If you understand MOA and you know how to use Mils (also called MRAD), you might be wondering which unit of measurement is right for you.
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In fact, one of the more common questions I get as a long range/precision rifle instructor is “Which is best for me, Minutes of Angle (MOA) or Mils?”
Thankfully, I have a fairly straight-forward answer (this is rare for me):
If you already have a group of friends that you regularly shoot with, use whichever system they use as it’ll be easier to communicate and learn.
However, if you’re just starting out shooting a scoped rifles on your own, this is a guidance principle I share:
If you’re primarily going to use the rifle for hunting or “plinking,” especially at closer ranges of 300 yards and in, you should use Minutes of Angle (MOA). If you’re primarily using the rifle for long range target shooting, you should use Milliradians (Mils or MRAD).
Of course, that’s a general guideline to help you choose between MOA vs Mils and it may not apply to you. Let’s discuss why I think you should use MOA vs MRAD in certain scenarios and see if you agree with me (please let me know in the comments).
First some basics:
What is MOA?
MOA stands for “Minute of Angle.”
Minute of Angel is an angular measurement that you can use to make adjustments to your scope (or iron sights) to change the impact of your bullet and also to measure the size of a group of shots on a target.
It is not a linear measurement that can me measures with a ruler – instead it is an angle (much like 10 degrees, that only corresponds to a certain size at a certain distance).
Common examples of MOA in use for shooting you might hear are:
“My shots are two inches low at 200 yards so I need to make a 1 MOA adjustment up on my scope”
“This rifle is very accurate – it can shot ½ MOA groups”
In a simplified explanation, a minute of angle (MOA) ends up being about 1 inch in size for every 100 yards in distance. Therefore, 1 MOA is about 1 inch at 100 yards, about 2 inches at 200 yards, about 8 inches at 800 yards and so on.
A true MOA is actually 1.047 inches per 100 yards but I like to just round down to 1 inch (sometimes called a shooters MOA )
If you’d like some help understanding more about minutes of angle and what angular measurements are and how they work for shooting, you should check out our article Understanding Minutes of Angle (MOA).
Most hunting scopes, or even simpler/less expensive scopes for general “plinking,” are MOA scopes. An MOA scope is a rifle scope that has the elevation and windage adjustment as an MOA turret which means that adjustments up and down and left and right are made in minutes of angle.
Some higher end MOA scopes may also have an MOA reticle wherein the scope reticle (aiming points / crosshairs) has measurement marks in minutes of angle.
If you’d like some help knowing how to adjust your scope or even how to zero your rifle, please check out those guides.
What is Mil?
A Mil is an angular measure, similar to MOA, that can be used to make adjustments to a bullet’s impact (by adjusting the rifle scope or iron sights), and also as a reference to the size of a group of bullet impacts.
However, even a shooter that uses a Mil scope and uses a mil reticle in their long range shooting will still usually use MOA when discussing a group’s size. Conversely, even a MOA shooter will often use Mils when it comes to range estimation.
“Mil” is short for the term Milliradian (not military) and is effectively used the same as MOA but it is the metric system (although it can be used with yards and meters).
A Mil (also sometimes called an MRAD), ends up being the size of something that is 1/1000th the distance. Said another way, a 1 meter target will measure 1 Mil tall at 1000 meters. Similarly, a 1 inch tall target will measure 1 Mil tall at 1000 inches.
If you’d like to learn more about Mil/MRAD, please check out our article on Understanding Mils.
If you have an MRAD scope, that means that your rifle scope adjusts in elevation and windage in increments of a Mil (usually 1/10th of a mil per click of a turret adjustment). Also, if you have a Mil based scope, as they are most commonly higher-end scopes for long range shooting, it will likely have a scope reticle that has marks in Mils for measuring – this is called a mil dot reticle.
Mil vs MOA
If you’re looking for the difference between MRAD vs MOA (you’re here reading this article, after all), you’re likely trying to decide on whether you should buy a MOA rifle scope or a Mil rifle scope (or perhaps you’re trying to figure out whether you should dive into the MOA system or the Mil system).
As I mentioned above, I can give a fairly simple answer to this:
The MOA System is for you if:
- You are using the rifle/scope primarily for hunting,
- You’re going to zero the scope once and likely never adjust it again,
- You have friends that shoot MOA scopes, or
- You think in inches easier (instead of centimeters) and don’t want to learn a new system.
The Mil / MRAD system is for you if:
- You want to get into long range shooting, or
- You have friend that shoot MRAD scopes.
Neither is inherently “better” but there are some pros and cons.
Minute of Angle Pros:
- Minute of angle scopes are generally less expensive (on average) than Milliradian scopes
- If you already think in inches, it’s easier to see and adjust for. For example, if you can see that you need to move your bullet impact up 14 inches at 100 yards, you know that’s a 14 MOA measurement and a 14 MOA adjustment
- If you’re a hunter or casual shooter, you’re more likely to have all of your scopes adjust in the same units of measurement
Minute of Angle Cons:
- Although it can be done, it is slightly more difficult to measure and range estimate with MOA
- Most MOA scopes do NOT have reticles with measurement marks
- Most MOA scopes are second focal plane (SFP) scopes where the reticle stays the same size throughout the magnification adjustment range
- Can be more difficult to communicate (e.g. 17.75 MOA is more numbers/syllables than 5.1 Mils)
- Most Mil scopes are premium scopes
- Mil scopes make range estimation and conversions easy
- Most long range shooters today use Mils
- Most Mil scopes have adjustment/measurement marks on the reticle
- Once the system is learned, conversions are fast and easy
- Can be easier to communicate (e.g. 5.1 Mils is fewer numbers/syllables than 17.75 MOA)
- Mil scopes, on average, are more expensive
- Mil scopes are generally larger and heavier
Now that we’ve covered neither is technically “better” than the other, I hope that you can see the choice on whether to use MOA or Mil is largely a personal choice and is dependent on what you intend to do with the rifle.
As a note, once you get into longer distance shooting and adjusting your scope, you’re going to find it easier to stay within one system over the other.
Converting between MOA and Mils
If you have a measurement or adjustment in MOA and you need it in Mils (or visa versa), then you’re going to need to convert between the two.
As a really rough and fairly quick method of converting between MOA and Mils, I recommend the following:
MOA * 3.5 = Mils
Mils/3.5 = MOA