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Best Long Range Riflescope

Best Long Range Scope & Reticle: What The Pros Use

There have been dramatic shifts in what scopes are most popular among these top shooters over the past 5 years – more than any other piece of gear! In fact, the brands that now lead the pack were towards the bottom of the list last time I surveyed the pros and published this data.

When you’re competing against some of the best long-range precision shooters in the nation, no gear makes more of a difference on the line than your riflescope.” – Morgun King, 3rd Overall in 2023 PRS Open Division

I surveyed the top-ranked shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) from this past season to learn what gear they’re running in long-range rifle matches. These guys represent the best precision rifle shooters in the country, and clearly, their gear is capable of performing at the highest levels. (Learn about the Precision Rifle Series)

Before we dive in, it’s worth mentioning that PRS matches typically have targets from 300 to 1100 yards. I asked 2-time PRS Champion Austin Orgain what magnification he typically runs at a match:

“That depends, but I find myself a lot of times shooting a match on 16x magnification. If there is a target that is washed out or in the shade and it’s hard to see the edges, I might bump up to 20x on that stage. But typically, I don’t run over 18x or under 12x. I’m almost always between 12-18x for an entire match.”- Austin Orgain, 2-Time PRS Champion

I’ve heard other pro shooters say they may run down to 10x on some speed stages (e.g., like a PRS Skills Stage), and maybe some even run up to 25x in other niche scenarios. It’d be rare for a pro-level shooter to run below 10x or above 25x, so you’ll notice that over 99% of the scopes these guys are using cover that 10-25x magnification range.

Now, let’s dive into the data on what scopes these top pros are using to climb to the top of the leaderboard!

Most Popular Precision Rifle Scope Brand

Here is a breakdown of the brands these top-ranked shooters said they used on their match rifles:

Best Long Range Scope

On the chart above, the various colors represent where a shooter landed in terms of season rank in the PRS. For example, black indicates shooters who finished in the top 10, the darkest blue is people who finished 11-25, and the lighter the blue, the further out they finished in overall standings. The chart legend itemizes the ranks each color represents, but basically, the darker the color, the higher the shooter’s overall ranking.

Leupold Scopes: 22%

Leupold Mark 5HD Review

Leupold scopes have surged in popularity in the PRS world since the release of their Leupold Mark 5HD scope in 2021. When I did this survey 5 years ago, only 1% of the pros said they were using a Leupold scope (see the data), and today, that’s jumped to 22% – claiming the spot as the most popular scope among the pros! Wow!

Here is what pro shooter Morgun King, who placed 3rd in this past season’s overall rankings in the PRS Open Division, had to say about his Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25×56 scope:

Morgun King, PRS Shooter

“My rifle and my scope have been through a lot over the past two years. They’ve rattled around in trucks going down dirt roads, they’ve gotten tossed around by baggage handlers, they’ve been out in the elements, and they’ve been slammed into rocks and barricades in competition. In that time my Mark 5HD has always held zero, always responded when I’ve dialed it up, and always delivered the crisp, clear image I need to compete. I can’t think of a better testament to the clarity, reliability, and ruggedness of that scope than its continued performance after what I put it through match after match, year after year.” – Morgun King, 3rd Overall in 2023 PRS Open Division

Best Leupold Model Scope

Now let’s look at what specific model of Leupold scope these guys said they were using.

All of the top shooters were using a scope from Leupold’s Mark 5HD line of scopes. Here is a breakdown of which specific model scope this group of pros was running:

Best Leupold Scope Review

79% were using the Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25×56, and 21% were using the Leupold Mark 5HD 7-35×56. Interestingly, all of the shooters who finished in the top 50 chose to run the 5-25×56. The 7-35 magnification range is more popular in some other brands of scopes, like Nightforce, so I thought that was an interesting trend when it came to these Leupold scopes.

Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x56 Scope Review

One major reason this scope has become so popular is the value it offers. The street price is around $2,200 (in June 2024), which is half the price of some of the other scopes on this list. Most of the other very popular scopes have a street price $3,500 or more. This scope clearly has all of the “must have” features, and is at a price point that is a huge value.

