The best LPVOs worth buying

Zoom in with the best LPVOs worth shelling out for.

Best Overall

Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X

Vortex Razor HD Gen 3

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Best Value

Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24mm FFP

Primary Arms SLX 1-6X FFP

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Editor’s Choice

Steiner T5Xi 1-5X

Steiner T5Xi 1-5x24

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What’s the deal with LPVOs? Why have they become the dominant optic in professional shooting circles, with firearm instructors, police, and elite military forces? I can tell you in one word: versatility.

LPVO stands for Low Powered Variable Optic, and they are a type of magnified optic that often starts at 1X and goes anywhere from 4X to 6X to 10X. At 1X, they can be almost as good as red dots sight; not quite as fast or as eye box-free, but pretty dang close. As the range increases or the target shrinks, you can zoom in and increase your ability and potential to hit the target. These optics work well at dang near any range your average intermediate cartridge rifle can reach. 

LPVOs currently rule as the dominant optic choice currently on the market. As such, we are bringing you the skinny on the best LPVOs based on various categories. Read on and find out which LPVO is right for you.

Best Overall

Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X

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Best Value

Primary Arms SLX 1-6x24mm FFP

See It

Editor’s Choice

Steiner T5Xi 1-5X

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Best 1-4X

Trijicon Accupoint

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SOCOM’s Choice

Nightforce ATACR 1-8X24

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Why you should trust us

Finding the right optic can be tricky, and I’ve spent a ton of money and a lot of time finding optics that work. I’ve also paid a lot of attention to the development of optics as well as how LPVOs work in a tactical and practical sense. These suggestions are mine, but they do represent industry standards for excellence. 

Types of LPVOs

First focal plane 

First or front focal plane scopes place the reticle in front of the scope’s erector. This creates the effect of the reticle growing and shrinking as magnification increases or decreases. Nothing actually grows or shrinks, and the magnification just makes it appear to occur. 

Modern LPVO reticles often feature markings for bullet drop and windage and tools like rangefinders. These markings are measurements typically in MOA or MILs. The benefit to an FFP scope is that these measurements remain the same regardless of the magnification range, allowing them to remain accurate at any magnification. 

With LPVOs in particular, the illuminated portions and reticles shrink at lower settings. This gives the illuminated portion a red dot-like small size, and since the main reticle shrinks, it’s not obstructing your vision for close-quarter shooting. 

Second focal plane 

Second focal plane scopes place the reticle behind the scope’s erector. This has the effect of the reticle remaining the same size throughout the magnification range. Since the magnification changes but the reticle does not, the measurements in MOA or MIL are often only accurate at one magnification level. This is often, but not always, the highest level of magnification. 

In the world of LPVOs, this can limit your capabilities with high-powered magnified optics. If it’s a 1-8X or 1-10X, you want an FFP reticle, and depending on the reticle design for a 1-6X, you might want FFP as well. If you use a 1-4X or even 1.5-5X, then an SFP will likely be perfectly capable. 

LPVOs with lower power and simple reticles can benefit from benign SFP optics. For example, the Trijicon Accupoint’s triangle reticle benefits from remaining the same size as magnification increases due to its large size. 

Key features of LPVOs

LPVO scopes are unlike other optics in various ways, which means the key features that make an LPVO great might not be handy on a traditional variable optic or a high-powered, long-range optic. As such, it’s important to recognize a few key features of LPVOs.

Eye box 

The eye box is the area behind the optic where you can see a full-sight picture through your scope. The more generous the eye box, the quicker you get behind your optic and on target. LPVOs with a generous eye box allow you to get behind the optic at a low magnification setting with minimal to no scope shadow and easily make close-quarters shots. 

The closest measurement we have for the eye box is exit pupil. The larger the exit pupil, the more space you should have. However, exit pupil doesn’t tell the full story. You’ll find optics with the same exit pupil, but one clearly has a better eye box. 

Reticle design 

LPVOs challenge optics companies to produce reticles that work at both close and moderate to long ranges. This often results in an interesting mix of options. 

The higher the magnification the optic provides, the more likely you’ll need a more complicated and intuitive reticle to account for bullet drop and windage. You’ll also need to know your round’s ballistics to make use of these reticle systems. The most complicated often appears to be a triangular design showing windage and drop measured in either MILs or MOA. 

Since LPVOs are trusted for long- and short-range shooting, you’ll want an illuminated reticle — preferably a reticle that is daylight bright and eye-catching. More budget-oriented LPVOs often fail to provide true daylight bright illumination, and if it’s for a combative role, it’s a feature worth investing in. 

A third reticle type is a BDC, or bullet drop compensating, reticle. These reticles are set to compensate for drop at particular ranges automatically. They can be convenient but are a bit picky. These are tuned to a specific loading of a particular caliber in a particular barrel length. Anything that differs may result in variation from the BDC. 

