A Note From the Leupold Engineers

Author: Administrator | 9 comment(s)
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What is a Mil (Mil Dot Reticle)

There seems to be quite an urban legend surrounding the "different mills". Here's a brief history on the military mil and its comparison to the milliradian. Sometime prior to WWI with the advent of precision artillery, the military decided to come up with a precision compass unit. The milliradian was in the ballpark of what they were looking for, but 6283.19 milliradians to 360 degrees would have made the math difficult. So the military shrank the milliradian by about 2%, and wound up with 6400 mills to 360 degrees. Why 6400 versus a simple rounding to 6300??? Well 6400 is easily divisible by 8, which corresponds to the primary cardinal directions (i.e. N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW) and their subdivisions. So (as far as I know), that is how the military "mil" was created. The mil dot reticles that we produce are based on the milliradian. The reason we do that, is that it fulfills the 1000 to 1 ranging ratio which the military wanted. What this means is that 1 milliradian will subtend a 1 meter target at 10 00 meters (or a 1 yard target at 1000 yards, a 1 foot target at 1000 feet.....you get the picture). The milliradian does this exactly, thus it was chosen. Now when we compare the military "compass mil" and the milliradian, they are rather close: 1.02 military mills (3.375 moa) = 1.00 milliradian (3.439 moa). As you can see the difference is miniscule.....it roughly corresponds to a 2 centimeter difference on a 1 meter target at 1000 meters, or a 2 millimeter difference on a 1 meter target at 100 meters. That's a 0.079"!!!! So even with a 1/4 moa barrel and 1/4 moa adjustments on the scope itself, it would make no difference to the shooter whether he calculates the distance using the milliradian or the mil. As far as ranging is concerned, the difference is similar: using the military mil, a 1 meter target at 1000 meters would be ranged at 980 meters. At 100 meters, the 1 meter target would be ranged at 98 meters. I seriously doubt whether anyone can actually use a mil dot reticle to that degree of accurac y anyway. In practicality, most modern military cartridges do not drop like a rock. If one is shooting out to 1000 meters, they are using a 300 WM or a 338 Lapua, which will not have a significant enough drop in the 1000 meter ballpark to reflect a 20 meter difference. So, as you can see the difference between the two is rather insignificant to all but a few world class bench rest shooters (if that).

Mildot Chart

Mil Dots as aiming points

Utilizing Mil Dots as aiming points, that is the "Dots" of the mil dot system, requires knowing which Dot to use for each 50/100 yd increment for the entire trajectory of your bullet. The Dots designated for long range will have to be the aiming point for a series of yardage increments. The amount of hold from target center will be different for each increment depending on the distance. You may have to hold the designated Dot low from target center for one 50 yd increment, then high for the next 50 yds. There is no consistent pattern to go by. Each high and low hold from target center will range anywhere from several inches to a few feet depending on the distance. For some long-range shots, you will have to place the appropriate Dot literally above or below your target for the proper bullet drop compensation. This provides no real aiming point to focus on which is a crucial factor for accurate long range shooting. The disadvantages of utilizing Mil Dots as aiming points for bullet drop compensation are a s follows: The limited number of Mil Dots having to be utilized as aiming points for so many yardage increments creates the problem of so many different holds on your target. Shooting at high altitudes or extreme temperatures requires different holds than that applied for the field conditions at your home range. The size of a Dot covers up too much of your target for a precise shot at long, as well as, medium ranges. The dot completely covers up small or partially concealed targets at medium to long-range engagement. You cannot be dialed in at an appropriate yardage setting with the Mil Dot system. The Mil Dot system should be used for what it was designed for which is range finding.

Why is Leupold Mil Dot reticle a round dot reticle?

Detailed investigation of the military and law enforcement market preferences indicated that the most widely used design is a round dot mil dot reticle. As neither design is superior to the other, the intent of Leupold's choice was to provide the style that was most familiar to our military and law enforcement customers, as indicated by their own previously expressed preferences.

