By Jay Grazio, Shooting Illustrated
When it comes to an optic for a carbine for home defense, it’s hard to argue against a simple red-dot sight. Battery life, especially with the current crop of sights, has been greatly improved; dots are rugged and hold zero well; they’re generally less expensive and dot sights take up less real estate on your carbine. A properly zeroed red-dot sight should cover any threat for the typical home defender. But, what about those homesteads that aren’t so typical?
If slightly longer ranges are of concern, for two- or four-legged threats, having an optic with some magnification is beneficial. There are two main ways to approach this: either a traditional riflescope with offset irons or red-dot sight, or a low-variable-power optic (LVPO) like the Leupold Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 mm FireDot SPR scope featured here. The advantages of the LVPO are simple: it’s one optic that does the work of two.
In the case of the Leupold Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 mm illuminated FireDot SPR scope, the 1.5- to 4-power magnification offers both-eyes-open aiming with a centered red-dot on the lower setting, and magnification that should cover the vast majority of engagements beyond close-quarters. With a removable throw lever, changing from low- to high-power (or high-to-low) is simple and fast, should the need arise; however, the 1.5X of the low setting should suffice for the majority of situations.
The 1.5-4×20 mm Mark 3HD is, well, a Leupold scope. It’s beefy, easy-to-use and intuitive, with covered turrets for windage and elevation that are clearly marked for position and have changes made in .1-mil increments. Illumination has seven settings, and quite smartly has an “off” position in between each setting. This is great if you prefer a brighter dot, as you don’t have to spin back from setting “5” to “0” every time you power the dot down. Battery life ranges from 300 hours on high to 1,600 hours on low, with a common CR2032 battery for power. Mind you, these are constant-on ratings; the Mark 3HD SPR has motion-sensing technology that turns off power if no motion is detected for 5 minutes, yet turns back on immediately when motion is detected.
Other than the aforementioned throw lever for the power selector and the reticle focus, that’s it for the Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 mm SPR. Once you’ve decided on a zero distance, about the only changes you’ll make are to the magnification and possibly the brightness, both of which are easy to adjust with the support hand (assuming you don’t have a ridiculously heavy rifle…) Simple to use, basically indestructible (I hear you out there saying “Challenge accepted” – while, yes, it is possible to damage a Leupold scope, remember that this is the same company that tested its scopes’ durability by strapping one to a jackhammer!) and offering amazing clarity, it’s an easy choice for someone looking for a durable LVPO.
Let’s take a closer look at the reticle on the Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 mm SPR. A centered red dot with seven brightness settings rests in the middle of a 10 mil circle (approximately 34.3 MOA for those of us who still think in terms of MOA…) Subtensions surround the dot, with markings every 1.25 mils (roughly 4.3 MOA) for those who prefer to use holdovers at longer range. When used on the 1.5X setting, the red-dot is distinct and instantly acquired for rapid engagement, and the slight magnification does not cause any problems when aiming with both eyes open.
Now, yes, when it comes to price, the Leupold isn’t cheap—but, there’s a lot of scope for the money. Water-, shock- and fogproof (although, as I’ve said previously, I don’t think anything is truly waterproof…), impact-tested and cold-weather verified, each Leupold scope is warrantied for life to perform. I’ve owned Leupold scopes for three decades, and have yet to collect on any warranty. I doubt my kids will, either. While I haven’t had the opportunity to do much more than zero and box test the Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 mm SPR, I suspect it’ll outlast me for durability (although not the Radian Model 1 it’s mounted on…)
In short, if you’ve been looking for an LVPO riflescope for close- to mid-range reach, there are a lot of options out there. Leupold’s Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 mm SPR is a “buy-once-cry-once” option, where the initial cost is slightly more than other optics out there, but more than worth everything you pay in the long run. There’s a lot to love about the “set it and forget it” reliability of a great product like a Leupold scope, where, once installed, it will function exactly the way it’s intended, each time and every time.
Manufacturer: Leupold; (800) 538-7653, leupold.com
Objective Lens Diameter: 20 mm
Reticle: FireDot SPR
Adjustability: 36 mil elevation and windage in .1-mil clicks
Field of View: 74.2 feet at 100 yards (1.5X); 29.4 feet at 100 yards (4X)
Eye Relief: 4.2 inches (1.5X); 3.7 inches (4X)
Length: 9.4 inches
Weight: 13.1 ounces
Accessories: Extended throw lever, manual