MOA vs MRAD
If you did a basic search on the internet asking what the difference is between MOA vs MRAD (which is also known as Mil or Milliradian), you’ll find dozens of articles that dive deep into the subject, and possibly leaving you wondering if you have to go get a mathematics degree to fully understand them.
The reason for this is because each is based on precise scientific calculations that were needed to measure trajectory, distance, and drop angles. All of this is very important if you are an expert shooter, but for the average sportsman, probably way too much technical info and not enough practical info. That’s why in this article I want to keep things extremely simple for the majority of shooters who are wanting to understand the basics behind the differences.
Now, if you wanted to learn about the technical calculations of MOA, then here is a great YouTube video explaining the science.
For our purposes, let’s keep it simple. MOA is short for Minute of Angle. MOA is measured in inches. One MOA is 1.047 inches at 100 yds. This means that out at 1,000 yds, one MOA is 10.47 inches. But let’s take the majority rule of assuming that 1 MOA is 1 inch at 100 yds.
On the flip side, Mil is measured in Metrics, so when you hear 1 mil, it means 1 mil. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of it with all the circles and measurements like you saw in the MOA video, then here is the video for that.
Otherwise, let’s keep it simple. 1 Mil is 10cm at 100 meters.
This is where many people will start to make things confusing. If you are accustomed to using MOA and distancing things in yds, and you start to look at MRAD scopes, you then subconsciously you start converting things in your head. My recommendation…don’t do that. MOA and Mil are two different scales/measurements and should be treated as thus. Let me quickly explain what I mean.
Scopes that use MOA usually have ¼ MOA adjustments, which means that every click of your dial will move the reticle by 0.25 inches at 100 yds. If you were to use a Milliradian scope, you will have 1/10 mil dials, also known as .10 mils. If you decided that you want to move the reticle in the same fashion, one clicks of the Mil dial will move the bullet .39 inches. This is where many people struggle, they are thinking with two different scales simultaneously.
As you can see, a Mil scope isn’t designed to for the imperial system. It’s designed for the metric system. So, instead of thinking in inches with a Mil scope, you have to think in centimeters. One clicks of a Mil scope reticle, which is 0.10 Mil moves the bullet 1cm at 100 meters. My best advice, don’t convert between the two. Instead think in MOA and shoot in MOA or think in Mil and shoot in Mil.
Which is More Accurate?
Technically, an MOA scope is more accurate because its adjustments are .25 inches where Mil scope adjustments are .39 inches. But there is a downside to that.
If you are shooting beyond say 400 yds and want to shoot out at 1,000 yds, you are better off using a Mil scope for simplicity. This is because it takes less turns of a Mil scope dial to adjust your bullet reticle because each Mil moves the bullet 3.9 inches vs 1 MOA of 2.5 inches. Not a big deal if you are stationary and have no need to adjust for windage. But if you have to adjust on the fly for wind, or target movement, or maybe doing timed drills at different distances, then a Mil scope is just faster to adjust.
Both Will Scale Appropriately
If you use MOA and you zero in your rifle and scope at 100 yds, then ¼ MOA should move your bullet 0.25 inch. At 200 yds, ¼ MOA will move your bullet 0.5 inches. Here’s a chart of that.
If you use Mil and you zero in your rifle and scope at 100 meters, then 0.10 Mil should move your bullet 1 cm. At 200 meters, 0.10 MOA will move your bullet 2 cm. Here’s a chart for Mil.
As you can see, both MOA and Mil will scale up equally to their respective measurements. This is why I like to tell people that if you think in MOA and inches, then think in that. Or if you think in the metric system such as cm, and meters, then you should consider using Mil as your scope. Don’t try to convert one to the other. Choose a scale and stick to it.
Application is Important
When you are determining whether to get a scope that is set up for MOA or Milliradian, you want to think about what it’s being mounted onto, and what you are going to use that set up for? A general consensus is if you’re hunting or doing precision shooting closer than 400 yds, use MOA. I’ll get into the hunting aspect in a different article.
If you are doing long range precision shooting, use Milliradian scopes. Both will work great at either distance, but adjustments on an MOA scope are more work the further out you go. To simplify what this means, think about looking at a target that is 1,000 yds away. If you are using an MOA scope, you will need to hold higher in the scope (make the target lower in your field of view) than you would in an MRAD scope.
This is why combat reticles and long-range scopes are typically in Mil, it’s easier. It’s faster to compensate for windage, elevation, and moving targets. You don’t have to adjust as much as you would an MOA scope and reticle.
My focus here isn’t to get into the tiny details of which one is better than the other. Nor is it to teach you the specifics of how to calculate your holdover for different distances using an MOA scope or using an MRAD scope. I’m aiming to keep things simple for you. So, let’s keep this elementary and recap really quick:
- MOA = Minute of Angle
- 1 MOA = 1 inch at 100yds
- Its Scope Dials typically measure ¼ MOA clicks.
- ¼ MOA = .25 inches at 100 yds.
- MRAD or Mil = Milliradian
- 1 Mil = 10 cm at 100 meters.
- Its Scope Dials typically measure 1/10 (0.10) Mil clicks.
- 0.10 – 1 cm at 100 meters.
Neither MOA or Mil is better than the other. They both have their strong suits in their respective fields. Technically MOA is more accurate, but as you push the distance to 1,000yds or more, then the typical ¼ MOA scope takes too much work to adjust. What it really comes down to is practice. You shouldn’t need to obtain a mathematics degree to understand how to use the two different scopes. I recommend to pick one, and practice that set up in the measurements it was designed in. If you like to think in YDS and inches, then use MOA. If you like to think in Meters and Centimeters, then use Milliradian. It’s as simple as that.