The Sept. 11 attack on America prompted a definitive re-examination of many patrol, SWAT and tactical team response capabilities. The slow shift to rifles for patrol officers that was occurring prior to 9-11 has since turned into a tidal wave.
The ability to respond to either highly motivated well-armed criminals or terrorists clearly spells the need for rifles for police in America.
With today's cutting-edge rifle systems like the AR platform, the performance possibilities inherent in these designs have generated a high level of interest in correspondingly high-tech optical sights.
Since the introduction of the "red dot" concept in the '70s, the technology has raced ahead, with a wide range of manufacturers offering designs to meet many needs. For the police and military, a rugged, tank-tough design is de rigueur in order to survive both the environment ... and the end-user.
An Old Friend
Many police counter-sniper rifles are graced with Leupold Vari-X scope models. Their dependability and durability are legendary. Leupold has taken this same commitment to quality and designed a red dot/variable-power riflescope for front-line police and military duties.
Called the Mark 4 CQ/T, the sight is a 1-3x14mm variable power, illuminated circle dot reticle sight. This variable power option and top-notch optical clarity is what separates the Mark 4 from the vast majority of conventional dot sights.
"The Mark 4 CQ/T was developed with considerable input from law enforcement agencies and elite military forces in a number of different countries, making it unlike any other riflescope," says Mike Slack from Leupold, which may help to explain the specific, functional design features.
The multifunction options built into the Mark 4 combine the strengths of the red-dot system with a variable power riflescope. At one power, it performs like a non-magnifying, illuminated sight for close ranges, allowing an officer to keep both eyes open while sighting. A bright, orange/yellow circle and dot serve as the aiming point when turned on, or the same reticle in black if not powered-up.
At two or three power, a police rifleman can engage targets at medium ranges in urban environments or open areas. The illuminated circle dot reticle is easily visible in daylight and 10 illumination settings enable user-selected contrast settings for the reticle. Two low-intensity settings are compatible with night vision equipment, and a common AA battery (field replaceable) supplies power.
Interestingly enough, rudimentary range estimation can be done with the circle dot reticle. At 3x, the diameter of the circle equates to 6 feet in height at 100 yards. At 200 yards, 6 feet is measured from the dot to the edge of the circle. We verified the claims in informal range testing on target stands of a known height at both 100 and 200 yards.
The Mark 4 is tailored for the AR platform and can be mounted on any AR series with either a conventional carrying handle or with a rail system. The eye relief is optimized for the AR variant cheek weld and permits mounting of the scope in the center-receiver portion to help maintain proper head position with short-stocked rifles.
The scope body has integral MIL-STD-1913 rail-mount slots that enable the mounting of lasers, lights or night vision devices, increasing the performance envelope accordingly.
While many say iron sights are best (and it's difficult to argue the case otherwise), in many scenarios some kind of optical sight can be a significant advantage. At one power, the ability to keep both eyes open to maintain overall command of the scene, while still engaging targets is a powerful tool.
Many novice rifle users (patrol officers who may not train as often as they should) will often find a simple dot illuminated sight a real boon. Frankly, the combination of rugged, fixed iron sights and an optical sight may arguably be the best of both worlds.
How Rugged Is Rugged?
Leupold advertises the Mark 4 as being "100 percent waterproof and designed to be salt, fog and chemical resistant." So, we tossed the sight into a Jacuzzi at 100 degrees, turned the bubbles on and waited.
One hour later the Mark 4 emerged unscathed. Perhaps more importantly, it was still fog-free the next day, after having been left outside in 40-degree cold, immediately after the dunking.
Overall construction appears to be of high quality with careful attention to detail. The general look and feel is one of military toughness. Comments by officers who handled and used it were:
"Compact and rugged appearing."
"I like the compact size and bright optics."
"Easy to manage controls."
"The variable power option would be good for SWAT counter-sniper spotter use."
The Mark 4 comes equipped with flip-open lens covers, mount, and instructions. It appears to be well suited for its intended role.
Roy Huntington is the former Executive Editor of POLICE Magazine and a retired police officer. His wife says he shouldn't buy any more guns ... until he gets her that new Shiloh Sharps rifle she's been wanting ...