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  1. #1
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    Leupold MK6 on-going "review"

    While trying to decide on a variable optic that could be used for distance shooting/plinking but could also be used for some limited closer in stuff, I found several options, but I kept finding something about each optic option that caused me reservations. My priorities were (mostly in order):

    -a mil-based reticule that would still give me .5 mil sub-tensions
    -FFP
    -weight
    -a reticule that wasn't really busy and obscured a smaller target at a given range
    -at least 4x
    -price

    Some finalists were the Elcan Specter DR, the SWFA 1-6 and the MK6. My reservation about the MK6 was the donut on the reticule obscuring the target, but based on some pictures, I figured I'd give it a try since it scratched all the other itches.

    Initially I tried to run this on a Colt 6921HB, but I found at 6x, I would get a "haze" in the optic from the front sight post. I never really had that issue with an ACOG, but I'm thinking the increased mag and probably the different sized lens had something to do with that. So I ended up pulling out my trusty Noveske N4 upper that's been criminally neglected lately out of the safe and took off a T1 and put on the MK6 (begin blurry iPhone pic sequence).



    This rifle was my first (technically second, but the first was a BCM that just didn't shoot anything well so I sold it) and has been with me since 2011, multiple local action rifle competitions and a carbine course. It has been absolutely trouble free and very accurate. After an initial swag zero at 50 yards, the MK6 and rifle were pretty much set at 100 yards using cheapo PPU M193. Not great groups (about 2.75 MOA), but this isn't meant to be a dedicated SPR. I'll run some SWA, Magtech, and maybe Black Hills 77gr through it at a later time, but for now, PPU and PMC Xtac will be it's main diet over the next few months.

    Reticule:

    I believe it was SINNER who warned me that the reticule may be too thin based off another Leupold optic. I have not found this be the case for the MK6. At 4x and up, the sub-tensions and reticule have been very easy to read. I do find the donut at 4-6X to be annoying at times, but it really depends on the target I'm shooting at. I haven't had a chance to mess with shooting steel yet (hopefully next weekend), but when shooting a 8" Shoot 'n C target, it does obscure portions of the target (donut is 9" across at 100 yards). Can you overcome it? Certainly, but either more mag (can't happen) or a wider donut would help. Here's another iPhone pic at 6x on a drizzly day.



    I would say in reality, your eye sees more magnification than that picture depicts, but all I had was my iPhone and not a SLR, so I captured what I could.

    When running the optic at 1x, with or without the donut illuminated, it's fairly easy for your eye to find the cross hair and put it on the target. Here it is at 1x (donut illuminated):



    There's much buzz on the internet about how the donut will "blink" out if your eye isn't positioned perfectly, and I found that to be the case for me, as well. My question is, during the day, does it matter? I don't have a firm answer yet, but so far, even when it blinks out, you still have the center of the reticule to use and put on target. More on shooting at 1x shortly.

    Image quality:

    Obviously a subjective topic. When properly positioned, the image is very clear and bright. I have no complaints other than, for me, 6x isn't quite enough to see all the 5.56 holes at 100 yards. That may have more to do with my eyes than the optic. At 1x, it's pretty much like looking through an Eotech. Clear and almost zero perception that there's a tube of optics in front of you. I did notice that I could see my support hand in the image, which I don't remember seeing in a RDS, but it's not like it blocks the target at all.

    One thing that I have found is that image quality drops off when you start to move out of the eye box slightly. Eye relief is great, but I've found that I get some scope shadow very easily if I move my head slightly at the higher mags. Compared to an ACOG, it doesn't seem as forgiving, but again, obviously a different design. At 1x there's more slop before scope shadow become an issue.

