Whether you have been doing the long-distance shooting for quite some time or you are just planning to start, you are inevitably going to be faced with this question sooner or later: MRAD vs MOA, which one to choose?
No matter what the knobs on your scope indicate, they do not really measure in inches or centimeters. Your scope uses an angular measurement for adjustments. The angular measurement or value can be either MRAD or MOA.
The answer to the MRAD vs MOA question can vary greatly, especially depending on what kind of shooting you are doing and what factors matter the most to you.
In this article, we will discuss in-depth which of these two are best suitable for what purposes.
Angular Units of Measurement
MRAD and MOA are both just angular measurements. Just like kilograms and pounds for measuring weight, MRAD and MOA are merely two different units for measuring an angle.
One of them isn’t necessarily better than the other; they are just two different units for measuring the same thing.
A Beginner’s Guide
Now, we know both MRAD and MOA are simply angular measurements. But why are they even needed? Don’t we just zero in on our target using centimeters and inches? What is the purpose of an angle here?
Well, in this part, we are going to lay it out as simply as it can be. If you are already somewhat familiar with MOA or MRAD and know where they come into the equation, you can simply skip this part if you want to. But, it still won’t hurt to refresh the memory a little bit, so we suggest you just read on as usual.
For short distance shootings, you generally have to aim with your eyes. You see where your target is, and align the barrel towards that. With long distance shootings, your eyes alone are not enough to align the barrel of your rifle properly.
The slightest horizontal or vertical movement can drastically change the position of where your bullet is going to hit. Even a degree of movement can be too much. And it is simply not humanly possible to control these tiniest of movements with our hands and eyes only.
With the use of rifle scopes, it is possible to see the magnified view of your faraway target. There are also turrets that can be dialed back and forth to make the tiniest of adjustments. This is where MRAD and MOA come in. But before that, we need to touch on the subject of reticles and turrets quickly.
Reticles and Turrets, and Windages and Elevations
When you take a look at the anatomy of a rifle scope, it has some general parts that are always present, no matter the type of scope. The reticle and the turrets are among these. For long-distance shootings, these are crucial.
The reticle is a group of markings on the eyepiece of the rifle scope, made usually of wires or glass etchings. They not only provide you with an aiming point while target shooting, but they can also help you figure out the size and distance of your target.
There are several types of reticles with different features and styles of markings.
Positioned on the top and side of scope are knobs, also known as turrets that lets you adjust the angles by dialing them back and forth. These turrets are what lets you control the accuracy of your shots.
Turrets can be of different types, too, depending on what they do what system of measurement they follow. But on every scope, there are two basic types of the turret that help you zero in on your target:
The knob on your scope that lets you control the horizontal alignment, that is, left to right and vice-versa, is the windage turret. It is usually situated on the right of your scope.
You will typically find the elevation turret on the top of your rifle scope. This one helps you make vertical adjustments, such as aligning your shot a bit higher or lower.
MRAD is more popularly known as MIL, a shortened form of milliradian (not military, like many people believe). It is an angular unit of measurement that measures in milliradian, and thus the names. Before going into what a milliradian is, we are first going to brush up our knowledge a little on what a radian is.
A radian is an angle of about 57.3 degrees. If we divide a radian into a thousand smaller ones, we get milliradians (0.001 radians) – just like there are a thousand millimeters in a meter of distance, and a thousand milliliters in a liter of liquid.
Now, in the context of a circle, there are about 6283 milliradians in the center of a full circle. MRAD scope uses this milliradian as its unit of angular measurement. Many people prefer MOA over MRAD because MOA adjustments are a bit finer than MRAD ones. But we will talk about that later.
MOA, too, is simply an angular measurement just like MRAD. MOA stands for Minutes of Angle, or Minutes of Arc. On the US-made scopes, you will typically find MOA adjustments.
What does a minute mean in an angular context? So the center of a circle contains 360 degrees, we all know. In each of these degrees, there are 60 minutes. Just like one minute of time is the sixtieth of an hour, a minute of angle is one-sixtieth of a degree.
Simply put, if you divide a one-degree angle into 60 equal sections, each of those sections would be a minute of an angle. To put it into context, a minute equals 0.0167 degrees (a milliradian is 0.0573 degree).
At a distance of 100 yards, one MOA translates into an inch, or 1.047 inches, to be precise.
