This is something that I’ve been contemplating for a while. A rifle with an LPVO (low power variable optic, must go down to 1x) and an offset red dot. Let me explain.
I like LPVOs. Even though it seems like I’m on the warpath against them, I really do like them. My compulsion to advocate against their use is because it seems like people are over-using them. I understand that LPVOs are cool. I get that they are the “new hotness” that everyone wants on all their guns. They are doing a good job of pushing the optics industry’s ability to make high-range erector systems, and for that I am grateful. But none of that means that every gun you own needs an LPVO.
LPVO’s came from the 3-Gun scene, where match directors wanted to test people’s ability to use a rifle at both short and long range. The then-current solution of red dot sight (RDS) + magnifier was good, but a 3x magnifier with a 2-4 MOA dot sucks at 400 yards. Someone in the industry put out a 1-4x optic, which literally created a whole new class of optics, and nothing has been the same since. It was only a few years before the price on 1-4x optics dropped to very affordable levels, and then 1-6x optics started showing up in force. Now 1-4x is antiquated, 1-6x optics are the norm for most people’s guns, and 1-8x and 1-10x are common on everything meant to be used beyond 200 yards. Some people even put the higher 1-8x LPVOs on SBRs and pistols, and that’s where I lose interest. But that’s an argument for another day.
Today we’re going to focus on having a LPVO with an offset red dot. Now, the defining feature of an LPVO is that the bottom of the magnification range is 1x. This allows the user to use it as easily as a red dot for times the operator doesn’t require magnification, yet with a spin of the magnification ring, now has access to as much magnification as the erector can provide. It really is an elegant solution to the problem of using a single rifle for multiple roles.
As you can imagine, most users only use the two ends of the magnification range, the 1x and the top end. The issue is that it takes a second or two to spin the magnification ring from 1x to the top end. What some 3-Gun competitors ended up doing is getting 45 degree offset irons to run next to the LPVO, allowing them to roll the gun in their shoulder and have instant access to a 1x sighting system in a fraction of a second instead of having to dismount the gun and dial the scope back to 1x, which takes multiple seconds even with a throw lever. And of course, where irons are good an RDS is better, so offset red dots quickly showed up. This is where I start to take umbridge.
This means that dudes were now running guns with 2 optics, both of which could be used a 1x. Seeing this, those guys just set the LPVO to 6x (or whatever) and only use the offset RDS for their 1x needs. So why even have the LPVO at all? Low Power Variable Optic. The defining feature of this entire class of scopes is the ability to be used at 1x and go up to a higher magnification. If you just leave it at the higher end all the time, then you are negating the entire reason they were created in the first place!
So, what do I think needs to change? I think people should stop throwing an LPVO on every rifle they own. If spinning the magnification ring takes too long, then an LPVO shouldn’t be considered a viable option. I would suggest getting a fixed power scope and running an offset RDS. A fixed magnification scope is lighter, more rugged, has a larger eyebox, and cheaper, as long as you stay in the same quality of optic. There are definite trade-offs to having a variable power optic instead of a fixed-power. The main downside of only having that one magnification is completely negated if you plan on putting another optic on your gun anyway!
This is kinda where my solution falls apart. Fixed-power scopes have been out of fashion for so long in the gun industry that they are an afterthought for most people. After an admittedly non-exhaustive search on the internet, I only found fixed power scopes that were either ACOG-competitors (4x, very rugged, very expensive), or this one option from Leupold. Vortex has a 5x prism option that could also work, as it’s not terribly expensive. Now contrast that to the absolute cornucopia of 1-6x options out there in every price range and in every reticle option you can imagine. In a perfect world I would just buy a fixed-power optic in whatever reticle I desired, but that’s not realistic. What is realistic is buying an LPVO in whatever reticle I desire, and at almost any price point I can imagine, and putting an offset red dot next to it. That really is the world we live in, and it annoys me.