Mils vs. MOA Riflescopes
Travis: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Sport Optic Northwest podcast. This is gonna be episode five. And this week, we're catching up with JD after a trip to Kansas where he was at the 10 Gauge Outfitters shoot.
So, JD, it's good to catch up with you, man. It's been a little while. When you first told me about this trip, before you left, the image that came into my mind was that you were going to shooting camp. And then some of the pictures that I saw while you were there kind of confirmed that. So did you have a good time?
JD: Yeah, it was a blast. The folks at 10 Gauge Outfitters were awesome. It's great accommodations, and great food, definitely.
Travis: Gained some weight [crosstalk 00:00:45]
JD: But it was a crash course in long-range shooting and got to spend a lot of time behind the gun, and in the some of the new scopes, so. And it was a little different, most of the time, these kinds of events, you know, the guns are dialed, everything's ready to go. And the guns and scopes were coming from another event, so we had to scramble when we got there to beat sundown.
We had to mount a bunch of scopes on guns, and go get them bore-sighted, and then get them sighted in before the sun went down. And it was pretty interesting watching a bunch of optics dealers, and custom gun makers, and guys that work at Swarovski all working together, and hustling to get it done so that we could, you know, be shooting the next day.
Travis: And everybody has the common goal of getting out and shooting.
JD: Yeah, exactly. And they have a really nice ... They got a 1000 yard range, so we were able to go, you know, dial the guns into 100 and then confirm distances out to 1000 before actually going and shooting the next day.
Travis: What all rifles are you guys shooting?
JD: There was Owens Armory, Nick Owens, he makes custom rifles out of Arizona. Fierce Firearms, Bergara, and one of the proof rifles didn't make it, but mainly Bergara as far as the stock guns, and then we spent a lot of time, Nick brought two of his own guns, and sounded like he shot the barrels out of those ones. So he's gonna have to put some new ones when he got back, but those were the main ones was Owens Armory and Bergara.
Travis: What calibers are you shooting?
JD: Mainly .22-250. There was a few .223, and then some .65 Creedmoor for some of the really long shots. But it was mainly .22-250.
Travis: Any special modifications on those or just stock?
JD: So some of them had suppressors or cans, and it's really nice. Even though we were all wearing ear protection, we were, you know, 90 plus degrees, and close to 100% humidity, and wearing-
Travis: Well, yeah, it's summer.
JD: Yeah. Wearing earmuffs, though, all day, it actually can get pretty brutal when it's that hot. So it was really nice to have some guns that even if you needed to step back and take a break, you could, with the suppressors on some of the guns, it didn't matter. You know, you can shoot, and it's not too loud to deal with, so.
And it also helps with the shooting, just the prairie dogs come back out when it's quieter, so.
Travis: Sure, that makes sense.
JD: You know, you're getting more shooting in when you're using the suppressors.
Travis: Yeah. So you said it was a crash course. What would you say was the main ... Was it one main topic, or were there multiple kinds of topics and highlights from that?
JD: No, and it was ... I mean, everybody there was an optical dealer, or that worked for Swarovski. So it's not ... There's no lack of knowledge. It's more familiarizing with the new products, and just getting to spend the time behind them. So many of us, you know we're at our stores, and don't get to get away and shoot that much.
So it's really nice to be able to get a bunch of time shooting, and playing with all the different features, and the new products, and some that haven't even come out yet. So that, you know, when those come in, we can speak to it.
Travis: Cool. What were some of the kind of finer points, or more technical elements that, you know, maybe were ... I don't know, [inaudible 00:04:24] it's a lot of learning, right? So kind of what was some of the kind of the nitty-gritty, I guess, if you will?
JD: So some of the things that I really don't get to do very often, being a spotter for shooting, and it's incredibly important for long-range shooting to have a good spotter. And I don't mean the spotting scope, I mean the person that's behind it.
