Looking for the PERFECT scope reticle for your rifle is not always an easy feat.
I remember seeing so many different scope reticles and wanting to try them all!
As scope manufacturers continue to grow and improve their products for more specialized shooting, the number of reticle options continues to grow.
To get acquainted and help you find which scope reticle is fit for you, check out my guide.
- What Is a Rifle Scope Reticle?
- The Function of the Reticle
- The Different Types of Scope Reticles to Choose From
- How to Choose the Right Reticle
- How to Focus Your Reticle
- FFP vs. SFP Reticles
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Rifle Scope Reticle?
The reticle is used as a centralized aiming point in your field of view (FOV), focusing on your targets.
They are often called “crosshairs” and are either etched on the glass reticle or made of wire.
The different scope reticle types are determined by the kind of shooting activities you engage in, the hunting conditions, and the targets.
Reticle options are made specifically for varmint or hog hunting, bullet drop compensation, laser rangefinding, or low-light shooting.
You will often find a variety of tactical reticles, general hunting reticles, or illuminated reticles in the market today.
The Function of the Reticle
The reticle is essentially your point of reference of where the bullet will land.
It is used to ensure accuracy and making sure your shot lands where you want it to.
A reticle can have different features or no features at all (if it’s just two lines that form a cross); what’s important is that the shooter utilizes it and orients it correctly.
Otherwise, your shots will miss every time.
The Different Types of Scope Reticles to Choose From
From the basic and traditional scope reticle options to the modern and contemporary ones, here are the types of scope reticles for you to consider:
Original/Fine Crosshair Reticle
This basic/original reticle has perhaps been most dutiful for many hunters over the years.
It features only a single horizontal and a single vertical crosshair that meets at the center.
This creates an aiming point for any shooter to conveniently position the target over the scope.
This fine or thin crosshair style reticle is a similar type of duplex reticle but with very thin lines.
Its design’s purpose is to allow a more accurate and precise shooting.
Oftentimes, you will find this fine crosshair reticle offered with a small dot in the middle of the scope to better aim at your targets.
The fine crosshair reticle is another one of the earlier reticles developed. It had a windage line used as an identifying line before a duplex crosshair.
However, the windage and elevation line had the same thickness throughout, which caused a problem when it came to precision targeting.
Too thin a line, and you couldn’t get on your target quickly either. Too thick, and it will cover up your target at a long range.
In my experience, the fine crosshair reticle was JUST RIGHT at different magnifications.
The duplex crosshair reticle is one of my favorites and is one of my go-tos!
It is simple, uncluttered, and considered the easiest to use! Although, it does not feature any BDC or ranging capacities.
Despite being one of my go-tos, I’ll admit it is not ideal for long-range shooting.
One of my biggest hassles is manually estimating for hold-over or hold-under without many reference points to consider.
The Leupold Duplex crosshair reticle is one of the first ones developed.
It is made with a thin crosshair close to the aiming point with thicker lines towards its edge.
This allows me to focus on a target through the thicker outlines and aim correctly through the finer crosshair before taking a shot.
With that in mind, it is the perfect reticle of choice when I’m large game-hunting.
A lot of well-known manufacturers consider a duplex reticle for their STANDARD scopes.
Apart from Leupold’s Duplex, you can also find some good options like Simmons Truplex, Nikon’s Nikoplex, and Weaver’s Dual X.
German #1 Reticle and German #4 Reticle
The German #1 reticle and German #4 reticles are some of the SIMPLEST reticle options you can find. You can often opt to get illuminated versions too!
The German #1 reticle has the thick right, bottom, and left crosshairs located at your 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.
Meanwhile, the German #4 reticle has a thicker vertical reticle and a horizontal line perpendicular to the larger crosshair.
These lines taper off towards the center, meeting at a dot in the middle.
The German #4 reticle is a favorite among European and American hunting enthusiasts alike.
Some of these German reticles will also have a 12 o’clock crosshair. Its upper elevation line is as thin as a crosshair for a clearer view of your targets.
