Mil vs. MOA – A Realistic Break-Down by Precision Rifle Blog

While I am not a typical precision rifle shooter, I do occasionally go out and reach to the long ranges with a good bolt gun. Like many today, I was once confused on the two major systems for scope reticles that populate the market: Milliradians and Minutes-of-Angle.

Precision Rifle Blog has an excellent write-up of the two systems and their function. They focus on the factual differences, rather than get emotionally attached to one system or another.

For those looking for the nickel-tour, the summary is below. I personally recommend that all shooters follow the last bullet point. 

  • 1/4 MOA adjustments are slightly more precise than 1/10 MIL
  • MIL values are slightly easier to communicate
  • If you think in yards/inches the math for range estimation is easier with MOA. If you think in meters/cm the math is easier with MIL.
  • If you have a friend that is already using one, there is some advantage to being on the same system.
  • Around 90% of the pros use MIL
  • More product options in MIL
  • Whatever you decide, go with matching turret/reticle (i.e. MIL/MIL or MOA/MOA)

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Julio

    A good comparison. Like-with-like is vital. Turrets & Reticle must be MOA & MOA or MRAD & MRAD and shooter and spotter must be using the same units of measurements.
    So far so good, but whenever you need to work out numbers in your head under pressure, metric beats imperial hands-down. If measuring distances in yards is all that’s stopping you using MRAD scopes, then switch your range-finder to metres: there’s usually a lot more time to work out a range-card than there is to dial-in/aim-off for a shot. Re. less-precise clicks, this obviously matters more as relative or absolute target size decreases. Nothing beats 1/8 MOA for precision, but 0.005 (5cm @ 1000m) MRAD clicks are appearing now too, which is probably enough as other errors creep in as clicks get finer.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Wrong about switching your range finder to meters. Mils are not metric. Use whatever you think in, inches or yards are fine. Yards make for slightly more complicated math, but MOA does as well, so calculator involved they are identical.

      Right about use whatever your spotter uses. For hunters who THINK specifically in inches and don’t wish to learn why mils makes more sense, then I see a quick and tangible benefit to MOA.

  • dan citizen

    I prefer the egyptian djeba (which is 1/4 shesep, or 1/5 drit, whatever floats your papyrus) Sure it’s been a little unpopular the last 3000 years, but I got a good feeling it will gain more acceptance in the future.

    • Ripley

      Remember to aim one kadam lower to honor the Hebrew God, or you’ll be shooting at the wrong target.

      • dan citizen

        Sekhmet will ask the bullet to rise and strike the target, so… trackingpoint can suck it, they’re 3,000 years late to the game.

        • Bill

          I use the King’s Thumb per Chain. My car’s speedometer is in furlongs per fortnight. Bullet weight is measured in grains of wheat.

          • RealitiCzech

            Furlongs per fortnight are pretty good for a car. I prefer fathoms per gesh for my yacht, which is of course made of gopher wood.

          • dan citizen

            “My car gets fourty rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I like it”

            -Abe Simpson

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Fwiw… Mils actually is 1/5 drift across at 1000 1/5 dirt away. Literally. Supposing you had a standard for drit.

      This is why people who don’t understand mils which is non-metric / universal will go with MOA with is only imperial.

      Leupold would not be telling you not to stop calling, but giving you a part number of an existing mil scope.

      • dan citizen

        In all seriousness, I would not trouble leupold with my antics.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Yea, I thought we were on the same page. My comments are actually just pointing out that no matter what silly measurement you can come up with. Mils already does that. It’s universal.

          A mil is one Lebron James across at 1000 Lebron James down range.

          See all the comments below that incorrectly think it’s metric.

          • Paul Epstein

            It fits metric well because metric has whole units which are 1/1000th of another unit- there is no imperial designation for 1/1000th of a yard, if you want an alternative measurement it has to be 0.036 inches. But if you want a thousandth of a meter, it’s one whole millimeter.

