9 Best Red Dot Magnifiers Reviewed In 2020 ( AR-15, Budget, For The Money )

uniformed man holding airsoft rifle with sights

Red dot sights, whether they are reflex sights or holographic weapon sights, are popular for good reasons: They are fast and easy to use without being imprecise.

These sights have a glaring weakness, though.

Red dot sights lack magnification.

The standard rule of thumb for long-ranged shooting is to use 1x of magnification for every 100 yards you’ll be shooting. This holds up for hunting and combat sights, though target shooters seeking small groupings will use more magnification than this.

Red dot sights, being unmagnified, are therefore most suited for shooting out to 100 yards or less.

Adding a magnifier behind your red dot sight fixes this problem. In fact, most modern magnifiers flip to the side so you can take advantage of your sight’s speed for closer-in shooting, magnifying your optic for slower, more accurate fire!

However, not all magnifiers are made equal, and some models are frustrating to use.

So, let’s aim our sights at the best magnifiers!

 

9 Best Red Dot Magnifiers of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Best Budget #1: Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024
  2. Best Budget #2: Leapers UTG 3x Magnifier
  3. Best for the Money #1: Holosun HM3X
  4. Best for the Money #2: Primary Arms 3X LER Gen IV
  5. Best Overall #1: EOTech G33.STS
  6. Best Overall #2: Aimpoint 6XMag-1
  7. Best for an AR-15: Vortex Micro 3x V3XM
  8. Best Combo #1: EOTech HHS-II EXPS2-2 & G33.STS Combo
  9. Best Combo #2: Holosun HS510C & HM3X Combo

 

CategoryBest BudgetBest for the MoneyBest Overall
ProductSightmark 3x Tactical SM19024
Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024

Holosun HM3X
Holosun HM3X

EOTech G33.STS
EOTech G33.STS

Magnification3x3x3.25x
Eye Relief2.2 inches2.75 inches2.2 inches
Field of View22.5 feet at 100 yards37 feet at 100 yards38 feet at 100 yards
Length4.7 inches3.9 inches3.9 inches
Weight6.7 ounces11.6 ounces11.2 ounces
MountSlide to sideFlip to sideSwitch to side
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Budget Red Dot Magnifier #1: Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024

Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Eye Relief: 2.2 inches
  • Field of View: 22.5 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 4.7 inches
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Mount: Slide to side

Overview

There aren’t many good red dot magnifiers under $100. Only two models are worth your while, one of which is the Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024.

Sightmark is known for being a budget-conscious brand of optics that doesn’t win awards, but unlike certain other budget optics brands, you’re not going to feel like using it as a target five seconds after trying it out.

The SM19024 magnifier has 3x magnification with 2.2 inches of eye relief. It comes with a slide-to-side quick detach mount that’s not permanently connected to the magnifier, so you can upgrade one or the other later. There are set screws that can make this mount sloppy or too tight to use, though.

The lenses themselves are fairly OK. The field of view is fairly narrow, though it’s still wider than some options. The optics are multicoated, waterproof, and fog proof, so they won’t cloud up your view too much.

You have to use Allen wrenches to adjust the elevation and windage. Like many magnifiers, this doesn’t affect the point of impact, but it does affect where the reticle sits in the magnifier.

Pros

  • Fairly good optical quality for the price
  • Less than $100

Cons

  • It can be hard to find the sweet spot that allows you to slide the magnifier to the side without having too much play
  • Mediocre eye relief

Recommendation

The Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024 is the best magnifier you can purchase for under $100.

Learn more about the Sightmark 3x Tactical SM19024.

 

2. Best Budget Red Dot Magnifier #2: Leapers UTG 3x Magnifier

Leapers UTG 3x Magnifier

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Eye Relief: 2 inches
  • Field of View: 45 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 4.1 inches
  • Weight: 11.82 ounces
  • Mount: Flip to side

Overview

The Leapers UTG 3x magnifier is an improvement over the Sightmark 3x Tactical in some ways and is worse in other ways.

The UTG magnifier has a built-in quick-detach mount base that works rather well. You flip the magnifier to the side by pulling it back to clear a locking lug before flipping it over. I find it easy to use and surprisingly solid.

However, you can’t upgrade the mount, and you can sheer off the locking lug by strong-arming the magnifier to the side without pulling it back.

As for the optical quality of the magnifier, they are OK. You get a surprisingly wide field of view. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a fishbowl effect at the edges of the lens, so you can’t take full advantage of this field of view.

The magnifier is also pretty bulky. It won’t clear all but the thinnest folding backup iron sights.

