Most tactical shooters employ various red dot technology on their firearms. For the most part, these sights simply function as iron sights and do not provide any form of magnification or optics enhancements.
The red dot magnifier allows the shooter to add magnification to his red dot sights and gives the versatility of more accurate long-range shooting.
|Vortex VMX-3T Magnifier|| ||$169 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Aimpoint 3XMAG 3x Magnifier|| ||$332 Shop NowClick to read my review|
Best Budget Buy
|Sightmark Element 1x30 Red Dot Sight|| ||$147 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Lucid 2-5X Variable Magnifier|| ||$159 Shop NowClick to read my review|
In this article, we will take a look at some of the key aspects of the best red dot magnifiers that set them above other products. We will also discuss some of the pros and cons of mounting a magnifier with your red dot sights. Finally, we will take a look at four models that impress us with their performance and discuss why you should seriously consider using them on your tactical firearms.
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Breakdown of the Red Dot Magnifier
As we stated in the introduction, the function of scope magnifiers is to provide magnification to a sight system that functions as an improved iron sight with a true 1X sighting. Most tactical rifles are accurate up to distances much greater than can be achieved simply using a non-magnifying red dot sight and scope magnifiers give you the ability to fully utilize the rifle’s range.
Not only do they provide the ability for long-range shooting but allow you to quickly switch between close-range combat orientations to long-range marksman settings.
Not all red dot sight magnifiers are equal, and we want to list some key components that go into the best red dot magnifiers.
- Durability: Tactical weaponry goes through some pretty rigorous shooting exercise and are usually exposed to less than ideal weather conditions. Like any piece of equipment on these firearms, the magnifier scope must be able to perform in these conditions as well as it does right out of the box on the range. Magnifiers should be of a compact design to be able to fit on the rail system at the proper position behind the red dot sight while maintaining the correct position for comfortable shooting position.
- Magnification Power: It’s important to fully understand the purpose of a red dot magnifier. This red dot/ magnifier combo is not meant to replace a variable scope by any means. Most magnifiers are fixed and are generally in the 2-3X magnification range giving you more accurate shooting at distances of 200-300 yards.
There have been some improvements in red dot magnifiers technology, and some variable red dot sights have come on to the market. There are pros and cons to the variable magnifier scope, and we will cover these in the Lucid magnifier review.
- Flip Mounts: When using a scope magnifier, it is critical that you mount it to your firearm with a flip mount. In true tactical situations, having a red dot with magnifier on a fixed mount can lead to serious problems when facing targets at close range. You will have a horrible field of view and picking up targets quickly becomes extremely difficult.
To remedy this, use this magnifiers with a flip mount system that allows you to quickly move the magnifier out of the line of sight and allow you to utilize the red dot. The following products that we will discuss may or may not come with a flip mount, so it is important that you keep this in mind when preparing to mount your AR 15 magnifiers.
- Eye Relief: Like with any scope, you should be highly conscious of the eye relief provided by magnifiers. When using high caliber rifles, you need a generous eye relief of several inches for comfortable shooting. When mounting your magnifier to your rifles rail system is also important that the magnifier is mounted so that you have a clear image through the red dot glass while still maintaining the proper distance to keep a clear image of the field.
The 4 Best Red Dot Magnifiers
Following the criteria outlined in the Buyer’s Guide above, the next section will provide a selection of red dot magnifiers that you can’t really go wrong with.
Vortex VMX-3T Magnifier
This 3X fixed magnifier comes with a flip mount and is extremely easy to use and install onto your firearm. The Flip mount is quick and easy to move your firearm between magnification and close combat conditions.
It is a compact magnifier that does not take up a lot of room on the rail, but the biggest issue with this magnifier is the eye relief. This scope has an eye relief of only 2.2″. Because of this you either have to move your sights down on the rail or contract the firearm’s stock. This is a durable scope that will hold up well in poor weather conditions. It is built from high-grade aluminum and is sealed for a water-resistant and fog-proof magnifier.
This magnifier has a great lens system, and you get awesome light transmission coming through the ocular eyepiece. The red dot or reticle used on your sights is still perfectly clear and crisp through this magnifier. This is a rugged magnifier that will work well with a variety of sights. The mounting system allows for multiple height adjustments and works great as a AR 15 magnifier. The height is also adjustable for co-witness with iron sights. This magnifier is a little heavy coming in at 11.9oz. Depending on the firearm and placement of the magnifier could affect the balance of the rifle so you should be aware when mounting.
- Weather resistant
- Height adjustment
- Excellent light transmission
- Easy to use flip mount
- Poor eye relief
- Heavy asdf
Aimpoint 3XMAG 3x Magnifier
This 3X magnifier red dot is one of the top models available on the market, and its features and performance specs deserve some discussion. This product will make an excellent magnifier for AR 15 models as well as a variety of other tactical firearms.
