Low Power Variable Optics, or LPVOs, have become the most versatile optic available on the market today. With the immense popularity of the AR-15, and similar rifles, a need was presented to have an optic that could do the job of a red dot and a traditional scope at the same time. By having a scope that will enable someone to engage close targets but also quickly increase magnification to stretch the rifle’s legs provides flexibility to the shooter to become more accurate.
But how? This article will look at the benefits to LPVOs, limitations, and considerations before buying. A list of the 10 best low power variable optic for the money and will outline key features as a possible buyer’s guide.
If you’re in a hurry and don't have time for the details, here are our best picks for Low Power Variable Optic:
- 1Vortex Optics 1-6x24 Strike Eagle - Best LPVO 1-6x
- 2Trijicon 1-8x24 VCOG Riflescope - Best 1-8x LPVO
- 3SWAROVSKI Z6i 1-6x24 2nd Generation Riflescope - Best High End LPVO
- 4EOTech Vudu 1-6x24 Riflescope - Best LPVO for 3 Gun
- 5Monstrum 1-4x24 Alpha Series - Best Budget LPVO
- 6Bushnell Drop Zone 1-4x24 Riflescope - Best LPVO for AR-15
- 7Steiner Optics T-Series Tactical 1-5x24 Rifle Scope - Best Under $2000
- 8Leupold VX-6HD 1-6x42 Rifle Scope - Best LPVO under $1500
- 9Sig Sauer Sierra3BDX 2.5-8x32 Scope - Best LPVO under $1000
- 10Burris MTAC 1-4x24 Illuminated Scope
Table of Contents
- What is a Low Power Variable Optic (LPVO)?
- 600 Yards is Easy?
- LPVOs Won’t Do What?
- Second Isn’t Always the First Loser…
- Best Low Power Variable Optic on the Market Review
- 1 Vortex Optics 1-6x24 Strike Eagle - Best 1-6x LPVO
- 2 Trijicon 1-8x24 VCOG Riflescope - Best 1-8x LPVO
- 3 SWAROVSKI Z6i 1-6x24 2nd Generation - Best High End LPVO
- 4 EOTech Vudu 1-6x24 Riflescope - Best LPVO for 3 Gun
- 5 Monstrum 1-4x24 Alpha Series - Best Budget LPVO
- 6 Bushnell Drop Zone 1-4x24 Riflescope - Best LPVO for AR-15
- 7 Steiner Optics T-Series Tactical 1-5x24 - Best Under $2000
- 8 Leupold VX-6HD 1-6x42 Rifle Scope - Best under $1500
- 9 Sig Sauer Sierra3BDX 2.5-8x32 Scope - Best under $1000
- 10 Burris MTAC 1-4x24 Illuminated Scope
- Wrapping It Up...
What is a Low Power Variable Optic (LPVO)?
As mentioned, a LPVO is a scope that bridges the gap between red dots and traditional rifle scopes. These tactical scopes accomplish this by utilizing a magnification range from no magnification up to ten times (10x) magnification in extreme cases. Most of the LPVOs are usually in the 1-4 power range that is extremely beneficial in increasing the accuracy and range of a rifle. However, as technology advances, more options are becoming readily available like 1-6x, 1-8x, and even 1-10x.
The majority of LPVOs will have an illuminated reticle. Depending on the design of that reticle, the scope could be employed like a red dot at 1x especially if it is a first focal plane scope. These types of scopes have become very popular in shooting competitions, like 3-gun, because it enables fast target acquisition on targets less than 50 yards away; yet, also allow for accurate shots at distance. Very seldomly will you see an optic other than a LPVO in these types of competitions.
600 Yards is Easy?
Another great advantage that these optics provide the shooter is a bullet drop compensator (BDC). BDC style reticles in most LPVOs have been designed to compensate for bullet drop at specific distances. This allows you to adjust the point of aim on the fly to enable more accurate shots at extreme distances. Utilizing a BDC means that shooting a man-sized target accurately at 600 yards is not out of the realm of possibilities. If fact, you have a better chance of being more accurate at long range in comparison to red dots, red dots with a magnifier, or some fixed power optics. Those options usually will have a maximum magnification of only 3x or 4x power where LPVOs can outperform with 6x or 8x power options available.
But, you may ask how can you be accurate at long distances if you cannot determine the range to the target? An added feature to a lot of BDC reticles is integrated range finding technology. It can be as simple as the horizontal line on a specific range crosshair being a pre-determined length to equate to 18” at that range. Or, it can be more intricate to provide multiple options to help determine distance.
A great example to this is the Primary Arms ACSS reticle that has multiple range finding options as well as windage hold overs and target lead points integrated into the reticle. At first glance, you may think it is very cumbersome to understand; however, after reading the owner’s manual or viewing a tutorial on YouTube it can become very intuitive.
LPVOs Won’t Do What?
