The low power variable optic (LPVO) has been used for many years now in the competition rifle world and is being fielded in Law Enforcement and Military. Commonly, these are scopes that have the ability to dial down to 1x magnification. Many varieties of these exist and range anywhere from 1-4x, 1-6x, and 1-8x. Generally, the more expensive LPVOs are able to focus at close distances at 1x and perform like a precision rifle scope at farther distance up to a 5.56 or 7.62 caliber’s max effective range with extreme optical clarity. Prior to owning an LPVO I had a 2.5-10x scope on my precision rifle and an Aimpoint CompM4 red dot on my close quarters rifle. I remained very skeptical of the claims made about the touted 1-6x scopes until I got to handle one in a Northern Red class. Much to my surprise, the visual clarity of the Vortex Razor 1-6x scope had a clearer image at 1x magnification than my CompM4, which has a slight blue tint. I have since purchased a Vortex Razor HD II 1-6x and have been training with it and competing with it in Multi gun matches. Instead of bringing multiple rifles to the range to train Close Quarters shooting and precision marksmanship, I now bring one rifle with the Razor mounted on it. Those who are new to LPVOs may see these claims as hard to believe so I have included some photos:
As you can see, the Razor has no problem focusing with extreme clarity up close nor does it struggle to provide a clear image for targets at distance. With the flip of the magnification ring you can go from a role as an assaulter to Designated Marksman. The reticle can be purchased in milrads, moa, or bullet drop compensator to allow for quick on the fly holder adjustments. One thing to note about the Razor is that it is a second focal plane scope so the reticle is only accurate at the max magnification of 6x. Linked below is the video “The Capability” produced by Bravo Company Manufacturing and filmed with instructors and students from Northern Red. The Razor is the featured optic that all the Assaulters are using in confined structures. Some Assaulters run a sidemounted red dot in addition to the main optic to transition quickly from magnification to 1x without having to turn the magnification dial:
Here is my own video running a bill drill at 5 yards with my LPVO:
My ability to acquire my sights is very comparable to that of the CompM4 with first shots of .50 seconds or better.
Now what is the trade off of using a LPVO vs a Red dot? Well for starters, it isn’t unlimited eye relief. Variable powered optics have a very generous eye box at 1x but the operator must practice neutral head positioning and consistent rifle presentations to ensure a perfect scope image every time. Another drawback is weight. The Vortex Razor weighs 25.2 oz by itself which is a pretty heavy optic to fit onto an M4 carbine or MK18. Despite this, I believe that the capabilities that the Razor and other LPVO offer are unparalleled. The end user does not have to choose between fast target acquisition or magnification capabilities and ballistic holdovers.
As I write this, Night Force Optics is releasing a new addition to their NXS line a lightweight 1-8x scope. Initial impressions are that the scope looks amazing at 1x and 8x. This leads me to hypothesize that we will see the future of optics as a scope that can be tuned from 1x to 10x or 1x to 20x. In one rifle and optic configuration a shooter will be able to do work up close while engaging very long range targets as if he had long range DMR/Sniper rifle.