Leupold Mk6 1-6x vs. Other 1-nx Scopes

I recently posted the Leupold Mk6 1-6x review on a few websites and someone from AR15.com asked me to compare it to the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6x. Since I used to own the Vortex I thought I could give a decent answer that some might find helpful. Here is my reply:

“I had a Vortex G2 Razor 1-6x before the Mk6 but I never owned both simultaneously so I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison so these impressions I had were from memory.

The Vortex is 1/2 pound heavier. That might not sound like much but on an AR-15 carbine it was huge to me. It made the rifle I had the Vortex on be more fatiguing to shoot for long strings of offhand shooting. The Mk6 made the rifle feel much handier. The Vortex also had a much stiffer magnification ring. You really need a metal throw lever to change magnification levels quickly and that adds another $60. On the Mk6, because the ring isn’t as stiff, I just use a $3.50 Breakaway nylon coaster I bought on EBay. I read people saying they sent the scope back to Vortex to have the ring loosened but I never got around to doing that.

Another key difference is that the Vortex is SFP whereas the Mk6 is FFP. This might make a difference if you want to have to search for a field of targets at intermediate distances (250+ yards) like in 3-Gun. With the Mk6 you can turn the magnification level down to 4x and have a little easier time locating the targets whereas with the Vortex you need to keep it at 6x to have the holdovers be accurate.

I think the glass is really nice on the Mk6. I remember looking through the Mk6 after I had the Vortex and thinking the glass was a quite a bit better but again, I never did a side-by-side so that was just the impression I had.

That being said, I think if most of your shooting is going to be up-close at 1x and you don’t mind the weight the Vortex might be better. The thick reticle draws attention to your eye and I personally like the dot on the Vortex better than the small donut on the Mk6. A key advantage the Vortex has is the wider FOV, which I think is very important for shooting at close range. The view through the Vortex at 1x is pretty impressive. But I feel the Mk6 is way better for longer distance shooting than the Vortex. A lot of people want a simpler reticle at 1x because they’d like less clutter getting in the way. With a FFP scope this clutter will more or less disappear because the reticle shrinks so much. With a SFP scope the reticle won’t disappear so manufacturers generally aim to make reticles simpler (there are some exceptions of course). This prevents SFP scopes from generally having more elaborate reticles that help with long distance shooting.

It’s all about tradeoffs and I think if you want competent short-distance performance with really good long-distance performance the Mk6 is the way to go. The Vortex is still fine for longer distance shooting but not nearly as good imho. If you’re mostly shooting up-close and don’t mind the weight I think the Vortex is the way to go. Either way, they’re both great scopes.”

Razor JM-1 BDC reticle. Center dot is for a 200 yard zero with holdovers at 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards. Scope also available with MRAD and MOA based reticles.
Razor JM-1 BDC reticle. Center dot is for a 200 yard zero with holdovers at 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards. Scope also available with MRAD and MOA based reticles.

We’ve also owned a couple other 1-nx scopes and here are my impressions on them as well:

The Burris XTR II 1-5x with Ballistic 5.56 Gen 3 reticle is a tremendous scope for the money. They go for around $575 used and weigh 21.1 oz, which is about halfway between the Leupold Mk6 1-6x’s 17 oz and the Vortex G2 Razor’s 25.2 oz. The magnification on the top end is slightly lower than the other two scopes but the illumination the Burris is significantly better than the illumination on either the Mk6 or the Vortex. I used the top two illumination settings on the Mk6 and the Vortex outdoors depending on how bright it was outside. On a recent sunny cloudless day in Las Vegas, I was only using the 8th out of 11 brightness settings. The FOV is about the same as the Mk6 and not as good as the Vortex. The glass though, was surprising for a scope in this price range. It’s nice glass. It seems closer in glass quality to the Mk6 and Vortex (which cost more than twice as much) than to the $300 Burris MTAC 1-4x that was so popular. Clarity around the edges wasn’t as good as in the center and there was some chromatic aberration. Overall though, the glass quality is great for the price range. Another feature I like on the XTR II is the auto shut-off. I don’t know how other people feel about it, but for a range gun, it seems like a good idea. I’ve accidentally left the Mk6 and the XTR II on at the range and when I came home the XTR II was turned off but the Mk6 wasn’t. That definitely helps save battery life.