Similar to the Duplex reticle, I would not recommend the German reticle for accurate shooting at longer distances because of its thicker lines.
However, I’ve had luck with this reticle in dim conditions. Its thick lines allow for quick target acquisition.
I’ve been able to hunt large prey with it with no issue!
In fact, any professional guides in the wilderness of Alaska and Africa use it to deal with dangerous games.
The Mil-dot reticle is a ballistic reticle that uses Miliradian’s (Mrad) measured distance.
Every dot on the reticle represents 1 Mrad, which is equivalent to 3.6 inches at 100 yards.
A Mil-dot reticle is also referred to as a range-finding reticle where a shooter can estimate the range of a target based on the height and width of the mil-dots it covers.
I also like using the mil-dot reticle to compensate for hold-over and wind drift too!
These reticles still maintain a fine crosshair design but with Mil-dots.
The thicker lines at the edge of the duplex crosshair reticle also help with QUICKER target acquisition.
These Mil-dot reticles are not commonly used for hunting as they were specifically designed as ranging reticles used for the military.
A Mil-dot reticle is used to calculate the size at the distance of a specific target and its BDC.
They are often used by snipers and extreme long-distance target shooters commissioned by law enforcement and military organizations.
They go way back to WW1; however, the Soviets used Mil-hash instead of the Mil-dot.
The “Minute of Angle” or MOA reticle, often referred to as the Mil-hash reticle operates and is designed for long-range shooting.
It uses hash marks on the vertical and horizontal axis to represent a minute of angle, depending on the distance.
Once you determine the range and MOA details on its reticle and dial your scope accordingly, you can get on your targets most accurately.
A dot reticle is a good option for shooting smaller targets. This hunting style often requires a precise level of accuracy.
In my experience, it took some getting used to because all I had as my point of reference is a single dot.
However, there are some dot reticles with very fine crosshairs where the thin lines intersect.
BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensation.
A ballistic drop compensating or BDC reticle determines the TRUE point of aim at a measured distance.
With that, BDC reticles are one of my favorites to use for longer ranges. Hash marks, circles, or dots usually mark the distances on the reticle.
You can often find basic versions of the BDC reticle with two to three dots on the 6 o’clock position of the crosshair.
More complex versions will have markings on both 3 and 6 o’clock crosshairs.
The bullet drop compensating reticles may even get more complex with distanced markings along the 3 and 6 o’clock crosshairs.
Any crosshair-style reticle can be illuminated. A scope with an illuminated reticle is great in low-light shooting conditions.
Added illumination can be very beneficial but also come with a price. Plus, you might run into some battery life issues in the long run.
I suggest carrying an extra battery pack just to be safe.
Christmas Tree Reticle
There is nothing festive about this type of reticle. It simply has hash marks that shape like a Christmas tree!
The lines relatively get longer, with each mark going down to the 6 o’clock crosshair.
This is used to compensate for the wind draft affecting the velocity of your projectile.
You will find these reticles in some BDC reticles, but they are commonly found in tactical, Mil-dot, and military rifle scopes.
How to Choose the Right Reticle
When you are shopping for your scope reticles, make sure to consider the following factors.
Thick vs. Thin Crosshairs
The posts or crosshairs of the reticle are integral to how you see a CLEAR image through the scope.
THICK crosshairs instantly draw the shooter’s eyes to the reticle’s center.
These are preferable when you are shooting against busy backgrounds or low light conditions.
Meanwhile, THIN crosshairs have minimal subtension and have spot-on accuracy. They are often illuminated for improved visibility during the day or night.
I prefer using thick crosshairs as they allow my eyes to focus quickly on the target.
The center of the reticle can be multiple things. It can be a cross, a dot, or a circle.
Since the center is what you’ll be looking at most of the time, make sure it is conducive to your shooting situation.
For example, you don’t want the center feature to obstruct your view when hunting.
You can also decide whether you want it to change in size as you change the magnification as well.
Firearm of Choice
Consider the kind of firearm you will be mounting your scope on.
Rifle scopes have different reticles than handgun scopes or shotgun scopes. Plus, it will also have different mounting and features.
