If you are on the hunt for a scope for your firearm, you will probably notice that they are all different and they all have different types of reticles too.
But what is a reticle? The reticle is an aiming point or points that you see when you look through a gun scope. It is a series of lines that you will see as you look through the eyepiece of a scope.
There are lots of different styles and shapes. Reticles are most commonly known as crosshairs and it is a very important component on a scope. It is used to measure or help in locating how far the object you are shooting is and depending on the reticle and use, can usually make is easier to hit the target.
The example is an example of a reticle that is found on the Leupold VX-2 rifle scope. This is a BDC duplex or plex scope reticle. It has two dots that represent aiming points for different distances. This is a great reticle for a long range shooting.
So how do you know which reticle to choose?
Essentially, you have to choose your reticle based on how you’re going to use your scope for your firearm or even for bow hunting. For example, if you are looking for a 30-06 scope or 308 scope for long range shooting, it can be difficult till you acquire the skill over time, till then, it’s smart to use a reticle that is specific to the gun and how you are using it to help.
Some of the things need that will make a difference and aid you in your shooting include:
- The correct firearm
- The correct round and load
- The correct scope and reticle
Sure, shooting of any range and type can be done without using an optic. Iron sights do a good job on their own for the most part, but if you need more accuracy and faster target acquisition, a scope can help you. Those that can actually hit a target 600+ yards with iron sights alone are few and far between.
For most shooters and hunters, optics have become the normal to get the job done.
Let’s take a look at some different reticles and what they’re good for, but before we do that there area couple of different types of shooting to consider
Types of Shooting
So why does each rifle optic have a different reticle? The answer is because each scope is made to be used for different circumstances. There are a couple different types of shooting types to consider and this will determine the kind of scope and reticle you should choose:
- Target Shooting
Hunting, whether its’ long range at 400+ yards or close range for varmint hunting, is much different than target shooting.
For long range shooting, for example, the reason a typical max long range hunting distance is around the 300 yard mark, whereas in target shooting, long range target could be as far as 600-1000 yards! Why such a huge difference?
A hunter must make sure that his/her shot counts because they are shooting at a live animal, a moving target that will run away as soon as it hears the shot fired. The reticle choice for a hunter is critical in a hitting a moving target.
Target acquisition is also more important when hunting. Hunters need to shoot much quicker than target shooters, since the target won’t just sit there and can potentially run away. so finding the target quickly is important for a hunter.
All of these factors help determine the type of reticle to get.
Target shooting is mostly based on precision and accuracy. Target shooters base their accuracy on how close their groupings are on a target while aiming at a small target or bullseye.
Also, the time to hit the target isn’t a critical component. The target typically isn’t moving which makes it easier to shoot, so shooters sometimes try and make it more difficult by shooting at much longer distances (600-1000 yards).
At these long distances there are other things to consider, like the drop of the bullet over the longer distance.
Types of Reticles and Their Uses
Now let’s get into the various types of reticles and there uses. There are dozens of other types of reticles and variations, but these are the main ones we will go over for now.
1. Original plain crosshairs
It’s a simple reticle with two intersecting lines creates an aiming point in the center.
Mainly just target shooting in order to help with aiming. It’s ok for varmint hunting. Not the best choice for hunting in general because crosshairs are usually too fine which will makes it hard to see in low light and target acquisition.
2. Duplex or plex scope reticle
The best all-around reticles for hunting. It has heavy lines everywhere but the center to catch the eye and direct the shooter to the center.
At the center, there are finer lines that is precise enough for proper placement and aiming and don’t obscure the target from being seen. They are often called “[something] plex,” due to each manufacturer using a different name for branding.
Especially good for hunting since it’s better for quick target acquisition due to the thicker lines while still being able to get an accurate shot and not obscure the target with the finer lines.
3. MIL dot reticle
Great for long range shooting if willing to put the work in to figure it out. With enough study and practice is can be used to produce very accurate shooting. Granted, it’s not for everyone due to its complexity.
It uses dots or hash marks, spaced one MIL apart to represents distance which allows the shooter to very accurately measure how far a target is.
For serious long range shooters and snipers, it can be very useful.
Used for extremely accurate long range shooting. Not practical for most shooters in most hunting and target shooting situations, mostly used by snipers.
It’s best to practice using a MIL dot scope for target shooting first. The evolve your skill set into hunting and shooting moving objects.
4. Range finding scope reticle
These are used to estimate the range to a target. It can also be used as a normal scope.
The crosshairs have fine lines and the dots in the center are usually black and small. it’s a little bit better of a reticle than the plain crosshairs.
There are some scopes that have a built in rangefinder. These long range scopes with built in rangefinders mean that your attention is always on your target which provides for quick reaction as the target moves.
Shouldn’t be widely used for long range hunting due to the fine crosshairs and small black dots. It is perfect for varmint hunting however and target shooting.
5. BDC reticle
BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensation. It’s capable of giving a true point of aim for a known distance to compensate for bullet drop.
The distance markers are usually dots, circle, or hashmarks. The markings below the reticle’s center indicate the expected impact point at a given distance, with the lower markings showing the expected impact at longer distances.
The BDC reticle can be simple and complex depending on the brand the style. They can even come with a ‘Christmas Tree’ style reticle design.
Very useful for long range target shooters and long range hunters.
6. Target Dot
The target dot is usually a small black dot in the center of the scope. It’s a very simple reticle. This type of reticle has evolved into red dot sights (which use an illuminated red dot in the center). Red dot sights are generally used for tactical purposes.
Great for target shooting and varmint hunting. Similar to a small “floating” dot.
7. German #4
It’s a crosshair reticle that has three, squared-off posts. These posts are at the bottom and both sides. It’s a complicated reticle and the heavy posts block the field of view too much.
The idea is that it is supposed to be used at night and against tangled backgrounds and shadows. It should really only be used it for target shooting.
8. German #1
Very similar to the German #4 with some differences. The lower post is extended to the middle of the field in a “picket fence post” shape and becomes the aiming point. It blocks even more of the target than the #1.
Again, it’s supposed to be used at night and against tangled backgrounds and shadows. But it is not a good design for a low light reticle. It should really only be used it for target shooting.
9. TMR reticle
TMR stands for Tactical Military Reticle. It’s a variation of the Mil Dot and uses various sized and spaced tic marks on the vertical and horizontal crosshairs.
Tactical uses and great for long range target shooting and long range hunting.
10. Special purpose reticles
It incorporates features of the fine Duplex, Post and Duplex, and rangefinding reticles plus a small center circle. It’s a very complex and distracting reticle.
Final Thoughts – Choosing The Right Reticle
Hopefully you have a pretty good idea of what type of reticle you need depending your situation. There are a lot of scopes with different reticles and every brand has their own variation.
In my opinion the best reticles are the simplest. For hunting I like the Duplex and BDC reticles. For varmint shooting I prefer a fine Duplex, and a plain crosshair.
I suggest to avoid anything fancy or complicated. For a good shot, you should not be looking at or thinking about anything else other than finding and hitting your target.
Hopefully we were able to narrow it down for you with some quick tips! Good luck!
Guest post by Gary Fretwell, rifle optic guru and big game tracker at http://www.goshootguns.com. He is a 33-year-old die hard hunter from Wyoming. He served in Iraq and is an Asset Protection Officer and a big game tracker who helps hunters like himself find big game.