BDC Reticle on the Burris XTR II 1-5x scope. Center illuminated dot is for a 100 yard zero with a small unilluminated 200 yard holdover dot right underneath. A 300 yard holdover dot is at the bottom of the illuminated horseshoe and there are holdovers to 1000 yards. Also comes in a mil version.
BDC Reticle on the Burris XTR II 1-5x scope. Center illuminated dot is for a 100 yard zero with a small unilluminated 200 yard holdover dot right underneath. A 300 yard holdover dot is at the bottom of the illuminated horseshoe and there are holdovers to 1000 yards. Also comes in a mil version.

However, not all is perfect. When we were zeroing with the XTR II on a MR-31 target (reduced 100y target for High Power slow-fire prone), we noticed that the center dot was slightly off-center. The circle part of the horseshoe bracketed perfectly with the circular bullseye target but the dot was to the left of the center. It didn’t seem like a big deal as we used the center dot and still managed to shoot a .65 moa 5 shot group at 100 yards with the XTR II and 55gr Hornady FMJ’s during load testing. Also I usually like capped or locking turrets on 1-nx scopes as this prevents accidental zero shift. The XTR II has regular target turrets so you might want to make sure your turrets are on zero before you shoot. This problem is mitigated a little by the zero stop on the elevation turret and that both the windage and elevation turrets are a little stiff to turn. While it’s very nice that the BDC reticle goes to 1000y on the XTR II, the reticle is calibrated for a faster bullet like with the Vortex Razor 1-6x. The Ballistic 5.56 Gen 3 reticle is calibrated for a 62gr bullet @ 3025 fps, roughly what you would get shooting M855 out of a 18″ barrel. That means the reticle might not match up nicely with your given load. Despite these issues, I feel strongly that this is the best value going for a 1-nx scope. I think it compares better to the Vortex than the Mk6 since they’re both SFP scopes with standard BDC reticles. And in that comparison, the XTR II performs almost as well the Vortex but at less than half the price. It’s lighter weight and the illumination is brighter but the overall glass quality and FOV isn’t as good. Whether or not the better glass and FOV (and possible durability) in the Vortex is worth the extra money is up to you, but also remember that it’s a quarter pound heavier as well.

Group shot with Burris XTR II 1-5x and 16" Daniel Defense barrel with 55gr Hornady FMJs during load testing. The rifle had a Daniel Defense 14" Lite handguard and was shot with a bipod and rear bag.
Group shot with Burris XTR II 1-5x and 16″ Daniel Defense barrel with 55gr Hornady FMJs during load testing. The rifle had a Daniel Defense 14″ Lite handguard and was shot with a bipod and rear bag.

The last optic in the we’ve owned in the ~1-6x range is the Bushnell SMRS 1-6.5x in FFP with BTR-1 BDC reticle. This scope came in four variations. FFP with the BTR-1 BDC reticle and BTR-2 mil reticle and SFP with the BTR-1 and BTR-2 reticles. The FOV is similar to the Mk6 and XTR II and weighs 18.5 oz. I remember the glass being nice but not as nice as the Mk6 or the Vortex 1-6x. The main concern was that the illumination wasn’t very good. On the brightest setting it was still usable in summer 3-gun matches in North Carolina but I wish it was just a little brighter. The reticle could be hard to pick up quickly. This scope came out the earliest of all the ones mentioned in the article and its age is somewhat evident. However a new updated version is coming out soon that is dual-focal plane that should provide bright illumination at 1x and accurate holdovers whatever the magnification level is.

BTR-1 BDC reticle. Center dot is for a 100 yard zero with holdovers for 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards. Also available in a mil-based reticle.
BTR-1 BDC reticle. Center dot is for a 100 yard zero with holdovers for 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards. Also available in a mil-based reticle.

These are only a fraction of the 1-nx scopes available on the market and more are coming out all the time. There are so many to choose from and it can be difficult to know where to start. But these are some of the more popular ones so I hope this article helped point out some differences between them. Equipment selection is all about budget, use, and preferences and I hope this helped narrow down the choices for some people.

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