Leupold Freedom RDS: Hell and Back Optic

The author with new Black Ring Freedom RDS.

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?

Familiar packaging.

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.

Mounted and ready out of the box.

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.

On/Brightness button.

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.

Top view.

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.

Capped turrets.

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.

1/4 MOA finger adjustable dials.

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.

Excellent clarity.

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.

3 Picatinny slots for bulletproof mounting.

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.

Tracking test with Hornady Match.

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.

Appropriate for a variety of weapons.

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.

LARGE securing bolts for this class of optic.

For more information visit Leupold website.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Jake June 16, 2020, 1:09 pm

    I have two of these. They are built like a tank. The 34mm tube is big enough to allow both eyes open with no distortion or “weirdness.” The 1 moa dot aids in both precision and range estimation. I had a detaching retina repair so the crosshairs of a scope often distort on me, but I found that a dot does not. My EOTech 512 is OK with the 1 moa dot and 65 moa circle, but any optic with a larger dot and smaller circle distorts on me. The Leopold is also available for a good deal less on auction sites than any EOTech. I do wish there was a lower mount option and perhaps an A.R.M.S. type quick detach lever option. This mount is swell on the Modern Sporting Rifles and most bolt guns. It is too high for combat shotgun or the scout rail on my Garand. The Leopold engineers said this optic is so tough that they wouldn’t bet whether it or their torture test machine would give up first. It is best in class and accessories like lens caps and different mounting solutions would only make it more so.

    • Jake June 17, 2020, 10:54 am

      I see the spell check decided to change Leupold to Leopold. As if that’s not bad enough I have seen examples where it now changes some things to a more politically correct phrase or statement. Big Tech really needs to get tuned up.

  • Mike Secker June 15, 2020, 9:52 am
  • Conor June 15, 2020, 9:07 am

    will there be other custom turrets available for specific loads?

  • Harry Tucker June 15, 2020, 7:39 am

    How will this red dot work on a 300 Blackout carbine with 16″ barrel??
    Both sonic and subsonic.

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