Best Mil Dot Scope: 6 Top Picks, Buying Guide from Rifle Experts

Long-range shooters know the importance of using every tool possible to estimate a host of conditions that can affect a bullets travel.  One of the most important is the distance to the target.  Mil-Dot can make estimating the distance to target much easier and more precise.  Using a Mil-Dot scope does take some training. You also need to understand your gun, the bullet you shoot, and how the Mil-Dot scope works.

Mil-Dot Scopes

Putting a Mil-Dot scope on your rifle will not instantly make you shoot better, straighter, or further.  A Mil-Dot scope is a tool.  Like any tool, it takes time to master and practice to use.  You must choose the right Mil-Dot scope for your shooting style and your rifle. 

The scopes on my list are just a sampling of the choices available on the market today.  These Mil-Dot scopes represent what I feel are the best in their category and are the scopes I would recommend if asked. 

The scopes on my list are just a sampling of the choices available on the market today.  These Mil-Dot scopes represent what I feel are the best in their category and are the scopes I would recommend if asked. 

What is a Half Mil-Dot Riflescope?

Mil-Dot reticles are graduated by dots or hash marks that represent one milliradian of angle.  These dots or hash marks help judge distance or make adjustments to windage and elevation.  A shooter accustomed to using a Mil-Dot reticle may not need to make turret adjustments.  If you know all the information about the distance, angle, and bullet characteristics, you can use hold-over to compensate.

Half Mil-Dot scopes have additional dots or hash marks that further graduate the reticle into half milliradian measurements.  Half Mil-Dots markings add a level of accuracy that is hard to achieve with full Mil-Dot scopes.


Best Mil-Dot Scopes – My Top Picks

Across the board, there are hundreds of scopes from which to choose.  The variety of riflescopes on the market presents challenges for even the savviest and knowledgeable shooter.  If you are just getting into the long-range shooting game, I think my list of the best Mil-Dot scopes on the market will help you decide.

1. Best Overall Mil-Dot Scope – Vortex Viper 6.5- 20 x 50 PA

Vortex Viper 6.5- 20 x 50 PA

In my opinion, Vortex Optics builds some of the finest scopes for the money you can buy.  Their optical glass is at the top of the list. Their quality control and design efforts rival the finest optics makers globally, and the service that Vortex Optics provides its customers is superb. 

The Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 PA rifle scope is a mid-range model in the Vortex Optics line of long-range scopes.  You can buy much more expensive optics from Vortex. But for most shooters, the slight differences won’t be noticeable.  The Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 PS rifle scope will get you the expected impressive list of Vortex features.

  • Magnification – 6.5 – 20X
  • Objective Lens – 50mm
  • Eye relief – 3.1 inches
  • Field of View – 17.4 – 6.2 feet at 100 yards
  • Tube size – 30mm
  • Turret style – Tall Capped
  • Adjustments per click – ¼ MOA
  • Adjustment per rotation – 12 MOA
  • Maximum Elevation Adjustment – 65 MOA
  • Maximum Windage Adjustment – 65 MOA
  • Parallax Setting – 50 yards to infinity
  • Overall Length – 14.44 inches
  • Weight – 21.6 ounces
  • Reticle – Available with Mil-Dot reticle or Vortex BDS reticle
  • Reticle placement – Second Focal Plane
  • Fully coated optics for maximum glare reduction and low light transmission

Pros

  • Best scope for the price available on the market
  • Best warranty of any manufacturer
  • Best glass to be found on any scope in this price range
  • Tough, durable, and easy to zero

Cons

  • A bit on the heavy side for a non-illuminated scope

Add to all this the Vortex Lifetime Warranty, and you have a hard to beat package at any price.  Fortunately, the price of the Vortex Viper 6.5 – 20 x 50 PC rifle scope will surprise you in comparison to other scopes that offer these same features and quality.

The Vortex Viper is the long-range scope that I currently have on my Savage .270 rifle.  It has performed so well that I have not chosen to upgrade.  This rifle and scope go to the field for hunting and the range for local long-range shooting.  I am a huge Vortex fan, and this riflescope has done nothing to but make me fonder of Vortex Optics.

