The scope installed on your rifle significantly determines its effectiveness, aesthetics, and performance. LPVO and red dot sights are among the most common options considered by most gun owners.
Although both excel in their areas, which is the one for you? Find out the key differences between a red dot scope vs LPVO and how to identify your best option.
Up Next: Best Tactical AR-15 Sights
Once you’ve taken a look at this article, the next one for you to look at is the best tactical LPVO sight for the AR-15. We get into the nitty gritty of specific LPVO models that are designed with the AR rifle in mind.
LPVO vs Red Dot Magnifier
Both the red dot sights and LPVO provide effective approaches to improve your weapon accuracy and aesthetics. However, some specific features make one better than the other, especially regarding applications.
To identify your best option between the two, you’ll have to focus on elements like the shooter’s weapon type, personal preference, and mission circumstances. Here’s more on LPVO vs red dot with magnifier:
When it comes to magnification, the LPVO holds a significant advantage over its competitors. Low Power Variable Optics has a magnification range of up to 10x, while most red dot sights don’t exceed 5x.
In fact, most red dot sights feature non-magnified optics providing 1x. The low magnification power supports a seamless vision with two eyes open while guaranteeing an unlimited field of view (FOV).
On the other hand, the LPVO offers a greater magnification power for longer reach and magnified observation. It’s also perfect for close-range attempts not exceeding 100 yards.
The only limitation with LPVOs regarding magnification is achieving true 1x performance. Shooters will likely observe a Field of View edge distortion resembling a fish-bowl effect. Luckily, you can use the eyepiece lens (diopter) to achieve a sharp focus at 1x with LPVOs.
Occasionally, your LPVO scope might have trouble focusing when configured to high magnification ranges after adjusting it for proper 1x use. You can remedy the parallax error by manipulating the LPVO’s side focus or adjustable objective. (Reference 1: LPVO Scopes)
It would help to note that internalizing an LPVO’s functioning is enough to address most of these concerns.
We all know red dots for their superior performance in close-range performance. The scope’s design features a simple dot used to support aiming. It comes in varying MOA sizes, unlimited FOV, no magnification, and two-eye operation.
If you’re unsure of what MOA is and how it affects your shooting, no problem. Here’s a helpful video that lays it out:
Consider larger dots like 6 MOA for more effective close-range work to get the job done. More minor dot variations like 2 MOA can provide quality results up to 100 yards and are easy to pick up.
Low magnification in your LPVOs can also help you achieve red dot-like performance and benefits. Generally, red dots are superior to LPVOs when engaging in close-quarter engagements.
Two Eyes Open
Red dot sights effortlessly support using two eyes to improve your aim. On the other hand, you can only use LPVOs with two eyes open when on 1x power. It means the image won’t be magnified, but you can still make accurate attempts.
The main reason behind this performance difference is because LPVOs have more glass than simple red dots. It results in noticeable minor edge distortions through the LPVO but disappears when focusing on a downrange target.
Red dots provide clear FOVs because of their design simplicity, making it less straining to use with two eyes open. From this design, you get an unlimited FOV, shared strain between both eyes, and preservation of peripheral vision. (Reference 2: Red Dot Sights)
LPVO scopes feature an adjustable eyepiece and side focus to support its focusing mechanism, while red dot sights lack these features. These features allow the scope to improve reticle focus and FOV quality.
In red dot sights, the dot is responsible for target focusing. The most prevalent issue with these dots is that they may appear blurry or look like a smear, double dots, or a starburst, which compromises accuracy.
You can remedy the dot anomalies by keeping your prescription glasses on when aiming or using a prismatic sight. However, you can only achieve the best image and reticle focusing by using LPVOs.
Reticle variations are another significant difference between LPVOs and red dot sights. LPVO scopes have more variations, while most red dots use a simple dot for aiming.
Since LPVO scopes are for long-distance attempts, the variations allow for bullet drop compensation and wind holdovers. You’ll also need to consider reticle illumination, as not all LPVOs provide full reticle illumination.
Another reason why LPVO scopes are reticle-superior is that they are laser-etched onto the glass. It results in an unbreakable and visible reticle regardless of the battery power. You can also configure a black reticle by switching off the illumination.
