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Understanding the Different Types of Scope Reticles

Understanding the Different Types of Scope Reticles and Their Uses

For most shooters, choosing the right scope can be a big challenge. There are several factors to consider. You have to look at the scope magnification and the available mounting systems.

After all, you want a scope that will serve your shooting needs well. But there is one simple factor that most shooters tend to forget, the reticle.

A reticle is by far the most important part of the scope and what you see when you look through. Sometimes, it’s referred to as crosshairs.

You need to select a reticle that best matches your hunting needs. The right reticle is as important as the scope itself.

Looking to learn more about reticles and the different types? Keep reading below.

What is a rifle scope reticle?

Even before we get started on the types of reticles, let’s understand what a reticle means.

A reticle is a series of fine lines or fibers that create the aiming point in the scope. It’s actually what you see when you look through a scope.

For most scopes, what you see is the standard crosshairs. So the term reticle is sometimes used interchangeably with crosshairs.

So, what does a reticle do?

A reticle produces a central aiming point. But since there are different shooting activities, different reticles are created to cater to each activity.

Let’s dive deep and see the different types of reticles available.

Non-illuminated reticles

A non-illuminated reticle consists of a network of lines, dots, or other shapes that are etched or otherwise inscribed onto a transparent glass or acrylic element. The reticle is placed in the eyepiece of the scope or other optical device. It is used to aim the device by aligning the lines or shapes with the target.

Non-illuminated reticles do not have any external light source and are not visible in low-light conditions. They rely on ambient light to be visible, which can make them difficult to see against some backgrounds or in certain lighting conditions. 

However, they have the advantage of being simpler and more reliable than illuminated reticles, which require a separate light source and can be prone to failure.

Non-illuminated reticles are commonly used in hunting, shooting, and other outdoor activities. They are also used in military and law enforcement applications, where the use of a light source is practical.

Illuminated reticles

This type of reticle is equipped with a light source that can be activated to make the crosshairs brighter. The inbuilt light makes it easier to see in low-light conditions.

Ideally, any type of reticle can be illuminated. You just need to choose between illuminated and non-illuminated before deciding on the reticle style.

The crosshair design reticle

A crosshair design reticle is a visual aid in the form of a set of fine lines or dots that is superimposed over a target or an image. It is the most common and basic reticle that people think of when discussing riflescope reticles.

The lines or dots of the crosshair design are used to align the instrument with the target or to measure the distance between two points in the image.

The crosshair design is often used in scopes and other optical instruments because it is easy to see and can be very precise. It is ideal for aiming and targeting. 

You can easily adjust the lines or dots of the crosshair design for different levels of magnification. Additionally, the thickness and color of the lines can be varied to suit different lighting conditions and preferences.

Overall, there are many variations of the crosshair design. These include simple crosshairs, crosshairs with dots at the intersection, and crosshairs with a central dot or dot complex. 

Some crosshair designs also incorporate other features, such as a rangefinder or a windage and elevation adjustment system.


This is a popular and versatile reticle that features thin crosshairs at the center and thicker lines at the outer edges. The duplex is seen as an improvement of the original crosshairs.

The design features the same cross pattern, but with a difference in the line thickness. It is designed to provide a good balance of precision and visibility.

It quickly draws your eyes to the center where lines are thin. This provides for a more natural aiming position ensuring maximum visibility and precision.

The design of the reticle also makes aiming and shooting moving targets easier. Overall, this is a versatile reticle that works for most shooting types.


This reticle features small dots spaced evenly along the crosshairs. The dots can be used to estimate range and windage by measuring the size of an object in the field of view. This is then compared to the spacing of the dots.

A Mil-Dot reticle is considered a variation of the traditional crosshair. It is specially built for long-range shooting. The reticle is widely used by snipes, hunters, and competition shooters.

Overall, the reticle design follows the standard crosshair design. However, it uses dots instead of lines. The dots are usually 1-mil apart.

BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation)

This type of reticle is designed to help the shooter compensate for the drop of the bullet over long distances. They are special reticles designed for long-range shooting.

It typically has markings or hash marks that indicate different ranges. This allows the shooter to aim higher or lower depending on the distance to the target.

When using a BDC reticle, the shooter knows the specific ballistic characteristics of the bullet being fired. Therefore, a shooter can adjust their aim to account for the bullet’s drop and compensate for it.

A BDC reticle greatly improves accuracy at longer ranges. Some BDC reticles also include windage markings to help compensate for wind drift.

German # reticle

This reticle is similar to a Duplex reticle, but with thicker crosshairs and a small dot at the center. The hash stands for whatever number of the German reticle you’re ordering.

There are the German #4 and German #1 reticle. German #4 features three lines which are thicker as they extend from the center. Only the top line is left thin. This is the only difference with a Duplex reticle.

A German #1 reticle on the other hand has one line coming from the bottom. It then becomes sharp at the optic center. There are also two thin horizontal lines. But this reticle lacks a vertical line from the top.

It is designed to provide a good balance of precision and visibility at long ranges.

Christmas Tree Reticle

This reticle is similar to a BDC reticle, but with more hash marks and a thicker center crosshair. It is designed to provide more precise aiming points at longer ranges.

The reticle is common in the military, hunting, and tactical shooting. It is a suitable choice for long-distance shooting, compensating for wind drift. The small lines on the reticle get wider as they get to the bottom of the reticle. This is what gives a Christmas tree appearance. The lines help compensate for wind drift.

Dot reticle

A dot reticle is perhaps the simplest of all scope reticles. It features an enclosed circle and a dot in the middle. The dot forms your aiming point.

In some scopes, the dot can feature crosshairs that emit from the top, bottom, left, or right. The dot color is usually a bright neon and can exist in red, orange, and green.

Leupold reticle

This is a more specific reticle from the manufacturer – Leupold. It combines a wide array of features for excellent scope viewing. The reticle combines a duplex with a crosshairs pattern and thicker lines at the end.

There are a series of dots underneath the main crosshairs fanning out towards the bottom. The dots help determine the distance for more precise shooting.

MOA (Minute of Angle)

This type of reticle is similar to a BDC reticle, but instead of hash marks, it has small circles or dots spaced evenly along the crosshairs. 

Each circle or dot represents one MOA, which is an angular measurement equal to 1/60th of a degree.

Horus H58

This reticle is designed for long-range shooting and features thin crosshairs with hash marks along the vertical and horizontal axis. The hash marks can be used to estimate range and windage.

First Focal Plane (FFP)

This type of reticle is located in the first focal plane of the scope, which means that it appears to change size as the magnification is adjusted. 

This allows the shooter to use the reticle for ranging and holdovers at any magnification setting.

Second Focal Plane (SFP)

This type of reticle is located in the second focal plane of the scope, which means that it appears to remain the same size regardless of the magnification setting. 

This can make it easier to use the reticle for precise aiming, but it is less versatile for ranging and holdovers.

Final verdict

Whenever choosing a scope, it’s important to take time and consider the best reticle for your shooting needs. The ideal reticle to consider greatly depends on the intended use, type of firearm, the user, magnification, and budget.

Make sure you understand the different types of reticles and how they work before choosing a scope. It becomes a lot easier to shoot precisely when you have the right scope and reticle.

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