Mil or MOA?
Choosing between Mil and MOA can be confusing and many folks have an opinion. This is just an attempt to break things down and dispel some of the bad information that is so often shared about this topic.
The real important choice between the two is simply picking what fits your use the best, learning it well, and ensuring you buy a scope that has ‘clicks’ and a reticle that match. There are a few people I’ve met over the years that don’t want them to match and they have a different system that I don’t see many folks use, so I’m not saying you are wrong if you follow a different system as long as you get your hits on target as fast and often as you could using a more common method. There are different types even within MOA and Mil, but I don’t find that important in most cases as long as you understand the system of your choosing. I will say that I think a person should ensure that everything they want to do will be available across the board for their choice, so consider apps, Kestrel, math, and actual field use (for example) to ensure your choice will be well supported.
I’ll start by saying that both work just fine and that I don’t think one is any faster than the other overall. If one part is faster with one of the systems and that’s the part that matters the most to you then go with that system. Keep in mind that someone else may have a different priority set, for good reason. Just be well studied using your gear. There are a lot of misunderstandings about the choice between these two. I’ve used MOA the longest, but prefer Mil now. Either is good so don’t feel like I am trying to convert you or say you chose wrong. I think a lot of these discussions go wrong when a person is not as interested in the facts as they are about defending their position, their gear choice, or even their hypothetical gear choice.
My main reasons for choosing Mil now are:
- More tree type reticle choices (My two main are the h59 and ebr-2c, but you can get an ebr-2c in MOA also) some folks don’t care for a tree at all and some of them are faster and better than me so either way is good
- Everyone I shoot with uses Mil so the communication is easy (although it’s not difficult to work around if you are in MOA, just talk in mph/values)
- The numbers are smaller. This won’t matter to everyone, but when I have 3 targets to engage quickly (sometimes as many as 5) the smaller numbers are easier to remember.
So, those are my reasons for going to Mil. Again, MOA is just fine if you prefer it.
Some of the issues that are incorrect that I see people use as reasons are simply due to a misunderstanding of how all of this works. So often we see a person make a decent argument for one and not the other and most of the time it’s just because the person is better trained on the one they are familiar with. Both are equally ‘easy’ if you learn.
Some of the things people misunderstand:
- Yards – Meters – Inches – Centimeters (metric vs imperial)… It really doesn’t matter what you want to use or what measurement is perceived by you to be easier, because you can use yards and inches with Mil just like you do with MOA. (I’ll explain)
- I haven’t found simpler math for either system once you interchange data types (and math isn't needed a lot anyway).
- Some folks say that you can get a closer zero with MOA than Mil and on certain scopes that may be true. I’ve never seen this as an issue because I’ve always had a good zero that I’m happy with and it isn’t true across the board as far as scope mechanics either. One example would be my Vortex Razor HD GII knob system. The way their knobs work, you aren’t limited on your zero by ‘clicks’. There are others as well and one of my other heavily use scopes (USO ER-25) works this same way, so my zero is in no way limited by ‘clicks’.
Onto the details I am trying to break down.
Why doesn’t it matter what system you think in as far as metric vs imperial?
To put it simply, you can interchange the systems just fine where math is concerned. Meaning I use yards, inches, and Mil and it’s in no way more difficult than when I used MOA. Some folks think you are using inches to determine drop or wind drift (for example) and you aren’t. So, if you are thinking in inches when you are thinking about drop or drift, you are adding unnecessary steps and you won’t be as fast as a person that isn’t. This is a big topic, but I’ll just say that many folks don’t understand how the environmentals affect data from day to day or even hour to hour. After a certain distance, your data will change to a point that will take you off target if you aren’t properly accounting for environmentals. So, if you think you can always remember your drop for 1000 yards, in inches or feet and you then convert that to MOA you are going to miss a lot and be slower than other folks that skip the inches part.
Some of this also gets into first focal plane vs second focal plane, but I don’t want to go there, this is a long read already and I'll make another blog about SFP and FFP. Just understand that if you want to measure with your reticle properly you have to know how to use it properly. If you are using SFP you have to know what magnification to be on for straight conversion and/or if you want a lower magnification, how to convert that.
Simply don’t think in inches for elevation or wind and if you are thinking in inches, you are wasting valuable time.
Think in Mil or MOA. The reason is because this is how we build our data cards, use our phone app, use our Kestrel, or some other method like the Whiz Wheel. When I have a target, I need to know my environmentals, my distance to the target, and my ‘clicks’ for my choice of wind and elevation (or reticle hold if you don’t ‘click’). So this is one point where some folks seem to think you are using inches or the metric system and you aren’t. It doesn’t matter if you are using yards, meters, inches, etc. You just figure your solution in MOA or Mil. To make a different example if you were shooting at a target and you missed it to the left or just want to see how far off center you are, you simply measure with your reticle for the correction. If you use Mil and you are .4 mil left, then you move your reticle over by .4 mil to make your correction (or dial the knob if you dial elevation and we are talking up or down, for example). It’s no different with MOA, if you missed by 2 MOA to the left, then you simply correct by the 2 MOA. You never look out at the target and try to figure out inches, centimeters, etc. There is no reason to and that just wastes time. You have a good measuring stick right in the reticle at your eye. This is why we choose a reticle that allows us to measure. If you don’t like a tree then just have a reticle like the SCR or MOAR that allows you to measure (for example).