A misconception about any gear you purchase for your rifle is that it will automatically make you a better shooter. That is just not the case with LPVOs or any other type of gear. With anything, Low Power Variable Optics will require you to get a good zero, learn how to effectively employ the optic, and time to become comfortable with them.
Depending on the type of reticle that the LPVO is equipped with may determine how much time you will need to familiarize yourself with it. Optics equipped with BDC reticles may take more time to calibrate while single point reticles may need practice to deduce how rounds will impact the target at various distances.
LPVOs can be very differently if someone is accustomed to red dots. One aspect that LPVOs differ from red dots is the amount of real estate is required on the upper receiver. A Low Power Variable Optic will require 2-3 times the amount of space. In addition, red dots allow for co-witnessing iron sights that allow for a redundancy should the optic fail.
While most LPOVs can be mounted to allow foldable back-up sights, co-witnessing may be difficult or not feasible due to their size. A mitigating factor in combatting this issue would be to use optic mounts with quick disconnect (QD) levers. QD mounts enable the user to remove the optic should it become inoperable or damaged if iron sights need to be used.
Second Isn’t Always the First Loser…
One of the major aspects to be considered when purchasing a LPVO is whether to buy a first or second focal plane scope. For the layman, first focal plane (FFP) scopes have a reticle that will increase or decrease in size as the magnification is increased or decreased. Conversely, second focal plane (SFP) scopes have a reticle that will be static regardless the magnification. But, what are the advantages and limitations of each?
The major advantages with FFP optics are the ability to use the illuminated BDC reticle at any magnification. Most FFP reticles can also be used much like a red dot at 1x magnification. However, these advantages may not be useful to everyone. Should the illumination not be bright enough on a very sunny day then finding a small dark aiming point may be challenging. In addition, FFP scopes may be more susceptible to parallax issues especially with LPVOs that have higher magnification ranges such as 6x, 8x, or 10x power options.
For those with vision issues, second focal plane LPVOs may be the best value. Having a reticle that remains the same size, no matter the magnification, will allow your eye to reference the reticle faster as you acquire your target. However, a large static reticle will negate your ability to use bullet drop compensation unless at maximum magnification. SFP optics also have seem to be brighter at higher magnifications due to the differences between the design of first and second focal plane optics.
Best Low Power Variable Optic on the Market Review
The following LPVO options may not be all-inclusive but will have the best features for your budget. It will provide you with various magnification ranges in price points that reflect its features. While your favorite optic may not be on this list, a viable competitor will be and may give you pause to how yours stacks up. If you have never purchased a LPVO then this list will hopefully provide you with great insight to what is available or a starting point to explore what is on the market.
1 Vortex Optics 1-6x24 Strike Eagle - Best 1-6x LPVO
While the Vortex Strike Eagle has a price tag under $400, it is anything but a “budget” scope. Providing some serious value for the money, this optic performs like a much more expensive model.
The Strike Eagle has top-notch image quality, featuring fully multi-coated lenses and extra low dispersion (ED) glass. These features provide razor-sharp, high contrast images, even when shooting light starts to fade.
This is an illuminated LPVO with a glass-etched SFP (second focal plane) reticle. The reticle features BDC marks calibrated for standard .223/5.56 ball ammo. If you want an LPVO for AR-15, this is a great tool for the job.
Highly durable, the Strike Eagle is o-ring sealed and nitrogen purged. The housing is also crafted from a solid block of aircraft grade aluminum for extra strength.
2 Trijicon 1-8x24 VCOG Riflescope - Best 1-8x LPVO
Trijicon is famous for their combat-proven ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight). If you’re looking for a battle-ready LPVO, the tactical VCOG (Variable Combat Optical Gunsight) is a dream come true.
This optic is as tough as they come. It is made from forged aircraft-grade 7075-T6 aluminum and is virtually indestructible.
While the VCOG isn’t designed for sniper-level feats of accuracy, it is a respectable CQB to mid range LPVO. A great topper for your DMR (designated marksman rifle), the VCOG has a highly visible LED reticle available with either MRAD or MOA BDC and windage markings.
3 SWAROVSKI Z6i 1-6x24 2nd Generation - Best High End LPVO
Swarovski riflescopes are arguably some of the best optics on the planet. They reliably deliver bright, razor-sharp image clarity that remains consistent through the optic’s entire magnification range.
Although this scope is packed with high-end features, our favorite feature is the internal tilt sensor. The scope actually senses when it moves into a shooting position and automatically turns on to illuminate the reticle. The Z6i also features a smart auto shut-off function that differentiates between nighttime and daylight shooting conditions. Both features ensure your reticle is ready and optimized for visibility whenever you’re ready to shoot.
4 EOTech Vudu 1-6x24 Riflescope - Best LPVO for 3 Gun
EOTech designed their Vudu riflescope specifically for 3 Gun shooting. However, this awesome scope also works well as a combat LPVO. It is also a great option for law enforcement applications.
