It’s a popular belief that long-range shooting requires plenty of math and a deep understanding of trigonometry and physiques.
This belief is not entirely unfounded.
Most shooters find it daunting when choosing between the two systems that dominate scope calculation: Mils vs MOA.
Both work as different units of measurement with their pros and cons. Let’s review the differences between a Mil-dot scope and an MOA scope reticle.
We’ll look at how to calculate angular measurements with each system and which is better for your needs.
- What Does MIL Mean?
- What Does MOA Mean?
- MIL Dot Scope vs. MOA Scope: Key Differences
- How to Read MIL Scopes
- How to Read MOA Scopes
- Using a MIL Dot or MOA Reticle to Zero Your Scope
- Frequently Asked Questions
- MILS vs. MOA: Which Is Better to Use?
What Does MIL Mean?
Mil dots are one of the two most commonly used measurements of angles for sniper scopes.
Contrary to popular belief, “mil” does not stand for military, but milliradian.
One mil equals 1/1000th of a radian or the angular distance between two radiuses of a circle. There are about 6 radians or 6,283 mils in one circle.
One milliradian is measured by the center space between dots using a mil reticle.
When calibrating a distance of 100 yards, 1 milliradian is equivalent to 3600 inches at 100 yards or 10 cm at 100m.
The following formula is applied when calculating 1 milliradian.
(Distance x 3.6) / 100 = 1 mil at that distance
This allows you to account for distances using the reticle, such as 1 mil equalling 3.6 inches at 1000 yards.
What Does MOA Mean?
MOA is an acronym for “Minute of Angle,” where the minute is not a measure of time but rather 1/60th of a degree.
Like Mils, it is the tiniest fraction of one angle.
The true MOA calculation is 1.047 inches, though a shooter’s MOA can be rounded to 1 inch. This makes conversion quite simple compared to mils.
One MOA = 1 inch at 100 yards.
Compared to mils, MOA reticles rely on hash marks to present angular distances. It works best on a first focal plane scope, where the reticles adjust alongside magnification.
The following formula is used to calculate minutes at all distances:
Distances (yards)/100 = inches per MOA
MIL Dot Scope vs. MOA Scope: Key Differences
You will find Mils and MOA in nearly every hunting or tactical retail store.
The best choice of which angular measurement system works best for you will depend on your needs and wants.
Let’s examine the factors that decide whether you need MOA or MRad (Mils).
MOA and Mil scopes offer shooters the ability to hit effortlessly at 100 yards. However, hunters work better when there is LESS math involved.
This is where MOA marginally excels.
At 1.047 inches at 100 yards compared to 0.36 inches at 100 yards for Mils, MOA scopes allow users to make easier, quicker adjustments.
It also helps that most US hunters use the MOA system.
This contrasts with Mils, which requires slightly more calculation and conversion, making it better for longer shots and shooters who need to adjust the variable distance.
Both Mils and MOA scopes produce accurate shots as long as shooters know how to make adjustments.
However, MOA is slightly more precise, allowing you to make more repeatable shots.
However, milliradians represent 1/1000th of whatever you’re looking at. You can hit whatever you need to as long as you stay within 0.1 milliradians of it.
Proficiency and familiarity beget accuracy!
The most important way to ensure accuracy is to produce precise calculations with the most minute adjustments.
Whether shooting at 100 or 1000 yards, Mil and MOA will allow you to go far and strike true.
You will thus need to choose your system based on which focal plane you’re relying on.
Second focal plane reticles maintain their size even as your magnification increases.
This makes milliradian dot scopes more accessible, allowing you to measure distance regardless of the reticle’s size and zoom magnification.
How to Read MIL Scopes
Mil-dot scopes are most used by military personnel, who need to manually calculate distances while considering their weapons systems.
It allows users to find the target’s size if the distances are known, or vice versa.
Before you adjust your mil turrets to account for targets at 1,000 yards, it’s best to train using your mil-dot reticle at closer distances.
The spaces between the dots determine a milliradian. You can use its size in the number of mils to determine its size in yards or meters.
Dividing that by the number of mils will give you your distances to the target.
Formula: (Distances in Yards x Mils size)/27.778 = size in inches
How to Read MOA Scopes
A minute of angle or MOA reticle is designed to show one MOA for each of the hash marks.
You can thus adjust your scope to account for bullet drop and wind variation when shooting.
When adjusting your reticle to account for range and distance, 4 clicks equals 1 MOA.
Using the minute ticks will allow you to adjust your turrets to account for changes you need to make in your reticle.
Using a MIL Dot or MOA Reticle to Zero Your Scope
Every eager owner of a new scope understands the purpose of zeroing their scopes before shooting, regardless of whether they use Mil or MOA to measure the angle and distance.
However, they may not understand how to achieve the right range and ensure true MOA or Mil.
Let’s look at some steps to make scope calibration easier and more sure.
Step 1: Set Up Your Rifle and the Target
This step involves setting up your target and ensuring that you have an appropriate aiming point.
You will need to set it up 100 yards away from your firing station and ensure that you have a proper aiming point.
You can then set up your rifle on a shooting table mount or a sandbag if you plan on lying on the ground.
