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Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier Review: How Micro Is It?

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Like a left-bank Bordeaux of the 2015 vintage matched with Steak Frites seasoned only with fresh cracked black pepper, combining a red dot sight with a magnifier harmonized the capabilities of the combat carbine with the complex landscape of the urban sprawl. Relatively speaking, quite some time has passed since the glory days of the classic EOTech and 3x G33 Magnifier, and although that combination retains validity, there's been more than a few new players on the field. Even as the EOTech and Aimpoint Micro battled it out, many scratched their heads at the strange lack of magnifiers specifically designed to pair with the smaller red dots proliferating the playing field. Enter the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier.


While glass quality and the precision of adjustments should be expected in any review regarding magnification, for this category, we must begin with the foundation: mounting. The Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier ships in the box with its own quick detach mount, 2 pairs of screws, a rubber cap, and a spacer/riser to align it with an optic set at lower 1/3 co-witness height. The quick detach flip mount holds either open or closed via a captured detent that can be adjusted for a lighter throw or firmer hold, and the magnifier can be set up for either right or left handed use.

Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier

When the Magnifier is set close to the charging handle, the quick release lever creates a problem for right handed shooters.

Historically, magnifiers flipped off to the right, but when set up this way, the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier's quick release at its base places a noticeably aggressive serrated lever directly in front of an AR-15's charging handle, adding the fun of a stubbed toe to malfunction drills or locking the bolt to the rear. This forces the shooter to either commit blasphemy by hereby charging America's gun like an AK variant, or move their red dot and magnifier further forward, necessarily impacting cheek weld location. A third option remains by reversing the side it flips to, but this tends to offend delicate sensibilities if one isn't careful.

A note on the Flip-Side

Conventionally, red dot magnifiers of old flipped off to the right in order to clear up the line of sight for the shooter. By rolling off to the right side of a carbine fired from the right shoulder, it supposedly obscured the least amount of the shooter's vision, and could be operated by one hand. However, there's something to say about challenging the norm. Unity Tactical's FAST system combined a taller optic with a magnifier mount that kept the motion more horizontal. At the same time, for shooters with two eyes, here's something about occluding vision: inside might be better.

Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier

Flipping the magnifier off to the left is the way going forward .

In a conventional sense, flipping the magnifier to the inside would block some of the shooter's vision in front of the non-dominant eye. However, considering how the brain ties together what each eye “sees,” the space blocked by the offset magnifier is mostly covered by the field of view from the other eye. Moral of the story: it's worth experimenting with.

But for the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier, and a right handed shooter, that experimentation doesn't leave room for options, for, combined with the limited eye relief of the compact magnifier, pushing the optics forward only works so well.

Back to the Heart: Magnification

Lacking a reticle, the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier has a straightforward task to complete: provide as clear an image as possible with a wide a field of view, without obstructing too much of the shooter's vision, while remaining lightweight and enduring against the elements and adverse conditions. Fail at any one of these and the magnifier moves from the category of highly recommended, to that of “bougie.”

Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier

Image clarity begins at where the optic is mounted. With an effective eye relief range from 2.25 to 3.25 inches from the glass, or for those by-the-book soldiers who still use the “nose-to-charging-handle” technique, 7 to 10 picatinny spaces from the rear. The shooter will still need consistency in rifle technique, for though forgiving in back and forth distance, the magnifier is less so with side-to-side motion. The focus ring provides sufficient tuning to accomplish the heuristic of looking at the furthest object and sharpening the image to it.

As far as image clarity, the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier has no fish-eye effect, and our draw sample of one had minimal red-dot splatter. When focusing on the target, no effect on the red dot itself could be detected, but if focus was shifted to the dot itself, an elongation effect would take place, making the dot look more like a line or pill. Thankfully, using a red dot sight is all about target or threat focus, and so no further issues were detected. Windage and elevation adjustments are protected by caps similar to an Aimpoint T-2 Micro, and the included handbook makes it clear that the dot doesn't have to be perfectly centered in the magnifier to be used accurately.

Judging the Vortex Micro 3X Magnifier

The Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier faces two series of judgements. First, is a stand alone evaluation, and second, within the current optics environment. Generally speaking, cost comes as a factor when comparing against alternatives, and the most direct challenger would not be something in its own category, but rather, an LPVO like the Vortex Strike Eagle. When combined with a Vortex Crossfire or Holosun 403 series, the total price comes in around an entry level LPVO, and so the user should consider first their end application. In competitions like 3-Gun, both the red dot itself and the magnifier are considered separate optics, forcing the shooter into the aggressive Open division, where most competitors are using a LPVO paired with an offset red-dot. Magnifiers gained their prominence in military and tactical applications, and thus translate directly to home-defense and fast-paced hunting scenarios.

Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier Painted

The Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier shines as an augmentation to any home defense or small predator hunting AR. This can be attributed to magnifiers as a whole, but the Vortex does come with their no-questions replacement warranty, and have a habit of producing near bullet-proof products. The Micro 3x, itself beats some competitors on price, and comes in at .25 inches shorter than the HM3XT by Holosun, and takes a full inch off the EOTech G33, sacrificing 3.23 feet of field of view at 100 yards, or .6 degrees. In comparison to the new EOTech G43, the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier has a 1-foot-at-100-yards, or roughly .2 degree smaller field of view, but comes in at the same length and 1.78 ounces lighter, and half the price.

Objectively, the Vortex Micro 3x Magnifier performs as advertised, and adds value to any rifle or carbine currently set up with a red dot sight. Useful in most scenarios, and easy to completely remove when going for a super-lightweight build, adding a magnifier only gives the shooter more options, and asks very little in return. Adding a magnifier to a red dot equipped rifle isn't a give-and-take, but an add-when-desired option, and a smart one at that.

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1 Comment

  • Chris Kahrhoff says:

    does it share a footprint with better known magnifiers? can I use it with the appropriate Unity Tactical Mount?

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  • does it share a footprint with better known magnifiers? can I use it with the appropriate Unity Tactical Mount?

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