The Vudu features EOTech’s exclusive Speed Ring reticle. When dialed down to 1x, the Speed Ring works wonderfully for fast acquisition of close range targets. Dial it up to 6x, and the reticle provides pinpoint accuracy on targets at longer ranges. .
With crystal clear XC high-density glass, the Vudu is optimized for light transmission, providing a bright, clear sight picture, even in low light. This first focal plane LPVO also has an illuminated reticle, which makes low light shooting easier than ever.
5 Monstrum 1-4x24 Alpha Series - Best Budget LPVO
Monstrum is constantly surprising us with their ability to produce top quality optics that won’t break the bank. We love the Alpha Series LPVO 1-4x, don’t be fooled by this scope’s budget price tag. It performs well above its paygrade.
For shooters on a tight budget, the Monstrum is a guilt-free purchase that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve pinched too many pennies. The scope has impressive glass, fully multi-coated lenses, and beautiful, crystal clear image quality. It also has butter-smooth turrets that provide precise holdover and windage adjustments. Add in the etched-glass first focal plane reticle, and Alpha series makes you feel like you’ve won the lottery.
6 Bushnell Drop Zone 1-4x24 Riflescope - Best LPVO for AR-15
Bushnell specializes in outdoor optics, so you know their Drop Zone riflescope is built for tough tactical and hunting conditions. This version of the Drop Zone features Bushnell’s .223 reticle. Calibrated specifically for .223 ball ammo, this scope pairs nicely with your AR-15 or AR pistol.
All air-to-glass surfaces on the Drop Zone are covered in multiple layers of anti-reflective coating. This provides bright, high-contrast images across the whole magnification range.
The Drop Zone also features target-style exposed turrets that allow you to quickly and easily adjust for windage and elevation. It also has a side parallax adjustment dial that allows for fast focusing from 10 yards to infinity.
7 Steiner Optics T-Series Tactical 1-5x24 - Best Under $2000
There is so much to love about the Steiner T-Series it’s hard to include it all here. Steiner optical systems are some of the finest in the world. The company grinds and polishes all its own lenses and applies multiple layers of their exclusive coatings to provide unmatched image clarity, contrast, and detail.
This scope features a throw lever for quick magnification changes, a second rotation indicator to help you keep up with your adjustments, and a lifetime warranty that is out of this world.
What do we love most? While it’s hard to pick just one thing, we have to mention Steiner’s Special Competition Reticle (SCR). This illuminated, glass-etched FFP reticle is finely detailed and provides 2/10-mil windage, 1/2-mil holdover lines, and 1/10-mil ranging brackets. Markings are calibrated for 7.62 NATO, making this scope a perfect partner for M1A rifles.
8 Leupold VX-6HD 1-6x42 Rifle Scope - Best under $1500
This tough LPVO from industry leader Leupold is completely fogproof and waterproof. Leupold puts their riflescopes through strenuous impact testing, so you know the VX-6HD can handle rough use and harsh conditions in the field. .
Not only is this a durable scope, the VX-6HD has beautiful image clarity and brightness. Featuring Leupold’s exclusive Twilight Management System, the optics on this scope deliver bright image quality, even in the lowest light conditions. The company claims their proprietary coatings and construction will add an extra 15 minutes of shooting visibility at dawn and dusk.
9 Sig Sauer Sierra3BDX 2.5-8x32 Scope - Best under $1000
This ultra lightweight LPVO comes in configurations for rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, and even crossbows.
The Sierra3BDX has impeccable low light image clarity, a quality second focal plane reticle, and Motion Activated Illumination (MOTAC).
The most notable feature of the Sierra3BDX is its integrated BDX (Ballistic Data Xchange) technology. This feature allows you to synchronize your rangefinder and riflescope via Bluetooth. Once synced, the system uses ballistics and environmental conditions to provide an illuminated holdover dot for easy and accurate aiming.
10 Burris MTAC 1-4x24 Illuminated Scope
The Burris MTAC is designed to meet the needs of competitive shooters (especially 3 Gun) and hunters of dangerous game. Made with a solid outer tube, the MTAC is built for durability and is strong enough to withstand the shock and vibration of even the heaviest calibers.
The MTAC features finger-adjustable MRAD target knobs, an ergonomic power ring for quick power setting changes, and high grade, fully multi-coated glass for superb light transmission.
Wrapping It Up...
Low Power Variable Optics are one of the most versatile options on the market to provide not only quick target acquisition but also provide magnification for accurate long-range shoots. While this list is fair from being all inclusive of all the options available, it does highlight the best scopes with the best features.
The main goal for this list is to provide the best low power variable optic options as a starting point for you to do your own research. But, these scopes are useless unless you train with your rifle to be ready for any application.