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Red dot magnifiers hold a peculiar spot in the world of optics because they’ve lost some steam due to the popularity of low power variable optics (LPVO). So why buy them?
Magnifiers transition from 1x magnification up to 3x, 5x, or 6x with the flick of your wrist. The simple motion provides expedited flexibility between your 1x red dot and the magnifier you have on your rifle or shotgun. You receive all the benefits of a red dot and when you need magnification to hit a target, flip up your magnifier and take the shot.
But it depends on personal preference. Some prefer the LPVO with 1x to 6x power magnification, whereas others like their red dot and magnifier. It boils down to what your need for the optic is and what your experience level is. I’ve tested five of the best red dot magnifiers to help you make a decision on which is right for you.
- Best Overall: Atibal CM3 3x Compact (Micro)
- Best High Magnification: EOTECH G45
- Vortex MICRO3X
- Sig Sauer JULIET6 6X
- Vortex VMX-3T
How We Tested the Best Red Dot Magnifiers
Ridgeline Defense hosted me at their state-of-the-art range in Dalton, NH, to test the magnifiers. I kicked off my testing with 30 rounds of 5.56 with each magnifier to see if the hardware remained solid, if the alignment was maintained, and to evaluate the ease of the sight picture and eye relief.
While running drills, I let my rifle, attached red dot, and magnifier bang against my kit during the sprints to the shooting line. I beat up these magnifiers to simulate expedited long-term wear and tear use.
Another way I simulated long-term wear and tear was to carry all five red dot magnifiers in my GoRuck GR2 for months while I hiked the mountains of New Hampshire, worked shifts at the fire department, and did general daily back-and-forth travel.
I used the magnifiers to shoot targets ranging from 25 to 300 yards. I could transition from target to target at longer ranges with the EOTech G45 and Sig Sauer Juliet 6 due to the 5x and 6x magnification. All the magnifiers I tested have good glass, so even with the 3x magnifiers, I could ring steel further out.
I sprinted 25 yards, quickly IDed steel targets, and shot them two to six times. This evaluated the eye box and eye relief in a kinetic setting. None of the magnifiers lost alignment during the shooting or flipped out of the line with the red dot sight during the sprints.
The top performer in this test is Atibal’s CM3. The thin housing grants a fast sight picture at close range, but thanks to the crystal clear glass, I could ring steel out to 300 yards with ease.
I put the magnifiers in a freezer set to 0 degrees for eight hours. Then I took the magnifiers outside, where it was humid and 86 degrees. Each magnifier developed a thick frost coating all the way around while in the freezer but that quickly melted. None of the magnifiers fogged up with the temperature transition and at most, had beads of condensation that were easily wiped away.
Overall, I was impressed with the magnifiers keeping moisture out of the housing, not breaking under strain and heavy use, and the crystal clear views thanks to quality glass. I had to rank each one by getting picky about the details.
Best Red Dot Magnifiers: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Atibal CM3 3x Compact (Micro)
- Price: $238
- 3x magnification
- Weight: 7.3 ounces
- Objective Lens Diameter: 22 mm
- Eye Relief: 3 inches
- Length: 2.72 inches
- Linear FOV: 36.7 feet at 100 yards
- Atibal offers an unlimited lifetime warranty that is fully transferable; no receipt is needed.
- Good glass
- Forgiving eye box
- Easy set up
- Slight movement in the mount
- Not a quick detach mount
Atibal’s CM3 3x Compact (Micro) Magnifier is my overall favorite magnifier I tested. The quality, budget-friendly price, and a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty make this a hard-to-beat option.
The thin housing of the CM3 makes target identification fast. The 3-inch eye relief is forgiving of head position. During the 25-yard sprint testing, I had zero issues obtaining a fast sight picture and getting six rounds downrange. If you want it out of the way, hit the button release, and the spring-loaded hinge will rapidly move it out of the line of sight.
The CM3’s small size minimizes the chance of hanging up the optic on something while moving with the magnifier in an out-of-line position. The Atibal has clear glass, so ringing steel out to 150 to 200 yards was easy. I did not see this magnifier distort the red dot in any way or at any angle I was shooting at.
The only negative thing I found compared to the other magnifiers is that the CM3 lacks a quick detach mount. In addition, I felt a wiggle in the magnifier, but it did not affect a quick sight picture or have other adverse affects.
