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Low-powered variable optics (LPVOs) are all the rage right now, and with good reason, so you may be wondering exactly which LPVO is the best option to meet your needs.
There are a number of well-reviewed options on the market today, which can make it difficult to choose, especially given that some of them are quite expensive. To help you out, and because I love these optics, we’ve tested all the most popular options to find the best of the best.
Our overall top pick is the Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 because of it’s excellent feature set, clear glass, and Vortex’s phenomenal warranty, but we also have 7 other great options that may work better for your needs, budget, or general preferences.
- What Exactly is a Low-Powered Variable Optic (LPVO)?
- Our Top Low-Powered Variable Optics
- Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best LPVO?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Verdict
Let’s talk about LPVOs in general, and why I’ve found these to be the best ones around after considerable testing.
What Exactly is a Low-Powered Variable Optic (LPVO)?
The term LPVO gets thrown around a lot without much explanation of what exactly makes a scope an LPVO.
Simply put, it’s an optic with a low overall magnification range, starting with a 1x on the low end, that you can adjust for more magnification as needed, up to around a 6x or 8x on the top end.
These scopes are commonly used on AR-15s and other carbines to give the shooter the close-in shooting ability of a red dot, plus the option to up the magnification to easily reach out to up to around 200+ yards with just a quick turn of a lever.
This makes them ideal for 3-Gun competition, hunting, and even some defensive uses where you might have to reach out a little further such as to get rid of that pesky coyote out on the ranch.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best LPVOs on the market today.
Our Top Low-Powered Variable Optics
1. Vortex Razor HD Gen III 1-10x
Our top pick is the Vortex Razor HD Gen III, due mostly to the excellent reticle options, top-tier glass for the price range, and Vortex’s industry-leading warranty and support.
As LPVOs go, this is one of the most beloved options around, especially among serious competitors in the 3-Gun world. I’ve shot matches alongside many pro shooters, and the Razor HD Gen 3 and the previous Gen 2 are always common sights there (no pun intended).
Related Article: 23 Best AR-15 Scopes and Optics
Make no mistake, you’ll pay more for the quality here, but the Razor HD GEN III is absolutely worth it in every possible respect. It has some of the best glass of any scope I’ve tested in the past five years or so, if not the best.
It also features an illuminated MRAD or MOA reticle with 11 brightness settings and a lockable illumination dial on the left side of the optic. Turret adjustments are capped and are tweakable in the field.
You also get a fast-focus eyepiece and options for a quick-throw magnification lever too.
The 10x upper end of the magnification is great for longer-range shots and hunting, and the optic itself is robust enough to handle getting tossed around at 3-Gun matches without an issue.
The Vortex Razor line has been a favorite of 3-Gun pros and those who hunt with AR-15s for years, and the new and improved Gen III model only improves on an already excellent formula.
I love this optic, and it lives on my go-to rifle. I’m absolutely confident in it, and I’m sure you will be too if you decide to get one for yourself.
2. Primary Arms SLX 1-6X FFP
Primary Arms have developed a reputation as one of the premier makers of affordable optics, particularly with their SLX line.
This 1-6x scope features a first focal plane reticle and an awesome one at that. Primary Arms calls it their Advanced Combat Sighting System (ACSS) reticle, and it features a ballistic drop compensator that has holdover markings out to 800 meters.
That’s…pretty much the max range I would ever even want to try to hit something with my AR-15, even just to plink steel, so this optic is great for longer range work, particularly for something like varmint hunting where quick shots can be necessary.
It also has windage and moving target holdover markings that let you compensate for walking or running targets, and windage up to 5mph in either direction, all without cluttering the reticle up or impeding performance on low magnification.
This is one of my favorite BDC scopes on the market, and it’s absolutely perfect for hunting prairie dogs and other smallish pests with an AR-15. I’ve also used it for hog hunting with the .300 BLK version of the reticle, to great success.
For close-range hunting, particularly if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, this is an amazing optic. You have a choice of a few different BDC reticles for different calibers/bullet weights, and the walking/running holds can be great for a rapid follow-up shot.
3. Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8x
Next up is the well-loved Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8x. This is by far the most common optic I see at 3-Gun matches and with good reason.
For the money, this is one of the best values in optics right now and has been for over a decade. The glass is clear, and the reticle is illuminated and glass-etched for durability and clarity at all magnifications.
Related Article: 17 Best Long Range Scopes for the Money
The scope tube is o-ring sealed and nitrogen-filled so it is completely resistant to moisture unless you try to go scuba diving with it, and it won’t fog up, even when moving directly from a warm environment out into the cold, or vice versa.
It is available in both first focal plane and cheaper second focal plane varieties, and with a number of different BDC reticles. Just remember that if you get the second focal plane version, the subtension markings will only be accurate on the 8x setting.
The Strike Eagle line has been one of Vortex’s hottest products for a while now, and the 1-8x continues to be a crowd favorite among folks looking for a moderately priced, but still incredibly versatile optic for their rifle.
