How to Choose a Reticle

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

The classic duplex reticle is good for quick target acquisition and precise shooting.
The classic duplex reticle is good for quick target acquisition and precise shooting.

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

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

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.

Illuminated

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 hog hunting reticle allows you to make quick adjustments on moving targets.
The hog hunting reticle allows you to make quick adjustments on moving targets.

• 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 Venison Hunting reticle compensates for bullet drop at longer ranges.
The Venison Hunting reticle compensates for bullet drop at longer ranges.

• 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.

Sightmark CDC-300 circle dot chevron first focal plane reticle.
Sightmark CDC-300 circle dot chevron first focal plane reticle.

• 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 is made for long-distance shooting.
The TMD (tactical mil design) reticle is made for long-distance shooting.

• 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.

If you were to invent a reticle, what features would it have? Describe your dream reticle in the comment section.

Since you’re now all set on how to pick a reticle, click here!

8 Factors to Consider Before Buying Your First Riflescope

Deciding to buy a riflescope is a good choice. Scopes make hunting, competition, target and long-range shooting easier and more accurate. However, there is almost an endless amount of choice. How is one supposed to choose? This how-to guide to buying a riflescope will help you narrow your choices.

Written by John Shellenberger

  1. Magnification

    The Sightmark Latitude 8-32x60mm long-range scope has an elevation range of 110 MOA.
    The Sightmark Latitude 8-32x60mm long-range scope has an elevation range of 110 MOA.

Magnification is one of the most important aspects of a riflescope. Magnification is the range to which you can multiply the naked eye’s vision. In other words, a scope with 2x magnification power is twice the power of your unaided eye.  Magnification is referred to in power level increments and is represented by the first numbers in a riflescope’s name. For example, on a variable zoom 1-4x32mm scope, the magnification would be 1-4x what the naked eye sees. On a fixed scope, like a 4x32mm scope, the magnification is fixed at 4x what the human eye can see.

Magnification is largely preferential. If you are a hunter who shoots moving targets under 100 yards, 3-9x would perform well. If you want to hit bullseyes from 750 yards, then a scope with a larger magnification range like 5-30x might suit your style.

  1. Objective Lens Size

The objective lens size is the diameter of the lens closest to the barrel of the rifle, and farthest away from the stock of the rifle. The objective lens diameter is the number after the x in the riflescopes title. For example, a 1-4x32mm scope has an objective lens with a diameter of 32mm. The size of your objective lens affects how much light the scope will be able to transmit. A larger objective lens lets in more light, producing a brighter image, but at the expense of being heavier than a scope with a smaller objective lens.

  1. Weight

The 1-6x magnification range makes the Citadel CR1 ideal for close quarters one-shot accuracy, as well as quick acquisition of targets at mid-range distances.
The 1-6x magnification range makes the Citadel CR1 ideal for both CQB and mid-range.

Weight is a factor you want to consider before you make your purchase. Think about where you will be doing most of your shooting. If you are shooting long distances at the range where you’ll have a bipod or sandbags to fire your rifle from, then a heavier scope probably won’t affect you very much. If you are stalking deer in the mountains and have to do a lot of hiking in between shots, it could be beneficial for you to choose a lighter riflescope since constantly raising and holding a heavy rifle takes its toll after some time.

  1. Elevation/Windage Adjustment

Windage and elevation adjustment turrets are used to adjust the position of the bullet’s impact. Windage adjustments have the ability to move the bullet’s point of impact to the left or right in relation to the reticle. Elevation adjustments are used to move the bullet’s point of impact up or down. Scope adjustments are either made in minute of angle units or milliradians. For the beginner hunter, once you sight in your rifle, the windage and elevation turrets won’t need to be adjusted again. These adjustments are extremely helpful for tactical shooters making long-distance shots.

  1. Lens Coating

Next, to the objective lens size, lens coatings are the most important aspect of light transmission. When looking through the scope, you want to see the brightest and clearest image possible. This is affected by the amount of reflected light coming through the lens and the amount of light transmitted through the lenses. The goal of optical coatings is to reduce the glare and the loss of light caused by reflection. More coatings generally result in better light transmission. There are four main categories of optical lens coatings:

  • Coated– at least one of the lenses has a single layer of anti-reflective coating
  • Fully Coated– on every air to glass lens (the outer lenses) there is a single layer of anti-reflective coating
  • Multicoated– at least one of the lenses has multiple layers of anti-reflective coating
  • Fully Multicoated– multiple layers of coating have been put on all air to glass lenses

Keep in mind that with higher quality comes a higher price; however, spending the extra money to get quality coatings can greatly impact your shooting experience.

  1. Reticle

The SIghtmark Latitude has a second focal plan reticle.
The SIghtmark Latitude has a second focal plane reticle.

Also known as the “crosshair,” the reticle is the part of the riflescope that predicts where the bullet will go. Looking at a reticle through the riflescope is similar to lining up your shot in iron sights. Reticles are a matter of preference and a huge variety is available for shooters to choose from. On a very basic level, the crosshairs’ thickness is going to affect the precision of your shot. Larger reticles are easier to see in low-light situations, but can sometimes dwarf or cover up the target if the target is far away. Thinner crosshairs allow the shooter to be more precise but are more difficult to see in low-light.

Many reticles come with posts or scales on their crosshairs. These small ticks are minute of angle or milliradian measurements used to compensate for the bullet’s drop at greater distances. However, not every tick mark is always accurate at any range, because the reticle can be affected by what focal plane it is set in.

  1. Focal Plane

Focal plane can be found in two forms—first or second. In a second focal plane riflescope, the reticle is at the end of the erector tube near the end closest to the butt of the rifle. This means that the magnification is changing behind the reticle in relation to the shooter, so the reticle image maintains its original size. The reticle is not always proportional to the target, only at a certain magnification (often the greatest magnification possible). As you zoom in, the reticle takes up more and more of your vision, appearing larger though it is actually staying the same size it always was.

In a first focal plane riflescope, the reticle is located in the front of the erector tube—meaning when you zoom in with the scope, it also zooms in on the reticle as well. This creates a proportionate changing of size between the target and your reticle. Since everything is proportional, the reticle’s tick marks are accurate at all ranges, not just the most zoomed-in range. First focal plane riflescopes are more expensive in general, but allow the shooter to make adjustments much faster than changing the windage or elevation adjustments.

  1. Tube Size

Tube size is important to know for a beginner because you want to be able to use your scope after you buy it, meaning you need the right size mounting rings for your scope. Tubes can be found generally in two sizes: 30mm and 1 inch. Other than increasing the adjustment range internally, neither offers greater benefits than the other, a larger tube doesn’t mean it lets more light in. However, you will need to know what size tube you have so when you go to use your scope you aren’t stuck trying to put 1-inch mounting rings on a 30mm tube. If you live in the United States, you might want to remember that more riflescopes are built with one-inch tubes than are not. However, once again, tube size is entirely preferential.

Do you have further questions about riflescopes? Leave them in the comment section and we will do our best to answer them.

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