Types of Scope Reticles: What Are The Different Types?

a leupold rifle scope reticle aiming at two deer

Choosing the right reticle could be the difference between spending a lot of money on a scope that doesn’t fit your needs. 

Or worse…

Buying something that fails you when you need it most. 

But don’t worry, we cover everything you need to know about reticles, whether you’re looking to buy or just interested in learning more. 

Different Types of Scope Reticles

Original Crosshairs Reticle

a typical rifle scope reticle that is good up to 300 yards

Now, this type of reticle is the most basic and commonly used reticle you can find. It consists of a single vertical line and a single horizontal line intersecting in the center, forming a cross. 

Known as a simple crosshair reticle, it’s useful for lining up your sights on a target but does not provide any information beyond that.

Advantages:

– Simple to use

– No moving parts

Disadvantages:

– Not as precise as some other types of reticles

– Can be difficult to see in low light conditions

Red Dot Center Reticle

red dot style reticle by Leupold

As the name implies, this reticle is simply a red dot in the center of your field of view. It is also one of the most common types of reticles and is often used in conjunction with red dot sights.

What it’s best suited for is close-range shooting, as the red dot will obscure your target at longer ranges. However, it’s still a viable option for mid-range shooting if you are proficient in using it.

MOA Reticle

An MOA reticle, or Minute of Angle reticle, is a type of reticle designed so that each hashmark on the reticle represents one minute of angle. This makes it easy to estimate range and make adjustments for windage and elevation. 

Now, the main advantage of an MOA reticle is that it is very precise, making it ideal for long-range shooting. However, it can be difficult to use for beginners, since it requires a good understanding of how to read and use a scope.

German #1 Reticle

The German #1 Reticle is one of the reticles that have stood the test of time, and despite its venerable age, this reticle is still adapted for use today. It consists of three noncrossing bold lines, with the vertical line on the 6 o’clock going just above the center so the eyes can easily find the middle.

That’s why this reticle is quite suitable for those who love to point and shoot fast, but it’s not as accurate as the German #4 reticle and is difficult to aim at small targets.

German style reticle number 1 and number 4 shown side by side

German #4 Reticle

Now, the German #4 Reticle is quite similar to the one just mentioned but is even more popular. This simple yet effective reticle is used in many scopes, and almost like the duplex reticle, it has three noncrossing bold lines but without a bold vertical line above, plus fine crosshairs for accurate shooting.

What it’s utilized for most often is precision targeting at long range, and it’s quite popular with hunters and target shooters alike. The difference in thickness between the outer lines and inner crosshairs makes for fast and accurate targeting.

However, the downside is the fine crosshairs can be difficult to see in low-light conditions. And if you’re utilizing this reticle with an illuminated dot at the center, it can obscure small targets at long ranges. 

Duplex Reticle

Duplex style reticle by Leupold

Coming to one of the most popular reticles used, the duplex reticle has a standard crosshair but with thick outer posts, intended to draw the eye to the center. 

Many shooters love using it because they provide the user with the ability to quickly acquire a target while still offering some level of precision. They are often used in hunting rifles where speed is more important than long-range accuracy. However, they can also be used in competition or tactical rifles where accuracy is required.

Heavy Duplex Reticle

The Heavy Duplex Reticle is almost exactly like the duplex reticle but with heavier outer posts, designed for heavy-duty use. It is often used in applications where a high degree of accuracy is required, such as in long-range shooting, letting you zero in on animals of any size.

This reticle is a popular choice for many shooters as it is simple to use and very accurate. However, a drawback is that the thick posts can obscure the target and its surroundings at longer ranges. 

BDC Reticle

BDC style reticle by Leupold

Essentially, BDC is short for Bullet Drop Compensation reticle, and this type of reticle can be very useful for quick, long-range shooting. The BDC reticle is designed to help the shooter estimate the range to their target and compensate for bullet drop at various ranges.

And what’s more, with the increase of more advanced tech, there’s now a variety of caliber-specific BDC reticles available. So, whether you’re shooting a .22lr or a .308 Winchester, a BDC reticle can be a valuable asset. There are a few different styles of BDC reticles available on the market, but they all essentially work in the same way.