    Shooting at 1x:

    So, can this replace a RDS? Of course not. But how does it stack up? I need more data, but for the first set of drills I ran, I found the rifle to be much more the deciding factor than the optic. I set up a simple test with two targets at 20 yards. At the buzzer, I would engage each target with two shots, and shots needed to land in the A-zone. The times I give aren't meant to be anything special, and I'm sure many here could shoot faster, but I merely needed a standard to compare the two rifles. With the exception of one shot that landed in the C-zone with the MK6 (completely shooter error), all shots on both test rifles were on target. The two test rifles were my Noveske with the Mk6 and the "M4" 6921HB with a PA RDS (pic below). The M4 has a carbine gas system and a Surefire SF3P muzzle device. The Noveske has a Surefire 556RC brake on a mid-length gas system.



    Honestly, while it might help slightly, I don't think the gas length is really as big a deal as some make it out to be. But I am 100% sure the muzzle device was important during this test. Anecdotally, I felt slower in acquiring the target and shooting with the MK6, especially if the dot would slip out of the "perfect" eye box and blink off. Meanwhile the RDS goes where you put it. But here's the data (average). I ran the RDS twice, the first time to get warmed up, just to make sure I got comfortable with each rifle. Both runs with the RDS were pretty comparable. Both "official" runs (MK6 vs RDS) consisted of 5 strings each (20 rounds total each).

    RDS (no muzzle brake): 2.5s
    MK6 (with SF brake): 2.1s

    I have to believe the brake was helping. At the moment, the only other 16" Ar I have with a RDS is my 5.45 gun and it has a cheapo RRA brake on it, so I'll have to figure out an apples to apples comparison. Maybe the answer is to just put a suppressor on both rifles so any braking action is nulled.

    More testing is needed:

    Looking forward to continuing to run this, both at distance and up close. I might end up with access to an Elcan for comparison, which I would be very interested in, but TBD at this point. While not perfect (to me), I'm looking forward to continuing to put this optic through it's paces and I'll add updates here as I go.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by gatordev View Post
    While trying to decide on a variable optic that could be used for distance shooting/plinking but could also be used for some limited closer in stuff, I found several options, but I kept finding something about each optic option that caused me reservations. My priorities were (mostly in order):

    -a mil-based reticule that would still give me .5 mil sub-tensions
    -FFP
    -weight
    -a reticule that wasn't really busy and obscured a smaller target at a given range
    -at least 4x
    -price
    I have been looking at optics left and right myself but after owning a FFP scope I wonder why you want that option on a 1-4x scope? At first I was blown away (in a good way) by the concept of FFP...and I have been using one that is FFP.... I just ordered a different one though that ISN'T FFP and I will be doing some comparisons.

    My initial thoughts on it after handling a 2nd FP 1-4x is that at those powers FFP and 2nd FP aren't really going to make a difference. I don't know. I could be completely wrong.

    It seems to me that the whole FFP thing would be served a whole lot better by a longer range scope. The longer range one I have been eye balling is the Vortex 2.5-10X FFP.

    My thoughts are (after owning and using a FFP 1-4X is that at 1X to 3X you won't really be ranging anything out. Conversely on a longer optic like mentioned above being able to use the optic through out the range would be far more useful.

    I am not saying it to second guess you but rather to get your opinion on the matter so I can see if I have just lost my mind or not

  3. #3
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    I would say use what works for you, so I don't take it that you're second guessing me. For your shooting style, a SFP may be the answer.

    My reasoning is the following:

    -MK6 is a 1-6x, but I may not always want to run it at 6x, like if I'm trying to hit something 200-300m away while wobbling around on a barricade.

    -I don't always spin a turret when shooting, especially if I'm transitioning between varying distances quickly, so if I'm on something other than 6x (like above), a FFP will allow me to still use my holds, unlike on a SFP. Now, at that range, would it matter? Maybe not sometimes, but I guess it would depend on how small the target is.

    -MK6 (and the SWFA and Vortex HD GenII), when you go down to 1x the donut turns into the dot. That's how you're able to get the relatively small RDS-like reticule without all the other junk in your way.

    -Lastly, I'm spoiled and I'm able to treat myself with the luxury. A SFP is certainly very capable, but since I could get a FFP, then why not.