            If you’re comfortable thinking in thousandths of a yard as a thing, and not trying to convert into inches during the process, you’re not going to have a problem- but that’s not very intuitive to most people.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            For real precision shooting, you’re going to need a calculator no matter what. Either at UKD or to set up a field card. Mils or MOA.

            So… I’m going to use the one with tangible benefits like 1000y being 0-10 mil in .1 increments instead of 0-24 MOA in .25 increments. Mils speaks so much easier than MOA.

            There are advantages to MOA if you only know inches and can only do the math in head or quickly. But if you know how to build a UKD cheat sheet before you head out, or know the size of the targets, I see no one doing the math either way.

            No matter what, mils are not metric in the same way MOA is imperial. Saying I’m an American, I need MOA is a big red flag that shooter has no idea what they are doing.

            All that said… Yea. 36″, 3.6″, .36″, works pretty well.

          • dan citizen

            I like that I said something crazy and you used it to rationally show why mils are a great system. Very informative and impressive.

    • Raul

      Thanks for the laugh! And the replies are hilarious also!

  • Nicholas Mew

    I will go with Mil sense it is in metric.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      No. Mils is not in any sense metric except that metric uses a base 10 division.

      Read this a few times: A mil, is 1 inch at 1000 inches.

      • Spidouz

        You’re right, except that no one can clearly and quickly guestimate a shooting distance using inches. They’re gonna use yards or meters. Therefor that’s where a base 10 division makes it pretty efficient (and the reason why it makes more sense to use MILs for anyone that use the metric system).

        But as said, miliradians are not metric per se, it’s just a way to measure angle. And I like it more and more because of it and it’s flexibility. Because 1MIL could equal 10cm@100m, 100cm@1,000m, but it also mean 1 yard@1,000 yards.

        I was mainly using MOA scopes when shooting at fixed and known distance at the range. But the more I’m looking into long range and unknown distance, the more I’m into MIL scopes. Having 0.1 MIL turret could help to think also as 0.1 yard too (and of course metric).

        • JumpIf NotZero

          As to quickly…

          It depends if you know how to make dope cards, and cheat sheets, if you know what you will be shooting at (for sizes) you can precalculate coefficients.

          This is effective certainly if you know your target size (let’s say Elk chest height) and the danger space of your weapon.

  • Marc

    The problem with estimating MOA by inches/100 yards is that you have a ~5% error because it’s just a rule of thumb. MIL is exact.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      You’re talking about Math MOA vs Shooter’s MOA. It’s not to say MOA is less accurate, infact MOA has typically finer adjustment in scopes.

      If you are lazy and use shooter’s MOA, then that’s on you 🙂

      Math MOA and Mils boh require calculators if you are going to be serious.

      But your error isn’t 5% at all. It’s 1.047″ vs 1″ which is a difference of 10″ at 1000y. I’ll let you guess how many people using MOA can shoot precise enough to determine their own error vs math error on a 10″ target at 1000y.

      • Marc

        1.0472 vs. 1.0 is – you guessed it – a difference of ~5%

        And the problem isn’t so much click adjustment value as is ranging. If you estimated your target size correctly in inches at 1000 yards and do the common 1 MOA = 1 inch/100 yards fallacy you’ll adjust drop for 950 yards.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          No. See that’s were you are way off. You are taking 5% of the distance as error. But it’s just 5% of the resulting angle.

          You would ABSOLUTELY NOT range for 950y. The distance to the target and bullet angle have absolutely zero correlation. If you want to think about this practically, a 22lr ranged for 1000y won’t get you to 1000y, but a 338lm at 4000fps with a .999 BC ranged for 950 would.

          What you would do if you want to be lazy with Shooter’s MOA then correct it for actual MOA is take the resulting arc and use trig to apply 4.5% difference at the end point. If you needed a 20degree angle to make the shot, you “could” need a 20.9 degree to make it correct (there is more to it than that).

