5.56 Timeline

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

Guest post from Brent Sauer, check out his website https://thecoltar15resource.com/

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 49.7.mm)
            • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DkALBk7bd8

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5timDnYzQw

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 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 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.

Review: Mantis X10 Elite – Shooting Performance System

BLUF: The Mantis X10 system is a sensor that you attach to your firearm that you use with a smart phone app that gives you a variety of tools for training and data for diagnosing your trigger pull. It has a number of great features making it well worth the cost, but I also had a few issues with it, mainly the mounting system.

The biggest compliment I can give is that everyone I showed the X10 was absolutely amazed and wanted one.

A rep from the Mantis company contacted us about doing a review of the MantisX system. I was very excited at that opportunity as I had considered buying their product before. Not sure why I didn’t. Probably got distracted by something else I could buy. Their website is https://mantisx.com/

They have several models of the MantisX system. The X2 is $99 and for dry fire with handguns only. The X3 is $169 and covers dryfire and live fire for handguns and rifles. X7 is made for shotguns and is $199. For $249 you can get the X10 that has all the features and capabilities.
I think if you are going to buy one, get the X10. This is one of those cases it would be better to “buy once, cry once”.

Mantis has excellent packaging. From the box to the carrying case with cut foam for the unit. The X10 mounts directly to a M1913 picatinny rail and comes with a clamp mount with shims so it can be attached to a barrel or magazine tube. They package it as the premium product it is.

Minor complaint: You will need to charge the unit using the included micro-USB cable before you use it. This isn’t mention on the quick start guide.

These units can mount directly to a picatinny rail, but they will only mount directly to a picatinny rail. Mantis came up with a very nice mounting system where you have a spring loaded lever that retracts the recoil lug allowing you to slide the X10 onto a rail. You change settings in the app to let it know if the unit is mounted forwards or backwards on the rail, and if it is on the top/bottom/left/or right side of the gun.

I would love to have this mounting system for a flashlight or a bipod. But unfortunately it only works on in-spec rails that you can access one end. I can’t mount it to the top of my B&T APC9K because there is an iron sight on each end. You can not directly mount it to a Glock pistol’s universal rail. You would have to buy an adaptor like the Recover OR19 shown in the picture below.

This is my only major complaint about the Mantis line of products. Normally I would dislike a weaver spec thumbscrew, but in this case, it would have allowed this unit to mount to a wider variety of firearms.

Fortunately there are any number of adapters and accessories that would let you mount this to any firearm. Mantis also sell items like replacement magazine baseplates with a rail section on them. If your gun does not have a rail on it, expect to have to pay another $20 or so dollar to get an adapter. Also, if your rails are out of spec, it can be a real pain to get the Mantis to slide on and off.

But this sensor is just the hardware. It is the software app that you install on your phone that is the heart of the system.

I downloaded the MantisX app my my beat up Galaxy S9 and paired it using Bluetooth to the X10.

Note: You need to have the GPS on to be able to pair successfully. I had numerous issues with connectivity and pairing. I believe this to be caused by my beat up, nearly broken, phone. The Rep at Mantis insisted on replacing the unit I was using. I’ve still had some connectivity issues which leads me to believe it is my phone at fault.

There are a variety of training problems and options for how you use the X10. There are so many different options available to you that I don’t know where to begin describing them. Many only show up depending on the weapon info you have selected. E.G. There are separation options and settings for long arms vs hand guns.

Let me start with what I found most useful. You do some dry fire, or live firing training, then have it give you feedback.

Here are a couple of screenshots from different drills. On the left you can see how it scored me on a day I was doing pretty good. On the middle, you can see that I just did some quick dry fire and was pulling the gun to the left. The rightmost image shows the advice for correcting my deficiency.

They have even put together little training programs to get you started and familiarize you with their app.

I used the recoil meter to compare some of my shotguns in this other article HERE. I found it interesting to see that one of my shotguns had twice the muzzle flip of a different one of mine.

What I find most useful is the trace of the movement of the gun just prior to the shot breaking.

MK12 Rifle from the bench
Pistol offhand

On the left you can see the movement prior to the shot breaking on one of my rifles I was firing off a bipod. On the right you can see how I moved prior to firing a shot from a pistol offhand.

