The Four Different Types of Riflescope Reticles

scope reticles

The reticle on a riflescope consists of markings that allow shooters to focus on a target. It’s also known as the crosshair, which shows the point of shot placement on a target. Reticles are usually made of fine crosshair wires or can be etched onto a glass plate. They’re then set up in the second focal plane of a riflescope, allowing their sizes to remain unchanged as a shooter zooms in and out to align sights to a target.

scope reticles

Since there are many reticle designs out on the market these days, it can be quite challenging to choose a suitable riflescope to buy. With that in mind, we’ll attempt to shed some light on this topic by discussing the four different types of riflescope reticles you should take note of.

Riflescope Reticle Types

For many years, the plain crosshair was the best and only reticle choice for riflescopes. As the name implies, this reticle depicts the shape of two thin lines, one vertical and the other horizontal, that cross each other or intersect at the center of ocular view. Therefore, what you would see when looking through a scope with this type of reticle is a “+” sign.

However, modern riflescopes have reticles that are now much more complex and designed to perform better than the original plain crosshair. For instance, some newer designs have thicker lines in order to increase visibility during varmint hunting or aiming at targets amidst bushy backgrounds with lots of foliage.

Other reticle variants feature range-finding abilities while some are designed to improve visibility in low light conditions. Generally, most reticles are a variation of one or more of the following designs:

1. Duplex

The duplex reticle was originally invented by Leupold more than 30 years ago. Other manufacturers copied this style and it has now become the standard for most hunting scopes. Depending on the brand manufacturer, the duplex reticle can go by many different. A few common names for this reticle include Nikoplex, heavy duplex, and 30-30.

Duplex is much like the simple and plain crosshair reticle but with a little twist. This reticle features thicker lines that stand out and catch the eye’s attention. However, the lines become thinner toward the intersection point. The finer lines that converge at the center do not obscure a significant portion of the image or target and hence they provide a more precise aiming point.

In some designs, a dot may be added to the center of a medium size duplex in order to increase visibility in low light. Because of the heavy lines that a duplex reticle has, this feature makes it easier to focus on moving targets when hunting.

2. Mil Dot

The mil dot reticle is a must-have for long-range target shooters or snipers. It typically looks like a simple crosshair but with dots instead of lines. The dots are spaced in 1-Mil increments to enable calculation of distance. The term mil simple means Mil-radian, which is equivalent to 1/1000 of a radian. By counting mil dots, you can calculate the range to a target in yards and this in turn makes it easy to compensate for wind drift and bullet drop.

Mil dot makes a fine reticle for very accurate shooting, but it’s not for everyone. Using scopes with this type of reticle can be complex, as it requires good knowledge of range calculation (although you can always get better at using these types of reticles with a bit of study and practice).

3. BDC Reticle

Usually, bullets follow a curved ballistic trajectory. In other words, when you fire a shot, the bullet will fly in an arc and eventually fall to the ground. Since the bullet begins its flight below the line of aim due to gravity and the raised distance between a rifle barrel and scope, to hit your target from a long distance, you should actually aim higher. A BDC reticle provides the measurements you need to compensate for bullet drop.

BDC is an acronym for bullet drop compensation. Scopes with this type of reticle are usually designed for long range shooting from over 600 yards away.

4. Illuminated Reticle

If you’re planning to go hunting at dusk or dawn, illuminated reticles are your best bet for improved visibility. These reticles are designed for use in low light conditions. Depending on the design, they can illuminate the cross hair, the circle around ocular field or the dot in the center of aim point. Illuminated reticles also come in handy when targeting an object in a dark background that makes the crosshairs or mil dots invisible.


Riflescopes can have many other reticle designs other than those explained above. For instance, the three posts with crosshair (3PCH) reticle and converging post crosshair are variations of the duplex design. In addition, some scopes have a German post reticle, which is essentially a thick horizontal line that runs across the ocular field accompanied by a tapered post that stops at the center.

It’s important to point out that there’s no single reticle suited for all purposes. Sometimes the ideal reticle boils down to personal preferences. But mostly, it’s wiser to take into account your hunting conditions in order to select a riflescope with the right reticle to meet your specific needs.