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How to use Tactical reticles

In this article the use of a Mil-Dot or similar reticle in riflescope for distance assessing, long range bullet drop compensation and wind compensation will be introduced. The article is written in a very simple language and therefore all explanations, terms and concepts are simplified as much as possible.

The reticle

The use of a reticle in order to asses distance and to compensate bullet trajectory firstly requires the right kind of reticle which has to be placed in the first focal plane or the riflescope has to be set to specific magnification at which the reticle subtentions are accurate in miliradians. The appropriate reticles are those that have additional measuring points in all directions along with the central targeting point. The easiest way is to use reticles that have these spacing lines in miliradians (mrad) and this concept is the main material for this article. There are also differently marked reticles that have markings in minutes of angle (MOA), but that will be the subject of another article.
We have already mentioned that the best option is to have a reticle that is set in the first focal plane of a riflescope. It is because this way the reticle always remains in the same proportion to the object. For example, take a reticle that has two markings which would represent 10 cm on a distance of 100 meters. When the reticle is set in the first focal plane it will thicken or thin when magnifying but the dots will always remain 10 cm apart at a distance of 100 meters. If the reticle is set in the second focal plane it will not change but will remain the same size no matter the magnification. But only at one specific magnification will the two markings be 10 cm apart at a distance of 100 meters and different at any other magnification.

There are a couple of new and cheap products on the market that offer bullet drop compensation reticles set in the second focal plane (common SFP BDC scopes in sub 1000€ price range), but this is only a marketing stunt to attract buyers, because the marked dots are really accurate only at maximum or at some other predefined magnification. The second big problem with this type of scopes is that bullet trajectories vary considerably in regard to different calibers, barrel lengths, bullet weights and so on. It would be nice if the solution to a problem as complicated as bullet drop compensation would be so simple as cheap BDC scopes are implying but unfortunately it is not.

Luckily more and more manufacturers started to produce riflescopes with reticles set in the first focal plane that are much cheaper and more affordable (products such as Kaps Tactical, Vortex, IOR, Sightron, Athlon) and there is more and more people who understand how to use them. Such riflescopes are called MIL/MIL scopes.
Picture 1 shows us the most frequently used reticles with miliradian markings. By far the most widespread one is the Mil-Dot that has 1 miliradian markings in all directions. Other reticles have markings that represent 0,5 or even 0,2 miliradians and are more Brand specific.

The most frequently used reticles with miliradian markings, all of them are in FFP scopes
The most frequently used reticles with miliradian markings, all of them are in FFP scopes


Before we continue with reticle use it would be a good idea to refresh geometry basics and explain what radians and miliradians actually are. In everyday life the use of degrees is much frequently used as opposed to radians but when it comes to shooting the story is quite the opposite and almost no one uses degrees anymore. The definition of a radian on Wikipedia is:
“The radian is the standard unit of angular measurement. Radian is the ratio between the length of an arc and its radius. “
A better way to explain what a radian is to explain it with the following picture. An angle of 1 radian results in an arc with a length equal to the radius of the circle.

One radian
One radian

For an even easier explanation the following picture where radians and degrees are compared might also help. A circle has 360 degrees or 2π radians. Therefore a circle has 2 X 3,14159 radians or 6,28318 radians. Every radian consists of a 1000 miliradians and therefore there are 6283,18 miliradians in a circle. We can also say that a circle can be divided into 360 X 60 = 21600 degree minutes. Picture 3 shows us two different markings of radians and one marking for degrees. The outer and longer markings represent radians and the smaller inner markings represent miliradians. The longer inner markings represent degrees.


It is now clearer what a radian is but why reticles are marked in miliradians is perhaps still not as much. This is simply because miliradians can be very easily converted to a decimal system of distance measurement. In an angle of 1 miliradian and a diameter of 100 meters, the distance of arc length will be 0,1 meters or 10 cm. For simplification we can say that arc curvature at this distances is almost flat and we will not make a big mistake with this assumption. With a diameter of 200 meters it will be 0,2 meters or 20cm, with a diameter of 500 meters it will be 0,5 meters-50cm and with a diameter of 1000 meters it will be 1 meter. If the reticle of a riflescope has two markings at a distance of 1 miliradian and we are targeting at a distance of 100 meters this will mean that two dots on a target are 0,1 / 10 cm apart. The same goes for any figure as shown in table 1, where the spacing between two dots on a target is 1 miliradian.

