Primal Rights’ Primer: First vs. Second Focal Plane Scopes

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Primal Rights, an online long-range store, has posted up an excellent primer on the differences between first and second focal plane scopes. Many shooters take this knowledge for granted, but as an experienced one, I still found value in the the refresher course.

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They break it down barney style on how the reticle scales to the target and the various advantages and disadvantages of both systems. Primal’s conclusions?

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The number one situation where FFP reticles show their strengths is in tactical shooting, and what I mean by that is situations where you have limited time and one shot, or if you are lucky you might get a follow-up shot. For most of us this means running through a precision rifle competition. At these events you are presented with targets of various size at known or unknown distances in virtually every position imaginable. Shots can be from 11yds to well over 1000yds and you may only have a matter of seconds to find and engage targets. In these circumstances are where optics with FFP reticles really shine. You may not have time to run the turrets at a stage, so you will rely heavily on the reticle to apply your correct hold. You will often be shooting multiple directions, so your wind hold will move from left to right and dialing the windage turret will take too much time. I could go on for another full page about all the situations I can think of at a match where a FFP reticle would be superior to SFP, but I think you get the point.

I have not yet encountered a situation where a FFP reticle was not able to get the job done. I get my fair share of paper punching in as well and again I have not encountered an instance where I wished I had a SFP reticle. A FFP reticle is kind of like a concealed carry weapon. I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it! The most important thing for you is to understand what you are using. Not everyone can afford the latest and greatest FFP rifle scope. Do not let that discourage you from shooting. There are new models being offered in FFP configuration by most major optics manufacturers at ever decreasing price points.

What are your thoughts? SFP enough for you and/or do you prefer FFP?

The primer was Part 3 of a three-part series. You can read Part 2: Angular Mil and Part 1: MOA & IPHY by clicking on the embedded links. 


Nathan S.

TFB’s resident Jarhead, Nathan now works within the Industry in Operations, Sales & Marketing. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, MSR’s, high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries in the last three years working with US DoD & foreign MoDs. You will likely find him either in an international airport or on the local range in NE Indiana.

Nathan can be reached at [email protected]


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  • Bobby

    SFP is good for competitions where you run on low power, like 3 gun. You want a visible reticle across the whole range of magnification, usually on FFP you end up with too small a reticle at min or too large a reticle at max.

    My rule of thumb is any 1x scopes get SFP and any 4x+ scopes get FFP. So all your 1x-4x and 1x-6x etc. (along with like the 1.5x-8x kind of things) will have SFP and all your 4x-16x and 5x-25x will have FFP.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    The ONLY advantage with a scone focal plane scope is cost/complexity/weight. FFP scopes have a limited zoom ratio compared to SFP but I don’t consider this significant in practice. As 10x will get you to 1000y. So 20x should be plenty for most shooters. 30x SFP and you are just watching wobble all day.

    One could argue that with an 8:1 zoom ratio or higher, that it’s possible the reticle becomes “too fine” at the low range. Ex, a 3-24x scope on 1x may be too fine to see markings on 3x, but this is sort of moot by the fact that you likely aren’t trying a 2.5mil hold on 3x. I’m sure someone out there forgoes all the advantages of FFP because of some impractical stubborn reason like this.

  • Geodkyt

    I have seen guys whining about FFP vs. SFP on FIXED MAGNIFICATION SCOPES. (LOL)

  • TiC

    I personally prefer FFP, but a good reticle design is critical. Otherwise, it’ll be a hassle at either the lower or higher power end.