Review: Leupold Freedom Black Ring RDS 1x w/Mount


Guest post from Brent Sauer, check out his website

Leupold Freedom Black Ring RDS 1x w/Mount
1- MOA Dot

In January of 2019 Leupold announced the Freedom RDS (Red Dot Sight) which was intended to provide the consumer market with an affordable, rugged, quality red dot sight that was priced lower than some of the higher end optics such as the Aimpoint Micro series or the Trijicon MRO. The Aimpoint and Trijicon red dot sights typically cost in the $800 to $950 range and is out of the financial reach of many people participating in the shooting sports. Additionally, some recreational shooters don’t feel like it is necessary to spend so much money on an optic only to occasionally punch holes in paper.

History of the Leupold Freedom RDS

This first model of the Freedom RDS was commonly referred to as the ‘Gold Ring’ RDS since it had the Leupold ‘Gold Ring’ branding feature. The Gold Ring feature ended up being one of the common criticisms of the Freedom RDS because many potential consumers who owned ‘black rifles’, myself included, just didn’t want an optic with a bright gold ring on it mounted on my black AR type rifle.

Leupold Freedom RDS

There were two versions of the Freedom RDS available. The standard model had dot brightness adjustment with elevation and windage adjustment. The second model, which was referred to as the BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) model, also had bullet drop compensation adjustments marked on the BDC turret in 50-yard intervals (1/4 MOA clicks) from 100 yards out to 550 yards.

Leupold Freedom RDS w/BDC

Features of the Freedom RDS were:
            • Twilight Red Dot System
            • Scratch-resistant lenses
            • Unlimited eye relief
            • 1/4 MOA click adjustments
            • 8 illumination settings
            • Motion Sensor Technology (MST)
            • Guaranteed for life

Technical specifications for the Freedom RDS were:
            • Magnification: 1.0x
            • Elevation adjustment range: 80 MOA
            • Windage adjustment range: 80 MOA
            • 15 MOA per revolution of adjustment
            • Subtension of the aiming point: 1.0 MOA Dot
            • Power supply: One (1) 3V CR2032 Lithium battery
            • Dimensions: (LxWxH) 5.05” x 2.54” x 1.96” (128.2mm x 64.5mm x
            • Weight (with battery installed): 7.0oz. (198.4g)

Leupold Introduction of the Freedom RDS at Shot Show 2019 22 JAN 2019

Leupold Introduction of the Freedom RDS

Quality control

There have apparently been some quality control issues with the ‘Gold Ring’ Freedom RDS. In an episode of ‘InRange TV’, the optic evaluator fired less than one magazine of 5.56mm ammunition and the rear lens fell out. The incident happens at about 11:10 into the video at the link below. You can see it here:

InRange TV did a follow-up video with a replacement optic that was sent overnight to them by Leupold and you can see that here:

After 150 rounds on a pistol caliber carbine, there were no issues with the replacement Freedom RDS in the second InRange TV video linked above.

Looking through many reviews of the original ‘Gold Ring’ model, there have been many complaints about assorted issues with the RDS. The most common complaint seemed to be issues with dot quality. We know that user problems with red dots and holographic sights can be problems with various eye deficiencies such as astigmatism.

A new and improved Freedom RDS

As a member of Leupold’s COREINSIDER group, I received an email on 1 MAY 2020 that announced the Leupold Freedom RDS ‘Black Ring’. Since I already owned Aimpoint, Trijicon and Eotech optics I was interested in buying this just to have something new and different in my collection. One thing that caught my attention in their email advertising, which also hinted to the troubles with the ‘Gold Ring’ RDS, was the statement “After listening to feedback from our dedicated fans, we re-engineered the Freedom RDS to be even more rugged and gave it a new black ring.” You don’t make a statement like that unless you had some struggles with the previous product.

After reading the email for the new sight and watching the Leupold promotional video, I logged into my Leupold account and checked out the price. Leupold is offering three models of the ‘new’ Freedom RDS (Black Ring).

The three models are:

            1. Freedom RDS with no mount at MSRP $364.99

            2. Freedom RDS with mount at MSRP $389.99

3. Freedom RDS with mount and BDC at MSRP $519.99

Link to the Freedom RDS products page

Leupold’s promotional video for the Freedom RDS (Black Ring)

I really liked the features of the BDC model and I placed an order for it that day. In full disclosure, I paid less than the $519.99 retail price due to my military affiliation. This lower price made the buying decision a bit easier.

Features of the Freedom RDS (Black Ring)
            • Twilight Red Dot System
            • Scratch-resistant lenses
            • Unlimited eye relief
            • 1/4 MOA click adjustments
            • 8 illumination settings
            • Motion Sensor Technology (MST)
            • Guaranteed for life

Specifications for the Freedom RDS (Black Ring)
            • Magnification: 1.0x
            • Elevation adjustment range: 80 MOA
            • Windage adjustment range: 80 MOA
            • 15 MOA per revolution of adjustment
            • Subtension of the aiming point: 1.0 MOA Dot
            • Power supply: One (1) 3V CR2032 Lithium battery
            • Dimensions: (LxWxH) 5.05” x 2.54” x 1.96” (128.2mm x 64.5mm x
            • Weight (with battery installed): 7.0oz. (198.4g)

Leupold’s provided specifications for the new product are exactly the same as they were for the Freedom RDS (Gold Ring). There isn’t any mention in their Black Ring promotional material as to what is new and improved in the Black Ring model. Additionally, the Leupold website now shows the Gold Ring model discontinued.

Let’s now look at what you get with the new Leupold Freedom RDS (Black Ring). The red dot sight arrived in a black and gold box that has white ends.

Both the right and left side have identical stickers that provide model information, UPC code, serial number code and reticle details.

