Mar 192018

General disclaimer: I am more of a shooter than a hunter,  As I get older, hunting appeals to me ever more and I do hunt, just not as much as I would like.  Perhaps, my reticle ideas on the subect will morph as they go along, but I do spend a lot of time peering through optics in varying lighting conditions.  I have been fairly consistent with what I like with reticles.

The key is to figure out what reticle features you need and what reticle features you don’t. Of the ones you do not need, you have to figure out which ones are unobtrusive and which ones get in the way.

For example, I once complained to Vortex that I was not happy with the state of basic hunting reticles out there and drew on a back of a napkin, what I would like. They surprised me by taking my basic sketch and making a reticle out of it, albeit with some modifications (they made it MOA based and changed a couple of dimensions; I am a mrad guy).

The reticle in question is G4-BDC that they use in the Razor HD LH scopes. Here is a snapshot through the 2-10×40 scope at about 5x:

I’ll walk you through my thought process to explain why I like this design.

First of all, when it comes to shooting at game, I am unlikely to take a long shot any time soon.  I practice shooting from field positions a fair bit, but even with a good shooting platform, I am not sure I have the guts to take a 400 yard shot, but 300 is reasonable when conditions are decent.  From less steady positions, this distance is lower, but I do a lot of offhand practice at 100 yards, so a 75 yard shot off hand unsupported is something I am adequately confident in even accounting for adrenaline and fatigue.

That having been said, I like to practice with my hunting rifle(s) and I think it is a good idea to practice at considerably longer distances than you are willing to tackle in the field.  With that in mind, whatever addition features the reticle has to range use, must be something that does not interfere with field use.

There are many traditional hunting reticle designs out there with two most common ones being duplex and German #4 reticles.  Here is a collage of reticle sketches I shamelessly pirated from Meopta website, hoping that they do not mind:

Middle is German #4.  On the right is a duplex and on the left is their BDC reticle.  You can clearly see how this BDC reticle started out as a wide duplex reticle that they added some additional features to.  These are very stylized sketches.  Even with simple duplex and G#4 designs there is a lot of variation in terms of line thicknesses and the length of the thin stadia in the center.

Now that most makers have been transitioning to glass etched reticle designs, there are comparatively few limitations in terms of feature sizes and spacings.

Between the two classic designs, personally, I prefer the #4 since I like that largely unobstructed half of the image on the top and I am not seeing any difference in terms of visibility or speed between #4 and duplex given same line thicknesses and spacings.

In general, the current trend on the market is for people to use reticles that are more complicated than they should and thinner than they should because so many only shoot in broad daylight at the range.  In good light, when you are trying to shoot tiny groups off the bench, it all works great.  Once the light changes and your shooting position gets a little wobbly that ultra thin reticle may not be optimal.

With all of that in mind, when I started thinking about a hunting reticle, I started out with the #4.  Since I do spend a lot of time on the range, I wanted some means to shoot out to 600 yards or so without messing with the turrets and I wanted the aiming point to be reasonably fine.  However, overall, the reticle had to be easily visible in any lighting conditions.

I shoot a lot of different calibers, but my primary hunting rifle is a Tikka M695 chambered for 280Rem.  For when I do not anticipate longish shots, I also have an AR chambered for 458 SOCOM (the AR happens to have a Vortex Razor HD LH 1.5-8×32 on it with the G4 BDC reticle).

I also have a hunting weight rifles chambered for 308Win, 7.62x54R and 6.5Grendel which are all similar in terms of external ballistics.  280Rem is the flattest shooting of this bunch until I get a 300WSM barrel for my Fix rifle.

My go to bullet for the 280Rem is a 145 gr Bulldozer design by Badlands Precision which gives me a maximum 5 inch MPBR of a bit over 350 yards.  Since I usually sight in my hunting rifles right around 200 yards, my practical MPBR is right around 300 yards which works just fine for me.

