Picking a sight to put on your rifle probably takes longer than actually picking the rifle itself, at least in my experience. I’m still struggling to find the perfect match with zero expectation it even exists, and that’s half the joy really. Every optic seems to shine in its own way, but only one really attempts to create the best of all possible worlds.

Now, in all honesty, my favorite way to shoot a rifle for recreational range days is normally with plain Jane iron sights, preferably ones that include a rear peep aperture. But I have had a few flings with red dots, non-variable optics, and scopes. Hence, I now have an expensive drawer filled with extra sights.

If you don’t want to create that same drawer with your own money, you might want to consider something like the U.S. Optics TS-6X 1-6x24mm I’ve been testing on a variety of guns. It’s mostly lived on my ZRO Delta rifle and has proven not only the value of an optic but the value of a low-power variable optic, or LPVO, in particular.

WHY GO WITH AN OPTIC ANYWAY

Delton Echo 316 with a Primary Arms optic
Optics offer some clear advantages over iron sights, including target identification. This Delton Echo 316 hosts a Primary Arms fixed-magnification optic with an ACSS reticle. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Nearly a decade ago, I was asked by an award-winning marksman on the Marine Corps Shooting Team what I thought about the move to add optics to tactical rifles for the military. The Marine Corps had just made the full shift – well, not the Marine Corps Shooting Team – to fielding the Trijicon 4x32 Tritium/Fiber Optic ACOG, which still is a very nice non-variable optic. But I hadn’t actually given the question much thought.

However, I cannot now – and could not then – deny the fact that I generally shoot rifles better with optics, and they have a lot of additional benefits. Before shooting ever happens, you first must identify a target. Magnified optics help as much with target identification as they do with accurate shot placement. Even red dots can help declutter your view for better target identification.

I still love irons, but I now prefer optics on most of my rifles from a practical perspective. Specifically, I enjoy short-range optics that usually provide a level of magnification that is still effective at close ranges while enhancing performance out to around 500 yards. I say “enhancing” because these are not sniper scopes or powerful hunting/competition optics. 

Red Dot, Non-Variable Optic, or LPVO

Paul shoots a LAR-15 on the range with a red dot
Even a basic red dot like this Vortex Strikefire can make huge improvements to your speed and accuracy. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

If we toss out the idea that you’re looking for something that can thread a needle repeatedly at 100 yards or more, then that really brings you to red dots, non-variable optics, and low-power variable optics. I honestly have at least one of each on various firearms, but it’s the LPVO that would be best suited for replacing them all.

Red dots can certainly be quick and accurate, even if you can’t really expect sub-MOA groups. Sure, you could add a magnifier, though I might argue that would make it two optics, and now you’re complicating the platform to make it more like an LPVO anyway. This does work great for some people, but it isn’t in and of itself a true blend of red dot and variable scope.

I personally have a soft spot for non-variable magnified optics like the 4x32 ACOG. This optic has a fixed magnification, which makes it incredibly simple to use like a red dot. Even though it has a fixed magnification, you can still train to shoot with it much like a red dot at close quarters. But, then again, that requires more training, and it still is non-variable for magnification. What you have is what you get, making it more of a spork than a full set of flatware.

Red dot on a 10/22
Red dots are light, fast close-quarters optics. But they do lack magnification. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

LPVO View: A Look at the U.S. Optics TS-6X

This is a first-focal-plane optic. That means the reticle can be used accurately regardless of the magnification. That shouldn’t make an optic with a second focal plane a deal-breaker for you. They’re often more affordable, and they have been the norm on many hunting and tactical scopes for decades. 

However, FFP optics are nice if you want to run a scope at a more midrange magnification like an ACOG. I’m personally partial to 4x as my standard magnification on an AR-style rifle, and I will often pull it back to 1x if I want the optic to act more like a red dot or increase magnification if I can shoot from a rest. The magnification dial is relatively firm with a raised triangle instead of a throw lever, and I haven’t had issues with it shifting while shooting or simply moving around with the gun.

Upfront, the optic is accurate and easy to zero quickly. I’ve slapped this scope on several guns, and it has never failed to perform or lost zero. I’m well over 1,000 rounds of 5.56 and .223, with another 300+ rounds of .22 LR that I shot through my AR with a CMMG conversion bolt while treating it more like a close-range plinker. 

What shines about it for me is less the specs, which you read to your heart’s desire, and more the function. After a quick 10-round zero, I was able to swing it over to the 100-yard range and achieve MOA and occasionally sub-MOA groups without much work. I own a 4x fixed-magnification optic, and that is a bit tricky to pull off. It’s harder with a red dot. But even then, I could always pull the TS-6X back and shoot it like a red dot.

U.S. Optics TS-6X on a ZRO Delta Rifle
An LPVO like this U.S. Optics TS-6X does add more weight and size than a red dot, but it covers a broader spectrum of capabilities for a few more ounces. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Thus, I can run the U.S. Optic much like a red dot and still push it out for magnification as needed with just the quick twist of the wrist. I will note that it is not a perfect red dot, and even 1x has a noticeable magnification effect. But after some shooting, I found this actually pulls your eye into the optic nicely. Still, a genuine dot would provide a more one-to-one perspective.

Final Thoughts

Of course, as a variable-power scope, a low-power variable optic could always be accidentally bumped and adjusted, or you could leave it on the wrong setting. Imagine trying to engage a target at 10 feet thinking you had a sight like a red dot only to find out you left the magnification on 6x from your range visit. Both the red dot and the non-variable magnified optic have advantages here. 

Red dots are typically much light, which may weigh into your decision. They also get away with little impact from eye relief issues, which affect both of your other options but can be trained around with a quality sight.

Sure, an LPVO is not the perfect short-range do-all optic. But overall, if you want to avoid the drawer filled with misfit optics years from now, it’s hard to beat an LPVO like the U.S. Optics TS-6X. 

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