Rifle Scope Reticle Types

If you’re preparing for a trip to go hunting, then it’s important to consider the rifle scope reticle type you take with you. If you’re a newbie, then it may feel like there's an overwhelming amount of information to consider. There are a lot of different guidelines to follow and components to fix. It’s vital to choose a specific rifle scope, perhaps more important than knowing the essential parts of the rifle to begin with. You can differentiate rifle scopes by their design and markings. 

Some say that this can be a tricky part of a rifle scope, while others think it’s a bit too confusing. So we’ve written this article to make it easier for you to distinguish different rifle scopes. We’ve detailed in this article the different types of rifle scope reticles for your easy reference. 

What is a Reticle Scope?

Scope reticles are the types of markings you would find inside of your rifle scope. Generally it’s the little dot that appears when you’re aiming with the rifle scope. On occasion, the design of rifle scopes can determine their name and model. As an example of this, scope crosshairs tend to consist of two little thin wires that cross on a certain point of aim. If this is upgraded a few times then it becomes a little simpler to take aim and can help to improve accuracy. 

Reticles are designed to be able to optimize your shot and make them all count. To begin, they were usually made with genuine hair or with spider webs. As technology has advanced, different materials have been used. For example, some are made using wire, or etched glass, and a range of other materials. 

Manufacturing Methods for Reticles

Holographic Rifle Scope Reticle

This type of scope reticle incorporates a holographic image using three dimensional technology in order to set out a fixed range. The illumination is made by a collimated laser diode and this helps to get rid of the chances of parallax. This type of rifle scope is made specifically for professionals and for military personnel, but can be used recreationally. 

Etched Reticles

Some rifle scope reticle types tend to have crosshairs that are engraved onto a tiny piece of glass. These types of reticles can sometimes have floating elements that are distinct, but they don’t interfere with the reticle. Usually circles and dots are their center point. They’re usually made to be used for long ranges and for the drift compensation of bullets, which you may commonly see in BDC reticles. These reticles are good but they’re not as durable as a wired crosshair reticle. 

Illuminated and Non-Illuminated Reticles

Illumination is made for good vision and for locking in the target. The reticles are lightened up using plastic or a fiber optic light pipe, and this is powered by an LED battery.

Reticle Functions

The purpose of a rifle scope reticle is pretty simple as far as its main purpose is concerned. It will give a smaller view and a more precise aim of your target. Some models, including duplex reticles, or BDC reticles for example, are suitable for mobile targets as well as stationary targets, but the features they possess will make them suitable for different environments. Because of this, certain reticles function optimally at certain hunting activities/

Reticles are made for a range of activities, from general hunting, to pig hunting, bullet drop compensation, and more. 

Rifle Scope Reticle Types

There are lots of different types of reticle out on the market. It seems like every day there’s a rise in brands and models, and all models will be different in terms of shape and manufacturing techniques. It’s not beneficial to buy any kind of reticle that will fit onto your rifle - you will need something that will provide the performance you require. Consider elements such as robustness, precision, the hunting conditions and its productivity overall.

For a long time, scope crosshairs, otherwise known as plain crosshair reticles, were the main choice for an abundance of shooters. They’re simple in shape, so it’s easy to understand their popularity. If you look through it you’ll see a + symbol. Recently, scope reticles are more advanced and available, so scope reticles are more robust and are more composite in appearance. The features you need are focus, visibility, range variation and navigation capabilities. 

How do you choose the right scope reticle? 

Making the right choice when it comes to selecting a rifle scope reticle will largely depend on what it is that you need and what you’re looking for. Your choice may be influenced by external opinions such as from hunting groups, friends or even the seller. Your choice may go beyond the assertions made by friends and other groups. Nevertheless, there will always be an abundance of options to choose from.

You need to consider your needs - your choice should be based on them above all else.

While a decent review can make a lot of impact on your decision, a review should not be your sole reason for making a certain decision. In fact, certain reticles are only available on certain firearms. 

When looking into what rifle scope reticle you want, you’ll find an abundance of scope models and brands. It can be a little difficult to make a decision because of this. Simultaneously, you may begin with looking into certain manufacturers that are known for making high quality scopes. We would suggest following this criteria when making a decision:

  • Do you want the scope to have a closed or an open center?

  • Do you want a well illuminated scope reticle, is this something that you prefer?

  • Is it necessary for it to have a floating dot?

  • What resolution do you need?

At a minimum, you need your scope to be fog proof. Not all scopes are made equal, and in the same vein not all can stand up to moisture and heat. 

