Combined Red Dot And LPVO

BY Herschel Smith
1 month, 2 weeks ago

John Farnam writes at Ammoland.

I love Aimpoints and most other red-dot (non-magnifying) optics, because they’re fast, relatively compact, and with generous eye-relief, I don’t have glass in my face! Yet, SROs tell me that for their job they need more downrange detail than an Aimpoint will provide, even at ranges under 100m.

With Aimpoints (and most other red-dots), you can get a “swing-out magnifier,” but it is bulky, precarious, and gets in the way.

As a practical matter, when shooting in a congested environment without magnification, past 100m I can’t tell what I’m shooting at. In many cases, I can’t adequately identify a threat past 75m.

So, I equipped my wonderful IO (International Ordinance) M4 with a 1×4 Steiner optic (P4Xi) and their excellent low-profile mounting system.

From exchanging email with John he indicates to me that “The Steiner P4Xi that I’m using features an illuminated red dot (with variable intensity) at the center, which can be used when it is hard to make-out the traditional reticle.”

So he’s claiming that the scope he’s using gives him the shorter range red dot performance, along with the LPVO performance for longer distances if he chooses.

A very nice idea.  I don’t happen to do well with flip-to-side magnifiers.  Of course, this scope isn’t cheap.  You may have to break the piggy bank open for it.


  1. On September 15, 2020 at 9:40 pm, 41mag said:

    Any experience with the Meprolight optic that looks similar to red dots?

    Pricey too but only due to the isotope element I’m guessing.

  2. On September 16, 2020 at 12:24 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Low-Power Variable Optics (LPVOs) are a viable alternative to unmagnified red-dot sights such as the Aimpoint PRO or EoTech Holographic sight, while offering increased flexibility and capability in comparison to them as ranges lengthen.

    An individual whose carbine, SBR or AR-pistol will seldom see use outside of 50 yards, will probably be best-served getting a holographic sight, red/green-dot or reflex sight of some kind. In side-by-side performance tests, these consistently are the faster on target and offer the best performance at close-to-near-close range.

    These optics are specialized for this kind of use, and do the job very well indeed. They offer certain advantages in comparison to LPVOs, such as being more-forgiving of inexact position behind the optic, or not being precisely in the eye-box of the optic. Moreover, many CQB optics can be mounted fairly far-forward, not unlike a Scout scope, as they have long eye-relief. The operator on the carbine is therefore less-likely to get “lost in his scope,” and neglect 360 degree awareness of the environment. Most sights of this kind permit both-eyes-open use, which gives better all-around visual awareness.

    Red/green-dots, holographic optics, and reflex sights – since they do not require indexing of three distinct points in space – the front and rear iron sights to the target – and have only one point of aim to be indexed, are significantly faster to acquire. They are also easier to learn to use than iron sights.

    Low-power variables, though, have gained ground in recent years, especially for use on general purpose weapons not purpose designed to do only house/room-clearing and CQB. Typically, these offer 1x or near-1x magnification at the bottom end, and a maximum power of 4x to 6x. Dialed down to low power, 1-1.5-2x, these optics function like a red/green-dot, and are very fast on target (though slightly slower than the dedicated CQB optical sights).

    In first focal plane, they offer a compact aiming point and uncluttered view, ideally, whereas in a second focal plane design, where the reticle stays the same size no matter what power is selected, designers typically offer reticles with a clear and precise central-aiming point, surrounded or framed with some sort of bracket, circle or segmented circle to draw the user’s eye toward the target. A lot of companies build in useful features, too, such as tick or hash marks representing mils or moa or hold-off marks for wind or leading a moving target.

    The key thing to remember in a SFP design, is that the reticle features are typically only valid or correct at the highest magnification, i.e., 4x or 6x. If you use the range-finding features in your fancy new LPVO at 2x power and take your shot when the optic should have been set on 4x, then you are going to determine an incorrect range value and probably miss your shot.

    Many LPVOs are caliber-specific, and have reticles designed around the trajectories of such common cartridges as .308 Winchester and 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington. Others offer mil or moa-based reticles which can be used in a greater variety of tasks and settings.

    The LPVO reticle typically divides up the “work” to be done according to range. For closer shots, CQB/close range to perhaps 50-100 yards, the optic & reticle will be designed to be used dialed down to 1-2x. For anything out past that, the expectation is that the power will be dialed up to the maximum, whether 4x or 6x. That way, the features of the reticle can be used fully if SFP.

    LPVOs are typically zeroed at 100 yards or meters, although there are also designs which are designed to be zeroed for maximum point blank range, typically 50 yards, which is equivalent to a 50/200 yard near/far-zero using 5.56×45 NATO.

    LPVOs being all the rage now, can be had at multiple price points and market segments, from moderate-low prices to mid-range on up to one-thousand dollars or more.

    If possible, get an LPVO with the reticle etched rather than simply projected onto the glass. That way, if your battery dies on you and you have no replacement (shame on you!), the reticle is still visible, albeit unlit.

