Leupold Mark AR Riflescopes: Tailor-Made for Your AR


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

April 22nd, 2009

UPDATED August 19th, 2009




Leupold & Stevens of Beaverton, Oregon makes some of the best riflescopes in the world. Their high-line scopes compare favorably with scopes costing much more, but they also make some very affordable riflescopes for those of us who are not as flush with funds as the fellows who sit around the hunting lodge in tweed jackets with suede patches upon the elbows, puffing upon a Meerschaum pipe and recounting the exploits of their fifth African safari. Nothing at all wrong with excessive wealth, its just that most of us worry more about making the mortgage payment on time than about getting another coat of varnish on the schooner before yachting season begins. The subject of this piece, the Mark AR riflescope, falls into the affordable category, and is a dandy choice for mounting atop an AR-15, AR-180, Mini-14, or any other 5.56mm or .223 rifle. Leupoldís extensive line of tactical riflescopes is full of good choices that are rugged and reliable, and would serve very well on an AR, but this new Mark AR is built specifically for the semi-auto and bolt action 5.56mm rifle.

The Mark AR has fully multicoated lenses using Leupoldís own Multicoat 4 lens coating system for increased brightness, contrast, and clarity in all lighting conditions. I donít have scientific equipment to measure the amount of light that travels through various lenses, but I have two pretty good eyeballs, and they tell me that this scope has good optical quality. The cheapest scope hanging on the wall at the local discount store looks pretty clear on a good day, but in low light or hazy conditions, that is where the quality of a really good scope is apparent, and peering through the Mark AR, the image is bright and clear, all the way to the edge. The Mark AR is built on a one-inch tube, has half minute-of-angle click adjustments., and has 56 minutes of adjustment in both directions. The elevation turret has markings graduated to match the trajectory of a 55 grain bullet, out past 700 yards. The user sights the rifle in at 100 yards, and then just turns the dial to match the distance to the target. Very simple. If you prefer a different bullet weight, Leupold will build a dial to match whatever load you choose, for a very reasonable cost. The Mark AR is available with a choice of either a Duplex or Mil-dot reticle. The 3 to 9 power Mark AR shown here has a 40mm objective lens, is just under twelve and one-half inches long, and weighs three-quarters of a pound. It has a matte black finish on the one-piece aluminum tube. There is plenty of eye relief, around four inches, allowing the scope to work well on any AR-15 or similar rifle.

For testing of the Mark AR riflescope, I mounted it atop my Bushmaster Varminter using a one-piece ArmaLite mount. I used both commercial Winchester USA brand 55 grain full metal jacket ammo, and also some military surplus 55 grain ammunition. The bullet drop dial on the Mark AR is set up specifically for a 55 grain bullet traveling at 3100 feet-per-second (fps) muzzle velocity. The USA ammo averaged 3124 fps, and the surplus averaged exactly 3100 fps, so I was set to pop. Having no long range shooting facility available, I had to resort to the JBM ballistic program to prove or disprove the accuracy of the bullet drop dial. Firing at 100 yards and typing in the ballistic coefficients and atmospheric conditions, the dial proved to be amazingly accurate with the ammo tested, measuring the difference in the impact and aiming points on the target. Even using some 62 grain bullets at a slightly slower speed, the dial was pretty close out to the 300 yard range, where it was to the point where another bullet-specific dial from the Leupold Custom Shop would be needed. However, back to the 55 grain bullets for which this dial was calibrated, it proved to be accurate, and performed as advertised, out past the 400 yard mark, according to my range tests and the ballistic program. Enough shooting off the bench and playing with the computer, it was time to take the rifle to the field, along with the new Leupold RX-1000 rangefinder that I reviewed here a few weeks ago. I knew it would pay off not sending that rangefinder back after the review was completed. Targets of opportunity, like rocks and stumps, were easy pickings with the combination of the rifle, scope, and rangefinder. The USA ammo is not the most accurate load that I have for this rifle, but I am not the most accurate shooter either, so it was sufficient for the task at hand, and would have proven just as good on live targets as it would have on the rocks and such. Finding the distance with the RX-1000, then dialing in the Mark AR, all I had to do was lightly press on that wonderful Varminter trigger, and the bullet went where it was supposed to. Quality equipment really makes my shooting look good. I will most likely order a dial from the custom shop to suit my favorite .223 handload, just as soon as I figure out what it is. Barnes has discontinued making my favorite bullet, the 50 grain VLC, so I will have to pick another. With this new scope, I might select a longer, heavier bullet for better long-range accuracy, unless I run across a supply of those VLC bullets somewhere.

Anyway, early in this piece I mentioned the affordability of this Mark AR scope. They have just hit the market, but are selling for just under 300 bucks as of the date of this writing, which is a very reasonable price for a scope of this quality, specifically built for an AR, and wearing the Leupold nameplate. Sold under the Leupold Tactical series banner, this Mark AR is just as well suited for hunting applications, whether on a full-blown custom AR-15 or a plain-Jane bolt action. It is a scope upon which you can depend to give a lifetime of service, and is backed by Leupoldís excellent forever warranty. The Leupold Mark AR is a great idea, especially considering the extreme popularity of AR rifles today. This scope makes it easier for me to shoot more accurately at long range, and offers a lot of Leupold quality at an affordable price. It is built from quality components, and built in the USA. I highly recommend it.

Check out the Mark AR and other Leupold products online at www.leupold.com.

Dang, they make good stuff!

Jeff Quinn


In addition to the 3 to 9 power Mark AR reviewed here, Leupold has now added a 4 to 12 and a 6 to 18 to the Mark AR lineup. I recently received the 6 to 18, and it is everything that the 3 to 9 is, and more. Not just more magnification, but this 6 to 18 (shown below) also has an adjustable objective lens and a mil-dot reticle, making the scope more useful as a rangefinder and better suited for long range targets. It is the perfect compliment to the wonderful accuracy of my Bushmaster Varminter rifle. Like the 3 to 9 version, this one is set up with an elevation turret to match the ballistics of the 55 grain .223 bullet, but other dials are available from Leupold to match various .223 caliber bullet weights.

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Leupold's Mark AR 3-9x40mm scope.







Elevation adjustment turret is clearly marked out to 700 yards.



Scope magnification markings are clearly visible from the shooter's position.



Leupold duplex reticle.



Elevation and windage dials are marked in one-half minute-of-angle increments.



LaserLyte bore sighter has saved me a pile of ammunition.



Winchester USA 55 grain ammo clocked 3124 feet-per-second from the muzzle of the Bushmaster Varminter.