MRAD Vs MOA
In the case of MRAD scopes, there are ten clicks for each MRAD. Meaning, you have to dial ten clicks to go from one mil to the next. So the lowest you can adjust on an MRAD dial is 0.1 milliradian, which translates into 0.36 inches at a distance of 100 yards.
For MOA, they are usually sectioned into quarters or even eighths in some scopes. So you typically get four clicks for each MOA. This means the lowest you can typically adjust with MOA would be a quarter of a minute, that is, 0.25 MOA; at a distance of 100 yards, which would be 0.26 inches.
You might be thinking, okay, MOA seems to be the finer one. Well, you are right. But in practicality, this does not really amount to anything. Because there are other much bigger variables like the wind, and gravity at play when you are shooting on sites.
MRAD/MRAD, MOA/MOA, and MRAD/MOA
Scopes that have MRAD reticle along with matching MRAD knobs are called as MRAD/MRAD or MIL/MIL scopes.
If there is an MOA reticle on your scope, and MOA knobs to go with it, you have an MOA/MOA scope.
MRAD/MOA scopes incorporate MRAD reticle with MOA knobs for adjustments. This type of scopes used to be more common in the past.
MRAD/MRAD and MOA/MOA scopes are relatively easier to learn and use than MRAD/MOA scopes. We will talk more about this later.
Reasons Why Some Regret Getting One or the Other
You might be asking yourself now, ‘If neither of the two is necessarily the better one, why do some people regret buying one or the other?’
It is, indeed, true. Some people do regret buying scope spending thousands when they didn’t know much about it. They would tell you how they wish they did a little more research before getting one. If one of these two systems is not necessarily better than the other, why does this happen?
Well, we will break it down for you, so you don’t have to face the same regret after buying your one. It’s all about personal comfort and some other things. It has next to nothing to do with the systems of measurement themselves and everything to do with the person.
There are several reasons why someone might not feel good about their MRAD/MRAD or MOA/MOA scope after buying one.
Suppose you got an MRAD/MRAD scope without ever having to deal with either of these two systems. Two things might happen if you get exposed to the MOA/MOA system in the near future.
One: You don’t feel comfortable using it, you think you like your MRAD/MRAD one much better. Two: You like it very much and think to yourself that it would have been a much better match for you than MRAD/MRAD, regret ensues.
If you get to fall into the first category, well, you are lucky. Many among us are not so lucky and get caught with the minute details on the other supposedly greener side of the fence.
There are multiple instances where people regret getting one over the other. We will discuss the most common ones so you can stay on top of the things:
Buying Without Knowing
A lot of people have no idea about MRAD or MOA when they buy their first scope. They buy the scope they like based on other factors. This is, in fact, very common for first-time buyers, and completely normal.
But eventually, when they come to know about the two different angular measurement systems, it’s natural to feel a bit lost, especially if most of their buddies use the other system.
Sometimes people also buy a unit that does not match. As in, they buy an MRAD/MOA scope without knowing they could have gone for a matching unit that is easier to learn. This is also another case where one may regret their choice of scope.
Many people associate MRAD with the military. Some even think the name MIL comes from the word military. But you know by now that is not the case. MRAD and MOA are both used by the military. In fact, many military rifles used to use MRAD in combination with MOA on their scopes.
Some people buy MRAD simply thinking if the military uses this, this must be the better one. Later, when they get to know the correct facts, they might feel they missed their opportunities of getting to try MOA for themselves.
The opposite may sometimes happen too. Sometimes one may buy MOA and later hear about MRAD being associated with the military and so and so. As a result, they might feel they got the inferior one. Which is, of course, not the case, as we already mentioned.
You will be surprised by the number of people who use scopes that do not match their reticle marks. Most of them have been habituated with all the conversions over time with practice.
And while that is an impressive feat by itself, there is no reason for you to go the same way when you still have the option to choose. What we mean by this is, if you have already got a reticle, be sure to get a scope that matches.
Something worth mentioning here is the fact that 3.438 minutes equals 1 milliradian. So, if you have a reticle that only has milliradian marks, with turrets that dial minutes, you are in for a lot of maths and conversions each time you attempt to zero in on your target.
But with a reticle that matches the knobs, what you see and dial are exactly what you get, making everything a lot easier and seamless.
Which Is the Better for What?
There are indeed some things that separate the two systems, how minute they might be. In reality, how significant these things are in the bigger picture is a whole different matter.