Best Leupold Scope Reticle

Now let’s look at a breakdown of which reticle these pro shooters chose to run in their Leupold scope:

Best Leupold Scope Reticle

95% of these top marksmen running a Leupold scope said they use a Leupold PR2-MIL reticle! For virtually every other brand, shooters seemed to be spread over a couple of different reticles – but for Leupold, there was a clear favorite reticle among the pros.

One fairly unique aspect of Leupold’s PR2-MIL reticle is the hash marks are in 0.25 mil increments. Most other mil reticles are either in 0.2 or 0.5 mil increments. I’ve heard a couple of the top 25 shooters comment that they didn’t think they’d like the 0.25 mil increments on this reticle until they tried it. But after using it in a few matches, they now prefer it. They say this PR2-MIL reticle seems to make it faster to acquire the correct hold with 0.25 mil increments, and they can still hold with the precision that is necessary for these types of competitions.

“We designed the PR2 reticles to excel in competition,” said John Snodgrass, Tactical Product Line Manager for Leupold. “We worked with Morgun King, Jon Pynch, Nick Gadarzi, and other top competitors from around the country to make sure it’s exactly what they needed. The end result is a reticle solution that’s going to reduce your clutter, simplify your shooting process, and honestly improve your long-range performance with ease.

Nick Gadarzi PRS Shooter

Nick Gadarzi finished ranked 10th overall in the 2023 PRS Open Division, and here is what he has to say about using Leupold’s PR2-MIL reticle in competition:

“The unique split-line design in the PR2-MIL reticle provides a huge advantage when you’re trying to hit small targets at extended ranges. It’s open, simple, and fast–and if you want to compete with the best, it’s the reticle you need.” – Nick Gadarzi, 10th Overall in 2023 PRS Open Division

Tangent Theta Scopes: 20%

Tangent Theta scopes were the 2nd most popular brand, representing 20% of these top shooters! 5 years ago, they only represented 4% (see the data), so that is another huge shift in what optics these guys believe will help them maximize their impacts downrange.

I was recently listening to MPA’s Winner’s Circle podcast with Clay Blackketter. Clay is a top competitor who recently won the 2024 Koenig Ruger PRC two-day pro match, and he also was the 2019 PRS Season Champ. In the podcast, Clay shared this story about when he realized the Tangent Theta scope was special and why he runs it:

Clay Blackketter, PRS Shooter

“I’ve been running a Tangent Theta scope since 2019. My first time trying one out was the first match of 2019, and I’ll never forget it. We were 6-7 stages in, and I shot a stage that was in a rock quarry. I cleaned the stage and didn’t think much of it. Justin Watts shot that same stage a few shooters later and got a 5 on it and asked, ‘Dude, how did you clean that stage?!’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I just shot the stage.’ Justin said, ‘I couldn’t see the targets. I was just looking for where I thought the T-post ended and was aiming there. Let me see your gun.’ He grabbed my rifle and looked through it and then looked back to me and said, ‘Oh, that’s why you cleaned that stage!’ Justin immediately bought a Tangent Theta scope after that match, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. The glass and the features on the thing are just absolutely awesome.” – Clay Blackketter, 2019 PRS Champion

Best Tangent Theta Model Scope

100% of the shooters using a Tangent Theta scope said they were running the Tangent Theta 5-25×56 model. Tangent Theta has started offering a 7-35×56 scope model, but the release of those was delayed, and they didn’t hit the shelves until the last several months. The first 7-35×56 scopes with the JTAC reticle didn’t make it to the first dealer until Feb 2024, so that’s likely why there weren’t any Tangent Theta 7-35×56 models represented.

