Red Dot With Magnifier OR Variable Magnification Optics What to Buy?

Red dot sight vs low power scope

You know optics can be one of those challenging categories to shop for because there are so many different optics on the market today. You have red dots, red dots with magnifier combos, variable power optics, fixed powered optics, different reticle, and red dot options. There are so many things to look at that it really can be difficult to just kind of settle on one.


So today, I want to talk about some of the pluses and minuses to think about different types of optic setups. I actually have a favorite that I have recently started using that has really kind of stood out to me as being kind of an all-around platform. So today I want to talk about that. Maybe, I can help you make a decision as to what type of optic would be best for you.

Now behind me here, I have several different types of setups. I have a variable magnified 1 to 6 power, a 1.5 to 4 power, a standard red dot, and a red dot with the magnifier. So, I’ll give you all the pluses and minuses to what I’ve experienced with those. And maybe you can take a little bit from that when you’re shopping for an optic. Okay, so let’s start by taking a look at some of the optics. So we’re going to be using it for our comparison.

Today, we’re beginning with the most basic of those optics, which is just your standard red dot sight. The red dot sight that I have on the table today to demonstrate that is going to be the six-hour Romeo for a greatly priced, very tough little red dot optics. But, I say it’s the most basic because it doesn’t have any magnification, and it doesn’t have any reticle options. It just has a single two MOA dot, and that’s it no frills other than toughness and a good price. Now moving on down the table, I have a hollow son.

This is the hollow son 503 GU which is also just another basic red dot sight. However, it has two reticle options. It has either a 2 MOA dot or a 2 MOA dot with a 65 MOA reticle ring around it. This is also paired up with a vortex vmx 3x magnifier. So it does have the ability to be magnified with that 3 times magnification behind it. Now moving down the table here, we have a Nikon p-223.

This is kind of moving up because now we have a variable magnification scope. The magnification scope goes all the way from 1.5 X magnification all the way up to 4.5. So it does give you almost no magnification all the way up to a 4.5 times magnification. So a little bit more options when you get to that scope. However, it’s not illuminated like a red dot, and we’ll go, and we’ll get into that in just a second. Here at the bottom of the table, we have primary arms with the access illuminated reticle 1 to 6 power magnification. So this basically goes all the way down to no magnification and up to 6 X magnification with an illuminated reticle that is daytime bright. So we do have a lot of different options on the table today.

Let’s go ahead and talk about a red dot versus a red dot with a magnifier on it first. Okay, so on the table right now, we have our 2 red dot optics. We have our standard red dot with no magnification behind it. We also have our red dot that has a vortex 3 x magnifier behind it. The reason that I’m starting with these is because I feel that this is probably the most popular set up for people that own a standard 16-inch barrel ar-15s. The reason behind it is that you might want to think, or even consider buying one of these is because it is a very simple option.

They are affordable and effective. It has a really nice crisp and 2 MOA dot that’s very daytime visible. It has no magnification, which allows you to basically jump on your target very fast, and you can use it for CQB home defense.

I mean, really a lot of options just going on. Blinking, having fun, or if you wanted to again, add a magnifier behind it. It increases that ability tenfold and allows you to reach out to targets even further. Now you’re going to get a lot of people who say, ‘look, a red dot option is the perfect combination of all the optics that I had on the table earlier.” Well, this is because, with a red dot, you can hit the target as far as you can see. I think that that’s definitely true in some cases.

You can hit out an object or hit a target as far as your eye will let you see. As long as you know your holdovers, and as long as you can estimate windage, then you can do that.  You know the thing is that a red dot is very basic. It doesn’t have any holdovers for windage. You know holdovers for elevation. You kind of have to guess where you’re holding on the target and then take your shot.

But, I am a firm believer that if you can see it, then you can hit it. The thing is, how accurately can you hit it? And, that’s one of the things I try to tell people is okay. So you’re going to be shooting at 400 yards. How accurate do you want to hit the target? Well, here you have a 2 MOA reticle. So, you’re looking at it’s going to cover 2 inches at 100 yards and then infinitely grow beyond that. Okay, so that’s something to think about right there. It is going to cover up some of your targets if you’re shooting longer ranges.

Now add the magnifier to the vortex 3x magnifier or any other magnifier that you might see on the market, and you increase that ability. This is because you now have magnified the target inside your reticle, so you can take more precise shots. So this really does give you a good option. You know what’s shooting either CQB or kind of medium ranges, and that’s what I like about a red dot or a red dot with a magnifier. You again have that illuminated reticle, which gives you nighttime shooting abilities. You also have an illuminated reticle for contrast if you’re shooting against dark targets.

During the day, you have the ability to put a magnifier behind it, giving you more magnification. More range equals more power, so a red dot or a red dot with a magnifier are two good options to go now.