Red dot sights are perfect for all firearm types, guaranteeing the shooter unlimited eye relief. You can mount these scopes at arm’s length on your handgun or the front-most part of your AR-15 without compromising effectiveness.
LPVOs also fall under rifle scopes, providing an eye relief range of 4-2 inches. It would be wise to understand it requires mounting where the entire Field of View is accessible with your cheek weld.
Field of View
The field of view delivered by red dots is significantly superior to LPVO scopes. Red dots support two-eye-open aiming without magnification, allowing peripheral vision preservation. You can also see through the sight naturally, making it easy to create accurate attempts.
Generally, it is easier to shoot from off-angle positions when using red dots with more oversized windows. The window only holds the aiming dot and doesn’t restrict vision parameters.
You must pay close attention to the Field of View when using magnified scopes like LPVOs. The FOV provided by an LPVO scope narrows past 1x and restricts how much you can observe through sight. This functioning is ideal for longer ranges where you’ll need to increase the magnification.
Several factors determine how effective your scope will perform in low-light conditions. The objective lens size is among these factors. Most LPVO scopes feature a 24mm lens, while many closed red dot sights come with a 20mm lens.
LPVOs allow more light to pass, but most light is lost after hitting the glass. Luckily, the scopes use high-quality, objective lens glass materials and coatings to ensure a negligible light loss. On the other hand, red dots have fewer lenses along their optical path.
The exit pupil in the scope also plays a crucial role in overall visibility. At 1x, you get a 20-27mm exit on both designs. Exposing the human eye to such light will only result in excess dilation and stress.
The illumination intensity is among the most common issue when using red dots in poor lighting conditions. You’ll need to turn down the dim settings, allowing you to use the sight without straining your eyes. Some scopes appear too bright even when configured to the lowest settings and often compromise the Field of View or wash out the target.
The best option for low light conditions is LPVO scopes. You can still consider red dots with extremely dim settings for successful hunting attempts at night, dawn, or dusk.
If your weapon is for hunting, you must identify a scope that improves accuracy by guaranteeing better sights on your target. You can achieve this on your rifle using red dot sights and LPVOs. However, when narrowing down your best prospect, you must consider elements like distance, visual acuity, and target size.
Red dot sights lack magnification capabilities, and the dot might become too big when aiming at distant targets. A massive dot covers a greater area of the kill zone, compromising your accuracy significantly. The lack of magnification also makes it challenging to see your target.
Consider red dot sights for short-range hunting, preferably not exceeding 300 yards. It is perfect for dangerous game hunting and guarantees fast target acquisition for hunters.
The LPVO is the best option for hunters. Its variable magnification allows longer reach, while the various reticles support more accurate attempts. The additional weight is the only downside to installing them on your hunting weapon.
AR-15 and Pistols
LPVO scopes are longer and heavier, making it practically impossible to mount them on most handguns. You’ll need to focus more on personal preference and application before deciding between a red dot sight or LPVO for your AR-15 or pistol.
Red dot sights are perfect for close-range attempts, supporting fast target acquisition, weight, cost, and rail mounting length. Most handgun owners prefer micro red dots because you can modify your IWB and OWB holsters to accommodate the weapon.
The variable magnification in LPVO scopes makes them ideal for numerous applications. The scopes guarantee satisfactory results at close and long-range distances while maintaining better optical quality. You’ll get the most out of your LPVO by mounting it on an AR-15 with the space to accommodate it.
Another distinguishing factor between the two scopes is the cost of purchase and maintenance. Red dots are more affordable and are available for as low as $50. Some expensive brands like Aimpoint and Trijicon cost up to $500 but with premium features.
Quality and technology are among the leading influencers of the prices of the red dots. Reflexes are cheaper since they are simpler to build, while holographic alternatives are more expensive.
There is no difference between LPVOs and traditional scopes, making them affordable. Their prices range between $150 to $2000, and the features included in each option justify the price tag. Generally, red dots cost less than LPVOs.
LPVO vs Traditional Scope
Low Power Variable Optics guarantee the shooter more accurate attempts by providing variable magnification. The scope offers a magnification range starting at 1x and goes up to 6x, 8x, and even 10x on the latest generation.
