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BarryinIN

Leupold Prismatic 1X14 Scope

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I just got one of these. Here is a preliminary report.

This optic is an oddball that one seldom sees any mention of. Even on the big optics selling websites with a place for buyers to leave comments and ratings, the Leupold Prismatic always has a big fat 0 number of comments. When I do see or hear something, it's never actual hands-on experience, but comments based on reading the specs, or maybe, just maybe, from looking through one at the Gander Mtn/Cabela's/Bass Pro counter.

In my research, I found next to nothing on them aside from a couple of competition-oriented websites.

Even Leupold has little to say. A look at their hunting and tactical websites gives little technical info beyond size and weight. Nothing on reticle size, battery life, nothing.

Link to Leupold's Prismatic page:

http://www.leupold.com/hunting-and-shooting/products/scopes/prismatic-riflescopes/

I found one article in a magazine, and while he told absolutely nothing about battery life, field of view, eye relief, reticle functionality, or any other info, it was a wonderful optic. That was not very helpful.

I paid little attention to this scope, then when I got curious I couldn't find much info. Unless it suddenly takes off in popularity, I guess we aren't going to get any more.

Since I've dug around for a month or two trying to find what I could find, only to find most of it had to be seen to be understood, I'm going to tell what I think here.

Overview

First off- It is not a red dot sight, but a 1X magnification scope. I have read numerous places where people wonder how it can be so small and still be a 1-14x variable. Yeah, sure, it's a 1-14X variable that's 4.5 inches long and didn't set the world on it's ear. Come on, 7x50 binoculars are not 7-50X variable.

It's 1X.

No magnification.

The "14" is the exit pupil diameter in millimeters. The size of the glass towards the muzzle.

"Prismatic" is the method of interior construction. The interior glass arrangement is prisms (or mirrors) instead of a series of ground lenses stacked within the tube. The Trijicon ACOGs are made this way. This system makes a compact scope. It also makes them expensive. It can also skew things when it comes to cowitnessing iron sights, but more on that later.

Being a 1X optic with illuminated reticle, the natural comparison is to the Aimpoint red dot sights (RDSs).

I'll say right up front that I am an Aimpoint fan. I bought my first Aimpoint in 1985- a skinny MKIII using odd batteries that were hard to get even then- and I love 'em.

I'll save you some time if you are comparing this Prismatic to an Aimpoint with no other factor other than "What is best": I'd get the Aimpoint. Whichever model Aimpoint. There you have it.

Physically, it's almost identical in size to an Aimpoint Comp M2/M3/ML2/ML3. It has a 30mm tube diameter, is 4.5" long, and weighs 12 ounces. That has nothing over an Aimpoint, but is no bigger either. It's tiny as scopes go.

Why?

So why would I get this goofball sight instead of the proven Aimpoint?

Vision.

My eyes are not the greatest anyway, and are aging. I had a slight brush with Glaucoma a couple of years back, but the astigmatism in both eyes is the real problem. I have heard of quite a few people having the same problem with RDSs. For some of us, the dot does not appear as a solid dot, but more like a series of speckles forming a dot. I started noticing this a couple of years ago. I can still use an RDS, but expect it will get worse.

I read the Leupold Prismatic (LP) takes care of this. Being a true scope with coated precision ground glass and focusing eyepiece, the reticle should be more clear than any RDS whether you have an astigmatism or not.

It's true. The reticle is as sharp and clear as can be. Without bothering with the focusing, the reticle dot and lines were crisp. I was expecting it, but was still taken aback when I looked through it the first time.

Optics

The Leupold Prismatic's (LP) reticle does NOT have to be illuminated.

I think this is where people have trouble understanding it. I'm not sure if Leupold grasps what they have, and some owners evidently don't.

The reticle is etched onto the glass, so it is always there. No crosswires to break. As long as the glass is intact, the reticle is there.

It is black, and since it is etched into the glass, it appears to "float" because the crosshairs do not extend to the edge of the view. Actually, there may not be crosshairs at all, depending on the reticle you get.

Two reticles are available: A "Circle Plex" and a "DCD" that I've heard called "Dot Circle Dot" and "Dot Circle Duplex". The Dot Circle Duplex is a big circle, around a smaller circle, with a dot in the center.

The Circle Plex is a little more complicated. It has a circle, crosshairs, and a dot.

I don't know about the DCD, but with the Circle Plex, the pictures of the reticle fail to show it as it truly appears. When looking at the pictures from Leupold, the center dot appears to blend into the crosshairs with hardly a break between them. In actuality, the dot is clearly separated, and floating in the center. The pictures make the entire reticle look bigger than it is, too. In the picture, the reticle seems to nearly fill the field of view, but on the real scope, it looks like it occupies maybe a quarter of the area at the very most.

