Leupold's New Mark 2 Series Tactical Rifle Scopes & Buffalo Bore Sniper Ammunition


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

January 25th, 2008




Most always when a review is posted on Gunblast, or when printed in a paper magazine, the emphasis is on the firearm. Nothing wrong with that, as shooting firearms is what we love to do. However, many shooters place too much emphasis on the gun, and leave other variables as an afterthought. Any experienced precision rifle shooter will tell you that the weapon is not just the firearm, but the package. Too often, a shooter will spend a lot of hard-earned or otherwise obtained money on a new rifle, and then just grab a cheap scope, haphazardly bolt it to the gun with the cheapest mount available, and then wonder why it doesn’t shoot good groups with that Soviet-bloc surplus ammo that he picked up at the last gun show. There is a better way to do it. You must think of the whole package. The gun will only be as accurate as the ammunition fed it, and precisely aiming the rifle can only be done with consistency by using good sights. Open, aperture, and Vernier type sights all have their place, and good work can be done with every type, but for really precise, long-range shooting, a good scope is vital. Here we are not discussing punching paper or ringing steel at known ranges with a Sharps, High Wall or other type of single shot rifle, but we are talking about what most call a “tactical” or “sniper” rifle. Both of these terms are overused and misused today by shooters and marketing types, but when pertaining to a bolt action rifle, it means a weapon built for placing one or two carefully aimed shots into a target at medium to long range. The sniper rifle, while suitable for some types of hunting, is built for social work. They are employed by law enforcement and military units around the world, operated by well-trained men who know that sometimes everything depends upon that one, precisely-placed shot. It is much like a highly accurate varmint rifle, but aimed towards dispatching another type of varmint. Punching clusters of holes in paper is one thing, but knowing that human lives depend upon your ability to deliver a precise shot, on time and under pressure, is what separates the professional sniper from the rest of us. Most of us will, thankfully, never be called upon to make such a critical shot. However, that does not keep us from wanting a good precision sniper rifle. Most sniper rifles in the US are chambered for either the .223 Remington or the .308 Winchester cartridge, and usually wear a heavy barrel, dark non-reflective finish, and have a synthetic stock. There are many good choices available from Savage, Remington, FNH, and others. When choosing the rifle, seek out one with a good trigger. A poor trigger is not conducive to accurate work. Feed the rifle good ammunition, and by all means, mount a good scope.

Choosing a good scope requires a bit of thought. You must consider the mount, the magnification, the clarity, durability, integrity of its seal, and overall dependability. Most of us must also consider price. There is a very good reason that the blister-packed Chinese scope at the Wal Mart costs forty bucks. Think about it. That price includes the profit for the both maker and retailer, shipping from the other side of the world, overhead, and packaging. Doesn’t leave a lot for quality components and craftsmanship. On the other end of the price spectrum, you can spend a couple of thousand dollars or more on a high-end European scope. Some are very good, and should serve you well. However, most of us will have to seek a balance of cost to quality.

Readers of Gunblast already know that I put a lot of faith in my Leupold scopes. I have owned many brands over the years. I have had some good cheap scopes, but sooner or later, they have always let me down. There is a place for a cheap imported scope. They work pretty well on a .22 rimfire rifle, but on a precision centerfire rifle, they are lacking in quality and durability. In the long run, cheap is too expensive. I shoot a lot, and to me, like to most of you, time is money. Nothing is more frustrating than to spend a few hours trying to work up an accurate load for anew rifle, only to discover that the scope has internal parts moving around. A movement as slight as a couple of thousandths of an inch can make the difference between a good group and a lousy one, or in the case of more urgent circumstances, the difference between life and death. Whenever I get in a new rifle for testing, it now wears either a Leupold or a Trijicon ACOG, depending upon the style of rifle and its intended purpose. The selection of the scope is every bit as critical as the selection of the rifle. Get a good scope.

Probably the most widely used rifle scope by police snipers in the US, and also US military snipers, is the Leupold Mark 4. The Mark 4 has a well deserved reputation for clarity, precision, and strength. It also costs a lot of money. It is worth it, and is usually the first choice of police and government agencies with nice fat budgets. However, as good as the Mark 4 is, Leupold has introduced a new line of tactical scopes called the Mark 2 series. The Mark 2 is built on a one inch tube, instead of the larger 30mm tube that is used on the Mark 4. The focus is moved to the objective bell, as it is on most hunting scopes, as opposed to he Mark 4’s side focus knob. These changes allow Leupold to sell the Mark 2 for less money, while maintaining the legendary Leupold quality.