Last update on 2020-12-01 at 11:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Best Illuminated Reticle Mil-Dot Rifle Scope – Bushnell Match Pro 6-24×50 Riflescope

Bushnell is always on my list of scopes when I am making recommendations.  Bushnell’s history and its reputation give them an edge in almost every category.  The same is true in this case.  Bushnell optics are never a bad choice in my book.

For years, illuminated reticles were a fad looked down on by traditional long-range shooters.  The first illuminated reticle scopes were quirky and often less than reliable.  Serious shooters saw no need to add one more piece of technology to proven designs.  This attitude has changed

Illuminated reticles are now mainstream and the technology has improved to give more durability and longer battery life.  Many hunters especially see an illuminated reticle to get a few extra minutes of shooting time at dusk and dawn when light conditions can be questionable.

Bushnell has married their traditional quality with an illumination system that you will be hard-pressed to beat.  Matching an illumination system with a first focal plane reticle gives you the best of both worlds.  Coupled with Bushnell’s uncompromising quality and service and you have what I believe is a winner in the illuminated reticle category.

  • First Focal Plane Reticle
  • Parallax setting – 10 yards to infinity
  • 10 Mil Turrets
  • 18 Mil travel on windage and elevation
  • No Tool turret reset
  • Etched glass reticle with holdovers for elevation and windage
  • Large locking turrets
  • Multi-coated glass
  • Recoil rated for large caliber rifles
  • Includes a sunshade and cap kits
  • Eye relief – 3.74 inches
  • Field of View – 4 to 18 feet at 100 yards
  • Length – 14 inches
  • Tube diameter – 30mm
  • Weight – 29.8 ounces

Pros

  • The locking no-tool turrets are fantastic
  • Easy to zero and quick to adjust
  • Precise and crisp clicks on the windage and elevation
  • The glass is much clearer than other scopes in this price range

Cons

  • More of a competition-style scope than a field scope

One of the downsides many shooters find with illuminated scopes is the extra weight.  Most illuminated scopes are heavier than their traditional counterpoints due to the extra technology and the need for a battery.  If you are bench shooting or regularly shoot from a prone position with a bipod, this may not be an issue.

3. Best Competition Mil-Dot Rifle Scope – Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1

Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1

If competition is where your interests lie, watching what the professional shooters use on top of their rifles will give you an idea of where to shop.  Mind you. These are not budget scopes. At the top levels of competition, the shooter’s equipment determines the difference in scores.

Surveying the scopes used by the top professional shooters find the Nightforce ATACR 7 – 35×56 F1 rifle scope a favorite.  Nightforce has a reputation as a precision scope manufacturer.  The quality of Nightforce products is unquestionable.  Many military long-range shooters use Nightforce optics as their choice of scope.   

As you would expect of a rifle scope in this price range, The Nightforce ATACR 7 – 35 x 56 F1 scope is feature-rich.  This scope design is meant from the ground up for serious long-range shooters.  Nothing has been left out or overlooked by Nightforce.

  • Magnification – 7 – 35X
  • Focal plane – First focal plane
  • Tube Diameter – 34mm
  • Overall length – 16.0 inches
  • Weight – 39.3 ounces
  • Adjustment per click – ¼ MOA or .1 MRAD
  • Maximum elevation adjustment – 100 MOA
  • Maximum windage adjustment – 60 MOA
  • Parallax Adjustment – 11 yards to infinity
  • Eye Relief – 3.6 inches
  • Field of View – 15 – 35 feet at 100 yards
  • Reticle illumination – Nightforce patented Digillum System

Pros

  • From 100 yards to 1000 yards, this is the best scope I have shot
  • The clearest glass I have seen on a riflescope
  • Well worth the extra cost if you are a serious competitive shooter
  • The fit and finish on this scope are immaculate

Cons

  • The price is the biggest drawback on this riflescope

If you intend to be a serious long-range shooting competitor, the Nightforce ATACR 7 – 35 x 56 F1 Scope is the pinnacle of long-range scopes.  It gets my nod as the choice for best competition mil-dot scope. The adage that shooters should expect to pay more for their optics than they did for their rifle may hold in this case.

Last update on 2020-12-01 at 11:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Best Mil-Dot Rifle Scope for Hunters – Bushnell Nitro 2.5– 10 x 44 mm

Bushnell Nitro 2.5– 10 x 44 mm

If competitive shooting is not your game, but the pursuit of big game is, then you should consider the Bushnell Nitro 2.5 x 10 x 44 mm rifle scope for your large caliber hunting rifle.  Don’t be misled that the Bushnell Nitro scope lacks any features or qualities of the other scopes on our list. 

