Sunday, February 5, 2012



Like most people with growing AR collections, I cannot continually spend $1000 on an optic for each firearm, but I still want very high quality.  Through the years many of the standard household optics brands everyone knows of have sat on my rifles, however this time around I decided to go a different direction and try the Leatherwood Hi-Lux brand.

Leatherwood has a long and storied history since the 1960s supplying military grade optics to law enforcement and our own military. This is due in part to the founder, Jim Leatherwood, whose history in the US military and his development of the Leatherwood ART sniper scope still in military service today.  The ART scope put Leatherwood squarely in the military optics market and are still innovative groundbreaking sniper scopes.  The ART scopes allow ranging-to-shot in under 5 seconds and are the longest running scopes in the military with active duty still today. Leatherwood has been famous for stunning durability and outstanding optic clarity at a reasonable price and over 50 years later after merging with Hi-Lux they are still delivering the same outstanding quality, innovation, and value they have been known for.

In this case I picked up a Leatherwood Hi-Lux CMR 1-4X scope for use on my JP Enterprises 3-Gun build.  CMR stands for Close to Medium Range, but is a scope calibrated to make shots reliably out to 900 yards. Knowing that I would be doing some ranging at un-known distances, I liked the price and reticle design of the CMR. What surprised me more was the very high quality and features of the CMR when comparing it to other scopes owned and reviewed.  

The quality on this scope is excellent, far above the $325 price. It feels substantial, the tube is definitely thick walled, the finish was flawless, and the clarity of the optics is clear and distortion free.  If you get a chance, handle a Hi-Lux CMR, the quality feel alone will sell you on the scope. Everything on this scope is of top quality from the audiable click turrets to the adjustable illumination dial.
Leatherwood has packed a ton... literally ton into this scope.  If you can think of it, chances are they included it in the design.  The Hi-Lux CMR features heavy construction which is rated to be recoil-proof and passed the European military testing mounted to a machine gun which seems like more than I will dish out even if I move it to my 308.

One of the reasons 1-4X scope have been taking the AR industry by storm is that at 1X magnification, the scope can take the place of a both eyes open red-dot sight and with higher magnification setting it provides the power for reliable hits at longer distances.  The scope features Diamond Tuff14 multi-coated photographic polished lenses for clear sharp images and true 96% light transmission, fog-proof construction, combination horse shoe dot reticle, a subdued 308/.223 calibrated bullet drop compensating reticle, “no-math” ranging MOA and MIL-DOT reticle, choice of red or green illuminated models with 11 levels including a very low night vision setting.  Other notable features are Leatherwood’s zero-able “Zero Locking System” target turrets, wear resistant Prema-Coat blue-black finish, positive audible turret click adjustment, and class leading FOV.
The Hi-Lux CMR is a hell of a scope for the money.  The scope sits in the middle ground between crazy expensive and in-expensive.  It is nearly twice the price of the Millet DMS, but it is about half the price of the competing Trijicon AccuPoint all while offering more features.

A couple features of note are the standard CR2032 battery powered reticle and the turrets.  The reticle is permanently etched for durability and provides non-illuminated use as a standard scope. The reticle is broken down into three components, the illuminated circle dot, the MIL windage scale and the bullet drop compensating elevation. Thankfully the entire reticle and scales are not illuminated only the circle and dot as this would be distracting for use at night or from a tactical perspective. The circle and dot has heavier lines and is visible without the illumination on and provides a 1 MOA center dot with an exterior 5MIL circle width. 
The circle is actually a partial horseshoe with the bottom open for the bullet drop compensating scale.  Circling the 5MIL illuminated reticle is another subdued 10MIL circle for additional ranging. The horizontal and vertical scales are fine and subdued for use when you need them but delivered an uncluttered display during fast shooting.  The horizontal MIL scale spans 50 MIL across the FOV labeled at the 10MIL and 20MIL marks and provide a variety of MIL and sub-MIL measurements. Traditionally you have to choose between a MIL, MOA, standard X, or bull drop compensating reticle, but the Leatherwood Hi-Lux combines all the above into once useful reticle.  The bullet drop compensating reticle scale allows for very fast dependable shot placement all the way to 900 yards. 
If time permits, the most dependable shot placement option is to adjust the turrets for proper shot placement and to account for wind, elevation, and other variables. One of the problems can be losing your zero as you start spinning the dial.  Leatherwood’s zero-able “Zero Locking System” target turrets provide rezero-able scales and the ability to lock the elevation with a stop point.  You can spin the elevation turret to engage that 600 yard target and then just spin the turret back until it hits the stop and you are back to zero, all without looking.
Sometimes a group of ideas wadded up into a product deliver a franken-product that can be a functionally a little odd. The features of the Hi-Lux CMR on the other hand have been clearly thought through into a use-able and elegant scope package solution.  I have found that precision shots even at the 300-400 yard ranges can be tricky without a base bullet drop measurement and generally most center dot/circle and standard plex 1-4X scopes do not provide enough information for 300+ yard medium range shots and inevitably you start guessing. Bullet drop reticles put you on target, however generally are not going to be 100% on unless you get lucky with the rifle and ammo.  