The sample Mark 2 reviewed here is a four to twelve variable power, with a 40mm objective lens. The focus is adjustable from as close as about twenty feet, out to infinity, and the objective bell is marked at several different yardages. This power range makes the scope very useful on a sniper rifle, and would also be a very good choice for a hunting rifle. At the lowest setting, it has plenty field of view for close in shooting, and the twelve power on the upper end allows precision shooting at long range. Three different reticles are offered on this scope, with the one shown here having the Leupold Long Range Duplex reticle. This reticle has heavy crosshairs on the outside, with a finer crosshair in the center. On the lower vertical wire, there are three more aiming points; two lines and the top of the heavy post. This is a very versatile reticle, and allows for precise aiming points at long range. I took a picture of the reticle, and apologize for the quality of that picture, but it will give you an idea of how it looks. I have a hard time taking a picture through a riflescope. I have the equipment, but lack the ability. For those who prefer to sight in and turn the adjustments up or down, left or right, as the range and wind conditions change, the Mark 2 has target turrets that are well-marked, and are easily set at zero once the scope is sighted in. Turret caps are provided to keep others from cranking the scope out of adjustment, but are easily and quickly removed for adjustment if needed.

The Mark 2 has multiple layers of lens coating, and the optical clarity and resolution are excellent.

The scope mount is also a component that is often given little thought. Be sure to get a good scope mount. This doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be good quality. I like steel rings. There are some good aluminum rings available, but if weight isn’t a huge factor, I prefer steel. The Leupold QRW rings shown here are not expensive, but are of excellent quality, and they allow quick removal of the scope if needed. I like to use blue LocTite on the screw threads, electrical tape inside the rings, and to seat the screws as I finish the last turn with a whack or two of a hammer. These little details make a big difference. You must securely mount the scope to the rifle.

The other very important factor that is often overlooked is the ammunition. Contrary to what many shooters seem to think, good accuracy requires good ammo. Handloaders have known for many years that superior ammunition means superior accuracy. Yet I get emails often from shooters who spend a large sum of money on a quality rifle, but buy the cheapest ammo that they can find. Nothing at all wrong with plinking using cheap ammunition, but for the serious stuff, you need to buy good ammunition. The only way to save money on the best quality ammo is to load it yourself. Even then, good components are not cheap. You can buy match grade ammo from a few ammunition makers. I generally like Federal Gold Medal and Black Hills Match, but recently tried some match ammo from Buffalo Bore, and am impressed with the velocity and accuracy of that ammunition. Buffalo Bore is better known for their heavy, bone-smashing high performance handgun ammo, but they also make a few varieties of rifle ammunition. Their .308 Sniper Ultra Match ammunition proved to be very accurate in the Remington PSS Police Tactical rifle that I used to test out the Leupold Mark 4 scope. I enlisted the help of my friend and cousin-in-law Rick Williams while shooting the PSS. One reason is because it is his rifle, and another is that he has spent a lot of time looking through a Leupold scope. The Buffalo Bore ammunition groped very well, as I expected. Buffalo Bore uses premium components to assemble their ammo, and the result is a powerful, accurate load for precise target and anti-personnel work. The 175 grain Sierra Match bullet chronographed from the twenty-six inch barrel at 2820 feet-per-second. Impressive. From the new barrel of the PSS rifle, one hundred yard groups for Rick were around the five-eighths inch mark, with mine being around one-eighth larger. The largest group fired was shot by me. It measured only one and one-quarter inches, and I knew it was ruined as I pulled the trigger. I admit to being spoiled by the excellent triggers that are now available on rifles like the Savage. Their AccuTrigger makes precision shooting much easier for me, and the heavier trigger (just over four pounds) on the Remington rifle felt more like ten after getting accustomed to better triggers. That made it hard for me to shoot well. At least that’s my excuse. I think that with a little trigger work and after the barrel is broken in well, the Remington PSS will shoot better, but even brand new, it turned in a very good performance with the Buffalo Bore ammo and the Leupold scope.

It has been my experience that a shooter needs to always seek quality first, and price second, when choosing an accurate rifle for long range shooting. That doesn’t mean that you have to mortgage the farm to buy a rifle. However, building a target rifle on a budget doesn’t mean spending the whole wad on the rifle, and then cheaping out on the scope and ammo. It is a package. I would rather buy less rifle and more scope, everything being equal. With the Mark 2, Leupold has offered Mark 4 quality at a lower price. It is still not cheap, but it is within the reach of most shooters' budgets. The package is only as accurate as its weakest component. Buy a good rifle, good scope, good mount, and good ammo. It makes all the difference.

Check out the line of Mark 2 scopes and other optics at www.leupold.com.

To order the Buffalo Bore Sniper ammo, go to www.buffalobore.com.

Jeff Quinn

Rick Williams helped with testing.





When the shooting is serious, you need some serious ammunition. Buffalo Bore's .308 Sniper ammo fills the bill!



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Click pictures for a larger version.


Leupold's Mark 2 Tactical Series rifle scope.



Adjustable objective lens.



Power and turret settings are easy to read from the shooter's position.



Instruction booklets that come with the scope are very helpful.



Leupold Quick Release rings will fit any Weaver or Picatinny style base.



Proper mounting is critical to accuracy.



QRW ring levers can be positioned as needed.



Scope can be used with or without turret caps.



The MK 2's reticle is a useful tool in its own right.



Leupold MK 2 Tactical mounted on a Remington PSS .308.