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Should You Use an LPVO?: Pros and Cons

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Which sight you should use will always be a topic of discussion, especially when a low powered variable optic (LPVO) is involved. But very often, no one really gives a reason for their choice of optic beyond “I like it.” So we are going to go over the benefits and deficits of LPVOs.

This will allow you to make an educated choice when selecting your optic. We are going to be making a general assumption that your rifle build is geared toward competition or general use. Now general use means, “I only have one rifle to do everything with” or a rifle that can do everything to some degree.

Knowing this parameter helps explain why you might want an LPVO over some other sighting options. Let’s get into the pros and cons of LPVOs.


LPVOs are optics that bridge the gap between red dots and higher powered scopes. This creates the three major advantages of LPVOs: versatility, magnification, and consistency.


LPVOs can start at 1x and can go higher depending on the scope. Today you can encounter a top end magnification of 4x, 6x, 8x, or 10x with most modern options being in the 6-8x range. This allows for the scope to be used on both close targets and far targets.

The ability to engage close and far targets makes for a simple sight solution. Instead of something like a magnifier and red dot or a higher power scope with an off-set red dot, you can have a single scope. This doesn’t mean you can’t pair it with a red dot, but if you just want one item to buy, an LPVO works.

Combined with the various focal plane and reticle options, LPVOs have something for everyone. This can mean wind holds to illuminated reticles to differing fields of view.


The magnification that LPVOs offer is the next major benefit. It is also one of the more nuanced aspects of the system. Having more magnification allows you to shoot farther more easily. It allows you to call your own impacts, see targets that your normal vision might struggle with, and it generally allows for easier target identification.

Where the nuance comes in is when magnification works at closer distances. Maybe you are aiming at a very small, close target (like an A zone on a target) or you have a small space to shoot through in front of your target (like through brush in the woods). That extra magnification will come in handy.

It is a common practice to scan for targets at lower magnifications and then increase the magnification once the target has been found. Determining if that is actually a target to hit is another benefit of LPVOs. Especially if you live/shoot in an area where there is a lot of ground to cover.


An overlooked aspect of LPVOs is their consistency. This comes in a number of forms. When compared to a red dot and magnifier, an LPVO is mounted in the same place each time.

Since magnifiers are often removed or flipped out of the way, they can change slightly each time they are employed,depending on how repeatable the mount is.   This is fine for the times when you just need a little more “zoom” to see something, but it becomes a problem when you take into account impact shift.

The LPVO is solidly mounted like other scope styles which lets you have the same point of aim without adding more factors to muddy the waters of accuracy.


While LPVOs bring good benefits they do have a few drawbacks. These are primarily weight, battery life, and parallax.


LPVOs are heavier on average than a red dot sight setting anywhere from just over 16 ounces to 26 ounces depending on the model and generation. If your goal is to keep your rifle around or under 7 lbs, LPVOs can eat into that weight limit a lot.

Is this really a drawback? It is if you have a lot of other force multipliers on the rifle already. If you balance out the rifle, you can get a lot of weight to feel manageable and that 7 lb restriction becomes less of a concern.

How much you are willing to carry will come down to the style of shooting you are doing and your physical fitness. A heavy sight on a heavy rifle while running around at top speed can be very tiring. How easily you “gas out” comes from many factors, but the weight of the rifle is one.

That extra pound and a half can make the difference, but you will lose out on the scope’s versatility.

Battery Life

Most LPVOs run on batteries which are used to illuminate the reticle. This illumination is useful for quick acquisition of the reticle when shooting at speed. However, LPVO battery life can be a big hindrance.

LPVOs will go through batteries quickly when they are constantly used. We are talking several hours of battery life which is almost nothing when compared to the thousands of hours red dot sights have.

The solution to this is to not use the illumination at all except in areas where there isn’t a lot of light (twilight, indoors, etc.). You will have to make sure to turn off the reticle when you are done, otherwise the battery will run out.

This is more of an annoyance and maintenance issue than anything. But it is more than some people want to do and you should keep it in mind when selecting an LPVO.


Whenever we look through a glass pane we experience a minor shift or distortion of what we’re looking at. This is more pronounced when the pane of glass is a lens that bends light. LPVOs and other magnifiers are filled with lenses that bend light.

This means the more lenses present, the more you have to deal with the distortion of light. Something might seem clear and on target in the scope itself, but it is actually a few inches over from your point of aim. This is one of the areas where using a magnifier/red dot combination is less of a hassle since there are fewer lenses involved.

Parallax will always be an issue with magnified scopes, but unlike dedicated long range scopes, most LPVOs do not have a parallax adjustment feature. This is usually because the magnification levels don’t warrant the effort adding a parallax feature would take to incorporate it.

What Do We Recommend?

We prefer LPVOs at Guntology. The benefits they bring are better than the downsides and alternatives.

When it comes to an actual LPVO model, the Swarovski Z8i and Z8i+ 1-8×24 are our go-to. That comes down to multiple reasons

First off they have very good glass with up to a 93% light transmission. This means great visual clarity and better sighting with good color contrast. The contrast and clarity are important in dynamic environments, especially ones with unpainted targets.

Second is the BRT reticle. This simple reticle doesn’t clutter up the sight but still offers hold over positions for some of those more tricky shots. It does have an illuminated center dot that makes it easy to use at close range and a wide field of view on 1x.

Thirdly is the second focal plane design. We are not trying to use our rifle at 1000 yards, so we don’t need a scope with a reticle that will scale with the magnification. This keeps the sight picture relatively constant while still allowing for those 500 yard shots.

The fourth reason we love these scopes is the low profile turrets. It may not seem like a big thing to have large scope turrets, but they are a snag hazard. There was a very expensive lesson learned while using another scope where the turret sheared off after getting caught on a barricade. Low Profile turrets, in addition to the scope’s durability, help prevent this from happening again.

Finally there are the small quality of life aspects of the scopes. The eye relief is good especially with the scopes’ clarity. The scopes have a sensor that turns your reticle’s illumination on and off depending on if the rifle is at a “firing angle”.  Which helps solve the battery life issue as well as a great toggle switch for quick illumination activation, and in our opinion this is a superior system than anything else on the market.

The Swarovski Z8i has been our primary LPVO for a while now and it is worth every penny, with the new Z8i+ model replacing the original Z8i in our inventory. If you are looking to have one optic for your primary rifle, an LPVO should be a consideration, especially if you want to get into competition.

Samuel Vester
Samuel Vester
Samuel, or "Sammy", is the Founder of Guntology and is the co-owner of several other businesses in the firearms industry. He is an avid shooter and enjoys sharing cool, new, and hard-to-find products with others through Guntology.

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