    Low-powered fixed optics have done very well for the U.S. military over the last three decades, in particular the ACOG 3.5x and 4x models for AR-platform carbines and rifles. Since these cannot be dialed down to 1-1.5x, the user often mounts a true 1x red-dot reflex sight atop the ACOG for close-up use.

    Variable power optics simply expand the flexibility of the ACOG by allowing the user to choose the power setting of the magnification. Trijicon’s entry into the military-LE LPVO market segment is the VCOG – i.e., “Variable power combat optical gunsight.” Expect to part with at least two long, perhaps three (grand) for one of these.

    There are some tremendous values to be had further down-market. The California firm of Hi-Lux/Leatherwood Optics make the excellent CMR series of scopes – which deliver a ton of value and features for the price. Vortex Optics out of Wisconsin makes some very nice entries as well. Primary Arms offers what is perhaps the state-of-the-art reticle in their ACSS system, which is available in scopes ranging from $275 up to over $1,000, and in both SFP and FFP designs. Burris and Bushnell do good work and industry newcomer (to optical sights, at any rate) Sig-Sauer offers some excellent gear competitively-priced. IOR-Valdala, Leupold & Stevens, U.S. Optics, Nightforce, and others compete in the $1,000 and above segment.

    LPVO’s offer unmatched versatility and performance out of one optic, provided that the user is willing to accept a slight drop-off in performance against dedicated CQB optics/sights for certain applications. The “Global War on Terror” has dumped a ton of R&D money into the optics industry, both firms themselves funding the work and gov/LE sources – and it has paid off in some amazing products and advancements over the last decade or decade and a half.

    The success of these efforts has manifested in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps making optical sights standard equipment on their service rifles/carbines. Traditionalists may groan over the short-shrift being given to iron sights and the benefits of their mastery, but the die has been cast and these optics are clearly the wave of the future.

    For civilian consumers, more options are a good thing. Those who still wish to use iron sights, some or all of the time, can continue to do so – whereas those whose eyes aren’t quite as young as they once were can reap the benefits of all of these amazing new products.

  3. On September 16, 2020 at 4:13 am, Ratus said:


    Great summary, but most of the current LPVOs max out around 8x and Vortex’s new Gen 3 Razor is 10x but it’s also around $3k.

  4. On September 16, 2020 at 4:43 am, Nosmo said:

    Quite some time ago I ran into the same thing John Farnum described; the EOTech is a terrific holographic sight, and faster than lightning under about 65 meters, but beyond that it starts falling short. I found that at 200 meters the 1 MOA dot almost totally obscured the target (try it with an 18″ wide IPSC silhouette to get your own results), preventing any meaningful ability to place shots.

    So, I began experimenting; in the larger calibers (6.5, 308) I found LPVOs a substantial improvement, and the experiment is continuing with 5.56 and 300 BLK. With LPVOs there’s a tendency to fiddle with the power ring which has to be trained out; given power options (1-6 or 1-8) the scope will always be on the “wrong”power, providing temptation to move the ring. Which consumes time, time that may not exist on a 2-way range.

    Options are great things, but learning – and training – to “acceptable middle ground” while maintaining options at the margin – means with LPVOs finding that acceptable middle ground. So, far, it looks like setting a 1-6 on 3 3/4 – 4 and a 1-8 on 5 – 5 1/2 does that. Perfect, it isn’t, but it doesn’t seem to choke off speed at shorter ranges and adds precision to longer ranges. The option to dial up or down remains, assuming there’s time to work the ring.

    I’ve got a 3-Gun 5.56 rifle with a 2-7 and a 45 degree offset red dot, and that’s proved a good combo in 3-Gun. The 2-7 is zeroed at 200 meters and – usually – left on 5 1/2X, and the pistol-size red dot zeroed at 30 meters (I copied the setup several years ago from Jerry Miculek, figuring if it worked well enough for him to win championships with it’ll probably work for me). I’ve got several brands of LPVOs I’m working with, and I’m slowly developing a preference for the ACSS reticle; I use the 5.56 rifles 0-300M, and the 308s / 6.5s when distances can go out to 600-800M.

    I’ve got a 300 BLK “entry and curtilege tool” (where conditions can change very rapidly – going through the door is one thing, dealing with the “exploding ant farm” afterward is another) on which I’ve moved from an Aimpoint PRO to a 3X Primary Arms Prism scope with the ACSS reticle. Still testing, but it’s looking like it offers enough speed up close and sufficient precision out to the limit of the cartridge. Learning the reticle is taking some time, however; it’s not a seamless transition. I haven’t chiseled this in stone, but I think I’d like another 5-8MM in glass diameter on it to make it a little faster under 10-30 meters, and for my porposes – particularly 300 BLK – BDC markings through 300M would be sufficient – I can’t see needing an 800M mark with 300BLK. But, I’m not the only person they’re making scopes for.

