A few days ago, I serendipitously lucked into an open spot at Cornerstone Performance’s 2-Day LPVO class in Hutto, Texas. This opening was donated by someone who couldn’t make the class at the last minute, and I was able to take this spot (if you’re reading this, thank you for your kindness).

I’ll preface the rest of this write-up by disclosing that I am very much in favor of the LPVO as the main sighting system on a general-purpose carbine. 

In spite of my bias, I still strive to learn as much as I can about their nuances, shortcomings and subtleties with regards to employing them effectively. After having the privilege of participating in the Green Ops LPVO course, I was honored to train with a different outfit and listen to a different perspective on these versatile optics.

Cornerstone Performance is a small training company based in central Texas and headed by Eric Wise. In addition to running Cornerstone Performance, Eric is also an accomplished shooter, competitor, and professional instructor for a large central Texas police agency. I didn’t meet him until this class, but his name sounded familiar, and I’m pretty sure we’ve shot some of the same local matches.

Cornerstone Performance’s Philosophy On LPVOs

Wise’s outlook on the role of the LPVO atop a modern carbine is informed by his many years of police service with a patrol rifle. During the course of this two-day class, he often reminded us, students, that he didn’t see the LPVO as anything more than a “fancy” red dot that could zoom in better [than an off-set magnifier].

Furthermore, he often drove home the point that LPVOs aren’t precision sniper scopes, nor should they be treated as such. This point in particular, that LPVOs are not to be treated as sniper scopes, was something that I specifically recall the Green Ops instructors also emphasizing when I took their class last autumn.

Beyond that, I enjoyed getting a veteran street cop’s perspective on the LPVO and how it worked for him in the context of his job around a major metro area and its surrounding suburbs. The same type of environment that the majority of civilian defenders would have to contend with should they ever need a scoped defensive carbine. 

With Wise’s idea of framing the LPVO as a more elaborate red dot, he also contextualizes the carbine being a three-minute weapon (as a firearm capable of producing solid 3 MOA composite groups at 100 yards with duty ammo). This 3 MOA benchmark refers to a composite group with a statistically significant amount of shots, call it at least 20 rounds. So, those 3-round sub-MOA groups that both gunmakers and people on the Internet love to brag about don’t count.

A 300-Yard Tool

From my own experiences, I do agree that a 3 MOA benchmark is more than reasonable for most modern carbines and LPVOs using the appropriate type of duty ammo. Following this three-minute benchmark, Wise also emphasized that a carbine equipped with an LPVO was a 300-yard tool in his world and the context of a street cop with a patrol rifle.  

LPVO Cornerstone Performance Big Tex Ordnance
Running into Big Tex Ordnance’s very own Ike Stephens at the class was a pleasant surprise. He and BTO as a whole have been very supportive of my writing (not to mention emotionally) so you should buy your stuff from them.

These concepts of carbines being 300-yard weapons with a real-world 3-MOA performance envelope are important for two main reasons.

Parts of a System—Not Isolated Variables

The first is that Wise wants his students to understand that the LPVO and the carbine, along with its cartridges, are parts of a system and not isolated variables. If any of these “variables” is tweaked it affects the system as a whole. I’m glad he points this out because I think it’s easy for modern shooters to get “lost in the sauce” and conceptualize a rifle’s raw accuracy potential as its own independent variable.

In other words, I think many erroneously focus on a rifle’s “pure” group sizes alone, absent of any other context. Even the finest single-cut precision rifle barrel with the finest scope will be hamstrung if it’s shooting bulk ammunition with varying muzzle velocities and prints 4 MOA 20-shot groups on average, for example.

Eliminating Guesswork

Second, and perhaps the more salient reason for highlighting this, is that by having an understanding of how the rifle actually performs in real life, the shooter is able to eliminate a lot of the guesswork in how a given rifle with a given cartridge will perform accuracy-wise. Being armed with this knowledge makes it easier to understand impacts and call shots without needing to wonder how or where rounds will print.

For example, if someone had a 3-MOA carbine but had to shoot an 8-inch steel going (8-MOA target) at 300 yards, they’d understand that their rifle was capable of grouping shots within a nine-inch cone of fire at that distance. So, there would be a statistical chance that some shots would completely miss the 8-MOA target.