I've tried to take pictures through the scope, but I just can't capture it realistically. This is about the best I can do, and it makes the reticle look smaller than it is:

The Circle Plex is pretty much the default reticle, as the DCD is only available on the NWTF edition as far as I know. Leupold says other reticles and finishes are available through the Custom Shop, but I cannot find the LP scope listed on their Custom Shop site at all.

It seems a lot of people think the DCD is the way to go, and think it should be the standard. I like the Circle Plex when not illuminated, and think the DCD's plain black dot would be hard to pick up without crosshairs to guide the eye. I think that little black dot floating by itself would get swallowed up by many backgrounds. However, when illuminated, I think the Circle Plex's crosshairs, dot, and circle all glowing away is too much. It's a little too busy, and reminds me of the Eotac reticles, which I never have liked.

Ideally, I think I'd like the Circle Plex in daylight, but only the center dot to be illuminated when illumination is selected.

Illumination

The illumination system is rather odd, I think. It's not really built-in, but uses a clamp-around "Illumination module". That scared me as I read about it, because it sounded like a flimsy afterthought. I learned it was not as puny as it sounded, but it still puzzles me that it is a separate detachable unit. I don't know what real benefit that would give. I can think of a couple of small possible benefits, but they are rather theoretical and I'd prefer it to be an integral system.

It works like this:

At about the 1:00 position (viewed from the rear), just behind the adjustment turrets, there is a tiny opaque window built into the scope tube. I hate calling it a window because it sounds like a weak spot, but I doubt it hurts anything.

The Illumination Module is a two-piece ring held together by four T10 Torx screws:

The Illum Module clamps around the tube, over the "window". It is indexed by a small tab that matches up with a divot in the tube. The right half of the module contains the actual illum system of a battery, switch/control, and bulb (LED?).

The indexing tab locates the module on the tube so the bulb or LED is directly over the window, illuminating the reticle when it lights. In basic terms, the module does what the fiber optic tube on top of an ACOG does.

When the module is off the scope, it can be turned on. It puts out a lot of red light.

And with the module off the scope, shining a flashlight into the tube's window lights the reticle up in the same color as the light.

Here's where my theoreticals come in, as to why it's a detachable unit.

-I suppose that if the illum module crashed and you needed the reticle lit, you could remove the module and affix a small light to the scope to illuminate the reticle through the window. It would take a real MacGyver to do this so it would not light up yourself and all around you, and to keep it in place. But I suppose it's possible. In theory.

-The module could be replaced for future upgrades. I can see this one, if the LP was more successful anyway. I bought an Aimpoint right before they started using the CET technology that allowed batteries to last thousands of hours instead of a couple hundred. I would have loved to have been able to buy a new module I could swap in by removing and replacing four screws. I would like to see this explored. For now, it's just a theory of mine.

-If the module were to crash hard and needed sent in for repair, I guess it would be nice to remove it and send just the module in without giving up your scope for an unknown period. This is only theoretical also, but as one who has a another brand of scope in their warranty repair station's hands now, I could appreciate it. I hardly think this was Leupold's design intention here, though.

I doubt any of those things were Leupold's reason for making the illumination module a separate part. I am forced to assume illumination was added as an afterthought.

For more convincing-

Similar to an Aimpoint Comp, CompC, CompM, etc, the 30mm tube will accept a standard 30mm ring, but only in one place: The same place where the illum module goes. The Prismatic comes with a base that attaches directly to the bottom, but the ring option is there if you want it, although you don't have the option with the illumination module in place. I suppose it would be possible to clamp the mounting ring at the front, but Leupold doesn't think much of the idea.

The only thing that makes me think they accepted this compromise as part of the plan was in the interest of compactness. This, and some other things, could have been done differently, but each would have required the scope to be bigger.

And it is a tiny thing, at only 4.5" long.

This is easy to forget when used to handling Aimpoints, but it really is amazing to get any scope this small. I don't care if it's only a 1X, a certain amount of things need to go into any scope, and those things take up space. The only scope I can think of approaching this size was the old Colt 3X and 4X carry handle scopes, and they did it at the sacrifice of decent optics. This Leupold is a fine piece of glass.

So I can only speculate, but my guess is that the illumination module was done this way because it was the most compact way. I'd like to see a optional Illumination Module that used technology to get more battery life, even if it were larger.

