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Prism Sights vs LPVOs

Prism - LPVO Blog Feature 1

Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy are going to be going over prism sights and LPVOs today. These two kinds of optics are incredibly popular among shooters these days and have proven themselves to be effective. Our goal with this blog post is to compare these two types of optics while delving into their features and traits. Without further ado, let’s talk about prism sights and LPVOs.


What is a Prism Sight

A prism sight is similar to a traditional style scope due to its use of prismatic lenses. These types of sights set themselves apart from red dots and holographic sights with their etched reticles. These reticles will always be visible, even without power, providing a shooter with a permanent reticle. Prism sights will generally be fixed power optics and are available in a variety of magnification levels. One can find optics of this type in 1x, 2x, 3.5x, 4x, and 6x varieties just to name a few. Prism sights will typically feature some form of illumination from sources such as batteries, tritium, and fiber optics.

The reticle of a prism sight is often dependent upon the level of magnification it provides. Prism sights on the lower end of the magnification spectrum and those offering no magnification will typically feature simple reticles. These reticles are less busy than reticles intended for longer-range shooting and are optimal for fast target acquisition at close range. The offerings in higher magnification levels will generally feature a reticle of the bullet drop compensator (BDC) variety. These reticles are intended to help a shooter engage targets at extended ranges. These reticles in these higher magnification levels can also be specifically calibrated for a given cartridge and barrel length. For example, a 4x Trijicon TA31RCO-A4CP is optimized for a 20” barrel firing a 62 grain 5.56x45mm NATO round.


What is an LPVO?

A low power variable optic, or LPVO, is a traditional style scope which covers a low range of magnification. Typically, LPVO scopes do not exceed 10x magnification. Common offerings span 1-4, 1-6, 1-8, and 1-10 magnification ranges. These types of optics bridge the gap between close range and longer-range shooting as they seek to cover the low and high ends of magnification. LPVOs are also available with or without illuminated reticles.

LPVOs are also available in either first focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP) form. FFP scopes feature a reticle which has a size corresponding to the current level of magnification. At lower magnification levels, the reticle will appear to be smaller and more simplistic. As the level of magnification increases, the reticle will grow in size and be at its largest and most complex at the highest level. It is at this highest level of magnification where one can best use a BDC type reticle and expect a reticle’s markings for holds and other information to be most accurate. SFP scopes feature a reticle which stays the same time at all magnification levels.

Trijicon ACOG TA31
Trijicon ACOG TA31

Pros and Cons: Prism Sights


  • Most prism sights ship with a mount or feature a mount integral to the optic itself. This means that a shooter can run a prism sight right out of the box.
  • Prism sights do not need to be installed into scope rings and leveled like traditional style scopes. As mentioned above
  • Many prism sight offerings either come with provisions to facilitate the mounting of a micro red dot sight or can easily be fitted with the proper hardware to do so.
  • Less susceptible to issues with parallax than their LPVO counterparts. 
  • Prism sights will typically be lighter than their LPVO counterparts. The optics are generally going to be a bit smaller in stature and do not require a large mount like LPVOs do.


  • Prism sights are designed to function more as combat optics than precision-oriented optics. This is not to say that these types of optics are incapable of precise shooting, rather that they are intended to be effective in battle. LPVOs and traditional scopes will offer reticles and magnification ranges which are more conducive to precision work.
  • Prism sights will generally be fixed power optics. The ones that do offer magnification generally will only cover a single level of magnification. A notable exception to this rule would be something like an Elcan Specter DR optic which is capable of swapping between different magnification levels. Sights like this are definitely not commonplace in the world of prism optics though.
  • There are fewer prism sight options on the market than LPVO options. This means that the consumer has fewer potential options to consider when purchasing a prism sight.
  • Prism sights will generally have a much more restrictive eyebox than their LPVO counterparts. One of the biggest complaints about the venerable ACOG line of optics is that their eye relief is quite restrictive and short. Users of prism optics can seek to improve upon this with a variety of mounts and accessories which bring the optic closer to the shooter. An innovative product which accomplishes this for ACOGs is the KRAM from WeaponOutfitters.
  • Most prism optics will have a slimmer field of view when compared with LPVOs with larger objective lenses.


Pros and Cons: LPVOs


  • Variable magnification capabilities allow a shooter to adjust their level of magnification on the fly. A 1-8 LPVO can go from either end of the magnification range it covers with ease. This allows a shooter to find a level of magnification most optimal for their type of shooting.
  • Due to the realities of scopes using their tubular bodies to interface with mounting solutions, there are considerably more mounts available for LPVOs than prism optics. Scope mounts span multiple tube sizes and optic heights. They are also available with and without provisions for quick disconnect mechanisms and way to mount secondary sights such as red dot sights.
  • There are a wide variety of LPVOs on the market for an end user to consider. This high number of options allows a prospective buyer to browse LPVOs and find something which best fits their preferences and needs.
  • Generally, LPVOs will have a much more forgiving and generous eyebox than their prism sight counterparts. If one has an LPVO with a less forgiving eye relief, one can work to counteract this with their mounting solution.
  • LPVOs with larger objective lenses will offer a wider field of view than most prism optics on the market.



  • With the exception of the Trijicon VCOG, most LPVOs will not include a mount of any kind. This means that a prospective customer will also need to purchase a mount just to be able to use the scope.
  • There are more variables to consider when purchasing a mount for an LPVO, meaning there is a higher margin of error. One must take into account the tube size of their scope as well as the eye relief when selecting a mount.
  • Mounting a secondary sight like a micro red dot sight to be used in conjunction requires the addition of an appropriate mount. This can either be an offset mount which is separate from the scope mount or on the scope mount itself. The bottom line is that there is no provision on the optic itself to accept another sight.
  • Generally, LPVOs are more susceptible to issues with parallax than their prism sight counterparts. Certain scope models feature methods to combat parallax, but these are generally in higher magnification ranges.
  • LPVOs will typically be heavier than their prism sight counterparts. This is mainly due to the fact that the optics themselves are heavier than their prism counterparts and rely on additional mounting hardware.
Vortex Razor Gen II 1-6
Vortex Razor Gen II 1-6

Who Makes Prism Sights?

There are a fair number of prism sights available on the market. These types of sights are manufactured by companies such as Trijicon, Armament Tech, Vortex Optics, and Hawke Optics to name a few. These optics are available at multiple price points with budget and premium options to be considered. Typically, these types of optics are made in the United States or China.


Who Makes LPVOs?

There number of LPVO offerings on the market considerably outweighs the number of prism sights on the market. Offerings of LPVO scopes can be had from companies such as Leupold, Trijicon, EOTech, Nightforce, and Vortex Optics to name a few. Like most optics, LPVOs are available at both budget-oriented and premium price points. These types of optics are usually made in countries such as the United States, Japan, Germany, the Philippines, and China.



At the end of the day, both prism sights and LPVOs have proven themselves to be versatile and reliable sighting solutions. Regardless of whether one goes with a prism sight or an LPVO, they should train to be proficient and efficient with their optic of choice. To build proficiency, you will need to invest time and ammunition to develop and hone skills. We here at True Shot Ammo carry a wide variety of ammunition well-suited to training and practice and are here to help you get stocked up. As always, happy shooting.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website trueshotammo.com, call us at (888) 736-6587, or you can email us at [email protected] for more ammo options.


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