Now, take this same example and apply it to a police officer involved in a standoff with a suspect. One can easily connect the dots between the officer knowing his or her equipment and whether they can safely and legally take their shot. The curriculum for Cornerstone’s Performance LPVO courses is formed with both of these concepts in mind.    

Cornerstone Performance LPVO Course Overview 

LPVO Cornerstone Performance Live Demo Eric Wise
Eric Wise going over the finer points in properly mounting an optic to its base and the carbine during our working lunch on Training Day 1.

Training Day 1

As an instructor, one of Wise’s teaching styles is to put the power of demonstration in the students’ own hands so they can see concepts for themselves.

For example, the first day of this class primarily focused on the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship at distance. So, students fired several well-aimed groups at distances of 100 to 300 yards. Some of these groups were to establish a proper zero.

Like any good class, Wise made sure all students’ rifles were properly zeroed before covering the rest of the material. There was no shame to students who showed up to class with unzeroed optics, as I did. In fact, zeroing was so important that we also kicked off the second day by confirming zero at 100 yards all over again.

By spending a good portion of the first day covering these marksmanship topics, Wise was able to show his students everything from those aforementioned composite groups and real-world accuracy potential to how ammunition points of impact shifted over distance. As a gun-nerd, I was quite happy when he touched on the concept of “mean-radius” without having to actually use the term or obfuscate his explanation in the middle of a rifle range out in the Texas heat.

Furthermore, he had us shoot careful groups from the prone at both 200 and 300 yards. As a result, we collectively had a chance to intelligently collect “DOPE” (data on previous engagements) in real time for each of our carbines, reticles, and ammo selection without having to fuss over a chronograph and a ballistics-app.

Sure, this quick and dirty method isn’t as refined but it’s suitable for a 300-yard, 3-MOA defensive carbine. 

Scope Mounting Protocols

During our “working lunch” on the first day, Wise lectured the class on proper scope mounting protocols and did a live demo. This type of information is invaluable because when it comes to mounting optics, any optic, the devil is always in the details. Glossing over key parts can lead to optics failures or worse—the critical loss of accuracy.

The last part of the first training day actually had some shots taken at closer distances. This showcased the relationship between the LPVO and the shooter closer in, like the important height over bore phenomenon. With this said, CQB-style close-in shooting was beyond the scope (pun intended) of this LPVO course.    

Training Day 2

We performed another round of zero confirmation (or re-zeroing for those who needed to) on the morning of the second day. Then, we carried out the Burpee Drill for fun. We then spent the rest of the day shooting from barricades in various positions at the 275-yard line at both 8-inch gongs and C-zone steel that was laid out at varying distances.

A good portion of the second day was also spent on the vital nature of target selection or discrimination. We even paired up to shoot at pass/fail targets towards the end of the day.

One of the lessons driven home during this portion was to prove how invaluable the LPVO’s magnification abilities are for providing positive target identification. In short, one should buy the best optic they can afford because it will generally have more magnification power while also having better quality glass. This is not necessarily for shooting further away but rather for seeing the target better.

This probably applies more to police officers than defensive-minded civilians, but it’s still a good takeaway regardless. After all, one of the safety rules in shooting is “be sure of your target and what lies beyond.”  

The Burpee Drill  

LPVO Cornerstone Performance
My burpee drill target. Frankly, I’m glad that I got 24 shots inside the 8-ring. That was better than I expected because this drill can be intense.

The Burpee Drill was a voluntary bonus drill that was carried out on the morning of the second day. I wanted to touch on it because it was equal parts fun, neat, agonizing, informative, and challenging.

It’s an easy drill to conduct. Par time is set for five minutes, and the goal of the drill is to have the shooter fire 30 rounds at 100 yards from the prone at an NRA B-8 target and ideally land all 30 rounds inside of the 10-ring.

The only catch is one has to jump up and then sprawl back down into the prone in between shots (thus 30 complete modified burpees with carbine in hand). Even for those who are physically fit, the drill starts to get challenging after the first 15-20 rounds.

Besides the physicality and challenge of the drill itself, its lesson is that accuracy with an LPVO at 100 yards does not degrade as bad as people expect even with an elevated heart rate and while trying to beat the pressure of the clock.

It’s fun and worth trying once. But forget the 10-ring. Even landing all 30 rounds inside the 8-ring would be a worthy achievement.

(To be continued in Part 2)

P.E. Fitch
I am a shooter first, and a writer second. IG & Twitter: @pfitch45