Does your riflescope reticle have small hash marks running through the sightlines? Those are Mil-dots, do you know what they’re for and how to use them?
If you bought your riflescope without knowing what a Mil-dot reticle is or just need a refresher. I have everything you need to know and will give a quick lesson on how to use a Mil-dot reticle.
Too Long, Didn’t Read
When using a Mil-dot reticle align the bottom of the target with the hash marks in the center of your crosshair. Then use the formula (target size inches x 27.77) / Mil size = Distance to target in YARDS. Then slightly offset scope based on distance to make up for bullet drop and wind.
What’s a Mil-dot Reticle?
Every shooter will sooner or later be faced with a target that is outside of their weapons normal accurate range. We know that there are scopes powerful enough to see that target, but wind and bullet drop is where the things get messy. How do we get to see the target and get the bullet to go where we need it to?
During World War I French artillery experts began experimenting with a new unit of measure for the artillery sights. This unit was called a “millimes” and later it would be used in small arm optics under the name “milliradian”.
Put simply, a Mil-dot reticle has hash marks running horizontally and vertically through the center. The hash marks are spaced 1 milliradian apart from each other and are used to give the approximate height and distance of a target down range. They are also used in conjunction with a spotter to put “Mil holds” on targets to achieve the furthest possible shot.
How’s it Work?
Radians are the unit used to measure the distance around a circle. A milliradian is 1/1000th of a radian. There are 6.28 radians on a circle equating to 6280 milliradians. You can read more about them on the wiki here.
It’s an angular measurement that relates the angular measurement of milliradians to the linear measurement of distance. A very small amount that equates to 3.6 inches at 100 yards.
When to Use it
The Mil-dot reticle is a tool for ranging. Which relies on the user researching some of the specifics about their target. It can also be used to achieve a better zero when sighting in at far distances. Provided you have access to the rounds ballistic information for the desired shooting range.
Size of Target in Inches
Imagine you are going to be hunting rabbits. You see something moving in the distance and look through your riflescope to see a rabbit that looks pretty far away and wonder, is it worth trying? The only way to find out is to have a laser range finder, and if you’re just out hunting rabbits I doubt you have it on you.
Well, if you have the approximate height of the rabbit and a Mil-dot reticle you could find out. Our rabbit in this example stands about 2 ft tall or 24 inches.
Finding the Distance in Yards
Using your scope align the bottom of the rabbit with the intersecting lines in the middle of your reticle. Next, count the number of mils the target takes up. Each dot is not a Mil, the mil is at the center point in the space between any 2 dots. As you can see our friend here takes up 3 Mils.
Perform the following calculation of (target size inches/mil size) x 27.77 = distance yards. This gives us the equation of (24 / 3) x 27.77 = distance. Which works out to be ~220 yards away. Only for example purposes will it actually look like that through your scope.
This video does a great job of explaining the calculations if you would like to know more.
Could You Hit it?
It all comes down to marksmanship at the end of the day. Proper technique and practice are the only real way you will be able to hit anything. However, if your rifle was sighted in at 200 yards your chances would increase significantly, and a Mil-dot reticle would allow you to do that.
Sighting in With a Mil-dot Reticle
I wouldn’t advise sighting in at 200 yards for a couple of reasons. The most basic of them is the space it requires. Most ranges don’t go out to 200 yards, but if you found yourself one and wanted to give it a try then I’ll let you know how.
Most Mil-dot riflescopes come with adjustment turrets on the scope. Using the same general idea of sighting in you will also need to be aware of the ammunitions bullet drop at the desired range. So, if you’re shooting a round with 36″ of bullet drop at a target 200 yards away you will need to use this equation.
(Bullet drop YARDS x 1000) / distance yards = Mils. For our example we would have (1 x 1000) / 200 = Mils. Which then solves out to be 5 Mils, and depending on how many Mils per click you scope is determines the number of clicks to adjust it. If it was 1/10th Mil clicks then it would take 50 clicks.
This will set you up to hit a target accurately at that range, but it relies on having the information available to you. Also some math, so bring a calculator if you plan using this method.
That’s All Folks
Mil-dot reticles are especially useful for Military snipers to gather information on targets such as size and distance. However, they can have a few good uses for the everyday hunter as well. If all you needed to learn was how to use a Mil-dot reticle correctly, then I am confident you will now have the information you need to.
Thank you for reading and I hope you learned something new.