Everyone, at least in the movies, has probably seen what the reticle on the optical sight of a sniper rifle looks like. As a rule, there are a lot of different lines and slats on it. It is straightforward to get confused in all of them. That makes it doubly interesting: how snipers understand these reticles and which of them you should aim at to hit a “squirrel in the eye.” Lines and bars on the telescope sight are called “reticles.” It is available on sniper scopes and other optics, including night vision scopes and devices for visual observation (rangefinder).
The reticle is placed in one of the focal planes of the sight, and thus, it appears to be at the same level as the lens. To choose the correct optics for your weapon, it is necessary to answer many questions. A shooter asks himself, “Is the reticle in the first or second focal plane?” The answer depends on how you intend to use your weapon. Do not let the virtual snipers mess with your mind – no one focal plane is unequivocally better than another. Each is good for specific tasks. You have to make sure you don’t miss your choice. Which focal plane to choose depends entirely on how you plan to use the scope. A reticle in the first focal plane is ideal for goal removal and is popular among long-range shooters. The principle is simple: you aim higher than the distant target to compensate for the falling of the bullet at this distance or objective to the left or to the right to consider the wind impact on the shot. If you increase the magnification to get a better view of the target, you aim at the same reticle risks regardless of magnification. Therefore, if you’re hunting in open flat terrain or shooting at far away set gongs, you’ll be more comfortable with the reticle in the first “focal length.” However, if you want to use such a sight at minimum magnification, for example, 3x, the reticle’s marking will hardly be distinguishable. If you hunt in forests, if driven hunting is your main hobby, or if you do practical goal shooting at close range, then always a different reticle in the second focal plane with a wide viewing angle is the right choice.
What is German Reticle
The most common and easiest to use among hunters is the German reticle. The German reticles you see most often in sight descriptions are #4 and German #1. You may recognize these reticles because they have a thick right, bottom, and left (3, 6, and 9 o’clock) crosshairs that taper to the center in the original style or with a dot in the center. Sometimes they come with a noon/top crosshair, sometimes without. Such German grids are often backlit.
A little attention to the definition of “focal plane of the reticle?” Before you choose, it’s essential to understand what we’re talking about. So, briefly about focal planes. In any telescopic sight, the reticle can be placed in one of two places: the focal plane. The focal plane closest to the lens is called the first or front plane. The focal plane closer to the eyepiece is called the second or posterior plane.
Inside the wraparound, the system is two lenses called wraparound elements. When you rotate the zoom ring, these lenses move backward or forward, causing the image you see in the eyepiece to be enlarged or reduced. The wraparound lenses enlarge or reduce the image of whatever is in front of them. This is the basic principle of telescopic sight. Naturally, the appearance of the reticle in the first focal plane will be different from what the reticle looks like in the second plane. The reticle in the front focal plane is in front of the obturator and increases or decreases as the image is enlarged or reduced. If the reticle is in the second (rear) focal plane, it is behind the circular system, so its size remains constant, but the image can become larger or smaller as the magnification changes. This is the main difference between the two reticle arrangements. But what does it mean in practice, and how does it affect shooting?
Front focal plane – since, in this case, the reticle changes along with the image, the entire ballistic marking in milliradians or angular minutes (Mil/MOA) will be accurate throughout the zoom range of the variable magnification sight. If your reticle is graduated in mils, the distance in miles between marks will be the same at any magnification, whether at 5x or 25x. This allows you to take the exact reproduction of the same reticle mark at any change in magnification. The rear focal plane is.
As the reticle in the second focal plane keeps the size the same, its marking will be accurate only at one specific magnification – usually at maximum, but not necessarily (read reticle instruction carefully). Sighting reticle patterns can have different configurations from the simplest one, e.g., in the form of a cross, to complex lines and crosshairs. Most often reticle is made by embedding a drawing on metal foil or made of wire directly on the lens. The main advantage that any spotting scope gives thanks to the reticle is that there is no need to refocus the eye when the vantage point changes constantly. This allows you to see the goal, the gun’s front sight, and the rear sight slit simultaneously and clearly, which is very important for marksmanship.
The German #4: Still Works
There are several types of sighting reticles, mainly hunting and tactical. The most crucial difference in sighting reticles is that tactical is often ballistic, and hunting is “simple.” To a person not versed in this, a logical question would be: What does this mean? Ballistic is designed to determine the distance to the goal for quick adjustments at range and downwind. Of course, ballistic reticles are used for precision shooting at different lengths, so – all the sights of military snipers and athletes engaged in high-precision shooting only with ballistic reticles. Ballistic reticles are also used in hunting sights but are more universal. The German reticle is one of the most common and straightforward sights. The most popular of them are German #4 and German #1, and it is the number 4 that is one of the most sought-after among hunters due to its simplicity and ease of use.
Why the German #4 Still Rocks
Germany was the first country to develop the first-night vision goggles in the last century. That, at the time, gave a severe round of development of this type of industry on the world stage. In addition, there is no wonder that one of the best sighting reticles is German: number 1 and number 4. The German No. 4 sighting reticle is well known to those who are into firearms; because the authority of this sighting reticle is high in the global gun culture. The popularity of the German reticle is that it provides excellent ergonomics for accurate aiming. To give you an idea of how popular German reticles are: modern night vision and thermal imaging technologies use them most often for their designs. But do not forget that the user’s choice depends only on objective nuances: the time of day in which the weapon is planned to be used, the size of the object of hunting, and the range of shooting. As you can see, the leader among the reticles has already been determined as the German 4.
Which reticle to choose? – There is no single answer to this question, like “Which rifle is better?” or “Which cartridge is better to shoot? You have to make your own choice. Take your time, think over at what distances and under what conditions you will use your rifle, and you will not make a wrong choice. The only criterion for choosing a sighting reticle is only personal comfort. Once you determine the desired reticle, there is still much to do – because you must select magnification, aperture ratio, and other sight parameters.