The Custom Dial System (CDS) from Leupold matches any CDS Leupold optic to your rifle. Taking into account your rifle’s ballistics and average environmental conditions, Leupold’s CDS turrets take care of the rest. These turrets come marked for specific distances and allow the shooter to dial for a specific distance much faster. To see just how well this system worked, Leupold sent over some CDS turrets for my 16″ .300 Blackout for me to test.
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TFB Review: Leupold Custom Dial System
The optic I’d be using for this review was Leupold’s Second Focal Plane VX-5HD 3-15x44mm. This optic comes from the factory with a side focus adjustment, capped windage adjustment, and Leupold’s HTMR duplex reticle. In order to accommodate the larger optic, I used a SPUHR SP-3022 cantilever mount to get the eye relief just right.
The CDS turret delivered to me was tailored specifically to this specific .300 Blackout reload I love to shoot. Before this (or any CDS reticle can be made) you need to have the following information about your rifle ready.
- Cartridge Caliber
- Bullet Weight
- Bullet Type
- Ballistic Coefficient
- Actual Muzzle Velocity
- Average Altitude
- Average Temperature
- Sight-in Zero
- Sight Height
Mounting and Zeroing
In the spirit of “trust but verify”, I took the rifle and a couple mags of ammo out to make sure my data was matching up with the data that I’d provided to Leupold. Muzzle velocity was my only real concern, but as the ammunition was hand loaded, I could tweak this slightly to match the velocity on the turret if needed.
With the help of a MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph, I was able to verify that my rifle was putting rounds down range at an average of 1896fps. The information I had provided to Leupold indicated the rounds were going 1873fps. As this was just a 1% margin of error, I decided this batch of ammo was as close to perfect as I needed and moved on to installing the CDS turret.
Installing the CDS turrets is incredibly easy and can be done in minutes. You simply zero your rifle at the distance you’ve provided to Leupold. With the rifle now zeroed, you loosen the two set screws on each side of the turret and lift the cap straight up and off. The new CDS turret then drops in with the ZeroLock dial set at the pre-defined zero you’ve provided to Leupold.
Performance at Distance
Changes in elevation, temperature, and wind are the biggest factors in the areas I shoot. I zeroed the rifle at roughly 6,000ft above sea level and then shot it again at 4,200ft above sea level. Now confident with how the rifle was performing in shifting conditions, I hauled the rifle out to a secret spot in Wyoming. At an elevation of 6,600ft and temperatures higher, this spot would be the perfect proving ground in order to see how well these CDS turrets performed in shifting environmental conditions.
As I’ve shot this rifle frequently over the years, I knew things would be relatively easy out to 300 yards. At and past 500 yards is where things really start to get interesting with a slower projectile. With high winds shifting downrange throughout the day, I decided the 500-yard 5″ plate would be the real test for this setup in these conditions.
Pro’s and Cons
The CDS turrets did an incredible job of getting me on target faster at distance. The .300 Blackout has a sizeable amount of drop at distance. Being able to just dial for a distance without needing a dope card makes things much easier. Also swapping this turret out for others (or just back to your factory-provided turret) is incredibly easy to do. That way you don’t feel stuck with a rifle that’s only set up for one cartridge.
I did find myself wanting a reference point for windage holdover in the scope’s reticle. The CDS system does an excellent job of dialing the optic for distance, but without a reference point in the duplex reticle, I found myself going back to a ballistics app to dial for wind. The .300 Blackout is a slower heavier round, but this is something you have to address with any caliber when shooting in shifting winds.
The CDS system from Leupold does exactly what it advertises and will get you on target faster. For situations where you need to dial and shoot quickly, the CDS system works perfectly. Leupold currently produces CDS turrets for their VX-3HD, VX-5HD, and VX-6HD optics. And if you register your CDS optic with Leupold, they will provide you with a CDS turret for free. Any additional CDS ballistic dials can be ordered from Leupold for $80 each.
For hunters or those that prefer to shoot specific ammunition in their rifle, the CDS system from Leupold makes first-round hits simpler. Leupold currently has a very large lineup of CDS-ready optics in multiple price ranges and with various features to choose from. So if you’re in the market for something tailor-made for your rifle and its ammo, I’d strongly consider taking a look at any CDS-ready optic from Leupold.
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