Hands-on with Leupold’s New D-EVO Optic


Leupold is making waves after introducing a revolutionary new optic system at SHOT Show 2015. I’d read the previews, watched the videos, and went to their booth last week excited to try out the new D-EVO offset optic.

After the show, while humming the 1980 hit single “Whip It,” I am still asking myself “is it good?”

Before I get to that, you need a rough idea of what the D-EVO optic is.

It’s a masterwork of engineering.

The system is a reimagining of the red-dot-and-magnified-optic combination, with the D-EVO sitting down behind any conventional red dot. The D-EVO’s objective lens is rotated out, so it peers down the right side of the rifle. The image is relayed back through lenses and mirrors to appear just underneath a dot. The idea is that you can transition between aiming through the red dot and aiming through the D-EVO without moving at all—just shift your eye to focus on one or the other.

The view from behind a D-EVO and LCO.
The view from behind a D-EVO and LCO.

It’s a setup that’s never been tried before, and Leupold actually had an entire booth dedicated to giving shooters a hands-on experience. Ti Outdoors constructed a virtual shooting range with a D-EVO-equipped AR-15 and a gas-powered laser system. It was an excellent way to get a “just like shooting” experience inside a crowded, noisy trade show. Thousands of people went through the simulator to try the new optic in action.

In the live demonstration, shooters were instructed to acquire their target with the red dot, then transition to the D-EVO scope for a precise shot.

There are some clear advantages of the D-EVO over other similar dot-and-scope solutions.

  • You don’t need to move anything to change powers. You don’t need to even tilt your head. Just shift your focus and it’s there.
  • It’s compatible with existing red dots. Leupold launched a new LCO red dot this year, too. But if you’re the kind of guy who loves his Aimpoint Comp M4 and can’t let it go, the D-EVO is only two inches high.
  • The reticle inside is a solid shooting solution. When you switch to the 6x, you’ve got a clear central aiming point, but also a ladder-style tree of windage and elevation holds, along with an integrated ranging reticle on the far right side. It might seem busy, but the center aiming point never gets lost.

I can also see some disadvantages that could cause people to think twice before throwing in $1,500 on this unit.

  • You have to think about line of sight differently. Because the optic is looking down the side of your carbine, rather along the top, you have to rethink what you put there. If you’re a left-handed shooter with an aggressive grip or the kind of person with lights or lasers in the 12 to 3 o’clock position, you can find yourself blocking part of the optic. This will also apply to barrier shooting, under-car shooting, or whatever unusual position strikes your fancy.
  • It can be distracting. If you’re going to use this, you’re going to want to train extensively with it, and make sure that your brain is using the right optic at the right time. It’s easy to slip from one to the other, and while you’re looking at the red dot, you’ll see the magnified image moving right below. Conversely, I could see having trouble focusing on the magnified image for extended periods of time.
  • You’ll want to have a very consistent cheekweld. The unlimited eye relief of a regular red dot is one of their main selling features, but the D-EVO has just under three and half inches of eye relief. You’ll want to position yourself in a specific spot on the rifle to pickup the magnified image easily. Too close or too far and you could find the 6x tough to use.

The D-EVO is not the end of the discussion on integrating magnified and red dot optics. But it’s certainly the most innovative solution in many years. It’s something that I think any shooter should try and experience before buying to ensure that it’s the right fit for them.

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