Written by John Shellenberger
One of the most important aspects of choosing a riflescope is deciding which reticle to use. The reticle is the aiming point for your scope, and they are available in many different looks and varieties for improved shooting performance. Once you’ve established what type of shooting you’ll be using the scope for, you can choose the reticle most fitting for your hunting, tactical, or competitive shooting needs.
Crosshairs are perhaps the most famous reticle due to their appearance in pop culture classics like James Bond. Commonly made by two intersecting perpendicular lines, crosshairs provide a reference for where the rifle is aiming, with the intersection of the lines being the aiming point. Throughout the years, riflescope manufacturers have developed the classic crosshairs, adding features like bullet drop compensation or thinner crosshairs for maximized precision. This means nearly every scope you look through, will vary.
When choosing a reticle, the first step is to define its intended use. Are you a hunter shooting deer at around 100 yards? A reticle with broad crosshairs delivers a clear image to place on your target without having to worry about losing your crosshair in the complex background image. Shooting at longer distances where precision is most important? A reticle with thinner crosshairs ensures the accuracy needed. Once you’ve decided, choosing a reticle comes down to personal preference, so be sure to look at all the options before deciding.
Different Types of Reticles
Duplex crosshairs are lines that start off broader on the edges of the reticle and then become much skinnier as it gets close to the center. The thick bars on the perimeter allow the shooter to quickly focus in on the middle of the reticle, and the thinner lines in the center allow for precise shooting. Duplex crosshairs are the most common type of reticle on the market.
Wire crosshairs are flattened out wires to provide a durable reticle that does not impede light passing through the scope. Once the only way to make reticles, wire crosshairs are becoming less and less popular due to etched-glass reticles which are far more accurate and durable.
Etched-glass reticles are the result of carving a reticle into a thin plate of glass using a diamond point. They can have floating elements, such as complex sections for bullet drop compensation or range estimation.
Reticles can be illuminated, usually by internal mechanisms like battery-powered LED lights. Red is the most common color because it is the least destructive to your night vision, however, some products use yellow or green. Typically, illuminated reticles can be turned on and off at will and have brightness settings.
First or Second Focal Plane
Another factor to consider before buying a scope is whether you want your reticle to change in size proportionally to the target as you zoom the scope in or out. If you do, then you will want a first focal plane riflescope, where the reticle is at the front of the erector tube, allowing it to be affected by the magnification. If you want your reticle to stay the same size while the target is enhanced, then a second focal plane riflescope is for you. On a second focal plane scope, the reticle is at the back of the erector tube, meaning the image of the reticle is not enhanced as you zoom in. In general, first focal plane scopes are more expensive; however, their markings on the reticle are always accurate at any range, while second focal point reticles’ markings are only true at a given magnification—usually the highest.
Now that you know the terms associated with reticles, let’s look at a few.
• The Sightmark Hog Hunter Reticle can be found on some of the Core HX series scopes. This scope has duplex crosshairs along with lateral hash marks to allow the shooter to make quick adjustments on moving targets with ease.
• The Sightmark Venison Hunting Reticle can also be found in the Core HX series. Like the HHR, this scope has duplex crosshairs and longitudinal tick marks that allow for bullet drop compensation at long ranges. Notice how the eye is quickly drawn to the middle of the scope on both scopes due to the thinning of the crosshairs.
• The Dual Caliber Reticle can be found on some of Sightmark’s Core TX series. This reticle can be illuminated with the twist of a knob, choosing from 1 to 10 brightness settings, thereby allowing the shooter to get a clear view of the reticle and deliver optimal shot placement. The reticle can be illuminated in either red or green and the shooter can choose from six levels of brightness. This reticle also has duplex crosshairs that get thinner as they move towards the center.
• The CDC-300 Circle Dot Chevron Reticle is not a duplex reticle. The ballistically-matched CDC-300 is on a first focal plane, meaning the reticle stays in the same visual proportion to the target across any magnification range. The red or green illuminator helps the shooter to see clearly in all lights, allowing you to accomplish holdovers from 100 to 800 yards. The CDC-300 Circle Dot can be found in Sightmark’s Pinnacle series.
• The TMD Tactical Mil Design Reticle could be considered a duplex. The markings on the crosshair allow for bullet drop compensation, helping the long-distance shooter effectively make holdover shots without changing the magnification. This reticle is in the first focal plane, meaning it stays visually proportional to the target at all ranges, and comes with 1 to 6 brightness settings for its red/green illuminator, meaning it can provide unparalleled clarity in bright and low light situations. The TMD reticle can be found on scopes from Sightmark’s Pinnacle series.