The AR-15 rifle club has seen a lot of new members in the last several years. With that proliferation, we have seen quite a few hobby-enriching options. One of those options is optics as few shooters are satisfied with shooting only iron sights.
For many shooters, the choice comes down to either red dot sights (RDS) or traditional scopes. Either of those make for great options. Red dots are thought to be most effective for quick target acquisition while rifle scopes are great for more precise shooting at distance with time permitting.
What if there was Goldilocks (just right) option, though? Maybe. Low Power Variable Optics (LPVO) are seeing a surge in popularity and for good reason.
Put the Dot on the Spot and Squeeze
Red dot sights are popular because of their ease and use and relative cost-effectiveness. The most popular quality RDS units run only about $400 to $600. That alone is enough reason for most people who don’t have the financial backing of their rich Uncle Sam or a law enforcement agency.
Red dot sights are the most common optics solution for another reason: their simplicity. They’re easy to mount and use. Most are sold with mounts and can be added to a boomstick with minimal brain strain. After that, it’s just a matter of choosing one’s point-blank range and sighting in.
When people think scoped AR’s, they might think of the designated marksman rifle (DMR). A DMR is most effectively employed at distances between the effective ranges of a long-range rifle and an assault rifle (a fully-automatic rifle intended for relatively close engagements).
But rifle scopes can be quite expensive. The low end of the fiscal scale in quality rifle scopes starts at about $600 and goes up well into the thousands when purchasing a brand like Nightforce. Sure, there are some more affordable options, but few I would trust for defensive purposes with the exception of the Vortex Strike Eagle and a few others.
Also, remember that the quality of a scope’s rings is almost as important as the scope itself. That’s another added expense. There’s also the added complication of mounting a rifle scope. One doesn’t just slap the scope on the rings and crank on the screws for best results.
Even if one has the disposable funds and know-how for the scope option, do you want first focal plane or second focal plane? Which reticle? What magnification? Back-up optics? You can understand why most folks prefer the simplicity of, “put the dot on the spot and squeeze.”
Is there a Goldilocks option? If there is, it comes in the form of low power variable optics (LPVO). Granted, there is still the added expense of quality mounts and the complication of properly mounting the optic. Still, many will find the juice worth well the squeeze.
The prototypical LVPO is a 1x-4x or 1-6x variable power scope with a 24mm objective. However, there is at least one excellent LVPO scope that is 1x-10x24mm that I’m aware of. The scope is usually kept at true 1x power until more magnification is needed. Then, the shooter simply dials up the power – a quick throw lever is a great addition.
Other potential options to consider are illuminated reticles or a bullet drop compensators (BDC) which may or may not be important to you.
One concern I’ve often heard expressed about scopes on AR’s is they’re not as quick in regards to target acquisitions as an RDS. With just a little experience and practice, though, I believe most will find that not to be the case. With a little practice, a good quality LPVO is just as quick to sight as an RDS. Keep in mind, glass quality makes a lot of difference.
Is the Low Power Variable Optic for You?