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A red dot sight is one of the best upgrades you can make to a close-range firearm but there are some serious drawbacks, especially if that red dot is going to find its home atop a rifle capable of being utilized at various ranges.
Red dots are really only good for about 50-100 yards and after that, you’ll want something magnifying your sight picture to ensure proper target identification and precision. No worry, you won’t need to get rid of your red dot!
You can simply add a magnifier that works in tandem with your red dot, giving you the option to cycle between that precious 1x up close and personal red dot and also giving you magnification for when you need to engage outside of what a red dot is capable of!
In this guide, we’ll go over what red dot magnifiers do, how to find the best red dot magnifiers on the market, and how they pair up with your red dots. If you don’t already have a red dot, you can check out the Marine Approved Red Dot Sights Guide here. If you do, dive into this guide, and at the end, you’ll have all the information needed to find a good partner magnifier and I’ll do the digging for you to find the best deals!
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Vortex Optics VMX-3T
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AT3 Tactical RRDM
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Sightmark T-3 Magnifier
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Sig Sauer Juliet4
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If you already know all about magnifiers, go ahead and skip this section and go straight to the reviews!
What is a Red Dot Magnifier and Why Should You Spend Your Money on One?
A magnifier is typically used in what’s called “Co-Witness” with a red dot or other low magnification optics where both of the optical systems are mounted on your firearm and can be used either without the magnifier in a flipped out position or with the red dot being magnified by the magnifier by simply flipping and locking into place the magnifier.
The main reason people like these is simple, it gives you the ultimate versatility in switching your weapons system capabilities from being optimized for short-range and/or close quarter combat (CQR) situations to mid-range engagements by simply reaching up and sliding over the magnifier.
Combat and combat training aren’t always going to provide you a consistent engagement range, meaning your weapons system needs to be ready for a number of different ranges and thus, a secondary optical magnifier is one of the best methods of achieving optimum close range and mid-range capabilities without switching the firearm to something else.
This means as you engage targets, say inside a building or dense jungle setting, you can use your red dot for its advantages, such as its unlimited eye relief, ultra-wide field of view, and unbeatable target acquisition speed, and then when you exit the building or come into a clearing in the woods where targets are more than just a few feet from you, you can quickly slide the magnifier over, giving you access to a magnified sight picture for taking mid to long-range shots.
Attributes to Look For
There are many factors that will play into whether or not a red dot magnifier is of high quality and of course, many of these attributes play directly into the price tag and overall user experience. It’s extremely important to study up and know what you need as not all red dot magnifiers work with all red dots or weapon systems.
As always, I tend to recommend the “buy once cry once” mantra, as it essentially means you should be spending top dollar on top tier brands to ensure you get yourself what you need, when you need it, with durability that doesn’t have you coming back for replacements. Magnifiers exemplify this mantra because they are optics and in the world of optics, you always get what you pay for and in almost every case, choosing the cheap route actually ends up costing you more money down the road or perhaps your life if it can’t perform when you need it most.
Complications of a Three-Some
Buying a magnifier to use in co-witness with another optical system means you’re adding another entity to the marriage between your rifle and it’s current optics. Finding optics that suit your rifle perfectly and the intended usage is already difficult enough for a beginner and adding a magnifier to the mix makes things even more complicated.
First and foremost, you must determine if the magnifier is going to be compatible with your rifle. Does your rifle have enough rail space for another mount? Do you need a special mount for your specific rifle or will most included Picatinny mounts work for you? Are you already using a spacer or riser with your current optical setup? These are all questions you’ll need to make sure you have answered before ever even beginning your search for a magnifier.
Second, does a magnifier play nicely with your current optics? Are your current optics compatible with a magnifier? Do they have special reticle or glass characteristics that don’t work well with being magnified? In most cases, a simple red dot can be magnified, but sometimes when you have something like a red dot and an MOA circle reticle, that MOA circle may get distorted or cause reflection inside the magnifier, rendering your sight picture at extremely low quality.
Some magnifiers are built specifically for a certain red dot like the EOTech G33 and its counterpart, the EOTech EXPS lineup, but are also compatible with many other red dot sights too. Always check with the manufacturer to make sure your red dot is compatible with the magnifier you want to use!
