April 19, 2023
By J. Scott Rupp
A few months ago I had the opportunity to take Leupold’s Mark 5HD for a spin at the company’s test range in Oregon, and it was an eye-opening experience—not to mention a whole lot of fun as we got to engage steel out to 1,700 yards with this optic, which was mounted atop Browning’s excellent X-Bolt Target Max in 6.5 Creedmoor.
I’m far from an expert in long-range shooting, but the Leupold guys definitely are. The scope they came up with works because they are hardcore long-distance competitors.
Let’s look at the scope itself first. In developing the Mark 5HD, Leupold designed it with an eye toward producing an optic that’s versatile and offers value for customers as varied as the military and Precision Rifle Series and other long-range rifle competitors. At a suggested retail of $2,100 it’s not the most expensive competition scope out there, but it’s not exactly cheap either. Importantly, though, it qualifies for PRS’s Production division, which sets a $2,500 limit on optics.
The Mark 5HD uses Leupold’s Professional Grade optics system for a clear, bright image. It’s built on a 35mm tube that provides a ton of reticle travel: 35 mils of elevation and 17 mils of windage on the model I tested. There aren’t a ton of 35mm scopes out there—at least not yet—but several companies in addition to Leupold make rings for this diameter.
For a 5X zoom scope with such a big tube, it’s incredibly light, which matters depending on what competitions you shoot or want to shoot. For example, National Rifle League Hunter requirements for its Factory and Open Light divsions mandate a total weight of gun, optic and all support equipment be under 12 pounds.
The tube is aircraft-grade aluminum, and so are the internals. As Leupold staffers explained it, aircraft-grade aluminum actually absorbs recoil forces better than steel or brass. So despite the fact that the latter two metals are easier to work with, Leupold goes the extra mile and uses aluminum inside. The result is less mass and less force applied to the mechanisms.
The model I shot features Leupold’s M5C3 ZeroLock adjustments. Loosening a set screw allows you to remove the outer part of the turret and move the adjuster inside to get your zero. Replace the cap and tighten, and you’ll be able to return to zero quickly and surely.
The elevation turret is well labeled, and its revolution indicator must be pressed in to begin adjusting upward. You get all the elevation adjustment in just three turns. On the first revolution, the indicator sticks out; on the second, it is flush with the body of the turret; and on the last revolution the indicator is recessed and a small metal pin also pops up. The setup provides both tactile and visual clues on where you are, and the clicks are repeatably accurate.
The 5HD has a removable throw lever for the power selector and it’s located where it doesn’t interfere with bolt operation. And speaking of power, Leupold is proud of how much eye relief the 5HD offers, and even maxed out at 25X I found it to be generous. Mostly I shot it at 16-18X, and I loved how I got a full field of view whether I was shooting from prone, or off a tank trap, tires, barrels or various other props.
The model I tested featured Leupold’s new FFP PR2. We shot the mil version, but it’s also available in m.o.a. The FFP PR2 was developed with feedback from serious competition shooters, which like I said includes the avid shooters within the company.
A few key takeaways. One, by going with quarter-mil increments, Leupold was able to open up the reticle and make it less cluttered.
Further, the “base four” system makes a ton more sense to me because it is easier for me to think in terms of quarter-mil, half-mil or three-quarter mil adjustments or holds than it would if the mils were divided into fifths (0.2, 0.4, etc.)—a common layout for mil reticles. The “up/down” nature of the windage mil marks—quarters are down, halves are up, with full-width mils—means they’re really quick to identify.
I like the floating center dot for precision on small or really out-there steel and for “shading” on a target. The top half of the field of view has minimal intrusion of the reticle, which for me translates to finding targets faster.
I could spend several pages breaking down the reticle, but the diagrams on Leupold’s website paint a clearer picture than I could describe. I’ll just say it’s the most sensible Christmas-tree-type I’ve used, and overall I think the Mark 5HD on the whole is a terrific choice if you’re looking to take up competition or upgrade what you might already have.
- Lightweight, with great eye relief
- Reticle is easy, fast and intuitive to use
- Built in the USA
- 35mm tube somewhat limits ring options
- Not the most expensive scope out there, but not budget-level either
Leupold Mark 5HD Specifications
- Power/Obj.: 3.6-18x44mm, 5-25x56mm (tested), 7-35x56mm
- Tube/Weight: 35mm/30 oz.
- Focal Plane: First
- Reticle: FFP PR2-Mil (as tested)
- Adjustment: 0.1 mil w/locking dial, revolution indicator; 35 mil total elevation, 17 mil total windage
- Eye Relief: 3.6–3.8 in.
- Parallax: Side adjust, 50 yd. min.
- Linear FOV: 4.2–20.4 ft. at 100 yd.
- Price: $2,100
- Manufacturer: Leupold, leupold.com