When you open the box there is the owner’s manual foldout and the usual Leupold reticle sticker. There is a 1/4” foam section that separates the top content from the red dot sight.

The box contents are:
            • Freedom RDS (SKU 174954, 176533, or 176204), 1.0 MOA Dot
            • (1) 3V Lithium battery (CR 2032)
            • Operating instructions
            • T15/T27 Torx Key
            • .050 Hex Key (BDC Model)

The owner’s foldout is a large 18-inch-wide by 12-inch-tall, two-sided format. It is multi-lingual.

Left half of the English side

Right half of the English side

The Leupold Freedom RDS (Black Ring) BDC comes from the factory with a sturdy 34mm mount. What stood out to me about the mount is the three mounting points on the base of the mount. In this day and age of quick release mounts, Leupold has stayed with a more permanent mounting solution by using three Torx screws that are tightened to 65 in-lbs.

Additionally, there are three rail ‘guides’ that line up with the 1913 rail on the top of your firearm to help eliminate any sight shift on the rail.

The left side of the optic houses the battery compartment and the dot brightness adjustment control. The battery used is the widely available CR2032 battery.

The adjustment for dot brightness is made by pressing on the gold ‘L’ symbol shown. The aiming dot will flash five times when you have reached the brightest setting. When you have reached the lowest setting, the aiming dot will flash five times.

There isn’t really much to say about the rear of the rds. A flip back eyepiece is available as SKU number 59055. That item is the Alumina Flip-Back Lens Cover EP and has an MSRP of $65.99.

The right side of the RDS has the mounting screws and the windage adjustment housing.

Some people have complained that the control housings stick out too far from the sides compared to optics offered by Aimpoint and Trijicon. Cosmetically I do not have an issue with this. I can’t comment from a functional standpoint yet. Having big fingers, I welcome the large adjustment knobs that don’t require any tools for use. The windage knob sticks out 1/4 inch from the sight housing. As shown on the dial, each click is one-quarter MOA and has both a tactile and audible click as adjustments are made.

There isn’t really anything notable about the objective end (front) of the rds. The housing is threaded to accept Leupold’s anti-reflective device (ARD) SKU number 62875. This ARD is labeled on Leupold’s website as the 36mm MK. 4 ARD. The MSRP of the ARD is $207.99. There is an Alumina Flip-Back Lens Cover-36mm available as SKU number 59040. MSRP is $65.99.

The top of the RDS houses the Bullet Drop Compensator. The BDC is calibrated for .223 Remington, 55 grain ammunition at 3100 Feet Per Second (FPS). The BDC is set in yards and adjusts from 100 yards to 550 yards. Adjustments are 1/4 MOA. The BDC comes from the factory set at 100 yards as shown in the photo below. If you have a target past 100 yards, you estimate range, adjust your BDC to the range of the target and then hold your red dot on center-of-mass of the target to engage.

For iron sight discussion, I placed the Leupold Freedom RDS on a Colt LE6940P that was equipped with a Matech back-up iron sight.

Leupold refers to the 34mm mount that is included with the sight as being ‘AR height’. As you can see in the photo below, the rear sight lines up about in the center of the red dot sight.

For rifle shooters who like lower 1/3 co-witness, they will have to buy a different mount for their shooting needs.

Before wrapping this up, I want to comment on two things. The first thing I want to talk about is the use of Leupold’s MST technology. MST is an acronym for Motion Sensing Technology. In short, the sight activates and turns the dot on when the optic is moved. The RDS also will turn off after five minutes of inactivity thus preserving battery life.

The MST technology being used to preserve battery life leads us into a discussion about…yes you guessed it…battery life. The battery life of the Freedom RDS is published to be 1000 hours IF you only use your RDS at a brightness setting of four (remember there are eight levels of brightness) or lower. The brighter your dot setting after level four, the lower your battery life. I have read many complaints about this lack of battery life many places on the internet. For comparison, the Aimpoint Micro H2 has an advertised battery life of 50,000 hours and the Trijicon MRO has an advertised battery life of five years on a setting of 3 (out of eight) or lower. However, I think it is important to keep things in proper perspective. The Freedom RDS is a $500 sight whereas the Aimpoint/Trijicon sights are almost $1000. Leupold was not marketing the Freedom RDS as a competitor for those sights. Leupold is trying to compete with the Vortex and Holosun type sights. We will have to see what range performance and market performance shows us.

Overall, the sight seems to be of very good quality. Some people have complained about its weight of the Freedom RDS. Having used the Aimpoint Comp M, Comp M2, Comp M4 and Comp M4S in the military, the dimensions and weight of the Freedom RDS does not bother me. The fit and finish of the parts is excellent. There are no visible manufacturing defects. The ultimate test of product quality will be putting it through the paces on the rifle range. I will do a follow-up range report after I have the opportunity to go shoot.


  1. InRangeTV, on youtube, is doing a series on red dot optics made in the US. The first one they did was the Leupold Freedom RDS.

  2. I guess those who have the ones with the gold ring never heard of black electrical tape?
    “just didn’t want an optic with a bright gold ring on it mounted on my black AR type rifle.”

  3. You should do a piece on your beef w/ InRange. I apparently missed it.

    Regardless, this 7 ozs vs MRO at 4 — don’t see much benefit.

    At 9oz you can do a vortex spitfire 1x (at 1/2 the price if you can find them — the old version, unknown weight on the new ARs) with etched reticles and I believe longer battery life. Being prism w/ adjustable focus, it’s great for astigmatism w/o glasses — and etched is viewable w/o power or when standard red dots wash out.

    • I don’t think so. It would become a shitfest of their rabid fans attacking me constantly to white knight for them and It would just be dismissed as clout chasing click bait. I’ve never told the story publicly so you didn’t miss it.


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