how the very first red dots used to work.

  2. Sometimes the very ‘configurability’ of the AR platform bedevils its effective use. That is, it can be so customized for a particular purpose that it nearly forsakes all others. I’ve tried to find the optimal configuration(s) that would cover the most ground over several builds but the extremes at either end of the rifles envelop seem nearly impossible to have in a single configuration: Quick and simple up close and accurate at long range.

    Having read your review of this scope it sounds like it very well may allow truly effective use across the range of the platform and that has me excited. What doesn’t excite me is the price, $2200 is a lot of money for a scope to set on top of a utility rifle so I suppose I’ll be going without this particular piece of gear. Still, even when it’s out of reach it’s nice to know such things exist and what the lowdown on them is and for that, I thank you.

    • The Leupold VX6 1-6x costs only about $880 street, and would do the job as well for almost any use, including all self-defense and hunting use. But three gun? I notice three-gunners are not very concerned about the weight of their equipment. Tons of targets on the lawn with relatively little running, and with no load-bearing pack. Pop-up targets at times, but no true fast moving targets. It isn’t military training, and it isn’t self-defense or hunting. It’s police-like. Or so it seems to me.

      I thought three gun was some CCW pistol practice most Wednesday evenings, skeet on the first Saturday of the month, and some rifle practice in the weeks leading up to a hunting trip. I still think so.

      • Spoken like someone that doesn’t really know 3 Gun at all…. It’s not military training or even police training, it’s a game, plain and simple.

        Yeah, weight is always a consideration. Some shooters like lighter rifles (shotgun/AR) and lighter pistols, some don’t. Weight does have it’s advantages, in taming recoil, but it’s also heavier to move around and transition.

        No running, or relatively little? No moving targets? Clearly someone hasn’t shot or seen any major matches. Do yourself a favor, look up Task Force Dagger or Blue Ridge Mountain 3 Gun. You might be surprised.

        Local matches (3 Gun or USPSA or IDPA) are smaller and typically easier to shoot and manage. As such, they typically aren’t super complex or have the ability to run long field courses.

    • I would recommend Trijicon Accupoint with green triangle reticle. It’s 1-4x rather than 1-6x, but I don’t think that 6x gives you much on effective ranges for a 5.56 AR. OTOH, it’s much faster to acquire the target with this reticle in 1x mode, almost as good as a red dot – your eyes are naturally drawn to the top of the post with that shining triangle on it:

      You can use the entire triangle for quick shots, or tip for accurate aiming – similar to Mepro M21. It’s also a true 1x which can be used with both eyes open. And I like that illumination is fiber optic / tritium rather than batteries, one less thing to break.

      Oh, and the price? Around $900.

      • This. The Trinicon or perhaps the Burris XTR 1-4x. It isn’t the same level of glass, but not the same level of price, either. Still, my friends Leupold Mark 6 3-18x is an awesome optic.

  3. I cannot imagine ever justifying to myself spending that much on a scope. I am creeping into codgerhood, apparently, as my first reaction was, “my first car cost less than that!” A Plymouth Fury III purchased used in 1978. Granted, I could not attach the auto to a rifle and take it to the range…

    Good review, though.

  4. Great review. I’m a huge fan of Leupolds. Have several on the various rifles. I’ve been looking at this one for a long time for my long range rifles.

    Too bad they didn’t let you keep it after the year was up. Thanks.

  5. Alright. Expensive scopes turn me on in a sick way, but they are for the most part overhyped. Proof in point, on a bet I ran a stock dpms oracle with a 2.5×10 firefield acog like clone. Did I do as well as my custom rig, no. But I ran mid pack in that shoot with what everybody would call junk. The average plinker just won’t use these ultra expensive scopes to their potential. Just my 2 shiny pennies.

    • This. Not to mention, there are usually “target” or “bench” scopes in most manufacturer’s lines that have all the features, but are built lighter for non field use. If all you are doing is range shooting, you don’t need an optic built like an ACOG. You are just paying for a feature you’ll never use.

  6. God grief. The cost alone is a huge turn off.
    Like everything else about it.
    Even the ‘friend’ price is too much.

    • I know that guns are an expensive hobby, but it really seems that TTAG rarely reviews anything cheap-ish. Probably needs more reader-contributed reviews.

    • I can safely say that the most widely used and recommended scope in Africa for a dangerous game rifle is the non-illuminated 9 oz Leupold VX3 1.5-5. Good eye relief, enough magnification for 200 yards (looks just like 50 yards at 4 x), lightness so it won’t slip out of the rings under repeated heavy recoil, and durable.

      And that’s for shooting at 2 to 200 yards. Two eyes open at 1.5x isn’t a problem. And the thing costs $400. Oh, and people rely on it even though they may be charged by a cape buffalo or lion. You know, almost as dangerous as Whoville SWAT.

