April 06, 2020
By J. Scott Rupp
Red dots have come such a long way. For years the choice was either pay an honest-to-goodness fortune for a top-quality sight or take your chances with bargain-basement offerings. Enter Leupold’s Freedom RDS, which is packed with shooter-friendly features and will be affordable for most shooters.
This is a tube-style 1x34mm sight, not a open, reflex sight. I shoot both types a lot, and for rifles I prefer the tube style. One, they tend to be more robust, and two, they’re far less affected by moisture and dirt.
“Robust” certainly describes the Freedom, and I mean that in a good way. It’s a well-constructed optic that’s 5.3 inches long and weighs 7.2 ounces. The 34mm in the designation is the tube diameter not the objective lens diameter. It’s available with a one-piece mount ($390) or solo ($365). There’s also a version with a BDC dial calibrated to 55-grain .223/5.56; it comes with a one-piece mount and retails for $520.
Those are suggested retail prices, mind you. A quick Internet search turned up street prices of $280 for the sight alone, $300 for the sight with mount and $400 for the BDC/mount version.
The Freedom RDS has a layout any rifle shooter will appreciate. The 1/4 m.o.a. adjustment knobs are finger-adjustable. No tiny tools required. Minutes are marked with large, easy-to-read numerals at three m.o.a. intervals, with small quarter-minute ticks and slightly bigger marks at one m.o.a. intervals. Clicks were positive and repeatable. The sight features a total of 80 m.o.a. adjustment.
The one m.o.a. dot is turned on by pressing the button on the left side, and the same button cycles through the eight intensity settings. The dot will flash when you hit the minimum and maximum intensities, and a subsequent press of the button sends you back the other way in terms of brightness. Holding the button in for three seconds shuts it off.
You’ll see some dot flare at the highest two or three settings, and at the lowest setting you’ll get a bit of a reflected image from the diode under certain conditions. I noticed this primarily when I was really focused on the dot while accuracy testing a Ruger PCC .40 S&W carbine, but it didn’t affect my ability to shoot good groups and wasn’t distracting while running plate racks at speed.
I also saw comparatively more parallax movement at closer ranges with the Freedom than I’m used to in red dot sights. I spoke with Leupold’s Shawn Skipper about this.
“No sights are parallax free, even the ones that claim to be,” he said. “Since the Freedom RDS is set up to be capable at longer distances than other manufacturers sights—our one m.o.a. dot and the BDC dial we offer as an option—we collimate it at infinity instead of a closer distance to reduce potential errors at longer ranges.”
Leupold sent me the AR mount version to test and also a set of separate Mark 4 34mm rings to try on the Ruger. These rings are pretty beefy, boosting total weight of sight and rings to right at a pound. But that didn’t affect the handling of the Ruger one bit, and in fact the extra weight sitting atop the carbine’s receiver made target transitions smoother for me.
With the Freedom RDS set in the supplied AR mount, total weight is only 12 ounces. This is certainly the way to go with an AR-15, where you aren’t looking to add any weight to guns that can be on the heavy side to begin with. The AR mount is nicely made, with top-mount rings (as opposed to clamshell) and three large Torx screws clamp it to the top rail of your AR.
Battery life on the Freedom RDS’s single CR 2032 lithium battery is a minimum of 1,000 hours when on brightness setting four. That’s great, but what’s even better is Leupold’s Motion Sensor Technology. If the sight is on but motionless for five minutes, it will automatically turn off. Pick the sight up or move your firearm and the sight automatically turn back on. Forgetful people like me love this feature.
I can see the Freedom RDS as a great choice for hunters and competitive shooters. And because of its sensible price, it would also be a great addition to your favorite plinking rifle.