Instead of adding a magnifier to your red dot, you can consider LPVOs for a more effective weapon configuration. However, it would be wise to understand the limitations of installing an LPVO on your firearm.
One of the downsides is the field of view limitations. Although it doesn’t occur on all models, most LPVOs struggle with limited FOV when zooming in on a target.
You must align the scope directly and account for eye relief for an accurate shot. You might need to practice more before you can master how to use your LPVO scope effectively.
Since LPVOs provide variable magnification, you can reduce the power while looking through the reticle for fast work. It makes it easy to shoot with both eyes open and allows your brain to create a uniform view in real-time. If aiming for a distant target, increase magnification and use it like a traditional scope.
There is little to differentiate when it comes to an LPVO vs traditional scope. Most traditional sights begin with magnification, making close-up shooting attempts difficult. This configuration makes them ideal for long-distance targets since picking them out from the field of view is easy.
Generally, LPVOs are superior to traditional scopes for various reasons. You can consider purchasing a traditional scope as backup sights for your LPVO.
LPVO vs Prism Scopes
Fixed prism optics are most common for military and law enforcement because of their superior features. Technology makes these sights more affordable, effective, and manufactured by different brands.
Generally, prism optics are more efficient than LPVOs. That’s why prism scopes might be a better option when it comes to LPVO vs prism SHTF scenarios.
Here is a comprehensive guide on the prism sight vs LPVO:
Size and Weight
Regarding magnified optics, prism optics are the smallest option available that doesn’t compromise performance. Prisms are slightly bigger than red dots and weigh the same as a full-sized red dot.
If you want a powerful scope that doesn’t appear massive on your rifle, you should go for prism optics.
The simplicity featured in the prism optic’s design is another distinguishing element from LPVOs. The design is perfect for applications on various ranges and can improve your general-purpose rifle productivity.
It also features a more durable optic. Many users find themselves in awe at how strong and durable these scopes are, while some models can take a bullet and remain functional.
Prism optics feature etched reticles to allow functionality even when the battery dies. Instead of being illuminated, the reticle is black and provides a practical aiming guide.
The reticles also feature markings to help allow for bullet drop compensators and windage holdovers to achieve more control over the bullet’s trajectory.
LPVOs provide better magnification on rifles than prism optics. The most you can get out of your prism scope is 5x, while LPVOs can extend up to 10x.
You can achieve more accurate attempts by mastering the ability to switch the focused eye. Try concentrating through the optic for long-range targets and use both eyes if the target is at close range.
LPVO vs Red Dot on SBR
Short barrel rifles are perfect for mid-range shooting attempts. You’ll get more out of your SBR by installing red dot sights over LPVOs.
The significant advantage of using LPVOs is the varying magnification power. However, you won’t need most of this power output since your weapon can only make short-distance attempts.
Red dots win when breaking down LPVO vs red dot on SBR. These scopes guarantee quality results on close targets and support fast target acquisition.
But if you’re not using an SBR and are shooting at further distances, the argument between LPVO vs red dot with magnifier gets harder, and it’ll depend on your purposes and preferences to decide which will be better.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use a LPVO as a red dot?
You can use your LPVO scope as a red dot by setting it to 1x power. On 1x, the LPVO will achieve a red-dot-like configuration and guarantee quality shots. It also lets you enjoy the red dot shooting experience without foregoing the variable magnification.
Is a LPVO good for CQB?
LPVOs are not the best option for close-quarter battles, but they’ll still get the job done. They are ideal for individuals looking for fast-action shooting and mid-range target attempts. For CQB, it would be wise to consider red dots as they are better at precision and quick target acquisition.
What red dot do Navy SEALS use?
The Aimpoint PRO is among the few combat-proven red dots law enforcement and NAVY seals use. It is potent and checks all the criteria for the best AR-15 optic on the market.
- Vortex Nation, LPVO 101. Retrieved from https://vortexoptics.com/blog/lpvo-101.html
- Military Wiki, Red dot sight. Retrieved from https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Red_dot_sight
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material for over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world, including Russia, and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American West and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Horn Mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems TM.
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