December 07, 2023
Truly, the world became a better place when the low-powered variable optic (LPVO) was created. To me, it is one of the most versatile optics you could ever use, especially the 1-6x and 1-8x LPVOs. Born for a tactical and competition demand, I would even take an LPVO over a traditional hunting optic for all but the longest shots. Clearly, I’m a fan, and I’ve been fortunate to try out many different models from many different manufacturers. The latest I’ve tested is the Model SAI 6 from SAI Optics, which has quickly become one of my all-time favorites.
At a glance, this 1-6x24mm LPVO from SAI Optics looks sharp, but I wasn’t familiar with the brand at first. SAI Optics is a subsidiary of Armament Technology Incorporated. These are the minds behind an assortment of iconic and impressive optics. The Spector Elcan Tangent Theta scopes, Tenebraex scope covers, and XOPTEK all live within the purview of Armament Technology, and I am familiar with the unique Spector Elcan and the astronomically expensive Tangent Theta riflescope line. It’s safe to say SAI Optics has remarkable pedigree. In fact, it’s the same design team behind SAI Optics as the Tangent Theta scopes.
Let’s start with a simple specs breakdown of the optic. It is a First Focal Plane (FFP) 1-6x scope and has a standard 30mm maintube with a 24mm objective lens. As an aside, this is a pretty standard layout for LPVO scopes, but for some reason there are 1-6x LPVOs with 34mm maintubes appearing. I would speculate that it is for some perceived value-add to the 1-6X optic, but there is absolutely no advantage I can perceive. You do not gain any increased light transmission or durability with a 34mm maintube on a 1-6x; the only thing you will gain is more weight and more expensive scope rings.
Speaking of weight, the SAI 6 comes in at a respectable 18 ounces, which is just slightly less than many of the scope’s competitors. The dimensions measure 2 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide and 10 inches long. The adjustment range for windage and elevation is 35 mils (120 MOA), and the adjustments are capped. Exposed turrets on an LPVO are another feature that seem to be appearing for some perceived value-add. To me, they defeat the purpose of an LPVO, which is to be able to take quick shots at close to medium distances. The only thing you should be adjusting while shooting with an LPVO is the magnification, and you should be using the reticle for ballistic compensation for all your shots. The exception, in my opinion, lies with 1-10x or greater LPVOs.
The SAI has a solid 3.5-inch eye relief, and I barely had to make eye relief adjustments with the scope mounted to a LaRue Tactical Black and Tan AR-15. I greatly appreciate the FDE aesthetics of the SAI 6, which matched the LaRue rifle well. Tan colors are supposed to reflect heat from the sun better, but I don’t feel the need to come up with excuses to like something simply because I enjoy the looks. It feels a lot like justifying a gun purchase because it has good resale value. Just buy the gun and enjoy it! As you would expect from a scope of this quality, the SAI 6 is built for extreme conditions with excellent durability. It’s rated waterproof for two hours to a depth of three meters, so don’t be afraid if you’re shooting in some heavy rain.
Most of the features on the SAI 6 are what I argue should be standard for an LPVO in this category. The reticle is the biggest standout feature for this scope, which is one of the best I’ve seen in a 1-6x LPVO. The Rapid Aiming Feature (RAF) reticle solves a lot of issues I’ve noticed with many First Focal Plane LPVOs. With other scopes, the reticle is easy to use at max magnification, and most of the designs are practical for that power. However, at 1x magnification, the reticle obviously becomes tiny and challenging to use.
The solution for many is to illuminate the reticle and treat it as you would a red dot. The reticles are supposed to be “daylight bright,” but you’ll find that term is thrown around rather loosely. The RAF reticle solves the low magnification issue with four, vaguely bullet-shaped aiming points that aim toward the center of the scope while leaving the center open. These rapid aiming features surround the crosshairs, naturally bringing your eye to the center. This actually makes the 1x magnification operate like a red-dot sight, perfect for close-range shooting.
