EVERYTHING WRONG WITH THE LPVO
Recoil|November - December 2020
Addressing the Issue of Low-Power Variable Optics
Alex Hartmann

These days, carbines equipped with low-power variable optics have become very popular. A good way to characterize these LPVOequipped carbines is “Cooper Scout Rifle meets modern 21st-century warfare.” It’s important to remember that the origin of this system has martial intent — there has been a disconnect among many shooters, as the original inception of the optically sighted carbine is a little dark and grim.

Even from the early proliferation of optics on the battlefield, the purpose was simple — to enhance the capabilities of the basic rifleman in his/ her task:

THE FUTURE IS NOW, OLD MAN

Up until the last 20 years, the progression of the modern carbine hadn’t pushed much beyond World War II concepts. Sure, we did some stuff with polymers and aircraft-grade aluminum for that Indo-China thing, but let’s face it, the Cold War was arguably lame with respect to what actually got fielded in terms of small arms. Until recently, we’ve gone to war with the same sighting concepts our grandfathers did.

The strategic execution of the global war on terror is up for historians to debate, but what’s undeniable is that it has allowed for nearly 19 years (and counting) of non-stop warfighting research and development. The conflict has ranged from peer/near-peer engagements to countless ongoing counterinsurgencies. Necessity is the mother of innovation, but a solid nod needs to go to the father, which is foresight. This unholy union provided us with what is arguably the most paramount of small arms innovation: the proliferation of optically sighted service rifles and carbines at a mass level. Enter the Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG).

The crux of the problem is that modern gunfights are increasingly complicated. Most targets in combative engagements are often presented for limited time and/or size exposure. Additionally, targets are increasingly being presented in less than optimal light conditions. Moreover, the emphasized need to properly identify combatants versus non-combatants makes the phrase “complicated” sound like an understatement.

While the optically sighted carbine with a fixed 3x or 4x is very effective at intermediate ranges, it’s less than ideal when you’re cohabitating rooms with the opposition. Thus, the birth of the LPVO into modern warfare.

HOW MUCH MAGNIFICATION?

The old sniper rule of thumb you often hear regurgitated is “1x for every 100 yards/meters.” But remember this old-school mindset comes from the dog days of the Cold War; in reality, the opposition tends to reduce their visual signature by using camouflage or concealment. So there’s a new rule: You’ll probably need to go with at least 2x for every 100 yards/meters in the real world.

At this point, we can safely say 1-6x suffices out to 300 yards, 1-8x is good for 400 yards, and 1-10x buys us real estate all the way out to 500 yards. Before you start furiously posting on the internet about this, yes, these magnification ranges can be effectively stretched much further under ideal conditions, but in the complicated nature of gunfighting, conditions never seem to be ideal.

TOO CLOSE FOR MISSILES

The first consideration is fairly straightforward, and some might assume that simply grabbing the latest and greatest 1-10x is the answer (see page 146 for a breakdown of the Vortex 1-10x). Unfortunately, we have few a more points of review that aren’t so readily apparent. While shooters demand a 1x that’s as fast as a red dot and a 10x that would put Carlos Hathcock to shame, there are some real limitations to what can be done and for how much money.

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