To reach to 600 yards, I need almost exactly 3 mrad with 200 yard zero, so my original vision for this reticle was to simply have two hash marks 1 mrad and 2 mrad below the primary aiming point and have the thick bar terminate 3 mrad below the primary aiming point.  The thin bar would terminate half mrad below the primary aiming point, but I did not want a horizontal hashmark there to keep the eye naturally drawn to the aiming dot.  That would give me some rudimentary range estimation at top magnification and simple to remember holdovers that can accomodate multiple calibers adequately well.  Since most scopes of this type are FFP, my basic assumption is that all the shooting beyond MPBR is done at top magnification.

Now within 300 yards, I like to be able to hold for wind or for a slowly moving target, for which useful holds are 0.5 mrad, 1 mrad and 2 mrad.

Vortex has its own BDC reticle, so the G4 BDC design they came up with used the MOA-based dimensions that kept it roughly in line with BDC values they have been using on other designs:

I understand why they did it in MOA and the dimensions are consistent and make sense.  I think using varying line thicknesses on the horizontal axis is a very nice touch and it naturally draw the eye to the primary aiming dot.  I wish that dot was a touch bigger or illuminated, but as is, the reticle works quite well and I have used it in all sorts of lighting conditions.

Now, when drawing up a reticle, it is very hard to resist the temptation to start adding features: extra wind holds, ever more granular hashmarks, etc.  For some shooting disciplines those are important, but for typical hunting applications, I think they an unnecessary distraction.

With this design, all I wanted to do was to add a couple of basic hold points to compensate for wind and drop.  However, for hunting applications, I have very limited interest in compensating for wind or lead at distances beyond MPBR and the primary aiming point must be the one your eye is drawn to when you have to shoot fast.  I am not a long range hunter (yet).

In the interest of full disclosure, I have talked to a bunch of people over the years about what I want out of a reticle of this type and I do not know if some other similar designs out there were influenced by that.  A few similar designs came out in the years since I started getting vocal about that.  However, the guys at Vortex were honest enough to admit that they were, so I can openly talk about that.

In all fairness, all of this is rather evolutionary in nature and I am sure other people have been thinking through similar things at the same time.

 Posted by at 2:05 pm

  9 Responses to “Reticles For Hunting Scopes”

  1. Sir
    I made the big leap. After a couple years of wrings my hands on spending over 3 k on a 3 x 15 I finally pulled the trigger. TTm is everything I had hoped for. Question for you on another note, what caliber is your DT Rifle and is it a factory barrel or custom?
    Thank you
    CBDR on the SH

  2. The Fix, THE FIX… I guess it just goes to show I don’t know Jack. I first read an article about the anticipated release of this product maybe a year ago and I dismissed it as just another company claiming they had cracked the code on a new vision of a lite bolt action. If you have any time behind this product I would be interested to here about it, or point me in the direction of any accurate reviews.

    My primary application is hunting from an elevated box stand in the Okefenokee Swamp in GA at night.

    The Orkin has planted the seed on how nice the TT 5 x 25 P is. Good god thats a lot of coin for an optic.

    • On The Fix: there is a long thread on the Hide talking about it, but if you wait for a bit, I will post my review in a couple of weeks. I have one in 308Win and I am exceedingly happy with it. I tested it with a 16″ barrel and have converted it to a 24″ Proof barrel now. With that 24″ barrel, Atlas bipod and TT315M, the rifle weighs 10 pounds exactly, folding stock and all. Since I shoot a fair bit from weird shooting positions and offhand, I much prefer a 10lb rifle to a 16lb one.