          • Marc

            You apparently don’t realize that these reticles are used for ranging, and that any angular error directly results in a proportional ranging error.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Yea… go read above and let’s see which of us “doesn’t realize” aspects of long range shooting 🙂

            Just stop. I’ve been patient and tried to explain that you’re as wrong as can be. No, you would not range for 950 if you wanted 1000y. Besides that even if you did manage to use an MOA reticle to range and shooter’s MOA to make the turret adjustment, the margin of error using a reticle to range is FAR beyond 5%, you would also have to do so based on an “inches of drop” off a chart and not dope, like I wrote above. No inches of drop chart is going to natrually be within 5% at 1000y for any gun, not even any two identical guns I’m sure.

            No one is using their reticle to range an UKD shot at 1000y then using shooter’s MOA.

            You’re entire “issue” with MOA, isn’t one. It’s an issue with someone using MOA wrong, but that isn’t MOA’s fault. If I use MILs and just use .3″ per .1 mil at 100y that doesn’t mean MIL has an issue.

  • Zugunder

    It’s so much easier work in metric system, c’mon America, just accept it! You just making communication with you harder.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Everytime you confuse mils as being metric, a puppy dies.

      I should probably note I don’t actually care. I kinda use that as a litmus test to see people should be listened to. You know, everyone on the Internet is a 1/2 MOA shooter anyhow!

      • Zugunder

        I was talking just in general…

  • I was flipping through a Guns & Ammo recently and stumbled across an ad for Century’s lasted Centurion AK. “Guaranteed accuracy of 1.2 mils!” it boldly proclaimed. Which, if my math is right, comes out to ~4.32 inches. Not shabby for a Century AK, but very few (if any) stateside companies deviate from the MOA standard in advertising. Crafty. I wonder how many people read it as MOA in haste? How many did they sell over that deceptive line? Do Century shooters care about accuracy past 30 yards?

    • Vhyrus

      I can’t comment about the rest, but I can repeatedly hit steel at 200 yards with my Century Yugo M70 with an unmagnified red dot. I haven’t tried it out farther but I bet with some kentucky windage I could do it with a few warm up shots.

      • The line about Century shooters may have been a little much. I still regret selling my Century PSL54 which was quite accurate with Wolf Gold.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Oh… I was going to write:

    In before someone confuses mils with Metric…. But I’m not. Of course.

  • Paladin

    Mils are NOT metric, they are in no way dependent on the metre, or any other metric unit. What mils are is a direct relation between arc length and radius. Mil is short for Milliradian, or one thousandth of a radian. A radian is the amount of angle where the radius and arc length are equal, and a milliradian is the amount of angle where the arc length is one thousandth of the radius. The measurement is not dependent on a particular set of measurement units. A one mil adjustment at a thousand metres corresponds to a one metre shift in POI. Likewise a one mil adjustment at a thousand yards corresponds to a one yard shift in POI.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Can I get a amen! … Although I thought I already covered it pretty well 😀

    • Ripley

      To some in the imperial world, “metric” is not just about the meter, but the base 10 calculation. Milli-something, oh that must be metric.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        No. Metric and base10 do not mean the same thing.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Around 90% of the pros use MIL

    I do like Cal’s PrecisionRifleBlog site. The work they did on accurately comparing scopes recently was pretty amazing but…

    The “What the Pros Use” entries are nonsense. The “Pros” in the PRS use what they are given to them by sponsors for the most part. I have a good friend in PRS and everything on his gun is sponsored, he doesn’t love his scope but he acts like it. It’s unfortunate because in some instances I think it works out that these guys use the best gear because they are competing at high level or have an option to select the good choice – in this case, everyone selects MIL over MOA because the scope sponsor doesn’t care.

    In other instances I know a certain rifle action mfg will give away actions to anyone that wants to compete with one, and they are in no way near the best in the industry, but they are free! There was also a certain suppressor mfg that was very popular for a couple years and has all but vanished now, they were giving away product, and stopped. Poof now the “pros” don’t use them.