A long-range hunting scope has different needs than a bench-rest competitive scope.  Hunts often occur across rugged terrain, where a long-range scope needs some different characteristics than a precision bench-rest scope.  The major difference is in the style of turrets.

Bench-rest long-range scopes tend to have tall easy to manipulate turrets.  These can be an obstacle when you are carrying a rifle over rough terrain or through heavy brush.  Hunters rarely adjust the turrets on hunting scopes in the field.  Capped turrets that sit low make maneuvering the rifle and scope combination much easier through heavy brush.  There is less chance of an accidental change or damage to the scope with low capped turrets. 

Even with these differences, Bushnell’s Nitro 2.5 – 10 x 44 riflescope has all the features any long-range shooter could expect in a high-quality riflescope.

  • Capped turrets for protection
  • Fast focus eyepiece
  • Bushnell Lifetime Warranty
  • Include sunshade and flip-up scope caps
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Waterproof construction
  • Wideband coating for excellent glare reduction and light transmission
  • Eye relief – 3.7 inches
  • Field of view – 9.5 to 37 feet at 100 yards
  • Overall length – 13.6 inches
  • Objective lens – 44mm
  • Side Parallax adjustment
  • Etched glass reticle

Pros

  • Good quality for the price.
  • This scope is made in South Korea and the quality is much better than Chinese or Filipino glass
  • The adjustments are precise, and the clicks are positive. 
  • The scope works great on my hunting rifle

Cons

  • Past 500 yards, it can be difficult to keep the target in focus.

The Bushnell Nitro 2.5 – 10 x 44 riflescope offers hunters the best of both worlds.  Excellent long-range capabilities and a sleek low profile design.  The scope will not only give you great long-range performance, it will ride snuggly and efficiently on your rifle no matter what kind of terrain or obstacles you face.

Bushnell Nitro Riflescope, 2.5-10x44_RN2104BF1,Black
  • The fully multi-coated optics deliver bright, high-contrast images with minimal eyestrain.
  • EXO Barrier coating bonds to exterior lens surfaces, and repels water, oil, fog, dust and debris.

Last update on 2020-12-01 at 11:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Best 1,000 Yard Mil-Dot Rifle Scope – Trijicon AccuPower 5 – 50 x 56 Riflescope

Trijicon AccuPower 5 – 50 x 56 Riflescope

Going long is always a challenge when shooting.  Pushing that limit out beyond the 1,000-yard mark is a goal for many long-range shooters.  Hitting targets consistently at the 1,000-yard range demands the best precision rifle optics and the magnification power to bring the target into view.

Trijicon has just the scope for these long-range challenges.  The Trijicon 5 – 50 x 56 riflescope can take you out well beyond that elusive 1,000-yard mark with ease.  The generous 5 – 50 magnification and the extra-large 56mm objective lens puts distant targets into easy view.

Trijicon has a reputation for quality and attention to detail.  Their scopes see action around the world in many different applications.  The Trijicon 5 – 50 x 56mm long-range riflescope is no different.  Trijicon has put features in the AccuPower that make it an award winner.

  • Length – 16 inches
  • Height – 2.99 inches
  • Magnification – 5 – 50 X
  • Tube size – 34mm
  • Illuminated reticle – Yes
  • Second focal plane design
  • Five illuminations setting for both red and green
  • Maximum Windage Adjustment – 50 MOA
  • Maximum Elevation Adjustment – 100 MOA
  • Adjustment per click – 1/8 MOA per click
  • Weight – 38.4 ounces
  • Objective lends – 56mm
  • LED illumination source
  • Cu2032 battery
  • Eye relief – 3.5 – 3.9 inches
  • Field of View – 2.1 – 21.2 feet at 100 yards
  • Submersible to 10 feet

Pros

  • The clarity and crispness of the sight picture at long ranges is astounding
  • This scope reflects every reason to buy Trijicon.  The fit and finish are great
  • Compared to my last long-range scope, the Trijicon is light-years better
  • In low light, this scope is a real performer

Cons

  • The price
  • The weight

Almost any of the scopes on my list will effectively reach beyond the 1,000-yard mark.  The Trijicon AccuPower 5 – 50 x 56 does it better than almost any other scope.  If you are after that magic shot beyond the 1,000-yard mark, you won’t find a better riflescope option to take you this distance than the Trijicon AccuPower 5 – 50x 56 rifle scope.

