If you’re looking for a Mil Dot Reticle, it’s likely you may be confused on a couple of things:


  1. What is the Dot for?
  2. Why does that one have hash marks and not dots?
  3. That’s a Mil Dot Reticle…why are the adjustments in MOA?


**First things first, this article assumes you have a basic working knowledge of Rifle Scope adjustments. If you are brand new and need a refresher on this, please read the articles on moa and mil so you know what we’re talking about here.**


I say you may be confused because I personally was in the position when I started learning. Because frankly, reticles can be damn confusing.


But the advent of the affordable long range scope in the past decade has made them more and more popular. All of a sudden, you have a reticle that looks like something out of a Navy SEAL movie, and you don’t really know what to do with it.


Have no fear, this article is going to go over the Mil Dot Reticle, Complex Mil Reticles and give you a couple of examples of Mil Dot and Complex Mil Reticles out there.


Mil Dot Reticle vs Complex Mil Reticles

Complex Mil Reticles started with the Mil Dot Reticle as a basis.


Let’s start at the beginning.

Back in the day (like way damn back), reticles were essentially just pieces of hair set in a – you guessed it – crosshair. The idea was to give the shooter a frame of reference to aim the gun.


This evolved into etched glass reticles that essentially performed the same function – a simple reference point for where you wanted your bullet to go.

Once shooters made the jump to the etched glass (see etched glass reticles), it became apparent that they could make the scope even more helpful. Nowadays we have the results – the optic is one of the most important parts of the gun!

At some point in time, someone thought it was a good idea to place dots at equal distances along the crosshairs. And what better way to measure those distances than the Mil system of Angular Measurement?


Essentially, the Mil Dot Reticle (usually, unless the manufacturer made it different) has dots that are exactly 1 Mil away from any point on the dot to the same point on the next dot.


This would make the dots 0.2 Mils in diameter. It would also make the distance of the edge of one dot 0.8 Mils to the edge of the next dot.

This may not seem like much in the age of complex reticle subtensions, but back in the day this was pretty innovative. All of a sudden, you not only had a frame of reference to just aim at a target, you also had a way of measure relative distances.

Pretty snazzy eh?


This has evolved even further into the Complex Mil Reticles we see now. The difference here is that the Mil Dot Reticle has evolved from just dots to a hash mark based reticle.


These reticle subtensions (see here for information on subtensions) are specific to the reticle as to how far away they are from each other. This will also only hold true at a certain magnification for an SFP scope.

But these more complex mil dot reticles give us an even better frame of reference for calculating distances. Now you can break things down to even finer calculations by using smaller and smaller subtensions adjustments.


Let’s take a look at some of the Reticles scope manufacturers use.


Different Scopes With Mil Dot Reticles

Mil Dot is still used in quite a few scopes, even though the more complicated reticles are available. Complicated reticles tend to jack up the price of the scope, and some people don’t want to shell out the kind of money.


But they still want something that can be more useful than a plain old duplex reticle, so they go for a Mil Dot.


Below are a couple of different reticles from some pretty popular brands:

Athlon Neos BDC 22 Rimfire Reticle

This is a good example of a Mil Dot Reticle being used as a BDC, or Bullet Drop Compensator.


BDC reticles are used to, well, compensate for the drop of a bullet. By far the most useful aspect of a Mil Dot reticle is to measure the drop of the buller on the way to the target.


The BDC reticle helps with that. This particular reticle belongs to Athlon’s Neos line, which is primarily a hunting Rifle Scope.

 This one is useful for a quick adjustment for hunters to use at 75, 100, 125 and 150 yards from the target. They can make an easy adjustment and line the Dot on the target, depending on their zero and distance.


Easier than just that basic crosshair huh?

Leupold Mark 6 M5B2 Mil Dot

This is a pretty standard Mil Dot Reticle. As Leupold advertises, the Mil Dot was actually designed for the US Marine Corps to help estimate distances.


Mil is used instead of MOA because Mil is the Military standard. Basically, Mil is much easier when doing calculations, as Mils break down into Multiples/Divisibles of 10.