In addition, you should keep in mind a few extra things when you’re selecting a design:

Aiming Point

Every scope reticle will give you an aiming point - it doesn’t matter what the brand is in this regard. As long as it will help to secure your target and it doesn’t show obscurity, it’s fine.

Assessing the Distance

A reticle will measure the amount of distance that exists between the target and you. Laser range finders need to learn this aspect, though it is ideal for backup. 

Modifying Shot Placement

If you miss the target when you shoot, a reticle can help you to adjust. The reticle scale is what does this, and it helps to shift the scope into target. 

Holdover Points

Holdover points allow the shooter to be able to use the subtension hash marks to focus on the range. So if you need range speed, the target will be positioned in the subtension hash marks and it will allow for proper adjustment. There is a difference calculated by the reticle between the zero points and the shot point. The aim point will also change quickly from the center into a lower hash mark as a result of the variance.

Designs

You may see a simple aiming point, for example in a duplex reticle. Others may be marked with small round dots positioned one milliradian apart. Reticles that are thicker will seem like they perform better in dimmer light conditions or in difficult backgrounds. At the same time, fine scope crosshairs will give visibility in busier environments, but will also help you to make more controlled shots in minor increments.

Long range shooters will find that a bullet drop compensation, BDC for short, ballistics reticle is the opposite of this. It’s possible to holdover between your shots. You’ll need different reticle scopes for long range hunting. The size of the object you’re targeting will also determine what you require, as it could be small, average or big. You’ll need to be sure of this first. 

Rifle Scope Reticle Types - Prioritise Quality over the Cost

As far as buying a rifle scope reticle goes, quality should be your top priority over price. You need to make some other considerations too. For instance, do you shoot long distances? Do you shoot in a shorter or longer range? This is very basic information that will help you to really narrow down your choice. You may also find it helpful to know the mounting capacity of your rifle. Not every scope reticle can be used on every type of gun.

Poor craftsmanship, unimportant features, poor outcome and failure mean that too cheap scopes shouldn’t be given a lot of attention. You may think it’s a good deal but you’re being conned with poor quality. The cheapest scopes are more often than not worthless and the expensive ones aren’t really all that necessary.You may ask what to do in this situation - we feel you. Ideally, you should be going for quality. There’s a lot of variety in pricing so you’re likely to find something good for you regardless of where your budget lies. It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on a scope when you can get something decent on most any budget. 

Do you know your scope?

It’s important to know the basics when it comes to buying a rifle scope. Knowing about the rifle scope in advance will bring a lot of benefits. Simultaneously, it will help you to choose what kind of scope reticle will match with your own preferences.

Objective Lens

Much like a camera’s lens, the objective lens is measured in size. The bigger it is, the more light can come into the scope. A bigger objective lens, then, means that it will be better for lower lighting conditions. This front lens is measured in millimeters, and the size can be found behind the scope magnification. 

Adjustable Objective

You may not find this on all scopes. It helps the shooter to be able to take control of the focus of the objective lens using a dial placed around it. This is better if you’re targeting long range creatures and have a varied range. As a result, the shooter can fine tune the reticle focus to their advantage. If your rifle scope does not have an adjustable objective then it’s set to the taste of the user but it’s not possible to adjust it. 

Parallax

Parallax in a rifle scope reticle employs a similar principle. It is the variance that exists between the focal plane of the object you’re targeting and the reticle. It can cause some issues as it will make you get your shots muddled up, even from further away. 

When you’re focusing your eyes to look through the scope, the reticle should stay focused on the target, so even if you shift your eyes then the reticle will shift along with it. So, in this case the parallax error will be fixed by a turnaside turret on high end scopes.

You should take note that some smaller scopes are parallax free, while others cannot say the same. Ones with parallax generally come along with adjustable objectives and some sort of knob designed for parallax correction. The knob is what sets the distance.

Subtension

The amount of distance your reticle covers in regards to a target can also be defined by the magnification. .1” at 100 yards and magnification Power 20 covers .1” of the target. The lower the subtension the more precise your shots will be, so a small target will need more attention as far as visibility is concerned. Simultaneously, a thicker crosshair will indicate an increased subtension. These are easily seen and will also shift your focus from the target easily. 

Subtension on Front Focal Plane Reticles

This element basically means that the reticle is in front of the lens. In this case a decrease or increase in the magnification corresponds to a decrease or increase in crosshairs size. This has similar features to the lens and aperture of a camera.