Trijicon, AccuPower 5-50x56mm Extreme Long Range Riflescope, 34mm Tube,...
  • Extra Low Dispersion glass delivers true colors for exceptional target definition
  • Fully multi-coated broadband anti-reflective optics virtually eliminate glare and loss of light

Last update on 2020-12-01 at 11:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. Best Budget Mil-Dot Riflescope – Primary Arms 4 – 16 x 44 Mil-Dot Reticle Riflescope

Primary Arms 4 – 16 x 44 Mil-Dot Reticle Riflescope

Primary arms are not as well-known as the other manufacturers of riflescopes on our list.  However, that doesn’t mean they don’t produce an excellent riflescope.  In fact, their scopes compete very well with the best scopes on the market and their prices are well within the budget of almost all shooters.

The Primary Arms 4 – 16x 44 riflescope is my choice for the best budget long-range rifle scope.  The quality, durability, and precision of the Primary Arms riflescope are well above what most shooters expect from a scope in this price range.  Primary arms bring to the table all the features any long-range shooter could want.

  • Magnification – 4 – 16X
  • Second focal plane design
  • 31mm objective lens
  • Includes Butler Creek flip-up lens caps
  • Illuminated reticle
  • 12 brightness settings
  • Shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof
  • Uses a CR2032 battery
  • Adjustments per click – ¼ MOA
  • Eye relief – 3.5 inches
  • Field of View – 6.98 – 26.19 feet at 100 yards
  • Overall length – 14.3 inches
  • Objective lens – 44 mm
  • Mil-Dot reticle
  • Maximum Elevation adjustment – 30 MOA
  • Maximum windage adjustment – 30 MOA
  • Weight 23.5 ounces
  • Tube diameter – 30 mm

Pros

  • Much more accurate than I expected for a scope in this price range
  • Great turrets and precision clicks make adjustments easy
  • This is a perfect starter scope for someone just getting into long-range shooting
  • Primary Arms customer service is the best I have ever experienced

Cons

  • The crosshair lines are a little thin and can get lost against a busy background

If you are on a budget but still want to have excellent long-range performance in your scope, you won’t find a better choice than the Primary Arms 4 – 16 x 44 Mil-Dot riflescope.  You can take this scope to the range for competition or into the field on your annual hunt and expect above-average performance at a great price.

Primary Arms Classic Series 4-16x44mm SFP Rifle Scope - Illuminated MIL-DOT
  • MIL-DOT RETICLE: The second focal plane design keeps the simple, unobtrusive mil-dot reticle the...
  • PARTIAL RETICLE ILLUMINATION: Powered by a common CR2032 battery, the center mil-dot section...

Last update on 2020-12-01 at 11:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Mil-Dot Rifle Scopes – The Why’s and Where Fors

If you are new to rifle scopes, you may be confused by the discussions of MOA, Mil-Dot, and milliradians.  Before you go any further, it is important to become familiar with these types of reticles’ measurements and uses.

What Does Mil-Dot Mean?

Despite many common misconceptions, Mil-Dot has nothing to do with the military. The Mil part of the Mil-Dot description refers to milliradians.  A milliradian is a measure of angles.  If you have a tube that is 1 milliradian angle from the back to the front and you look down that tube, at 100 yards, you will see about 3.6 inches of your target.

Skilled shooters can use a Mil-Dot scope to perform several functions.  The Mil-dot graduations on the reticle are useful to judge distance, make corrections for bullet drop, and crosswind drift.  Learning to use a Mil-Dot reticle on a riflescope can be a bit daunting, but once you understand the concepts, it is a great piece of kit to have on your riflescope.

Why Are Mil-Dot Scopes so Popular?

Mil-Dot scopes provide shooters such a range of valuable features that it is hard to list them all in one place. 

  • Mil-Dot riflescopes measure adjustment increments in milliradians, which are easy to convert
  • At long ranges, a Mil-Dot scope may offer more precision than other types of reticles
  • Converting range and adjustments to clicks is often easier with a Mil-Dot scope
  • The Mil-Dot system is a base-ten system as opposed to the MOA quarter system of adjustments

The bottom line is that many shooters find the milliradian measurement system easier to understand and use.


