When it comes to red dot sights these days, you have a lot of options. And with that, a lot of price points. Do you need the same red dot issued to Omega Force, complete with that government contract inflated price tag? Or are you okay with a Chinese knock off that won’t take a light misting of water, and likely ships with free COVID-19 in the box? What if it looks exactly the same as the Omega Force issue one, but has stickers instead of engravings?
Well, how about something totally different? One thing I have always appreciated about our friends over at Leupold is that they aren’t afraid to step outside the conventional design wisdom with red dots. They do things their way, and usually with excellent results. They went from having zero micro red dots to absolutely dominating the pistol game with the Delta Point in about a year. Just when the Delta Point had set a new standard in durability, they upped the game again with the Delta Point Pro. And now they have turned that experience back to the rifle game with a new RDS black ring.
The first thing you will notice with the RDS is that it looks like a baby scope. Not that this is a bad thing, coming from a company that primarily does variable power scopes. But at 5.3 inches, it is quite a bit longer than other red dots. How does this affect the overall feel of the optic? In a word…robust.
Leupold has always made tough products, and this one keeps that characteristic. Everything about the RDS is beefy, to include the 34mm tube. Our test model came with a mount that fits 3 Picatinny sections. In a world where most red dots utilize one segment, that is quite a statement. The mount secures with 3 extremely large for class torques head bolts, sure to stay in place no matter what you throw at it. What is the weakness of most red dots? I would dare say the mounts. Most are held in place with 4 undersized screws, slapped onto an aluminum block. Not here. The Leupold mount wraps around the optic, like a real scope. And is secured with 8 familiar ring mount bolts, something we see hold together in other applications on 50 BMGs.
The overall design is slightly larger than most others in the class but in all the right ways. Everything about the Freedom RDS is confidence-inspiring. Clarity is perfect, with no tinting. The field of view is large, with no discernible distortion. As expected for a red dot, it is completely parallax free.
Powering the unit is a CR2032, rated for a minimum of 1000 hours. In place of a brightness dial, Leupold opted for a simple push-button power switch. An initial press turns the unit on, with subsequent presses turning the power up or down through 8 settings. At the bottom or top, the dot blinks 5 times, to let you know it is maxed. The brightness settings are an excellent mix. The top end is too bright even for me in the direct desert sun. But in that same light condition, the lowest setting is visible, if just barely. The sight also features an auto-off feature, which snaps back to life when moved. Leupold calls this Motion Sensor Technology, created to save battery life. In testing, the dot turns back on faster than you can perceive it being off.
In an act of Leupold going their own way, the red dot is 1 MOA in size. That isn’t a typo. In class, most are 4 MOA and a very few 2 MOA. I was initially concerned about this, but in use, I found the dot plenty big enough for rapid engagements. But the 1 MOA does bring an advantage. Turned down, the smaller dot makes it easier to both get a perfect zero and engage smaller targets at range. A very crisp 1 MOA size dot is absolutely lethal at extended ranges.
Another unique feature of the Freedom RDS is the adjustments. Our test model came with capped turrets, with ¼ MOA finger adjustable dials. No tools, no shenanigans. Each click is audible and tactile, with large visible numbers.
Considering Leupold’s reputation for scope building, and those alleged ¼ MOA clicks, I did something extremely abnormal for a red dot scope. I gave it a tracking test. A tracking test is a pretty standard test where you zero, then dial the scope up/down/left/right to see if it comes back to the zero point. Many real scopes will fail, and almost all red dots. So I was both happy and surprised to see the RDS impact the correct 4 inches each direction, for 4 MOA dialed on. And come back to the center like a boss.
There is a lot to love with this sight, including the capability for days. It features an impressive 80 MOA of both elevation and windage travel, which is sure to work for any application. Not only was it easy to zero, but it was easy to absolutely blaze up close. If you want more, there is also a model with a built-in BDC turret for 55 grain 223, which we will be reviewing in the future.
Leupold lists the MSRP at $389.99, mount included. For a Red Dot built in the USA, that is an absolute bargain. If you are in need of a hell and back sight, this one is going to be hard to beat.