Tangent Theta 5-25x56

Austin Orgain is one of the top 10 shooters using a Tangent Theta Professional Marksman 5-25x56mm scope. I asked him what he liked about the Tangent Theta, and here is what he said:

“There are multiple things I like about the Tangent Theta scope, like how the turrets feel. But, I do think the optical clarity of the Tangent gives me a competitive advantage. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be running it! I get the chance to look through a lot of different scopes, and I don’t think there is anything out there that comes close to the glass of the Tangent Theta scopes. Now I get that it is at a price point that isn’t for everybody ($4,500+). There are diminishing returns, and there are other brands of scopes that are perfectly capable of winning a rifle match. It really comes down to personal preference and what you like. For my eyes, I really like the glass of the Tangent Theta. I like the clarity of it. I do think in certain lighting conditions, like when a target is in the shade or halfway in the shade with some mirage, it can be hard to see exactly where the edges of the target are in other scopes. I feel like the glass clarity in my Tangent allows me to see target edges better than other scopes.”- Austin Orgain, 2-time PRS Champion

While the Tangent Theta scopes may represent the best glass on this list, they also represent the most expensive scopes on this list. Street price on the Tangent Theta TT525P 5-25x56mm starts around $4,500 (as of June 2024) and the Tangent Theta TT735P 7-35x56mm starts around $5,700.

Best Tangent Theta Scope Reticle

Now let’s look at what reticle the shooters using a Tangent Theta scope said they were using in PRS matches:

Best Tangent Theta Reticle

49% of these shooters were using the JTAC reticle, and 46% were using the Gen 3 XR reticle. There was also one person using the Horus H59 and 1 using the Gen 2 XR reticle. 3 of the guys who finished in the top 10 chose to run the JTAC reticle, and 1 was running the Gen 3 XR.

Here is a look at the two most popular reticles offered in the Tangent Theta scopes:

JTAC Reticle vs Gen 3 XR Reticle

The JTAC reticle was designed by veteran pro shooters and optimized for PRS competitions. JTAC is an abbreviation for the first initial of 4 PRS shooters: JTAC = Justin, Tate, Austin, and Clay. They are each very accomplished shooters, and if anyone knows what it takes to win a national championship, it has to be these guys! They collectively represent the PRS Champions from 2019, 2020, and 2021. To be fair, Austin said that Clay Blackketter primarily worked with Tangent on the reticle design.

JTAC Training Team

I noticed the JTAC reticle doesn’t have a “Christmas tree” or holdovers like many popular reticles in the PRS. So, in a recent interview with Austin Orgain, I asked, “Do you not find that you need holdovers in your reticle at rifle matches?” Austin told me, “I’ve been running the JTAC reticle for about 2 years, and so far, I’ve always been able to find a way to run any stage without a problem at all. Sometimes, it gets a little advanced, but so far, I’ve always found a way to run a stage without having to hold off into space. There really aren’t a lot of holdover stages at matches, and most of the time, you’re not even that far from the center of the reticle. So we don’t really find that we need holdovers, and not having those holdover marks really opens up the reticle a lot and makes it easier to see trace and spot things through that reticle.”

Austin told me about one of those advanced stage scenarios where he found a workaround to holdovers, but I noticed the PRS recently put out a PRS Pro Tip video (below) where Austin walks you through how he’d shoot a particular stage – and it was very similar to what he described.

Vortex Scopes: 14%

Vortex scopes came in as the 3rd most popular brand, with 14% of these top pro shooters running their scopes in matches. They were also ranked 3rd when I did this survey 5 years ago, representing 18% of the shooters then. So, it seems like Vortex is holding on to its market share among premium rifle scopes.

Best Vortex Model Scope

Let’s look at what specific Vortex scope model these top shooters said they were running on their competition rifle.

Best Vortex Scope Review

The Vortex Razor HD Gen III 6-36×56 scope was released in October 2022, and it’s become the favorite optic among this group, with 88% of shooters opting for it. The Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 was an extremely popular scope for years in the PRS, but there was only one shooter in the top 50 rocking it.

EuroOptic.com did an exclusive order of these Vortex Razor HD Gen III 6-36×56 scopes in black. Vortex scopes are typically the color shown in the photo above, so the black seems to catch your eye when you see it.

Best Vortex Scope Reticle

Let’s look at what reticle the shooters using Vortex scopes chose to run:

Best Vortex Reticle

The Vortex EBR-7D reticle was by far the favorite reticle among this group of top marksmen, representing 80% of those surveyed.

