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Scope Reticle Types: [Duplex, Illuminated, Dot, and More]

Scope Reticle Types- [Duplex, Illuminated, Dot, and More]

Looking for the PERFECT scope reticle for your rifle is not always an easy feat.

There are as MANY scope reticle types as there are rifle scope options in the market today!

As rifle scope manufacturers continue to grow and improve their products for more specialized shooting, the number of reticle options available continues to grow.

To get acquainted and help you find which scope reticle is fit for you, check out our guide.

What Is a Rifle Scope Reticle?

Man in armor aiming rifle

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 Different Types of Reticles to Choose From

From the basic and traditional scope reticle options to the modern and contemporary ones, here is a list of different reticles for you to consider:

Original/Fine Crosshair Reticle

Standard 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.

The fine crosshair reticle was JUST RIGHT at different magnifications.

Duplex Reticle

Duplex reticle

The duplex crosshair reticle is the favorite type of reticle for most hunters. You will find this type of reticle in most rifle scopes dating all the way back to the early 1900s.

It is simple, uncluttered, and considered the easiest to use! Although, it does not feature any BDC or ranging capacities.

In this case, it is not ideal for long-range shooting as you will need to manually estimate your hold-over or hold-under position without many reference points in the scope 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 the shooter 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 for 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

German reticles

The German #1 reticle and German #4 reticle are some of the SIMPLEST reticle options you can find. You can often opt to get illuminated versions too!

The German #1 reticle is another old one on the list. These German scope reticle types were famed by German snipers through the WW1 and WW2 battles.

It has a thicker vertical reticle and a horizontal line perpendicular to the larger crosshair. In the later models, you can find this similarly in the reticle of a Weaver M8 scope or PU scope.

Meanwhile, the German #4 reticle has the thick right, bottom, and left crosshairs located at your 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. 

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.

The German reticle, having been designed with thicker lines, might not be ideal for accurate shooting at longer distances.

These were made specifically to fight in the forest in dim conditions because the thicker reticle allows you to aim at your targets quickly.

It is best for larger games. Many professional guides in the wilderness of Alaska and Africa use it to deal with dangerous games.

Mil-Dot Reticle

Mil-dot reticle

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.

The Mil-dot reticle is a great instrument for the shooter 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 quick 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.

Mil-dot reticles are often used by snipers and extreme long-distance target shooters commissioned by law enforcement and military organizations.

They go way back to the WW1; however, the Soviets used Mil-hash instead of the Mil-dot.

MOA Reticle

MOA reticle

The “Minute of Angle” or MOA reticle, often referred to as the Mil-hash reticle operates and is designed for long-range shooting, much like the Mil-dot reticle.

It uses hash marks on the vertical and horizontal axis to represent a minute of angle, depending on the distance.

Once a shooter determines the range and MOA details on its reticle and dials their scopes according to this measurement, they can get on their targets most accurately.

Dot Reticle

Dot reticle

A dot reticle is a good option for shooting smaller targets. This hunting style often requires a precise level of accuracy.

You will find dot reticles either with very fine crosshairs with a small dot in the center where the thin lines intersect or a reticle with a small dot in the middle without any crosshairs.

BDC Reticle

BDC reticle

BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensation.

A ballistic drop compensating reticle determines the true point of aim at a measured distance. With that, BDC reticles are favored by many long-range hunters.

Hash marks, circles, or dots usually mark the distances on the reticle.

You can often find basic versions 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.

Illuminated Reticle

Illuminated reticles

Any crosshair-style reticle can be illuminated. Scopes with illuminated reticles are 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.

Christmas Tree Reticle

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

Armored soldiers

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.


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.

Magnification Considerations

You have to option to choose fixed or adjustable magnification range settings. This plays a big role concerning reticle subtensions.

FFP vs. SFP Reticles

First focal plane and second focal plane 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. An SFP reticle is located behind the magnifying lens of the scope.

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.

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.


Man aiming through red dot

Choosing the appropriate types of reticles for your rifle scopes is important for you to maximize and enjoy your hunting or shooting session.

For beginners and seasoned shooters alike, 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 got to have some extra bucks!

FINAL TIP: You can check out this guide on rifle scopes under $300 to help you get started!


October 20, 2022 - added 2 new article links

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