Red dots are here to stay, and for a good reason: they are light, simple, durable, and have very little in the way of skills to acquire. They allow even mediocre shooters to reliably engage short range targets with reliable accuracy and predictable results. The market is accordingly inundated with red dots of all shapes, sizes, and price tags. Leupold has weighed in with a little offering of their own, the Leupold Carbine Optic.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Always the first question I ask myself of any purchase, although I must admit to more leniency when buying gun stuff! As far as red dots go, it is at the highest end of the spectrum, so this one would have to impress me. However, the product just might be able to pull this one off with a litany of notable and unique features.
Scope Review and Breakdown
Besides having the name ‘Leupold’ laser etched on it, the LCO has features which turn my head. It is rated waterproof to 66’. Muy impresionante. Sharing a common thread with the DeltaPoint Pro, it employs the innovative Motion Sensor Technology (MST™) which shuts the unit off after five minutes of inactivity but brings in immediately on when motion is sensed, thus eliminating the scourge of dead batteries.
The feature which I am particularly attracted to is the construction. It is milled from 6061-T6 aluminum, which is genuine, aircraft-grade aluminum. Harkening back to the very basics of marksmanship, the more pieces connecting it to your rifle, the more opportunities for a bit to loosen, go out of adjustment, etc. Any time a unit like this is machined from a solid billet, it will fare better in retaining zero over the long run of storage, movement, and use.
- Weighs in at 9.5 oz, which is a reflection of the rugged and durable monolithic design.
- Nitrogen sealed to make the unit waterproof to 66’.
- MST™ preserves battery life and drastically improves weapon readiness for defensive posturing.
- 32 mm aperture makes for a very large field of view (FOV).
- Approximately 3 ½ inches in length.
Ease of Use and Reliability
As with most red dots, this unit is straightforward to operate. Windage and elevation are adjusted in ½ MOA increments by use of standard slotted knobs.
The 1 MOA dot is reported to be crisp clear with 16 brightness settings to match about any lighting condition. It claims an active battery life of five years on a standard CR123A battery, which is pretty phenomenal.
The reviews thus far are excellent, which is the bar that consumers have come to expect from this brand. All reviewers reported this product to be utterly reliable, one of which even stated that they planned to take it the next time they go to a combat zone.
It is where the LCO (and DP PRO as well) shine: the advertised active battery life is five years. The MST™ system is long overdue, and I think we all can agree that all manufacturers should adopt it in some variety of another.
- Very strong monolithic design milled out of billet 6061-T6 aluminum. If any readers here are also kit airplane builder or enthusiasts, they will instantly recognize this as aircraft grade metal.
- Nitrogen filled glass making the unit impervious to water.
- Legendary brand quality, backed by a five year warranty.
- Price point. I have to just lay this one out right here; the company lists the MSRP at over $900, with real-world prices hovering just below $700. Even the Trijicon MRO and the EOTech XPS2, both legitimately considered premium units, sell for $200+ less than the LCO.
- It is built like an armored car, which give peace of mind. It also comes with a stiff weight penalty. While a different style, the Primary Arms Advanced Micro Dot is a scant 4 oz.
- Depending upon location, the -20℉-120℉ range may not be adequate; think Fairbanks, of Minot, North Dakota in the winter, or a parked patrol car in Phoenix in the summer.
This is the million-dollar question; the one everyone is waiting for- what is this going to run me? Well, it is a Leupold, not a Leapers, so it does run on the high end of red dots. Real world prices seem to be settling in the sub-$700 range, so this is a figure that you can figure on when you are trying to convince your wife of why you need this (we have all done this).
Other similar products roughly in this ballpark are the Trijicon Reflex, EOTech EXPS3-0, and to a slightly lesser extent the Vortex Optics Razor AMG UH-1.
Who is this scope for?
Type of shooter
Red dots do one or two things well: they get on target at short ranges incredibly fast, and their recovery for follow-up shots is almost instant. The LCO, unlike the DP Pro, is suited for long arms exclusively. It is best suited sitting atop a compact carbine or a shotgun. Fast action shooters will appreciate it, patrol officers have found red dots indispensable, and red dots have been standard equipment on military rifles for over a decade now.
Type of gun
Like I said previously, due to its heft, it is not a viable option for handguns. It will serve very well sitting atop an M-4/AR-15 pattern carbine, IWI Tavor, or even a 9mm carbine like the MP5 or 9mm AR-platforms, etc. It would also do just fine fitted to your favorite shotgun. These are a natural platform for red dots, and I would consider a quality red dot a ‘must have’ if I am carrying a scattergun in moose or bear country, no questions asked.
The RMR is a simple piece of equipment that mounts to just about any firearm and provides a dot that can be easily seen in a variety of lighting. While it is subject to dot washout if you’re also running light on your weapon, that’s a standard issue with red dots that can be mitigated with suppressor sights.
The cost can be prohibitive – this isn’t a cheap product. With a price point that can exceed $500 with the mount, depending on how much you paid for the firearm you put it on, you might pay more for the RMR and corresponding mount than you did for the gun. That being said, it’s worth the money; it’s light, versatile, and it’ll do what you need it to do. More importantly, it’ll do it for a very long time. With the RMR, you get what you pay for – arguably the best RMR on the market.
Other options worth looking at
I mentioned these a little earlier, and I am going to reiterate the items that I think are really cool right now:
- The Trijicon RX34 is a really cool reflex sight, equipped with a 4.5 MOA green dot. Very cool, very sleek, and it wears the Trijicon brand. The RX comes in a little over $550, so almost $150 less than the LCO.
- AimPoint Micro T-1. AimPoint was the very first red dot that I ever used (M-68) on an M-4, so I have always liked them. They are accurate, fast, and reliable. Also, they are pricey. The Micro T-1 is over $700, although you can get into an AimPoint for sub-$400 if you want to consider the AimPoint Carbine Optic (ACO).
- The EOTech EXPS3™. EOTech has proven itself completely over the years, and are an undisputed heavyweight in the market. Operators have been using these since the early years of OIF with tremendous success and they have become a mainstay of the market.