December 09, 2022
The last I saw of the bear, it was heading right to my friend, who was posted at the edge of the clearcut. A group of us were pushing, or driving, the saplings and thick vegetation, hoping to move a bear to the rest of our gang positioned in more open woods. A few seconds later, a shot rang out in front of me. Then another, and another. The bear had passed by my friend, all right.
When I reached the end of the drive, popping out of the thick stuff 20 yards from the shooter, I couldn’t wait to get the story. I figured for sure he had killed the bear, but the worried expression on his face gave me reason to think otherwise.
"It was so close," he said. "Too close. I couldn't get it in my scope."
Bear tracks coming down the muddy bank and the scuffed spot in the leaves where my friend had been standing confirmed his report. Less than 5 yards separated the two. Even dialed down to 3X, my friend’s scope had too much magnification to allow him to track the bounding bear and make the shot. We still tease him about it, but the incident continues to haunt him.
My friend isn’t alone in his discovery that there are times when a magnified optic is more of a hindrance than a help. When game is close and moving, particularly in thick brush, a scope can make it difficult to aim. Iron sights are an alternative, but they require aligning three objects (rear notch or aperture, front post and target) to be effective. In situations such as this, a red-dot optic with no magnification shines, and the Leupold Freedom RDS is built for rough environments such as those often encountered in thick woods.
The Freedom RDS has a 34 mm maintube machined of aluminum. It, and the electronics it houses, are torture-tested on a recoil-simulation machine Leupold engineers affectionately refer to as the Punisher. The optic is guaranteed to be waterproof and fogproof, and Leupold tests it to a submerged depth of 33 feet. Rest assured that hunting all day in the rain won’t be an issue with the RDS.
Quality glass lenses are part of Leupold’s Professional-Grade Red Dot Optical System, and the company treats them with coatings to maximize light transmission while reducing glare. The illuminated 1-MOA red-dot reticle is powered by one CR2032 battery, which is housed beneath a cover that includes the push-button illumination control.
There are eight illumination levels. When the dot reaches the highest intensity, it flashes five times. Subsequent pushes will decrease the brightness of the dot. Similarly, the dot flashes five times when the dot reaches the lowest intensity, and then each press of the button increases the brightness. Holding the button down for two seconds changes the direction of intensity adjustment. For example, if you’ve moved from level 3 to level 5 and want to return to level 3, hold the button down for two seconds and intensity will decrease with each subsequent press.
The Freedom RDS has Motion Sensor Technology to help preserve battery life. If the sight remains motionless for five minutes while the illumination is on, it will power down. When the sight detects motion, it automatically reactivates the illumination. Battery life is up to 1,600 hours when the dot is set to low intensity.
Windage and elevation dials offer 80 MOA of adjustment in 1/4 MOA clicks. Turrets on the standard Freedom RDS are capped, but a model is available with an exposed elevation dial that is calibrated for .223 Rem. 55-grain loads, owing to the popularity of red-dot optics on AR-style rifles.
The Freedom RDS is also available with a mount designed to fit a Picatinny-railed AR receiver. Hunters who want to use the optic on a bolt-action rifle, a lever gun or a shotgun will need to purchase separate 34 mm rings.
No magnification and an illuminated dot reticle make the Freedom RDS ideal for shooting with both eyes open. The technique increases peripheral vision and makes it easier to track a moving target. In addition, the optic has unlimited eye relief, which increases target-acquisition speed by maintaining a full field of view regardless of the distance between the shooter’s eye and the optic. The Freedom RDS is tailored for hunting situations where shots come suddenly and at close range, such as when still-hunting or participating in a driven hunt.
For testing I mounted the Freedom RDS on a Henry Big Boy lever-action rifle in .44 Rem. Mag. This is a rifle that I carry when shots on whitetails come at ranges of 75 yards or less, and the compact Freedom RDS fit the fast-handling characteristics of the gun. On the range the optic answered adjustments precisely, which I appreciated when running loads with vastly different bullet weights and velocities through the rifle. Some loads had more than a foot of difference between their points of impact, but steadily clicking the adjustment dials of the Freedom RDS made zeroing each one quick and easy.
Red-dot optics certainly have their place in the woods, especially when shots are at short range and come at short notice. The Leupold Freedom RDS is built to handle these types of situations, whether the game is bucks, bears or boars. I have no qualms about leaving my rifles with magnified optics at home when the day’s hunt is better suited for a sight like the Freedom RDS.
- Type: red-dot optic
- Magnification: none
- Objective Lens: 34 mm
- Maintube: 34 mm
- Reticle: illuminated 1 MOA red dot, 8 brightness levels
- Adjustment Range: 80 MOA in 1/4 MOA increments
- Power Source: CR2032 battery; up to 1,600 hours
- Eye Relief: unlimited
- Overall Length: 5.43”
- Weight: 6.9 oz.
- MSRP: $279.99