Cross hairs and center points increase in size as your magnification increases, which gives you a much larger image of the target. The space for the cross hairs will remain constant and it’s also usable with ballistic reticles. 

Subtension on the Rear/Second Focal Plane

This is the opposite of the front focal plane. This reticle is found behind the lens, and the design is common among hunters. If you increase or decrease the amount of magnification here the crosshairs stay the same but the target is more clear. As a result, subtension change also remains persistent. The subtension is still lesser and thin at higher magnification. It’s suitable for long distance range and it helps to improve precision.

Higher Eye Relief

You may not have known this, but scopes don’t gather as much light as you may think. Alternatively, they transmit the light. Sadly, a lot of manufacturers measure light transmission differently. More tired eyes may see less with a scope while sharper eyes are likely to see more. Eye relief measures how much you can see through the scope even when your eyes aren’t directly set. It measures the maximum distance your eyes can be from the ocular. When your firearm recoils when you shoot this is especially important as you can be sure that your eyes are protected.

The majority of rifles have an eye relief of roughly 4 inches which is pretty good. Pistols and other bigger guns tend to have an eye relief of around 16 to 20 inches. Intermediate eye relief for longer guns tend to measure around 9 to 12 inches.

Coatings for Rifle Scope Reticle Types

Coatings are what give your scope protection - things such as fog proofing, waterproofing, among others. These all vary as you may expect and they largely depend on your budget.

Single Coated - this is just one lens surface that has at least one coating layer

Fully coated - these only have one layer that covers the air to glass surfaces

Multi coated - these have a number of layers of coating on at least one surface

Fully multi coated - again, these have numerous layers of coating but it’s on all air to glass surfaces

What does a coating do? 

Coatings reduce the amount of reflection that can cause you to lose light or can cause poor lighting conditions. Things like hydrophobic and hydrophilic coatings will shed the water and ensure that you keep the ideal view. Additionally, some surfaces are also designed to be resistant to abrasion.

Wind and Drop

At some point during hunting, you’ll have to deal with wind and drop. Sadly the wind and drop are your natural enemies when it comes to hunting, and it usually comes at the least expected moment. Gravity will always pull your bullet down naturally and the wind will disturb the bullet’s trajectory. You should aim higher to account for these things, as when you do aim higher the wind will make sure your bullet arrives right on target. 

When it comes to this, you can either dial or hold the reticle. You can use the holding technique to aim higher, and you’ll aim either left or right so you can make adjustments for the wind.

One advantage to doing it this way is that it’s very speed efficient. Usually crosshairs and duplex reticles will have a slight issue with the holding technique when the target isn’t properly in your sight. Additionally, problems can crop up when you’re trying to determine or calculate your holding range in a direction. When you’re using a calibrated reticle it is simply not possible. Your eyes will keep moving off the target and towards the sides of the reticle, and this can be problematic when you need precise shots. 

The dialing method is when you tune the turrets so that the reticle moves into the interior section of the scope. A dial for amendments will allow you to keep holding the windage adjustment at the same time. So, elevation adjustment should be able to stay the same when you’re taking a shot. As the wind is likely to cheat you out of another shot, simply readjust it before taking another shot and you’re good to go. 

The 6 Types of Scope Reticles

Scope Crosshairs

These are the most intuitive of all of them, and this type of reticle has been upgraded through time so it performs better for the user. It consists of one horizontal and one vertical crosshair, and these cross so that you have a point of aim right in the center. Usually manufacturers will use the cross wires to help them to set the point of aim. In addition, the elevation and windage lines exist on the same plane. Usually scope crosshairs are easy to use and have optimised precision. Nevertheless, if you don’t properly handle them then the thinness of the components can make them more susceptible to breaking. 

Duplex Reticle

These are essentially more enhanced versions of crosshair scopes and they have crosshair centers that are thin. The centers are a little thicker and more dense towards the edge of the scope though, especially in comparison to normal crosshair scopes, and these four cross hairs then thin out so that your eye is drawn to the point of aim. This is a multi purpose reticle that can be used for a range of different things.

As far as specific designs go, you’ll see a dot at the middle of the duplex reticle which will help you to be able to see the target better. This dot is designed to enhance visibility, making it easier for the shooter to be able to focus on the moving target. 

Mil Dot Reticle

These reticles are made for long range hunting, for target shooters and for snipers. The mil dot reticle looks a little bit like a crosshair but it comes with a large twist - it has a dot instead of a line. These dots are usually positioned around 1 mil apart and so the distance is then calculated in the reticle. Of course, mil does not mean military - it essentially means that it’s a 1/1000 equivalent as you would find in milli-radian. It’s very easy to figure out how much distance exists between you and your target with the mil dots. 