So when you're shooting these distances, you know, 1000 yards, and you have someone that's looking through a BTX or an STR, the Swarovski STR, it's a spotting scope with a reticle in it. So you can see your distances. So when someone shoots, and they're two mills left of the target, your spotter can say, "You were two mills left," and you can make that correction really quickly. Because a lot of the time, even with .22-250s that have minimal recoil, sometimes it's tougher to see, you know, where your bullet hit.
So when you have someone that can call out that correction for you, just makes it a lot easier to get on target, and correct, and shoot again.
Travis: And what about the scopes at that distance? I know we were kind of talking a little bit like different planes and stuff, definitely, some technical stuff that's over my head. Can you kind of walk me and the rest of the listeners through, you know, first and second focal planes that you're mentioning?
JD: Yeah, so that was a big difference that we shot. So the Z8s from Swarovski that we shot are all second focal plane, which is what most people are used to in that the reticle stays the same size regardless of the magnification.
So if it's at 2, or if it's at 16, or 3, or 18, the entire range, the reticle stays the same size. With a first focal plane, the reticle increases in size as you magnify. So it's a much different look through the scope for each of them. And then both of those types of scopes, so the Z8s only come in mills. So the mills versus MOA, it really ... People get scared away by it. And a lot of people [crosstalk 00:06:24]
Travis: I can understand why.
JD: Yeah. And it really is confusing, but if you kind of dumb it down for yourself, it doesn't need to be that complicated. And the difference is, we were shooting callus, which isn't as well known. It's under the Swarovski umbrella now, and it has been for a while. But people, if you tell them ... Even people in the hunting world that are really familiar with rifle scopes, a lot of people aren't gonna know what callus is. Where if you talk to people that are in the precision rifle shooting and the long-range world, they're gonna all know what callus is.
And there's a lot of stuff, even the Z8, it only comes in an illuminated reticle. And that's another thing that scares a lot of people away because it's not legal in every state. So some guys don't want to deal with even the idea of taking a scope somewhere, you know, on an out of state hunt that it wouldn't be legal.
Travis: Yeah, that makes sense. So can you explain to me the difference, and obviously lots of terms in there I'm trying to wrap my mind around, so slowing you down here a little bit. Can you explain the difference between an MOA and the mills?
JD: Yeah, so they're just measurements. So an MOA is a minute of angle, which equals 1.047 inches at 100 yards. So most people refer to one minute as one inch, just because it's that close. And a mill or milliradian is a measurement of an angle within a circle. And that equals 3.34 inches, or 3.43, sorry, inches at 100 yards. So it's a bigger gap. But like I was saying when you have a spotter, and you're looking through the scope, and it has hash marks for your windage, and for your elevation. And you shoot at your target at 100 yards. Instead of them saying, you know, "You were an inch left and an inch low." They would be saying, "You're a minute left, and a minute low."
And with a mill, if instead of them saying, you know, "You were one mill, or 3.43 inches left, and 3.43 inches down," you can just say, "You were one mill left and one mill down" You know, you can make those corrections in mills, and it's just ... it's more simple.
If you think of it that way, as it's just a measurement, instead of trying to figure out exactly what one mill, what that calculation is, that's where I think people get confused. So the other part that people confuse because even within MOA and mills, scopes come in different click measurements. So it'll be a quarter click, or a half click, or even a full click. And I'm already ... I can guarantee people are getting confused.
When you're dialing that turret, and that scope is in a quarter minute ... it's quarter-minute clicks, you'd have to turn it four clicks to go up one minute. So, and same with mills. If it's quarter mill, you know, clicks, to go up one mill, you're gonna have to do four clicks. So, once you get that part down, it's a lot more simple. I'm terrible at math, and if I can figure this out, then anybody on the planet can.
