TFB Review: Leupold Freedom RDS

    Tested on a Maxim PDX

    The Leupold Freedom Red Dot Sight

    I first encountered an early version of Leupold’s Freedom RDS at SHOT 2019.  Full credit goes to TFB’s Nick C., who noticed the sight during the setup day prior to Industry Day at the Range.  The sight was interesting enough, being an American-made RDS at a reasonable price point.  The 2019 version of Leupold’s Freedom RDS had a gold ring as part of the VX line. For 2020 it is updated with a “Black Ring” to bring it more in line with the “Mark” series of riflescopes.

    Ready to go, right out of the box

    Ready to go, right out of the box

    Initial Impressions

    The Freedom model that TFB received for review is their BDC 1×34 w/mount. The sight itself comes in a cardboard box with foam insert.  The sight also ships with the CR2032 battery and  T15/T27 Torx key.  The BDC version also ships with a .050 hex key for referring the elevation turret.

    What's in the box

    What’s in the box

    The initial installation was a breeze.  This RDS comes already level and set up in a unibody 34mm mount optimized for use with an AR.  By that, I mean when I mounted it to my Noveske Recon, the Freedom RDS had an absolute co-witness with the fixed front sight post.  I used the provided Torx tool to mount the RDS to various platforms but made sure to check all the screws with a torque wrench set to Leupold’s suggestion of 64in-lbs.

    Windage dial

    Windage dial and Torx screws

    The eight brightness settings are easy enough to move through one by one via a press of the Leupold logo button on the left side of the sight.  The initial press turns on the dot.  Each subsequent press incrementally increases the brightness until at maximum, whereupon the sight flashes to show its at maximum brightness.  After that, each press decreases the brightness until at minimum, and the cycle reverses.

    Battery life is stated as 1000 hours.  A neat feature to extend battery life is Leupold’s Motion Sensor Technology, which shuts off the sight if it’s stationary for more than 5 minutes.

    The top turret on the BDC model is set up for 55 grain .223 at 3100 fps.  It has distance increments graduated from 100 to 550 yards.  Just figure out your distance to target, turn the turret to match the distance and you should be roughly on target.

    Specs, per Leupold:

    • Weight: 6.9oz
    • Length: 5.3″
    • 80 MOA windage/elevation adjustment
    • MRSP as tested: $519.99

    Range time

    I wear my sunglasses at night…

    One of the first things I noticed about the Freedom RDS is that it has a “tint” to it, noticeable day and night. Comparable to looking out a tinted window or through “transitional” glasses in daylight, the tint is light enough not to be noticeable when shooting with both eyes open.  It is, however, noticeable when shooting only using one’s dominant eye, and makes for a dimmer sight picture, especially at night.  The scratch resistant, mirrored finish reflects the light quite a bit during the day, and one should use a “killflash” type device on the objective lens if considering this sight for serious defensive use.

    tint

    You can somewhat see the tint in this photo

    Another thing I noticed about the Freedom RDS is that when shooting in mist or rain, moisture and droplets are very noticeable on the lenses, moreso than Aimpoints or Trijicons that I also use.  It’s enough to distort the dot if the droplets are in the wrong place.

    Droplets on lens

    Droplets on lens

    Can you take me high enough?

    After mounting the Freedom RDS on a Noveske Light Recce, I headed out to the range with a supply of 55gr Black Hills OTM ammo.  I don’t normally use such a light bullet, but keep some on hand for use with older 5.56/.223 platforms (other BDC turrets are available to order for $80 from Leupold, however).  I was very impressed that the Freedom RDS seemed pretty much dead on for a 16″ AR right out of the box.  Only a small windage adjustment was needed.  Retailers and customers alike should take note of this fact.  If Leupold is pre-zeroing all their Freedom RDS optics this well, it should make for a frustration free optic, using very little ammo to zero.  I had mine zeroed in 5 rounds.

    Freedom RDS Mounted on a Noveske

    Freedom RDS Mounted on a Noveske

    Immediately after zeroing, I moved out to 300, 440, and 500 yards using the BDC turret.  All adjustments were just the right level of positive, firm, and tactile. All yielded 1st-round hits.  I was duly impressed with the BDC turret feature, and commend Leupold at making a quick and user friendly way to achieve variable mid range hits quickly out of this RDS.

    At a more dynamic range and with both eyes open, the Freedom RDS reticle stood out well and allowed for easy transitions between multiple targets.  The dot itself stood out well against targets of varying colors in different lighting conditions.

    Glutton for punishment

    All Leupold optics must survive testing on their “Punisher” rig, which simulates three times the recoil of a .308 firearm, 5000 times.  Doing my own version of testing the Freedom RDS’ reliability, I mounted it on a full auto .308, a Maxim Defense 7.62×39 PDX, and a Beretta 1301 shotgun.  The Freedom RDS never failed to perform through 500 rounds on the various other platforms.  When remounted on the AR, it only needed 2MOA of elevation adjustment to be right back on target.  Though optimized for a 5.56 AR, it should have no problem performing on most other platforms.

    Tested on a full auto .308

    Tested on a full auto .308

    Tested on a shotgun

    Tested on a shotgun

    Overall Impressions

    The Leupold Freedom RDS represents a decent value for an American made RDS.  The BDC version with mount is a great package to get up and running out to 550 yards on an AR platform with little fuss.  While the tint through the optic and the reflectivity of the objective lens is a bit much for my liking, its pluses outweigh its minuses for most shooters.  If one is looking for a reasonably priced, quality made American RDS good to go right out of the box with a lifetime guarantee, the Freedom RDS should be high on one’s list of optics to consider.

    Pros:

    • BDC Turret is set up correctly, elevation adjustments were dead on right out of the box
    • Lifetime Guarantee
    • American made
    • Easy to use positive controls
    • Comes pre-leveled and set up in the mount

    Cons:

    • Objective coating is very shiny and noticeable
    • Mist and droplets are very noticeable when used in inclement weather
    • Tint is a bit dark for my liking

    Thanks tLeupold for the opportunity 



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    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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