However, the UTG magnifier does do its job of magnifying your red dot sight!

Pros

  • The cheapest magnifier that’s worth anything
  • Surprisingly good mount quality for the price

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Mediocre optical quality
  • You can damage the mount by being careless

Recommendation

The Leapers UTG 3x magnifier is the cheapest red dot magnifier you can buy without throwing away money. It does work, though.

 

 

3. Best Red Dot Magnifier for the Money #1: Holosun HM3X

Holosun HM3X

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Eye Relief: 2.75 inches
  • Field of View: 37 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 3.9 inches
  • Weight: 11.6 ounces
  • Mount: Flip to side

Overview

Holosun puts out some of the best value red dot sights, so it’s no surprise that their red dot magnifier is just as good.

Another 3x magnifier, the Holosun HM3X is a well-designed unit that has many strengths and few weaknesses. In fact, most of the weaknesses apply to the mount and are more or less nitpicks.

The QD flip-to-side mount is built-in to the magnifier, so you can’t upgrade. The field of view is also middling. These are my only complaints.

The HM3X comes with a riser, so you can use the magnifier with either an absolute co-witness or a lower 1/3rd co-witness optic. You can flip the QD mount base for left- or right-side flipping.

You can adjust it for windage and elevation. Allen wrenches are not required. You can use a coin or a cartridge rim to rotate the dials. The diopter also has a good adjustment range.

Pros

  • Good adjustment range
  • Good optical quality
  • Good mount

Cons

  • Minor nitpicks such as a non-upgradable mount and mediocre field of view

Recommendation

My main problem with the Holosum HM3X is that it wasn’t available when I bought my first red dot magnifier. It’s an all-around good magnifier that will be the best choice for most people.

 

Holosun HM3X is also available at:

Brownells

 

4. Best Red Dot Magnifier for the Money #2: Primary Arms 3X LER Gen IV

Primary Arms 3X LER Gen IV

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Eye Relief: 2.64 inches
  • Field of View: 38 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: Not stated
  • Weight: 7.9 ounces
  • Mount: None included

Overview

Primary Arms was the only company producing high-value magnifiers for a long period of time. There is more competition now, but the Primary Arms 3X LER Gen IV, is still a solid choice.

The 3X LER has a good eye relief distance of 2.64 inches. You may note that this is slightly less than the Holosun HM3X, but it’s still well above average for 3x magnifiers, and the Primary Arms magnifier is less expensive than the Holosun.

The 3X LER’s field of view is also slightly better than the HM3X’s. By one foot. Whoopee.

Don’t be fooled by the weight shown. The 3X LER does not come with a mount, so you’ll have to add on a few ounces once you buy a mount. On the other hand, this lets you get exactly the mount you want.

The glass is fairly good quality, though not amazing.

Pros

  • Long eye relief
  • Very high value

Cons

  • OK but not great clarity

Recommendation

The Primary Arms 3X LER Gen IV is a high-value red dot magnifier. It has great eye relief and doesn’t come with a mount, which makes it a very versatile choice.

 

 

5. Best Overall Red Dot Magnifier #1: EOTech G33.STS

EOTech G33.STS

Specs

  • Magnification: 3.25x
  • Eye Relief: 2.2 inches
  • Field of View: 38 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 3.9 inches
  • Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Mount: Switch to side

Overview

All of the magnifiers on this list are good magnifiers, but only a couple are good enough to be used by the military. The EOTech G33.STS is the first of these magnifiers.

The “STS” in G33.STS stands for “switch to side,” which is another way of saying “flip to side.” The included mount is of exceedingly high quality and can be flipped for either left or right-hand operation.

The included 7-millimeter riser allows you to align the magnifier with both absolute co-witness and lower 1/3rd co-witness optics.

The magnifier itself is high quality. It has slightly more magnification than other 3x magnifiers by 0.25x. The field of view is pretty good as well, and the eye relief is neither great nor terrible.

Though the G33 is designed for use with EOTech’s holographic weapon sights, it can be used with traditional red dots as well.

Pros

  • Good optics
  • Great mount
  • Very tough

Cons

  • Expensive

Recommendation

The EOTech G33.STS is a durable magnifier with good optics and a great mount that can survive a war. It’s overpriced for range use but is a great choice for hunters or survivalists.

