In theory, 1-6X variable power optics appear to be an ideal choice for 14½- to 16-inch barreled 5.56/7.62 carbines and have continued to gain popularity as more models have become available. The 1X setting provides quick close-range capability, while the top end delivers the magnification needed to reach out to the maximum effective range of these platforms.
However, like any optic designed to cover a wide range of variables, there are a few drawbacks to consider:
- On 1X, a variable-power optic will never be as fast as a red dot sight. Your head position needs to be more consistent and you're still looking through a long tube, where parallax is more of an issue, as is the potential of scope shadow.
- With few exceptions, variable-power optics have yet to achieve true daylight bright reticles. This is due to the complexity of how light is projected onto the reticle and viewed by the eye.
- Most users of low-power variable optics use only two settings, minimum power and maximum power, which requires the user to twist a power adjustment ring.
A Better Mousetrap
The Leupold D-EVO, or Dual-Enhanced View Optic, is a fixed 6x20mm scope that allows you to see a six-power image and the red dot optic of your choice at the same time. As you look through your red dot sight you can glance down, moving only your eyeball, to see a six-power zoomed image of your target. The key is the angled viewer at the rear of the sight, which allows you to see your target without flipping a magnifier. You simply move your eye (not your head) to see the magnified image. The D-EVO acts like a periscope that looks around your red dot sight.
The D-EVO features Leupold's Close Mid-Range Reticle with Wind Holds (CMR-W), allowing shooters to easily estimate range and engage targets with speed and precision. The D-EVO CMR-W uses a hybrid 5.56/7.62 reticle designed to be used with either cartridge, as their flight paths are so similar, meaning the holdovers and windage marks are accurate with either cartridge.
A ½-MOA center dot is an extremely precise aiming point and is designed to be zeroed at 200 meters. A 5-MOA inverted horseshoe surrounds the ½-MOA center dot and allows for fast target acquisition and a simple solution for leading moving targets.
The reticle initially arches from left to right to compensate for the 1.8-inch objective lens offset. If the reticle wasn't curved, your shots would be off by 3.6 inches at 600 meters, which is another reason why the D-EVO was designed to be zeroed at 200 meters, not 50.
The reticle is designed for holding over your elevation and windage corrections. All adjustments .1 mil, are recessed and designed for zeroing the sight, not for dialing.
Two mil-scales are built into the reticle design, seen as hash marks on the horizontal stadia and the vertical scale on the left and right side of the main horizontal line. These can be used for calculating distances and measuring objects downrange.
The tick marks on the vertical stadia line measure 18-inches wide at each yardage increment (300 to 600 meters) and allow precise holdover points and distance estimation. As an example, the average width of a man shoulder to shoulder is approximately 18 inches, as is the brisket of a deer. Wind holds are simple to use and are marked in 10-mph increments — 0, 10 mph and 20 mph.
Pairing the D-EVO with your favorite Red Dot Sight
The Leupold D-EVO is a stand-alone six-power optic designed to be used in-conjunction with a red dot sight — any red dot sight. As long as the sight can be mounted on your rifle and can provide either an absolute co-witness or lower-third co-witness sight height, it will work. And virtually all red dot sights offer that nowadays.
Factory sights, such as Leupold's LCO or EOTech's XPS series have built-in bases and are both examples of this. Absolute co-witness mounts are plentiful in the aftermarket or from the factory for Aimpoint, Trijicon, Burris, Vortex, Doctor Optic, Insight Technologies and their clones.
The D-EVO is designed to work seamlessly with a red dot sight configured in an absolute co-witness level mount, as this height places the viewing screen and dot just above the housing of the D-EVO. This reduces the distance your eyeball needs to travel when it transitions from the red dot sight to the D-EVO. Ideally, the D-EVO should be mounted toward the rear of your rifle's receiver, using your adjustable stock to achieve proper eye relief, which is 3½ inches. Your red dot sight is then placed directly in front of the D-EVO, as close to the front of the housing as possible.
The D-EVO will work if your red dot sight is mounted in the taller lower-third co-witness height, such as EOTech's EXPS or Aimpoint Micro's in LaRue Tactical's LT-660 mount. This will change the way your eye and face sit behind the D-EVO and may induce momentary scope shadow as well as adding distance for your eyeball to move.
