The increased popularity of low power variable optics is largely due to the fact that they handle so many jobs so well for so many people. While LPVOs are available with maximum magnifications as high as 8X, a quality 3X low power scope — especially one with an illuminated center dot — can act as a stand-in for a red dot, be a great 3-gun scope, or be a very effective hunting optic out to 300 yards or more. That’s about as far as 90% of America’s hunters will ever even think about shooting at game.
And that’s what makes a scope like Leupold’s Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 scope with their illuminated FireDot BDC reticle so appealing. It does everything most shooters need a scope to do at all the ranges they shoot.
Need an optic for home defense? At its 1.5X minimum magnification with the center dot illuminated, the 1.5-4×20 acts as a virtual red dot. The scope has seven brightness settings with an off position between each one. That’s a smart design decision lots of red dot and scope makers miss, making you dial all the way down or all the way up to turn it off.
Out as far as 4X mounted on an AR or other rifle, the MIL-based 1.5-4×20 is excellent when hunting in woods or brush. It’s lightweight (9.6 oz.) and relatively compact (9.4 inches).
The scope has capped windage and elevation turrets.
The scope’s American-made construction is what you expect in a Leupold scope. The 30mm tube is a solid piece of aircraft aluminum, a standard in higher quality optics.
The Mark 3HD 1.4-4×20 has zero stop and there’s a tactile feel to the .1 MIL turret adjustment increments.
The zoom power selector has a removable lever. It’s relatively small and unobtrusive, so I’m not sure why you’d want to take it off — it’s not likely to get in the way of a bolt rifle’s action — but you have that option. The adjustment ring moves pretty easily and smoothly, but stays in place once it’s where you want it.
The second focal plane scope’s duplex reticle has an illuminated center dot (Leupold also offers a non-illuminated version for $200 less). There are no windage hash marks, which some won’t like, but at the relatively short distances a 3X scope will be used, most shooters won’t miss them.
That said, with the right dope, you can easily ring steel out to 500+ yards with the 1.5-4×20, so windage hashes would have been appreciated.
To test the turrets’ tracking precision, I shot a round and then dialed the windage all the way to the right, then all the way left, and back to center. I then dialed the elevation all the way up, all the way down, and back to center again. The second shot was right next to the first one. A box test yielded the same result.
I did both tests a number of times over a few weeks of shooting in different temperatures and the turrets reliably track and return to zero…exactly what you’d expect in a quality $700 optic.
The Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 has near-perfect edge-to-edge clarity and a generous eye box, even at full magnification. That makes it easy to mount quickly and get on target fast. At 1.5X you’ll be able to get off quick snap shots when you need to.
The scope also has Leupold’s Elite Optical System hydrophobic Guard-ion lens coating. What does that mean in plain English? In the end…more shooting time.
I was part of a test involving dozens of scopes from every optics maker you can think of. We were up before dawn to see what the scopes would do as the sun rose. In other words, we want to see how they handled glare at various angles…how well they transmit light in tough conditions….and if you can distinguish targets right after sunup…or if we had to wait until the light improved.
I don’t know, technically speaking, how Leupold’s coatings differ from those used by other makers but I can tell you that there was an observable difference among the many scopes we tested. Lens flare at low, harsh sun angles was noticeably reduced or even eliminated. And in ultra low light — as the sun was just coming up — targets were more distinct and identifiable. Almost all of the others we tried fared more noticeably than the Leupold scopes, even their lower end models.
We could also identify and distinguish targets sooner. In the end, that means more legal hunting time, both at the beginning and the end of the day. It also means fewer missed shots in harsh lighting conditions that might flare out your view using another scope.
That’s really what you pay for in a quality optic. That, along with first rate build quality and will last for years, if not decades.
That coating and build quality mean top flight fog and water resistance. Add in Leupold’s no questions asked lifetime fix-it-or-replace-it warranty and it’s easy to recommend a scope like the Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20.
Specifications: Leupold Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 Illuminated FireDot BDC
Reticle: Second Focal Plane BDC
Eye Relief: 4.2 in (low magnification), 3.7 in (high magnification)
Length: 9.4 inches
Weight: 9.6 oz
Battery Life: 1600 hours (low), 300 hours (high)
Auto Off: Yes
Elevation Adjustment Range: 36 MIL (125 MOA)
Windage Adjustment Range: 36 MIL (125 MOA)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Build Quality: * * * * *
First rate. I got it wet, I got it cold, and I got it (really) hot. None of it affected accuracy or performance. The Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 feels like a quality optic and it performs that way, too.
I’m not sure anyone uses better glass or coatings. Noticeably superior low light performance.
Overall: * * * * ½
The Mark 3HD 1.5-4×20 features top quality construction and excellent glass. The turrets are tactile and precise and track perfectly, even after temperature variation and some abuse. Leupold’s glass — particularly in low light — is as good as any optics maker in the business. While windage marks would have been appreciated, I can understand leaving them off given the magnification range and distances at which the 1.5-4X optic will be used.