 

EOTech G33.STS is also available at:

Basspro

Palmetto State Armory

Brownells

 

6. Best Overall Red Dot Magnifier #2: Aimpoint 6XMag-1

Aimpoint 6XMag-1

Specs

  • Magnification: 6x
  • Eye Relief: 2.8 inches
  • Field of View:
  • Length: 6 inches
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Mount: None included

Overview

Most magnifiers only provide 3x magnification. A few give 5x, 6x, or 7x, but most of these have low enough light transmission, a short enough eye relief, and small enough eye box to be frustrating to use.

The Aimpoint 6XMag-1 is a 6x magnifier that’s easier to use than the competition. It does have some of the weaknesses of other high-magnification magnifiers, but not as many as the cheaper models.

You do still need to have your eyes properly aligned with the lens in order to see your target clearly. However, the 6XMag-1 has one of the longest eye reliefs for any magnifier at 2.8 inches, so you don’t have to have your eye crammed up against the optic!

Being an Aimpoint product, the 6XMag-1 is extremely durable and is tough enough to survive combat.

The 6XMag-1 does not normally come with a mount. You can purchase it with an Aimpoint twist-to-side mount; however, Aimpoint mounts are themselves more expensive than most magnifiers.

Pros

  • Great eye relief, especially for a 6x magnifier
  • High magnification
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Small eye box and mediocre light transmission

Recommendation

The Aimpoint 6XMag-1 is a tough-as-nails magnifier that can help you make accurate shots at more extreme ranges than other optics but it’s long, takes up lots of rail space, and is unforgiving regarding the eye box.

 

 

7. Best Red Dot Magnifier for an AR-15: Vortex Micro 3x V3XM

Vortex Micro 3x V3XM

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Eye Relief: 2.64 inches
  • Field of View: 38 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 9.55 ounces
  • Mount: Flip to side

Overview

Most magnifiers will work with AR-15s. The Vortex Micro 3x V3XM is the most versatile magnifier and will work with a greater variety of setups, making it superior for putting on your AR-15.

The V3XM is the micro version of the well-regarded Vortex VMX-3T magnifier. It’s shorter than all other magnifiers and weighs less with its mount than some other magnifiers without their mounts. This is good for balance and for fitting it onto your top rail, where space is a premium.

Most magnifiers can interfere with rear backup iron sights. The Vortex V3XM can as well, but its smaller form factor makes this less likely, especially since you can set it to flip left or right.

The V3XM’s eye relief is a respectable 2.64 inches, which adds to its versatility.

The V3XM comes with a shim, so you can use it with both absolute co-witness and lower 1/3rd co-witness sights.

Pros

  • Long eye relief
  • Short and light
  • Versatile mounting options

Cons

  • More expensive than magnifiers of comparable visual quality

Recommendation

The Vortex Micro 3x V3XM’s small form factor makes it compatible with a wider variety of red dot sights than other magnifiers and allows it to be position in more locations, so it’s a great choice for your AR-15.

 

Vortex Micro 3x V3XM is also available at:

Brownells

 

8. Best Red Dot Magnifier Combo #1: EOTech HHS-II EXPS2-2 & G33.STS Combo

EOTech HHS-II EXPS2-2 & G33.STS Combo

Specs

  • Magnification: 3.25x
  • Eye Relief: 7.7 inches
  • Field of View: 38 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 3.9 inches
  • Weight: 22.4 ounces
  • Mount: Switch to side

Overview

EOTech manufactures both some of the best holo sights and best magnifiers. It’s natural for EOTech to claim the mantle of best red dot magnifier combo.

Holo sights are often, but not always, called red dot sights. The EOTech HHS-II combo includes the G33.STS magnifier with the EOTech EXPS2-2 holographic weapon sight. It uses a laser to produce a holographic image of a reticle between your eye and the target.

The EXPS2-2 is the upgraded XPS2 with the two-dot reticle. It has a quick-detach mount, the controls are on the side, and it sits at a lower 1/3rd co-witness with your iron sights.

Holo sights have an advantage over traditional reflex sights when it comes to magnification in that the dots do not magnify. You get the same 1 MOA dot at both 1x and 3.25x views. This maintains your ability to make precise fire on your target at any range.

This combo is a one-and-done way to achieve fast target acquisition at close ranges and precision shooting at longer ranges while being as durable as possible.

Pros

  • Combines an excellent holo sight with an excellent magnifier

Cons

  • Very expensive package

Recommendation

The EOTech Holographic Hybrid Sight II combines the EXPS2-2 holo sight and G33.STS magnifier for the best of both worlds.