Zero Compromise Scopes: 14%

Tied in the 3rd spot, also with 14% of these shooters, is Zero Compromise Optic (ZCO). ZCO started in 2018, so when I did this survey 5 years ago, they didn’t have any scopes represented among the top PRS shooters. But, the company is led by a group of veterans in the optics and mechanics industry in Austria and the United States. ZCO is a specialty scope company that is 100% focused on making riflescopes – not binoculars, rangefinders, spotting scopes, or other optics. They didn’t start off by making hunting scopes – but went straight to premium, rugged, tactical rifle scopes like the ones being used by these shooters. ZCO says, “Our goal is not to just build riflescopes. We strive to build the absolute best riflescopes in the world!”

Best Zero Compromise Model Scope

Zero Compromise has introduced a few different models and magnification ranges, so let’s see what these top PRS shooters are using.

Best Zero Compromise Scope Review

The Zero Compromise 5-27×56 scope was the most popular and was even represented among the top 25 shooters of the season. ZCO claims this model has one of the widest fields of view in the industry at 21 feet at 100 yards. It also has 35 mils of elevation adjustment and 20 mils of windage adjustment.

Zero Compromise Optics 5-27x56

Best Zero Compromise Scope Reticle

So, what reticle were these top shooters running in their ZCO scopes?

Best Zero Compromise Reticle

These shooters were split across a few different reticles. It appears that the reticles with an “X” at the end of their name have replaced the previous versions. The others are no longer listed on their website. ZCO does offer a few more reticle choices than this, but these were the only ones the pros used – and they look like very capable options for PRS-style, long-range shooting.

Zero Compromise Reticles

Nightforce Scopes: 12%

Nightforce scopes were the 5th most popular brand, representing 12% of these top-ranked PRS competitors. When I did this survey 5 years ago, Nightforce was the most popular scope brand, with 27% of the top pro shooters (see the data). So it was a little surprising to see that number cut in half this year.

While there is always debate on what brand of scope has the best resolution, contrast, and optical performance – many shooters believe Nightforce scopes are the most durable scopes on the market. Nightforce claims that their scope tubes are 2 to 3 times as thick as other riflescopes (read more)! At SHOT Show, Nightforce does a very impressive demo where they beat a scope on a piece of steel and show that it never loses its zero. They do that demo continuously during a show, so it withstands hundreds and maybe thousands of blows – and continues to hold zero and track perfectly.

Best Nightforce Model Scope

Let’s look at a breakdown of what model Nightforce scope these top shooters are using.

Best Nightforce Scope Review

The Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1 scope remains the top choice of pro shooters. F1 is Nightforce’s way of saying First Focal Plane (FFP). If you aren’t sure what that is, check out this article.

Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56

Best Nightforce Scope Reticle

So, what is the most popular reticle among the pros?

Best Nightforce Reticle

55% were using the Mil-XT reticle, and 41% were using the Mil-C reticle. However, all 4 of the shooters in the top 25 who were using a Nightforce scope opted for the Nightforce Mil-C reticle.

Here is a look at both of those side-by-side:

Mil-XT vs Mil-C Reticle

Last year, I interviewed Austin Buschman, the 2022 PRS Champion and winner of the inaugural 2022 World Championship in France, hosted by the International Precision Rifle Federation (IPRF). In January 2023, Austin Buschman became the first shooter in history to clean a two-day PRS match, which means out of 176 shots fired over two days, he didn’t miss a single target – which is just ridiculous! 😉

Austin Buschman placed 5th in the 2023 PRS Season, and he was one of the shooters who said he ran a Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 with the Mil-C reticle. Here is what Austin said about why he loves the Mil-C reticle:

I have been running the Mil-C reticle for PRS matches for 3 years, and I think it is just about the perfect reticle. Over the past 3 years, I haven’t had a single stage in that time where I needed a Christmas Tree reticle. There was always some way around it. I have a scope with the Mil-XT reticle that I use a little bit, but I just found myself never using the Christmas tree on it. So why have it there? I really like that the Mil-C is exactly the same on the vertical and horizontal stadia/axis. I don’t like reticles that do their hash marks one way on the vertical axis and a different way on the horizontal. I just wanted to look the same on whether I’m going up and down, and I like the 2/10th hash marks because they just make sense to me. I don’t think in 2/10ths. I think in 1/10ths, but I can hold halfway in between them or exactly on them. So, in my mind, I have a hold on my reticle for exactly every 1/10th. So that is something I like about the Mil-C or the Mil-XT, since they’re both that way.” – Austin Buschman, 2022 PRS Champion & Current IPRF World Champion

Kahles Scopes: 8%

8% of these top PRS competitors chose to run a Kahles scope, which made it the 6th most popular brand. When I did this survey 5 years ago, they were the 2nd most popular scope brand with 22% of the top competitors. So, like Nightforce, they have decreased in popularity among the pro shooters.

