Nightforce introduced two 1-8X scopes at the same time. A NXS 1-8X and the ATACR 1-8X. I recall looking over the specs on each and wondering why someone would pick the larger and heavier ATACR over the NXS. I really wanted one of the NXS 1-8X scopes, and I still do. I’m a big fan of the NXS 2.5-10X24 scopes and the NXS 1-8 is slightly smaller, and includes newer nicer reticles, first focal plane, and daylight bright illumination.
That said, not that long ago I was trying to sell a gun wasn’t using and I was offered an ATACR 1-8X24 in trade. I took the guy up on the deal. I figured if I didn’t like the scope, it is still easier to sell a scope than a gun.
After throwing the scope in a Larue mount I had laying around, I felt it was a little big and heavy for a 5.56 rifle. Not excessively so. The scope by it self is actually lighter than a Elcan Specter DR. Often when I dislike a scopes weight, I go and compare it to the Elcan and tend to find the scope I am complaining about is lighter. Now once you include a mount, this scope and mount would be about a quarter pound heavier than an Elcan Specter DR, but this scope is a 1-8X unlike the 1-4X Elcan. At 21 oz, I feel this a little big for a light and handy gun.
Playing around a bit, I tried throwing this scope on top of a .308 AR. That just felt right to me. It balanced well and felt like it fit me and the gun perfectly.
At 1X the ATACR has a reticle with thick side and bottom bars. Looks almost like a German #4 reticle. This lets you use the scope for fast work up close when the illumination is off.
Once you turn on the illumination, at 1X it starts to feel like an Aimpoint.
I have yet to use a 1X-whatever power scope that truly feels Aimpoint fast at 1X. But these newer scopes are getting closer to it. The 1X on the ACTAR still feels a little bit like looking though a bubble at 1X. The flattest feeling scope I have used at 1X is still the Leupold MK6. But the illumination on the MK6 1-6X was rather unforgiving of head position. The ACTAR is far superior there.
As you increase the magnification, you get to use the “FC-DM” reticle which is a mil based Horus like Christmas tree of dots.
There is a 4 segmented larger circle that is 2 mils in diameter. This gives about a 6.75 MOA illuminated center dot when you are running the scope like an reflex sight. There is a center .35 mil dot which is about 1.2 MOA.
If you crank up the brightness while magnified, you will see other parts of the reticle exhibit some stray illumination. The brightness knob has an off setting between each brightness setting you can can easily turn it off or back on to your preferred brightness. This knob is easy enough to turn that I have a little concern it would turn on in my range bag and drain the batteries.
Nightforce doesn’t list battery life on their website, which usually means very poor battery life. The manual says 29 hours at maximum brightness. That is rather pathetic.
Adjustments are made with the excellent capped .1 mil turrets. Nightforce includes thread protectors should you want to run the turrets exposed. I fired 2 rounds at 25 yards and found I was impacting 2 mils right and 1.5 low from my desired point of impact. Nice, easy, numbers I quickly measured using the reticle. I dialed in the adjustments and moved out to 100 yards. I found I was impacting right where I wanted to be.
When shooting at 100 yards, I found that center 1.2 MOA-ish dot felt huge. If I were doing any sort of pure precision work at 100 yards, I’d make an elevation adjustment and use a different part of the reticle for aiming. That large dot was covering up the 3/4 MOA dot I was aiming at and also covered up my impacts.
I think I see so many of these 1-X power scopes for sale barely used because people by them thinking that they will be getting a scope that will be Aimpoint fast at 1X, and work as a sniper scope at 8X only to find out that the scope will end up sucking at one or the other function. More likely terrible at both.
With the ATACR it feels pretty nice at 1X, but it makes the center of the reticle far from ideal for any sort of precision work at 8X.
The reticle markings on this scope have a grid of dots reaching down to 10 mils. I estimate that amount of hold over would get my 308 rifle out to about 825 yards. The ammo I am using would be going sub-sonic at about 875 yards. I figure this scope could handle the practical range of the rifle with just hold overs at max magnification.