CQB Reticles

CQB reticle by Leupold

The CQB reticle is designed for use in close-quarters combat situations, usually within 100 yards. It features a central aiming point with an outer ring that can be used to estimate range or lead moving targets.

This type of reticle is ideal for use in situations where speed and accuracy are of the utmost importance. It allows the shooter to quickly acquire and engage targets at close range without the need for excessive holdover or windage adjustments.

ACSS Reticles

ACSS tree style reticle typically used for target shooting

The ACSS (Advanced Combined Sighting System) is a reticle developed by Primary Arms Optics that offers a unique combination of speed, precision, and situational awareness. It is designed for use in both short-range and long-range engagements and features an illuminated crosshair that automatically adjusts to the surrounding light conditions.

So, the ACSS reticle is composed of two parts: a chevron at the center, and a series of dots that branch out from the chevron. The chevron provides quick target acquisition at close range, while the dots can be used for more precise aiming at longer distances and accounts for BDC, range estimation, and windage compensation all in one.

Velocity 1000 and 600 Reticles

Velocity 1000 and 600 reticles seen side by side, typically used for target shooting

The Velocity 1000 and 600 Reticles are hunting-focused reticles designed by Nightforce for precise shot placement to 1000 yards. They have a slightly different appearance than traditional crosshair reticles, but they offer many of the same benefits.

The main benefit of these reticles is that they allow for more precise aiming at longer distances than traditional crosshairs. Range and wind compensation are implemented in its design through a series of increments, and as the lines on the reticle are thinner and closer together, it makes it easier to line up your shot. Additionally, the reticle is illuminated, which makes it easier to see in low-light conditions.

So, if you’re a hunter looking for a clean and uncluttered reticle that’s unlike the complicated “ballistic” reticles and will help you improve your accuracy, the Velocity 1000 or 600 may be a good option for you.

Horus Reticles

Horus reticle types are common for shooting at great distances

The Horus reticles at first glance can look complex and hard to understand, and it is to an extent. It’s designed to shoot from any distance without needing to adjust the turrets, with the bottom half of the reticle consisting of a grid system.

Now, this grid system can be minimal or extensive, but its purpose is to allow a shooter team to accurately hit targets from any distance. If you’ve never seen the like, it can be hard to decipher, but it essentially has a detailed milliradian grid with multiple hold points that you can use to make fast adjustments to elevation and windage on the field.

The Horus reticles are now used by many competitive shooters and snipers for their reliable accuracy, but it can be difficult for shooters first using it to understand the calculations needed to utilize the grid.

NightForce Reticles

Now, NightForce offers its own propriety reticles, with its premium riflescopes geared towards the long-range shooter. Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular ones available:

Mil-Dot Reticle: This type of reticle is very popular with long-range shooters. The Mil-Dot spacing can be used to estimate range and make adjustments to your scope’s turrets.

NP-R1 Reticle: This is a modified duplex reticle with an illuminated center dot. The illuminated dot makes it easier to see the reticle in low-light environments.

Velocity 1000 and 600: Also for long-distance shooting, this reticle accounts for wind and range in a clean and uncluttered format.

Mil-XT: Consisting of a grid system, it can seem overwhelming but it’s the kind of system that once you understand it and utilize it often, it becomes easier and shooting becomes faster and more accurate.

Mil Dot Reticle

Mil dot crosshair by Leupold

The Mil-Dot Reticle, also known as the Mil-Dot scope, is a type of reticle that uses dots to estimate range, windage, and elevation adjustments. This reticle is very popular among hunters and shooters because of its high accuracy and ease of use. In fact, many riflescopes on the market today come equipped with a Mil-Dot Reticle.

To use a Mil-Dot Reticle, simply line up the target with the crosshairs and then count the number of dots that fit between the crosshairs. Each dot represents 1/10th of a milliradian or MIL. For example, if you see four dots between the crosshairs, then your target is 4 MILs away.

MOAR Reticle

MOAR crosshair by Leupold

The MOAR reticle is also a popular type of reticle, and it’s in fact a variation of the Mil-Dot reticle, with the addition of an extra “MOA” (minute of angle) hashmark at 2.5 MOA intervals. This allows for more precise aiming, especially at long range. Additionally, the MOAR reticle is available in both first and second focal plane configurations. (1)

Non-Illuminated Reticle

A non-illuminated reticle is a scope reticle that, as it says in the name, does not have any illumination.