There are a lot of erroneous things written and said about the LP, but a common one is that it has no brightness adjustment for the illumination. That's incorrect. The instructions that come with this scope are sparse, but this is one item that is covered well and hard to miss, so if you hear there is no brightness adjustment, it is coming from someone who got all their information from holding one up to the light and sighting across the parking lot for 30 seconds.

The adjustment is done in a screwy way, though. Once again, I think this was done to keep it small.

To turn it on, you push a rubber covered button on the battery cap. This button has an "L" on it in case you forget who made it.

One push, and it comes on.

If you immediately push it again, it will scroll through the brightness settings with each push. There are eight settings, and you can set it up to scroll through from dimmest to brightest or bright to dim. Stop where you want it. At any time after a couple of seconds, you can turn it off by pushing the button. The next time you turn it on, it will come on at the same setting it was on when turned off. If the batter is low, the reticle will flash when you first turn it on.

I'm used to the Aimpoint turning knob, but this is easy enough to pick up. There are probably good and bad things about both ways, but I bet this is the most compact way of doing it, so I like it for this scope.

Battery Life; The Elephant in the Scope

One of the big knocks against the Prismatic is battery life. According to those who have tested it, the battery life at the lowest setting is 250 hours. On high, it's about a third of that. I have not checked that myself yet.

People see those numbers and dismiss the scope right off, asking why anyone would want a battery life of 80-250 hrs when they could have thousands in an Aimpoint.

Yes, the numbers are awful compared to an Aimpoint's 10,000 hours, but I think calling it useless because of this is missing how it works.

It doesn't need the batteries to work.

Defenders of the Prismatic say that if the batteries die, you have the regular reticle. It's always there. I think that is still missing the point, because it assumes you had it turned on to start with.

I need to say that I have yet to do any more than play around with it looking into dark corners of the garage. I expect to be a lot sharper about this thing in the future, and may come back and read this feeling quite foolish.

But for now, I'm thinking the illumination won't be used much by me. I will turn it on when I pick up the carbine for investigating a "bump in the night", but a couple hundred hours of battery life should cover a lot of bumps. If I use it in a three-day carbine class, I can leave it on the entire class, replace the battery when the class ends, and be good for a long time. I realize it doesn't take much imagination to come up with exceptions, but most of the time I would have a target with enough light on it to I.D. it, I have enough light to see my reticle too. If I have the reticle lit and it fails, the 9V Surefire attached to the carbine should give plenty of light.

For the exceptions, I have ten days of battery life.

Would I want this if I worked the midnight shift as an LEO? No, I'd want an Aimpoint I could turn on and leave on, replacing the battery every two or three years.

But for all the more I'd require the reticle to be illuminated, 250 hours should last a long time.

Other Negatives, Real and Imagined

Other complaints I have read are about eye relief and eye placement. One of the very best things about an RDS is being able to shoot from odd positions where you can't get your eye directly behind the sight. Many carbine classes will have students shooing from positions most would never dream of, and the RDS makes this possible. There are many times when an RDS lets you sight on a target when a scope or iron sights will not. If you can get behind the RDS at all, you can probably see the dot and get it on target. The Prismatic, being a scope, should lose this advantage. After reading about this concern with the Prismatic and thinking it myself, I was happy to find it wasn't too bad.

I have seen all sorts of eye relief figures quoted, but I measured mine as giving a full field of view from 3" to 6.25". As scopes go, that is really good, and there is only slight shadowing beyond those distances. Then after thinking about this, I went back and checked something else. I found I had most of the field of view, and could make out the complete reticle at a minimum, when held anywhere from in contact with my face to arms length. At normal eye relief distance, I could move my head pretty far in any direction and still have a full field of view. Only when I got pretty far away did I start to get shadowing. Even when I had very little sight through the tube, the crosshairs were still visible. When using both eyes, as long as I can see the reticle, it will appear on the target.

I may find that this throws shots off by a mile due to parallax error, but the reticle didn't wander off target much.

I may be proven wrong once I get to working with it more, but I think it will work in more situations than some (like myself) thought.

Mount Concerns

It comes with a mount. It seems OK, but I see room for improvement, that's for sure. It is made up of a knob-tightened Picatinny base, a couple of spacers, and a flat bottom with wide tongue on the bottom of the scope itself. The base can be screwed directly to the scope, or spacers can go between them to add height.

The tongue and groove runs fore-aft providing lateral security. The only fore-aft locking is from the screws themselves.

Depending on the rifle used, I'd think recoil would stress the screws quite a bit. Leupold sells a National Wild Turkey Federation model with the intent of shotgun use, but I'd be wary of using this mount system with a shotgun for fear of the scope departing the base.

