Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review

Review: Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12×40 CDS rifle scope

The VX-Freedom 4-12x40mm CDS is Leupold’s answer to serious hunters who want a long-range precision optic that is lighter and sleeker than the competition. 

This is a serious scope for the open country hunter. All-in-all the VX-Freedom tested as high as any scope selling for under a grand. It looks like a good all-around choice.

Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review
The VX-Freedom 4-12x40mm is almost as light as an average 3-9×40 scope with a one-inch tube, yet full of features which allow hunters to stretch the range of their rifles. The length of tube between ocular and objective housing allows plenty of latitude for mounting the Leupold scope on a long action

In this case, we’ve tested it with the Tri-MOA reticle and we used a customised top turret produced by the Leupold Custom Shop here in Australia to match the specific ammunition we hunted with. More on that in a moment.

This scope features a 30mm tube for increased strength and a generous range of adjustment — 80 MOA of elevation and windage. 

A 30mm tube doesn’t allow more light to pass through the scope. If it did, the exit pupil would be larger. The Leupold’s exit pupil is only 3.3mm when the scope is set on 12x, but cranked back to 8x it grows to a respectable 5mm. A bigger objective lens does make the scope brighter – but only at magnifications above 6x to 7x.

Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review
The magnification ring turns smoothly and is clearly marked with large white figures. Eyepiece has fast Continental-style focusing

The objective lens diameter is a modest 40mm, but lenses are all multi-coated for superior light transmission and a sharp image. For big game hunting, most of us are well served by a 40mm objective which transmits all the light needed for shooting late and early, even in timber and on a cloudy day.

The 40mm objective lens allows mounting the scope fairly low, and it adds little to the all-up weight of an outfit that gets carried far more than it is shot.

Leupold’s VX-Freedom 4-12x40mm is relatively compact. It weighs 445 grams and measures a short 315mm. The mounting area on the body tube is 140mm long, which allows plenty of latitude to mount the scope on a rifle with a long action. 


Any Leupold scope with CDS (Custom Dial System) can be tailored to match your rifle and ammo. When you buy it, it’ll come with a standard turret and Leupold, via its Australian distributor NIOA, will customise one turret for you at no extra cost. Additional custom turrets can be added for a fairly modest fee.  

Turrets are easy to install yourself. 

Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review
The turret produced by the the Leupold Custom Shop here in Australia was matched specifically to Federal’s .308 Power-Shok trajectory

The review scope’s original elevation dial was replaced by a custom elevation dial that was calibrated for Federal’s 150gn Power-Shok load, which has a muzzle velocity of 2820fps. It was also marked “500M” which I took to be the maximum distance it would be trouble free at.

Windage and elevation adjustments are made via standard-size turrets with precise ¼-minute clicks which are easily adjusted and are clearly marked for easy reading. A full rotation of 15 MOA (for both turrets) is easily kept track of by Leupold’s simple marking system so you don’t accidentally end up one full rotation off.

When dialling for elevation, it’s not uncommon for a shooter to lose track of both his zero and the position of his turret, especially when a turret can turn multiple revolutions as this one does. The VX-Freedom’s dial provides solutions for both these potential problems. The first is an adjustable zero stop that prevents you from dialling below “0” when the turret is installed correctly; when in doubt, dial clockwise until the turret stops. The turrets can also be re-set to your zero.

Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review
Turrets are repeatable and easy to use. Windage turret can be replaced with a BDC turret if required, and parallax can be adjusted via a side focus knob.

For a scope to be truly useful for long-range shooting, its adjustments must be both reliable and repeatable. To properly evaluate this we used an ATA Turqua that had already proved to be capable of consistent sub-MOA accuracy. With a confirmed zero, we “shot the square”. The scope’s internal mechanism tracked accurately and repeatedly, with the bullet holes on the target landing in a perfect box shape.

The scope passed that test with flying colours so we progressed to an elevation test to prove how well the scope performs at longer ranges out to 500m. The Leupold passed this test as well. The scope returned to a precise zero no matter what adjustments were made — a feature that is not as common as one might assume.

The dial on the left allows you to quickly and easily focus the scope’s image and eliminate parallax. The parallax-free distance is 35 yards.


The Tri-MOA reticle in the VX-Freedom scope has hash marks spaced at one minute intervals to alter the impact point 10 MOA in each direction – left, right and up and down. Longer hashmarks indicate a shift of 5 MOA. The top half of the reticle is left open for spotting and observation.

Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review
The Tri-MOA reticle provides various MOA-based measurements to help estimate range, size, shot placement etc

For a hunter shooting big game inside 250 metres there really is no reason for using anything except a simple reticle. Even with standard calibres in the .270/.30-06 class, a 180m zero will allow the shooter to hold on even a smallish fallow and still land the bullet in the vital chest cavity. 

However, Tri-MOA BDC reticle in the Leupold VX-Freedom under test offers hunters and shooters a way to quickly make shots at more distant targets. With this reticle and a ballistic turret, Leupold’s VX-Freedom scope offers you a choice of dialling up or holding high.

The long-range expert hunter is going to be very happy with Leupold’s simple, rugged Tri-MOA reticle, which is etched into glass, since there’s nothing to move or break.

On the range and when hunting the VX-Freedom proved impressive. The magnification ring rotated smoothly throughout its range and required little effort. 

Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12x40 CDS Tri-MOA review
Compact and light, the Leupold VX-Freedom 4-12×40 is well suited to sporter-weight hunting rifles or anything larger

Eye relief did reduce from 132mm set on 4x to 97mm on 12x, but both distances are more than adequate, particularly with the mild recoiling .308.

Optically the Freedom provided a very bright image, and I was impressed by its very sharp image with clear, excellent colour rendition and contrast. No curvature of field, pincushion, barrel distortion or rolling distortion was observed. The acuity of this scope was most impressive. 

Minute details were readily apparent while looking at tree bark and leaves 200-plus metres away. 

Low light performance was also extremely good. 

A field of view at 100m of around 6.6m at 4x shrinking to 3.75m at 12x is par for the course.

This new generation Leupold scope has lockable turrets, zero stop and tactile rotation indicators – refinements usually limited to more expensive units.

The CDS custom turret that Leupold will provide at no extra charge adds another level of value. 


  • Reticle: Tri-MOA, second focal plane
  • Magnification: 4-12x
  • Objective lens: 40mm
  • Main tube diam: 30mm
  • Length: 315mm
  • Weight: 445g
  • Adjustment increments: ¼ MOA
  • Adjustment range: 80 MOA (elevation and windage)
  • Field of view @ 100m: 3.75-6.6m
  • Eye relief: 97-132mm
  • Exit pupil: 3.3-6.7mm
  • Parallax: Adjustable
  • Price (indicative): Advertised for around $850-$1000 (2022)
  • Distributor: NIOA




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.