What is a LPVO? (Low Power Variable Optic)
LPVO’s are a perfect middle ground between your traditional scopes and your common red dots. As the name suggests a LPVO is a scope that provides low power magnification. These scopes allow you to use no magnification (1x) up to ten times magnification (10x). This is perfect for increasing your accuracy at range with your rifle.
LPVOs are commonly offered in 1-4x, 1-6x, 1-8x, or even 1-10x. Meaning that you can use these optics to quickly engage close targets as well as targets out to 800 yards with ease.
Why Would you Need One?
Most LPVOs have illuminated reticles allowing you to use the scope as a red dot at 1x magnification, especially if it is a FFP (First Focal Plane). Low Power Variable Optics are extremely popular for shooting competitions, such as 3-gun, because they allow for fast target acquisition for targets near by; at the same time allowing you to make accurate shot at range.
- magnification variation
- Can use while dead due to an etched reticle
- Inclusion of bullet drop compensation reticles
- Improved accuracy past for medium range
- Larger then a regular red dot
- Often cost more then a red dot
- Due to eye box restrictions mounting is limited
- Battery life is less then that of a red dot
FFP (First Focal Plane) vs. SFP (Second Focal Plane)
LPVOs are offered in both FFP and SFP, but what does that mean? First Focal Plane scopes have a reticle that will increase or decrease in size depending on the magnification level. Second Focal Plane scopes, as you may have guessed by now, have a reticle that will remain static no matter the magnification level. Why would you pick one but not the other?
A huge advantage of FFP scopes is their ability to use what is called a BDC reticle (Bullet Drop Compensation) no matter what level of magnification. As mentioned earlier FFP scopes can be used as a red dot at the lowest magnification level, thanks to the fact that the reticle shrinks at lower powers. With these awesome features there has to be some downside right? Of course, FFP optics are often more susceptible to parallax issues increasingly so in those with higher magnification levels (6-10x).
If you have poor vision a second focal plane LPVO might be a better choice for you. Due to the reticle remaining the same size no matter the power level your eye will be able to pick up the reticle faster. Due to the differences in construction SFP optics often are brighter at higher magnifications. SFP scopes also utilize BDC reticles however you can only use the bullet drop features at max magnification.
Long Range with Ease.
An amazing feature on most of these optics is the bullet drop compensation (BDC) reticles in them. BDC reticles in these LPVOs are designed to compensate for bullet drop for specific cartridges and distances. This allows you to quickly adjust your hold-over for more accurate long range shots.
Seems these reticles have calculated hold-over points for specific ranges you may be wondering how to use this if you don’t know the range. The reticle designers thought that out as well. Most BDC reticles will also incorporate range finding technology. Below one of my favorite examples of a BDC reticle, the Primary Arms ACSS reticle.
As you can see all you have to do to range a 18” wide target is line up the horizontal lines on the reticle. If the target is wider than a given line then it is closer to you, vise versa.
This reticle also allows for vertical ranging and 5-10 mph windage holds.
Best You can Buy.
The following list include my top picks of LPVOs that you will love. These optics, just as most others, can get pretty expensive so I was sure to include some economical options as well.
Disclaimer: I may be able to buy a cup of coffee if you purchase something from the following links.
Best 1-8x LVPOs
1 TRIJICON ACCUPOWER 1-8X28MM
You have without a doubt heard of Trijicon and for good reason. Trijicon is one of the best optic manufactures out there, holding multiple military contracts. With the outstanding quality of the MRO and RMR Trijicon has made quite a name for themselves in the civilian sector. The AccuPower 1-8 is no different. Utilizing a Minute of Angle (MOA) or Milliradian (MRAD) FFP reticle makes for an extremely accurate optic while pairing with the 1-8x magnification.
The AccuPower allows you to chose either a green or red reticle which allows you to use the 1x power much like a red dot for fast close target acquisition. This scope uses the CR2032 battery for the 11 power levels and allows for a constant power time of 31 hours. You may think that is not long enough, however most LPVOs are meant to be turned off when not in use. If the battery fails what then? The AccuPower’s reticle is etched in the glass allowing you to use the scope with no battery.