Albeit, even though the two systems of measurement are no better than one another, the machines that hold them have slight differences amongst them. These differences arise while translating these measurements onto the gear body, as in the scope itself.
And because of these physical differences or factors, you may find using one easier than the other. Below we will discuss some cases where you may like one over the other:
Different Units of Distance
If you are used to using inches and yards as units of distance measurement, you may have an inclination to go with MOA. On the other hand, if you have been using centimeters and meters for your whole life, going for MIL might seem to be the best option.
Truth be told, inches and yards or centimeters and meters won’t even matter as much once you get a little bit of time with either MRAD or MOA.
After some time, you will find yourself thinking and even communicating in MRAD or MOA instead of yards or meters. That’s why worrying too much about using yards or meters is not really needed.
MRAD values are smaller and easier to read than MOA values. They are thus easier to remember and say out loud too. Imagine your buddy asking what your current adjustments are, and you have to reply 17.75 versus a simple 5.2.
However, these things are quite easy to get used to. Chances are you might not even notice the values being big or small after a while.
Like we previously mentioned, 0.25 MOA (1/4th MOA) scopes provide you with much finer adjustments than 0.1MRAD scopes. Of course, you can go even finer using the 1/8th MOA scopes. While MOA does have finer adjustments than MRAD, finer might not always be the better.
Finer adjustments mean you have more clicks to go then before to reach your next cardinal number. And that can end up being a tedious task depending on how much time you have in your hands. On the same note, we go onto our next point: dialing fast.
MRAD is generally faster to dial than MOA. Typically, you will need to dial less number of clicks on a 1/10th mil turret than on a ¼th MOA, in the same condition and at the same distance.
So, a person with an MRAD scope has a higher chance of zeroing in on a target faster than a person with an MOA scope from the same spot. In competitions such as PRS, you will find most participants using MRAD.
MRAD is easier to do the math with because the distance ratio is always 1:1000. For 1000 yards, 1 mil is 1 yard or 36 inches. So, at 100 yards, 1 mil is 0.1 yard or 3.6 inches.
It’s the same for meters. So, for 1000 meters, 1 mill would be 1 meter or 100 centimeters. And for 100 meters, 1 mil would be 0.1 meter or 10 centimeters.
But like we said before, it all eventually become instinctive, and you should soon find yourself directly adjusting the mils without having to do any conversions.
On the same note, let’s talk a little bit about MOA here. Contrary to what many people will tell you, 1 MOA on your scope does not equal to 1 inch at a target distance of 100 yards. It is 1.047 inches like we previously mentioned.
The fraction is small enough that you can round it off as 1 inch for short distances, but for longer distances, you cannot ignore the fraction any longer.
For example, at 1000 yards, one MOA becomes 10.47 inches. That is almost half an inch of difference from what you would get if you were only thinking of one inch for one MOA.
Milling a Target
In the past, you would have to measure your target to get a distance with the use of your reticle. MRAD reticles are, without a doubt, the best option for these sorts of things.
Though rangefinders have made this point basically obsolete now for general settings. Still, for military and professional use, it still remains a valid point for consideration.
For the Hunters
Depending on what you hunt and how far your targets usually are, both MRAD and MOA can suit your purposes. If your targets are mostly on the move, then it is less likely that you would be able to utilize the finer adjustments that MOA scopes offer.
But if you know you are going to hit ’em when they are mostly resting or immobile, you can totally utilize those fine as heck adjustments.
On the other hand, if you are mostly alone while hunting, communication will not be such a big factor.
While for those who hunt with partners or in groups, communication is crucial and having the ability to communicate in quick, short values can make all the difference between a successful hunting session and an unsuccessful one.
For these reasons, you should go for the system that you feel your particular type of hunting demands.
By the way, you probably already know this, but be sure to look into night vision scopes if you want to go hunting after dark too.
Selection of Scopes
If you choose to go for MRAD rather than MOA, you will most probably be faced with a bigger selection of scopes to buy. This can, of course, vary depending on where you buy from. But MOA still has enough options to choose from. So, you don’t really have to worry about not finding one to your liking.
MRAD has a way larger number of users than MOA as of right now. Also, there is more available knowledge out there on how they work. To add to that, a bigger number of users mean more insights, tips, tricks, formulas, and cheat sheets to be shared and to learn from.