Most shooters have probably heard of Kahles at this point, but just in case, Kahles is the tactical sister company of Swarovski. As a Swarovski rep explained to me, in Europe, hunting is seen as an elitist activity (think tweed jackets and Downton Abbey), but the tactical world and things like mil-dot reticles are seen as blue-collar (think 511 pants and American Sniper) – so they work to keep the brands separate. Swarovski is known for top-shelf glass, and Kahles is comparable.

Best Kahles Model Scope

Let’s look at a breakdown of what model Kahles scopes were popular among this group of top competitors.

Best Kahles Scope Review

The Kahles K525i 5-25×56 scope was the most popular model, with 93% of the competitors saying that it was what they ran.

Matt Caruso PRS Shooter

One shooter in the top 25, Matthew Caruso, did specify that he was running the Kahles K525i DLR, which is purpose-built for fast-pace matches and features an extended field of view, easy-to-read clicks, extra-long throw lever, and parallax spinner. Matt recently won the 2024 K&M Precision Rifle Competition. That is one of the flagship PRS matches every year, and this year, it had 235 competitors – and Caruso came out on top!

Kahles K525i 5-25x56

I’d bet others might be using the DLR model, too, because it seems specialized for the PRS. However, I didn’t have the DLR model explicitly segmented as one of the pre-populated options on my survey alongside the standard K525i model. Shooters could write it in any model on the survey like Matt did, but I’d suspect some simply chose the K525i model. My bad! Honestly, I didn’t know about the DLR version until I wrote this article. So, I’d say it’s inconclusive how many are running the DLR or the standard non-DLR version. I’ll try to clearly differentiate next time we do this.

Best Kahles Scope Reticle

Kahles has a variety of reticles that are ideal for this style of shooting, and here is a breakdown of which ones the top shooters prefer:

Best Kahles Scope Reticle

The SKMR 4 reticle replaced the SKMR 3, and it only has a few minor changes. Here are the full details of the Kahles SKMR 4 reticle, including all the differences between it and the SKMR 3 reticle.

Other Scope Brands: 1-3% Each

The 6 brands above represented 90% of the top shooters in the PRS. However, several other capable brands of riflescopes represented the remaining 10%. I’ll quickly run through the different brands and share the model and reticle that these guys said they were using on their match rifles.

US Optics Scopes: 3%

US Optics has been on this list for a long time, and they still represent 3% of these top competitors. 5 years ago, they also had 3%. Two of the shooters using US Optics scopes are elite veterans: Ken Sanoski, who placed 8th overall, and Jake Vibbert, who placed 15th overall.

This year, all 5 shooters said they were using a US Optics FDN 25X 5-25×52 with a JVCR reticle.

Bushnell Scopes: 2%

Bushnell is another brand that seems to always have a few shooters represented. 5 years ago, they had 5%, but this year they only have 2%.

2 shooters said they were using a Bushnell 6-36×56 Elite Tactical scope, and 1 said they used a Bushnell 3.5-21×50 Elite Tactical scope. 2 were running the EQL reticle, and 1 was running a G4P reticle.

Burris Scopes: 2%

2% of these shooters said they used a Burris Scope, which was up slightly from the 1% represented 5 years ago. All 3 shooters said they were using a Burris XTR Pro 5.5-30×56. 2 were using an SCR 2 1/4 MIL reticle, and 1 was using an SCR 2 MIL reticle.

Schmidt & Bender Scopes: 1%

Schmidt and Bender has been on this list since the inaugural season of the PRS in 2012. 5 years ago, they were ranked as the 4th most popular – but this year, only 1% of shooters said they were using a Schmidt & Bender scope.