To me the unit is worth the cost just for this feature.

I love this feature!

Sadly, the MantisX app does not export this data for you to show off. I suggested that they add this feature. I had to use a screen recorder app to get these .gif files.

I just learned the other day that you can also watch this movement live. You can have the app show you the movement in the run in real time, and also show you if the gun muzzle is tilted up or down or if the gun is canted side to side.

There were a number of features I have not been able to try. For example there is a tool for diagnosing your draw from the holster. However I don’t have a holster that will accommodate the X10 and the necessary Glock adapter. So I did all of my pistol shooting with it using a SIG P320. There are reload drills, drills for high power rifle match style shooting, etc, and a great number of options I did not get the chance to try out.

An example of a minor issues I had. There is a shot timer option. You hit start, your phone beeps, and you fire(or dry fire). If you had the phone on a table, or someone else holding it, I think this would work great. As I was in the middle of a firing range bay, I would have to hit start, then try and pocket the phone and get ready to shoot before the buzzer would go off. I’m slower at pocking a phone than moving a gun. With the connectivity issues I had, sometimes when I pocketed the phone or had anything between line of sight between the phone and the X10 I would lose connection. This wasn’t an issue when I was able to fire from a firing line bench and could set the phone on the bench. As I said before, I think the connection issues are the fault of my busted up old phone.

Ultimately, if someone is a brand new to shooting, they need training. This is not a substitute for training with an instructor. Once someone knows the fundamentals and they are training to fine tune their skills and correct problems, this could be a very useful tool.

People often say, “practice makes perfect”. But only perfect practice makes perfect. If I were to spend an hour a day dry firing while jerking the trigger, it would only reinforce a bad habit and make it harder to shoot well. We need to make sure our practice is using the correct form, so that we can internalize the correct techniques as muscle memory.

I have been taught to watch the movement in the sights as the shot breaks to call where your shot went. I believe this to be a very important skill and very useful in improving your shooting. But sometimes a shot goes wild and I am left wondering, “What the hell happened?”. It is nice having a digital record showing if it was me or something else to blame.

This X10 also makes me want to compare firearms with it. I want to see if my 1911 or my .45 ACP Glock 30 has more muzzle flip. Or the Sig P320 vs Glock. Some guns just feel better to me, but this would let me have numbers I could compare and show off. A Pact timer can show how fast you are shooting a gun, but it can’t record how consistently you shoot with it. This can.

The smart phone app has been updated twice during the time I have been trying out the X10. It is clear that the devs are continuously working to add new features and improve their product.

I think the X10 is well worth the cost as a training aid. But I do hope that they will consider making a model that I could directly attach to my Glocks. Maybe I should also get around to replacing my phone.

You can learn more at their website https://mantisx.com/ or their youtube channel.

The Colt M1991A1

In 1991, Colt introduced the new M1991 pistol. Which was just a 1911 with a new name. The gun was meant to be a hybrid of WW1 and WW2 military configurations but with a lot of civilian model changes added in. You can see the safety is of course not the military spec nor is the hammer. It has A1 features like cut outs on the frame behind the trigger like the A1 but also the longer trigger and flat mainspring like the M1911.

.(1991–2001 ORM; 2001–present NRM): A hybrid of the M1911A1 military model redesigned to use the slide of the Mk. IV Model 80; these models aimed at providing a more “mil-spec” pistol to be sold at a lower price than Colt’s other 1911 models in order to compete with imported pistols from manufacturers such as Springfield Armory and Norinco.

Not meant to be target guns, the 1991 is more or less a military rack grade pistol. That doesn’t mean its not a good shooter.

The above target was fired at 50 yards off of sandbags at the NRA 50 yard slow fire target. Ammo used was match 230grain ball. It just seemed degenerate to use any other kind of ammo in a gun like this.

A nice group at 20 yards using Federal HST ammo. The 1991 functions fine with any hollow point round you would want to shoot through it.

Above is service grade ball ammo at 25 yards. Below is regular service grade Winchester ball from 25 yards.

The gun used is a daily carry gun of a friend who bought it in the 90s and has carried it ever since. It has seen a lot of rounds through it in that time but still performs better than one could ask for a gun meant to be a rack grade military type service pistol.