Good glass 

Anytime we talk about optics, we need to discuss glass. Glass makes a huge difference in overall clarity, which factors in color presentation and distortion. ED (extra-low dispersion) glass is one of the key features to look for in good glass. ED glass presents a sharper image and accurate color rendering. 

Lens coatings also help increase light transmission, reduce internal glare, and can even help protect the glass from abrasions. You’ll want fully multi-coated lenses to get the clearest picture. 

Where the glass comes from can also make a difference. Glass from Germany and Japan is often considered the best. Companies like Nightforce use Japanese glass, and famed companies like Zeiss use German glass. With more budget-friendly options, you’ll have to expect Chinese glass. 

Benefits of LPVOs

LPVOs provide several benefits to shooters, and they’ve become the dominant optical choice for a reason. There aren’t many optics that can provide both near and far capability, with an impressive amount of magnification, in the size of an LPVO.

Versatility 

LPVO scopes offer shooters unmatched versatility. They quickly adapt to any situation and allow the user to swap between close-quarters fighting to advanced long-range shots. They give you the best of both worlds with a little compromise in between, but still a very versatile package. 

Efficiency 

LPVOs deliver a lot of optic with less size, weight, and complexity than any red dot and magnifier combo. You get more magnification and a better reticle in a much more efficient package. 

Reticle choice 

Not only does the world of LPVOs offer a wide variety of reticles to choose from, but your reticle can also be completely different depending on your focal plane and magnification. With an FFP scope, your reticle could be a big red dot at 1X and then a massive pyramid of drop and windage points at 8X. 

Pricing consideration for LPVOs

LPVOs quickly became a dominant market item in the gun world. As such, they are now available at basically all price points. Let’s cover a few of the price points that appeal to most shooters. I do not include the ‘cheap’ optics, which I would consider no-gos on anything besides a .22 LR. 

Budget

Budget doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. The more affordable LPVO I’d use costs around $250 dollars, and I’d cut the budget grade off at about $500. On the low end of this price point, you can get a solid 1-4X SFP optic and at the higher end 1-6X FFP scopes.

Budget LPVOs make decent hunting or competitive optics but not a great option for duty or defensive use. They are unlikely to take tons of abuse, and you aren’t likely to get a true daylight bright reticle. 

Mid-range

Mid-range LPVOs cost between $500 and $1,2000 and are where we get into solid, FFP optics with daylight bright illumination. Don’t expect rock-solid 1-10X optics at this price point, but you can get some very, very nice duty-ready 1-6X optics. This is the beginning range for duty and defensive optics. They might be slightly dated in design but will still be competent optics. 

Premium

Premium optics above $1,500 are where we see the clearest glass, the most modern features, combined with daylight bright and awesome reticles. Premium optics will be extremely tough and easily capable of withstanding duty use. This is the Marine-proof class of optics. 

How we chose our top picks

There are so many great LPVOs that this list wasn’t easy to make. I tried to provide a ton of variety at various price points. I could have easily made this a list of $2,000-and-up LPVOs, but that wouldn’t appeal to a wide variety of shooters. I also used personal experience to guide my choices and the experience of friends and experts in the firearm world. First-hand experience guided most of these choices, and the opinions of trusted friends reinforced it. Additionally, I looked at the optics used by professionals in the field, including the U.S. Special Operations Command, hunters, police officers, and firearm instructors.

FAQs about LPVOs

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What is an LPV scope?

A: LPV is just another catch-all term for LPVOs. They just dropped the optics and replaced it with scope. 

Q: What LPVOs does the U.S. military use?

A: SOCOM uses the Nightforce ATACR 1-8X, the Army uses the SIG Sauer TANGO6, and the Marine Corps uses the Trijicon VCOG. 

Q: What magnification is considered LPVO?

A: Typically, 1.0X to 1.5X is where LPVOs begin, and they can go anywhere from there with 10X and even 12X models existing. 

Q: What’s the difference between LPVO and ACOG?

A: An ACOG is a fixed-power prism sight. LPVOs are variable sights. 

Q: Which is better, an FFP scope or an SFP scope?

A: It’s entirely dependent on the task at hand. The 1-4X optics are typically good in the SFP plane, and anything above often works better as an FFP. 

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Travis Pike is a former Marine machine gunner who served with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines for five years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He plays in the great outdoors of Northwest Florida and enjoys good beer, sharp knives, and long walks in the woods.

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Travis Pike

Contributing Writer

Travis Pike is a former infantry Marine and current proud member of the 2nd Civ Div. He covers guns, holsters, knives, and other fun gear for Task & Purpose and has written for The Truth About Guns, Pew Pew Tactical, Recoil, The Mag Life, and many other publications.