I like this scope but I’m not sure if I would recommend it. It is rather pricy, and there are other lighter and cheaper options. 1-10X scopes are on the market, and and improving all the time.
Still I like this one more than I expected. I think I’ll keep it around until I find something better.
Guest post by Brent Sauer Note from Howard: I’ve used some of these scope caps on other Leupold optics and I absolutely love them. Unfortunately I am too poor and cheap to buy them for all of my Leupold scopes.
Leupold Alumina Flip-Back Lens Covers (59040 & 59055) Anti-Reflection Device (ARD 62875) For The Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom RDS
When I buy new firearm related items, I am a company’s dream customer. I say this because if I am buying an item (in this case the Leupold Freedom RDS) and there are accessories for that item, I usually buy those products also. This was true when I purchased the Leupold Black Ring Freedom RDS.
As a long time Leupold customer, I know that they typically market flip-up covers for the eyepiece and the objective lens of their optics. Some optics also have anti-reflection devices, or ARDS as they are commonly called, that are intended to reduce glare and external light reflection on the lens. So, a couple of days after I bought the Leupold Freedom RDS, I went back to www.leupold.com and began looking at what accessories were available for the Freedom RDS. I was not disappointed.
The chart image above shows the accessory information for the Freedom RDS. It indicates that the eyepiece uses product #59040 for the objective lens, product #59055 for the eyepiece and product #62875 for the Anti-Reflective Device. I was surprised to see that Leupold does not currently have a neoprene scope cover available.
Product #’s 59040 (objective lens cover) and 59055 (eyepiece lens cover) come packaged in clear, plastic sealed blister package.
Packaging for product #59055 (eyepiece lens cover)
Packaging for product #59040 (objective lens cover)
The downside to the sealed blister packages is that you have to cut open the packaging to get the product out. Unless done in a careful, systematic way, you will not be able to reuse the packaging to store the lens covers if you decide you want to take them off of the RDS for some reason.
Product #62875 Anti-Reflection Device comes in clear plastic clamshell packaging that can be opened and closed. This makes storing the ARD a quick and simple event.
Lets take a look at the lens covers now. The eyepiece lens cover is one assembly that consists of the hinged eyepiece frame and cap, a rotating threaded insert and an adhesive label for notating range data. Built into the eyepiece frame is a spring-loaded release for the cap.
The photo below shows a close-up of two of the neodymium magnets that secure the eyepiece cap when closed and the cap release lever. Notice the rough edges of the tightening ring that help you grasp the ring.
The next image shows the threaded ring that screws into the eyepiece body and the back side of the cap release.
This image shows the eyepiece lens cover installed and open. Note the two neodymium magnets on the lens cover and the two magnets on the installed cap ring just below it. The cap ring is adjustable to any position around the circumference of the eyepiece body so that you can have the cap swing open in your preferred direction.
Next we will look at the objective lense cover.
In the next image you see the reverse of the objective lens cover. You can see the threaded ring that screws into the objective end of the RDS body.
Here we see the objective lens cover installed and open. Note the two (one on each side) neodymium magnets that secure the lens cover when closed. The objective lens cover can be installed with the hinge of the cover anywhere around the circumference of the objective body for your preferred opening position.
Here are some final shots of the Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom RDS with the eyepiece and objective lens covers installed.
Last but not least, we will look at the Alumina Tactical Anti-Reflection Device (ARD). Although this product is in Leupold branded packaging it is manufactured by Tenebraex of Canada. The ARD is the same design and concept that we have been used to seeing on variable optics, ACOG’s and Aimpoints. The ARD is constructed of the same composite material with same honeycomb features for reducing lense glare without losing resolution of view.
In this view of the front of the ARD, you can see the honeycomb detail.
Here we see the backside of the ARD with the threads visible that screw into the objective end of the RDS body. The grey colored printing on the side is:
Alumina Tactical ARD
Here are a few images of the ARD installed. When the ARD is installed, the required number of turns to adequately tighten it in place has the printing on the side of the ARD upside down. Obviously not an issue for functionality.