And it really just does take some time shooting. You know, you need to spend some time in the scope. And one of the examples, we were all talking about, towards the end of the trip, how much more comfortable everybody was from the very first day when we started shooting to the very last day. And I know I was doing it where, you know, you'd shoot, and your spotter would say, you know, "You were one minute left, and one minute down. Or one minute low." And I would come out of the gun and look at the turret, and you know, I had to do that to dial. Whereby the end of it, you were shooting, and you were staying in the gun, and staying in the scope, and making your click corrections without taking your eyes off the target.
So you were seeing in the scope, you know, where you were hitting, and you were able to make some of those corrections on your own without your spotter having to tell you.
Travis: So those two kinds of elements, the first and second plane are coming together, the mills and MOAs make sense now. Definitely does simplify it when you just try to think about it as a unit of measure.
So bring those things together for me and talk about how that ... Like how does that then affect the types of scopes or the difference of the scopes? I'm not even really sure exactly how to ask that question, right? But bring those two things together to like actually talk about the scope, I guess, is the example.
JD: Yeah, and this is kind of simple ...
Yeah, so the second focal plane scopes that we shot were the Z8s from Swarovski. So, we had the 2 to 16 by 50, and the 2.3 to 18 by 56. So those scopes only come in illuminated reticle options, and they only come in mill. You can not get them in MOA. So, on those, the second focal plane reticle stays the same, no matter what size, what magnification you turn to. If you're at 2, or if you're at 16, it stays the same size, and then ... and on those, they had ballistic turrets, which you can have made at Swarovski, comes with a variety of reticle options, but the ballistic turret, you can either have done in MOA or mills, or you can have specific yardages put on it, which I'm not a fan of the yardage custom turret, because it's only good for one place.
So if you dial in that scope at 3000 feet elevation at 40 degrees, and then you go to a place that's, you know, 10000 feet elevation, and minus 15 ... Obviously, I'm being extreme with all of them, but that's not gonna be accurate. Where if you keep it in minutes or mills, you can dial in that scope at home where you start from, but then when you go on that hunt at that different elevation and temperature, you can enter that information into the ballistic calculator. And it's gonna spit out new data for you, and change what you would dial to.
With the first focal plane scopes, and that's what we were shooting from Callus, we were shooting 3 to 18, the 6 to 24, and the new one, which isn't even out yet, it's the 5 to 25 by 56. And all of those have left or right windage adjustments, so you can pick the knob to be on the left or right. And you can do your actual windage correction with the knobs you dial the turret, instead of having to do your holdover left to right.
And then they also have zero stop. So that ... On this trip, we were dialing, you know, you'd shoot at a target at 100, and then you would dial to 1000 at a different target, and then you'd be dialing back. So that's where a zero stop comes ... It's really important, because when you're doing that many turns on the turret, to be able to get back to zero, you know, if you forget, and you're just trying to spin, and guess where you're at, you can be a full revolution off. And a full revolution off, you're gonna miss by feet. So that's where those features are really important. And for me, illuminated reticles is not something I've shot a lot. I've never felt really the need for them, and on this trip, it was really, really nice because we were shooting such small targets at such long distances.
The illuminated reticle was really nice to be able to dial in and put on such a small target at such a great distance and really pinpoint where you were trying to shoot.
Travis: So the comparison that I'm trying to make in my mind as you're talking about this is, you know, hunting scenarios where this stuff all comes into play versus being at a range. And curious what your take is on, you know, what of these, if any, are, "Oh, this is great ... for hunting. And this is how you would use it in that application. Or any of them." Or is this all just kind of so specific to the long-range shooting that it's not as relevant to hunting?
JD: No, and that's what's nice about all the scopes that we were shooting. So the Z8s, the 2 to 16 by 50, and the 2.3 to 18 by 56, those scopes you could put on basically any gun. And you're gonna be able to use them in a hunting situation. You know, 2 or 2.3 is not too much magnification, you know, if a buck jumps up at 10 yards. But 16 or 18 on the high power, shooting 1000 yards is no problem.