Mil Dot Reticle

The Mil. Dot reticle is available for all tactical scopes. The Mil. Dot is also available for the LPS 3.5-14x50mm Side Focus, Vari-X III 2.5-8x36mm, Vari-X III 6.5-20x50mm Adj. Obj, Vari-X III 6.5-20x50mm Long Range Target, M8-6x42mm Adj. Obj. Target, and the Vari-X II 4-12x40mm Adj. Obj. An illuminated Mil. Dot reticle is available in the following illuminated reticle scopes: Vari-X III 3.5-10x50mm Illuminated Reticle Scope (matte), Vari-X III 4.5-14x50mm Adj. Obj. Illuminated Reticle Scope (matte), Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M1 Illuminated Reticle Scope (matte), and our Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm Long Range M3 Illuminated Reticle Scope (matte). The Mil. Dot reticle is a range finding reticle originally developed for military applications. The space between dot centers subtends one milliradian(mil). One mil. subtends 3.6 inches at 100 yards or 36 inches at 1,000 yards. To use this system effectively you must know the size of the target. Please note that your Mil. Dot reticle was calibrated to be used at one magnification. If your scope is a 3.5-10 the correct magnification is 10x. On the 4.5-14 use 14x. On the 6.5-20 use 10x, or double the distance determined on 20x. The use of any other magnification will yield inaccurate results. Height of target (yards) X 1,000/Height of target (mils) =Range (yards)

Range Estimating With The Mil. Dot Reticle

With practice, the Mil Dot system is simple to use. Dots are spaced in one mil (milliradian) increments on the crosshair. Using the mil formula, the shooter can create a table based on the known size of the object targeted. Just look through the scope, bracket the object between dots, and refer to the table for an estimated distance to the target. Leupold scopes fitted with the Mil Dot reticle include more specific instructions on its use.

timmy warman jr | April 24, 2011 at 10:31 | Reply

i just got a dpms sass lrt .308 and i wanted to now what would a good scope for it

Joshua McSpadden | May 20, 2011 at 18:34 | Reply

So I have the Leupold 8.5-25x50, at what magnification do you mil with?

Todd | June 6, 2011 at 12:33 | Reply

I am about to upgrade to a Mil-Dot Scope and was looking at the springfield M1A. However, I would like to get some information on the rifle you have on your webpage. it looks like an M1/M14 with the camo stock. Can you tell me who makes that rifle and who makes the scope?

Craig Melchiano | June 27, 2011 at 19:36 | Reply

i love leupold and i own a lot of your scopes. But here is a problem. You always picture this classic mil dot reticle. the dots are the same width as the space between them, but in all the scopes i have from you that are MIL dot reticles the dots are tiny and the spaces between them is large? they do not look the same? can you please explain why?

to reiterate; the MIL dot design you picture in the description does not look like the MIL dot design in the scope.

thank you

Hector Medina | August 17, 2011 at 09:53 | Reply

Pity that Leupold Engineers decide to spread their poor opinions around just because they have not had real field experience using a proper mil-dot reticule. I wonder if this is due, perhaps, to the fact that in their line, advanced reticules are not truly line items? Whatever the reason, it would behoove Leupold as a company to put forward facts and not opinions.

Modern advanced reticules have fractions of mils clearly marked. Horusvision, VortexOptics and others make perfectly good fractional mil-dots reticules mounted where they should be: on the first focal plane.

A good shooter will find out, first by ballistical calculation, and then test-firing, the DISTANCES at which the marks in his scope cross the trajectory. It is easy to interpolate from the KNOWN distances (either rangefinding with the mils or with a separate piece of equipment) to the KNOWN holdover points.

Accuracies of better than 1/4 MOA can be achieved this way. Finer than the usual scope's clicks that always have some backlash and are not absolutely repeatable.

Just as most technologies, the Mil has advanced and the dot is not the only, or the best, way to go.




Hector J Medina Gomez

slashsplat | January 17, 2012 at 18:03 | Reply

Disappointing article. There is enough room for a TOTAL explanation of AT LEAST their products. The statement that only one magnification is valid for mils is wrong when you buy the Leupold FIRST FOCAL PLANE scopes (FFP). How can they leave that out? Also, on a SFP scope, what ARE the actual magnifications to use the mils? So far as the inadequacy for holdover, what makes the dots any less usable than the static BDC lines that are NEVER accurate for the load you are shooting? SHEESH!

Ray | March 1, 2012 at 05:59 | Reply

Agree. Specially the statement about having only one magnification being valid for mils. Leupold engineers should update the article and be more specific and careful with their hastily written "notes". On a SFP scope, one must use the highest magnification on the scope. Unless the "engineers" of your specific scope made that proprietary on their product.

Don Dial | June 23, 2012 at 04:53 | Reply

I also have several Leupold Scopes and have over the yrs. and have installed quite a few on customers and friends weapons. I
have a TRG 308 w/a 8.5X25 w/a Range Finding recticle..and it appears to me that simply the only way to be satisfied w/the ranging portion of the product is to use it and become familiar
with it rather than try to read tech. jargon as to how to use it
correctly..I've only been shooting a little over 60yrs so have become somewhat dense in my youth..Don

edward zajicek | April 5, 2013 at 10:14 | Reply

how can i use the milo dot riffle metod for my v2 sniper
video game

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