4. Steiner T5Xi 1-5×24
The Steiner T5Xi is a relatively new optic, but one that I’ve already come to enjoy greatly. It has the crystal clear glass you’d expect from Steiner, 10 brightness settings, a true 1x magnification, a fast-focus eyepiece, and an included throw lever for the variable zoom.
Basically, it has everything you’d want if you were making a checklist for an LPVO. Steiner studied the market well when designing the T5 series of scopes.
The 1-5x zoom on this particular model is perfect for a close-range optic, and I’ve personally used the 7.62 BDC reticle to great effect on numerous hog hunts, though there is a 5.56 version available as well that is just as good.
The low magnification and Steiner’s careful design work have combined to give this an incredibly generous eyebox as well, so quick shots when your cheek weld is less than perfect are a cakewalk.
Finally, it has a locking diopter, which means that once you set the focus adjustment for your specific ocular prescription, you won’t have to worry about the setting getting changed accidentally.
5. Nightforce ATACR 1-8X24
The night ATACR scope, in all of its iterations, is absolutely legendary for its quality and durability. Nightforce scopes have literally taken a bullet for people and kept working, and the ATACR is built to the same exacting standards.
This scope was easily in the running for our best overall pick, and it really could have gone either way. The glass is so clear and so bright that you’ll hardly realize you’re looking through a scope on the low end.
Related Article: 15 Best Scopes for 308 Rifles
At the high end, there’s zero artifacting or aberration, and so much light that those late afternoon and early morning hunts are going to be a breeze.
I’ve personally carried this optic on a .308 hunting rifle for over 5 years now, and it’s been dragged through brush, knocked around inside of a tight deer stand, been strapped down inside a capsized canoe, and dropped on concrete twice (not by me).
And it still works. And still holds zero. Other than some finish damage, you’d never know it wasn’t brand new.
If durability and long life are your chief concerns, then the Nightforce ATACR is a great option. It’s probably tougher than the gun you’re going to mount it on, and it has great glass and reticles to boot.
6. EOTech Vudu 1-8x FFP Scope
EOTech may be primarily known for their excellent holosight optics, but don’t let that trick you into thinking that’s all they do well. Their Vudu line of rifle scopes have been doing good work for a few years now in the hands of the military, and with serious rifle competitors as well.
The 1-8x version currently sits on one of my 3-Gun rifles, and I’ve had nothing but great experiences with it. The same goes for my buddies who have borrowed it to run a course of fire when they had a rifle or optic conk out on them during a match for one reason or another.
The 30mm tube is made of aircraft-grade T6 aluminum and is gas-purged and o-ring sealed for fog and waterproofness.
The tube itself, on mine at least, is more than capable of handling a beating on the competition stage, and has gotten dropped hard in many a plastic ditch barrel as part of 3-Gun stages without issue. And I’ve never once had to re-zero it.
The glass is crystal clear and some of the best you’ll find on an optic at this price point, and the awesome Triplex BDC reticle makes figuring out your holdovers quick and easy.
I also love that EOTech clearly spent a lot of time designing the variable zoom control to be easy to use, even with gloves on or wet/greasy/sandy hands. You can always get an aftermarket extension for these dials, but it’s nice to not need one in this case.
EOTech has shown the world that they can do more than just make unmagnified holosights. The Vudu line of LPVOs performs astoundingly well, and can take a licking and keep on ticking.
7. Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x
Trijicon, like EOTech, is known mostly for making combat optics for the military, specifically the fixed-power ACOG that is widely used by all branches of the US military (and anyone that has ever played a first-person shooter video game).
Of course, that’s not all they do, and their Accupoint 1-6x LPVO is just as excellent as their more well known offerings like the ACOG and the RMR mini red dot.
Related Article: 13 Best 22LR Scopes (Rimfire)
The Accupoint comes in a variety of battery-free illuminated reticle designs, some of which mimic the well-known ACOG triangle aiming reticle, as well as some that are just a traditional duplex or mil-dot reticle.
It’s also incredibly durable, as you’d probably expect for something designed to be used by the average Marine.
If you’re not into all the fancy-shmancy BDC and MRAD/MOA reticles and just want a simple duplex crosshair for hunting, then this is the option to go with.
And you’ll never have to worry about the batteries dying either, because the scope uses a combo of tritium and fiber optic inserts.
Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best LPVO?
When choosing an LPVO, there are some things you want to keep in mind to make sure you get the very best ones to meet your specific needs. After all, what works best for me may not work the best for you.
Here are the things that I would recommend using as your criteria.
What Do You Need an LPVO For?
First off, you should always think about what exactly you’ll be using your LPVO for. Are you hunting with it? Plinking at the range? Trying to go pro as a competition shooter, or maybe just trying to do a little better at your next match?
