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
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.
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