I have my rifle set up for CQB, so the 3x magnification works great for this setup. But if you’re looking for a little more reach, the EOTech G45 may be a better option.
Read Next: Best Red Dot Sights
Best High Magnification: EOTECH G45
- Price: $589.00
- 5x magnification
- Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
- Eye Relief: 2.6 inches
- Length: 3.9 inches
- Linear FOV: 21 feet at 100 yards
- Excellent clarity at 5x magnification
- Top selection of U.S. Special Operations Command
- Does not distort red dot reticle
- Easy sight picture in kinetic settings
- The 10-year limited EOTECH Prestige Warranty is not a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty.
EOTech has long supplied optics to the US military. Their optics are battle tested and a favorite of the military’s special operations. The G45’s glass has crystal clear clarity, and its rugged build will hold up against the elements. Though it’s heavier, that’s to be expected with a higher magnification.
The relatively compact design—shorter than the Juliet6— enables an easy fit on any Picatinny rail and gives you enough magnification to reach out to 300 yards or more with ease. The large windage and elevation knobs require zero tools to make adjustments to center a red dot reticle, and the same goes for the quick detach mount.
The G45 is heavier than your average 3x magnifier, but it’s because it’s giving you a greater magnification. The best aspect of this magnifier is the ease of lining up and establishing a sight picture for close and far targets. I was able to get on target quickly at 25 yards after a brisk sprint. While I don’t recommend using a 5x magnifier for CQB, the fact it can be done is impressive and speaks to the quality build. One note is that EOTech’s 10-year warranty only has a five-year guarantee free repair or replacement of the magnifier if the damage is under a covered type. However, years five through 10 require a “nominal bench fee,” and you must provide proof of purchase from a verified EOTech dealer.
Read Next: Best Holographic Sights
- Price: $449.99
- 3x magnification
- Weight: 9.55 ounces
- Objective Lens Diameter: 22 mm
- Eye Relief: 2.64 inches
- Length: 2.9 inches
- Linear FOV: 38.2 feet at 100 yards
- Unlimited lifetime warranty that is fully transferable; no receipt needed
- Easy sight picture in kinetic use
- Quick detach mount
- Will not work with prism scopes
The Vortex Micro3x Magnifier is the updated, better magnifier when compared to the VMX-3T, but you will pay more for the amenities this model brings to the table. It’s lighter and has an excellent sight picture, which makes it fast on the draw with putting rounds on target in a kinetic setting. To flip it in and out of the line of sight, you only need to pull or push the magnifier to lock it in and out of place.
At 3x magnification, this one is great for short to medium-range targets. The Micro3x Magnifier has the same lifetime unlimited warranty the VMX-3T has, making this a safe investment. It’s a compact design, so it won’t snag on as much when you have it rotated out of line of sight and are on the move.
Where Atibal lacks the ease-of-use function of a quick detach mount, Vortex has it down pat. If you want to pop the magnifier off so your rifle is lighter, a simple push and pull of the button and lever combo, and you can toss it in your pack. It’s just as easy to slap it back on your rifle, too.
The glass has better clarity than the VMX-3T. It’s on the same level of clarity as Atibal and EOTech’s magnifiers, with no distortion of the red dot reticle. The Micro3x magnifier is a great short to medium-range option for your home defense or hunting needs.
- Price: $479.99
- 6x magnification
- Weight: 14.7 ounces
- Objective Lens Diameter: 24 mm
- Eye Relief: 2.56 inches
- Length: 5.4 inches
- FOV: 21 feet at 100 yards.
- Sig Sauer Electro-Optic Infinite Guarantee covers the Juliet 6 with a no-questions-asked repair or replace lifetime, transferable warranty
- Crystal clear 6x magnification
- Front and rear thread-in lens protector
- Quick detach mount
- Eye relief combined with overall length makes the sight box small.
- Takes up a lot of space on a Picatinny rail
Sig Sauer’s Juliet6 6x is the heaviest and longest magnifier I tested for this story. It has thread-in lens covers, so you don’t have to worry about dust or moisture getting onto the lenses. It’s the only magnifier that kept frost from developing on the front and rear glass, so when I pulled it from the freezer, it was immediately ready to start shooting.
