If you’re out here researching red dots and LPVOs and you’re torn between the two, you’ve bumped into the right article to know the answer to the question, “what is better: a red dot or LPVO?”
Today, we’re breaking down the different departments of their uses, how they work, and a little bit of an overview of each of them. Later, you can decide which one is better for you. First, the basics.
What is a red dot sight?
A red dot optic is used for closer range shots that are about 100 yards or less. It is fairly easy to use in that even beginners can find pleasure with its simplified operation.
A red dot is what it is – a red dot (reticle) that you see when you look through it.
Typically, a red dot sight uses a red LED, allowing the reticle to keep its alignment with your firearm no matter the position of your eye.
This optics system is made of a tilted spherical mirror that reflects the light and that is made with a coating, which only lets the red light to pass through it. This red dot helps hunters, shooters, and other users easily see the target even against a dark background.
When would you possibly prefer a red dot sight? You’ll want it if you are more into faster target acquisition and for close-range applications, such as hunting short game.
These red dot sights have unlimited eye relief, offering ease of use and allowing users to shoot with accuracy even when in unconventional positions.
What is an LPVO?
Low powered variable optic (LPVO) is an optic system with a true 1x power or magnification, but higher magnification settings are also available in some models.
They don’t have the highest magnification levels, thus its name, although you can find makes with up to 10x power.
An LPVO is no different to a traditional scope in that it also magnifies an object to help you see your target clearly and as if it’s close to you.
The difference, though, is the super useful true 1x for short range shots.
Still with an LPVO, you have the option of raising the magnification level when you need to target farther objects.
If you’re typically shooting from short to mid range, LPVOs are highly dependable. They’re also perfect for range use and mid range targets. They can also offer users higher chances of shooting their targets and not be distracted by any parallax distortion.
A low-powered variable optics can be for you if you also want to use your scope for tactical applications.
Power or magnification
The low power variable scope can be more useful in terms of magnification because red dots typically are not magnified, although good for close range within 100 yards.
If you plan on using your scope for longer range shots, an LPVO may be for you.
Know that focusing issues can be a concern with some LPVOs at maximum power once it’s been set for true 1x.
However, an adjustable objective or side focus can resolve a parallax error in relation to distance. [Parallax can be more obvious when the LPVO is used at the highest magnification].
Don’t worry, though, if you want an LPVO provided that you use it correctly. It is still a good choice for its variable power, which can be available in handy when you need it.
Low light function
There are several factors to affect how any of the optics will work in low lighting situations, and one of which is the objective lens size. LPVOs will typically have 24mm lens and red dots 20mm.
However, a low power variable optic has many glasses so light is reduced significantly before reaching your eyes even if it can let more light in. This is the opposite with a red dot that has minimal lenses.
But then, high quality scopes are made with top quality objective lens glass material and coatings, which can minimize that loss.
Nevertheless, high quality coatings, materials, and optical design plays a huge role on how a red dot or an LPVO will fare against dark environments.
A red dot sight is the common optics to use with night vision (NV), while also not taking up a lot of space in the rail. This device can also be positioned rearward or far forward based on what you want to use it with, like a mounted night vision device (NVD), such as a monocular.
The determination of which is better between a red dot and an LPVO for this purpose relies on the type of firearm and purpose (recreational target shooting may include activities like plinking, hitting steel…).
Both the scopes are good for their aiming points, which can increase precision and offer better sight picture. They can also be used in low lighting conditions; however, the target size and distance, for instance, are some factors to help you make the choice on which one to use for your hunting activity.
Close range shots
An LPVO optic can offer a red dot like performance for close quarter battles, but it will depend on its reticle style.
However, there are aiming points that may be smaller than 1 MOA, and this can be hard to pick up when you use 1X or only when a little part of the dot itself is illuminated. This can also make visibility difficult.
Meanwhile, red dot sights offer excellent performance in close ranges because of its different MOA sizes, unlimited eye relief and field of vision, and no magnification, and that it can be used with two eyes open. A 6-MOA is very effective at a close range. Nevertheless, red dots are more preferred for short range applications.
Long range shooting
A low power variable optic may be the better choice for its versatility for farther distances because of its variable magnification range and different reticle options.
LPVOs, like 1-4x and 1-6x are more suitable from close to mid range shooting up to 300 yards, but those with up to 10x the power are for longer ranges up to 800 yards.
In this department LPVOs are the clear winner because red dot sights lack magnification and their subtensions can grow larger with a farther distance, resulting in less than stellar accuracy for longer range shots.
LPVOs are designed with an adjustable diopter or eyepiece and a side focus for parallax correction in relation to a certain distance, while red dots don’t have a focusing component. The characteristics of an LPVO including an adjustable eyepiece can help in reticle focusing and overall field of view.
Overall, an LPVO wins for reticle focusing and clear image and is recommended for people with vision problems.
LPVOs offer more reticle options – its advantage compared to a red dot sight, which commonly features only a dot for its aiming point, but you may also be able to find those featuring different reticles, like crosshairs.
An LPVO offers a different reticle style for bullet drop compensation and can help you for different distances better than a red dot.
In terms of illumination, not all low power variable optics’ have full illumination but only on its center dot.
Red dots are excellent optics for their unlimited eye relief and can be flexible for all firearms, including putting them in a good position on top of an AR 15.
On the other hand, an LPVO needs mounting where you can get a full field of view in relation to your cheek weld.
In this department, a red dot is the winner for its unlimited eye relief even when compared to higher powered scopes.
What is better: a red dot or LPVO?
So again, a low power variable optic is an optics system with true 1x magnification power and its magnification range can reach up to 10X in some scopes. On the other hand, a red dot sight has 1X magnification, but you can also find magnified options.
A red dot sight can assist you most of the time, although there are limitations. For example, an LPVO may be the better choice if you’re using a scope for tactical operations or attaching a scope to an airsoft. However, red dot sights can be more useful for more people who shoot at close range.
But then, you also need to be honest with yourself and assess your skills and training when deciding which scope to buy for yourself. If you’re a beginner who wants to learn how to use a scope faster, you might be better off with a red dot sight.
Overall, a red dot sight or an LPVO has its unique characteristics and features that make one better when compared to the other, but this is based on applications, preferences, training, skills, and needs.