Lately, low-power variable optics dominate the CQB optic market, but magnifiers for red-dot sights have graced many a rifle for more than 15 years. To be fair, the popularity of magnifiers has waned, but we’re beginning to see more of them on rifles again.
The purpose of this article is to give you a clear pro/con of each setup so you can make the decision of what’s best for your needs. Understand that since we’re discussing these products in general and not each and every SKU out there, there’ll be some outliers. So if something doesn’t apply to your favorite pet LPVO or RDS, that’s 100-percent A-OK. Think about each use case, and compare and contrast with your own anticipated uses.
EYE RELIEF / OFF-ANGLE VIEWING
WINNER: RDS + MAG
Eye relief varies greatly amongst LPVOs depending on brand and model, but the eye box in any of them is smaller than that of the most basic RDS. While on the bench or flat range it may not seem to be an issue, once you start getting weird and shooting from unconventional positions, the need for eye relief really rears its head. The maximum viewing angle of a RDS is invariably larger simply due to the design of the scope body itself. The larger the window and shorter the body, the better the maximum off-axis viewing angle.
Of course, this only applies while an RDS doesn’t have a magnifier behind it. Once you add a magnifier, you’ll run into similar issues as with LVPOs. But, when both are used at 1x power, the difference is obvious. There are some ways around this with an LPVO, namely using a piggybacked MRDS or offset irons, at the expense of additional gear hanging on your rifle.
Most modern LPVOs use a common watch battery for reticle illumination. When an LPVO battery dies, it’s very irritating, but the optic still works fine since the etched or wire reticle remains. With most RDS, a completely dead battery means a dead optic. We say most because there are some older designs that use self-powering tritium or fiber optics to light their reticle. But contemporary RDS largely relies on a battery-powered LED or laser to project their reticle. We’ve yet to see an LPVO with the battery life of an Aimpoint Comp M4, though, but auxiliary reticle illumination isn’t necessary for the optic’s basic functionality.
WINNER: RDS + MAG
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