  7. Nick: I would be interested in an AR vs SCAR 16s comparison now that you have sent the SCAR back to FN.

  8. Why no love for the SWFA 1-6x? It’s almost exactly what you’re looking for. I recently picked one up and love it. Only downside is that she’s a heavy one, but it does have a mil reticle and 1/10mil adjustments and a lot of other nice things…and it costs less than half of what Leupold wants for this thing.

  9. Nick,

    How would you compare the Leupold to an ELCAN 1-6x. I’ve got ELCANs on my 16 and 17 and have been very happy with them. The only drawback seeming to be that you only have 1x or 6x with the ELCAN and the Leupold offers variable 1x-6x.

    Are you going back to the AR platform or did you learn to like the SCAR enough to get one of your own?

    • I’m not a fan of the ELCAN because of that either-or design. There are times when 4x is perfect, and with an ELCAN it will either be too little or too much magnification and throw off your game. Then again, some competitors run them so YMMV.

      I actually bought the SCAR from them rather than sending it back, and… I’m conflicted. I’ll let you know what I prefer when I make that decision myself.

      • “I actually bought the SCAR from them rather than sending it back, and… I’m conflicted. I’ll let you know what I prefer when I make that decision myself.”

        Thanks. I look forward to hearing about it. The Scar 16s was my first rifle. Since then I have acquired several ARs. I didn’t expect to like the AR as much as I do. They make the SCAR seem a bit cumbersome. The AR feels fragile in comparison, and the amount of small parts that goes into building one is absurd. I want to dislike it, but I love shooting the thing.

        I prefer the SCAR for how clean it runs, and the charging handle position/ease of charging, and how simply and well the thing is constructed. I prefer the AR for how light it is and how one can essentially build it into anything, also how easy it is to swap uppers for different uses. The SCAR just feels a bit cumbersome. Debating whether I want to keep it. it may be a lot better as an SBR.

      • Even if you haven’t decided, I wouldn’t mind hearing about what’s hanging-up the decision, what you do / don’t like about each. I’ve only shot ARs, but kinda have a yearning for a SCAR-17s for some damn fool reason I can’t explain.

  10. Great review, scary price. I was on the fence between a red dot and getting a 1-4x and discovered their 1.25-4x vx-r patrol with the firedot. A little bit better looking price plus the glass is supposed to be gorgeous. Still havent pulled the trigger on it yet but it has to be a better choice then a Burris mtac?

  11. The Weaver 1-5x tactical scope does it better:

    -glass is clear enough to go both eyes open at 1x
    -mil based CIRT reticle
    -red and green illuminated reticle
    -zero at 200 yds
    -screw on caps keep adjustments intact and house spare CR2032 batteries

    I just sighted mine in last week on a weaver SPR mount which is solid too, even after lapping the rings with a kokopelli 30mm bar, I never got past the hard anodize because the finish is just that smooth – just make sure when you tighten the mount to your picatinny rail to snug up the center jam nut, so nothing comes loose.
    With this scope, I was able to get a group of 3 holes touching at 200 yds out of m193 ball ammo, but the reticle works with whatever you wanna shoot as long as you know the velocity and b.c. of the bullet. The lower part of the reticle has 4 lines roughly equal to 20″ shoulder width at “A” 3.438 MOA drop, “B” 8.938 MOA drop, “C” 16.845 MOA drop, and “D” 27.502 MOA drop. If your handloading, just input your data here: and set the chart to output in single yard increments so you can cross reference.

  12. One of my concerns is Vortex Razor HD II and PST in the 1.x to 4-6 range are only second focal plane optics. I would prefer FFP.

  13. Nick Nick Nick…a true manual transmission has no flappy paddles. It has a stick. Flappy paddles…HA. You, sir, need a manual gearbox refresher. And yes, this comment has nothing to do with the aforementioned scope because I can’t afford it. I can barely afford the Leupold Mark AR Mod 1 1.5-4 SPR. I would like to see a review on the Leupold 1-6 with the mil reticle.

    • Tell that to Ferrari, and Lamborghini, and others, who are putting flappy paddles in their cars. Of course, Nick’s use of it could just be an indication that he watches Top Gear.

      • True, Matt. And those are indeed high quality machines. But wouldn’t you have just as much fun (or more) banging through the gears while sitting on a 700 HP V12? I know I would. Quicker, smoother, easier…pish posh sir. I want to enjoy it, drive it, not be driven.

        I do like me some Top Gear though. That’s entertaining stuff.

  14. NICK! Can you do a comparison of the Mark 6 and the Trij VCOG 1-6? They are in the same price point and I can’t seem to find any discussion comparing the two. Seems to me would be an interesting comparison.

  15. AND, ” like the difference between an automatic transmission and a manual transmission in a car”, if you actually think you can out-shift the automatic then you really are delusional.

  16. I guess I’m the only one who does not mind paying for glass.. But then again, I also use Hasselblad cameras with Carl Zeiss lenses…
    My AI AXMC also sports a S&B PMII 5-25×56 H59…
    If you can’t see it, and you can’t read the wind through it…. Why bother mounting it on a rifle?

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