    That was most of my reasoning, but may not apply to everyone. Long term, I'll be interested to see if it was a smart purchase. If not, I'm sure I could get most of what I paid for it back.

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    I am soooo glad you can admit that you're spoiled

    My reasoning between the two is FFP is very nice. I have zero questions or concerns with it but after getting into the .223/5.56 round out to 200 yards and to some extent 300 yards the hold over are so minimal that at least for me I am more or less using the 100 yard zero center dot. 200 for sure but 300 may be stretching it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alamo5000 View Post

    My reasoning between the two is FFP is very nice. I have zero questions or concerns with it but after getting into the .223/5.56 round out to 200 yards and to some extent 300 yards the hold over are so minimal that at least for me I am more or less using the 100 yard zero center dot. 200 for sure but 300 may be stretching it.
    Yup. But like I said, target size and the ballistics of the round can come into play, as well. Shooting M193 at 5K DA out of a SPR gives me a 2.1 mil hold at 423 yards (a target I was playing with out in Montana). A 100 yard zero wouldn't have made it work, even with the very generous target size I was shooting.

    Quote Originally Posted by GOST View Post
    Thanks for the review Gatordev, very nice. Been wanting to see it since you posted that pic.
    Thanks. I'll try and add some more meat to the shooting side as time goes on.

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    Very interesting review, Gatordev,

    I wish I could shoot with a scope. I'm not talking shooting from a bench, but live action shooting. Had a Burris a few years ago, forget which model, but it had a thick red semi-circle reticle with a dot in the center. I was so slow with the thing that a bad guy could kill me throwing rocks, faster than I could get on target. I do have a scope on my AR-10, mostly for playing with at long distances, and have a ML2, for the rest of the time. Have to shoot everything else with a red dot. Would be nice to have a little magnification once in a while, without having to hang a magnifier behind my RDS. Must be a practiced skill, or born skill, I don't know, but I can't handle a rifle quickly enough to take on zombies with one (scope). Weird thin is, back in my big game hunting days, bolt action guns, no problem, I could usually get on target for a quick, humane harvest, no sweat. Especially with critters that bite and fight back. But no go with an AR and a "tactical" scope.
    Last edited by FortTom; 2 March 2015 at 14:45.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by gatordev View Post
    Thanks. I'll try and add some more meat to the shooting side as time goes on.
    Good to hear, I may be in the market for variable power optic later this year. Would like to see how the Mark 6 stacks up against the Vortex Razor.
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    The difference between the TMR reticle in the MK4 vs the MK6 is huge. I can tell by the photos above it is much more discernible. Very nice optic.

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    Thanks for the review Gatordev, very nice. Been wanting to see it since you posted that pic.
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    Like everything else, I think it just takes repetition and practice and I know I'm not anywhere near as fast as many out there in the world. I do question how much that actually, practically matters, though. That said, I think I'll be a bachelor this weekend, so I'll try and take out two like guns (RDS vs MK6) and throw a can on the end of both to nullify the brake to see what happens. I have a feeling the MK6 times will start to slow down.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gatordev View Post
    .... I do question how much that actually, practically matters, though.......
    I agree GatorDev, but in a worst case scenario, say a total economic collapse, and ensuing anarchy, I think a 1X6 or a 1X4 would be a good tool to have on at least one rifle. Just can't grasp one for myself.
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  12. #12
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    I agree Tom. Normally I'm a LW rifle with irons or Dot sight shooter, with a 3-9 w/ Burris combo in reserve for when deer season rolls around.

    But I think a 1-4 might be a good idea to keep on one build. I played with a NSX 2.5-10 and loved that reticle, anything similar but in the sub 1k range?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by DutyUse View Post

    But I think a 1-4 might be a good idea to keep on one build. I played with a NSX 2.5-10 and loved that reticle, anything similar but in the sub 1k range?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    The Viper PST. They have a FFP and SFP model and the reticule is a standard "TMR-type" setup, very much like the NF MLR2. I think SWFA has a 3-9, as well, but not sure of the price-point.

