Now that there are quite a few AR-type rifles in .308 caliber, many shooters are looking for the right scope for their .308 self-loader.
I’ve tested several and found that there are some important considerations.
Scopes designed for the 5.56mm/ AR-15-type rifle may not have the magnification to maximize the .308 round at longer ranges and will not have a reticle or elevation adjustment knob for the .308 round. Since the .308 AR will be heavier than the 5.56mm AR, it will already be less handy, so using a red dot or low magnification scope which works best for CQC is like using a saber where a rapier would be more effective. Even though I want some magnification for a .308 AR scope, I want a scope that will not add undue weight to an already heavier carbine.
In this column, I take a look at two scopes designed for .308 ARs. Both scopes do an excellent job and offer choices in features and cost. I tested both on the Rock River LAR-8, a .308 AR carbine I’ve found quite accurate and reliable. Note the LAR-8 has a telescoping stock, which can affect eye relief, so it offers a very good test bed.
IOR VALDADA SPARTAN 2-12X36mm
On 2X setting, the Spartan allows the LAR-8 to be used quickly at close range, while on 12X it allows the rifle to range
Using a red dot or low magnification scope which works best for CQC is like using a saber where a rapier would be more effective.
out to 800 yards or more. In developing this scope, Valdada specifically tried to keep overall length down, so the Spartan would fit on a non-extended flattop rail while still allowing proper eye relief.
The Spartan is only 12 inches overall and weighs 24 ounces, both quite good for a scope with its power. Eye relief is intended to be 3.5 inches. The elevation dial has a .308 cam and the MP-8 Dot Reticle is well designed for use between 100 and 800 yards, though at close range such as 25-50 yards, the posts at 12, 3, and 9 o’clock combined with the center dot allow quick shots.
By increasing the objective diameter from 35mm to 36mm, light gathering is increased, especially in low light on 2X setting, should the carbine be used for building clearing. Valdada’s illuminated reticles have been excellent as long as I’ve used their scopes, but this one is even better, with 11 illumination steps instead of the seven on other Valdada scopes.
The additional low settings are designed to work well with night vision devices. The ocular is also larger, but the fast focus eyepiece which I like on Valdadas is retained, which helps eye relief on .308 ARs with telescoping stocks.
The scope retains other Valdada durability features, including being designed to function at temperatures from -40F to +140F. High humidity and rain do not affect the scope. The Spartan is dry nitrogen/argon filled and sealed. It is both water- and fog-proof. The reticle is photo engraved onto the glass and is illuminated. IOR’s MC-7 multicoating virtually eliminates glare and maximizes light gathering.
I got a chance to test the rain and fog proofing on the Spartan because the day I range tested it turned out to be rainy and so humid that I had to wipe both the inside and outside of my glasses after each shot. The Spartan remained utterly clear of fogging, though occasionally I had to wipe rain drops from the front lens to allow me to see the target better, since I was shooting for group.
The Spartan is designed to be zeroed at 100 yards. Clicks at 100 yards are 1/4 MOA for elevation and 1/4 MOA for windage. Once the Spartan is on at 100 yards, the dial is returned to the “1” marking. To adjust for range (once the 100-yard zero is achieved), all you need to do is rotate the dial to “2” for 200 yards, “3” for 300 yards, etc. to be on. The dial is designed to use this system to 800 yards.
I got the chance to shoot the Spartan only at 100 and 200 yards before the wind and rain became so bad that the target would not stay up. The rifle is still out of the safe to try at 300 and longer, but the system for dialing in the range seems to work fine.
I found the Spartan extremely well designed and the MP-8 Dot system quite easy to use to acquire targets. As the rain got worse and the sky darkened while I was shooting, I switched on the illuminated reticle, which was a real aid.
IOR scopes are well-designed and wellmade, but they are not cheap. I do think they are reasonably priced, however, for what one gets. With an accurate .308 AR and the Spartan, a tactical marksman can shoot effectively to at least 800 yards while having a carbine or rifle that offers fast follow-up shots and fast reloads with a detachable box magazine.
