The red dot optic has been commonplace on the long gun for a long, long time. For nearly as long, companies have tried to figure out how to extend the range of the red dot. This is where the magnifier comes into play. Aimpoint and EOTech have held the market for magnifiers for decades, but how does the budget Holosun HM3X stand at over half the cost of the big boys?
Holosun HM3X - Specs and Features
Holosun announced the HM3X around SHOT Show 2019. I saw it there, and had a lot of interest in it while at the show. The HM3X is a 3 times magnification optic, meant to be mounted behind a red dot optic. It features a flip to side quick detach mount, and includes a riser piece to co-witness with a lower 1/3 optic mount. Specs for the optic are listed below.
- Weight of 9.5 ounces
- Eye Relief of 2.75 inches
- Field of View of 37 feet at 100 yards
- Overall length of 4.01 inches (102mm)
- Waterproof at 1 meter for 30 minutes (IP67 Rating)
- Nitrogen Purged Glass
- Aluminum Body and Quick Detach Mount
- External exposed axis adjustments
- Built-in screwdriver to adjust tension of mount
The MSRP for the HM3X is $235.28. I want to keep the above in mind throughout this review, as a lot of it will become relevant later. Just comparing weight and field of view to the EOTech G33, the HM3X is almost 2 ounces lighter, and has half inch longer field of view. This seems great, but is it really as good as advertised?
Holosun HM3X - First Impressions
I purchased my HM3X in May of 2019, and paid just about $170 for the optic. Over the last 15 months, the HM3X rode on 6 different AR uppers, behind a myriad of optics. I was able to try the HM3X behind the Holosun 403B and 503G-ACSS, Trijicon MRO, Aimpoints T1, R1, ACO, and Comp M2, and the SIG Romeo 5. The HM3X got to be with a LOT of friends. I generally tried to keep the magnifier mounted as close as possible to the red dot, to maintain consistency.
First impressions on the HM3X left me feeling mixed. At first touch, the mount for the magnifier feels chintzy, for lack of a better word. The QD arm is small, and the locking mechanism did not instill confidence with its meager "click" noise.
The screws on the HM3X also did not seem very high quality. When installing the lower 1/3 spacer, the screws started stripping just a little bit. I applied loctite to these screws, and the throughout the entire review, they held in place. I switched the orientation of the magnifier once during the review, and re-loctited during that process.
Glass clarity seemed decent at the start of the testing process. The advertised eye relief seems to be true, and the adjustment diopter allowed for perfecting the focus. The external adjustments feature positive clicks, which is very welcome.
The tiny screwdriver built into the mount seems, well, useless. It is too small to really be effective at adjusting anything on the optic. With my mondo-large hands, I can barely even get a grip on it, let alone twist any screws with it. I understand the concept, it's just that it is not executed well.
After I played with the HM3X and found things I liked and did not like, I slapped it on a gun and got to work.
Holosun HM3X - Using the Optic
I began testing the HM3X soon after receiving it. The magnifier began with being flipped to the left side of the mount at the start of the review process, and was shifted to flip to the right at about the halfway mark. I shot at distances ranging from 25 to 400 yards with the red dot and magnifier combo. Over the 15 month testing period, the HM3X had about 2,000 rounds shot while looking through it, and about 3,000-5,000 shot with the magnifier flipped to the side.
The glass is decently clear, well enough to identify and engage targets out to about 400 yards. I felt good taking more precise shots within 100 yards with the HM3X on the gun, rather than with a red dot only. Small targets at that distance? No problem.
I will also state that the lighter weight of the HM3X was appreciated, as it doesn't make the gun seem as cumbersome as the other magnifiers I'm used do. A few ounces might not seem like a lot, but it really does add up over time, and fatigue you a little bit faster.
The upsides of the optic are well, few. I hate to say it, but I have a lot more negative things to say about the HM3X than I do positive.
Holosun HM3X - The Bad
Unfortunately, the HM3X has a lot elements holding it back from being a great, or even good optic.
The eye box on the HM3X is horrid. The eye box is essentially a range measurement, of the closest and furthest your cheekweld can be from an optic, and still keep it usable. On the HM3X, the eye box is very short. This is a common issue on magnifiers, but it seems much worse than on the Aimpoints I also use. Too close to the optic? Horrid scope shadow. Too far? Soda straw field of view.
Speaking of scope shadow, the HM3X features significant scope shadow. Similar to the eye box issue, if you are not perfectly centered behind the optic, the black edges of the optic will shadow circular rings, and occlude your view for use. This may not seem like a huge issue to some folks, but if you are shooting from awkward positions, or are using a plate carrier, or similar LBE, your cheekweld is not always consistent.
After I switched the optic to be oriented to flip to the other side of my gun, I ran into another issue. I tightened down the pivoting screw that holds the magnifier to the mount, and it is bottomed out to the end of its travel. However, the magnifier does not have nearly enough resistance when being flipped. It is too easy to flip it to the side. I've shaken the gun hard, and had the magnifier flip to the side. That's not good.
The last issue is a big one.
My specific HM3X unit has black streaks and dots on the internal lenses of the optic. The above picture shows the largest one, but there are more that are visible to the eye, just difficult to pick up on camera. The defects are only visible when you look through the optic backwards, however, this certainly taints my opinion of the optic. This is a defect with just my optic, but the fact that it made it through the QC of Holosun is a little bit disheartening.
Should You Buy the Holosun HM3X?
The HM3X is a really affordable magnifier. If you were to pair it with a Holosun red dot, like the 403R, you'd be in the whole package for only about $350. That being said, I cannot recommend this magnifier to anyone. While Holosun can make red dots that are an exceptionally great product at their price point, their magnifiers need a lot of work. Inexpensive red dots can be nearly the same quality as premium dots, but the magnified glass offerings are far from the quality levels of the big boys.
Pros of the HM3X
- Lighter weight than the Aimpoint & EOTech offerings
- Decent glass clarity
- Reasonably priced
Cons of the HM3X
- Poor eyebox
- Bad "scope shadowing"
- Flimsy quick detach mount
- Too easy to flip from inline to offline & vice versa
- Useless integral screwdriver
- Internal defects to glass (MY SPECIFIC UNIT ONLY)
At the end of the day, you may be able to cheap out on your red dot and still have a good optic, but you can't do it for your magnified glass. I also do not see a way to correct the issues I had with the eye box and scope shadow without improving the glass, which would certainly increase cost of the optic. Pony up the dosh, and buy an Aimpoint or EOTech.