First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane

By Clayton Costolnick  

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Clayton Costolnick.

There are many factors you need to consider when purchasing a new variable-power riflescope. Many shooters only focus on the magnification range and price. A potentially but overlooked factor is the placement of the reticles on the first and second plane. What’s the difference?

First Focal Plane


The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash first focal plan TMD reticle gets you on target and keeps you there.

First focal plane scopes have the reticle placed towards the front of the optic. When the magnification of the scope is increased, the reticle’s size increases with it. In doing so, the reticle remains the same perspective on the target’s size as you increase or decrease magnification. These scopes provide long-range and tactical shooters more accuracy due to the constant MIL/MOA values. Sightmark’s Citadel and Pinnacle riflescopes have first focal plane reticles.

Second Focal Plane


The SIghtmark Latitude has a second focal plane reticle. 

Second focal plane reticles are placed towards the back of the scope. When the magnification of the scope is adjusted, the reticle’s size does not increase. The MIL/MOA values are only correct at one magnification. When the scope is adjusted to a different magnification, the spacing changes and is not consistent. A shooter would have to do some math to calculate the actual values of the subtension. Second focal plane scopes are most useful when using the same magnification. Sightmark’s Latitude riflescopes have a second focal plane reticle.

Hunting

First focal plane scopes are increasing in popularity with hunters because they are more versatile than second focal plane systems. Whenever you are hunting, you cannot predict the outcome before the hunt. The animal could walk out at 25 yards or 500 yards. Using a first focal plane scope allows hunters to make accurate adjustments, again, because they know the subtension values are consistent throughout the magnification range. Additionally, having a larger reticle means more precise holdover adjustments. Many Europeans prefer a first plane scope because they are legally able to hunt later into the evening than in America. A first focal plane scope is generally more expensive than a second focal plane scope, however, it is worth the money. Many hunters have switched to a first focal plane scope without looking back. Many long-range shots can be easily adjusted by using a first focal plane scope at any magnification. Furthermore, if you miss your first shot but see your point of impact, you can place your second shot more accurately.

Final Thoughts

A first focal plane scope might be more expensive than a second plane scope, but it is well worth the price difference. Being able to adjust your magnification without second-guessing your subtensions is beneficial when shooting. Additionally, if you happen to miss, this will allow you to place an accurate follow-up shot.

Which scope do you prefer—first or second? Tell us in the comment section.

About the Author

Clayton was born and raised in Cypress, Texas just outside of Houston and is currently a senior at Baylor University majoring in Marketing with a minor in Corporate Communications. Clayton hopes to pursue a career with Sellmark, or continue his education after graduation. Clayton is an avid deer, waterfowl, dove, turkey and exotics hunter. Growing up around guns, Clayton’s dad and grandfather are hunters as well. When Clayton isn’t in the office, at school or in the field, he’s on the water pursuing another favorite hobby—fishing. Clayton says, “Whenever an animal is not in season, I occupy my time with fishing while I wait for the next season to start hunting again.”