Final thoughts…I always feel like a set of protective caps for an optic is a must have. Protecting my investment in an optic is important to me and Leupolds products are first-class and I don’t mind spending the little bit of extra. I like the simplicity and functionality of the Alumina caps. Being able to rotate your hinge/opening direction anywhere around the circumference of the eyepiece and objective end of the RDS is big plus. I will have to get it on the range and see what positions are functional for my shooting style.
Although the lens caps will get used almost all of the time, the ARD will probably see very little use, if any. Its functionality typically isn’t necessary for casual range visits but, as I stated previously, it was an accessory for the Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom RDS so I had to buy it.
I hope reading this provided you some useful information to influence your buying decisions.
I’ve found that most people I talk to don’t like doing math.
So let us imagine the nightmare scenario where you had to quickly convert from System International (AKA Godless Commie Metric) to Imperial (Freedom) units on the fly.
Convert 3.22 cm to inches. 1.65 cm to inches. 4.33 cm to inches. Etc.
Now imagine your life and others relying on your ability to do this math quickly.
If you practiced it, you could get quick and efficient at doing it. BUT, very few of us are practiced at this. I know I’m not. Don’t feed bad, NASA and Lockheed Martin lost a $327 million dollar Mars space probe due to mistake in which units of measure it was using.
I’m a big fan of the Nightforce NXS 2.5-10X24 scopes. I have a few of them. I just recently picked up a rarer “RECON NAV-SPEC” marked scope.
I’ve written about these NXS scopes before so I’ll omit most of the details. They are a compact, lightweight, extremely durable scope. Major downsides are that they are second focal plane, unforgiving eye box, and have poor performance in low light. They are an older design that has been discontinued. The new NXS 1-8X scope has far better illumination and is slightly smaller. Also you can tend to find a used 1-8X for cheaper than a used 2.5-10X, so it would probably be the better choice to buy.
Still I bought this one. Why? Because it is a rarer mil-spec model.
Each Nightforce scope undergoes harsh testing that would break some lesser scopes. The military contract scopes get additional testing on top of that. Thus there are some “NAV-SPEC” and “ARMY-SPEC” scopes floating around out there. These tend to command a premium among collectors and I’ve seen them sell in a $2500+ range. I wouldn’t pay that, and I paid about the same amount as I paid for a brand new commercial unit (back when they were available) with a set of rings (this scope came with a set of nightforce lower height rings I’m not using). While this unit has been used hard, I’m very happy with it for what I paid.
The Army spec scopes have 1 MOA elevation knob adjustments, and 1/2 MOA windage adjustments. The Nav-Spec models have 1/4 MOA elevation and windage adjustments.
Until relatively recently, it was common for a “sniper” scope to have a mildot reticle and MOA adjustments. While the Metric system technically uses minutes of angle for angular measurements, having a scope with this setup has the adjustment clicks and the reticle in two different forms of measurements.
How that ever become standard I have no idea. I wonder why people didn’t just use reticles with MOA hash marks. Nightforce has a nice reticle with 2 MOA hash marks. So it would be 8 clicks between reticle subtensions.
But no, this is a mildot with 1/4 MOA adjustments. One mil is about 3.4 MOA. So somewhere between 13 and 14 clicks of adjustment per mildot.
I put this scope on this rifle and go to zero it in. Starting at 25 meters I am impacting about 3.5 mils high and about 1.6 mils right from my desired point of impact for a 100 yard zero.
Well shit. How many MOA is that?
Um. . . about 3.4 MOA per MIL, so 3.5 mils high is about 3.4+3.4+3.4+ one half of 3.4. Eh. . About 12 MOA. 12 MOA means I need 4 clicks per MOA so 36 clicks down.
1.6 mils is. . fuck it, I’ll go downrange with a ruler and measure it on the target in inches.