Another consideration is the width of your sight — EOTech I'm looking at you — or, if you're using a base that has a throw lever, which side it is on. Because the D-EVO periscopes around the right side of the receiver, the objective lens may prevent your throw lever from being used without removing the D-EVO. A simple solution is to reverse the mount so that the throw lever is on the left side of the receiver. In the case of EOTech, the width of the housing will prevent the sight from being mounted flush to the front of the D-EVO, which doesn't necessarily affect performance, but it places the front of the sight very close the edge of the upper receiver.
I prefer using either Leupold's LCO, Leupold's DeltaPoint or Trijicon's RMR series of optics as my red dot sight of choice. They sit in front of the D-EVO like they were made for it. The smaller reflex sights weigh about 6 to 7 ounces with their respective mounts, as opposed to Leupold's LCO which tips the scales at about 13 ounces, similar to an EOTech XPS.
The D-EVO weighs 13.8 ounces and includes its own Picatinny rail mount. If paired with either Trijicon's RMR, Aimpoint's Micro or Leupold's DeltaPoint and their mounts, you're in the neighborhood of 20 to 21 ounces of total optic weight, which is lighter than any 1-6X variable power optic and one-piece mount available for an AR/M4-style platform. It's something to think about.
If you mount a white light on your carbine, the 1:30- to 2 o'clock position is out. I'm a fan of this position; however, I have relocated my light to the 3 o'clock position and adapted to it by using a pressure pad located at 12 o'clock. An infrared (IR) laser mounted on the top rail does not occlude the D-EVO, however.
When shooting from a barricade, it is possible to block the objective lens of the D-EVO if shooting from a small porthole. This is a non-issue, as the red dot sight is still usable.
Lastly, spent cases launched from the ejection port will strike the underside of the crenellated objective lens housing of the D-EVO. This is also not an issue, as the cases will not strike the actual lens, which is deeply recessed, nor can they ricochet back into the ejection port.
The first time I used the D-EVO, it was mounted on a 16-inch 5.56 carbine using Nosler 77-grain .223 Rem. loads. I was able to accurately engage targets from 50 yards to 630 yards using the reticle holdovers. The targets were a mixture of 8-inch steel plates and 14-inch by 14-inch steel squares. I simply found the target with my red dot sight and glanced down at the D-EVO ocular lens, matched the reticle number with the correct distance and squeezed the trigger. Each time I was rewarded with a visible splash on the steel and an audible ting.
Hitting moving targets is also a snap. Locate your target and start tracking it with your red dot sight. When you're ready to make the shot, glance down at the D-EVO and start delivering precise rounds on target. It's just too easy.
At close range, up to 100 meters, simply use your red dot sight. When engaging targets beyond 100 meters, locate your target with your red dot sight, glance downward for an instant 6X zoom, utilize the CMR-W reticle for the correct hold, flip the safety to fire and watch your bullet impact your aiming point. The beauty of the D-EVO is that this all happens instantaneously; there are no levers to pull or rings to twist, and you never take your head off the rifle.
If you're a back-up iron sight kind of guy on an AR, you don't need them with the D-EVO — it is your back-up sight. Your red dot sight and D-EVO are independent of one another, and each has its own zero. If your red dot dies, no problem, you still have your D-EVO and vice versa. Sight-in your red dot at 50/200 meters and your D-EVO at 200 meters, and your holdovers will be the same.
It took me a number of shots to get used to looking downward at an approximately 45-degree angle instead of straight ahead as you would through a traditional scope. Once I got the hang of it, however, it became intuitive. The key is to move your eye, not your head.
I've found that the D-EVO shines on a flattop 5.56 carbine. Combined with a red dot sight, such as Leupold's LCO, it makes the perfect do-it-all carbine for everything from close quarter shooting to pinging steel at the maximum effective range of your platform.
If it sounds as though I've fallen for the D-EVO, it's because I have. The only drawback is its price — at $1,499 it is not inexpensive. If I could afford to put a D-EVO on every red dot-equipped rifle I have, I would. I'd sell all my 3X magnifiers to fund it, as the D-EVO makes them obsolete.