The other great thing about choosing a red dot or you know, picking a red dot as your optic for your firearm, there’s not really too many reticle options out there. When you talk about standard red dots, you have either a dot. And the dot can increase in size. Let’s say 1 MOA, which covers one inch to maybe six MOA, which is what I’ve seen out. The six MOA is going to cover six inches of your target at 100 yards, but still, it’s just a dot okay.

So you can choose your dot size depending on how large you want to see it and how fast it’ll let you get on target. But remember, the larger the dot, the more your accuracy is going to suffer. You can also go with a dot with a 65 MOA ring reticle.  

This is because you want fast target acquisition. You’re going to be really close to your target. For home defense CQB or something like that, you want to pop that rifle up to your eye. You just want to take the shot. And as long as you hit center mass, you’re okay. That is what a dot option like this is going to give you. It is going to give you that quick target acquisition, okay? So those are things to consider good for CQB up to medium ranges, okay?

Now, before we move on to the variable magnification optics, I want to talk about some of the downsides to using a red dot with a magnifier. This is because it doesn’t matter if you’re using a point ootek vortex or some other brand. It doesn’t matter what mount you’re using. These are going to basically apply to all of the red dot magnifiers that I’ve seen on the market today. The first problem that I have is that no matter how you move it or which mount you’re using in order to move that magnifier out of the way of the red dot, you have to swing it to one side or the other.

So, even if you’re moving it, your off area still impedes your field of view. So moving it left or moving it right, it doesn’t matter. You still have this large magnifier kind of in the way of that overall field of view, and that’s one thing that I would consider a downside. Another thing that I consider a downside is the eye relief. I mean, if you’re watching this video and you have a magnifier, and again the only magnifiers that I have used, our Aimpoint an eotech and vortex.

The big downside is eye relief. I mean, eye relief is just atrocious. If the eye relief is so short, then you basically have to stick your eye right to the ocular lens in order to get good eye relief on any magnifiers that I have used so far. And that’s kind of a pain in the ass. I mean, some guys really like to ride their rifle. They put their face right up here right, so you’re really close to the magnifier together, and that’s fine if that’s how you like to run your rifles.

Where you have a very short length of pull, you like to ride the rifle close to your face. Then you’re not going to be bothered by that at all. However, I think this is only like an inch and a half or inch and three-quarters to two inches of IRA leaf, so there’s not much eye relief.

In order to get a good look through that magnifier, you have to kind of be right up to it. So you have the fact that it swings out of the way, and you have the fact that it has really poor eye relief. The other thing, aside from that, is the fact that they tend to be a little bit heavy. I don’t know why they make these things so heavy. I don’t know if it is the type of glass that they use. But, it seems like when you compare it to a let’s say comparable magnification scope. It seems like the magnifier itself tends to be a little bit heavier than even a scope. So, those are three downsides that I see at least to using a magnifier behind a red dot, okay?

Now, let’s talk about variable magnification optics because this is an option for you if you want something that does a little bit more than just your standard red dot. However, this is a category that you could go on and on and on for weeks about, and still not learn everything there is to know about all the variable magnification optics that are on the market today. Do you want a mil reticle or an MOA reticle? Do you want this type of reticle BDC reticle or dead hole reticle? Do you want something with illumination? What size do you want your objective to be? I mean, the list goes on and on.

These are all things you want to consider when you’re talking about a variable magnified optic. And I think that maybe discourages a lot of people. That is probably why they go over to a red dot eventually and just throw a magnifier on it, and I completely understand that. You know, it’s a lot of stuff to learn and a lot of things to consider here. But, thankfully, companies these days are actually making things specifically geared towards not only just the rifle, the modern sporting rifle ar-15, air 10, but geared towards a specific cartridge. So if you’re building a rifle, that’s four to two, three or five, or six, you might have something like this; Nikon p-223, which actually has a reticle designed exactly for that particular cartridge. So, it kind of takes some of the guessing game out of it.

You might also have something like this right here. This is designed for a three 300 blackout or seven six-two. It has a reticle that is designed exactly for that, and so it kind of takes some of the guessing game away from that. That’s on my 300 blackout. I’ve actually made this over to my 22 long rifles because I’m testing this out. But, you know what, they kind of make optics that are more geared towards your rifle and your caliber nowadays. So they’re taking some of the guessing games out of it.

However, there are still things to consider, like your reticle and things like that. But, let’s talk about the two that we have on the table today because this, to me, I think, is the direction of optics for the future.

And I’ll tell you why I think that is the case.  I think this encompasses basically everything that a red dot does and everything you want out of a red dot with a magnifier. However, this puts it in one single package. Okay, so the two options I’m talking about here are 1.5 to 4.5 magnification scope.

The thing about it is its 1.5 magnification on its low-end. So it’s not a true 1x. It doesn’t necessarily have mil magnification at all. It just has a little bit of magnification that might bother some people. This also does not have an illuminated reticle, so if you’re somebody who’s looking to go shooting at the range or if you’re somebody who knows you’re going to be used this for plinking, hunting during the daytime, or whatever the case might be, you don’t need an illuminated reticle.