 

EOTech HHS-II EXPS2-2 & G33.STS Combo is also available at:

Basspro

Palmetto State Armory

Brownells

 

9. Best Red Dot Magnifier Combo #2: Holosun HS510C & HM3X Combo

Holosun HS510C & HM3X Combo

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Eye Relief: 2.75 inches
  • Field of View: 37 feet at 100 yards
  • Length: 7.2 inches
  • Weight: 16.54 ounces
  • Mount: Flip to side

Overview

The Holosun HS510C and HM3X combo will not only save you half the cost of the EOTech HHS-II but will also get you some features the EOTech doesn’t provide.

The Holosun HS510C is one of Holosun’s best optics. It’s a reflex sight with a massive field of view. The reticle is a crisp 2 MOA dot surrounded by a 65 MOA ring.

Two main features elevate the HS510C above most other red dots. First, it has a solar cell that can power the optic even without the battery! Not that the battery is likely to fail, since you can leave the HS510C on for 50,000 hours before it runs out.

Also, this Holosun sight has a shake-awake feature that turns the optic on when you grab your gun.

The magnifier that comes with the HS510C in this combo is no slouch, either. I’ve already pointed out that it’s one of the best magnifiers available today.

The potential downside of this combo is that the HS510C is of the open reflex design. This means that there’s a gap between the front of the magnifier and the rear glass of the optic, which increases the chances that debris can block your view.

Pros

  • Feature-filled red dot sight
  • High-value magnifier

Cons

  • Gap between magnifier and sight

Recommendation

The Holosun HS510C and HM3X combo is a high-value combo that’s more than enough sight and magnification for many shooters.

 

 

Why Should You Buy a Red Dot Magnifier?

man aiming rifle with sights upclose

Red dot sight magnifiers offer a solution to the problem of red dots offering no range advantage compared with traditional iron sights.

For a long time, your choice was either a red dot sight or a magnified optic. This changed when flat-top AR-15s became the norm and optic designers realized they could take advantage of the longer rail space.

You could call these products AR-15 magnifiers because of this, though they will fit on other guns as well. You might have a hard time installing both a magnifier and a red dot sight on an AK-47, though!

A magnified red dot allows you to extend the effective range of your firearm to distances past what you can comfortably achieve with just the red dot sight.

A red dot with a magnifier, provided it has a flip-to-side mount, is far more versatile than a red dot alone and faster than a magnified optic at its lowest magnification.

 

Red Dot Magnifier Pros

3X Magnifier Scope with flip to side mount

The primary advantage of a red dot magnifier is that adding one to your rifle allows you to use the reflex sight that’s already installed at longer ranges without having to purchase or sight in a new optic.

Good magnifiers will also slide or flip out of the way when you don’t want to use them. This allows you to use full advantage of the red dot’s speed for close-range shooting. Then, flip the magnifier up, and you can take your time for more accurate shots at triple the distance!

Many magnifiers come with a quick-detach mount that allows you to remove the device when you don’t want the extra weight. This also allows you to use the magnifier as a monocular without violating the laws of firearm safety by pointing your gun at an object to magnify it.

 

Red Dot Magnifier Cons

rifle held in open field with magnifier flipped to side

Magnifying your red dot does have some disadvantages.

For one thing, magnifiers are bulky and heavy. They add almost a pound to your gun and can interfere with backup rear iron sights.

Red dot magnifiers also magnify the red dot itself. A 3x magnifier will turn a 2 MOA dot into a 6 MOA dot! This cuts down on how precise you can shoot your rifle.

Note, though, that this doesn’t apply to holographic sights. A holo dot will stay at 1 MOA in size whether viewed without a lens or magnified 6x.

 

How to Choose a Red Dot Magnifier

You can spend anywhere from $50 to $1,000 on a red dot magnifier. Are the more expensive ones truly worthwhile? Can you get by with a cheaper magnifier?

Most people don’t need a magnifier that costs more than $200 or maybe $300.

Let’s look at some options which may push you one way or the other.

 

Magnification

view through Primary Arms magnifier

By far, most magnifiers give you a three times larger image.

You can find 2x, 5x, and 7x magnifiers. However, most of them are 3x, with some 6x magnifiers around.

A good compromise between making the image larger and reducing your field of view is 3x magnification. Most people who need more than 3x magnification would be better served with a dedicated magnified sight rather than by adding a more powerful magnifier.

However, more magnification is still a good idea for some people. In this case, I would recommend getting a 6x magnifier that has a good amount of eye relief.

 

Durability

hand attaching magnifier to rifle

A magnifier that falls off if you bump the gun is worthless.

