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Axial trapping forces exerted on microspheres are predicted using a Gaussian beam electromagnetic field model and a ray‐optics model, and compared with experimental measurements. Ray‐optics predicts a maximum trapping efficiency Q= -0.14 for optically trapped polystyrene microspheres in water, compared to a measured value of -0.12 ± 0.014 for 10 μm diam microspheres. When the microspheres are composed of amorphous silica, the predicted ray‐optics Q decreases to -0.11, compared to a Q = -0.034 predicted by the electromagnetic field model, and a measured value of -0.012 ± 0.001 for 1 μm diam microspheres. These results indicate that the two models have applicability in two different size regimes, and thus, are complementary.