Understanding Magnifier Power and Lens Sizing
Like most other optics, when shopping around, you’re going to come across some X’s and MM’s paired up with numbers that you may not understand or know how to choose between. No worries, these are easy to learn and once you get the gist of it, knowing what these mean will help you choose the right optics for your style of shooting. This is a crucial piece of information that will likely be the determinating factor of which magnifier you buy, so please read and make sure you understand before buying an expensive magnifier!
Let’s go over a common example you may find when shopping for a red dot magnifier.
4x24mm found on the Sig Sauer Juliet4.
The first number, the 4, indicates that the magnifier will magnify your sight picture of up to 4x it’s non-magnified appearance, meaning that what you see through the Juliet4 will be 4x closer and larger than it is using the jelly bags in your head. Your red dot should be a 1X, meaning there is no magnification present.
The 24mm part is indicating that the Juliet4 has a 24mm objective lens. The objective lens is the lens facing your target, away from the shooter. A larger objective lens means the lens is more capable of using ambient light to create a detailed and bright sight picture. The larger the lens, the more light the magnifier is capable of using, and thus, as a general rule of thumb, the better the overall quality of the sight picture.
So, just buy the highest magnification possible with the largest objective lens and you’re done, right? Not so fast gunslinger, we still need to consider the negative tradeoffs here. The higher the magnification, the more sight picture will suffer, meaning that with high magnification, you need larger objective lenses.
Larger objective lenses take up more space and weigh significantly more, meaning you’ll be lugging around a heavy piece of glass sitting on top of your rifle, making your rifle more difficult to maneuver and operate, especially because it’ll become top-heavy. Larger objective lenses also reflect more light, meaning that if you’re in a covert situation, that big piece of glass on the front might just be what gives your position away to the enemy.
As with almost everything in life, a middle ground is what you likely want to go for here. In the world of magnifiers, I’d say look for magnification levels of 3x up to 7x with objective lenses of roughly 15mm to 28mm. Magnifiers with higher magnification levels and massive lenses generally do not perform very well, take up too much space, are too distracting to use with a red dot, and would better suit you to simply just use a scope at that point.
A final note here, the red dot in your red dot sights is considered “enlarged” for target acquisition and eye relief, meaning its much larger than what a reticle would be in a highly magnified scope. When pairing a red dot with a magnifier, the magnifier is simply using the red dot and enhancing its magnification, despite the fact that the red dot reticle is optimized for 1x magnification power. Just like when you zoom in on a photo you took with a phone camera, the picture gets highly distorted and blurry. Magnification levels that are too drastic will actually result in that red dot crowding out the sight picture entirely, making the duo pretty much useless!
Glass Coatings Explained
Yup, just like any other scope, your lenses will likely be coated with a bunch of goodies that on a magnifier, are both important to have, but also important to work together with what’s on the original unmagnified optical system you’re using. The better and more present the coatings are, the more expensive the magnifier will be!
Coatings on lenses do a bunch of different things so it’s important to consider what coatings are present on the glass of the magnifier you’re going to buy and the red dot you’re using.
Some examples of what coatings do are added protection against abrasion, water-repelling, anti-reflection, high fidelity coatings that help to enhance sight picture, coatings to help with light transmission, and many other coatings.
Most of these coatings end up being named crazy things because a lot of them are developed by the manufacturer of the magnifier itself, meaning they’re proprietary and comparing them through the written word is incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, there are no standards for naming coatings. Something named Ultra HD glass coating may not perform the same as High Fidelity coating even though both of them have the same goal of raising the quality of the sight picture.
In other words, not all coatings are created equally and some manufacturers, like Sig Sauer, Trijicon, Aimpoint, and Vortex Optics have their own proprietary coatings that are of high quality but are only used on their specific product lines, making them difficult to compare unless you actually have them side by side to see the differences.
These magnifiers are going to be hanging off of your rifle at roughly a 45-degree angle when not in use which means it’ll be easy to bump them on things and expose them to the elements.
Waterproofing is pretty much a standard attribute for me when considering optics. I operate firearms whether its rain or shine and for me, good waterproofing is of the utmost importance, so much so that I refuse to buy magnifiers that aren’t waterproof. Red dot magnifiers with good resistance to water will be gas purged, usually with Nitrogen or Argon, and will be sealed with a special O-ring ensuring that the inside stays filled with those gases and the outside doesn’t allow water to seep in.