So, the biggest advantage of using a non-illuminated reticle is that it does not require batteries. This means that you do not have to worry about your scope running out of power and being rendered useless. Non-illuminated reticles are also typically less expensive than illuminated reticles.

That said, a disadvantage to using a non-illuminated reticle is that it can be more difficult to see the reticle in low-light conditions or when your target is set against a dark background.

Illuminated Reticle

Illuminated crosshair looking at a target

An illuminated reticle, on the other hand, is a great way to make your gun sight more visible in low-light conditions and can be very helpful when hunting at early dawn or after sunset. With this one, you can always see your reticle at the most crucial moment and can toggle it on or off whenever you wish.

Now, there are two main types of illuminated reticles: those that use tritium, and those that use an LED (light emitting diode).

Tritium-illuminated reticles have a small amount of radioactive material included in the sight, which glows in the dark and does not require any batteries. Instead, it operates by gathering ambient light during the day to power the illumination.

These sights are very popular with military and law enforcement applications, and now are increasingly popular with the civilian market too as they are always ready to use and do not require any external power source. However, tritium sights can be quite expensive.

LED sights are the more commonly used option and utilize a battery-powered light to illuminate the reticle. Although it may often be the cheaper option, it requires a periodical replacement of batteries.

Christmas Tree Reticle

The Christmas Tree Reticle is a type of reticle design that can be seen in the Horus, Velocity 1000, or Vortex reticle – it gets its name from its resemblance to a Christmas tree.

This reticle is composed of three main parts: the horizontal crosshair, the vertical crosshair, and the series of hash marks. The hash marks are placed at different distances from the center of the reticle, and on the bottom half, there are horizontal lines that get progressively longer as they get further away from the center on the 6 o’clock hashmark.

Simply put, this design allows the user to accurately estimate range and make quick adjustments to their shot and is especially useful for long-distance shooting. So, it’s often found on military, mil-dot, hunting/tactical-hybrid, and tactical rifle scopes.

T Post Reticle

A now obsolete reticle, the T Post Reticle is similar to the German #1 except that the center post is slightly higher. In the past, this was used by the US Military by its snipers but now can only be found on antique optics. (2)

How to Choose the Right Reticle For You

rifle at a shooting range

The Type of Firearm You’ll Be Using

The first and most important factor when it comes to choosing a reticle is knowing the type of firearm you’ll be using. Scopes can range from being versatile optics to being for specific types of firearms.

Who Will Be Using It

The next question you need to answer is who will be using the reticle. If you are a long-range shooter, you will need a different type of reticle than if you are shooting in close quarters. There are many different types of reticles available on the market, so it’s important to know what each one is designed for before buying it.

What You’ll Be Using It For

crosshair looking over a snowfield

When choosing a reticle, you need to consider its intended use. Are you going to be using it for hunting, tactical applications, or night use? You can narrow the choices down with a shooting activity and go from there.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of long-range shooting, a ballistics reticle will work well.

If you’ll expect to use it for low-light environments, an illuminated reticle will come in handy.

Or if you need something practical and straightforward for hunting, the classic duplex reticle will get the job done. 

First or Second Focal Plane?

This is one of the main considerations you’ll have to make when choosing a reticle. Essentially, first focal plane reticles grow or shrink along with your target as you zoom in or out. Second focal plane reticles remain a constant size relative to the target. 

Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type. First focal plane reticles can be more precise because they’re based on milliradian measurements. They also tend to be more visible at long range because they get larger as you zoom in. 

On the other hand, first focal plane reticles can be harder to use at lower magnifications because of how it shrinks to a minuscule size, causing the lines to hardly be distinguishable. That’s not too much of a problem for tactical, target, and competitive shooters, but for hunters, it can be an issue when on low power.

Second focal plane reticles are easier to use at lower magnifications because of how the reticle size stays the same, avoiding the outlandishly thick lines that can obscure your target. And when you’re zooming it all the way out for low-light hunting, it stays perfectly the same size and visible. 

But because it stays the same size, there’s a downside that applies to technical extended-range hunters that account for wind drop or hold-over a target using hash marks to compensate for bullet drop.