2 Primary Arms Compact PLx-1-8X24mm FFP
The PLx8 1-8x24mm first focal plane rifle scope is Primary Arms‘ top-tier rifle optic, optimized for close quarters and medium-range use. With extremely clear Japanese glass, and quality materials, the PLx8 is extremely durable, and has outstanding optical clarity. Specifically built for tactical shooting, competition, or hunting, the PLx8 FFP rifle scope will be your new first pick optic.
This 1-8x24mm optic is utilizes the FFP ACSS Griffin MOA reticle. This reticle features an eye grabbing horseshoe that functions just like a red dot at 1x, allowing for very fast close quarter target acquisition. The ranging system gives hold-overs for targets out to 600 yards.
3 Vortex Optics STRIKE EAGLE 1-8X24MM
Thanks to reasonable prices and amazing quality Vortex is a very well liked optics brand. The Strike Eagle SFP has become a top pick in the competitive shooting realm. One main reason for this is the affordable price. The Strike Eagle has comparable features of those double the price. With amazing clarity thanks to its multi-coated lens it is hard to beat for sub $400.
This optic sports the well-known BDC2 reticle. It is a MOA bullet drop compensator that provides a clear aiming point for 20-200 yards. Engaging further than 200 yards? The BDC2 has you covered including corresponding horizontal lines for 300 to 600 yards. The reticle can also catch your eye with its segmented horseshoe for fast target acquisition.
Best 1-6x LVPOs
1 EOTech VUDU 1-6X24MM
The EOTech Vudu 1-6×24 is a feature loaded optic engineered to exceed the expectations of the 3-Gun shooter or hunter. Starting with a 30mm aluminum tube it is very durable, the Vudu also includes EOTech’s AR-coated glass for outstanding clarity.
The EOTech “Speed Ring” reticle allows fast target engagement at 1x, but higher magnification provides the accuracy needed to take longer shots. This is a FFP reticle allowing for split-second ranging at all magnification levels. Great for close quarters to medium-range, the Vudu 1-6×24 gets the job done.
2 Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6×24
The Vortex Razor HD scope with JM-1 BDC reticle is versatile for engaging short to medium range targets, truly an amazing optic for the AR-15. Some would consider this optic to be the benchmark for all other LPVO out there. Of course it has outstanding glass providing edge-to-edge stunning image quality Vortex is known for. The JM-1 BDC provides hash marks that allow you to hold-over for bullet drop at different ranges with .223/5.56 or .308/7.62. This optic was a collaboration between Vortex and the world renowned Jerry Miculek, what else needs to be said. The JM-1 BDC provides hash marks that allow you to hold-over for bullet drop at different ranges with .223/5.56 or .308/7.62.
3 Primary Arms SLx 1-6x24mm SFP
The Primary Arms 1-6×24 SFP scope includes their exclusive Advanced Combined Sighting System (ACSS) reticle. Features including bullet drop compensation, wind and moving target holds, and ranging ability make this my absolute favorite BDC reticle. The reticle is extremely easy to use which makes it very fast and accurate to shoot from 0-800 yards. The SFP design retains the same size reticle at all magnifications for fast acquisition at 1x and extreme accuracy at 6x.
Here is a more in depth diagram that shows the ACSS Reticle features.
As I stated earlier this simplistic reticle allows you to quickly range and hold-over no matter the distance you are shooting.
Best 1-4x LPVO
1 Trijicon Accupower 1-4x24mm
Yet again, Trijicon is back on this list but with a great option that is sub $1000. The Trijicon AccuPower 1-4×24 covers all your shooting interests. When used at maximum magnification the reticle can be used as a BDC reticle. When used with a ballistic calculator you can know exactly where you need to hold for any given distance. However, you can also simply use the MOA pattern to size and range your target.
Some Helpful Tips
- Know the distance you typically shoot – If you only shoot up to 300 yards a 1-4x may be all you need.
- Research the reticle – If you want to make very precise shots some reticles may not be for you.
- Try them out – These are a very popular style of optic chances are someone at your local range will own one of these and be happy to let you try them out.
- Pay attention to the little things – The quality of the smallest detail of a optic will show you the real quality of the whole optic.
What You Have Learned
Low Power Variable Optics are some of the most flexible optics on the market. From providing fast target acquisition to allowing you to be very accurate at further distances LPVOs seems to be a do-it-all optic. While there are plenty more LPVOs out on the market that didn’t make this list, I do believe these are some of the best your money can buy.