LEUPOLD MK AR 3-9X40mm
First, let me note that the MK AR is designed for AR-15 5.56mm rifles or carbines. However, by ordering an elevation dial from the Leupold Custom Shop for $59.99, it works for .308 ARs just as well. Leupold scopes show consistent quality, and the MK AR is no exception. It is designed to offer a quality scope that is very affordable. It is also relatively compact (12.4 inches in length) and its light weight (12.5 ounces) allows the rifle to be handled quickly.
Two reticles are available, the Mil Dot and the Duplex, both of which I have used and found allow precise shooting. The MK AR I tested has the Mil Dot reticle, which I chose since I use Mil Dot reticles a lot and am used to them, especially since I have learned to use the horizontal Mil Dots for target lead.
The Leupold Multicoat 4 lens system offers excellent brightness, clarity, and contrast, and works well in low light. Note that many Leupold scopes offer an illuminated reticle, but the MK AR does not. On a visit to Leupold, I watched them test their scopes to ensure they remain waterproof. This observation, plus my own use of Leupold scopes in harsh conditions, has shown me that Leupold scopes have strong water and fog resistance.
As with the IOR Spartan, once the MK AR is zeroed at 100 yards, all you need to do is move the elevation dial to the distance at which you’ll be shooting to be on (e.g., “3” equals 300 yards). This is a feature I like a lot on both of these scopes, as it eliminates the need to keep track of the number of clicks needed to change elevation.
The MK AR’s T2 elevation dial uses 1/2 MOA clicks. The fast focus eyepiece may be quickly turned or, once focus is established, locked in place. Likewise, the 3-9 selector ring is heavily knurled to allow ease of operation when wet or wearing gloves. Finish is matte black.
As with the IOR Spartan, I mounted the MK AR on a Rock River LAR-8. Since the MK AR is so light and allows the carbine to be handled quickly, I also took this opportunity to test the Tactical Link Stealth Single-Point Bungee Sling.
I am a big fan of Tactical Link’s press stud system for quickly attaching or detaching a sling, because this system works very well for carbines carried in a vehicle or in other situations where the sling may be quickly attached or detached. I like bungee slings if they are relatively stiff, which this one definitely is.
It takes some effort to push the carbine into shooting position, but the stiffness keeps the carbine from flopping around when across the chest. The Stealth also incorporates a quick-release buckle, an important feature for military or LE slings so that they can be quickly released if they get hung up on something, such as getting lifted off the ground by your sling caught on a helicopter skid or dragged by it hooked on a door handle.
Once the MK AR was zeroed, I tried some quick drills on plates at 25 and 35 yards and also some quick shots on paper at 50 yards, all on 3X to test the handling with the scope and sling. The LAR-8 remained quite handy with the combo. As mentioned previously, it was a very rainy day with high humidity, so I got plenty of chances to note the clarity and non-fogging characteristics of the MK AR—it performed admirably.
I feel both of these scopes are well designed for use with .308 self-loading tactical rifles. The IOR Spartan with its 2-12X magnification offers a bit more versatility at longer ranges, and the illuminated reticle is a boon when used on a police tactical rifle/designated marksman rifle.
The Leupold MK AR is well suited for use on a police patrol rifle, whether in 5.56mm or .308, assuming the .308 Custom Shop dial is added. It is light enough that it allows the carbine or rifle to be handled quickly. The Tactical Link Stealth Bungee Sling would be very useful on a patrol rifle as well.
Both are excellent scopes, each designed to appeal to a slightly different segment of the tactical rifle/carbine market. Cost will be an important factor for many, and the fact that the MK AR is available for about one-third the price of the IOR Spartan will influence purchasing decisions.
P.O. Box 270095
Littleton, CO 80127
Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
P.O. Box 688
Beaverton, OR 97075-0688
23175 224th Place SE, Ste. E
Maple Valley, WA 98038