Leupold’s Mark 6 scope series has been very popular among police and military since its introduction. Designed at the request of Special Mission Units, it had to be compact yet provide plenty of power with modern reticle options. The 3-18x44mm model is a fantastic workhorse of a scope that is well suited to any 5.56mm or .308/7.62mm AR because it will handle plenty of abuse in harsh conditions. But the Leupold Mark 5HD fills a different niche.
Because the Mark 6 isn’t for everybody. Adjusting the reticle focus takes time, and for me at least, the turrets can be hard to read. The scope is also costly; meeting those military specs was expensive. Shooters needed something a bit more versatile, and thankfully, Leupold answered the call with its new Mark 5HD series.
Leupold Mark 5HD: On The Mark
Leupold starts with a 35mm tube and a completely redesigned center section, allowing for more elevation and less stress on the erector at the extremes. Measuring 12.06 inches, the 3.6-18x44mm Mark 5HD is a mere 0.16 inches longer than its Mark 6 counterpart. Leupold also offers a 5-25x56mm Mark 5HD that, at 15.67 inches, is relatively compact for the magnification it offers. Both models are also just as strong as previous models while weighing 26 and 30 ounces, respectively.
Leupold’s Twilight Max HD light management system ensures improved operation in low-light conditions, a boon for tactical and hunting situations. With these scopes, there’s also more contrast and edge-to-edge clarity. The M5C3 ZeroLock turrets allow for windage and elevation to be adjusted in 0.1-mil increments with visible and tactile indicators. Turrets that adjust clockwise for “up” and “right” are also available.
Leupold includes a side focus parallax knob that is easy to use, and the scope tracks predictably with a precise return to zero. The five-to-one zoom ratio provides optimal increases in magnification. You adjust the eyepiece with a simple turn, while power adjustments are fast using the integrated throw lever. Mark 5HD mounts are available to match the 35mm tube for both AR and standard bolt rifle configurations. A lens shade and covers are included.
Several reticles are available, including the Tactical Milling Reticle (TMR), Combat Competition Hunter (CCH) and the Horus H59 and Tremor3 (T3), all mounted in the first focal plane (FFP). The 3.6-18x44mm Mark 5HD is also available with an illuminated TMR while the 5-25x56mm model can be had with an illuminated T3 or TMR reticle. The retail prices range from $2,400 to $3,364, but you’re buying quality. Remember, when it comes to optics, you buy once, cry once.
In June of 2017, I was first introduced to the Mark 5 (before it was rebranded as the Mark 5HD) at a media event held at the Leupold Optics Academy. The only model available at the time was the 3.6-18x44mm, a perfect comparison to my Mark 6 scope. It almost immediately dealt with all of my issues with the Mark 6. Being able to adjust the eye relief easily and on the fly is important for me. At my age, my right and left eyes are markedly different, and this design allows me to change sides when needed and still have a focused reticle. Since I generally use the reticle for holds, it is a necessity.
It was also nice to adjust the power without having my scope cap rotate and interfere with either the bolt or charging handle. The glass was clearer, more so at the extremes. The turrets were the same as those on the latest Mark 8: flatter and easier to read with an indicator showing the number of rotations. It was easy to adjust for zero and lock it in place. The side focus parallax adjustment offered more travel while being more precise. Ergonomically, everything I expect in a working scope was there. Finally, the test scope was equipped with a TMR reticle that was usable over a much broader range.
Leupold Mark 5HD in Drills
My next chance to use this scope came during a Leupold Optics Academy class held a couple months later. Mounted on my Modern Outfitters MC7 in .260 Remington, I ran a few drills trading sides, performing some holds and ranging using the TMR. The scope proved to be the perfect size for a working carbine, regardless of caliber. It’s light, compact and easy to operate. Moving back and forth, it was pretty quick to adjust the reticle for each eye. The clarity was also top notch.
During a class held by Buck Doyle of Follow Through Consulting, I had a chance to work with the 5-25x56mm model. Buck is a retired Recon Marine who performs quite a bit of testing for Leupold and others. He does so from the perspective of a deployed combat Marine, so the scopes have to hold up to some serious abuse.
This test model had my preferred reticle, the Horus T3. The subtensions were accurate, and I was able to get it focused at range and remove any parallax. The turrets were flat remained usable with easy-to-read markings, even without my glasses. Just like the Mark 8, the clicks were very tactile, and the indicator on the top tells you how far off the bottom you are. The scope was also noticeably lighter, especially compared to my Mark 8—light enough that I would not hesitate to throw it on any of my 5.56mm carbines.
These are top-tier scopes with prices to match, although they’re still cheaper than comparable Mark 6 and Mark 8 models. They are much more in line with the competition, and Leupold offers some very aggressive law enforcement pricing so working officers and agencies will see significant savings. At the same time, these scopes meet or exceed the competition in terms of features, such as glass clarity, twilight visibility and durability, with the best warranty in the business.
For some, the 35mm rings are going to be an issue. Unless you already have a 35mm scope, you will need rings (or a mount). Many an expletive has been uttered searching for some quality 35mm rings that will work in a professional environment and not require a second mortgage. Thankfully, Leupold is providing a number of high-quality mounts to go with the series at more reasonable pricing.
On a personal note, I have been using Leupold scopes in a tactical environment for a couple decades now. These are easily the best scopes the company has produced for that purpose. They improve on every previous design while maintaining rugged reliability. Lighter, clearer and easier to use with proven reticles, they are just about as good as it gets. Coupled with Leupold’s legendary customer service, you are getting a complete package.
Built for Professionals
If you are a working professional, the comprehensive support Leupold provides is another consideration. Some 15 years ago, my agency had two scopes go down with turret issues. Both were reworked target scopes, due mostly to my agency’s lack of money. Shipped via next day air, both were repaired and returned in three days. When I was finally able to replace those old scopes, Leupold was able to provide the latest FFP models with some aggressive pricing, again due mostly to my agency’s unwillingness free up any funds.
As you can see, Leupold is all about the guy on the ground, and it’s been incredibly helpful. No, that doesn’t make the scopes any better; there are surely strong competitors. But that level of support is all but impossible to beat. I know I’ll never forget it.
Whether your scope will go on your favorite hunting rig, a target rifle or the one you save lives with, make sure you give the Mark 5HD a serious look. For more information, visit leupold.com.
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