    It’s misleading at best to look at “what the pros use”.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    MIL values are slightly easier to communicate

    Can not be overstated. It’s a TON easier to talk to your spotter/shooter and say “Nine point Eight” than it is “Twenty Two and Three Quarters” for the exact same shot.

    Or likewise if I need to make an adjustment, in MILS 9.8 + 6 is 10.4, easy. But 5.75 + 6 is um, 7.5 wait, yea, 7.5, much harder unless you maybe cook a ton and are used to working in 1/4 increments.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Read my post here on this. True Miliradian and “a mil” aren’t even the same thing when you get down to it.

    Mils were adopted into the metric system much later than the idea was invented. It just happens to be 1/1000 which works into the metric values. Miliradian is used by the metric system NOW… But that does not even sort of mean that mils are metric.

    European scopes have been “mil” forever, even though at the time they didn’t know it. They just used .1cm/100cm clicks.

    You are putting the “therefor” someplace it doesn’t belong. In this case, it’s just 1@1000 which is not anything but what it is. You can use it for imperial nicely. That doesn’t MAKE IT imperial anymore than it makes it metric.

    • Gso106

      What you say here’s both correct and incorrect technically. Basically what you explain above is misleading. A “mil” as you described is 1/1000 and that is fairly standard in many communities. however in ballistics that is not what is meant by a “mil”.

      Let’s start with the definitions of angular measures (which is where all this has its roots). A circle has 360 degrees or 2pi radians for a complete revolution.

      A minute of angle is defined as 1/60 of a degree. Think long and lat locations in degree,minute,second notation.

      A miliradian is 1/1000 of a radian.

      A few decades(or more) back the army decided that having a transcendental number of divisions in a circle was to complicated so when defining the “gunners mil” used when firing artillery they went with 1/6400 of a circle as opposed to 1/(2000*pi).

      When you range correctly using an angular measurement none of these are inherently more or less accurate. They are just units. It’s the same as saying measuring with millimeters is more accurate than inches, it’s simply not true.

    • Zugunder

      Actually you can’t use it for imperial units as nicely as for metric units. In metrics you can get 1 millimeter per 1 meter, 1 decimeter per 100 meters or 1 meter per 1 kilometer etc. – that’s all MIL. You don’t get this ratio between different imperial units, it’s always gonna be 1 unit per 1000 of same units.

    • Spidouz

      You’re just fooling yourself. radians are a unit of angle measuring used in the Metric System, period. Like Seconds (or even Hertz) are a units of time measuring. It’s not exclusive to Metric and it can clearly be used for US/Imperial, sure… but it’s still used in the Metric nonetheless. Where the MOA is close to useless for Metric and “only” make sense in the US.

      The whole Metric or US/Imperial Systems are both using units that have been invented well much later (don’t men had fingers, feet, blood before even they were used to measure things?). And radians (and therefor miliradians) were used on the Metric System (that has been created in 1799, well before other system and some units btw) , but just not as derived units, but as supplementary units at first, before to be completely adopted later in the International System of Units.

      However, European scopes were using MIL forever, perfectly knowing why. It’s completely silly to believe and say that manufacturers were just using it without even knowing why and what it was.

      The whole Metric System is on a 10 base division and sub-division, and that’s why they did use the MIL instead of another measurement unit. It would make more sense for US/Imperial if inches/yards/miles were on a 10 base division and shooters could easily and quickly evaluate distances with one unit or the other by just swapping the decimal. But they’re not a 10 base division.

      And that’s the whole point and the reason why US scientific, engineer and military are already heavily using Metrics units. And that’s a fact, enough said!

  • Blake

    We just zero our rifles at MPBR and never touch the turrets again…

    • JumpIf NotZero

      That’s….. not long range precision shooting.

      If you don’t dial for range… That’s called Kentucky Windage.

      • Blake

        Exactly my point.

        I’ve never had an opportunity to take a shot beyond the MPBR of a .243.