If you use a reticle with hash marks, it’ll only be useful on one magnification setting. There are ways to swerve this problem but it’s one that applies to this particular group of shooters.

Ballistic Drop Compensating (BDC)

BDC reticles are designed to help the shooter accurately estimate range and apply hold-over to compensate for bullet drop. BDC reticles can be found on a wide variety of riflescopes, from budget-friendly models to high-end tactical scopes. 

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a BDC reticle for your rifle.

Windage: One of the most important factors in long-range shooting is windage. Wind can throw off your shot at even the shortest distances, so it’s important to have a BDC reticle that can compensate for windage. Many BDC reticles have hash marks or other markings that can be used to estimate windage but they come in a variety of styles.

Elevation: Another important factor to account for is elevation, which comes hand in hand with windage, and can come in dots, circles, or horizontal lines.

Crosshair Reticles with .2-Mil or 1-MOA

crosshair with mil sight

Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to a reticle, and that means more than just having a clean design. 

A good crosshair reticle should have fine hash marks spaced at .2-mil or 1-MOA intervals. This way, you can make small adjustments with ease and be sure of your aiming point. The last thing you want is to have to guess where your shot will land.

Some people might say that .2-mil or 1-MOA click values are overkill, but we beg to differ. In our opinion, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to making adjustments. After all, even the tiniest miscalculation can mean a complete miss if you’re shooting from far off.

Reticle Subtension Explained

The reticle subtension is the measurement of the space between the crosshairs on your riflescope. This is important because it allows you to estimate range and make more accurate shots.

There are a few different methods that can be used to measure reticle subtension. The most common method is to use a milliradian (mrads) scale. This is a unit of measurement that is equal to 1/1000th of a radian.

To use this method, you will need to know the size of the target that you are shooting at. Once you have this information, you can then use the mrad scale to determine how far away the target is.

Subtension on FFP Reticles

Many first focal plane (FFP) reticles have subtensions that are marked on the reticle itself. This can be a great way to know exactly what your holdover will be for a given target size, and what’s great is that the subtensions are accurate at every magnification setting.

However, it is important to keep in mind that these subtensions will change as you change the power of your scope and the reticle enlarges or shrinks, which can be confusing when not yet accustomed to its system.

Subtension on SFP Reticles

sniper rifle scope

Second focal plane (SFP) reticles may have subtensions marked on the reticle but it’s only most accurate at the specified magnification level.

Because of this, you’ll need to use a different method to determine the range from your target. As almost all SFP reticles subtend 1:1 at max zoom, what we usually do is half the magnification power and double the numbers.

So, for instance, if on half zoom it subtends .2 mil, then it’d actually be .4 mil. We do this because at full zoom, it’s hard to find your quarry and too easy to lose your target for a follow-up shot, and you almost never spot the impact as the field of view is too small. That’s why we shoot at half power on SFP reticles, to ensure an accurate estimation of range while we can still keep the target in our sights.

Best Scopes For 300 Blackout

If you’re looking for advice on what scope to use, check out our article on the best 300 blackout scopes for hunting. We cover everything you need to know to find the best optic for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a duplex reticle?

A duplex reticle is a reticle that consists of a simple thin crosshair and bolded outer posts. The thickness of the crosshairs varies, with the thicker crosshair being used for longer-range shooting and the thinner crosshair being used for shorter-range shooting. 

What are the different types of reticles?

There are many different types of reticles that you may come across while shopping for a new scope. The most common types are the duplex reticle, fine crosshair reticle, mil-dot reticle, BDC reticle, and rangefinding reticle.

What is the best scope reticle?

To figure out the best scope reticle for you, you’ll need to access your purpose, shooting range, and preferences, but there is no one “best” scope reticle. There are many different types of reticles available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most popular types of scope reticles include crosshairs, dot reticles, Mil-Dot reticles, and BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation).

References

  1. Optics Planet, Advanced Riflescope Reticle Guide, retrieved from https://www.opticsplanet.com/howto/how-to-advanced-reticle-guide.html
  2. Oxford Reference, reticule (reticle), retrieved from https://www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/acref/9780198832485.001.0001/acref-9780198832485-e-5765;jsessionid=664E4BF926F3A0BDB72BADC54B93C79E?rskey=prV7Ax&result=1

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