The build is solid and held up against the wear and tear thrown at it. The only complaint I have is its overall length. I had to move my red dot sight to accommodate the Juliet6. But, because of its length, I had to max out the extension of my buttstock to accommodate the shorter eye relief. I had a terrible time maintaining my sight picture while transitioning from target to target.
Sig Sauers Infinite Guarantee makes this a very safe investment, and the build will last you a lifetime. The Juliet6 is a great option for those seeking maximum magnification for their red dot sight. With further training with this specific magnifier, I have no doubt I could resolve my issue with the sight-picture tunneling effect I was running into, but I don’t plan to.
The overall size, weight, and unforgiving eye box led to this magnifier falling out of the running for the top recommendation. Though EOTech’s G45 is one power under the Juliet6, I will still use the G45 for my longer shots.
- Price: $250
- 3x magnification
- Weight: 11.9 ounces
- Objective Lens Diameter: 30 mm
- Eye Relief: 2.2 inches
- Length: 4.3 inches
- Linear FOV: 38.2 feet/100 yards
- Unlimited lifetime warranty that is fully transferable
- Budget friendly
- Easy twist nuts for toolless detachment that did not shake loose during firing iterations
- Ample field of view
- Short eye relief
- Teardrop distortion to red dot reticle
- No quick detach mount
- It does not work well with prism scopes
Vortex’s VMX-3T is an oldie but a goody. It’s not the lightest, and does not have the best eye relief, but it can take a beating and keep performing. This magnifier has made it through a lot of abuse over the last several years. From hunting deer to CQB drills, this RDS magnifier has never failed me. Rotating the magnifier out of the way requires pushing the bolt of the hinge forward and then moving the magnifier to the side. For the inexperienced, that might cost a few seconds, but with training, you can get fast with that motion.
The biggest advantage of this magnifier is the lifetime warranty and budget-friendly price–it’s on par with Atibal’s pricing. When I first purchased my VMX-3T, it did have a bit of fog on the lens when going from cold to hot and humid conditions. But, as I do with all of my scopes and optics, I applied a little bit of Cat Crap, an anti-fogging agent, and I had no more issues with fogging.
It’s not a micro magnifier, so I expected it to be heavier than the more compact options. But when carrying your rifle for extended periods or spending the day at the range, you do notice the extra weight.
I’d recommend this for beginners or people dipping their toes in the red dot pool, as it has a similar eye relief to typical hunting scopes and will last for a long time. Plus, you have an unlimited lifetime warranty that backs you up in case of any issues—making this a pretty safe investment for your shooting arsenal.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Red Dot Magnifier
Before you buy an RDS and magnifier combination, consider a few things. You’ll see many of the three-gun competitors rocking an LPVO scope because of advancements in the power wheel design, which allows quick transition anywhere from 1x to 6x, 8x, or 10x. For a red dot and magnifier combo, it’s a flick of the wrist rather than rotating the power wheel.
Your skill level, experience, and purpose of the sights will dictate whether an RDS magnifier is good for you. RDS magnifiers offer flexibility with looking through the optic from any angle—the red dot is where the bullet will impact regardless of the angle you use to look through it.
An LPVO scope requires a solid cheek weld to avoid scope shadow and typically has a parallax effect, so if you are not looking straight through the tube, your round impact may be off. You can shoot with both eyes open on an LPVO and RDS and magnifier combo, but red dots are easier to acquire a sight picture, whereas the LPVO typically requires extensive training to lock down a fast sight picture.
Red dot optics rule close-quarters battle (CQB), but LPVOs are more prevalent in 3-gun competitions today than ever before. Your previous experience will determine the difference between the two and what is ‘best’ for you.
If you are used to a traditional hunting scope, you will likely have muscle memory you can apply to an LPVO. With a red dot sight and magnifier combo, you will need to spend time training with your equipment, but they are relatively easy to learn.
No, they aren’t any better than the alternative. It all boils down to your experience and time allocated to train.
If you have a PVS-22 attached to the front of your red dot sight, you can use the magnifier in conjunction with that.
The magnifier magnifies the red dot sight reticle, bringing your target closer and enlarging the reticle.
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Final Thoughts on the Best Red Dot Magnifiers
Training is the key to mastering any optic and firearm combination, and luckily a red dot sight and magnifier combination is not difficult to master. I recommend trying out a few magnifiers and LPVOs in person before buying. If you decide a magnifier is right for you, choose one that fits your skill and experience level.