MOA vs MRAD Rifle Scopes

Video mrad vs moa

Let’s take a deep dive into the differences between MOA vs MRAD rifle scopes.

A lot of what makes someone shoot so well with a particular rifle scope reticle is personal preference. It’s very subjective. And while you’d have to define the limits of a competition between a low-power scope with a basic reticle versus a high-power scope with a MOA- or MRAD- reticles and adjustments, there are some advantages to using the latter. If you’re looking to get into competition shooting or are just interested in increasing your long-range skills, either understanding Minute of Angle (MOA) or milliradian (MRAD), or both, are pretty important.

MOA vs MRAD Rifle Scopes

So what’s the actual difference when it comes to MOA vs MRAD rifle scopes? Most of us probably at least know the term Minute of Angle (MOA). MOA rifle scopes are the norm in the United States. Especially for whitetail deer hunters who don’t need to make super long shots or a lot of adjustments. Fewer of us are likely familiar with milliradian (MRAD). Again, this mostly applies to Americans since we don’t use the metric system.

So what exactly is the difference between MOA vs MRAD rifle scopes?

Taking a deeper dive into our previous blog, let’s look at MOA vs MRAD rifle scopes, and how the differences can effect each shooting discipline. Looking at MOA vs MRAD rifle scopes, you must first determine for what application you’ll use the rifle and scope combo.

Defining MOA

Minute of angle numbers essentially stand for how your bullets are distributed on a target at 100 yards in inches. If after a day at the range your group size averages 1 MOA, you shot about a 1-inch group center to center each time. We say about because an MOA is actually 1.047 inches.

Minute of Angle is an angular measurement. “Minute” equals “1/60,” as in there are 60 minutes in an hour and one minute of time is 1/60 of an hour. So when determining rifle accuracy, a minute is a very small measurement of an angle.

Look at a round target like a pizza. The target is 360 degrees because there are 360 degrees in a circle. The number of minutes in a degree is 60. So if one degree equals 60 minutes, and there are 360 degrees in a circle, that means there are a total of 21,600 minutes. If the circle is divided into 360 pieces of pie, then each pizza slice is a minute of angle.

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Again, 1 MOA means that your rifle and scope will place the shots within your group roughly in one inch from center to center. At further distances you can keep this same formula, meaning that 2 inches at 200 yards is still 1 MOA, as is 3 inches at 300, 4 inches at 400, and so on. Bringing the target closer, to say 50 yards, you have a 1 MOA when your group is roughly half an inch from center to center.

Defining MRAD

The “milliradian” comes from the International Standard of Measurement, which is the metric system common to the rest of the world. Which, again, is why MOA is much more popular in the States. Just like MOA, milliradian, or MRAD, is an angular measurement. The major difference is that while there are 21,600 minutes in a circle as with MOA, milliradians divide the circumference of a circle into 6.28 equal sections that measure 57.3 degrees each; this gives us a circle that has a circumference of 6.28 radians long. If each radian has 1,000 milliradians, then we know that there are 6,280 milliradians in a circle.

The MRAD rifle scope is typically offered in the traditional mildot or a Christmas Tree style reticle. They are designed to provide precision and speed with hold points along both the horizontal and vertical crosshair to aid in measurement of targets or holdover compensation.

The thing to keep in mind is that each click with an MRAD scope is equal 1/10 of a milliradian. This is equal to approximately .36 inches at 100 yards, meaning the MRAD adjustment ultimately has a larger value per click than MOA (remember, MOA equals approximately one inch at 100 yards). The benefit of MRAD adjustments, especially when shooting long range, is that you won’t have to dial the turret up as much, making long range adjustments faster with less rotation of the turret. This is, in large part, why MRAD rifle scopes are the preferred choice of military and police snipers.

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Turrets on MOA vs MRAD Rifle Scopes

We know that one click of the turret on an MOA rifle scope is equal to roughly .25 inches at 100 yards. 4 clicks equal 1 MOA or approximately 1 inch at 100 yards. If you’re zeroed at 100 yards and dial up from zero to one, you’re going to shoot one inch high at 100 yards. To make MRAD just a bit easier to understand, one milliradian is equal to 3.6 inches at 100 yards. Most MRAD scope adjustments are .10 MRAD per click at 100 yards. This is equal to approximately .36 inches per click at 100 yards. Dialing up one mil, if you’re zeroed at 100 yards, means you’re going to shoot 3.6 inches high at 100 yards.

So, in most MOA scopes each click is approximately .25 inches at 100 yards. MRAD is approximately .36 inches at 100 yards. The MOA adjustment is finer, the MRAD more coarse.

We use both MOA and MRAD to measure for our elevation holds on a downrange target. To help dial your scope to the cartridge, caliber, and bullet you’re shooting, we created the Impact Ballistics program. Simply select your scope, caliber, and actual round of ammunition (or select your bullet and enter your muzzle velocity if you are a handloader) and the program calculates the distances related to the dots or hash marks in your scopes reticle.

We know that one minute of angle is approximately one inch at 100 yards. So each time you dial up your turret will raise the bullet’s impact by one inch at 100 yards. Yet with a milliradian scope, each time you dial up 1 MRAD it will bring the bullet’s impact up 3.6 inches at 100 yards. Whereas you think in inches as you dial up to 200, 300, 400 yards, and beyond on an MOA rifle scope, each click of the turret on an MRAD scope is equal to .36 inches at 100 yards.

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When comparing the two, there are about 3.44 minutes of angle in each milliradian. You’ll find MOA rifle scopes a popular choice because most of us don’t shoot extreme long range. Minutes of angle provide shooters with a finer degree of measurement at closer ranges (300 yards or less). On the other hand, if you are interested in shooting longer ranges, MRAD is preferred. That’s because you’re able to make larger adjustments much more quickly, hence the 3.6 inches MRAD value versus the 1 inch per MOA value.

There are technical aspects to both that may make them seem complicated. However, it gets easier as you begin to understand the concepts. Check out the following video by Bob Raimo of Shooter’s Gauntlet as he explains the difference between MOA and MRAD.

Reticles in MOA vs MRAD in Rifle Scopes

Both minutes of angle and milliradians apply to rifle scope reticles much in the same way they do turrets. MOA is preferred for targets at shorter ranges. MRAD is more precise and allows for quicker adjustments when you get out to extreme long ranges. Be sure to pair MOA turrets with MOA reticles and vice versa for MRAD.

When it’s time to choose – MOA vs MRAD rifle scopes – is right for you, simply ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with the scope?” A whitetail deer hunter who takes shots from 50 to 300 yards might prefer an MOA scope. If you’re looking to sling some lead out to extreme long ranges, then MRAD can help you maximize your effectiveness.

To determine the right scope for your next custom build or hunt, feel free to contact us anytime:

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>