The Leupold CQT Riflescope has been around for a while now. It was intended to be something of a ‘do it all’ solution for the Military and Law Enforcement. The concept was to provide a scope with a true 1x magnification and an illuminated reticle for fast shots at close range and average battle distances, while providing the magnification necessary to allow the shooter to make longer shots if necessary. Originally it was only available with a circle dot reticle, which in my opinion, put it up against more affordable options. A red dot sight from Eotech or Aimpoint will run you around $500 and quality magnifiers and mounts can be had for around $300, that really undercuts Leupold by about $300-400 dollars. It was also what had me using the red dot / magnifier solution on my patrol rifle. I didn’t see any advantage to the CQT over those systems. Now if you price the red dot solution with magnifiers from Eotech and Aimpoint, your pricing will be similar, and I’m sure that’s what Leupold had in mind when they set the price. However, speaking from experience dealing with a number of guys with AR15s in LE circles, most were running magnifiers from Vortex, Lucid, and Primary Arms because the features were almost as good at a third the price of the Eotech and Aimpoint solutions. My opinion about the usefulness of the Leupold CQT changed quite a bit when they added the option to order the scope with Leupold’s CM-R2 reticle. This new reticle adds a bit of versatility to the CQT that is unmatched by Eotech and Aimpoint.
The scope body is constructed from 6061-T6 Aluminum and the tube is nitrogen filled by Leupold. Leupold as a company has a reputation for building riflescopes that will take some abuse and keep functioning. They also have a reputation for excellent customer service and warranty services. My Leupold CQT hasn’t been abused but I’m also not one to baby the rifle and treat it like a safe queen. The Leupold CQT I own sits on my patrol AR15 that I use at my job in Law Enforcement. I’ve also spoke with some of my department’s SWAT members about the optic and they also attest to it’s robust construction. The mount is heavy duty and the scope feels stout in your hand. That is confidence inspiring when it comes to people operating in Military and Law Enforcement circles.
The scope features a true 1x power magnification that can be dialed up to 3x power by rotating the eyepiece of the scope at the rear. Some people don’t like this feature because it can position flip caps at odd and obstructive angles. I’ve never had an issue with it provided you take the time to set the caps up and check where they are across the magnification range before actually heading out to shoot. The glass is quite clear which isn’t a surprise as Leupold has consistently put decent glass in their riflescopes for the money. It may not be ‘oh wow’ glass but it also isn’t your bargain bin quality either. There are rail mounts on the scope for accessories if you so desire. At the top of the scope is the illumination dial which has several intensity settings, even for NV equipment. On high the dot is visible in daylight but its not red dot sight bright in daylight. You can also shut the illumination off and just run the reticle in bright surroundings without illumination. On the top and side are capped adjustments for windage and elevation that are graded in 1/2 MOA clicks. I like that they are capped so you don’t have to worry about bumping your setting in an LE/MIL setting. I don’t particularly like the lack of finger adjustable knobs under the caps or the markings to keep track of dialed adjustments. The scope isn’t set up to be adjustable on the fly, and that is unfortunate because I believe it would be an added bonus to the scope’s design. This is a feature that the Leupold CQT lacks that its competition includes at the same, and even lower, price points.
The eye relief ranges from 2.00-2.80 inches. I have to mention something along this topic, on 3x the eye relief isn’t exactly long. You aren’t going to get scope bite, but it does force your face forward a bit to get good edge to edge clarity. The scope also sits rather high above the receiver. I run a Magpul PRS on my AR15 so getting my cheek weld at the right spot is easy. However, I have to mount the scope clear at the rear edge of the receiver in order to get the proper eye relief on 3x and not slide off the cheek piece on the PRS. There is some room to move forward but the closer you get to the receiver, the better the possibility you will have to lift your head when you work the charging handle. It isn’t an issue for me, but we all come in different shapes and sizes so I can’t say it won’t be an issue for anyone.
Obviously the selling point for me with this scope was the option to add a CM-R2 reticle to the package when ordering. This reticle options provides elevation hold overs out to 900m and windage compensation for 5/10/15mph moving targets. Whether you have a stationary target and 5/10/15mph winds or a target moving at the same speeds, the process for reticle holds are the same. That’s the attraction I have for this scope option. This also sets it apart from the red dot and magnifier combos because existing units don’t offer windage holds and only a few have elevation holds available.
We touched on a little of this earlier. The scope is well constructed, and heavy duty. The key part of that phrase being heavy. The scope isn’t exactly light weight, but that’s also not necessarily the prominent requirement for it’s intended audience. Aluminum does a good job of providing good strength for the weight. The cross bolts are steel and the whole scope clamps quite securely when mounted. However, as this pertains to durability and usability in the field, the mount that is included is not even a distant relative of convenient or repeatable. ARMS and Larue both offer QD lever mounts for the Leupold CQT that do a better job of making mounting somewhat repeatable. I plan to add one of those to my Leupold CQT in the not so distant future. The other potential durability issue is the Leupold CQT is a bit of a battery hog. It eats through a Lithium AA battery fairly quickly and when it does, the illumination gets pretty hokey. I actually thought there was a problem with my illumination dial at one point because the lighted portion of the reticle would flicker a bit when changing settings or if I tapped on the scope or the dial. I finally realized it was a failing battery and the issue resolved itself immediately with a fresh battery, but it’s still a concern. You need to keep spares handy if you are going to run one of these.
I can’t finish a review without mentioning the price of the Leupold CQT. At a tick under $1200 dollars it isn’t a cheap option, you definitely pay for the Leupold name. However, Leupold makes all their scopes in the USA, and they back their products with a warranty and service that helps ease the sting to your wallet. I spoke a bit before about how this scope has some good features but it has struggled a bit to find it’s niche in the market. Initially it was competing with cheaper and more versatile red dot options. Now with the CM-R2 reticle it has provided some features that help eclipse the Red Dot / Magnifier combo because you now have visible windage and elevation holdover points. In doing so, Leupold has put the CQT in the low power rifle scope class. Now the Leupold CQT has to compete with 1-4x power all the way up to 1-8x power rifle scopes with a host of other features that put the Leupold at the back of the crowd again. There are low power scope options that have the same features and offer more, for less, than the Leupold CQT does. Again, this is kind of a misfit toy that has good features but not the right combination to really make it a viable contender in any of the product groups it applies to because more affordable options exist. So why do I have one? That’s easy! I don’t make the rules, I just follow them. My department has a narrow list of approved optics for patrol rifles and this happens to be the best option on the list. Quite honestly if they allowed some variable low power scope options I would probably look at selling the Leupold and switching. The price is really what kills this scope as an option. If it was a bit more affordable it would be a viable option but the premium Leupold charges for their products really puts the Leupold CQT in price classes with other options that make more sense for the money.
The bottom line here is that the Leupold CQT does what it is designed to do quite well. It packs a reputation for durability, warranty, and service within the package. The features are good and the scope works as advertised. If you are thinking about purchasing one I don’t believe it is a bad buy, however I would strongly suggest you decide why you want this particular scope, the purpose you intend to use it for, and whether or not you have sufficiently explored the other available options. As I said, this isn’t a purchase I regret, the scope hasn’t left me feeling disappointed, but I would appreciate some extra magnification and the ability to dial in adjustments. I suppose I’m fortunate because those aren’t options I’m permitted to explore so my conscience is clear.