Both shooters who said they were running a Schmidt & Bender were using a Schmidt & Bender PM II 5-25×56 with the H2CMR reticle.

Trijicon Scopes: 1%

There was 1 shooter using a Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30×56 riflescope, and they said they were using the “AccuPower” reticle. 5 years ago, Trijicon wasn’t represented among any of the top shooters

Maven Scopes: 1%

1 shooter was using a Maven RS.4 5-30×56 scope with their CFR-MIL reticle. 5 years ago, Maven wasn’t represented among any of the top shooters

Apex Scopes: 1%

1 shooter was using a Apex Rival 4-32×56 FFP scope with their CLR reticle. 5 years ago, Apex wasn’t represented among any of the top shooters

Zeiss Scopes: 1%

1 shooter was using a Zeiss LRP S3 6-36x56mm riflescope with a ZF-MRI reticle. 5 years ago, Zeiss wasn’t represented among any of the top shooters.

Holdover Tree Reticles vs. Simpler Reticles

Holdover Reticle vs Reticle without holdovers for wind and elevation

Earlier in the article, I shared some of Austin Orgain and Austin Buschman’s views on reticles. Both of those guys prefer a simpler reticle that doesn’t have a holdover tree. They both said they hadn’t shot a stage in the past few years that actually required them to hold off into space away from their vertical or horizontal crosshairs.

Orgain and Buschman are absolutely leaders in this sport, and one of those 2 has won the PRS Season 3 of the past 4 years. So, if they’re both saying the same thing, it might be wise to listen! 😉

It made me curious to see if there was a trend to simpler reticles or see if that viewpoint was becoming more popular among the shooters at the very top.

So, I went through the data and classified every single reticle as either having a holdover tree or not, and here is a look at the data:

Does Your Reticle have a holdover tree

80% of these pro shooters do use a reticle with a holdover tree. However, it is very interesting to see that among the top 10 shooters, they are evenly split: 5 are using a reticle with a holdover tree, and 5 are using a simpler reticle without marks to hold for both elevation and wind.

If you include all of the shooters in the top 25, 68% are using a holdover reticle. That grows to 77% among the top 50. So maybe there are simply a few outliers among the top 10 – or maybe they know something we don’t. 😉 It will be interesting to watch this trend over time to see how it develops.

Mil vs. MOA

Most of these shooters are using scopes based in mils (also referred to as mrad), not MOA. I thought it’d be helpful for new shooters that I give a little more context around that. First, there is nothing inherently “more accurate” with mils or MOA. Despite what seems like a constant debate, they are both simply angular units of measure. While there isn’t an inherent advantage to either, I’ll point out a few reasons almost all of these guys choose to use mil-based scopes.

First, a big part is so that they’re speaking the same language as the rest of the squad at a match. It’s common to share wind calls, and if you know the guy in front of you is running a similar cartridge and bullet, and he said he hit the last target with 1.2 mils of wind – how much is that in MOA? There are conversions, and you can do the math, but it is sure easier if you are also speaking in mils. No translation is necessary! I’ve shot in over 60+ different squads at PRS-style matches over the years, and I’ve never been in a single one where the majority of people were speaking in MOA. The majority of competitive shooters speak in mils, so it’s helpful to use a mil-based scope so you don’t have to translate.

Second, most high-end optics have reticles in mils but might not have reticle options in MOA. That is likely because all major militaries have standardized on mil-based systems, and if you are making high-end optics, you might be hoping for a lucrative military contract. For example, I use a Vectronix PLRF rangefinder, which is one of the most accurate rangefinders in the world. It is military-grade (which means it is very expensive) – but it’s only available with a mil-based reticle.

But, even if you remove the dreams of military contracts and simply look at the reticles designed by leading competitors in the PRS, like the JTAC reticle, SKMR reticles, or the new Leupold PR2-MIL reticle – all of those are mil-based! Leupold does have a version of the PR2 that is in MOA, but not one of these guys is running that. And I’d bet money Leupold designed the mil-based version of the PR2 and then tried to translate the same features into a similar MOA reticle. It is often an afterthought.

