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What is a BDC Reticle and How to Use It: The Ultimate Guide

What is a BDC Reticle

Bullet drop compensation scopes (a.k.a. BDC reticles) became more popular recently.

Most people either love or hate it because it’s meant for use at a specific distance and in certain situations.

Others also believe other scope types are superior.

However, BDCs are an excellent option for people with specific needs on their weapons when it comes to range and accuracy requirements.

Here’s a complete guide about BDC reticles so that you can decide if you should get one and how to use it once you have it.

What is a BDC Reticle?

Man looking through scope

A bullet drop compensating reticle (BDC reticle) is a reticle pattern with a series of reference points along the vertical axis related to a bullet’s flight path.

Bullet drop depends on many factors like bullet weight, bullet type, caliber, and the gun’s velocity.

The objective of bullet drop compensation reticles is to keep the bullet’s impact on the target EVEN at greater distances.

Most BDC scopes shooters use guns with extended-range capabilities, like rifles. The farther the target, the more wind speed and bullet drop affect the shot.

Additionally, other factors like bullet weight, depending on the caliber used, can affect the trajectory too.

We’ll discuss compensating and adjusting for these things using a BDC rifle scope.

How to Use BDC Reticles

Man looking through scope

BDC scopes work through practice, steady aiming, and a bit of math involved in the process. Using the proper gun is important, too. 

Muzzle velocity on a rifle is good enough for shooting at the ranges you should use the BDC reticle.

Tools You Need

Before using the scope, you need to prepare a few tools. You will need:

  • The scope’s subtension sheet
  • A ballistic calculator

The subtension sheet provides information about what the lines on the BDC reticle mean. Different manufacturers have varying dot reticle designs.

A BDC reticle is a series of vertical lines or “hash marks” methodically spaced apart. We’ll explain how these lines work together later.

Meanwhile, a ballistic calculator is used to calculate wind speed and other environmental factors.

These calculations are then used to help you adjust your positioning to make accurate shots.

Most BDCs don’t need a ballistic calculator, but it can help you get an idea of how to compensate for environmental factors.

Mapping the Reticle

Before tweaking anything else, you first need to ZERO the scope to the manufacturer’s recommended distance.

If you’re using similar ammunition to what the manufacturer used in the manual, move on to the next step.

However, if you want to use different ammo, check the manufacturer’s website for any charts or generators if you’re using a different ammunition type.

These will tell you how to adjust your scope.

However, this still isn’t ideal because each BDC reticle scope is sighted in for a specific caliber or bullet type. 

REMEMBER: If you already know which caliber and ammo type you use, check the information on the BDC reticle before buying. There may be one natively sighted to that bullet.

Pressure, Humidity, Temperature, and Altitude

Long-range shooting doesn’t just involve bullet drop compensation; environmental factors affect how a bullet travels through the air.

For example, the air density might change even if you’re shooting in the same place throughout the year.

This can make your bullets slow down and drop more, affecting accuracy.

How would you adjust for these factors at once?

Manually doing the work would probably change the conditions before you can even shoot! This is where the ballistic calculator comes in handy!

Using density altitude in your ballistic calculator is the most convenient way to combine all environmental factors into one value.

The calculator then gives you suggestions on changing your positioning, which hash marks to use on the reticle, and how to angle your shot.

If you run the density altitude for a specific ammunition type, you will never be more than 1 MOA off your target, even at 600 yards.

Wind Speed

What about the obvious environmental factor?

Wind can be one of the most annoying things a shooter has to face when shooting at longer distances.

Unfortunately, the BDC reticle doesn’t have precise hash marks to compensate for wind. Even with this disadvantage, you can still try to be precise.

The best thing to do here is trial and error.

The wind will affect the bullet more with distance. The farther the target, the more you must aim toward where the wind comes from.

Here are some excellent examples to help illustrate this.