The base has the thumb knob's screw running across it, with an insert that sits partially into the cross slots of a Picatinny or Weaver rail. The engagement could be deeper into the cross slot, but is probably OK. I'm more concerned with the scope staying on the base than the base staying on the rifle or shotgun.

Another curiosity is that two screws hold the scope to the base, but due to the combination of heights, six screws (two each of three lengths) are needed to accommodate the height possibilities. I don't know of a better way to do it and still have the height options, but it seemed like the box it came it was occupied as much by screws as by scope.

I intend to replace the mount anyway. Larue and American Defense Manufacturing both make QD throw lever mounts for them, and they're both under $80. They use the factory spacer but replace the base, so it should be a little more secure. I have never owned anything from ADM so don't know, but I have great confidence in Larue. I want the throw lever base because things get a little odd using iron sights through a prismatic. With a RDS, I can leave it in place when using the backup irons (if setup properly). I'm looking right through the RDS at the front sight. The prismatic's system means you aren't looking straight through it at the front sight although it appears that way. You are looking at an image of the front sight after it's bounced off the mirrors. It moves. I can move my head a little and make the front sight roll around like a ship in a storm. It just isn't going to work to leave the Prismatic in place when using irons. It will need to come off.

I want a throw lever.

To the positive, I think it would be rare to need the irons. As I said, if the batteries fail, so what? I have the etched reticle. Maybe I need the weaponlight to see it against the target, but I would need that with irons too. If I need irons to backup this scope, it's probably because it has broken internally, or been smashed externally, and needs to come off.

I want a throw lever.

Other Details

Adjustment knobs are standard Leupold scope dials turned by the fingers, which means they are a lot bigger and easier to use than the little screws on most RDSs. Clicks are 1/2 MOA each. The caps are about a quarter inch high on the Tactical variation with finger grip ribbing and easily removed and installed. These slightly taller caps are one of the two identifying features I can pick out from the hunting model along with the Leupold golden ring deleted for obvious coolness.

The tube is thick. I measure it at .140" thick.

Leupold claims it's the strongest scope they've ever made and I believe them if the tube is any indication. I've made it clear it's a tiny scope, and the weight surprised me. It's not heavy, but heavier than the small dimensions make it appear to weigh.

Final Thoughts...For Now

A friend of mine has his own training outfit and recently got on as an instructor with one of the big places. Being sort of in the middle there for a while, he was either in a class or teaching a class on a near-constant basis. He sees a lot of gear, and sees how it works. When I started thinking about the Leupold Prismatic, I emailed him asking what he thought of it.

I am not sure how you can hear someone laughing in an email, but I did.

He asked why anyone would spend nearly double Aimpoint money for that thing, to get all the negatives of a scope with none of the gains. After some pushing, I got that he had never used one aside from some industry demo, and had only seen a couple in classes. He also admitted that they did give a nice clear sight for people with various eye trouble.

I think he is typical of those who read the specs, saw nothing gained over other optics, and didn't pursue it any further. And that is understandable. I did the very same thing, completely ignoring the Prismatic for at least four years because I saw no benefit to it.

This may be one of the dumbest things I've ever bought, or it could be what keeps me shooting. I will find out. I got it used for about half price, so what the heck.

I've already found out that at least half of what I've heard from people was wrong. It matched what I used to think, but it was wrong. Now I think it will work for me...maybe I'll be wrong there too.

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A couple more comments:

It takes a 1/3N battery. Not as common as some, but not entirely uncommon either. I was ordering some things from Amazon and ordered a few for $3.99 each. The package dates said they would be good for the next nine years (2021).

I have read comments about the limited field of view, usually when asking why one wouldn't simply buy an Aimpoint. This shows me they have never looked through a Prismatic. I admit Leupold's website specs are incorrect, but I think it should be apparent also. They list the FOV as a tiny 8.3 feet. Looking through a swizzle stick will give you an eight foot FOV at 100 yards. Making it even more clear it's incorrect, that figure is followed by a metric 27.6 meters. I am pretty sure there are more than 8 feet in 27 meters, so at least one number has to be wrong.

I'm guessing 27.6 meters (90.55 feet) is right, if not a little conservative. It's a 1X scope. The view is not magnified, so the area isn't shrunk either. Leaving both eyes open, it's like your normal field of vision with a shadowy ring (the tube) in it.