And then with the callus, the 3 to 18 by 50 is definitely more of a hunting style in your magnification. The 6 to 24 by 56 and the 5 to 25, those are definitely more catered to the long-range shooting, like PRS-type matches, and that kind of stuff. But you could definitely use the 5 to 25, or the 6 to 24 for hunting. It's just that if it's me, and I'm choosing between those three, and I'm definitely gonna use it for a hunting scope, that 3 to 18 or the 5 to 25 would be what I would go with. And even with that, most of the time, I'm gonna steer people away that are using something specifically for hunting from a 5 to 25, because 5 is a fair amount of magnification if something is up close.
But after using the new callus, the 5 to 25, I was really impressed with the ability to shoot stuff at a close distance, and then dial to the longer stuff, you know, 8, 9, 100 yards and 1000. And having that extra magnification was really, really nice. Another takeaway from it is, so many people get steered away from first focal plane scopes for hunting because the reticle does increase as you magnify, and I was on that ... in the same boat that I just ... I prefer second focal plane because it's what I know. The majority of people that have shot a scope, they've had a second focal plane scope their whole life.
And a lot of people confuse the two, but first focal plane is the one that gets bigger as you magnify. And I definitely, after this event, wouldn't be ... I would not shy away from using a first focal plane scope for hunting. And this ... All it really did, this shoot, was kind of lit a fire for me to shoot more. Every time I get to do anything like this, where you're shooting a lot and getting to play with some of the newer stuff, it just makes you excited to go do it more often and be more familiar with it. Because a lot of the long-range stuff is newer to me, and, I mean, there are so many people out there that are learning about it because they see things on TV or read something on the internet.
But until you get to go do it and spend some time, people throw out numbers, you know, "I want to be able to shoot 1000 yards," or whatever their number is. Until you go shoot 5 at 600 yards, a lot of people don't realize how far that is. It's a long, long distance.
Travis: I'm still stuck in that [crosstalk 00:17:18] forever ago. I mean, [inaudible 00:17:20] it's almost hard to even picture what that is.
I guess my concern or the one thing I'm still trying to ...
Travis: For the first focal plane, with all these adjustments, is that too much, is it too complicated, you know, if I'm in a hunting scenario, I want things to be simple. And I want it to be dialed. And not have to think about, "Well, I need to adjust this," or, you know, "My mill is that." I mean, but you're kind of saying ... You know, your takeaway was that that's really shouldn't be ... Those kinds of concerns shouldn't be there, because it's not actually as complicated as it sounds.
JD: No, and I think the bigger misconception with first focal plane is that as you zoom, the crosshairs are gonna get so big that it's gonna completely cover the animal. So if you're ... You know, if you have a smaller target like a Cruz deer, and you're shooting a longer distance, you know, 500 yards, that when you magnify, it's gonna totally cover that up. And you won't be able to see.
We were shooting targets that are two inches wide and six inches tall at 1000 yards. And it wasn't covering those up. So that's not something that people should be concerned about if they're using it for hunting. And the folks that are using first focal plane scopes for the long-range competition shoots, they're shooting at ... You know, they're trying to hit an 8-inch gong at 1000 yards. You know, they're dealing with precise measurements at long distances, so the first focal plane shouldn't scare people away for either scenario, hunting or just long-range shooting.
Travis: What was the first focal plane scope that stood out to you most then?
JD: The new one. And it kind of sounds like a sales pitch, but that 5 to 25 was just really impressive. The usability of it is simple. I'm as new to long-range shooting as most of the folks are out there. I spent my whole life, you know, 400 yards was like the ... might as well have been in the next country.
But after getting to do some of this stuff, the equipment is capable. It's just that the person needs to spend the time and the practice realizing, you know, what you need to do and understanding the equipment. It's not that complicated. There's really ... I used to ... You know, when I was first learning about the Callus stuff, and the left and right windage, and it seems like a lot. And it's not. It's just very straightforward. Once you're able to get in the scope, and just shoot it, it's really not that complicated.
