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What Is MOA: The Minute of Angle System Explained!

What is MOA

If you’ve been in the shooting scene for a while, you’ll know that “MOA” is constantly thrown around like a punctuation mark in hunting conversations and gun talks.

But it’s okay to admit that you don’t really understand what MOA is.

It can be complicated, but we’ll explain it in simple terms – before you progress to understanding MOA deeper.

You can stop pretending now! At least until the end of this article.

What Is MOA (Minute of Angle)?

Minute of angle

MOA stands for Minute of Angle. Don’t confuse “minute” with the concept of time; it has nothing to do with it!

But like what we know about minutes, it correlates to the number 60 (a minute = 60 seconds). In the context of MOA, a minute refers to the 60th of a degree.

But a degree of what?

That’s where the term “angle” comes in. The angle is a circle, and a minute of angle is 1/6oth degrees in a circle. It’s a small angle but powerful for precision!

It is crucial to understand that shooting accuracy isn’t a linear measurement.

Furthermore, it’s only by understanding the angular measurement that you can maintain consistent accuracy.

How to Calculate 1 MOA Size at Your Distance

Armed soldier

Before anything else, remember that every minute of angle is approximately equal to one inch at 100 yards (1 inch = 100 yards) and so on:

  • 2 inches = 200 yards
  • 3 inches = 300 yards
  • 4 inches = 400 yards

Note: Regardless of increments, all these are considered one MOA.

The exact measurement is 1.047 inches at 100 yards, but people generally simplify it to calculate faster.

If you want to ensure the accuracy to the dot, you can use the exact numbers.

1. Take Note of the Certain Distance

To use MOA adjustments accurately, your first consideration should be the given distance you are shooting from.

For example, let’s say you’re working at 300 yards.

We know from the list above that one MOA at 300 yards is equal to three (3) inches.

  • 1 MOA = 300 yards = 3 inches

Use this as a basis to control your MOA adjustments. Think in increments of four (4).

2. Check How Low Your Bullet Drops

Still using the above example, measure HOW LOW your bullet moves from the target.

If you notice that it’s 3 inches lower from the target, you need to adjust 1 minute of angle (3 inches) to come back up.

If you’re 6 inches lower, you need 2 MOA adjustments, and so on.

As you calculate MOA adjustments, think of it as compensating for the missed gap from the target.

How many MOA do I need to hit the bull’s eye or target?

MOA adjustments are just a lot of basic mathematics. It’s helpful to take notes first so you won’t have to keep counting as you fix the scopes!

Why Understand MOA (Minute of Angle) While Shooting?

Camouflaged soldier on the ground

You’re probably thinking, can’t your scope do the work for you? Do you really have to memorize these?

While that’s true, understanding MOA adjustment concepts allows you to shoot at different distances.

You don’t have to worry about how far the target is because you already know the adjustment needed!

First, let’s understand the behavior of your bullet as it leaves your rifle. The bullet moves in a trajectory and eventually falls due to gravity.

How to Calculate the Bullet Drop and MOA

Experience makes you more familiar with the bullet drop at a given distance. All rifles are different, so it helps to observe how yours work.

Let’s use an example set.

  • At 100 yards, the bullet hits the spot. No MOA adjustment is needed.
  • At 200 yards, the bullet drop is 4 inches low = 2 MOA adjustment
  • At 300 yards, the bullet drop is 15 inches low = 5 MOA adjustment
  • At 400 yards, the bullet drop is 28 inches low = 7 MOA adjustments

Reading MOA Turrets on Scope

Two armed men

Now, the bullet drop is also impacted by the elevation of your rifle. Most scopes have an elevation turret that enables you to adjust how high you’ll shoot.

And now that we’re on the topic of turrets, we’ll explain what it is and how they can help you shoot accurately.

A top turret is a knob on your scope, making adjustments EASIER. It can translate MOA and helps the shooter gauge the bullet impact better.

You’ll often see these in scope specifications: 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, or 1 moa turrets. It means that every click is equivalent to those increments.

  • For instance, if you need 1 MOA on a scope with 1/2 turret, click it twice. If you have a 1/4 moa scope, click it four times (four quarters to make a whole).
  • The larger the MOA, the thicker the lines on the scope. And consequently, thinner lines mean smaller MOA.

It’s pretty easy to understand! It only gets confusing as you include distance as a variable.

But accompanying it with what we learned under the section “How to Calculate 1 MOA Size at Your Distance,” we’ll come full circle.

