Choosing an optic for an ar15 is just like choosing a rifle. Narrow down what you want the rifle to do and the optic will follow what you need it to do. When you have an ar15 you have a rifle that is lightweight and portable and not really an area for a huge scope. The scope needs to work as hard as the rifle without breaking but can’t get in the way or slow down the speed of the ar15.
This is clearly a niche area for scopes because amid these challenges for durability they need to be lightweight and reasonably compact. It gets even more complicated when you add in the fact that many shooters want magnification for hunting or target shooting.
In response to this many companies now manufacture and market scopes purpose-built for use on an ar15. They fit the bill of rugged, small and lightweight enough to be a true performer riding the flat top of an ar15. Leupold is one of these companies and they offer several different forms of purpose-made scopes the most common and among the best performing of which is the Leupold Mark AR Mod 1.
Leupold Mark AR 1 Mod Review
There’s not a whole lot to say about Leupold that most people don’t already know. They make some of the best tactical scopes and by far the best sporting optics on the planet. They manufacture in the United States and have products at every price level without compromising quality.
The Mark AR MOD 1 line of scopes is no different, they make these scopes specifically to be used on ar15 pattern rifles. The ar15 is by design meant to be a lightweight and fast shooting rifle. They don’t have a ton of recoil but they do get thrashed on pretty violently by the people who use them the way they were intended.
This is a unique place for a scope to be and the Mark AR MOD1 performs like a champ. Its rugged all-metal housing shrugs off hit and dings that would break a lot of other scopes. including far more expensive scopes made for the same purpose.
The reticle designs come in several different varieties that cater to tactical shooting, casual plinking, and hunting. The scopes do a great job of keeping crisp detail completely through their magnification range and the crosshair never blurs as you zoom in and out like on some cheaper scopes. The turrets on the scope dial up and down easy and feel positive when they click through their magnification levels but aren’t bulky or in the way.
One of the best features of these scopes is the ability to order one with both a BDC reticle and the new Leupold FireDot technology. Essentially what you get is a glowing red or green dot ready for fast eye pick up along with magnification for hitting precision targets.
The FireDot does exactly what the magnifiers for a red dot were supposed to be. A marriage of magnification and a red dot. With this Leupold, you get it all in one housing, for far cheaper, lighter and you can get a BDC reticle for fast holdovers. There’s very little not to love in these scopes.
Mark AR MOD 1 1.5-4x20mm
The smallest and best option for a professional duty optic comes in a 1.5-4x20mm scope that is perfect for the 0 to the 300-yard range that ar15’s are best for. The 1.5x power is low enough for fast target acquisition and situational awareness and the 4x power is strong enough to see ID targets at 300 yards. The fire dot reticle is easy to see at all distances. This is a great model for 3 gun or close-range hunting and at just 9.6oz with a 20mm objective bell, it will ride low on the bore axis and be light enough to not notice the weight.
Mark AR MOD 1 3-9x40mm
The next size up in their Mod 1 line up is the 3-9x40mm. This is the most useful scope for using an ar15 to hunt medium-sized game. When used with adequate bullets the .223 is a proven game getter for whitetail deer and hog hunting. Paired with a medium paired scope such as the 3-9x40mm Mark AR Mod1 scope you can range out to the maximum range you can reliably kill with a .223.
The 9x power is just as crisp and clear as the 3x power and plenty bright for hunting coyotes, deer or hogs until the edge of shooting light. If you plan on using back up iron sights on your rifle this scope will be mounted pretty high once it clears the bell and the sight. Be careful with your mount and remember that scopes this size will feel a bit unbalanced in the hand on an ar15.
Mark AR MOD 1 4-12x40mm & Mark AR MOD 1 6-18x40mm
These are the big boys when it comes to magnification on an ar15. These are great ar10 scopes and ultra-long-range .223 builds because they stay a reasonable size and weight for an ar15 but have magnification to be able to hit well beyond what the ar15 is typically used for.
The 4-12x power scope would fit well on a coyote gun and either of these scopes would work great for a .308 ar10 that would be used out to 500 yards and beyond. The 16x power scope, in particular, is an oddity because few semi-automatic rifles are accurate enough to take full advantage of the range these scopes can provide. For the few rifles that can, these scopes are a great option.
For the shooter who bought their ar15 with precision shooting or hunting in mind you ought to have at least some magnification for the job at hand. The Leupold Mark AR MOD 1 line of riflescopes offer a purpose-built scope for ar15s that’s hard to beat. As you can see from this Leupold Mark AR MOD 1 review, these scopes are rugged and boringly reliable. Just like most everything Leupold builds, it just plain works.