So those are at least a couple of the big reasons almost all of these top competitors are using mil-based turrets and reticles. That doesn’t mean you can’t hit things with an MOA-based system, or you need to go out and sell your scope. I at least thought it’d be helpful to share the thought process behind it. If you are one of the guys who is hesitant to try a mil-based scope because you don’t naturally think in meters and don’t want to have to convert numbers – don’t think about it like that! I’ve never heard someone say a distance in meters at a PRS match. We all speak in yards and still use mil-based scopes. It’s easier than you think, and being able to speak in the same units as the rest of the guys you are shooting with is valuable.

If you want to learn more about the nuances and advantages of Mils vs. MOA, check out this article: MIL vs MOA: An Objective Comparison. I feel like that is the most objective and comprehensive approach to this debate that I’ve come across.

Coming Up Next

If you enjoyed this content, there is more to come! Over the next few months, I’ll be publishing a ton of data on what the top precision rifle shooters are using. Check out the other “What The Pros Use” articles that have already been published.

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About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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8 comments

  1. Carl, usually you are quite rigorous in your testing and reporting. This is the first review I find a bit questionable from a technical point of view. What has driven this big push in the use of Leupold by the pros? The technical superiority of their scopes? Their great value for the money? Or perhaps their sponsorship program?

    You made the point clear regularly that none of the top guys will use something they believe will disadvantage them. But still among scope snobs, Leupold is rarely mentioned as a top tier brand for glass quality.

    For TT, having his name associated with one of their reticule, I doubt Austin Orgain his being his scope.

    This is leaving a few questions unanswered ;-).

    Good picture of you is using what, but not the analysis of the why that we have been used to from you.

    • Hey, Gene. I’m just trying to report the data and leaving it up to you to draw conclusions. I did include a few quotes or testimonials from some of the top 10 shooters to try to provide some qualitative context to go with the quantitative analysis. But I don’t think I can answer your question as to “what has driven this big push.” That’s a question of “Why?” Frankly, the data doesn’t answer that.

      While I very intentionally try to remove my opinion in the content of my articles, I always feel like I can be more free with my opinion in the comments … so my guess would be that the widespread adoption among the top 200 shooters does have a lot to do with cost. I mean, you can literally buy two of the Leupold scopes for the price as 1 of some of the others! That isn’t a small difference. I’ve literally heard some of these shooters say exactly that, too. They all have a backup rifle. I’d bet most of them have two identical rifles, and some of them may have multiple rifles in different calibers that they take to a match, depending on the format, distances, typical winds, shooting positions, etc. If you want to outfit all of your rifles with Tangent Thetas, that total price can get ridiculous quickly! This is an expensive sport, so if something that costs 1/2 as much still gives you all of the “must have” features and you don’t feel like it’s holding you back, then lots of guys are going to pick that. Ultimately, all of us have a budget at some point. None of these guys are billionaires, and I’d also say that even the best of them might only be breaking even on their winnings from this sport.

      Here is how the street price compares between the top models, and you can see how drastic of a difference there is. The Leupold Mark 5HD just seems to be a huge value.
      Street Price for Popular Long-Range Scopes

      I do think if you believe all of these guys are getting scopes for free, you’re wrong. I’d be surprised if many guys outside of the top 10 have any optics sponsors. You might be right about some of the JTAC guys getting a free scope as part of their deal in designing that reticle, but I’d bet money that Clay Blackketter paid his own cash to buy the Tangent Theta scope that he told the story about in the article. So he was literally already using the product before they made the reticle.

      In fact, I felt like that was the case … so I reached out to Clay before I hit reply on this comment, and he confirmed that he did absolutely pay for not just the first one out of pocket but paid out of pocket for 5 of the 6 Tangent Theta scopes he now owns. He was using them for quite a while before he designed the reticle for them, and he’s bought more since then. Clay knows most of the top shooters and the types of sponsorships that are going on, and he said 99% of the guys had already paid out of pocket for the first one or two of a certain product they were using before they were offered any sponsorship – and even then it is usually just a discount on products, and not that they give you free products. It’s rarer than you think for any company to give a shooter something for free and even rarer for a company to pay anyone to run something. While any discount or help with products is appreciated, sponsorships simply aren’t big in the PRS, unlike most other sports. But it sounds like you have already heard me give this speech before, so I doubt any of this will change your perspective.