Another comment concerned the "small" 14mm exit pupil. They translated that to mean the tube was only 14mm/.55" across at the front (it isn't). The actual comment was asking why Leupold made it so small you can't get a finger in there to wipe the crud off. I guess the 14mm figure is for a lens inside, because the outermost piece of glass is well over 3/4" across and isn't set very far back from the end of the tube. Not only can I get a finger on it, I can get to most of it with my elbow. Seriously, I tried.

Again, keep in mind I've yet to fire a shot using mine. All I'm trying to do is give my early impressions and clear up questions or doubts brought up by others, whether from looking at an actual scope or a table of figures. It's not a typical scope, and you have to look it over some before deciding anything.

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I've been using this a little over a month now. Observations and comments:

Not knowing the condition of the battery it came with, I replaced it with a new battery shortly after I got it. It is still working fine, but I have no idea how many hours it has been on during that time. FWIW, I used a Duracell battery.

I don't always use the lighted reticle. In fact, I go without it most of the time and would estimate I use it maybe 30% of the time. For me, it's more of an auxiliary aid than a necessary component.

But when it's needed, it's really needed. If I can't see the standard black reticle clearly, I probably can't see it at all. Examples would be in darkness or if the target is black or near-black. Ninjas are safe.

But this is how it is with most optics. There is something that the reticle will blend in against. At least with this, you get two choices: standard black or red lighted.

I catch myself closing one eye sometimes with this scope. I should be able to keep both eyes open easier with this than an Aimpoint since the optics are so clear. Perhaps I'm closing that eye more than I know with Aimpoints, too.

Some of the Prismatic criticism revolved around more demanding eye placement. With an Aimpoint, as long as you can get behind it- no matter how centered or what distance away- you will see the dot, get it on target, and get the hit. I've read a lot of comments saying that since this is a scope, eye relief and eye placement will be more critical. The specialty positions like Urban Prone and Supine put the optic in places where you can't get straight behind it.

The "eye box"- the usable area behind the optic- is not as big as with an Aimpoint, but it doesn't seem to be a problem.

I have mine mounted fairly far away from the eye (rail slot T11). I see others mounted a lot closer, though I don't know why. Any reasonable cheek weld works. No cheek weld at all works. I haven't found a way I couldn't use it. I spent the last two mornings at the range working with the odd positions and have had no trouble.

I did suspect one problem I had not heard mentioned but could not verify it. The standard reticle and lighted reticle don't appear to be in exactly the same place. They don't look exactly aligned. So I tried shooting groups using the standard reticle and using the lighted reticle, thinking the POIs should different. They always make one group. Maybe the reticles are aligned, but my screwed up eyes don't see it that way.

And speaking of POIs and unexpected results:

When shooting this AR rolled over on it's side, as in SBU or Urban Prone, the POI isn't moved as far as it is with some rifles I have. I don't know why that should be the case since the bore/sight offset is the same, but I checked it a few times.

I don't know if I'd want one if I could still see an Aimpoint as clear as I used to, and it's way to early to know about durability. But I like it.

I wish it was a little lighter. It's not heavy, but for it's size it looks like it should be lighter. I wouldn't want to sacrifice any strength for it though.

The reticle design works pretty well. The center dot is fine enough to do accurate shooting, but is quick to pick up. Its not quite as fast as an Aimpoint, but it takes a shot timer to tell. I think the circle would be more useful if it was about 1/3 smaller in diameter. That size would just about frame a humanoid target width at 50 yards. The large diameter of the circle does little that I can see.

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I put a new battery in on June 6, last year, replacing the battery it came with (of unknown age). Today I replaced that battery. I got just over eight months out of it.

By Aimpoint standards I know that's dreadful, but I am pretty pleased with it. The Prismatic doesn't require the battery for use, and I often end up using the illumination just playing around.

I'm still happy with this scope and am keeping my eyes open for a deal on another.

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I bought a Leupold Prismatic used for $350 off a forum. It arrived two days ago and this thread really helped me understand what I had in my hands.

I had a problem with the adjustment caps being on too tight, and I unscrewed the elevation turret. I sent the scope to Leupold the next day.

But while I had it, I adjusted the eye piece, and what is stated in the above posts is true, I can see the reticle in focus, unlike other red dot 1X scopes.

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First, welcome to the forum!

I'm sorry yours broke like that. That's pretty odd of think. I'm sure Leupold will have it fixed in no time, though.

I'm still happy with mine. It's on the AR I keep in my SUV, so I have faith in it's longevity and abilities. I'm pretty well set for close range optics, but I'd probably buy another if I found a deal like you did.

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At the NRA show last weekend, a Leupold rep confirmed what I had been wondering:  the Prismatic has been discontinued for about a year.    That's too bad.  It's a nice optic few even knew about. 

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