  5. On September 16, 2020 at 6:18 am, Adino said:

    The illuminated dot in the middle of the reticle was first done, as far as I know, by Leopold with their Mark AR Mod 1. The dot is green not red (I have a couple and love them. Big but really good glass for the price.)

    Its discontinued. Which is sad because the windage and elevation turrets were dropped for the replacement Freedom line.

    Not a Steiner, but it doesn’t break the bank.

  6. On September 16, 2020 at 9:18 am, Trope said:

    @Georiaboy61, great summary. I am impressed with the Primary Arms ACSS system, they offer a Holosun red dot with it. The system allows for different calibers so the optic can be used on multiple guns. But as you point out, it falters at longer distances, requiring the cumbersome magnifier Hershel mentions. For the average civilian using one gun for multiple purposes, an LVPO strategy would need to be employed: keep it at the lowest power for home defense then dial up as needed for distant game hunting.

  7. On September 16, 2020 at 11:52 am, Cody said:

    Vortex and Burris sell 1-4 and 1-6 power optics with etched reticles for $300, Vortex has a 1-8 for $400. Used the 1-4 Burris on varmints, performs well for the price. Vortex 1-8 is working very well, will get another. I leave them on 1x , crank up the power when necessary. I have a hard time justifying $2000+ glass when lower price optics have improved so much

  8. On September 16, 2020 at 12:43 pm, Matt said:

    Burris makes a very nice 1×6 scope. Package runs from $250-500.
    Primary arms as stated here is also nice. Vortex strikefire is good but the reticle is not as nice as the other 2. What I do like about all of them is the etched reticle. If the battery or electronics
    fail you still have a reticle. All can be co- witnessed.

  9. On September 16, 2020 at 2:07 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Ratus

    Re: “Great summary, but most of the current LPVOs max out around 8x and Vortex’s new Gen 3 Razor is 10x but it’s also around $3k.”

    The Vortex Strike Eagle ARBDC-3 1-8x is a nice optic, which can be had for around $400 on the street. Like its 1-6x brother, it is second focal-plane,though.

    Their 10x model is pretty pricey, so that’s off the table for the time being.

    @ Nosmo

    Quick FYI: The Primary Arms SLx 1-6x 7.62×39/300 Blackout ACSS is calibrated for both supersonic and subsonic use, if you live in a state where cans (suppressors) are legal and you own one. LIke you mention, it isn’t a cartridge optimal for long-range use; if memory serves, the ACSS reticle for the cartridge tops out around 600 yards, which is about the transsonic zone for 7.62×39 123-grain FMJ, the standard Com-Bloc load.

  10. On September 16, 2020 at 2:54 pm, Old Bill said:

    Herschel, I have a 1-8 Primary Arms scope with illuminated reticle on my 308AR (DPMS G2). It does just what you friend describes for a lot less. Originally I got it because that cartridge has a lot longer legs than I can shoot un-mafgnified, and I don’t like the swing-out magnifiers for the reasons you note. As a bonus, the ACSS reticle is stupid-fast for ranging, and the BDC seems to be accurate. I love it. YMMV.

  11. On September 16, 2020 at 6:44 pm, joe said:

    i got one of these recently but haven’t had time to mount and zero it…can use as a red dot for close in stuff…×24-tactical-30mm-riflescope-109309.html

  12. On September 18, 2020 at 8:25 am, JR said:

    I recently put a Holosun 407c red dot on an Arisaka offset mount on my 16 in AR to supplement my 3.5x ACOG. The ACOG works at close distance, but even with many repetitions, my brain and eyes still fight a little bit over the magnification at close targets. The red dot is much more intuitive close up. I’m sold on this arrangement – magnified for longer range, red dot for closer range. I wouldn’t mind an LPVO with more magnification, but the ACOG works for now.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Combined Red Dot And LPVO", entry #25648 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Firearms,Guns and was published September 15th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (35)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (20)
Ammunition (122)
Animals (86)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (253)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (77)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (27)
Australian Army (6)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (99)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (3)
Blogs (22)
Body Armor (20)
Books (3)
Border War (11)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (13)
Christmas (11)
CIA (28)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (159)
Department of Homeland Security (26)
Disaster Preparedness (4)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (12)
Donald Trump (26)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (32)
Featured (183)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,234)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (43)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,269)
Guns (1,736)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (16)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (29)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (92)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (170)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (64)
Islamists (95)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (4)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (7)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (263)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (55)
Medical (50)
Memorial Day (5)
Mexican Cartels (35)
Mexico (50)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (21)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (71)
NATO (15)
Navy (22)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (57)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (221)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (64)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (502)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (803)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (197)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (30)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (367)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (21)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (20)
Survival (39)
SWAT Raids (55)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (2)
Tactical Gear (6)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (17)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (95)
Thanksgiving (9)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (22)
TSA Ineptitude (13)
TTPs (3)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (56)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (248)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (21)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (70)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2020 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.