Whatever your setup is, it should allow you to reduce recoil and make repeatable shots.
Regardless of whether you use MOA or mil, your set-up should allow your scope to be secure and precise enough for proper clicking and minute adjustments.
Step 2: Fire Your First 3-Shot Group
Once you have determined your target size and set up your rifle, it’s time to test your MOA or Mil reticle scope to see how much you need to adjust your turret knobs.
This entails firing several shots on target. Aiming at your target’s dead center will allow you to see any deviation in your shots.
This is why you will need to fire at least 3 shots.
Once you have confirmed which way your shot travels compared to your reticle (too high, low, too much to the left or right, etc.), you can begin to make your calculations and corrections.
Step 3: Estimate and Calculate the Scope Corrections
Your target should give you enough details on how to adjust your MOA or mil scope reticle.
By finding the center point of your shot group on the target, you can begin to find the right calculations you need to adjust.
With an MOA reticle scope, your adjustments will be measured by inch, making calculations much easier.
Using a Mil-dot, you must use 3.6 inches at 100 yards.
Use the right formulas and rates to determine how many clicks you need to make to get your reticle, and more importantly, your bullets, right where they should be!
Step 4: Fire a 3-Shot Group Again
This guess-and-correct process gets more precise the more you do it.
However, you will need to sacrifice a few rounds to ensure that your scope reticle is right on target.
You must maintain a shooting distance of 100 yards regardless of MOA or Mil measurement.
This allows you to be far enough to test the scope but near enough to ensure it succeeds.
TAKE YOUR TIME with each shot and practice your marksmanship!
Once you’ve inspected your shot grouping, you can go back to make finer adjustments and dial in your scope.
Step 5: Make Finer, Minute Adjustments
Your scope is getting closer and closer to your target.
All that’s left is to make the smallest MOA or mil adjustments to your scope to ensure that you’re hitting dead center every time.
This process will take trial and error unless you have a laser bore sight.
You will need to be patient, listen, and feel for each click to ensure that your adjustments produce the most accuracy.
Don’t worry; your patience will pay off, and you’ll be able to use your understanding of the measurements to ensure a bullseye the next time you pull the trigger.
Step 6: Verify Your Settings with a Different Aiming Point
Now that your scope reticle is zeroed, you can engage a different target at the same range and distance.
This will allow you to see if your Mil or MOA angle calibration is true and ready.
Moving your rifle and scope from your previous adjustment point can verify that your calculations are correct and that any further knob twisting will ensure the correct result.
Once you have ensured that your scope aligns perfectly with a different aiming point, you can go out knowing that your scope will do what you need it to and that your math adds up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions potential snipers have regarding mil and MOA measurements on their scopes.
Their answers will help us get the best possible understanding of long-range shooting measurements.
What is the Difference Between MOA and Mil-Rad?
Both systems represent units of measurement of an angle within a circle, in this case, a long-range scope.
The real difference comes down to the ease of calculation one system has over the other.
The simplicity of MOA over Mil in measuring the angle and distance is that one MOA = 1 inch at 100 yards; while it’s not as simple, using a cheatsheet that helps out millions of scope users is easier.
Meanwhile, military units use Mil more widely because it’s more standardized than the metric system.
You can convert both units by 3.43 (dividing MOA for Mils and multiplying Mils for MOA).
How Many Clicks is a MIL?
When fiddling with your target knob (windage or elevation), 1 audible click equals 0.1 milliradians.
Translated, this means that 1 mil equals 10 clicks on a mil-based scope.
When looking to make a shot at 1000 yards, you will need to move the bullet 3.6 inches (1/1000) per click.
At 0.1 mil measurements, you will need to move 0.36 inches at one hundred yards.
What’s More Accurate, MOA or MRAD?
MOA and Mil reticles produce superior accuracy at medium and long-range distances.
The choice of which makes you more accurate comes down to conversion, whether you think better in the imperial or metric system.
American casual and competition shooters tend to prefer MOA turrets, as MOA takes to imperial system conversions better.
Meanwhile, metric system and military users have a better time with MRAD.
Learn more about the differences between the MOA and MRAD here!
MILS vs. MOA: Which Is Better to Use?
In the battle of MOA and Mils, both measurement systems are equal regarding availability and bullet impact.
The choice of which system is better thus comes down greatly to personal preference. Both systems will produce equal results as long as you understand how to make calculations.
You don’t need to be an F-class pro shooter or military sniper, just someone passionate about shooting!
By ensuring your scope turrets and reticle rely on the same system, you can quickly make calculations without needing to convert MOA to Mil or vice versa.
As long as your reticle, based on your calculations, helps in shooting your target at a distance greater than a hundred yards, you have the measurement for you!
The choice for which scope unit of measurement works best will depend on the reticle inside, the target’s distance, and which measurement system helps you calculate for longer distances.
Knowing how to calculate the turret adjustments for these angular units may take some serious number-crunching.
But don’t worry!
Understanding the MOA vs. Mil system differences will make you a better shooter!
FINAL TIP: Here is an in-depth guide on the best rifle scopes under $500 to get you started on your shooting journey!
CHANGELOG: October 9, 2022 - Added 2 new article links