Range Review: Leupold’s New Red Dot Sight (RDS) Optic

I lined up the 1 MOA red dot of my Leupold Freedom Red Dot Sight (RDS) just below the head of the tom turkey, squeezed the trigger of my Remington 870 DM Predator shotgun, and the #6 pellets lit up the tom’s neck and head. I swung my shotgun onto Tom #2, shot, and then lined up on Tom #3 and fired once more.

Three dead turkeys at 25 yards. Had they been actual turkeys. In fact, they were VisiShot Turkey Targets from Primos Hunting, set up at 25 yards as part of my testing for Leupold’s newest red dot, the RDS. With spring on the near horizon, I figured I better get ready for turkey hunting season and the RDS turned out to be a fine choice for the gun and the hunts to come.

At 25 yards, the new Leupold Red Dot Sight (RDS) helped to put the hurt of three turkey targets.

Leupold introduced the RDS later in 2019 in two versions. Mine featured capped turrets and ¼-MOA click adjustments. The other RDS model has an exposed BDC elevation turret with measurements out to 500 yards for standard 55-grain .223 Rem. ammunition.

The Leupold RDS model McCombie tested featured capped turrets and ¼-MOA click adjustments.
A second RDS model has an exposed BDC elevation turret with measurements out to 500 yards for standard 55-grain .223 Rem. ammunition.

Both models feature 1 MOA dot reticles supported by Leupold’s battery-saving Motion Sensor Technology (MST), which puts the sight into a battery-saving standby mode after five minutes of inactivity. When the MST detects motion, it instantly activates the sight. A manual mode allows the sight to be shut off when not in use.

The scratch-resistant lenses feature Leupold’s Twilight Red Dot System, which delivers clear and color-correct images. The RDS is 100 percent fog proof and waterproof and features 80-MOA of adjustment in both elevation and windage. The 34mm main tube measures at under 5.5 inches.

Initially, I mounted my Freedom RDS onto a Springfield Armory Saint AR-15 Pistol 556. RDS arrived already in an AR-style mount (it can be had without a mount too), so installation was simply a matter of setting it on the Saint’s Picatinny rail, making sure it was at the right distance from my eyes, and then tightening the three Torx screws along the bottom of the mount. (I also tightened the mounting ring screws holding the RDS to the mount.)

The RDS mount is easily attached to a Picatinny rail using the mount’s three Torx screws.

At my range, I zeroed the Freedom RDS/Saint rig at 25 yards. The first rounds hit low and left, but were easily and quickly “clicked” to strike right at the bullseye.

Then, I shot targets at 25 yards, offhand, using Birchwood Casey IPSC Practice Targets. The RDS put me on target fast, although my shooting was all over the place for the first two targets. On the third target, though, I was now comfortable with the Saint and the RDS and was able to put eight shots into the center-mass “A” rectangle and five rounds into the smaller “head” area, despite shooting fairly fast.

Mounted on the new Springfield Armory Saint AR-15 Pistol, the Leupold RDS got McCombie on target fast and efficiently.

Here and when using the RDS on the Remington shotgun, images were very clear and I was able to quickly adjust the intensity of the 1 MOA red dot as lighting conditions shifted during the day, from bright sun to overcast.

I also shot the RDS and the Saint at 50 yards from a rest and was able to get two-inch groups, usually with three of the five shots within an inch of each other, firing fast.

The RDS, it turned out, was a great choice for the Saint AR-15: compact and lightweight, easy to get on target and to help make very accurate shots.

McCombie found the RDS a fine complement to the Saint AR-15 Pistol.

I then switched over the RDS to my Remington DM Predator. At first, the RDS shot very low and to the left at 25 yards. Many clicks later, the patterns shifted up and right, and I had my three “dead” turkeys to prove it. Using Remington 3” Nitro Turkey loads with #6 Shot, my best VisiTarget scored 26 pellet hits in the vital zone. Even my “worst” target had 22 vital zone hits—pretty good and a nice testament to the shotgun, the shells, and the RDS.

The optic’s 1/4 MOA clicks moved the center dot very precisely, and I would use the RDS on any rifle where I anticipated the shooting at under 150 yards. The RDS itself would likely be accurate at further distances, but my rapidly aging eyes have their own limitations!

Both the Elevation (shown) and Windage controls on the RDS feature ¼ MOA clicks and up to 80 MOA of adjustment.

The suggested retail price on the RDS I used is $389.00 ($364 without the mounting hardware), with street prices closer to $300.00. The RDS with the BDC reticle and exposed turret has a higher suggested retail at $519.00, with advertised prices on the Internet right at $400.00.

The RDS is a solid little red dot, able to handle tough hunting conditions. It will also hold its own during more tactical uses including home defense and competition. You really can’t ask for any more in a red dot optic at any price.

The Leupold RDS can handle the job for the hunter, as well as the tactical, home defense and recreational shooter.

SPECS: Leupold Freedom Red Dot Sights (RDS) 1-34MM

Reticle: 1 MOA Red Dot

Eye Relief: Unlimited

Elevation Adjustment Range: 80 MOA

Windage Adjustment Range: 80 MOA

Brightness Settings: 8

Weight: 12.6 Oz., with mount

Length: 5.3 In.

Tube Size: 34MM

Tube Material: 6061 Aluminum

Finish: Matte Black

Battery: One CR 2032

Battery Life: 1,000 hours minimum at brightness setting of 4 (of 8)

MSRP:  $389.99

For more information visit Leupold website.

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About the author: Brian McCombie writes about hunting and firearms, people and places, for a variety of publications including American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, and SHOT Business. He loves hog hunting, 1911’s chambered in 10MM and .45 ACP, and the Chicago Bears.

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  • Richard D Cutie May 5, 2020, 1:41 am

    I just ordered one of these for 250$ on sale. After I ordered it I realized I am getting the older model that has the 300 HR battery life. It does have the motion activation auto on feature so I’ll see. I have enough 2032 batteries to keep it going the rest of my life lol. I also didn’t realize it is almost a whole pound. I have a couple of Leopold scopes on rifles one hunting and one tactical and I am happy with both. Hope I’m happy with this one also. The 250$ price got me that’s for sure lol. Best Regards you guys. God bless

  • P S April 14, 2020, 10:36 pm

    No photos of the reticle or sight picture?

  • Paul Ruffle April 13, 2020, 2:58 pm

    The author describes the RDS as “compact and lightweight.” Compared to what? As compared to many red dot sights available today, this one is both large and heavy.

  • Jake April 13, 2020, 2:34 pm

    I have two of these and if you are looking for a 1 moa dot red dot that will survive just about any abuse imaginable, this is it. Leopold engineers said they weren’t sure if their torture test machine could outlast these things. It is on the heavier side if that matters to the user.
    I tried one on a Mossberg 930 and it is uncomfortably high although I have no doubt it would allow very accurate placement. On flat top AR’s and other rifles it is perfect.
    I do wish they had provided lens covers. I would also like to see a quick release like A.R.M.S. makes as well as a low rise option with the mount.

    • Jake April 13, 2020, 2:35 pm

      Darn auto correct changed Leupold to Leopold.

  • Chief April 13, 2020, 7:06 am

    “Solid little red dot”? The thing is H U G E!

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