Choose one the works best with the firearm you are using.
Be REALISTIC with how much you want to spend on your reticles. Set a budget.
Illumination, BDC features, and extra crosshairs or hash marks add up to the total cost of your reticle.
Intended Use and User
The purpose of your reticle purchase should be based on your preferred shooting activity to find a suitable match.
Here are our suggestions:
- Illuminated Reticles – Suitable with thin crosshairs, best for darker shooting conditions.
- Non-Illuminated Reticles – Suitable for all types of hunting done during the day.
- Duplex Reticle – Suitable for all types of hunting for up to 250 yards.
- Bullet Drop Compensator Reticle – Suitable for long-range hunting 250 yards above and shooting in mountainous terrain.
- Christmas Tree Reticles – Suitable for extreme long-range target shooting and tactical and military use.
- Mil-Dot Reticle – Suitable for tactical and military use.
You have the option to choose fixed or adjustable magnification range settings. This plays a big role concerning reticle subtensions.
Other features such as parallax adjustment or illumination control are also worth considering.
Granted, these reticles’ extra features will likely come at a higher price, so discern if you will really need them or not.
At the same time, these extras could also improve your shooting experience!
How to Focus Your Reticle
Of course, you can’t shoot your target if your reticle is all blurry. Focusing the reticle correctly is the first step to landing a successful hunt.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps:
- Set your scope and focus an a blank target (the sky or a white target should work)
- Turn the magnification all the way up. If you have adjustable parallax, set it all the way up.
- Turn the diopter all the way in.
- Check if the reticle looks crisp and sharp.
- Lock it in place.
Remember to focus on the RETICLE, not the target. Since the eyepiece is specific to the user, it shouldn’t be adjusted unless someone else uses the scope.
FFP vs. SFP Reticles
The FIRST or Front Focal Plane (FFP) refers to a reticle positioned from the rifle scope’s magnifying lens.
In this arrangement, when magnification is adjusted, the crosshairs adjust in size relative to the target, but their subtension remains the same.
For example, if magnification increases, the crosshairs, and center point also increase, making your target look larger.
But the amount of space your crosshairs cover the target is unchanged.
FFP reticles are specifically beneficial for BDC since the measurement increments on the reticles are CONSISTENT at all magnification levels.
Meanwhile, the SECOND or Rear Focal Plane (SFP) is the most common design most shooters will recognize.
In this case, the crosshairs stay the same size when the magnification and target size are increased or decreased.
As a result, subtension is constantly changing.
When you increase magnification, the target gets bigger, and the subtension decreases.
SFP reticles are ideal for long-range hunting as they provide a better idea of a projectile’s strike, especially on smaller targets.
Just remember: First follows. Second stays!
Learn more about these two types in this guide about FFP vs. SFP!
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve got you covered with answers to more questions fellow shooters are also asking.
What Is Subtension?
Reticle subtension is the amount of space the crosshairs cover on the target.
It is affected by both the crosshair density and the reticle placement inside the rifle’s erector tube.
The THINNER the crosshair, the LESSER the subtension.
These are great for precise target shooting but can easily lose a shooter’s eyes’ focus in a busy background.
Thicker crosshairs increase subtension; this can distract or cover certain features of your targets.
What Reticle Is Best for Hunting?
Among the many rifle scope reticle types, the most commonly used reticle for hunting is the Duplex reticle.
It has thick crosshairs that taper towards the middle, aiding quick target acquisition.
The Boone and Crockett reticle is one of the best designs for big game hunting.
It is a Duplex design reticle with convenient hold-over marks that help you aim and shoot targets with a distance as far as 500 to 600 yards.
Choosing the appropriate types of scope reticles for your rifle scopes is important for you to maximize and enjoy your hunting or shooting session.
If I were to give a personal suggestion, you cannot go wrong with a duplex reticle.
But if you prefer a more specialized reticle for your different hunting activities, there are a TON of reticle options out there worth trying.
You just gotta have some extra bucks!
FINAL TIP: You can check out this guide on rifle scopes under $300 to help you get started!