Waterproofing is more important than just water ruining your optics, though, as generally waterproof optics are also far better in terms of being resistant to fogging up as well. Many waterproof optics will also have water-repelling coatings on the lenses but I have found some that lack this, which is kind of silly, so make sure they have both!
I think all of the red dot magnifiers I’ll ever recommend are constructed with either an aluminum or steel casing. The outside of the magnifier must be strong and resist impact from your rifle falling to the ground or whatever else crazy stuff happens.
If the shell isn’t strong, your optics could easily become damaged and render your magnifier useless. Most of the time, you’ll find high-quality magnifiers that are built out of T6 aluminum, which is the same stuff made to construct airplanes. T6 Aluminum has a bunch of characteristics like being decently resistant to corrosion, being lightweight, and being extremely durable without weighing too much. In many cases, high-quality optics manufacturers will also coat the shell in some type of rubberized armor to further increase its durability.
As a final note here, make sure the mount your magnifier is placed on is strong and durable. Many of these magnifiers will use a swing mount, meaning the optics will ride on a pivot point. These pivot points are prone to failure when they aren’t of high quality and many of the mounts that magnifiers come with are built as the bare minimum for them to work out of the box. I almost always recommend getting a trusted third party mount, like the Larue Tactical QD Pivot Mount for Aimpoints magnifiers found here.
Of course, you’ll need to ensure the mount you buy fits your optics, is a pivot mount, has a locking mechanism that works for you, and fits your rifle’s rail space! Steel mounts are the way to go, so if your optics come with a plastic mount, I’d order a steel mount to replace it with as soon as possible.
Speaking of mounts, you could also choose to utilize a mount with a quick-release system. These allow the magnifier to be removed quickly when you know for sure you won’t need it, like if you’re usually operating in areas that would warrant both CQB and mid-range optics but you’re suddenly positioned at a CQB situation for a long duration of time. Another good reason to use a quick-release mount would be in the case that your flip mount becomes damaged and cannot flip out of the way of your red dot or the magnifier itself becomes incapacitated in some manner.
Lastly, you may need your rifle to hug a surface or shoot from a position that doesn’t allow for the magnifier to hang off the side of your rifle, like if you’re shooting through a hole in a wall or something such as that. Those pesky 45-degree magnifiers can sometimes just be in the way and all you want to do is rip it off!
10 Best Red Dot Magnifiers
After doing a quick daydream session imagining all the scenarios you may really need more magnification power than what your red dot provides, it’s time to buy your rifle yet another attachment! Taking into consideration weight, magnification power, compatibility, and cost, you’re now ready to pull the trigger on some new Co-Witness optical solutions!
Of course, there are tons of these magnifiers made by all kinds of manufacturers and in this list, we’ve opted to review only magnifiers that come from trusted brands that are already making other optics that impress us here at Marine Approved. These companies have outstanding reputations when it comes to helping you shoot further and more accurately and these magnifiers are of the best in the world.
If you don’t already have a red dot, you might want to consider buying a package deal, which may save you some money and ensure compatibility. Many brands like EoTech and SigSauer sell their red dots with the perfect magnifier solution purpose-built for their red dot systems.
If I miss something you really like or if something new and improved comes out, let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to get our hands on it!
1. Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier
My Review: From some of the best marksmen to the people patrolling the streets and keeping society safe, Aimpoint is the optical solution you choose when reliability and performance are of the utmost importance.
The 3X-C magnifier is, of course, a 3x magnifier with a 20mm objective lens that is fully compatible with night vision, which is a big deal. A lot of people that use Aimpoint products are also using NV, and night vision compatibility is unfortunately not super common with magnifiers.
Furthermore, the already impressively clear glass is coated with anti-reflectiveness, ensuring your position doesn’t become compromised from a glint of sunlight and you get multi-coatings that ensure both quality and durability of the lenses. These are not only some of the best lenses you can buy, but are also some of the best in terms of durability, even when heavily abused.