You don’t need it to go all the way down to a perfect and no magnification 1x. You might then look at something like this and say, “Hey this is a perfect type of scope for me, because it gives me a finer crosshair.” “I can make better shots than I can with a red dot, because I can magnify this out to 4.5 times.” You use a really nice fine crosshair with a bullet drop compensating reticle for my cartridge on it. This might be something you want to look at. Now, let’s talk about this one right here, and this is the optic that made me think that this type of optic could definitely replace a red dot on all of my rifles. And I’ll tell you why I think that is.

This really does encompass everything that you need to, or get out of a red dot. This has an illuminated reticle and has an illuminated Chevron that is daylight bright. If you run out of batteries, it also has a standard reticle in it with a Chevron windage compensation; you have elevation compensation. It also has a ranging estimate reticle on it so you can actually use that to range your target out. So, you get the red dot, you get the fine crosshairs, you get the bullet drop, and you get the wind.

Did you get all these extra things when you’re talking about a reticle like this? And it goes all the way down to 1x, and this is a true 1x, meaning that it has no magnification. If you want to use this for CQB purposes, home defense, or something like that, you turn on your red dot reticle in this sight right here. You turn it to 1x, and you drop it in your safe or whatever the case is, and you’re ready to go.

And, you could fight CQB now. You can just go ahead and move this all the way out to 6x magnification. Use the reticle that’s on here, and you can get finer and precise shots even out to longer ranges. Now, if you remember, one of the downsides I said to using a magnifier with a red dot is the fact that you have very short eye relief, okay? Short eye relief on this generous eye relief almost 4 inches of eye relief on this one as well. But still, you get the same red dot.

Now, let’s talk about something else. This is obviously a lot bigger. This takes up a lot of rail space, so you do have that, but if you’re talking about a magnifier and a red dot, this weighs about the same as the hollow Sun with the vmx on it. Another thing to consider is if you decide to go in a route like this right here, at the variable magnification optic that has an illuminated reticle. On it, there’s nothing to flip out of the way.

When you want to go to a true 1x, it’s not quite as fast as using a red dot with the magnifier. This is because you don’t just flip it to the side, but it’s fairly quick when you just take the ring, and you rotate it down to one. So, I would say that it’s going to take you an extra one second, maybe 1.5 seconds, to go from a full magnification down to a one-time magnification versus a red dot with a magnifier, okay.

So you do lose about a second, maybe even a second and a half, and I know that means a lot to some people. So things to consider about a similar amount of weight, you get the same magnification in the One X being zero magnification. However, you get double the magnification when you go all the way up to six power.

They also now make them in eighth power. I believe they may even make it to ten-power. And for those people that want a more high-end optics, you can get something from, let’s say, loopholed. Or even primary arms make what they’re calling; I believe they are a premium line, which I’ve seen Mr. Gunson gear do a review on their premium line. It is really, really nice glass.

It is kind of expensive, I believe over $1000, but again you get what you pay for. You get that nice clear premium glass and all the premium extras. So again, things to consider, we’re talking about variable magnification. You are going to have to figure out what type of reticle you want. You are gonna have to figure out exactly.

You know what you’re going to use it for. You can’t get a 300 blackout or 762 reticle option like this and slap it on a five, six and expect that reticle or the bullet drop compensation to work okay. So you want to consider things like that, but again I think this is the future right here when you’re talking about optics because it really does envelop everything that you would want out of both styles of optics.

Now, the one thing I should mention before you even start looking for an optic is that you should know what you want it for, okay? So before you start shopping, know exactly what you want it for. Do you want an optic for hunting? Do you want an optic for home defense? Do you want an optic for plinking, precision shooting, or long-range shooting? Maybe for competition shooting like three guns, okay?

Think about what you want it for, and then think about what fits you best. Is it the weight that’s going to be your issue? Is it speed that’s going to be your issue? Is it a long magnification that’s going to be your issue? And then, go ahead and choose between these two platforms. Remember that one of these is built for a little bit more long-range and precision, while also being capable of CQB with the luminaid reticle.

The one right here is meant primarily for CQB out to medium ranges. With a really easy to pick up bright reticle, you don’t have to worry about any type of reticle options. And you have the magnifier that you can flip out of the way for quick, easy access to One X and then flip back for easy access to one, even maybe six X these days. I think I’ve seen so.

These are options that you can use to get yourself a good optic because I know it’s difficult for a lot of people out there when you’re shopping to pick something. But, hopefully, by showing you the capabilities or at least you know my feeling of these two different types of optics or even four different types of optics, maybe that you can use this to kind of help you shop and pick something that you might want for you.

So, definitely consider that between the two. Thank you all very much for watching. If you like videos like this, please let me know in the description box so that I can make more of them or stop making them altogether.

Author: Thomas Tate

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