  • Say you’re trying to hit a target out at 200 yards with a wind coming from the right. For this shot, you can try to move your aiming point slightly to the right of the reticle’s center. 
  • If you aim at a target out to 300 yards, you will have to move your point of aim more to the right and a bit higher than the center to still hit the target. 

This is because the bullet drops, and the wind affects it more at extended ranges.

Logging Results and Trying Again

Don’t forget to log your results after each shot, even if you miss them!

This helps you gauge how your gun and caliber-specific bullet type perform at various ranges.

Moreover, recording HOW you aimed at a target and WHERE the impact points were will help you be more consistent in hitting shots at pre-determined distances. 

Adjusting aiming points based on the point of impact is how you will learn to shoot accurately using a BDC reticle on your rifle.

The best way to record this is using a DOPE (Data On Previous Engagements) sheet. Keeping this with you every time you shoot is essential.

This consistency is what most shooters aim for, which comes with practice. Therefore, you need to keep trying again and again. 

What Is a BDC Scope?


One of the popular choices for rifle scopes is the BDC scope. This can house a scope that contains a BDC reticle, which we discussed earlier. 

However, some Bullet Drop Compensation scopes use a different bullet drop compensating method than reticles.

BDC Turret

Many rifle scopes use turrets to compensate for bullet drop or wind. This particular turret has markings on it that denote a specific distance. 

Adjusting this turret also adjusts the crosshairs of the reticle, allowing the shooter to aim the rifle directly at the target while still hitting it.

This can be more convenient for people who don’t want to holdover the reticle. 

One downside to using turrets over BDC reticles is that the turret only works with the same ammunition it was calculated with. 

If you use a different bullet caliber than the one used to make the turret, you may experience decreased accuracy.

BDC Scope Benefits

Now, let’s get into the benefits of using a BDC scope.

These scopes are optimized to be used at specific ranges and have hash marks that denote either 50 or 100 yards per mark. 

Even without reading a manual or guide, most people can infer from the reticle that they need to sight using these different points if they want to hit targets farther away.

Additionally, unlike other illuminated reticle types like red dots or holographic sights, the BDC scope doesn’t affect people with astigmatism.

The aiming point will appear clear at all times.

  • Easy learning curve
  • Intuitive aiming points
  • Use for shooting at various distances
  • Simple crosshair

BDC Scope Limitations

Even though the BDC scope is an excellent option for use at different ranges, they still have some limitations.

Unlike more straightforward scope types, they aren’t “plug and play.”

Even though the learning curve isn’t too steep, you still need some research before you can be wholly accurate with it.

In pure accuracy, it also doesn’t match up to the mil-dot sight or other types of sights. First-shot accuracy isn’t as good since trial and error is the best way to gain accuracy.

More experienced shooters will prefer other scope types for extremely long ranges.

Some of the limitations that BDC reticle scopes have are:

  • Only maintains accuracy when using the same size bullet and barrel length
  • It needs a lot of practice for accurate shooting
  • Not the best option for first-shot accuracy

NOTE: An excellent option for 22LR rifle ammunition are Rimfire BDC scopes. 

What’s the Difference Between BDC and Mil-Dot Scopes?

BDC vs Mil-Dot reticle

Mil-dot reticle scopes are an excellent alternative to BDC scopes. We’ll talk about the differences between these scopes.

What Are Mil-Dot Reticle Scopes?

Mil-dot reticle scopes use a different calculation bullet drop compensator system than BDC reticles. 

Mil-dot reticle scopes use milliradians as an adjustment system. It uses dots along the horizontal and vertical axis of the crosshairs to help compensate for distance and wind.

BDC vs. Mil Dot

The main difference between the two systems is that mil dot requires mathematical calculations

This makes it ideal for the serious shooter who needs pinpoint accuracy past 300 yards.

BDC reticles are more suited to MEDIUM ranges where you need to scope in at different targets.

If you don’t need to be as pinpoint accurate as mil dots but need something better than a red dot, the BDC is the better option.

