Rifle Scope Reticles Explained

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For many people, especially for the less expert ones, choosing a rifle scope means checking the magnification power, the lens system and the physical qualities of the instrument. But an element equally important to consider is the rifle scope reticle.

This tactical element is probably the most confusing part of a rifle scope. There are multiple types of reticles and, if you’re not a military professional, understanding the difference between them is far from easy.

We aim to help you understand this element, so you’ll be able to choose the right rifle scope adapted to your favorite activity.

What Is A Reticle?

There are many definitions of a reticle, the most concise defining it as a set of markings inside an optical device that is used for aiming, measuring, or pointing. To put it simply, the reticle is the dot, cross, or pattern you can see when looking through a rifle scope.

Originally, reticles were made of actual hair, hence the name crosshair that still defines many models. Nowadays, the reticles are made of wire, etched glass, or other technologic materials, and the different models are designed for different types of activities.

Before getting into detail about the types of reticles available on the market, let’s understand their function.

Function Of A Reticle

A rifle scope reticle has a simple and straightforward function, to help you aim and shoot a static or moving target. The various models of reticles feature different patterns, each of them specific for aiming at different types of targets in different environmental conditions. For this reason, identifying what type of reticle is the most suitable for you is crucial.

Fortunately, the major part of the rifle scope manufacturers allows users to choose between multiple types of reticles that can be matched with a single model of scope, permitting in this way the customization of the instruments to the specific needs of the users.

Types Of Reticles

On the market, there are available multiple models of rifle scope reticles that differ not only in terms of patterns but also in how they are manufactured. Because of the impressive number of models, making an exhaustive list is impossible. For this reason, we decided to speak about the most popular rifle scope reticles dividing our list into the most popular manufacture methods and the most popular layouts.

Most Popular Manufacture Methods

Crosshair

Crosshair Reticle

There is nothing sophisticated about crosshair reticles. Manufacturers usually use thin crossed wires to help the user acquire the aim point. However, crosshair reticles are the base of many sophisticated models.

Holographic

Holographic Reticle

This type of reticle uses a holographic image of a reticle that can be set at a finite range. This type of instrument is illuminated by a collimated laser diode, the main benefit being the elimination of the parallax. This type of rifle scope reticle is commonly featured by the professional military models and it becomes more and more popular among those who practice shooting for recreational purposes.

Most Popular Layouts

Duplex

Duplex Reticle

Without a doubt, duplex reticles are the most common and popular among professionals and amateurs alike. Duplex reticles are usually characterized by a thin crosshair center that becomes thicker on the edges of the scope, this design helping the eye focus on the aiming point.

Mil-Dot

Mil-Dot Reticle

Mil-Dot reticles use roughly the same layout as the Duplex, but they come with an interesting extra feature, namely small dots aligned along the reticle lines. The spacing between each dot corresponds to a specific angle, allowing the user to determine the range of a target if the size of the target is known. The Mil-Dot layout is considered a standard for the military and law enforcement snipers.

Bullet Drop Compensator

BDC Reticle

Also known as Bullet Drop Compensation or simply as BDC, these reticles are extremely popular because they allow an accurate target acquisition at different ranges without the need of making adjustments to the elevation settings of the scope. BDC reticles fulfill their purpose by using a dot system similar to the mil-dot type.

BDC reticles are usually optimal for short and middle range use, their performance dropping significantly when used for distances beyond 500 yards.

Wind Drift

Wind Drift Reticle

Probably one of the most complex to understand types of reticles, yet really popular because of its impressive tactical features, the Wind Drift can be considered a hybrid between all the other types described above. Using a combination of crosshair lines, dots and horizontal lines, this reticle is ideal in acquiring moving targets or establishing the wind drift.

How To Choose The Best Reticle?

The reticle should always be chosen in accordance with the activity you need the rifle for. If you are using your rifle for hunting, probably the best type of reticle for you is a Duplex model, like the one present on the Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Rifle Scope. Apart from hunting, this type of reticle is also suitable for fixed target shooting.

On the other hand, for hunting or tactical target shooting in windy areas, a Wind Drift is, without a doubt, more indicated. An excellent rifle scope that boasts this type of reticle is the Burris Scout 2-7 x 32 Ballistic Plex Scope.

If you’re passionate of long-range shooting, you might want to learn how to use a Mil-Dot reticle, as its benefits are truly amazing. This military reticle layout is suitable for all the scopes designed for shooting at distances of 300 yards and beyond, such as the Viper 6.5-20×50 by Vortex Optics.

For recreational or tactical purposes, for example for playing softball games, the best reticle you could choose is a BDC reticle. This type of layout is designed specifically for short shots at different distances, the target acquisition and distance estimation being guaranteed. An excellent scope with BDC reticle is Nikon Buck Master II Scope.

For all the activities mentioned above, another thing to consider is whether you need an illuminated reticle or not.

Illuminated reticles will increase your visibility and improve target acquisition in low light conditions. Many scopes feature dual illuminated reticles that improve aiming both during the day and during twilight or night, but these scopes will add some extra weight to your rifle.

In our opinion, illuminated reticles are a great add-on but they are pretty much useless if you usually use the rifle during daylight hours.

We now hope that scope reticles are not a mystery anymore and that you can enjoy the benefits of a reticle adapted to your needs!

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