Join Date: Aug 2005
My Ride: F30 328i M Sport
Leupold is a company that has been around a long time, and has defined themselves as one of the early originators in the US tactical optics community. The Vari-X III Tactical scopes were on top of a lot of guns. When scopes were using older technology from Unertl and Redfield, Leupold showed up with advanced tactical scopes that offered something nobody had seen before. The old 10x scopes in the system were supplemented by Leupold's variable magnification scopes, as well as a fixed 10x offering. That scope line was a factory modified hunting scope, and Leupold eventually decided to purpose-build a scope, which they dubbed the Mark4 series. This scope series led the industry for a long time, and most sniper rifles in the US military inventory were topped with Leupolds. Leupold eventually expanded the Mark4 line and diverged them into three categories: Mid-Range/Tactical (MR/T), Long Range/Tactical (LR/T) and Extended Range/Tactical (ER/T).
Leupold got comfortable in their position as the leading manufacturer and supplier of sniper rifle optics for the military, and law enforcement and government agencies saw this and jumped on board. For a long time, Leupold continued to do what they had been doing with very little effort to improve the platform. They made minor changes to lens coatings and whatnot, but nothing too ground-breaking. This allowed other companies to swoop in with more innovative scopes and start taking away military contracts from Leupold. Nightforce took the SPR contract with their 2.5-10x24x NXS Compact, replacing the Leupold MR/T 3-9x40. The USMC Scout Sniper M8541 SSDS (Scout Sniper Day Scope) was a Unertl 10x with some Leupolds used, but was replaced by the Premier Heritage 3-15x50 and Schmidt & Bender Police Marksman II 3-12x50 LP. Leupold has yet to regain any USMC or Navy contracts.
As more companies got into the tactical scope market, Leupold was forced to improve, originally starting with first focal plane (FFP) scopes and milrad elevation and windage adjustments. They then expanded to a Mark4 ER/T 6.5-20x50 mil/mil version with a 34mm tube. That was originally selected by the Army for their MSR/XM2010 sniper rifle program. Leupold started getting feedback from special operations and sniper personnel, and had to make changes. Leupold responded by introducing two new lines of scopes: Mark6 and Mark8. The Mark6 line uses a 6x magnification erector assembly, while the Mark8 uses an 8x. These scopes were outfitted with high quality Japanese glass and have been designed for military use. The US Army currently is using numerous scopes, but their Mark4 10x40, 3.5-10x40 and 6.5-20x50 models are being replaced by the Mark8 1.1-8x CQBSS and 3.5-25x56 scopes. Additionally, the Mark6 3-18x44 CMR-W scopes are seeing limited fielding. Leupold is relevant again in the tactical precision scope market.
Lower cost precision tactical scopes have been marketed by Leupold for the commercial market, as well as LE and GOV units. This was originally called the Mark2 line, but was later renamed as the MarkAR line as the models shifted strictly for commercial sales. Leupold made the decision to diverge their commercial sales from their LE and GOV LE sales, and created a separate line for the LE/GOV world under the VX-R Patrol series. They made commercial versions, but this series was designed to be used in the field by police officers and government field agents. Leupold has increased their optical quality and features as they've been forced to compete in the market.
Leupold has ventured into the tactical combat optic world, originally offering the Mark4 CQ/T (Close Quarters/Tactical) 1-3x20mm sight. The sight was originally billed as a better CQB alternative to the ACOG because it had the 1x low end, an etched reticle, 3x magnification for long range, and an illuminated reticle. The optic proved to be less stellar than it was billed to be, with a short battery life and very poor light transmission when compared to the Trijicon ACOG that it was competing against. With other options on the market, the CQ/T didn't perform as well as people would have liked. Having used the CQ/T, I was extremely disappointed with it; particularly when comparing it to the ACOG. Leupold saw a need to offer a more robust sight alternative that could see military use and compete against the ACOG better, and also offer a BDC reticle instead of the limited-use circle/dot reticle of the CQ/T. I think they knew that the CQ/T wasn't all that great. The optic they created was the HAMR (High Accuracy Multi-Range Riflescope), which is a 4x magnified optic that makes certain improvements over the ACOG that have been complained about. Things like an adjustable focus and a battery operated illumination option.
Leupold also delved into the CQB reflex sight market. Originally the CQ/T was their only offering. The unfortunate problem is that of the two optics they developed, one was good and one wasn't. The DeltaPoint is a mini red dot that was designed to compete against other miniature red dots like the Insight MRDS and Trijicon RMR. The DeltaPoint offers a wider field of view with a polygonal frame as opposed to the smaller square frames of the other optics. The DeltaPoint has been mounted as an option on the HAMR, as well as being popular to mount on pistols, or as a backup red dot for tactical scopes.
On the other hand, the Prismatic was created and billed as the "ideal" LE tactical CQB optic. The problem is that it isn't. The Prismatic is best described as a 1x scope that was chopped off just after the ocular housing. It uses an etched reticle on a lens in a scope housing, and works just like a scope. It has an eyebox and requires a consistent cheek position. It also has parallax issues, despite what has been advertised. It was billed as an ideal optic because of the etched reticle, because Leupold claims that if your optic illumination goes down, you have your etched reticle as a backup. This is more necessary than people know, as the battery life of the illumination module sucks at just 14hrs max time, using expensive 1/3N cell lithium batteries. And yes, that's right- I said illumination MODULE. The illumination module is a removable component that can be taken off of the optic, eliminating the ability to illuminate the optic. It also causes moisture issues into the optic. Essentially, you have a rifle scope on your weapon, but NO MAGNIFICATION. What's the point? As has been noted by Pat Rogers, the founder of EAG Tactical and a retired NYPD sergeant and USMC Warrant Officer, "it's Leupold's answer to a question no one asked." I would tend to agree, as I have used a Prismatic and been very disappointed. It's not a true 1x optic as it was designed before Leupold actually had the ability to make a true 1x. It is one optic that I would absolutely refuse to use outright unless there was absolutely no other choice.