There is a reason US military sniper carried calculators.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating. It isn’t really that hard if you think about it. But that seems to be the problem. I talk to so many shooters who just don’t want to have to think. I understand wanting something simple, but I want gun owners to be people who conscientious and thoughtful about the actions they are performing.
My first scope like this was a Super Sniper fixed 10X. That was a great, cheap, and mid-sized scope. I sometimes kind of miss it, and have considered picking up another. Back then, they had a web site where you could practice measuring a target using the mildot reticle, finding the distance. Sending off a shot and then, if necessary, making an adjustment to make the hit. I spent a lot of time playing with that trying to get fast and proficient with mil-ing targets. I tried to see if I could find that site but it doesn’t seem to be around any more. I think SWFA scrubbed it when they rebranded the Super Sniper line to SS.
I’ve had people tell me that the mil dot reticle was only meant to be used in range estimation. Well, you could range estimate with a MOA reticle. Others told me that it was intended that once you sighted in, you would only hold over with the reticle and not touch the turrets. For one, the military used scopes with this configuration at ranges beyond what you could have held over in the reticle. Another argument against this would be why are the turrets be exposed? If that were the case that only hold overs were to be used they would have ordered the capped turret option. Set it and forget it. You see some of the newer military scopes have capped Windage knobs for this reason. Windage would be held over instead of adjusted in combat.
Simply put, not that long ago it was expected that the professional sniper could would work with a mildot reticle and MOA turrets. That was just considered normal.
Since then we have moved from second focal plane scopes to first focal plane scopes. These new FFP scopes allow the reticle markings to be correct no matter what magnification the scope is set at. We switched to mil adjustments with the mil reticles. Now many of the newer scopes are forgoing the mil reticles for reticles that show drop charts and windages holds. We are trying to make things work faster and smoother. But still it takes practice and proficiency with this equipment to be effective with it.
Went to the range yesterday, shot my B&T APC9K with the Glock lower for the first time. Also shot a SCAR with silencer. Got to get some quality time behind the Trijicon MRO green dot optic.
I really like the Glock magwell lower for the APC9K. I bought the gun with the intent to get that and while I don’t like how long I had to wait, it was worth it. The mag release and bolt catch are also easier to use on the Glock lower than the standard B&T lower.
I remember when the Trijicon MRO came out I read some early reviews and looked at the price tag and pass on it. There didn’t seem to be any reason to pick one over an Aimpoint. I didn’t even know Trijicon had come out with a green dot model like this one. Apparently they have announced a new model with an Eotech like reticle (MSRP somewhere in the $900ish). That is two options that Aimpoint does not have.
The MRO has fractionally more magnification than an Aimpoint and it is noticeable. All lenses will distort light to some amount. I’ve read that Aimpoint lenses are something like 1.03X and the MRO something like 1.05X. Seems like a trivially small difference but it feels very different looking though the optic.
Indoors when I first looked though the MRO, I thought that extra tiny bit of magnification was extremely noticeable and distraction and I thought that the optic was garbage. But using it out doors, live fire, I found it just fine to use. Felt weird having uncovered adjustments on the MRO, but they worked fine. It is plenty bright and worked fine.
While the MRO is small, it feels a good bit bigger than an Aimpoint T-1. On a small gun, I would always pick the T-1. Well, hell, I’d ALWAYS pick the Aimpoint over the MRO. But I think the MRO would feel fine on a normal or larger gun.
The MRO seemed perfectly serviceable, but I wouldn’t pick one over an Aimpoint unless I needed that green dot or circle dot reticle.
I think I’ll write about the SCAR at a later date. I was rather disappointed with it.
Leupold Freedom Black Ring RDS 1x w/Mount BDC-Matte-34mm 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 49.7.mm) • Weight (with battery installed): 7.0oz. (198.4g)
Leupold Introduction of the Freedom RDS at Shot Show 2019 22 JAN 2019
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DkALBk7bd8
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).
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 49.7.mm) • 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 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.