Leupold: Modern Innovations in the Optics Industry

Leupold: Modern Innovations in the Optics Industry

Firing the Remington Modular Sniper Rifle (MSR) set up on .338 Lapua, with the Leupold Mark 4, 6.5-20x50mm Extended Range/Tactical (ER/T) optic.

Leupold, the oldest U.S. based rifle scope manufacturer, recently invited Small Arms Defense Journal to tour its facility and test fire several new optics.  Based in Beaverton, Oregon, the company rose from humble immigrant beginnings to become a classic American company.  In 1907, Fred Leupold set up a one-man shop at 5th and Oak streets in Portland to repair surveying equipment.  He was later joined by his brother-in-law, Adam Voelpel, and by inventor John Cyprian Stevens.  Together, the three men set the foundation for more than a century of success.  Readers may not be aware that many of the industry’s standards – nitrogen waterproofing, the Duplex reticle, and other common features were Leupold innovations.

A family-owned fifth-generation company, Leupold has been designing, machining, and assembling precision optical instruments and other products since 1907.  Of course, the needs of law enforcement and military community have changed significantly since 1907, and Leupold continues to improve and innovate its product line.  Two new optics have recently been released, and opportunities arose to test and evaluate both.

The Close Quarters Battle Scout Scope
The Close Quarters Battle Scout Scope (CQB-SS) is an extremely versatile 1.1-8x24mm optic specifically designed for the needs of the U.S. military.  With an illuminated front focal plane, a shooter is able to utilize the optic with both precision and a wide field of view.  According to Leupold, the field of view at 100 meters in the 1.1 power setting is 31 meters, while the field of view at 100 meters in the 8 power setting is 4.9 meters.  Clearly, the optic allows for a wide variety of situations and circumstances that may arise.

Leupold headquarters, Beaverton, Oregon.

Featuring a 34mm main tube, the optic is very robust, and seemingly able to take typical soldier induced abuse.  Windage and elevation dials are large, and can easily be grasped with or without gloves.  The dials automatically lock, yet can be quickly adjusted by pinching and turning the dials.  Each click of the dial adjusts the optic by 1/10th of a Mil.  Incorporating a bullet drop compensator (graduated for use with 77 grain, 5.56mm ammunition) the ability to use the CQB-SS optic for longer range shooting at distances at and above 300 meters is entirely possible.  The option of changing the bullet drop compensator to alternate loads is easily accomplished via a quick change system.

Unlike other optics with small power adjustment rings, adjusting the optical power on the CQB-SS is easily accomplished by a large knurled bezel at the rear of the optic.  In a stressful combat situation, locating the power adjustment is beyond easy – the shooter would merely grab the rear of the optic and turn as needed to the desired power.

Suitable for weapons from assault rifles to light machine guns and squad automatic weapons, the CQBSS also features an illuminated reticle.  The illumination dial is on the side of the scope, which makes it more accessible for prone shooters.  With 8 illumination settings, the brightest position was easily visible in strong sunlight.  The optic is reportedly night vision capable at the lowest illumination settings.  “In the small arms sphere, our new CQBSS with its advanced lens technology gives the warfighter battle space dominance over current and future threats,” said Kevin Trepa, Leupold’s vice president of tactical sales and marketing.

Manufacturing capability inside the Leupold facility.

As tested, the CQB-SS featured the new M-TMR reticle, requested by the U.S. Marine Corps.  The staircase reticle design allows shooters to rely upon instinctive fire capabilities on low magnification, while allowing precise range estimation at any power setting.  The M-TMR reticle is comprised of 0.5 mil graduations with a 0.1 mil line thickness in the center for absolute precision on higher magnification settings, but increases to 0.5 mil line thickness and 2.0 mil line thickness to ensure fast reticle acquisition on low magnification.  The lower portion of the field contains rapid acquisition ranging brackets allowing the user to quickly estimate the distance to objects of known size.  When the target fits within the brackets, the corresponding bracket number immediately relays the distance in hundreds of meters.  With brackets that allow ranging out to 1,200 meters, the shooter may not be able to reach out to those distances with a 5.56 rifle, yet still allows for accurate observation for designated marksmen or snipers with larger caliber rifles and higher powered optics.