Generally, military snipers will occasionally have to use mil dot reticles, and these guns will usually come along with 10x scopes. That’s the main reason you tend to find a sidekick calculating and then approximating the distance from the target in movies. If you miscalculate the target with your estimate then you’re essentially missing your mark. If you’re inexperienced, mil dot reticles are essentially redundant. 

Though mil dot reticles have an impressive reputation to back up how good they are, they don’t work for every shooter. Because it’s more complex than a couple of other scope reticles then it can be a little difficult to handle sometimes. Having a good knowledge and the ability to make impeccable calculations is essential with these reticles. This can be a very accurate reticle if used correctly, and it will also help to make up for any wind drift. 

Leupold Reticle

The Leupold reticle is another good choice for a rifle scope reticle. This is a fairly straightforward reticle. It’s got external columns that are much thicker and broader than what you would find in a normal duplex reticle. It’s ideal for lower lighting conditions and more brushy areas. These custom ballistic reticles are usually reserved for certain types of rifles. Every single load is based on the concept of the Leupold Duplex Reticle. 

To get the proper point of aim, it’s recommended to use an intersection of the crosshairs. There are other dots positioned beneath these according to the target range per yard. It will be useful to have some information on your bullet prior to using one of these reticles. Usually your user’s guide will give you all the relevant information, such as ballistic coefficient, muzzle velocity and anything else you may possibly need. 

BDC Reticle

BDC, standing for Bullet Drop Compensation, is a long range scope reticle that can span over 500 yards and more in some cases. These also work well for middle and short ranges. These reticles are designed to basically be like a cross hair or a duplex reticle that has dots and markings positioned below the center point. This distance is marked as a circle, hash marks and dots. 

When you fire a bullet, it then flies in an arc like form and then falls. The position of the bullet before the flight ends up below the center aim resulting from the space between the scope and the rifle butt. The flight of the ballistic will give compensation for the bullet drop.

The dot system is somewhat similar to the ones used in mil dot reticles, but they have dots on the 6 o’clock crosshair. These types of reticle can seem a bit complex sometimes because of the markings positioned along the 3 and 6 o’clock cross hairs. The settings of the scope with regards to elevation tend to be the main characteristic feature of BDC.

 For example, vortex reticles where dead hold is an example can be used with rifles, shotguns and other guns. These have reference marks that usually make some consideration for wind drop or longer ranges. Then, dead hold will use the second focal plane design.

Christmas Tree Reticles 

As the name suggests, these reticles are shaped like a Christmas tree. The markings get bigger in length with each 6 o’clock crosshair marking. This helps to accommodate for wind drift when you shoot as the velocity and bullet strike can be affected with long range shots in these conditions. 

Different Reticle Types Suitability

Wow, that was a lot of information! Thankfully by now you should be wondering what type of reticle is ideal for what circumstance. 

Precision shooting tends to correspond with scope crosshairs, and smaller reticles will work okay on a smaller surface area target. 

For more precision and accuracy, duplex reticles are ideal. These will also help the hunter to be able to easily place their mark. 

For long range hunting, BDC reticles can work well, as can thin crosshairs but it often depends on the environment. 

Mil dot reticles are the best for strategic and sniper options. These can be difficult for an amateur hunter to use because of the calculation. 

Features to Consider

First of all, you should try to account for the instructions from the manufacturers. It  can be a lot easier to do this on a phone, maybe by watching a YouTube video if you don’t want to read. 

You should also be aware of the description of the reticle. You can usually see each reticle’s unique features by looking at it, so you need to be able to understand what individual functions of the reticle do what.

The central part of the reticle determines where the bullet will hit. You need to verify the travel trajectory of the load so you can get the best shot. 

It’s important to know whether the reticle is a cross, open or a dot. Lines and dots help to estimate distance and you can validate yardage by range. Make sure you always double check the cope before fitting a reticle onto it. 

Thick vs Thin Scope Crosshairs

Thick

Usually hunters tend to go for thicker crosshairs as the target is obvious, your eyes are drawn to the point of aim, and they become finer towards the center. They work well for busy and brushy backgrounds even in low light. They’re not quite as precise as thin crosshairs. 

Thin

As far as this category is concerned, they’re the best. There’s less subtension and more accuracy, but they may not work the best for a busy background. They are illuminated though so you can have good visibility both in the day and the night.

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