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Red Dot Magnifier: Holding the Throne

When it comes to optics, we are certainly spoiled by the sheer number of options available. If we were to dust off the rifles from our grandparent's generation, we'd find mostly tubular scopes and iron sights. Now we get into debates pitting LPVOs against Red Dot Magnifier vs Prism Scopes with piggyback or offset MRDS, as each competes for speed, clarity, and magnification. The Red Dot Magnifier achieved fame during the Global War on Terror and has survived the growing list of competitors by offering something others cannot.

Force Multiplier

When Red Dot Sights exploded onto the scene, they simultaneously impacted tactical doctrine while adapting to new environments, and operation styles. One example of this would be the integration of night vision modes into many models such as the Aimpoint T-1 Micro and EOTech's iconic holographic. As special operations took to the night and shifted from long-term ranging methods to quick night raids, often in urban areas, a red dot sight provided a reliable and fast aiming solution.

B&T APC223 Vortex UH-1 Vortex Micro 3x Red Dot Magnifier
Build Details: B&T APC223, DeadAir Sandman S Suppressor, Burn Proof Gear Suppressor Cover, Infrared Surefire Scout Pro, Vortex UH-1 Gen 2, Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier.

Yet whether raiding in the urban sprawl or patrolling across the mountainside, the ability to optionally add further improvement to the capabilities of the warfighter. By mounting a flip-to-side red dot magnifier behind a reflex sight, the user can swap back and forth without having to remove gear from his firearm. The magnifier didn't change the reticle, it simply gave the shooter a magnified view of their target and their red dot.

EOTech Magnifier Red Dot Magnifier

Generally speaking, red dot magnifiers feature a generous eye box, making it easy to acquire the dot when aiming. Most are also extremely rugged, built out aluminum. Even though the EOTech G33 magnifier has the longest track record of professional use in the lineup, newer, skinnier models have taken a shot at the throne.

EOTech Magnifiers
Left: EOTech G43, Right: EOTech G45

Red Dot Magnifiers typically come in one of three varieties: 3x, 3x but lighter and shorter, and 5x. EOTech's G33, Vortex's VMX-T3, and Aimpoint's 3xMag-1 represent standard 3-power options. The Vortex Micro 3x and EOTech G43 are examples of compact 3x magnifiers. And for more magnification, EOTech offers a G45 with 5x, and Aimpoint makes a 6x.

Defending the Throne

Multiple alternatives to the red dot magnifier have challenged any hegemony over swappable, optional magnification. Prism scopes, like the Trijicon Acog, were often paired with Micro Red Dot Sights allowing the user to swap between them by either rolling the gun or lifting the head. Depending on the prism/MRDS combo, one could select for weight, power source, or reticle.

Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier
Flipping the magnifier off to the right might be the way going forward. It's less invasive than at first glance.

Later, low-power variable optics, or LPVOs could adjust across the whole range of 1x to each specific model's top power. Three Gun competitors and special operators were eventually seen topping their rifles with 1-6x or 1-10x scopes. Instead of a reflex sight and red dot magnifier combo, or pairing a prism scope with an MRDS, an LPVO could fit both into a single unit.

But all is not so simple. All three options have their strengths and drawbacks, which is only further complicated by the ever-expanding list of optics, each with its own merits to consider. As a whole, different considerations, such as a 3-gun rulebook or a unit's restriction to certain makes due to import law or Berry compliance.

One feature sets red dot magnifier combos apart, however. As the use of night vision continues to proliferate out of esoteric military and law enforcement applications into the hands of both honest citizens and nefarious actors, shooting techniques while wearing NODs is constantly under review. The red dot sight is still king when it comes to passive aiming: using the reticle when shooting under night vision. For the longest time, IR Lasers have been the dominant aiming method when shooting under night vision.

As IR cameras become easier to acquire, using a laser to aim at night can endanger the user, giving away their position. In combination with the evolution of shooting posture, taller red dot mounts also make it easier to use them with night vision goggles. Companies like Unity Tactical make taller risers and magnifier flip mounts for just this purpose. The continued support for red dot magnifiers shows that they still have relevance in these changing times.

Top Red Dot Magnifier

Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier

Length: 2.9 inches
Weight: 9.55 ounces
Magnification: 3x
MSRP: $450

EOTech G33

Length: 4.4 inches
Weight: 10.6 ounces
Magnification: 3x
MSRP: $640

EOTech G43

Length: 3.1 inches
Weight: 11.3 ounces
Magnification: 3x
MSRP: $670

EOTech G45

Length: 3.9 inches
Weight: 12.8 ounces
Magnification: 5x
MSRP: $700


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