Other Types of Reticles


There are different kinds of reticles other than mil-dot and BDC reticles. Most have a more straightforward function, while others are more complicated.

Original Reticle

Being the most basic reticle, it only has one vertical and one horizontal line intersecting in the middle. There are no extra features to help a shooter out.

German Reticle

This is the same as the original, but with thicker lines at all lines except from the 12 o’clock position.

Higher-end German scope manufacturers like Leupold or Zeiss use this reticle a lot.

Duplex Reticle

This is the main reticle of choice for a hunting rifle scope optic. 

The thick lines across all sides ending just shy of the center allow it not to be lost in the background noise of the trees and vegetation.

Dot Reticle

The dot reticle can be found on reflex sights like a red dot or holographic scope. This is the cleanest reticle out of the bunch, but it can get lost in busier backgrounds.

It’s also not the best choice for shooting at long range since there are no compensation provisions on the scope.

This is why dot reticles are standard on close-range pistol caliber weapons instead of longer-range rifle guns.

“Christmas Tree” Reticle

This is technically a revision of a regular BDC reticle. However, it has progressively wider hash marks in the lower portion of the scope.

It helps a shooter with wind compensation as you can better line up your shots at a farther range.

However, it’s still not as accurate as mil dots when trying to shoot with the wind at farther targets. This is because it doesn’t incorporate those calculations.

You will still need to make some trial-and-error shots on the range if there’s a bit of wind.

Black Magic and Voodoo Reticle

This is the most complicated reticle. It’s a variation of the mil-dot scope; it’s different because the mil dots are 1/4 mils in size. 

This needs to be added when calculating for range, although it increases the amount of aiming points you have on the optic, increasing accuracy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Man looking through scope

After reading our guide, you might have more questions about bullet drop compensation and BDC scope reticles. 

How Accurate are BDC Scopes?

A BDC scope is best used at around 300 yards to 600 yards. Compared to a mil-dot scope, it’s not as accurate to a farther range, but it’s still decently accurate.

Certainly, BDC scopes are MORE ACCURATE than the other scopes listed above because they still provide bullet drop compensation at longer ranges. 

Red dots and standard scopes don’t do this and will suffer in accuracy compared to BDC scopes.

Is a BDC Reticle Good for Hunting?


BDC scope reticles are ideal for hunting because you can easily adjust your aiming point based on the range where your target is.

Other rifle scope types like mil dots can’t do this because they either need math calculations or don’t compensate for range at all.

Using a mil-dot scope for hunting would be more difficult because you’d need to calculate the distance to the target.

You don’t want to risk your targets running away while you’re doing calculations!

How Do I Use a Bullet Drop Compensator Chart?

A BDC chart contains information about how a specific ammo type works with the BDC reticle.

There are instructions on aiming the reticle depending on the distance, but you do need to factor in other things like sight height into a ballistic calculator.

After inputting this data, you’ll have an estimate of how you should position your scope’s elevation and horizontal positioning.

What Gun Should I Use With a BDC Scope?

The best gun type with a BDC reticle scope is a rifle with high muzzle velocity. This is because the scope is meant to be used in medium to farther range. 

You can’t maximize the different ranges on a scope if your weapon can’t reach the ranges marked on it.

Does Magnification Affect BDC Reticle Accuracy?

The zero on your scope will be the same regardless of the magnification level. This is because most BDC sights have first focal plane reticles.

A first focal plane means that even if you have a variable zoom sight, the yardage of the hash marks will stay the same at each magnification level.

On the other hand, if the sight is a second focal plane, the yardage would change with every magnification level. 

This is because the reticle size would stay the same instead of getting bigger and smaller based on zoom.


BDCs are a great option if you need an optic for medium-range distances on your rifle. It’s simpler to use than a mil-dot scope while maintaining respectable accuracy.

A key takeaway from this guide is that practice and consistency will increase your accuracy more than buying expensive scopes!

Although BDC reticles can help shoot at targets at farther distances, it’s the shooter that genuinely makes the difference.


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