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 scopes 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 best rated lpvos:
LPVO Options - Best 1-8x Scopes
LPVO Options - Best 1-6x Scopes
LPVO Options - Best 1-4x Scopes
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
- LPVO Options - Best 1-8x Scopes
- LPVO Options - Best 1-6x Scopes
- LPVO Options - Best 1-4x Scopes
- 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.
LPVO Options - Best 1-8x Scopes
1 TRIJICON ACCUPOWER 1-8x28
There is no doubt that Trijicon is one of the top manufacturers of optics available. The MRO and RMR are some of the most popular red dots available due to the quality and durability for both duty and civilian use. The AccuPower 1-8 FFP scope is no exception from Trijicon’s red dots. This versatile scope is one of the best options for competition shooting, home protection or hunters. Using a Minute of Angle (MOA) or Milliradian (MRAD) reticle allows for a very accurate scope in conjunction with the 1-8 power magnification range in the first focal plane.
The AccuPower 1-8x28 offers red and green reticle options that will also allow you to use the scope much like a red dot at 1 power for close target acquisition. The MOA or MRAD reticle can be used for multiple calibers, bullet weights and barrel lengths making it a great hunting scope option. The optic uses the common CR2032 battery for the 11 illumination settings and gives a constant run time of 31 hours. While that may be a con for most, LPVOs are not meant to be left on. A great feature on all LPVOs is if the illumination fails, the reticle is etched into the glass and will not disappear. Finally, the 28mm objective lens and 34mm tube give this optic one of the best for light transference for great clarity and brightness.
2 BURRIS XTR 1-8x34
Burris is one manufacture that seems flies under the radar even though they produce some great quality scopes. The XTR is a great option that provides features that are competitive with comparable offerings. Unlike the Trijicon AccuPower 1-8, the Burris offers two different types of reticles. One is the ballistic dot reticle and the other is the ballistic circle dot reticle. Both are BDC reticles that allow for quick aiming for targets at distance. The ballistic circle dot reticle has an illuminated ring around the .1 MRAD aiming point that acts much like a red dot on 1x power. However, the BDC is designed for the M855 5.56mm ammunition from a 16” barrel.
The Burris XTR 1-8 scope does have a 24mm objective lens that allows for decent light transference for clarity and brightness. The Japanese HD glass is an added bonus for brightness and clarity. The eye relief for lower magnifications is very forgiving and has a good margin of error between 6x to 8x powers. Pulling all of these features together with a first focal plane offering delivers a high-quality optic that competes with extremely popular offerings for under $1000.
3 Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8x24 SFP Riflescopes
Vortex has become one of the most liked brands for not only quality but decently priced optics. The Strike Eagle 1-8x24 SFP scope is one optic that has become very popular in the competition shooting crowd. The biggest appeal to this optic is the price. Most will be able to find these optics for less than $400. Offering a scope at that price point with the comparable features of higher priced options make this optic worth mentioning. A fully multi-coated lens also gives the Strike Eagle great glass clarity and decent edge-to-edge image quality at 8x power.
One of the great features that Vortex offers in the 1-8x option is the ability to get Vortex’s newer BDC2 reticle. This MOA bullet drop compensated reticle give a crisp aiming point from 20 to 200 yards with graduations from 300 to 600 yards. The reticle is also able to capture the shooter’s eye with a sight ring enabling for quicker target acquisition. Finally, the scope is nitrogen purged and sealed to prevent fogging and is shock proof. This is definitely a great option for an AR-15, hunting scope, new shooter or someone interested in getting into competition 3-gun shooting.
4 Primary Arms Silver Series 1-8x24 SFP Rifle Scope
Much like Vortex, Primary Arms (PA) has become one of the most popular brands for optics because of their quality and affordability. The LPVOs that Primary Arms has offered over the years has challenged high-end manufacturers to continue to innovate to stay ahead of them. One of the greatest aspects of the Primary Arms’ variable optics is the Advanced Combined Sighting System (ACSS). The ACSS combines multiple concepts into one, easy to use, system. It is also very flexible in accommodating several different calibers, to include 5.56mm NATO, 5.45x39mm, and .308 WIN, without changing optics.
The ACSS allows the shooter to compensate for bullet drop up to 800 yards, adjust for wind holds, leads on moving targets, and the ability to range estimate by using the vertical and horizontal ranging reticles. In addition to having the ACSS reticle, the PA Silver Series 1-8x has a number of different features. This optic is multi-coated lenses and nitrogen purged that prevents fogging and is IP67 waterproof. Another great aspect of Primary Arms is its lifetime warranty for defects due to materials, workmanship or normal wear and tear. Having all these features in a tactical scope for under $400 makes this one of the best options available.
LPVO Options - Best 1-6x Scopes
5 Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x24 SFP Riflescope
The Vortex Razor 1-6x24 is one of the most sought-after LPVOs due to the extremely high quality. Comparable options almost always cost a lot more. The first aspect to its quality is the glass clarity. The Razor “HD” truly does provide a high-definition image. Even at 1x power, some believe the optic intensifies what you can see over the naked eye. Those same people will argue that the glass clarity at 6x power is better than the 8x power competitors. The Razor has the best edge-to-edge clarity of all variable optics. It also has an incredible field of view even though it has a 24mm objective lens.
