But what red dot magnifiers are best? In this guide, we’ll talk about our top five favorites. We have great picks in every price range. First, however, let’s go over a little bit more background on red dot magnifiers.
What Are Red Dot Magnifiers?
Red dot sights are typically limited to close-range and close-quarter shooting, or at least short-range. Red dot magnifiers add magnification to make more long-range shooting easier.
3x magnification is the most common magnification strength, but they also come in others. They usually have fixed magnification, but some variable magnification magnifiers are available.
Unlike riflescopes, they don’t have a reticle of their own since they use the sight’s reticle for target acquisition.
One advantage of red dots is that they can co-witness with your iron sights. You can still do that with a magnifier, but you’ll need an additional riser.
Red dot magnifiers typically can’t be used along with a mounted night vision device. If you want night vision capabilities, you’ll want a wearable option instead.
What Are The Different Types of Red Dot Magnifiers?
The main difference between magnifiers is mounting types. However, you can replace the mounts on most magnifiers to get the type that suits you the best.
Some have integrated mounts, however, which don’t allow you to switch. Others don’t come with a mount at all so you can get the mount style you want from the start.
The two main mount types are flip and fixed mounts.
Flip mounts are probably the most common type of magnifier mount. They allow you to quickly flip the magnifier to this side, usually by using a button or lever.
That way, it’s out of the way when you don’t want to use it. At the same time, you don’t have to completely unmount and remount it every time. You also don’t have to make sure it’s recentered to the red dot each time.
This is not just convenient, but also time-saving. And time is of the essence in both hunting and tactical situations.
Flip mounts are also sometimes referred to as flip-to-side mounts.
Fixed mounts are stationary, so the magnifier can only be moved by unmounting it. This lacks the convenience of a flip mount for switching between magnified and unmagnified optics.
However, if you only plan on using it with the magnifier or won’t have a problem taking the time and effort of unmounting and remounting, that’s fine.
How Do Red Dot Magnifiers Work?
Red dot sight magnifiers work similarly to a magnifier scope.
You get your picture because light travels through the magnifier. This includes not just the light that travels through the red dot to provide its picture, but also the light that the sight uses to create the reticle.
The light enters the magnifier through the objective lens.
Then the light travels through the magnifier where it hits a magnification lens. The magnification lens bends the light so it converges. That makes the image seem larger than it is in real life.
The light exits through the ocular lens, which is where you get your sight picture.
What Do You Look For In The Best Red Dot Magnifier?
Here’s what to look for to choose a high-quality red dot magnifier:
Red dot magnifiers don’t typically have the same adjustability as scopes do. However, many still have windage and elevation adjustments. This helps ensure that the magnifier is centered with your red dot.
Precise adjustments make it easier to get the magnifier perfectly lined up the reflex sight’s center height and width.
The whole point of a magnifier is to get a better view of your target, so obviously it needs a good sight picture. It should have a high contrast image and shouldn’t warp it at all. Many magnifiers also have coatings on the lenses to enhance contrast and performance in low light conditions.
Optics can take a lot of abuse, so you want one that’s durable. O-ring seals and nitrogen or argon purging ensure that a magnifier is waterproof and fog proof.
Make sure the magnifier comes with lens covers or has aftermarket lens covers available. These will keep the magnifier’s objective and optical lenses safe and scratch-free. Some magnifiers also have scratch-resistant coating on the external lenses to protect them even more.
We’ve already talked about this some above. This time, however, I want to go into how the mount attaches to the gun, rather than how it attaches to the magnifier.
Most magnifier mounts simply use a Weaver or Picatinny rail mount. However, there are other mounting styles.
If your gun requires a different style, be sure to choose a magnifier that has a detachable mount. If you don’t you’ll have to use an adapter. And that’s assuming you can find one. Adapters also add extra bulk to your gun, which can be a problem.
Best Red Dot Magnifiers Reviewed
Now let’s move onto the actual magnifier recommendations.
Vortex Optics VMX-3T Magnifier (Our Top Pick)
Our top pick is the Vortex VMX-3T magnifier. This handy little magnifier has a fairly compact design but is a bit heavy for the size.
It pays off in durability, though. This rugged magnifier is waterproof and fog proof. You can tell it’s built to last.
It also has a convenient push-button flip mount to move the magnifier out of the way when it’s not needed. If you’re looking for a tactical magnifier, this is a great choice.
It offers excellent optical clarity with very little glare. It’s lightweight yet rugged. It’s resistant to water, fog, shock, vibration, and extreme temperatures. It has a matte hard anodized finish with a rubber cover for extra protection.
At the same time, it’s very lightweight.
The magnifier doesn’t come with a mount, but it’s compatible with the Aimpoint TwistMount.