The optics are encased inside a reinforced aluminum housing that is coated with a matte black anodized finish with further protection coming in the form of a ballistic rubber wrap. Since these are purged and sealed optics, they are waterproof and submersible up to 3ft.
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- 3x20mm optical configuration with fully multi-coated lenses
- Comes with the Picatinny spacer kit and twist mount
- NVD compatible and waterproof up to 1 meter
- Doesn’t integrate as smoothly with non-Aimpoint red dot sights
- On the pricier end for a red dot magnifier
- Doesn’t come with a mount
2. EOTech G33
My Review: EOTech is well known for their proprietary holographic optical systems and has developed one of the best optic magnifiers on the market today. Of course, these were built to be used with the EOTech Holographic sights but there are many other red dots that can be used in co-witness with the G33.
The G33 is using a very smooth transitioning flip mount called Switch to Side (STS) to easily flip in and out of your sightline and I believe is the first and most prominent sight to achieve this system. Another note on the mount is that it is also a quick-release mount, enabling you the option to completely remove the optic instead of flipping it over.
The magnification system here is 3x25mm utilizing fully multi-coated lenses. These are fully compatible with night vision gear and are among the most fog-resistant magnifiers I’ve reviewed.
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These are not only some of the most versatile and high-quality magnifiers ever made, but they are also among the most durable, especially when it comes to water. These are submersible up to 33ft, which I’d hope you wouldn’t be coming close to anyways! The G33 was awarded the US SOCOM Close Quarters Combat SIGHT in 2018 and has been continually used by US Special Operations for over 18 years, so they’re thoroughly battle-tested.
- 3x25mm optical configuration fully multi-coated and NV compatible
- Comes with the EOTech STS mounting kit compatible on both Weaver and Picatinny rails
- Constructed of durable aluminum with a rubberized armor coating and waterproof up to 33ft
- One of the priciest options on the market
- May not integrate as well with non-EOTech sights
3. SIG Sauer Juliet4
My Review: SIG Sauer is a long favorited and trusted brand among us at Marine Approved and when getting the chance to review their products, we have incredibly high expectations by default. It’s safe to say, the Juliet4 is certainly Approved and competes alongside the very best in the market.
The Juliet4 is a 4x24mm optical solution with some of the best fully multi-coated lenses I’ve ever reviewed on any optics. At least in my opinion, SIG Sauer has some of the cleanest and clearest-looking optical solutions in the world and is well worth the price tag while also being one of the most powerful magnifiers in such a compact size. SIG Sauer calls this collection of coatings the Electro-Optic System. All in all, this system consists of a dielectric-coated prism coupled with HDX (HD + HT) glass that is coated with the Sig Sauer Lenshield.
The glass is clear and the optics are well protected inside an aircraft-grade CNC aluminum casing that is both highly durable—even when heavily abused—and also waterproof up to 20m thanks to an IPX8 rating. You also get a nice pair of threaded lens caps for protection when not in use.
The Juliet4 pairs up to your rifle with the PowerCam 90-degree mount with adjustable height spacers included. This mount is fairly similar to the EOTech STS mount in that it flips to the side on a pivot point and also utilizes a quick-release lever detachment system.
- 4x24mm optical configuration with proprietary Sig Sauer Dielectric prism, Lens Shield coating, and sight picture enhancement coatings called HDX
- Comes with the Quick-Release PowerCam 90 mounting system and adjustable height spacers
- Constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum anodized and sealed for 20m IPX8 waterproofing
- Some shooters report that the flip-to-side mechanism can be a little stiff, especially when you first start using it
- Some shooters may not like the stronger 4x magnification
4. Vortex Optics Micro3x Magnifier
My Review: Vortex Optics is a major player in the optics industry and makes many of our favorite optical devices, from long-range scopes to high-powered binoculars. It’s no surprise they make a killer magnifier for their top-class red dot sights!
What you get here is unbelievable for the price. These magnifiers are arguably better than magnifiers with much higher price tags and are some of the most versatile in terms of reflex and red dot compatibility.
The Micro Magnifier is a 3x22mm optical configuration that is fully multicoated with the Vortex high fidelity lens coatings we know and love, and a few protective coatings as well, to ensure a long life for a crisp, clear sight picture.
