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Between writing for magazines and of course running the YouTube Channel I've had the opportunity to try a few different low-powered variable optics (LPVO). I've seen a lot of talk about what is best and can say with certainty that there is no absolute best, just what's best for you.
What To Consider: What's "best" for you comes down to your needs. Despite what YouTube LARPers show, not everyone is pretending to "stack bodies" every time they go to the range. Some folks are training for competitions, others just looking for more versatility with their rifle. More than anything how useful a scope will be comes down to the reticle design and your personal preference in that arena. Below is a list of optics we've spent some time with and our observations on them. Nothing appears on this page that we wouldn't recommend to a friend. Glass quality is a factor, we won't list anything that didn't have good glass. Scope name will link you to technical specifications and current pricing.
Brownell's MPO 1-9x24: This is the newest in our lineup and the one we have the least time with, but features and build quality are impressive. The second-focal plane reticle will only measure accurately at 8 power, but they've been creative in creating a reticle that is both full of information (MRAD) and keeps out of your way when aiming. A floating center dot is a win with me and the horizontal and vertical bars are hollow to let you still see your target. Capped, low-profile turrets keep out of the way and the illumination having only 6 power levels (plus off) makes spinning to the right brightness quick. As you'll see in the video this optic is quite promising
Riton X5 Tactix 1-6x24: Capped and locking turrets mean you won't lose zero bumping this rugged scope around. A first-focal plane reticle means that the subtenstions remain true at any power, something useful in higher-powered scopes, maybe not necessary in an LPVO which tends to live either at 1 power as a red or or full power for a precise shot. The reticle is thick and sharp which makes it easy to pick up, but also means it could obscure a smaller target. I used this optic in an AR-10/SR-25 Mid to long-range class and found it handy out to 500 yards on torso-sized targets.
Athlon Optics BTR Gen II 1-8x24: Coming in at a lower price and with more magnification the Argos BTR Gen ii is very appealing. This optic feels lighter on the rifle and offers a little bit of extra magnification, but keep in mind that 8 power with a 24mm tube makes for a small exit pupil. In layman's terms you have to hold your head just right if you want to use that 8 power. The saving grace of course is that if something requires that much magnification chances are you're also taking your time and in a stable shooting position. The reticle is grabs the eye easily and only the main parts illuminate. This is a BDC (bullet drop compensation) reticle which can serve well as a guide but in reality unless you're using the exact projectile and barrel length it was designed for BDC reticles can only serve as a suggestion. Despite all of that and a cheaper feel in hand this has become a favorite of ours when we just want to slap something on a rifle and go have fun.
Lucid Optics L7 1-6x24: This was another scope that I took to the AR10/SR-25 course. Some of the sharpest glass out there and at an affordable price. The reticle has illuminates blue which is odd since illumination is usually meant to contrast the reticle against a dark target. Regardless, Lucid's reticles are some of the finest which is great for keeping your vision clear and not obscuring the target, but can also mean it's easily lost on target. During the course I found the spacious reticle to be a little too spacious for my specific application (.308 at 500-650 yards) often leaving my holds floating in empty space, but for those with a sharp eye it's hard to beat the sometimes hard to find 1/8 MOA center floating aiming point. That's smaller than the hole a .223 round makes on paper. Excellent for shooting groups, maybe too fine for quick use.
While this list certainly doesn't even scratch the surface of what options are available out there I thought it would be helpful to share some reflections on what we've used so far. It's a shame that Nikon quite the scope business as their optics had been our go to for years to find something that performed well and was still affordable. Each of the optics listed here have their own merits and detractors for me, as do all optics for each person and each application.
I think in the end the reticle is what makes the biggest impact on how well you'll shoot with one optic over another. Not just the reticle, but how it applies to your particular shooting needs, target types, and speed. Let us know in the comments what your experiences have been with these or other LPVOs.