What to Look for in a Mil-Dot Riflescope

When you start shopping for a Mil-Dot riflescope, there are several factors you should consider in the process. 

  • How Well is the Riflescope Made – From the overall construction to the materials used, you want to pick the best possible combination of construction and materials that you can afford.
  • Magnification – The ability to hit a target at any significant distance is dependent on being able to see the target in relation to the reticle.  The more magnification, the close the target will appear. 
  • How Well Can You See the Reticle – If you shoot in low light conditions, you may want to consider an illuminated reticle.  An illuminated reticle can add extra time to your shooting window when hunting or give you the edge in competition when light conditions are not the best.
  • The Glass You Look Through – The quality of the lenses in the riflescope is a critical factor.  Low-quality lenses will not transmit as much light.  The objects you look at through the scope may not seem as crisp and clear. 

Understanding a Mil-Dot Reticle

Mil-Dot reticles can be confusing when you first look at them.  Understanding what each of the markings means and how to use it effectively makes the Mil-Dot scope a versatile tool for any shooter.

The Crosshairs and Dots

The basic Mil-Dot reticle has crosshairs with dots placed along each axis.  Typically, each dot is .25 milliradians in diameter and spaced one milliradian apart.  At 1,000 yards, one milliradian equals 1 yard. 

Most Mil-Dot reticles have thin lines near the center of the crosshair and thicker lines toward the ends.  The distance between the ends of the thicker lines usually equates to 36 inches at one hundred yards.  This distance may be dependent on the magnification setting on the scope.  Consult the user’s manual for your scope for more detailed information.

Other Markings and Information

Some Mil-Dot scopes include other markings that help in distance calculations or make adjustments to the scope for elevation and windage.  Many of these markings are proprietary to the manufacturer of the scope.  The user manual that came with your scope is the best source of information about using the other markings on the reticle.


Illuminated Reticles – Should I Get One?

An illuminated reticle’s choice over a non-illuminated scope is more a matter of personal taste than anything else.  There are valid arguments for both. 

  • Complexity – Illuminated reticles add complexity to the construction of the scope.  Many shooters hold that an illumination system is just one more thing to go wrong and fail at the worst possible time. 
  • Weight – By and large, scopes with illuminated reticles tend to be heavier than their non-illuminated counterparts.  Extra weight may not be an issue if you are a competitive bench-rest shooter.  However, if you are lugging a rifle across ridgelines and up slopes, even a few ounces may make the difference in your comfort.
  • Batteries – Batteries, according to Murphy’s Law, will fail just when you need them most.  To be prepared means having extra batteries close at hand.  Extra batteries are one more thing to remember for your range bag or in your backpack.
  • When the Illumination Fails – If you chose an illuminated reticle, be sure that the reticle is visible and useable without the illumination.  Being unable to see the reticle could be important when that once in a lifetime shot is right before you, and the batteries die, or you have dropped your rifle and the lights won’t come on.

Illuminated reticles are handy if you hunt or shot in lowlight conditions.  However, don’t dismiss the problems associated with that extra technology built into your riflescope.


What Do I Think?

These scopes on my list represent my choice for each category of scope.  No one scope can perform well in all the categories.  You must decide on what you expect from your riflescope.  You may need performance at great distances or rugged durability for hunting in extreme conditions.  The budget may be a consideration as well.

For the average shooter who wants to gain the best long-range riflescope for the money, my recommendation is the Vortex Viper 6.5- 20 x 50 PA riflescope.  The Vortex Viper is not the cheapest scope by any means.  However, for the price, the performance and quality are unparalleled.  The Vortex Viper will take you close to the 1,000-yard mark while being rugged enough to take back-country on an elk hunt.


Finding the Right Riflescope for Your Needs

Finding the right riflescope for your needs is a lot like buying boots.  The most important part is the fit, but style and features are important as well.   I hope that my list of the Best Mil-Dot riflescopes helps you find the long-range rifle scope that best fits your needs and requirements.

If you found this article helpful, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  I love to hear from our readers.  Your experiences, suggestions, and input help everyone who is part of our shooting community.  Good Shooting and Stay Safe.



Written by Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here. Read more of Dennis's articles.

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