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Glassing with your Leupold binoculars, you spot a trophy buck moving out of the wood line and into a cut-over soybean field. Your Leupold rangefinder puts him at 327 yards as he noses along the ground, presenting a perfect broadside.

But here’s the problem. As a conscientious hunter, you consulted a ballistics table for your specific hunting round and found out the bullet drop at various distances beforehand. You wrote down the information on a piece of notebook paper and taped it  to the stock of your rifle. The paper, though, heavy dew on the underbrush got the paper all wet, and now you discover the numbers are smudged beyond recognition.

Or you memorized the bullet drop data–but that buck’s twelve points and his very wide rack have you rattled and excited. At this very moment, you just can’t recall: is it a 2.7 or a 3.5 MOA holdover at this distance?

At which point, that trophy buck strolls back into the woods never to be seen again. 

Here’s a better hunting story. You ranged the buck at 327 yards and immediately clicked the Custom Dial System (CDS) on your Leupold scope to the correct holdover, lined up your reticle dead center on the buck’s vitals, let out your breath and squeezed the trigger.

Trophy down!

So many factors can and will affect the path of a bullet, especially as the distances increase. In our busy lives, few of us have the time to fully delve into firearm ballistics for each and every load used afield. Yet, the ethical hunter needs to make the best shot possible at all times and under all conditions. 

Fully understanding your ballistics can be intimidating. That’s why the Leupold Custom Dial System® (CDS) builds your ammunition’s ballistics right into the elevation dial of your Leupold CDS-compatible rifle scope.

With CDS, all you do is range your target, turn the dial to that number, and aim dead on. No more holdovers or bullet drop reticles, no more or ballistic calculators. Just quick, accurate shots every time.

Every Leupold CDS model scope is eligible for one free Custom Dial, and currently there are over 50 models in the CDS line up. CDS Series scopes include the longer-range VX®-6HD 4-24x52mm, the workhorse VX®-5HD 3-15x44mm, and the new for 2022 VX®-3HD 4.5-14x40mm, which delivers impressive performance and elite optical clarity in an incredibly tough, lightweight and affordable package.

No More Guessing:  The Leupold Custom Dial System Puts the Hunter Right on Target!

Now, every CDS model scope does come with a standard MOA or MIL dial right out of the box. But how to get your own Custom Dial? 

Once you purchase your Leupold scope and mount it on your rifle, you zero your rifle and scope with the specific ammunition you will be using for your hunting. Zero distances can range from 50 to 200 yards, while 100 yards is the norm.

Then, access the Leupold CDS order form at www.leupold.com/custom-dial-system.  The form will require you to enter the scope’s serial number. Then, enter the ballistic information of your specific ammunition, usually found on your ammo box or the manufacturer’s website. This ballistic data includes:

  • Cartridge and Caliber
  • Bullet Weight
  • Bullet Make/Brand
  • Bullet Type
  • Ballistic Coefficient
  • Bullet velocity at the muzzle 
  • Sight height

Another option for determining bullet velocity: chronograph your hunting ammunition to determine the feet per second (fps) velocity of the rounds. Usually, a ten round fps average is sufficient. 

Now, your ammunition’s velocity number on the manufacturer’s box or website will be based upon a rifle with a specific length barrel, which may differ from your actual barrel length. A longer barrel usually increases a bullet’s velocity at the muzzle, while a shorter barrel tends to drive the fps in the other direction.  

You will also need to enter these two environmental conditions where you’ll be shooting most regularly: Average Elevation and Average Temperature. Both can affect the path of your bullet.

Add the data into your online CDS order form, and Leupold will do the rest. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.

Leupold will laser-etch a new elevation dial to match the data you provided and mail the CDS to you. Swap out the standard MOA or MIL dial on your scope with the new CDS version, and your scope is now perfectly tuned to the ballistics of your ammunition and rifle.

Of course, you can order additional CDS dials for different loads, at an additional cost of $80.00 per extra dial. Dials can be swapped quickly by simply loosening set screws.

Need more information? Leupold has a wealth of instructions and videos about the CDS and their optics at www.leupold.com.

So, when your buck of a lifetime steps out at 180 or 270 or 327 yards, you spin the CDS to correct MOA or MIL holdover number, aim and fire. Yes, it really is that simple and the Leupold CDS makes it all possible.