For many people, especially for less experienced shooters, choosing a rifle scope means checking the magnification, the lens system, and the physical specifications. But an equally important element 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 rifle scope reticles and, if you’re not a military professional, understanding the difference between them is not always easy.
We aim (get it? Yes, we do puns too ;)) to help you understand them, so you’ll be able to understand the terms used when buying a rifle scope and how to pick a rifle scope for your favorite activity.
What Is A Reticle?
A reticle is a set of markings inside an optical device that is used for aiming, measuring, or pointing.
A scope reticle is the dot, cross, or pattern you use to aim when looking through a rifle scope.
Originally, reticles were actually made of hair, hence the name crosshair is still used today.
Nowadays, the reticles are made of wire, etched glass, or other materials, and the different models are designed for different types of activities.
Before getting into a lot of detail about the types of reticles available on the market, let’s discuss 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, most rifle scope manufacturers allow users to choose between multiple types of reticles for each model scope, letting you choose a sight to fit your use.
Types Of Reticles
There are multiple rifle scope reticle types that differ not only in terms of patterns but also in how they are manufactured.
Because of the sheer number of models, making an exhaustive list is impossible.
For this reason, I’ll discuss the most popular rifle scope reticles, dividing our list into the most popular manufacture methods and the most popular layouts. There have been MANY variations of these over the years, but these are the primary families.
Most Popular Reticle Layouts
A duplex reticle has lines that are thick on the edges of the scope with a thin crosshair center. The design helps the eye quickly focus on the aiming point and aim precisely with the thin inner lines. Without a doubt, duplex reticles are the most common reticle type and is popular among professionals and amateurs.
Mil-Dot reticles use roughly the same layout as the Duplex, but they come with an interesting extra feature, 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 scopes and law enforcement snipers.
Bullet Drop Compensator
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.
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 wind drift.
Most Popular Reticle Manufacturing Methods
There’s 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 more sophisticated models.
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 parallax. This type of rifle scope reticle is commonly featured by the professional military models and it’s becoming more and more popular among those who practice shooting for recreational purposes.
How To Choose The Best Reticle?
A reticle should always be chosen for the activity you need the rifle for. If you’re using your rifle for hunting, probably the best type of reticle for you is a Duplex model, like the one on the ever-popular Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Rifle Scope.
Apart from hunting, a Duplex reticle is also suitable for fixed target shooting.
On the other hand, for hunting or tactical target shooting in open and windy areas, a Wind Drift is, without a doubt, better suited. An excellent rifle scope with this type of reticle is the Burris Scout 2-7 x 32 Ballistic Plex Scope.
If you’re into long-range shooting, you might want to learn how to use a Mil-Dot reticle. The military reticle layout is suitable for all 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, the best reticle is arguably the BDC reticle.
This type of layout is designed specifically for short shots at different distances, with target acquisition and distance estimation well-known. An excellent scope with BDC reticle is Nikon Buck Master II Scope.
It offers quick acquisition and sighting. However, true experts don’t like that the drop estimates are for a single bullet type, and compensation for the powder load and bullet are required for the best long-range accuracy.
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 hope scope reticles aren’t a mystery anymore and that you can enjoy a reticle that fits your style of shooting!