This magnifier is a fixed 3X magnification and is extremely easy to center the reticle of your red dot sight. This magnifier works best with Aimpoint sights, but that doesn’t mean it will not perform as well with other sight brands. There will be some adjustments if not an Aimpoint brand. The magnifier is also covered in a rubber gripping material that makes this scope very easy to handle while on your rifle.
This is an extremely compact scope that won’t take up a lot of room on your rail. It is also extremely lightweight coming in at only 7.1oz. The eye relief is not the best and is only slightly better than 2.3”.
You will find that this magnifier offers some of the best optics available in red dot magnifiers. There is little to no glare with excellent light transmission making this useful in low light settings. The reticle appears clear and crisp in the image. This magnifier also has an excellent field of view at 100yards compared to other 3X magnifiers. There is no flip mount included with this magnifier and will need to be purchased separately. With a quality mount, you will not need to make constant adjustments after pivoting this magnifier in and out of place except with the initial reticle adjustments.
- Easy to handle
- Weather resistant
- Fantastic glass
- No zero needed
- Wide field of view
- High-end price range
- Poor eye relief
- Mount bought separately
Sightmark Element 1×30 Red Dot Sight
This Sightmark Element 1×30 Red Dot Sight is made with aluminum alloy construction, which makes the element’s mount lightweight and yet rugged. The sturdy mounting hardware grips the rail firmly, eliminating the possibility of the sight shaking loose or losing zero. It has a practical clamp mount that reduces bulk and creates a sleek appearance so you can enjoy using it. The element is intended to protect the newest feature of adjustment caps with raised edges, so it is one of the impressive sights today.
The Sightmark Element is powered by a single 3V CR2032 battery with a runtime of up to 15,000 hours, which saves you both time and money. So it’s really a big thing when you look at it. Another benefit of this sight is the capped windage and elevation turrets, which provide an incredible 110 MOA of adjustment in 1-MOA increments. The windage and elevation caps can also be flipped and used to make in-field POI adjustments by reducing the risk of leaving critical tools behind. It has a parallax of 10 yards and unlimited eye relief, so you’ll have no trouble using it.
The overall height is only 2.9 inches, and with a length of 4.4 inches and a width of 2.6 inches, the element is one of the most compacts and streamlined red dots on the market today. It’s also extremely light, weighing only 9.8 ounces, so it won’t add much bulk to your firearm, so it’s definitely worth a shot.
- Made with rugged, compact aluminum alloy housing
- Comes with Streamlined clamp mount design
- Unlimited Eye relief
- IP67 waterproof rating
- Night vision compatible
- Easy to use and install
- For some, mounting and zeroing couldn’t be easier
Lucid 2-5X Variable Magnifier
If you are looking for a scope magnifier that gives you even more range regarding magnification power, consider the Lucid 2-5X Variable magnifier. This is one of the few variable-powered magnifiers that are currently available on the market. It can provide some versatility to your tactical outfit.
This is a tight, compact scope that is water, fog, and shockproof and can withstand any tactical situation you might find yourself in. It is also lightweight weighing only a little over 7oz. It has a very generous eye relief of 4″ on the lower magnification settings, but you need to be aware of the shorter eye relief at higher magnification settings when mounting this magnifier on the rail.
The ocular focus ring is easy to use and will not slide through normal magnifier use once the image has been focused. The lenses on this scope are fully multicoated to give you excellent light transmission for the compactness of the magnifier. Because of the lens design of variable powered scopes, along with how compact magnifiers must be, you might not be happy with the dark image you get at the 4 and 5X magnification. If you are in high light environments, it might not be too noticeable, but in low light settings, the higher magnifications are difficult to use.
This magnifier is compatible with a wide range of red dot sights. You will need to purchase a flip mount separately as one is not included with this particular magnifier.
- Excellent eye relief at lower magnification
- Light and compact
- Durable magnifier
- Can be used with wide range of red dot sights
- Very weather resistant
- Variable power gives high versatile shooting ability
- Dark image at high magnification settings
- Blurry reticle at high magnification settings
- Mount not included
Our Favorite Red Dot Magnifier
Before leaving you to decide on the best red dot magnifier for your outfit, we want to quickly discuss our selection for the best red dot magnifier and recap the features that landed it on this list.
We give the Vortex VMX-3T Magnifier the edge in this lineup of red dot magnifiers. While the Aimpoint might have higher performance metrics, the Vortex is much more compatible with a wide range of red dot sights, which we feel is important with the numerous options that are available. It is also much more affordable and will be less of an investment without sacrificing quality and performance.
If you want to spend a bit less the Sightmark Element is a great option. This magnifier is rugged and can stand up to any tactical situation. It features excellent optics giving you a clear image and clear reticle.
A magnifier gives you the ability to take the benefits of red dot sights and add magnification when needed. The four magnifiers we have listed are all proven in the field and will serve you well.
An excellent 3X magnifier and one that is often overlooked is the one from Samson Manufacturing – it features a rubber coating, rock-solid flip-to-side mount and comes in a hard case. It can be purchased for about $170 now and compares favorably to the Aimpoint which is more than 2X the price.