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    Two weeks ago I was able to do some more shooting with the MK6 as well as with a RDS (it happened to be an Eotech) in order to do some more comparisons while using a timer. There was even a small cameo appearance by an Elcan on loan for a brief stint. Due to range limitations that day, I was only able to use one target in the bay, so I focused on target acquisition and two-shot strings. The details are below, but this isn't meant to be about any earth shattering split times. I'm sure there's plenty of people that can shoot faster, but I was trying to have an apples to apples comparison with the setup I had.

    -Target was at 20 yards. I was trying to put it close enough that was still a "CQB" distance, but far enough away that you actually had to aim rather than just point the gun in the target's general direction and being close enough it didn't matter.

    -Rifles were the following: Noveske N4 (middie w/ brake) and MK6, Colt 14.5" (in Block 2 config w/ SF flash hider) and Eotech, and for a few rounds, a Colt 14.5" SOCOM (RAS w/ 3-prong) and Elcan. I ran a Surefire SOCOM Mini suppressor on all three to eliminate the differences in the muzzle devices as best I could. Obligatory picture of the M4B2, since it hasn't appeared in this thread yet:



    -I would start at the low-ready and at the buzzer, engage with two rounds. I did this for 10 strings (20 rounds) for the MK6, then 10 strings again later (to come back to it after running the RDS). I ran the RDS for 10 strings. I was swapping between the two to make sure I wasn't getting faster with one just due to repetition. I also did 5 strings with each, unsuppressed. The Elcan was only run suppressed. Everything was run at 1x and illumination on.

    So, here's the data (or a close approximation), for what it's worth, averaged over the strings (note: I wasn't writing these down for each string, but keeping a "mental average" during each string and then wrote the "mental average" down in my phone):

    N4 w/ MK6 (suppressed): ~1.15s w/ an average of ~.83s split to first round.
    N4 w/ MK6 (unsuppressed): ~1.0s w/ an average of ~.7s split to first round.

    M4 Block 2 w/ RDS (suppressed): ~1.2s w/ an average ~.83s split to first round.
    M4 Block 2 w/ RDS (unsuppressed): ~1.05s w/ an average of ~.7s (unsuppressed)

    M4 w/ Elcan (suppressed): ~1.25s w/ an average of ~.9s split to first round.

    When I started to push and go faster with the MK6, I found I was starting to engage a little too soon and hit lower on the 8.5 x11" paper target I was using. Still a vital zone, but accuracy did suffer. But finding that happy medium of time (at least for me and on that day), I found the MK6 to be pretty quick once I got used to the eye box. I'm convinced it's still a tad slower than the RDS, but it's made up for by the fantastic balance of the N4 upper and smoothness of how that thing shoots. I didn't used to buy into all that "middies are smoother" jazz that much, but after shooting these back to back on several different days, I found I was noticing the difference. Also, the Colts all had H2 buffers while the Noveske had a H.

    While it was a very brief exposure, the Elcan was definitely a slower and less forgiving optic at 1x for me. At 4x on a target....man that thing is clear and was very easy to zero at 100y. I admit I'd like to play with one some more. Hmm....

    So for me, I'd say the RDS is still pretty fast, especially when it was holding it's own against an upper that was running a brake. But the optical engineering of the MK6 continues to be really impressive at 1x and is at least keeping up in the particular setup I was shooting that day. I'm guessing having to shoot around/under barricades would definitely start to slow it down a bit due to the eye box. But I guess more testing is needed there.
    Last edited by gatordev; 25 March 2015 at 04:09. Reason: Correction

  15. #15
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    "While trying to decide on a variable optic that could be used for distance shooting/plinking but could also be used for some limited closer in stuff, I found several options, but I kept finding something about each optic option that caused me reservations"

    I had the same issues until I found the Kahles 16i 1x6 http://www.sportoptics.com/kahles-k1...le-scopes.aspx
    http://www.westernshooter.com/2014/0...m1-review.html


    Nice write up on the MK6!!

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