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How do Red Dot Magnifiers Work?

Whether you’re hunting or partaking in shooting competitions, magnified optics can be really useful to help you lock your target. Magnifiers are attachments that are used with non-magnifying scopes to lock targets during long range shooting. For short range shooting, you can make use of your own line of sight.

How do Red Dot Magnifiers Work

Magnifiers may be of two types:

  1. Red Dot Magnifiers
  2. Magnifiers for Holographic Sights

For now, we’ll focus on the usage of red dot magnifiers and why they’re becoming increasingly popular.

What is the Purpose of a Red Dot?

Red dot sights position your target and the reticle on the same plane. This makes it faster and easier to aim and fire. They are ideal for military use as well as recreational purposes, such as paintball where you need to be very quick with your target acquisition.

Since they don’t offer magnification, there is no need to make adjustments for parallax errors or eye relief. They can be attached anywhere on your rifle and can therefore be used in tandem with night vision equipment.

Red dots are generally useful for short distances up to around a hundred yards and become redundant for longer distances. This is where red dot magnifiers come into play.

What is a Red Dot Magnifier?

Simply speaking, a red dot magnifier consists of a red dot sight with a magnifier mounted in front or behind it. The red dot is ideal for short-range shooting as it doesn’t provide any magnification. Most screw-in magnifiers offer magnification of around 2X, but there are options for 3X and 6X. It may be screwed on to the rifle at all times to avoid emergency situations where it has to be screwed on immediately, which can misalign your lens.

However, the major problem with this is that the magnifier may reduce the red dot’s accuracy and speed of identifying a target for shorter ranges. To avoid this, flip-side mounts are used to attach magnifiers. Such a flip-to-side mount allows the shooter to use the red dot without looking through the magnifier. When needed, you can simply flip the magnifier into place with the flip-to-side mount and magnify your red dot.

Advantages of Using a Red Dot Magnifier

Red dot magnifiers can be used with almost any rifle so even if you get a new weapon, you can continue using the same optics with it.  

Vortex Red Dot Magnifier

Disadvantages of Using a Red Dot Magnifier

Mounting a magnifier with a red dot adds all the disadvantages of using a magnifying scope. It takes time to lock your target and it changes the eye relief. It also becomes difficult to transition from no magnification at shorter ranges to magnification up to around 6x for medium-range shooting. Once you cross distances of around 500 yards, it becomes difficult to take a shot even with a 6X magnifier. Most commonly you find a 3x magnifier to use with red dots.

If you’re using a flip-side mount for your magnifier, it may come in the way when it’s not in your use. The flipped aside gear may obstruct your line of sight. It is also at risk of getting caught in a tree branch or some other obstacle and breaking off.

When used simultaneously, the magnifier magnifies the red dot as well, which can limit your field of view. This means that at around a hundred yards, a 2 MOA dot covers around 2 inches of your field of view and 6 MOA covers 6 inches. If you double the distance, the dot will also double and take up a space of around 12 inches. You can get around this problem by using a red dot with a very small aiming tip, such as the chevron tip.

While the magnifier itself is not so expensive (they vary between a price of USD 100-600), the flip-side mount adds another expense. Once you calculate the combined cost of the red dot sight, the magnifier, and the mount, it comes to around the same cost as that of a low-powered rifle scope. The combined weight also equals the weight of a scope, which means that the overall low weight of the red dot magnifier is no longer an advantage.

Magnifiers generally offer magnification of up to 6X, which isn’t sufficient for long-range shooting and is the same as getting a low-powered fixed scope.

When to Use Red Dot Magnifiers

Whether or not you use red dot magnifiers depends on the type of shooting you’re regularly involved in. If you’re generally involved in short to medium-range shooting, around 100-300 yards, then a red dot with a flip-side magnifier is ideal.

If you’re into long-range shooting, using a red dot magnifier will affect the accuracy of your aim because of the enlarged red dot and the limited level of magnification. In such cases, it is preferable to make use of a high-powered scope.

Red Dot Sight Magnifier

Find the Best Red Dot for AR’s!

It is important to keep in mind that any level of magnification will slow down your speed of locking a target. Any magnifier will reduce your field of view which in turn results in more required time to acquire a target.

If you want something a little more versatile, a variable powered scope is probably a better option.

In the end, you need to make the decision based on your shooting objective and preferences. Red dot and reflex sights with an additional magnifier are generally more cost-effective than scopes and are also more durable and lightweight.

However, they can be complicated to use, and when the magnifier is not in use, it can make the rifle difficult to handle and more susceptible to damage because of the hanging optic. Even though the red dot magnifiers themselves are not so expensive, the cost of mounting and potentially making use of a scope for long range shooting is an added expense.

Before you purchase your optic, consult a professional who will guide you on the best option for you based on your specific shooting needs.

Aaron Bennett