  • Here’s an example: you have a 1/4 MOA scope. We learned that 1 MOA equates to one inch at 100 yards. Since you don’t have a full one moa scope, every click is only 1/4 inch.
  • You’ll need to click four times to get 1 MOA for 1 inch at a distance of 100 yards.

Note that the distance is independent of minutes of angle; the MOA size is the one that changes.

Regardless of the distances, the number of clicks on your scopes will be the SAME.

This angular measurement using the minute of angle concept helps shooters adjust for a bullet drop compensation. The scope adjustments certainly aid with accuracy.

Using Minute of Angle (MOA) to Zero Rifles

Two hunters

It’s easier to zero your rifles when you understand MOA! You can go any range beyond 100 yards! But let’s use 100 yards as an easier-range example.

First, measure the distance of your bullet drop from the target.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say it’s 5 inches low and 4 inches off-center to the left.

The theoretical adjustment needed is straightforward; you should come UP 5 minutes and 4 minutes to the RIGHT.

But scopes adjust differently, so expect variations.

The exact minute of angle concept applies. Your minute adjustment corresponds to how many clicks you need at certain distances and inches per MOA.

Don’t blindly follow instructions online and assume their clicks will apply to yours. Use MOA as the basis, then make the necessary adjustments from there.

MOA Cheat Sheet: Quick Reference

Man in forest

Let’s simplify the concepts. Take your time if you still have trouble grasping the mathematics behind it.

Here are some formulas for quick reference.

Distance vs. 1 MOA Change

  • 100 yards = one inch per 1 MOA change
  • 200 yards = 2 MOA change (inches per moa)
  • 300 yds = 3 inches
  • 400 yds = 4 inches
  • 500 yds = 5 inches
  • And so on.

If memorizing isn’t your thing, you can divide the distance by 100 to get the approximate inches per MOA adjustment.

  • 100 yds / 100 = 1 MOA inch
  • 200 yds / 100 = 2 inches
  • 300 yds / 100 = 3 inches
  • 400 yds / 100 = 4 inches
  • 500 yds / 100 = 5 inches

Note that this is only approximate. If you prefer the exact angle adjustment measurement for long-range shooting, it’s 1.047 inches at 100 yards.

  • 100 yds = 1.047 inches
  • 500 yds = 5.235 inches

These increments can be harder to remember. So the simplified version is widely accepted.

Bullet Drop vs. MOA Adjustments

Determine the distance of your bullet drop from the target.

Let’s make our example simple; say you’re working a 200 yards range, and your bullet drop is 4 inches lower than the target.

  • 4 / 200 = 0.02
  • 0.02 x 100 = 2 MOA adjustments
  • You need 2 MOA adjustments to compensate for the drop at a 200 yds range.
  • (Bullet drop from target/distance in yards) x 100

You can use this formula consistently to assess and adjust your bullet drop, given that the conditions in the range remain constant.

Rifle Scope Turrets (Clicks) vs. Minute Adjustment

Always remember that the MOA is independent of distance. The minutes of angle remains the same; it only goes up in increments.

Again, 1 MOA equates to 1″ at 100 yards, two inches at 200 yards, and so on.

But even as it goes up, it’s still equivalent to one MOA.

Knowing the MOA, don’t get confused when you use your rifle scope while you measure shooting. There are scope variations with different MOA per click:

  • 1 MOA turret
  • 1/2 MOA turrets
  • 1/4 MOA turrets
  • 1/8 MOA turrets

You can see these in the manual or on the scope itself. Your clicks will adjust accordingly, but the MOA will always stay the same.

To do that, you need to apply some mental math. But here’s a cheat sheet for you:

  • 1 MOA turret = 1 click for every 1 MOA
  • 1/2 MOA turrets = 2 clicks for every 1 MOA
  • 1/4 MOA turrets = 4 clicks for every 1 MOA
  • 1/8 MOA turrets = 8 clicks for every 1 MOA

Note that this only covers 1 MOA. To achieve the exact MOA, multiply your MOA calculations by the number of clicks.

  • 20 MOA adjustments are needed using a 1/4 elevation turret
  • 20 x 4 = 80 clicks

MOA Definition of Terms

Person aiming in forest

It can be challenging to understand the concepts if there are unfamiliar terms. Let’s define them in layman’s terms for easier understanding.

1. Minute of Angle (MOA)

We’ve discussed this extensively, but here’s a quick refresher. Let’s break down the term into two main concepts: MINUTE and ANGLE.