Most magnifiers have a fixed magnification, which means there are fewer internal components that can get messed up from shock or vibration. Also, they don’t contain the reticle, which makes them fairly impervious to most scope failures.

Mounts, however, can be a weak point.

When you get a cheaper magnifier, you typically get a cheaper mount that can’t handle as much abuse. For example, it’s possible to manhandle the Leaper UTG magnifier in a way that breaks off the flip-to-side mount’s locking lug!

If you’re going to be taking the magnifier into the wild, then it’s a good idea to get one with a solidly designed mount that’s not known for getting loose. A magnifier that bounces around on your gun might as well be trash.

 

Inline or Flip to Side

UTG flip up scope mounted on rifle upclose
Flip to side

Inline magnifiers are permanently attached behind your red dot sight.

I don’t recommend those.

A major reason why people use magnifiers is to have the option to use the red dot sight with or without the magnifier. Permanently magnifying your red dot sight is a bulky and heavy way to minimize your options!

Get a flip-to-side, slide-to-side, or switch-to-side magnifier if you’re going to get one at all.

 

Mounting Method

man assembling magnifier on rifle

Most magnifier mounts have a quick-detach lever so you can remove the tube with little hassle.

I would recommend sticking with this mounting method. QD mounts are just as solid as more-permanent mounts when adjusted properly and allow you to remove or install the magnifier if you so choose.

 

Eye Relief

red dot sight and magnifier on rifle aimed by lady
Aimpoint 3x magnifier

Eye relief is one of the ways in which modern magnifiers are superior to old magnifiers. Two-inch eye relief used to be good. Now you can get inexpensive magnifiers with almost three inches of eye relief.

All other options being equal, it’s a good idea to get the magnifier with the longer eye relief.

Short eye reliefs are harder to use and can put your eyebrows at risk of being whacked when the gun recoils.

 

Top Brands

EOTech

EOTech logo

EOTech is the first company to have introduced a holographic weapon sight to the world. These sights quickly became known for being faster than reflex sights because the reticle is a hologram that appears to float downrange your gun.

This fact, combined with the tough construction of EOTech’s sights, made these sights excellent choices for military and law enforcement personnel, as well as competitive shooters who demand the best performance out of their optics.

EOTech designed the G33 to complement their holo sights perfectly, so the G33 is a battle-proven magnifier that demands a high price yet won’t let you down.

In 2015, EOTech came under fire because their sights exhibited thermal drift, a change to the point of impact when you don’t sight in the gun after the temperature changes to one extreme or another.

The company responded well and is again producing high-quality sights and magnifiers for U.S. Special Forces.

 

Holosun

Holosun logo

Holosun is one of the newest brands putting out optics, and their designs have shaken up the red dot sight industry.

The company started as the no-name OEM for Primary Arms until the people manufacturing the sights had some ideas of their own. Primary Arms helped Holosun get on their feet, and Holosun came out with the first solar-powered red dot sights.

Holosun continues to push the field when it comes to reflex sight technology, and several other brands have had to play catch-up and also add features, such as shake-awake and extreme battery lives, in budget optics.

When I think of a nonmagnified and nonholographic sight for my firearms, my first thought goes to Holosun. They offer some of the highest-valued optics in the business, and their magnifier is no different.

 

FAQ

FAQ

How do red dot magnifiers work?

Red dot magnifiers are basically telescopes without any reticle inside. If you remove the mount, you have a monocular.

An objective lens up front gathers light and sends it to the ocular lens, which magnifies the image. The ocular lens is the one closest to your eye.

The red dot sight’s reticle is gathered and magnified just like any other light in front of the magnifier’s objective lens.

Typically there’s a diopter adjustment that changes the focal length of the magnifier. This lets you dial in the focus to match your eye so you get a crisp image instead of a blurred-out sight picture.

 

Are red dot magnifiers worth it?

Many people like red dot magnifiers, and many people do not.

I find that it depends on the use case of the firearm as well as the individual.

Red dots plus magnifiers compete with low-power variable optics (LPVOs), which are scopes that can rapidly switch from 1x to 4x, 6x, or 8x. LPVOs tend to be lighter than a red dot and magnifier combo and the 1x magnification level almost functions as a red dot sight.

However, that “almost” doesn’t work for me. LPVO scopes rarely have a true 1x magnification and are often 1.25x. I get a headache when I try to use LPVO scopes at 1x because of this. Also, the reticle will have slightly worse parallax error than you get with a red dot.

So, for me, a red dot magnifier is worth the added weight for my rifles which I mostly use within 100 yards but may need to use at longer ranges.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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