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FFP vs SFP LPVO: Which Is Better [Expert Opinion] 

Dakota Potts | Updated February 25, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Cover photo of FFP vs SFP LPVO showing several LPVO laying side by side

As you look for an LPVO, two terms you’ll come across are first focal plane (FFP) and second focal plane (SFP). When it comes to FFP vs SFP LPVOs, which one should you get? Is one better than the other? 

In this guide, I’ll delve into each and explain which circumstances require either.

Once you’re done, I highly suggest you read our list of the best LPVO under $500 where we mention the top budget FFP and SFP LPVOs money can buy.

Key Takeaways 

  • Both FFP and SFP LPVO scopes have distinct advantages that make them ideal for different shooting situations.
  • The main difference between FFP and SFP is that with FFP, the reticle size changes with magnification, while in SFP, the reticle size remains the same despite the magnification.
  • SFP LPVOs are ideal for close-quarter combat situations where fast target acquisition is important.

FFP vs SFP LPVO for Hunting

When deciding which focal plane is better for hunting in an LPVO, you also must consider the pros and cons of FFP vs SFP.

Target view seen through the lens of an LPVO

In an FFP scope, as you adjust magnification, the reticle size changes. This is a big advantage because the windage marks will remain accurate at whatever magnification you opt for.

On the downside, the reticle size of the FFP scope remains small at low magnification to a point where you might not be able to use the hash marks. Let’s not forget that an LPVO is a low-power scope, meaning an FFP may not be the best option when you go hunting.

On the other hand, in an SFP scope, the reticle size remains the same despite the magnification level you choose. This can lead to quick target acquisition even at lower magnification, making SFP LPVOs good for hunting.

Man holding a rifle with a mounted LPVO

Still, FFP scopes can help hunters in certain situations. Where this scope shines is in offering accuracy at multiple and varied distances. 

Fun Fact

Hunting with firearms began in the 16th century. Source: factretriever.com

So, if you find yourself in situations where you don’t really have time to start changing your magnification because your target can disappear, the FFP scope is the better alternative.

For more on this topic, see our entire posit on using LPVO scopes for hunting.

FFP vs SFP LPVO for Combat

In combat situations, you have to pick the right focal plane, especially in critical scenarios where it could be a matter of life and death.

So, FFP vs SFP, which is better?

The SFP reticle remains the same size and is easy to see, making it suitable for close-quarters combat (CQC) scenarios where fast target acquisition is important. Even if you change the magnification, there’s no need to hold, especially on a man-size target.

Man standing near the target while holding a rifle with a mounted LPVO

Most combat engagements are in close situations. Even law enforcement and sniper scenarios are often at close to mid-range distances. And while you can either go with FFP or SFP LPVO, an SFP will serve you well in combat situations.

But that doesn’t mean FFP LPVOs aren’t useful. When you anticipate engagements at varying distances and need the reticle for holdovers, you may want to get FFP LPVOs. They allow for fast corrections or rapid adjustments.

Unlike FFP vs SFP scope for hunting – in which we’ve agreed that SFPs are the better option – here it’ll depend on the kind of combat and speed requirement you anticipate. 

If versatility and ranging capabilities are the determining factors, then an FFP scope is better. But if you’re going for quicker target acquisition, SFP LPVO takes the cup home.

FFP vs SFP Vortex

Vortex Optics is a company that has been making scopes for a long time and is a trusted brand in the market. So, when it comes down to picking an FFP or SFP Vortex scope, the last thing you’ll have to worry about is the optics. 

After all, it’s the same brand and glass quality, reducing the number of things you need to factor in when buying a scope.

Reticle aimed at a deer seen through the lens of a scope

Like all other FFP scopes, the reticle size in Vortex FFP scopes changes with magnification. This focal plane is useful when you’re in a competition or combat. In such scenarios, you don’t really have the time to stop and adjust magnification for an accurate shot, so having accurate hash marks at any distance is a big plus.

In fact, if you go to a Precision Rifle Series match with a Vortex SFP scope, you may find it to be a frustrating experience. One target may be 800 yards away, while another is 600 yards, and another is 200 yards away.

Man standing from the target at a distance while holding a rifle

Do you really have the time to stop and start adjusting the magnification ring before hitting the targets? Not really. You simply choose one magnification setting, preferably in the lower half of the magnification range, and use it for varying distances while enjoying the large field of view.

Nonetheless, if you’re hunting in low-light situations, pick an SFP Vortex scope. Why? In an FFP scope, you can hardly see the reticle when using the lowest magnification.

Fun Fact

If the Army was a city, it would be the 10th-largest in the United States. Source: legion.org

And because an SFP reticle maintains its size even on the lowest magnification, you can see the reticles clearly even in thick brush and make your shot.

Aside from that, Vortex FFP scopes are usually more expensive than SFP scopes as it has a more complex construction because of the reticle’s placement.

FFP vs SFP LPVO Scopes Pros and Cons

LPVO scope mounted on a rifle

As mentioned, in an FFP vs SFP LPVO debate, none is better or worse. Basically, it’s like comparing oranges to apples. Each has its pros and cons, and there are situations where one will outperform the other. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each:



  • Reticle scaling: The reticle size scales up and down as you make magnification adjustments. This means the holdover values remain accurate despite the magnification setting you choose. For those of us who hate doing math, this is good news.
  • Versatile: We can use FFP LPVO scopes in different shooting scenarios and distances, making these scopes ideal for dynamic situations.


  • FFP scopes are often more costly than SFP scopes.
  • In low-light situations or dark backgrounds, it can be hard to see the reticle at low magnification settings, making target acquisition challenging.
Image of a rifle with a mounted LPVO lying on the ground



  • Reticle consistency: The reticle size is constant regardless of the magnification level.
  • Quick target acquisition: Thanks to the consistent reticle size, SFP scopes allow quick target acquisition at lower magnification settings.
  • Cost: They are more affordable because their construction isn’t as complex as FFPs


  • Holdover points are often only accurate at large magnification settings.
  • They don’t perform well at long ranges.

Ultimately, you must consider your shooting style, distance, and budget when getting a scope. For example, when debating an FFP vs SFP hunting, the SFP is the ideal choice, but when you want something suitable for dynamic situations, the FFP is the right choice.

“The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”

Jeff Cooper

FFP or SFP for Air Rifle

Man peering through the lens of an LPVO

Air rifles are mostly used for target shooting. In such scenarios, you aren’t racing against time and are probably on a bench somewhere trying to hit your target.  (Reference: FFP vs SFP LPVO)

Now, we know that the difference between SFP and FFP is that SFP reticle size doesn’t change with magnification adjustments. But because you aren’t in a rush and have the time to make proper magnification adjustments that suit your situation, FFP may be the better option to give you more precision at longer distances.

For similar reading, see our write-up on FFP vs SFP scopes for hunting.


Is first focal plane better for LPVO?

The first focal plane isn’t necessarily better for LPVO, but it’s convenient because the holdover marks or the mil dots in the reticle remain accurate despite the magnification setting you pick.

What is the difference between first and second focal plane for LPVO?

The difference between first and second focal plane for LPVO is that in FFP scopes, as you scale the magnification up and down, the reticle’s size changes, while in SFPs, the reticle’s size remains constant.


  1. Vortex Optics, Do You Need an FFP Optic? Retrieved from https://vortexoptics.com/blog/do-you-even-need-a-first-focal-plane-optic.html

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