Everything about long-range shooting requires a degree of specialized equipment. Different types of shooting have different expectations. A red dot reticle wouldn’t be used to reach out and touch a target at long distances, and a reticle made for long range isn’t going to be used for close-quarters combat.
When it comes to choosing a scope for long-range shooting, you need a long-range reticle. Long-range shooting has its own unique requirements, and the proper reticle goes a long way into making your shots count.
This applies to both a competition shooting as well as tactical scenarios. The right reticle will aid in your ability to hit the target with an extreme degree of precision. Before we jump into what makes a good reticle, we need to look at why you need a good long-range reticle.
Why You Need A Long Range Reticle?
Even the largest bullets are still very small in relation to the world. Even the mighty 50 cal round is only a half inch in diameter. Big for a bullet, small for the world. Because of this, rounds are easily affected by things like the wind.
The wind can push your round entirely off target. When you start talking about long range shooting, the breeze can push the bullet way off, so shooters need the means to compensate.
Additionally, gravity has an effect on bullets; like all things, they fall. Bullets fall as they fly down range, and the further you are shooting, the further they fall. Like the wind, you need a way to compensate for this effect, which is known as “bullet drop.”
This is why long-range reticles have to have a system built in to compensate for drop and windage. This is most often in the form of a system of stadia or hash marks that run left to right and up and down.
These are most commonly MOA or MIL measurements, and these allow the shooter to compensate for wind speed as well as bullet drop. Different guns and different calibers are affected differently by wind and have varying degrees of bullet drop.
Let’s say you aim dead center of your target and shoot. The bullet then strikes 10 inches below the bull’s eye. It will likely line up with one of the hash marks on your reticle, or close to it. You can make an on-the-fly adjustment and aim using that hash mark. The same goes for wind.
You take the shot and as the wind blows the round right or left, you can then use the wind compensation hash marks to adjust.
At the same time, you may have to use both and line them up like a graph. Some dedicated scopes even have a pyramid-style reticle that builds from the bottom of the sight picture and extends the middle of the reticle. This allows you to quickly compensate for both wind and bullet drop at the same time.
Additionally, the reticle and hash marks need to be thin enough to allow you to see your target at these ranges. Too thick of a reticle will create significant issues when it comes to seeing your target at different ranges.
You need a reticle thin enough to see the target, but at the same time, you need to be able to see your reticle with ease as well. It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s far from impossible.
Ballistic Drop Compensators
Another type of system that works to compensate for bullet drop is a bullet drop compensator. A BDC is a specialized reticle designed around one particular caliber. The bullet drop points are tied to different ranges and allow you to hit your target easily.
Not only are these reticles built for one specific caliber, but it’s made on a particular round’s weight and velocity. Rounds outside of this caliber, weight, and velocity will not be as accurate through this system.
If you fire the right round and load, the bullet should theoretically land precisely where the BDC aligns with the target. These reticles are great but very limited in versatility due to the ammo constrictions.
However, I will say a good BDC will make shooting with precision very simple and easy to do. It takes most of the challenge out of it and is great solution for new shooters.
Reticles to Aim For
There are a few companies out there that make some truly remarkable reticles for long-range shooting. These are purpose-built reticles designed to make hitting targets out to even a 1,000 yards easy—or at least easier.
The NightForce Velocity 1,000
The Velocity 1,000 is a scope designed for firing at 1,000 yards. Pretty self-explanatory. The reticle sports a pyramid design that allows for easy windage and bullet drop compensation out to a kilometer. This makes taking these shots fast and precise with a limited amount of guesswork involved.
While it does look complicated, it’s an excellent reticle for new shooters who are still learning the ins and outs of long-distance shooting. However, it does require you to use NightForce’s online ballistic calculator to match the ballistic profile of your rifle to the reticle.
Schmidt and Bender MSR Reticle
The MSR is an excellent tactical scope with a slightly complicated reticle system that is quite handy overall. The reticle itself sports plenty of hash marks that are separated by 10 MRADs each. This makes it quite precise and accurate for dropping rounds into your target.
The scope also comes with a ranging scale that is designed to be used on a person’s shoulder. If the line coordinates with the size of the shoulders on your average man, that is the rough range he is at. To the side of the reticle is 0.1 MRAD division laser back-up milling scale for accurate target size measurement.
It’s not made for beginners, but it’s an incredibly useful reticle.
The Vortex EBR-2C uses MRAD measurements to compensate for windage and bullet drop. This precise reticle can be used to size a target as well as bullet compensation.
The EBR-2C uses a pyramid-style reticle for easy and quick shot placement at long distances in both windy and still conditions. The reticle is insanely precise and perfect for reaching out and hitting targets at 1,000 yards.
Reticles and You
When picking a reticle for long-distance shooting, you’ll have to factor in your goal as a shooter. Tactical, competition, and plinking all have a variety of different needs and requirements.
However, picking a reticle is also a personal decision. What do you like, what features do you need? Combining purpose with your own needs will get you the right reticle.