Everybody has a different, personal preference, different ways of holding their rifles, different eye relief, and so on. Regardless, precision and accuracy is the ultimate goal. The right scope can mean the difference between a 4” group and a 1” group with a bunch of keyholes.
The primary difference in the MOA vs MRAD comparison is the different systems of measurement. MOA stands for Minutes of Angle while MRAD stands for milliradians. It’s where we get the “mil” term from when we say things like, “mil-dot.”
Since we don’t use the metric system in the United States, MOA scopes are among the most popular.
MOA vs MRAD
What does MOA Mean
MOA is defined by your grouping on a target at 100 yards. For instance, 1 MOA is a 1” group. It’s difficult to explain because the entire definition is all about the target, rather than the scope, and how the MOA system works.
If you look at a target and visualize it as a clock, instead of 60 minutes, put 360° in there. Your circle will be a clock defined by 360°. One degree equals sixty minutes. Since there are 360°, your clock has 21,600 minutes.
Except, that’s the “general” way of looking at it. If you want to break things down precisely, every minute is actually 1.047. If you have a 2” group at 200 yards, your MOA is double that of 1.047, which is 2.094. So forth and so on.
This is important information because most MOA scope adjustments equal ¼ MOA per click. Some equal ½ MOA per click. It’s imperative that you know that information about your scope before you sight in your rifle.
What does MRAD mean
MRAD got its start in artillery and is derived from the International Standard of Measurement. Milliradians, like Minutes of Angle, divide a circle’s circumference into 6.28 sections. Each section contains 57.3°.
Since each radian has 1,000 milliradians, that comes to a grand total of 6,280 milliradians. Because there are far fewer milliradians in a circle than there are minutes, the corresponding sight adjustment clicks on an MRAD scope are even smaller at ⅒.
A single click at 100 yards will move your round impact up, down, left, or right by .36”. MRAD is the preferred scope for snipers, police, and military personnel because long-range adjustments are finer than they are with MOA scopes.
Which is Better
For hunters, who aren’t going to take 1,500-yard potshots at a quartering away whitetail, MOA scopes are preferable. They make more sense at close range (anything inside 500 yards) because the adjustments don’t require extreme degrees of precision.
For those in shooting competitions where the distance exceeds 500 yards and for snipers, MRAD scopes make for much better fine-tuning adjustments at extreme ranges. Neither is a better scope than the other, just more or less useful at particular ranges.
MOA scopes are very popular in America because it’s not metric and because hunters don’t require that kind of precision at vast distances. Most hunters aren’t going to shoot far enough to make an MRAD scope a viable option.
That doesn’t mean hunters can’t use MRAD scopes, and snipers can’t use MOA scopes. It just means that preference—in these scenarios—is dictated by range. Even at 1,000 yards, the ¼ a click on an MOA gives you converts to 2.6”. Is that the most precise in the world? No. But it’s not bad either.
Either method is calculated by taking the center of your group and measuring the distance up/down and left/right from the center mass. You make your click adjustments on the scope to move your round impact where it needs to be.
Find your mil by using this formula: (Range x 3.6) ÷ 100. Find your minutes with this formula: (Range x 1.047) ÷ 100. That all seems pretty simple. Right?
Does the Military Use MOA or MRAD
The US military loves the concept of KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). For that reason, MRAD is where they end to gravitate. That’s because most red dots are 1 mil-dot. It keeps things simple when sighting in.
Plus, MRAD is more effective at very long distances, and the military has an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) or two where precision at vast distances is highly beneficial.
If you live in America and own a hunting rifle with a scope, go check it out. It will probably be an MOA scope. For the most part, that’s what you’re going to find on store shelves as well. Each has its advantages, mostly with short and long-distance shots.
If you own an MOA, you should consider purchasing an MRAD scope because it never hurts to know all the ins and outs of the various optics on the market today. You’ll find that using MRAD is a little different but not altogether difficult.
Ultimately, neither scope is superior, just different. However, both types will continue to do very well in America, with civilians hoarding MOAs and the military snatching up MRADs.
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