The Vortex Razor is extremely robust in that it has been used in the Special Operations community as well as Law Enforcement. This means that it is battle tested and is capable of handling a lot of abuse. The optic has an illuminated reticle that is one of the brightest on the market. With the high level of illumination and intensity, shooting on very sunny days will not be an issue. Another great feature for the illumination knob is that it has an off setting in between each brightness setting. Vortex also offers 3 different reticles to include the Jm-1 BDC, VMR-2 MOA and VMR-2 MRAD to match to your needs.
6 EOTECH Vudu 1-6x24mm Precision Rifle Scope
EOTech is one of the most popular optics manufacturers in the market today. They are considered the pioneer of the holographic red dot sights and their products has been battle proven over the last decade. To compete with the LPVO market, they have released the 1-6x24 Vudu. While this is fairly new to the market, it is a direct competitor to the Vortex Razor HD Gen II. The Vudu is comparable to the Vortex in every way; yet, costs less. With any scope the number one concern is going to be glass clarity. The Vudu has a very large field of view and an eye relief with a margin of error that would challenge Vortex’s offering.
The EOTech Vudo has 3 different reticle offerings that all have their patented 68 MOA target ring that is found on their holographic sights. The SR1 reticle provides a MOA notched crosshair for windage and elevation adjustments for any caliber. EOTech’s SR2 reticle has an integrated BDC set for 7.62 bullet drop compensation. And the SR3 reticle is a BDC calibrated for 5.56mm NATO. Finally, this optic weighs far less than the Razor. The Vudu weighs in at 19.75 ounces while the Razor comes in at 25.2 ounces.
7 Primary Arms Silver Series 1-6x24 FFP Rifle Scope
Primary Arms is again on this list due to how well they are built for an affordable price. This first focal plane optic utilizes the ACSS Raptor reticle. The Raptor is a bit of an abbreviated offering with fewer options than the standard ACSS reticle. However, a major advantage between the Raptor and standard ACSS reticles is going to be the Raptor’s ability to use the BDC at any magnification. Should you need to compensate for bullet drop while on 4x power, you’re able to when the SFP ACSS reticles will have to be on the maximum magnification.
The reticle is laser etched that will allow you to use it without illumination. The Raptor does have 11 brightness settings and Primary Arms is one of the brightest budget LPVOs in the market today. Another great feature is the windage and elevation adjustment knobs are adjustable to 1/4 MOA. This is a more precise adjustment for zero than other, higher priced options. The Raptor will also accommodate the same 3 calibers as the PA 1-8x ACSS reticle giving it the same flexibility as its bigger brother. Coming in at almost a third of the price of the EOTech Vudo and Vortex Razor, the PA 1-6x24 ACSS Raptor is an awesome competitor.
LPVO Options - Best 1-4x Scopes
8 Trijicon RS24 AccuPower 1-4x24 Riflescope
Once again, Trijicon finds itself on this list with a great optic for under $1000. This LPVO features a reticle that none the other optics on this list can offer; a fiber optic and tritium illuminated reticle. Trijicon is known for these types of illumination systems and have become most popular in the ACOG. Since the military has been so satisfied with the ACOG, it was only natural for Trijicon to offer a variable power optic offering to its fixed power cousin.
The TR24 has 3 different reticle styles to choose from that includes the BAC Triangle Post, the German #4 Crosshair, and the Standard Duplex Crosshair. The BAC Triangle Post is going to be the most common and popular as it is very similar to the ACOG’s reticle. Unfortunately, the TR24 does have one major gap in that it does not have a bullet drop compensated reticle. Extreme long-distance shooting between 500-600 yards could be challenging without any ranging points on the reticle.
However, the AccuPoint will not need any batteries to operate which is why it has made the list. Having an illuminated tactical LPVO without batteries gives this optic a step ahead the others if someone is considering an option for a “bug in/out” weapon. Finally, one of the greatest features that the TR24 leads the pack on is its weight. Coming in at 14.4 ounces, it is the lightest LPVO on this list.
9 Burris MTAC 1-4 x 24 Illuminated Scope
Burris is a manufacturer that has a wide variety of optics ranging from high-end, feature laden models to quality budget offerings. The MTAC 1-4x24 optic is one of the budget options that tries to bridge the gap between a high-value yet an inexpensive scope. Weighing 17 ounces, the MTAC is one of the lighter options. With a good mount, the Burris MTAC functions exceptionally well in box and return to zero tests.
The MTAC has a simple but intuitive BDC reticle with good glass clarity. It will have minimal darkening on the edges as magnification is increased. Overall, the Burris is a decent option for those who are interested in LPVOs but may not have the money to buy a high-end optic.
10 Bushnell 1-4x24 AR Optics FFP Illuminated BTR-1
Bushnell has been widely known for a very long time as a quality scope manufacturer. The 1-4x24 AR Optics addition to Bushnell’s line up has been no exception. In addition to the AR Optics being a high-quality optic, it is also the most inexpensive option on this list for your AR-15. For those that are looking to start shooting 3-gun competitions, this will be the best budget option to allow you to be competitive.
The most glaring difference with this optic to any of the others on this list is the integrated throw lever on the magnification ring. In addition, Bushnell put some thought into the design of the throw lever by allowing you to fold it down for storage or to keep it from snagging while competing or in the field. The BTR-1 is a simple but easy to use BDC reticle that will allow you to range estimate on the horizontal crosshairs for 300 to 500 yards. In the end, the Bushnell AR Optics scope is possibly the highest value option on the list.
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 scope 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.