Favorite Among the Pros
Besides being popular in general among most people, MRAD seems to be the favorite choice among professional shooters too. While this might very well be because of how widely available MRAD scopes are, it’s still something worth mentioning.
MOA actually has several different scales that are used on different scopes. SMOA and IPHY are two such examples. It becomes a problem when some manufacturers do not mention which one they are using.
The MRAD system, too, can vary depending on the manufacturer. Reticles having 6400 mils are commonly said to have ‘Army mils,’ while reticles bearing 6283 mils are known as having ‘USMC mils.’ Really though, as long as you know which scale you have on your scope, none of it should be a problem.
Important Factors to Consider
Here are the factors you must consider.
Who Are You Going to Learn from?
Ask your mentor or trainer (or whoever you are going to learn from) which one they have. It will make it much easier for you to learn as you don’t have to keep calculating and converting when they are explaining something to you.
Which One Do Most of Your Group Use?
If you hate feeling left out or not being on the same page as the people around you, you would want to find out which one most of your friends are using.
So do make sure to have a talk with the people you regularly shoot with or are going to shoot with, about which one they usually use. It does make communicating a lot easier, especially on-site.
To be very honest, this is actually one of the biggest factors you should consider while choosing. Because come on! Can you imagine being in school and having a book with different page numbers than everyone else’s? Yeah, if you hate the thought just as much as we do, have that talk.
Do the Scope’s Turrets Match the Reticle?
This is one of the most important things to remember when you get your scopes or reticles, so we are going to remind you again. Make sure they match each other; as in, if you get a scope that has MRAD knobs, make sure the reticle has MRAD marks (or MIL dots, as some like to call it) in it.
The same way, if your scope’s turrets are based on MOA, see if your reticle has MOA marks. This way, you don’t have to go through the unnecessary trouble of converting the numbers all the time.
Don’t get us wrong; you can still kick ass using an MRAD/MOA scope. In fact, countless people have been doing so for a long time. But as matching units become more and more common and easily accessible, there is no reason for you to take up the extra hassle of a mismatched unit.
Thinking of Switching?
Your comfort should be a top priority when choosing between MRAD and MOA. If you are already comfortable with one of these two, forego all thoughts of switching to the other one.
Unless you absolutely need to switch for some reason, we strongly recommend against switching and suggest just sticking to the one you are already familiar with.
Your Comfort Comes First
At the end of the day, it really does come down to your personal preferences. As long as you know enough about the one you choose to go for, you should be fine. You being comfortable with it is what matters the most when using it.
Some Other Things to Look at
We know you are looking for the most suitable scope for yourself. And we only want the best for you. That’s why we can’t resist telling you some other aspects of a scope you might want to look into.
Some other important things to consider when buying your rifle scope would be:
- Light conditions
- Crosshairs or reticle styles
- Turret features
- Weight of the scope
Be sure to take a look at all of these factors so that you can get the perfect scope for yourself that really meets all of your needs.
We have reviewed different types of scopes. You can get one depending on your budget and requirements.
Here are our TOP reviews:
Try It Out for Yourself
There’s no way to truly know which one you personally are comfortable with before you try them out for yourself. We think the best option would be if you could do something like a short training session beforehand and see if you truly feel comfortable with the one you want to go for.
The good news is, you can figure out which one you like the most without even trying it hands-on.
You can simply download a good software on your computer, or an application on your phone that generates charts for holdovers and hold offs based on your inputs. With these, you can easily compare and see which setup suits you the best.
Strelok Pro and Ballistic Calculator are two such apps. Strelok Pro is available for both Android and iOS, and Ballistic Calculator is available for iOS only.
Or you can simply compare the data tables and many cheat sheets used for both MRAD and MOA and see which seems easier or more convenient to you.
In truth, all of it will matter the most in the initial stage when you are still in the learning phase. Once you get over that bump, it should become way easier going forward as you get familiar.
To sum it all up, if you prefer always being on the same page as the ones around you, and having a vast amount of sources for information, it’s better to go for MRAD.
If you are really concerned about having the finest adjustments possible and feel like you would be more comfortable with MOA, then, by all means, go for it.
Just Commit Yourself to One
No matter which one wins you over, we are hopeful all your worries about MRAD vs MOA will soon disappear as you get used to one of these. We hope our article has given you some inspiration to finally commit and give yourself some peace of mind.