      I’m not sure what your financial position is, but it seems like at least some of your thought process comes down to “Is it worth it?” Countless discussions eventually lead to that question, and while you have your own perspective, we must understand there is no one-size-fits-all “right” answer. The answer to that question largely depends on your personal circumstances and the intended application. Something is worth it if the benefit exceeds the cost – to you. If ‘it’s worth it’ largely depends on what money means to you. We all come from different circumstances. (Check out this article that expands on that)

      The only feature I can think of that I’ve specifically heard guys say they really liked about the Leupold Mark 5HD is the PR2-MIL reticle having hash marks in 0.25 mil increments. That is a unique thing. Virtually all other reticles that were out before the PR2 reticle was released had marks in either 0.2 mil increments or 0.5 mil increments. I’d say most people don’t think of mils in 0.25 increments, but the people I’ve talked to among this crowd that tried it said it took some getting used to, but after 1 or 2 matches, they actually started to prefer the 0.25 mil increments strongly. I’ve heard more than 1 of these top shooters say they thought it was faster and still allowed them to hold with the precision they needed in competitions. So, that is a unique and compelling feature I’ve heard from this crowd that may have played into some of their decision to switch. But I’d bet cost is still the biggest driving factor.

      Finally, I’d say that Leupold’s collaboration on the design of the scope and reticle with some of the most respected guys in the precision rifle world probably also had something to do with the widespread adoption. Honestly, if guys like Morgun King, Jon Pynch, and Nick Gadarzi all had a hand in the design, and they were really excited about the product and telling me about it … then I’d be more apt to try it. I noticed that all of those guys are the top shooters from the Pacific Northwest area, which is where Leupold’s headquarters is. And I bet those guys suggested several things that helped make it into a better product for competition use. I’ve personally designed reticles before, and I will say that the reticle is a really great design. There are a lot of really small things about that reticle that I appreciate.

      I think that is the most context I can add to try to answer your questions – but ultimately, I can’t speak for the why behind the decision for every one of these guys decisions. I’m just reporting what they are running, which seems helpful to me (and literally thousands of other people).

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Carl, the bottom end of my original comment should be taken as a tribute to the high quality of your reporting work over the years. I am a longtime reader of your blog. It is what triggered my interest in PRS. And each notification email of a new publication is making my day. You are a reference for me and a lot of people.

        And the above detailed answer is closing the topic quite well, thanks!

        PRS is just a very challenging hobby for me. I work quite a bit and make a decent living out of it. So cost is not so much an issue for me. I may have became one of those scope snobs over the year 🙄…

        #1 scope is best value for the money.
        #2 is best scope money can buy

        Could be the conclusion

      • Thanks, Gene. I appreciate that. I think that’s a fair conclusion.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  2. Hi Cal

    Thanks for another excellent article.

    About a month ago I bought the Vortex Razor HD GEN III 6-36X56.

    From your article, I see I made a good decision.

    It’s great to see what the pros are using.

    Paul

    • Thanks, Paul. I appreciate you taking the time to say you enjoyed the article. I’ve seen a lot of good shooters run that scope!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Jim Kirkpatrick

    Hi Cal,
    I have imagined for some time that the perfect scope would be a 3X zoom that went from about 10-30X. It might be even more affordable? I currently have variable scopes with low power magnification that I’ll never use or high power magnification that I can’t use due to conditions. Anyway, just sharing a thought after reading this. Great, informative article that I very much enjoyed.

    • Thanks, Jim. Glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for taking the time to leave the comment. I hear you. It is crazy the coverage we get with some of these scopes. I tend to prefer the 7-35 for similar reasons. I don’t ever find myself using the 7x … like never once. But I only use the 35x for trying to get a perfect zero or shoot tiny groups. Who doesn’t love a good group?! But in a match, I’m never over 25x for sure … and rarely over 18x. It’s nice to have it though!

      Thanks,
      Cal

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