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To protect those beautifully crisp optics, you get a package that consists of a fully nitrogen-purged aluminum body that is waterproof, fog-proof, shockproof, and for the most part, life-proof. Plus, Vortex offers a pretty comprehensive lifetime warranty on these guys, so you should be covered if you ever do have a problem
The included mount is a standard flip-mount style with a quick-release lever, similar to that of the Sig Sauer Juliet4 and EOTech G33 mounts.
- 3x22mm optical configuration with Vortex Optics HD lens coatings, anti-reflective coatings, and abrasion protection coatings
- Comes with a quick-release flip mount that can be configured to flip to either side
- Constructed out of high-grade machined aluminum with a nitrogen-purged waterproof body
- Some users have reported quality control issues with the flip mount
- May experience some stiffness in the windage and elevation adjustment
5. Vortex Optics VMX-3T – Best for the Money
My Review: The VMX-3T is a complete rework of the original VMX optical magnifier by Vortex Optics and is here to impress!
What you get at an absolute steal of a price is a 3x30mm optical configuration that is fully multi-coated with Vortex Optics’ proprietary protection and high-fidelity coatings. These are as tough as they are functional, being constructed of high-quality machined aluminum and anodized with a nitrogen purge ensuring waterproofing and fog resistance.
The mount you get here is really nice, among one of my favorite magnifier mounts actually! It’s a button-activated swing mount that can be configured to swing out to either side and provides a very sturdy locking mechanism that rivals aftermarket mounts that are more expensive than this whole package is!
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This magnifier is by far the best value on the market for the average person. It isn’t the best overall, but I think it’s by far better than anything that’s even close to it in price and even better than some magnifiers of significantly higher price tags. These magnifiers are excellent and the business behind them is pretty great too!
- 3x30mm optical configuration fully multi-coated with lens caps included
- Comes with button activated swing mount configurable for either left or right-side movement
- Constructed out of high-grade machined aluminum with a nitrogen-purged waterproof and fog-proof housing
- The comfortable eye box is relatively small
- Adjustment controls may be a bit overly sensitive, making precise adjustments difficult
6. Holosun HM3X
My Review: If you’re strapped and need something relatively cheap, Holosun comes in clutch with some very useable and very high-quality products.
What you’re getting here with the HM3X is a 3x24mm optical configuration encased in an aluminum housing that is nitrogen purged to achieve IP67 waterproofing and is finished with an MAO coating in black. Eye relief is insanely good at this price point coming in at 2.75” with a 37’ at 100-yard field of view, rivaling even the top brands in this regard.
The mounting hardware that comes with the HM3X magnifier is an integrated quick-disconnect (QD) spring-loaded swing mount with included spacers for absolute co-witness or lower third co-witness.
- 3x24mm optical configuration with lens-protecting coatings
- Comes with a QD spring-loaded swing mount and spacers
- MAO-finished, aluminum housing is nitrogen purged with an IP67 waterproof rating
- Doesn’t have the same optical clarity as other magnifiers on this list
- May introduce parallax, especially if not properly aligned with your red dot sight
7. Bushnell AR Optics 3x Magnifier
My Review: Bushnell is a high-quality, mid-level priced brand. When you can’t or don’t want to pony up for the big-ticket brands, Bushnell is always a solid contender in the middle offering a great amount of value.
What you get in terms of magnification here is a 3x25mm optical configuration with the Bushnell set of proprietary lens coatings. What really stands out to me is the 3.5” eye relief, which is absolutely insane and makes this one of the most comfortable-to-use magnifiers on this list! It’s built to be used with the Bushnell TRS-25 red dot (which is an excellent red dot, I might add) but you can also pair this puppy up with tons of other popular red dots like the Vortex Strikefire 2, EOTech, SightMark, etc.
You can tell it doesn’t have the optical clarity that you would find from Aimpoint or EOTech but it is still waterproof and quite durable since it’s constructed out of aluminum. Sure, it’s by no means as durable as the SIG Sauer or Aimpoint magnifiers but still, it’ll survive a little abuse and keep trucking along!