At the max 6x magnification, the angular aiming points are large, but they don’t get in the way of the crosshairs at all. It’s impossible to use at 1x, but at 6x you’ll notice the vertical subtension optical rangefinder (VSOP) in the lower left-hand corner. The VSOP is a handy tool to judge the distance to a target. It’s based off a full-size IPSC target, which is about the size of a human torso, and you simply place the VSOP over the target to find the distance. It’s not perfect, of course, but it does get you in the ballpark if you don’t have a laser rangefinder.
The SAI 6’s RAF reticle is a true etched-glass reticle, and it does have an illumination feature. The illumination is for low-light shooting, though, and it doesn’t pretend to be the “red dot” solution for 1x close-range shots. That’s what the angular aiming points are for! Illumination is powered with a standard CR2032 battery with nine brightness settings. I do appreciate that there is an off position between each setting. It’s incredibly annoying to have to cycle through every setting to turn it off, so it’s a simple but nice feature for illumination adjustment.
Testing consisted of far more than a casual range shoot. I had the chance to run a Carbine Course at world-famous Gunsite Academy in Arizona to see what the SAI 6 and LaRue rifle can do. We shot beyond 200 meters on several occasions, but the highlight of the course came at the indoor shoot-house portion of the instruction. Even with a 16-inch barrel, I had no issues navigating through the close proximity of an indoor shoot. I found the reticle on the 1x stetting to be excellent, and the perceived open space made accurate close-range shots even easier since nothing obstructs the target. Across the board, I was impressed with the performance of the SAI 6 throughout the course. The magnification ring is butter-smooth out of the box, and I had no issues quickly adjusting from close to middle ranges. There are far too many LPVOs, and scopes in general, that come out of the box with a stiff magnification ring.
The SAI 6 comes with included Tenebraex flip-up lens covers. I normally take those off when they come with a scope, but they were a huge plus in the dusty Arizona wind. The lens covers did their job keeping dust out during down time, and they flipped up quickly when it was time to shoot again. One unique value-add that I rarely see with an optic is an included anti-reflection device (ARD) with the SAI 6. Along with the Tenebraex flip-up lens covers, the scope also includes a Tenebrax Killflash ARD. It’s a honeycomb attachment that eliminates reflection by screwing onto the objective, and the front flip-up cover can attach to it, too. I didn’t use it throughout the course, but it’s definitely a unique value-add for the scope.
Circling back to Tangent Theta, their scopes regularly break the $4,000 mark, so I was surprised to see the SAI 1-6x has an MSRP right above $1,300 with a shelf price just more than $1,200. This scope can definitely play with the big names on the block, but the price is a few hundred dollars less in several instances. Don’t get me wrong, $1,300 is still pricey, but it’s competitive compared to many scopes at this end of the price spectrum. If I had to find a gripe, I would’ve liked to see an included throw lever. The magnification ring has an optional throw lever available for $40, but I would argue most shooters would find greater use with a throw lever over the ARD. The ARD has a greater price tag than the throw lever, though, so I see where SAI was coming from value-add-wise.
All in all, the SAI 6 checks all the boxes I look for in an FFP 1-6X LPVO, but the reticle truly puts it over the top. If you’re looking for an LPVO that will be incredibly effective in a tactical or competition environment, the SAI 6 has everything you need. Mine is going to sit in a LaRue QD cantilever mount and swap between many different rifles. It’s even going to do some time on some of my hunting ARs, too, but this is an expensive scope for dedicated hunting. As a final note, SAI Optics does offer a limited lifetime warranty on the SAI 6, but you’ll need to register the scope on their website at armament.com/sai-warranty-registration.
About the Author
Jack Oller is a U.S. Army veteran, having served in the Military Police with one deployment to the Camp VI Detention Facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has extensive firearms training from military and civilian schools and is a passionate shotgun shooter and hunter. Jack has an English degree from Illinois State University, and he started his career in the outdoor industry as Associate Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine. After Gun & Ammo, he worked as Brand Manager for Crimson Trace and now is the Digital Editor for Firearms News.
If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.