Are There Mechanisms for Red Dot Sight Magnification?

Chris G.

A red dot sight is a wonderful firearm optic. It allows you to track, acquire, and engage targets with speed and precision—targets that are at close or medium ranges. These ranges fall between 0 to 100 yards or meters.

But what about targets that are beyond 100 yards/meters? Can a red dot sight maintain its precision at such a range? Does a red dot have an inherent function that allows it to magnify targets at long range? Do you need any other accessory to aid the red dot in acquiring targets more than 100 yards? 

Let’s discuss those topics in this article.

Understanding the Basics of Red Dot Sights

Let’s get to grips with the basic principles of red dot sights. A red dot sight is a type of reflex sight that uses the principle of reflection. A solid-state energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) generates a red light that passes through a narrow aperture. This creates a beam of light that is projected to a spherical mirror in front of the sight.

The mirror, often called a lens, has a partially silvered dielectric dichroic coating that reflects only the red spectrum of light while allowing all other lightwaves to pass through. This creates a red dot of light, called a reticle, that serves as an aiming point. The lens is tilted and angled so that the reticle stays in alignment even if the eye of the user shifts its position.

All the user needs to do is to superimpose the red dot on the target. With the right range, skill, condition, and other factors, the bullet should be able to impact the target.

Effective Ranges of Red Dots

Knowing the effective distances of red dot sights is a key factor in making the most out of them and improving your shooting accuracy. In general, red dots are designed for close to medium-range engagements. 

  1. Close-Quarters Combat (CQC): Red dot sights are highly effective in close-quarters combat scenarios, typically within 0-50 yards/meters. The wide field of view and both-eyes-open shooting capability make them ideal for rapid target acquisition in tight spaces.
  2. Mid-Range Shooting: Many red dot sights are suitable for mid-range shooting, extending their effective range to 100 yards/meters or slightly beyond. This makes them versatile for various applications, including home defense, law enforcement, and some types of hunting.

Beyond 100 yards/meters, the red dot’s accuracy becomes less effective. You would need to account for other factors such as bullet drop, wind speed, the power of the firearm and ammunition, and more when shooting at long-range targets.

Can Red Dot Sights Magnify Targets?

Do red dot sights have magnification? Is there such a thing as a magnified red dot optic? By itself, a red dot sight does not have any magnification power. Red dot sights are designed to provide a non-magnified and parallax-free aiming solution for quick target acquisition at short to medium ranges. 

If you need magnification with a red dot sight, you can consider using additional accessories, usually a magnifier.

How Do Red Dot Sight Magnifiers Work

a man aiming a rifle with a red dot magnifier

A red dot sight magnifier is an optical accessory designed to provide magnification to a non-magnified standard red dot sight. It allows shooters to switch between a non-magnified view for quick target acquisition and a magnified view for more precise shots at longer distances. It is usually mounted behind the red dot sight.

Components

  1. Magnifier Housing: The magnifier is housed in a durable and compact unit. It is designed to be mounted behind a red dot sight, usually on the same rail or mount.
  2. Objective Lens: The magnifier has an objective lens at the front, which collects light and forms an enlarged image of the target.
  3. Eyepiece Lens: The eyepiece lens is located at the rear of the magnifier. It magnifies the image collected by the objective lens and presents it to the user’s eye.
  4. Adjustable Diopter: Some magnifiers have an adjustable diopter, allowing users to fine-tune the focus to match their individual eyesight.
  5. Mounting Mechanism: Magnifiers typically come with a flip-to-side mounting mechanism. This allows the magnifier to be quickly flipped into position behind the red dot sight when magnification is needed and flipped to the side when not in use.

How Do Red Dot Magnifiers Work

  1. Non-Magnified View (Red Dot Sight Only): When the magnifier is in the flipped-to-the-side position, the user sees through the non-magnified red dot sight as usual. 
  2. Magnified View (Red Dot Sight + Magnifier): When the user needs magnification, they flip the magnifier into position behind the red dot sight. The objective lens of the magnifier collects light from the target, magnifies the image, and presents it to the eyepiece lens.
  3. Increased Magnification: The eyepiece lens further magnifies the image, providing an overall magnified sight picture. The red dot reticle from the red dot sight remains non-magnified, and its size does not change. The magnifier enhances the target image for more precise shots at longer distances.

Properly Mounting Red Dot Magnifiers

a man mounting a red dot magnifier

Properly mounting a red dot magnifier is crucial for optimal performance and usability. 

  1. Check Compatibility: Make sure that the red dot magnifier is compatible with your specific red dot sight. Magnifiers are designed to work with specific mounts or mounting systems, so verify compatibility before making a purchase.
  2. Matching Height: Choose a magnifier that provides the correct height alignment with your red dot sight. The height should allow for a seamless transition between the red dot sight and the magnifier without significant adjustments to cheek weld or head position.
  3. Correct Mounting System: Use the appropriate mounting system for your red dot magnifier. Common mounting systems include flip-to-side mounts, quick-detach (QD) mounts, or fixed mounts. 
  4. Maintain Co-Witness or Absolute Co-Witness: Co-witnessing refers to aligning the red dot sight’s reticle with the magnifier’s reticle when both are in use. Choose a mounting system that provides either a lower 1/3 co-witness or an absolute co-witness, depending on your preference. 
  5. Proper Eye Relief: Set the magnifier’s eye relief to match your shooting style and preferences. Eye relief is the distance from the eyepiece lens to your eye. Adjust the magnifier’s position on the rail to achieve a comfortable and consistent eye relief.
  6. Secure Mounting: Secure the magnifier to the rail. Tighten all screws and bolts according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Use the appropriate tools, such as torque wrenches, to achieve the recommended torque settings without over-tightening.
  7. Flip-to-Side Mechanism: If your magnifier has a flip-to-side mechanism, verify that it functions smoothly. Test the flip-to-side action to ensure it flips into position securely and returns to the side without interference.
  8. Check for Clearance: Verify that there is sufficient clearance between the magnifier and other accessories on the rail such as backup iron sights (BUIS) or other optics. 
  9. Reticle Alignment: Align the reticle of the magnifier with the red dot sight’s reticle. The magnifier’s reticle should be centered and coincide with the red dot reticle when co-witnessing. Adjust the magnifier’s alignment as needed to achieve proper reticle alignment.
  10. Zeroing Procedure: After mounting the red dot magnifier, follow the manufacturer’s recommended zeroing procedures. Ensure that both the red dot sight and the magnifier are zeroed to the same point of impact at the desired distance.

Conclusion

Red dot sights are basically close- to medium-range optics. However, it is possible to use them to shoot long-range targets by using a magnifier. Understanding the functions of different sight types and correctly positioning your magnifier allows you to increase your viewing range beyond the norm.

About the author

The name's Chris. Just a regular dude who loves firearms. I've been shooting since I was a kid. My old man taught me the ropes.

I'll never forget the first time I missed an easy shot on a buck, thanks to a bum scope. The image was fuzzier than my dog's butt. After that, I got obsessed with understanding scopes. What makes the good ones tick and the bad ones trash. After a few years and a few thousand bucks, I learned what separates the winners from the losers. Once I had a good stockpile of knowledge, I launched this site.

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