      On TT525P: as much as I like that scope (and I think it is the best precision scope on the market now) and as tempting as it would be to convince you to buy it using one of the links on my website (it costs the same everywhere more or less and if you go through my website, I get a referral fee), I struggle to figure out why you are looking at the TT for hunting at night. I am not sure what the distances involved are, but unless you are dealing with some sort of a long range situation, TT525P is not necessarily your best option. Now, there is nothing wrong with it. It will work as well or better than any 56mm scope out there. However, there are other 56mm scopes out there that are excellent optically, but cost less than $4.5k. I really like like Magnus and Swaro Z8 as dedicated hunting scopes. However, if you want the ultimate low light performance, Hensoldt 6-24×72 is still king and you saved two grand:×72-mildot-riflescope.aspx

      It is not the newest design out there and it does not have all the sexy features, like zero stop and super complicated reticle, but aside from thermal and image intensifier sights, there is nothing better than the 72mm Hensoldt in low light. If I were setting up a dedicated low light hunting gun, I would go with the Hensoldt. It has tremendous low light performance. Illumination control is well suited for low light. It stay zeroed, and it tracks true when needed. Turret feel is not like TT, and there isn’t as much micro-contrast, but that 72mm objective is still unique and still unmatched.

  3. Thank you, I value your input. Two of my hunting platforms are 6.5 cm bolt guns built by Accurate Ordnance. Rifle A is a CTX with a S&B US 5X20. Great at the range and heavy as hell in the field with the PVS-30. That’s why I hunt from a elevated box stand shooting prone or off my tripod, 20+ lbs.
    Rifle B is also from Accurate Ordnance. Custom build short 20” Brux, Manners carbon fiber, Stiller Tac with TT 3x15m, 8 pounds and no intention of adding anything to her. Perfect daytime rifle. As far as what kind of distance will I be shooting from is where Rifle C comes into play. It also will be dual hatted. The range and hunting, this is where the next optic comes in… Rifle C is a GAP built 6.5cm Surgeon action 24”Bartlain # 6 contour, Manners MCS-T7 stock. Current optic is a 624i. Love everything about this rifle except it has no rail to mount the PVS. I asked Badger and they said that they could mount a night vision rail forward and the stock was beefy enough to support it. Something tells me I should not tamper with something that is working just fine. Separating my wants from my needs.

  4. Objective is to shoot precision (realistically) out to 500 m in total darkness. Why do I say precision, because the size of some of these hogs exceeds 300 lbs. Shot placement is critical And I want to do it with a 6.5 cm bolt gun.
    Consistency and training!

    • You have some nice rifles, Sir! I think my original recommendation of the 6-24×72 Hensoldt stands (see link in previous post). That 72mm objective is as close as you are going to get to night vision with a conventional optic. For what you want to do, there is really no substitute for cubic inches, which is exit pupil in this case. Hensoldt does not have the nicest feeling turrets, but they track and with 500 yard maximum shot, you do not have to mess with it too much. To get a 4mm exit pupil, you run a 56mm scope ad 14x, while a 72mm scope can sit at 18x. If you want to place an accurate shot on a pig, that makes a difference. Or, if you want to think about it in terms of amount of light, at 14x the Hensoldt gives you a 5.1mm exit pupil. While it does not sounds like it is a lot larger, it will be delivering 65% more light to your eye. That’s a lot. Basically, you can either run the scope at 30% higher magnification or get 65% more light at the same magnification. Now, Hensoldt is a SFP scope, so you need to be careful if you plan to range with the reticle. The choke style rangefinder is pretty decent, but you need to be aware of what magnification you are at. If memory serves me right, it is mrad-accurate at 12x, which is pretty comfortable setting for general observation in low light with this scope, since you have a 6mm exit pupil to work with.

      I think this is the first time in my life when I am trying to talk someone out of a Tangent Theta… What’s wrong with me?

  5. I have a custom switch barrel takedown rifle 24″ stainless shilen barrels in 25-06AI, 30-06AI, 338-06AI, I would welcome your suggestions for glass. I am leaning toward SWFA SS 6X42, and 10X42 with a holographic over ( I really liked the idea after seeing yours. In winter hunting above the Arctic Circle is done in darkness the sun sets in November and doesn’t rise again until March, cold is Hell on batteries (-30 to -70) I plan to use the 25 out to 6-800yds, wolves, fox, varmints; 338, 30-06 from 200-600yds moose, deer, muskox, bison, etc.

    • If you like SWFA scopes, I would probably lean toward their 3-9×42 for this application. Combined with a small red dot at a 45deg offset, you will have just about all scenarios covered.


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