Minute refers to the 1/60th of a degree. Angle is an “imaginary” circle from your shooting and aiming point.

Combined, it’s a small angle that will improve shooting accuracy.

As people constantly repeat, shooting adjustments are NOT a linear measurement. We shoot and calculate them from an ANGULAR perspective.

2. Bullet Drop

The term is pretty straightforward.

Your bullet will drop if it misses the target. The distance(s) of these drops from the target determine how far you are.

It’s a helpful variable to calculate the MOA and inches, thus helping you adjust for better precision while staying in the same spot and without moving from your shooting point.

3. Target Turrets

A target turret is a part of your rifle scope. It’s a knob that you adjust to improve target precision while shooting, even at a distance.

It’s especially helpful for long-distance shooting!

When you understand how MOA works, you can apply the calculations accordingly, and the turret can help you spot your target easily.

4. Distance

We all know what distance is, especially in long-range shooting. But to clarify, the distance in the MOA context is measured in yards.

This is your first variable to consider when calculating the MOA. Always refer to distance!

There are also various distances to consider in shooting, so don’t get confused! You have the distance from where you are to the target, the distance of the bullet drop, etc.

MOA Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

Armed soldier

Still confused?

Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions on MOA – meaning, usage, and clarifications.

How Many Clicks Is an MOA?

It depends on the scope you’re using. The most common ones come in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1. You only have to click ONCE if you own a 1 MOA scope.

But if it’s 1/4, you need four clicks to reach 1 MOA.

Read through the heading “Rifle Scope Turrets (Clicks) vs. Minute Adjustments” for a more thorough explanation and solving guides.

What Does 2 MOA Mean on a Scope?

A 2 MOA label on your scope means every click equals 2 MOA adjustments. You count by two as you increment to achieve the desired MOA.

For example, you need 20 MOA changes; you only have to click ten times.

What Is Better, 3 MOA or 6 MOA?

It depends on what you’re shooting.

3 MOA is better for long-range shooting because it has finer reticles. 6 MOA is more optimal for closer and fast-moving targets.

The logic behind this is that a larger MOA has a bigger dot. When shooting long, it can block the target and cause inaccuracies.

Learn more about 3 MOA and 6 MOA in this nifty guide!

Does Magnification Affect MOA?

Technically, it shouldn’t.

MOA is the angle that doesn’t change, regardless. However, the magnification of your scope can visually affect the first and second focal planes.

The key is familiarization!

It takes practice and knowing your gear to understand how it performs and what changes happen with specific controls.

Are MIL and Minute of Angle the Same Thing?

In concept, yes.

MIL and MOA refer to the same thing and purpose. Their main distinction is that they’re different units of measurement.

MIL is short for Milliradian, and MOA stands for Minute of Angle. The latter is used more often because it’s easier to calculate (1 inch at 100 yards = 1 MOA).

This “shortcut” has been widely accepted in practice, and beginners find it easier to grasp the concept using MOA measurements.

On the other hand, MIL is more straightforward (3.6″ at 100 yards = 1 MIL). It can take longer to do the math on this one!

But either way, both work the same and offer similar guides. Scope specs indicate these technicalities, so there’s no need to worry!

If You Have a 1/4 MOA Per Click Scope, How Many Clicks to Move 2 Inches at 100 Yards?

Eight clicks on 1/4 scopes.

First, calculate the MOA based on the distance (100 yards). Since we’re talking about two inches, we’ve learned that it equates to 2 MOA changes.

But for 1/4 scopes, every click only corresponds to a quarter. You would need four clicks to make one plus another four clicks to make two. 4 + 4 = 8!

That’s a total of eight (8)!

Why Is It Called a Minute of Angle?

It’s not unusual to confuse minutes of angle with something time-related because of the term minute. But by now, we’ve learned that it’s not!

Think of a circle.

We know that a circle has 360 degrees. One minute of that is 60 (yes, similar to the concept of time).

That’s basically it! That small angle is the perfect recipe to hit the target right in the bull’s eye.

In shooting, we deal with angles a lot. It’s crucial to master various angular measurements to get accurate grasps.

Final Words

Armed soldiers

It’s not that hard to understand, right?

It’s only intimidating at first, but you’ll appreciate it more as you apply the concepts to your shooting practices.

The Minute of Angle helps you improve accuracy! It’s a worthy concept to learn, so buckle up! You don’t need to pretend to understand anymore the next time it comes up.

Good luck and happy hunting!

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