All of these things will impact your decision. For example, if you’re hunting, you’re probably going to want something that tops out at 8x or even 10x. This will give you the most
LPVO Reticle Types
Next, consider your reticle. These days, there’s no reason to not go with an illuminated reticle, which lets your LPVO function as a red dot on the lowest magnification setting. This is great for those close in shots.
The other thing to consider is whether you want to go with an MRAD/MOA reticle, or a bullet-drop compensator reticle.
With an MRAD or MOA reticle, you have more flexibility when it comes to range and windage, but you’ll have to figure out for yourself exactly how much drop your round has, and then use the MOA or MRAD dots accordingly to compensate.
For some shooters, this is going to be overkill, but if you’re looking to truly stretch the legs of your rifle, or you’re shooting something that has more range than the typical 5.56, then this is a great option, even though you need to practice with it a little bit to know what’s going on.
This is also a little more in depth than the other option, which is to go with a bullet drop compensator (BDC) reticle. These reticles have stadia (horizontal lines) that correspond to the drop certain rounds will have at certain distances.
This is great for making quick shots at distance, especially in a competition setting, but it’s more limiting because your scope reticle is calibrated for a specific round and a specific projectile weight in order for it to be truly accurate.
If you use a heavier or lighter projectile, or even worse move the scope to a rifle of a different caliber, your lines are going to be way off and you’re going to have to learn a new point of impact at varying distances.
Of course, you can get by with the BDC scope if you’re only using a slightly different projectile weight by just learning where the new point of impact is at varying distances in relation to where the existing stadia are (maybe you’ll have to aim slightly low or slightly high), but it’s not ideal.
Fortunately, at most LPVO distances, and for hunting and 90% of competitions, an LPVO for a certain caliber is going to do just fine as long as you keep it on a rifle in that certain caliber.
Just make sure you get one that actually corresponds to the caliber you’ll be using and you’re good to go. Using an LPVO calibrated for a .308 on your 5.56 rifle is going to be a rough time, I can assure you.
Clear, non-distorting glass is key with any optic, and that holds doubly true for an LPVO where you don’t have a lot of magnification to help you power through any artifacting or chromatic aberration.
Going with a manufacturer that has a good reputation for quality glass is a great start (especially if the lenses are made in Germany or Japan). You’ll also want something with good lens coatings to help improve performance.
“Fully multi-coated lenses” is an industry term that means the glass is coated to repel water and reduce glare, as well as to gather more light. I highly recommend going with something that mentions a multi-coated lens, especially for hunting use where low-light shots are common.
Overall Build Quality
Hunting and competition are both extremely hard on an optic as you’re going to be moving through difficult spaces, and your optic is likely to get bumped on something, or have something brush against it.
Because of this, you’ll want something that is very rugged and durable. Drop and shock resistance are key, as are waterproofness and coated lenses.
You should also look for things like a gas-purged main tube, which means that the inside of the tube has been sealed and filled with an inert gas that won’t cause fogging or allow moisture to enter the optic.
Warranty & Customer Service
Finally, we always recommend looking at the service and support available for your optic. I can think of a few optics I could have put on this list, but the manufacturer offers such bad warranty and post-purchase support that I left them off the list.
This is a shame, but if something does happen to your optic, either damage or a manufacturer defect, it’s always better to have a scope made by a company that’s willing to stand behind their product.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! They’re some of the best budget-friendly options on the market today, and are a staple at 3-Gun matches, particularly among casual competitors.
This is a tough question to answer, but a good choice for the most accurate rifle scope would be the Schmidt Bender PMII 5-25×56 L/P DT H59. It is incredibly consistent and repeatable, and offers some of the best clarity of any rifle scope in the world.
The new Trijicon VCOG is about to be the new go-to optic for the United States Marine Corps, but there are many others in use both in the US and around the world
A 1-6x is generally the standard LPVO magnification, but 1-4x, 1-8x, and even 1-10x options also exist. The important thing is that the scopes have a true 1x for the lowest magnification setting with an option to raise the magnification to the 4x-10x range.
LPVOs are incredibly versatile optics that are beloved by many. There are a great many good options out there, but only a few that I would consider truly great.
The best overall pick, for my money, is the Vortex Razor HD Gen III. It has great glass, a variety of excellent reticle options, and some of the most accurate and reliable adjustments of any scope in its class.
That said, there are a number of other options out there that might work better for you depending on your needs, budget, and personal preferences.
Whichever option you go with, stick to the options on this list and their various other iterations and I promise you won’t go too far wrong. Every optic on this list has been tested, used, and abused extensively, and they’ve all proven themselves time and time again.
The only question is, which one do you like best?
Corporal Dalton is a former Infantry Rifleman who served with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. After leaving the Marine Corps, he started an online business where he focuses on teaching self-defense tactics. His two major passions are hiking and shooting guns. He has been a member of the NRA since he was 6 years old and is a strong supporter of the second amendment.