Travis: Yeah, just like anything else. You just gotta learn the terminology and kind of start getting your hands dirty.
JD: And that's where people get scared away. You know, the MOA versus mills thing. I was the same way. I just knew MOA, that was all I was experienced with, so I just wanted to stick with that. And after going to this shoot, now I've got to decide which Callus I'm gonna get, and which Z8 I'm gonna get because the mills wasn't a problem, the first focal plane wasn't a problem. And they're just incredible products, so.
Travis: Do you think if you were to take the two, and if you hadn't said anything to somebody and said, you know, "Look through this one and shoot, look through this one and shoot," that they would be able to tell the difference?
JD: That brings up a really good point. I was gonna say, the vast majority of people aren't even using them the way that they're supposed to be used. So the hash marks that are in the scopes, especially if a scope has a turret on top, most people are only using the middle part where the bars come together of the reticle.
And they're dialing to that distance. Most people aren't going to actually hold for wind, or do any of that. They're just dialing the turret to the distance and shooting. And if they miss left or right, they're gonna shoot again. And so, I really don't think that the vast majority of people, if you look through a mills scope versus an MOA scope, they're gonna be able to tell the difference.
And the glass that's in these scopes, that's the biggest point is that, you know, what they're capable of and what you're able to see at such great distances, that's where they really shine, and in those low light situations. So you hope that you go and you practice with any of these, regardless of what model you chose, from either Callus or Swarovski, or whoever, whatever brand. You hope that you don't have to shoot long-distance. You know, if we're using them for hunting, you still want to get as close as possible and, you know, that 200-yard shot becomes much easier for you when you're confident at 6, 7, 8, 900 yards. It just makes things easier in those standard hunting situations.
Travis: Yeah, that makes sense. We're just about out of time. Do you have any last thoughts or for highlights that you want to cover off on? Because I'm gonna need to take a little while to digest everything.
JD: It was great. You know, there were dealers from all over the country and custom gun makers. Nick Owens, he owns Owens Armory out of Arizona. He makes some incredible custom rifles.
Travis: Is he in Phoenix?
JD: I can't recommend him highly enough. I hogged a couple of his guns for ... No, I should know where he's at, and I don't. But we'll try to put a link or something. Yeah.
But he just made some incredible guns, and he's an incredible shot. So it was really cool to watch him shoot, and then to get to learn some from him. And then the stock guns that we were shooting was mostly Bergara, and I can't say enough good things about them. If you're looking for ... And I have no affiliation whatsoever with Owens Armory or with Bergara, but Bergara, if you're looking for a gun that you can go pick up at any box store that'll shoot factory ammo, and shoot incredibly accurately, and be under 1000 bucks, I can't say enough good things about them.
I just got one because I was so impressed with ... Yeah, I mean, I'm just really excited to get it set up, because ... I'm not the type that's ever gonna reload. I just don't feel that I have the time to be able to do it. So I want something that's going to shoot accurately, and that at any time, I'm gonna be able to go to the store and pick up a box of ammo. And that's exactly what all these guns did.
You know, we were shooting factory Hornady ammo, and it was incredible, the accuracy that we were getting. And I don't consider myself to be a phenomenal shot, and the guns and the optics that we had there made me look like a lot better shot than I was.
Travis: It's always [crosstalk 00:23:47] Well, man, it sounds like it was a really great trip. Next time I'm out in Bend, we'll have to get out to the range so I can try out your new ... you know, first focal plane scope, and see it through my own eyes. And it sounds like it may be a whole new setup.
JD: For sure.
Travis: So look forward to that. For everybody listening, you know, thank you for listening. If you have questions, which, hopefully, if you're like me, you probably still have some questions on all of this, feel free ... There should be plenty. Don't feel bad if you [crosstalk 00:24:20] have questions on all this. That's for sure.
So yeah, post those on our Facebook page, Instagram page, or you can email them directly to JD, and we will cover those at the start of our next episode. Thanks for listening.