Choosing A Reticle

hunter looking down rifle scope while leaning against a tree

"High,” called out my coyote-calling compadre. A little shaken, as the song dog was only 156 yards away, I settled in and sent another round. This time, the shot was wide left. I winced as the fleeing coyote topped the hill and ran out of sight. It had been a while since I’d missed one, and I was disappointed I’d put a curse on my new predator rifle and scope.

Later that evening, after missing a pair of other coyotes, I plopped down on the sofa to evaluate what went wrong. Then, my cell phone buzzed. It was my buddy, the same who had watched me miss three coyotes inside of 200 yards. He pointed out that he remembered me having trouble sighting in the rifle and complaining about the reticle. I hadn't thought about it, but he was right.

The next day, I stashed the setup that had caused me problems and opted for my trusty rifle whose scope was fitted with a fine MOA reticle sporting holdover dashes and marks for crosswind compensation. I promptly smoked two coyotes.

What was the difference? My reticle. Looking back, I fought my heavy line duplex-style reticle from day one. I went it because I figured the heavy lines and single crosshair aiming point would help with target acquisition. I was right, but I didn't shoot the reticle well, so it didn't matter how quickly I could identify the target. If you can't hit what you're aiming at, something needs to change.

Find Your Option

Scope manufacturers offer throngs of reticle options for a reason. Yes, specific reticles are tailored more to certain shooting situations, but mostly, it's all about personal preference. When selecting a scope, don't overlook the reticle. Most scope buyers tend to strongly emphasize the scope's build in terms of durability and functionality, but skimp on putting thought into their choice of the reticle. You can have a scope that gathers light like none other, is water- and fogproof and holds a perfect zero, but if you can't consistently put lead where it needs to go, none of that matters.

Rifle scope lines

Once you find the scope you like, do your research. Look at all the possible reticle options the scope offers, and if possible, visit a quality dealer and look through each of the reticles. In addition to doing your research, have an idea of the types of reticles you've had success with. Don't go with a target dot style reticle if you know that reticle creates issues for you in the field. The same goes for a reticle with multiple holdover points like a BDC (ballistic drop compensating) or MOA (minute of angle) reticle. Sure, both are great for helping with elevation drop, which of course depends on the ballistics, caliber and bullet, but if the added dashes or circles create shooting anxiety, then they are worthless for you.

I also want to note the importance of not choosing a reticle because of its popularity or because your favorite outdoor celebrity shoots it. Shooting is too personal for that. You must be selfish when picking a reticle. The process is all about what works for you. If you take the time to find a great scope and then ensure that scope is offered in the reticle style you're looking for, your shooting confidence will grow, and so will the number of tags you punch each fall.


Make your lever gun run like never before with the industry's only ammunition truly designed for optimal cycling and overall performance from the time-tested rifle platform.

Buy Now

HammerDown box and cartridges