Like mentioned above, this reticle has a 0.2 Mil diameter on the dots, 0.8 Mil difference between the top of one dot the the bottom of the next dot up and exactly 1 Mil from one point on the dot to the exact same point on the next dot up or down.

Leupold features this reticle in their SFP (they call it Rear Focal Plane) scopes. But Mil Dots can be featured in FFP scopes as well.

Vortex Viper Mil Dot (MOA)

The Vortex Viper is pretty interesting, and that’s why it’s featured. Because really, it doesn’t get much more complicated than what we’ve already seen.


This scope has adjustments in MOA, but a Mil Dot Reticle. At this point, you may or may not being – uh, the f***?


Some people find making their adjustments in MOA to be easier than making it in Mil. Typically, those who learned on MOA like to stick with MOA because, frankly, mental math is difficult and if you already have most of the math worked out in your head, why would you switch?

That being said, measuring distance to target in Mil is easier because 1 Mil is exactly 1/1000th of any distance.


But adjustments in MOA can be preferable because it almost breaks down to 1.047 inches per 100 yards. So you can use the scope to measure distance to target, then make that adjustment in MOA.


I personally don’t like this approach, as inconsistency opens up room for errors. That being said, those who use this type of approach are pretty good at what they do so, well, if the shoe fits, wear it I suppose.


Complex Reticle Types

Needless to say, this innovation in scope reticles didn’t just stop at the dot. Manufacturers and the military started seeing how they could make the reticle even more useful to the shooter.


That’s where the more complicated mil dot reticles come into play.


Now, these might be a little intimidating at first just because they are, well, complex. That being said, learning on a complex reticle can make things a lot easier for you down the road.


Let’s take a look at a couple of scopes with complicated mil dot reticle types.

Leupold Mark 5HD TMR

I started off this this scope because it isn’t as complicated as the other two, but it builds off the Mil Dot.


Now the mil distances are measured by the has marks, instead of a dot. Notice how this makes for a much easier time using the scope and finer calculations?


It also makes for an easier time of using holdovers, as you’re not estimating where you are supposed to be on the dot. The hash mark makes it pretty easy.

This reticle in particular is 0.5 Mils between hash marks. You’ll start to see that reticles vary by how many mils they give between their hash marks, which can be very useful.

Athlon Midas TAC APRS3 FFP Mil Reticle

Now we get to a more complicated reticle – the APRS3 by Athlon, which in this case is used on the Midas TAC.


First off, the Midas TAC is a hell of a scope. Priced just under $700, this scope tracks perfectly, has very high quality glass, and has this very helpful and easy to use reticle.


It builds off of the TMR that the Leupold has, but notice how it has numbers next to the hash marks? This makes it a lot easier to note “oh hey, my shot was 2 Mil off left, I’ll adjust for that now…”

But that’s not it, notice how the lines below the crosshairs feature what almost looks like a Christmas Tree? Well that’s where the term “Christmas Tree Reticle” comes from.


These lines under the crosshairs make holdovers even easier to do. You really don’t even need to adjust your turrets when making a distance or windage adjustment, just move your gun so the adjustment lines up with the hash mark on the subtension.


Complex reticles make it almost too easy, don’t they? (Kidding).


Wrap up

Mil dot reticles are extremely useful because they let you use a scope to measure distances and make rifle adjustments. The even more complex Mil Reticles (and MOA for that matter) can make your shooting so that you don’t even have to adjust your turrets.


How complicated of a reticle should you get? Well that just depends on you and what you’re using the gun for.


Are you hunting? Maybe the complicated reticle isn’t necessary. Are you competition shooting and need to make distance adjustments quickly? Those Christmas Tree holdovers could come in handy.


It all boils down to the shooter, because it’s really not the scope but how you use it.


Which one do you like, the regular Mil Dot or the more complicated reticles? Drop your comments about it below, and if you’re looking to get a Mil Dot Reticle head over to the store and take 12% off your entire first order.



The Mil Dot Reticle
Article Name
The Mil Dot Reticle
The Mil Dot Reticle helped evolve reticle technology from the simple crosshair to the compelx reticles we see today.
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Blue Line Optics
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