Another example: I'm shooting targets at 500 yards and 1000 yards. I never think in my mind about how many inches of drop I have at 500 yards or 1000 yards, I just think of the correct Mil or MOA. Even if you are memorizing your dope, Mil and MOA are easier than inches that you have to convert back to Mil or MOA. Imagine for a moment, that your drop at seal level for 500 yards is 73.4 inches and your drop at 1000 yards is 351.9 inches. This data is a real example from one of my loads. If you are trying to remember inches, you have to remember 73.4" and 351.9" and then you have to be able to convert that to Mil or MOA quickly. If we skip the inches part, things get tremendously easier. In this exercise, remember that your data can and will change at some distance due to current environmentals so we can only memorize drop to certain distances anyway if we want to be precise. So, the same data for 500 yards and 1000 yards is simply 2.8 Mil and 8.5 Mil, or in MOA 9.65 MOA and 29.24 MOA, respectively. Examples like these are where it really begins to show up how much smaller the numbers are in MOA as compared to inches and then again when we compare Mil to MOA.
Since many of us can't remember all of that data, we make good data cards or use other methods like electronics or a Whiz Wheel. And, like everything else, we have a backup plan (or two, or three, or four). For distance, you can use meters or yards. Every match I go to is in yards so I stick with that, but you choose what works for you and the things you will be doing. When ranging with a reticle for distance, you can use meters, yards, inches, centimeters, etc. You have to have all of that worked out ahead of time anyway for data cards or simply click a different choice in your app, Kestrel, or Range Finder if you want to swap from yards to meters, for example. I don’t ever switch because I have no reason to, but you may.
When it comes to ranging with the reticle it still doesn’t matter if you choose Mil or MOA as long as you understand how to get the solution you need. You just have to find your method. My first choice is my rangefinder when possible. Then, I go to my reticle. When I use my reticle, most often I’ll use a phone app that does the math for me, but I always have secondary (and third, fourth, etc) plans such as the actual math or a Mildot Master (for example).
Keep a Rite in the Rain, or a notebook, or a grease pen and plastic, etc or good solar/battery powered calculator if you want to, but just do what works for you and have good back up plans. This is just what I have as a backup or for when I get to a stage where we have to do the math. This is another area where folks will say that one is easier than the other. For me, it is very similar.
Keep in mind that for me the math in long form is my last and slowest option. My first options for a solution when ranging with my reticle are very fast in comparison (phone app, Kestrel, Mildot Master). Try to not get too locked up on the math. Just find the right mathematical solution for you and use faster systems like the Mildot Master, phone app, Kestrel, or build your own data cards ahead of time. Keep the math handy if needed and know how to use it. Really dig into the math to figure out the ‘why’ if you want to. I like that, but a lot of folks don’t. If you do enjoy it, just do some research of your own and really dig in. MOA and Mil are just ways to measure and we can learn a lot by studying and understanding how those measurements work.
Two solutions for ranging:
Distance to target in yards = (height of target in inches/Image size in Mils) * 27.77
Distance to target in Yards = (height of target in inches/Image size in MOA) * 95.5
There are many ways to get to the answer and this is just what I picked. There are other mathematical solutions if you use meters or IPHY (inch per hundred yards) for example.
Some folks choose MOA over Mil for the precision of 1 click.
This is valid to a point. Keep in mind the actual difference and just how small that difference is. Most MOA shooters use and prefer quarter MOA clicks on their scopes. If the difference mattered that much, those same shooters would choose eighth MOA clicks as opposed to quarter MOA clicks. Look at 1000 yards as an example. At 1000 yards a quarter MOA is 2.6” and a tenth Mil is 3.6” for a difference of an inch. Generally, if I see eighth MOA clicks on a scope the person using the scope uses it for bench-rest type shooting. The reason most shooters choose quarter MOA over eighth MOA is because eighth is simply too many clicks for what many of us do with our scopes and the quarter MOA clicks make more sense. For many people the very same thing is true between Mil and quarter MOA. In the real world of practical precision and hunting, the faster smaller numbers are picked by many folks for the ease of remembering them for multiple targets. So, MOA does get a very slight edge for the precision of 1 click - if this part is more important to you than the upsides of Mil then this would be one reason to choose MOA. Just remember the differences are very slight.
The last thing I'll say is that I often hear people say that they stick MOA (or Mil) because it's what they know so it's easier. That really is a fine answer. Sometimes though, digging in a little deeper into both systems would allow a person to see the differences and make a good choice. So often, the reason a person sticks with one system is related to one of the misunderstood topics covered here.
These photos are some of the various ways I get my data in the field and I also added different mathematical methods for ranging. I hope some of this helps someone. These are just my methods and I’m not in any way saying my methods are better than what works for you. None of what I've shared is new information. It's just intended to help a person choose and to remove some of the misinformation that is so often shared about this topic.
AUTHOR: Joshua Bullard from Team Krupto and Bullworx LLC.