Shooting the CQB-SS
Putting the CQB-SS through its paces required close up shooting combined with shooting at long range targets.  Unfortunately, the range was limited to 100 meters, and it was impossible to utilize the full 8-power capability of the optic.  Nevertheless, the ability to engage a target at 2 meters at 1.1 power while maintaining situational awareness and peripheral vision with both eyes open was very effective and attractive for the optic’s intended purpose.  If used as a CQB optic, the 1.1 power optic setting would be ideal for close range engagements out to 15 to 20 meters.  A quick transition with increased optical power for precision shots at 100 meters proved equally effective.  The Leupold CQB-SS optic will not serve well as a long range optic, as the maximum eight power setting lacks the ability to truly reach out at long ranges.  As a general optic to allow shooting from close range out to 300 meters or more, the CQB-SS is an ideal optic that is easy to use in its intended role.

The Mark 4 6.5-20x50mm Extended Range/Tactical (ER/T)
Content with shooting close range targets, the opportunity arose to shoot Remington’s new MSR (Modular Sniper Rifle) chambered in .338 Lapua, with a Leupold Mark 4 ER/T optic.  With the rifle specifically designed and developed to compete for the U.S. Special Operations Command Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) contract, an optic was needed to allow the rifle to achieve maximum capability.  Specially designed, engineered, and built with the military sniper in mind, the ER/T optic is available in either a 6.5-20x50mm or 8.5-25x50mm platform.

Knight’s Armament SR25 rifle, with Leupold CQB-SS Mark 8 optic.

Utilizing a 34mm main tube, the optic allows for maximum elevation and windage travel, with 1/10 milliradian adjustments for fast and intuitive shot correction.  Similar to the CQB-SS, the ER/T also features a front focal plane reticle design to provide accurate measurements regardless of the magnification setting.  The optic is filled with an Argon/Krypton gas blend – Leupold’s exclusive internal gas blend – as a means of providing thermal shock resistance, while also keeping the riflescope fog proof and waterproof.

An elevation zero-stop was engineered into the design to prevent under-rotation in stressful situations, with a tactile revolution indicator, a feature proprietary to Leupold.  The revolution counter helps snipers and other shooters in dark conditions know they have turned the dial past one full revolution, so that they can then return to zero much easier, and eliminate any guess work.  “This new scope incorporates all of the features our warfighters have been asking for,” said Kevin Trepa, Leupold’s vice president of tactical sales and marketing.  “We are working hard to design, manufacture and deliver the tools they need to get the job done.”

Shooting the Mark 4 Extended Range/Tactical
Shooting long range targets is not easy; it typically take thousands of rounds of practice in varying conditions to achieve expertise in the field.  Nevertheless, shooting long range targets was made easy with the Mark 4 ER/T optic.  Intended as familiarization rather than formal training, there was scant time to put the rifle or the optic to its full capabilities.  Shooting conditions were nearly ideal, with temperatures in the high 60s F, with bright sunlight, and little wind.  Under the circumstances, it was nearly impossible to miss.  Adjustments in power were easily accomplished via the large adjustment ring.  The image was clear and bright, as would be expected.

U.S. Marine Corp requested, and Leupold designed, M-TMR reticle. The M-TMR reticle allows the shooter to accurately range targets to 1,200 meters.

While at the Leupold factory, the staff was quick to point out that Leupold is the only U.S. based optics company that designs, manufactures, and assembles all of their optics within the United States.  In addition, the total number of optics manufactured and sold by Leupold on an annual basis exceeds the total sales of the next 5 largest optics companies in the world, to include Swarovski and Schmidt and Bender.  While the last claim could not be independently verified, the number of units being produced within the factory was staggering.

Look for Leupold to enter its second century of manufacturing high quality optics with precision, innovation and original designs.  Leupold’s success has been built on their commitment to their customer’s absolute satisfaction, and their commitment to building the best optics for the hunting, military and law enforcement markets.