Miliradian through a reticle
Miliradian through a reticle
[table “” not found /]

The use of miliradians for bullet drop compensation and wind compensation

When we use a riflescope with miliradian markings in combination with laser distance measurement (or we asses the distance with the reticle it self) it is possible to compensate bullet trajectory without having to adjust the reticle’s position using clicks on the turrets. Let’s say we are using a .308 winchester caliber rifle and a RWS KS 10.7 g (165gr) bullet which has ballistic specifications listed in table 2.

ProductPerformanceStart Up Time (s)Ready to Use (s)Video
Hikmicro LYNX Pro LH-257.43628.57
Hikmicro OWL-OH256.43829.552
Night Pearl Fox 35 Elite11.55222.472
Pulsar Helion 2 XQ50F4.7364.736
InfiRay Xclip CH50 V28.2988.298
Burris BTC508.3348.334
Hikmicro LYNX Pro LE107.21417.112
Hikvision OWL 1512.36433.394
Burris BTH3515.81418.556
Hikmicro Thunder Pro TE19C8.43415.746
Guide TA4507.6328.766
Hikmicro Gryphon GH25L5.55427.526
Leica Calonox Sight11.95815.522
Hikmicro Gryphon GH35L6.00816.716
Hikmicro Gryphon GQ35L6.18214.912
Leica Calonox View11.09616.502
Pulsar Accolade 2 LRF XP50 Pro8.0288.028
Pulsar Helion 2 XQ38F4.6084.608
Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro3.4623.462
Pulsar Proton XQ305.425.42
InfiRay CML256.5088.29
Burris BTH5016.79419.876
Pulsar Krypton XG507.0847.084
InfiRay ZH3815.42616.686
Hikmicro LYNX PRO-LH197.36628.546
InfiRay Finder FL25R11.48814.632
Pulsar Helion 2 XP508.0748.074
Pulsar Axion Key XM304.4144.414
Kahles Helia TI 357.10828.546
Pulsar Axion XM30S2.9082.908
Pulsar Axion Key XM224.404.40
Pulsar Core FXQ507.9747.974
Steiner Nighthunter H3515.86818.462
Hikmicro Thunder TH35C6.17230.714
Nitehog Viper7.1788.44
Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF4.4724.472
Liemke Keiler-25 LRF11.48814.632
ATN OTS-XLT 160 2-8x8.05825.924
Nitehog Chameleon X-core TIR-M356.28812.514
Night Pearl Scops 25 ELITE10.40615.162
Pulsar Axion 2 XQ354.4324.432
Pulsar Axion XM30 F3.4023.402
Hikmicro LYNX LC067.21211.484
Hikmicro LYNX Pro LH-158.15816.47
InfiRay CTP1311.09611.096
Liemke Luchs-16.1126.112
Steiner Nighthunter C35 gen I14.51816.398
Swarovski tM 352.4462.446
Pulsar Axion 2 XG353.8323.832
Pulsar Axion 2 XG35 LRF4.0264.026

The reticle in picture 5 shows us different points to target at different distances in order to compensate for bullet drop during flight. In a reticle that is set in the first focal plane the dots will be located in the proper spot no matter the magnification.

One radian
One radian

The same principle can be used for wind compensation but the wind speed, distance and other bullet specifications must be known. We will not go into such detail in this article.

The use of miliradians for distance assessment

Since it is possible to compensate bullet drop and wind compensation with reticles in miliradians they can be also used for distance assessment of objects. The later is very complicated and needs a lot of practice. The most important thing is to know the size of the object we are looking at. The mathematical derivation of distance assessment is pretty easy and we will not spend any more time on this issue. But if anyone would like to know the derivation process just contact us and the whole mathematical process will be supplied.
If the dimensions of an object are known it is possible to calculate the distance using the reticle. In picture 6 a Mil-Dot reticle with 1 miliradian marking is shown. The car with its height of 1.4 meters represents 2 miliradians and this allows us to calculate the distance.

Distance assessment
One radian

The distance is calculated using the following equation:

One radian

D is distance, h is the dimension of the object and x is the miliradian value on the reticle.




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