Obviously a highly accurate barrel and trigger make it easier to be accurate such as the JP Enterprises and Geissele ones I used for this build.  For my testing of the scopes bullet drop I used Hornady 75gr Match ammo and my JP Enterprises barreled build and was able to connect with the steel plates all the way out to the 600 yard limits of my range using the BDC reticle and my iStrelok Iphone app ballistic calculator to compensate for range and wind drift. After settling in a adjusting the elevation for the 300 yard range, it was quite handy to be able to just spin the turret back to the hard stop 100 yard zero all without looking and start taking shorter range shots with my original zero.  Pretty handy setup and feature.

Ever since I first shot an AR with a Eotech circle/dot reticle, I have had the belief that that wonderful circle/dot format remains one of the fastest shooting reticles designs. Thankfully Hi-Lux has integrated this reticle style plus another surrounding circle into the CMR.  For quick shooting at 10-50 yard drills, the heavier lined non-illuminated circle and dot made finding my targets quick and easy.  I would have liked a full sun daylight illumination setting as my green illumination was barely visible on bright full sun range days. The 1-11 illumination settings seem to be intended to enhance the reticle visibility on less sunny days or as the sun is coming up or going down. The red illumination modeled reticle may be less subtle than the green and stand out a bit more in daylight.  In all cases, even without the assistance of illumination, I found the reticle quick on target.
When comparing the Hi-Lux CMR to $700 Trijicon 1-4X AccuPoint and the Millet DMS (both of which I own and regard highly) this $325 Leatherwood Hi-Lux CMR delivers more value.  Although not 100% US made, the Hi-Lux CMR has more features, a wider FOV (Field of View), truer 1X magnification, and less fish-eye at close tactical ranges. The Trijcon does have a more forgiving broader range eye relief. The quality of the CMR and Millet DMS scope bodies are similar, but the CMR body is above the Trijicon by a pretty substantial margin in my opinion and appears and “feels” more durable.  

Despite what the specs say, the Hi-Lux CMR appears to have a larger FOV then the Trijicon and a huge FOV compared to the Millet. The Hi-Lux turrets are a step above both in quality and usability and the clicks are nice an crisp both audibly and from a feel perspective. Though a tough call I think the optics are a grade higher and clearer than the others.

Although the Millet has a significantly brighter full sun visible illumination, the Hi-Lux wins the reticle features contest by combining the 1, 5, & 10 MOA circle-dot I love from the Millet with a ranging bullet drop and Mil-Dot reticle that you need for medium to long-range shooting all in a reticle design that is uncluttered and user friendly.  Hi-Lux now has a 3-Gun competition developed Scope Magnification Adjustment Extended Lever which effectively provides you with a large lever on your magnification ring to rip right from 1x to 4x easily with just one finger.  I plan on picking one of these up for a follow up review.
It is a tough competitive market out there for optics manufacturers and Hi-Lux has developed a very feature laden optic in the Hi-Lux CMR scope.  Look for this feature packed scope to site on other platforms in the future as I continue to run it though its paces and test other AR platforms.  The Hi-Lux is a great scope value for anyone looking for a 1-4X scope.

  • MODEL   CMR14X24
  • POWER   1X-4X
  • BATTERY CR2032
  • OBJ. LENS DIA-MM 24mm
  • FOV @100 YDS 94.8-26.2 Feet
  • EXIT PUPIL RANGE-MM 11.1 (at 1X) – 6 (4X)
  • EYE RELIEF (IN.) Min. 3”
  • LENGTH (IN.)   10.20
  • WEIGHT (O.Z.) 16.50
  • COATING Diamond Tuff14
  • RETICLE Special ranging illuminated reticle with circle and dot
  • ELEV. MOA 1/2
  • WIND. MOA 1/2
  • Front and rear flip-up lens covers
  • Zero Locking Turrets, Black Matte
  • All air glass surfaces are fully multi-coated, using the special technology to maximize the light transmission.


Red Dirt said...

Great review. I am seriously considering this scope. I do have one question though. In all of the reviews (yours included) I read that the illuminated reticle is not bright enough to be seen in bright daylight. I am fine with that but do you think that IN FULL SUN IS THE RETICLE DISCERNABLE ENOUGH FOR BOTH EYES OPEN CQB SNAPSHOTS? I don't have any concerns about longer shots with this scope. Only quick close range target accquisition.
What are your thoughts?

Major Pandemic said...

Yeah I was concerned about the same thing, however yes snap shooting is easy and the reticle is more pronounced than what my pictures show.

burkefett said...

I've been considering one of these scopes for a couple months now. I've been wondering about the focal plane of the reticle. I'd prefer a front focal plane optic, for consistency with the reticle size in relation to the target. If the reticle is in the rear focal plane, then at what magnification does the BDC function? I'd assume 4x, because it's pretty useless if it's at 1X.

Major Pandemic said...

The BDC is calibrated for 4X

Unknown said...

Nice post

jdiazsr25 said...

It’s to bad these fine scopes have been discontinued !!