- 3x25mm optical configuration fully multi-coated with fast-focus eyepiece adjuster
- Comes with a basic swing-style mount
- Constructed of aluminum and is nitrogen purged for waterproofing
- Optical quality isn’t on-par with higher-end options
- Not as durable as higher-end red dots (though very durable for the price)
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8. Sightmark T-3 Magnifier
My Review: The Sightmark T-3 Magnifier is a solid optical magnifier. The build quality is excellent, with a robust, durable aluminum housing that can withstand just about anything you can throw at it. Its compact and lightweight design ensures that it won’t add too much extra bulk to your rifle setup.
One of the standout features of the Sightmark T-3 Magnifier is its clear and crisp image quality. The multi-coated optics deliver sharp, bright images for clear sight picture even in low or variable light conditions. The flip-to-side mount allows for quick transition between magnified and unmagnified views, making it convenient for both close-quarters and mid-range use.
- Excellent brightness and optical clarity
- Sturdy, rugged design
- Easy to adjust
- Great value
- Easy-to-use flip-to-side mount
- A bit on the bulky side
- Can be tricky to properly align with some non-Sightmark branded red dot sights
- Eye relief could be better
9. Primary Arms 3X LER Red Dot Magnifier Gen IV
My Review: Primary Arms makes a lot of things that are quite good for the price and can last a long time. The Gen IV is a major upgrade over its predecessors, so much so that I would not recommend looking at the previous models, even if you can save a little cash.
This magnifier has a 3x24mm optical configuration that, although utilizing smaller objective lenses than the previous generation, seem to offer much better and more compact performance. They also offer 2.65” of eye relief which is close to an inch better than the previous generation. The “LER” in the name literally stands for long eye relief, which was a major motivation behind the rework and the introduction of the Gen IV version.
One thing to note is that this magnifier, unlike many others, doesn’t come with a mount. Since most people end up buying their own mount anyway, this does end up saving you a little bit of money and keeps you from having to deal with a mount you won’t use, but it is worth knowing for people who want the convenience of buying a magnifier and mount together.
- 3x24mm optical configuration with
- This magnifier was not released with a mount included. You can grab the Primary Arms Side Swing mount here.
- Constructed of aluminum with a rubber armor coating
- Comfortable eye relief
- Doesn’t include a mount (yes, this is also on the pros list, but where it really falls depends on your preferences)
- Even with the LER distinction, eye relief isn’t as long as some other magnifiers
10. AT3 Tactical RRDM – Budget Option
My Review: The AT3 tactical magnifier is the cheapest magnifier I would recommend. Even though it is around the same price as the Primary Arms magnifier, the Primary Arms magnifier doesn’t come with a mount included whereas this one does, so if you don’t plan on going with an aftermarket mount, this one is cheaper. With that said, and I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but if you prefer this sight for whatever reason, the Primary Arms mount I recommended above is a better mount than the one that comes with this magnifier.
Optically, you’re getting a fully multi-coated 3x26mm configuration with a 6061-T6 anodized aluminum body. The housing is also rubberized for added protection. These are quite rugged, although not fully waterproof, and do have some pretty surprisingly clear optics for the price.
To be perfectly honest with you, I would only get this if you absolutely need something right away and cannot afford to wait and save up for something better. These are cheap and as such do not perform nearly as well as the other magnifiers on this list. They aren’t bad for the price and if you’re just doing some weekend plinking for fun, these are probably perfect. If you’re looking for something tactical or for hunting, I wouldn’t trust this particular magnifier.
- 3x26mm fully multi-coated optical configuration
- Comes with a steel side swing locking mount
- Constructed of T6 aircraft-grade aluminum and further protected with rubber armoring
- Incredibly affordable
- Not reliable enough for tactical or hunting purposes
- Optical quality isn’t great compared to other options
- Not fully waterproof
Yes. Red dot magnifiers will work exceptionally well in the range of 50-100 yards. They are affordable and easily removable.
Your accuracy within the range will increase with the help of magnifiers.
Red dots are extremely accurate within the range of 100 yards. Beyond 100 yards, it is better if you go with a scope.
Red dots are better in terms of money and long-lasting battery life. Holographic sights make shooting a little bit more magnified so it will be easier to pick up the target quickly.
Yes. Red dot sights work very well at night. It is an illuminated dot that will help you with accuracy and faster target shooting.
You can also combine them with night vision devices.