Rifle Scopes: First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane (Explained in Plain English)

Video sfp reticle

What’s the difference between first focal plane vs second focal plane?

A first focal plane reticle enlarges and shrinks as you adjust the magnification while the second focal plane remains the same size.

Why does that matter and which focal plane scope should you choose?

By the end of this article, you’ll fully understand both types of focal planes so you can choose the best rifle scope for your needs.

Let’s get started!

What is the First Focal Plane?

There are two locations where a reticle can be installed within a rifle scope: the first focal plane (FFP) or the second focal plane (SFP).

With a first focal plane scope, the reticle is physically placed on the “front” of the erector tube assembly and magnification lenses. The first focal plane is furthest from your eye when looking down the sight.

How does that make a difference?

With a First Focal Plane scope, the size of the reticle will appear to grow or shrink as the scope’s magnification is increased or decreased, respectively.


Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s talk about the pros and cons…

First Focal Plane: Pros and Cons

With the first focal plane optics, the reticle size is going to scale up or down with your magnification adjustments.

This means your trajectory markings, or holdover values, are going to remain accurate regardless of what magnification setting you’re on. This is great news if you hate doing math!

But, it comes at a cost…Literally.

The price is often higher by virtue of its more complicated construction. A first focal plane reticle is also typically associated with higher-end scopes.

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With first focal plane scopes, the reticle will look small and thin with less power while the reticle will be thicker at higher power.


It can be easy to lose those thin reticle lines, especially against dark backgrounds. Although, some of the best Leupold riflescopes have illuminated reticles for better visibility.

Also, the reticle can cover too much target at the highest setting. If this is a dealbreaker to you, that’s where Second Focal Plane comes into play…

What is the Second Focal Plane?

The most common design is SFP, or a Second Focal Plane scope. It’s also referred to as Rear Focal Plane.

With a second focal plane scope, the reticle is placed behind the magnification lenses on the erector tube assembly.

The second focal plane scope is closer to your eye. Therefore, the reticle stays the same size at any magnification range.


Now, let’s talk about the pros and cons of this…

Second Focal Plane: Pros and Cons

Its lightweight, great resolution, and durability against heavy cartridges make it a popular choice among hunters and law enforcement.

With the second focal plane, your units of measure per each hash mark (MOA or MRAD) represent the same value regardless of your magnification setting.

However, the spacing for holdover in the reticle is only correct at the highest magnification setting. So, it’s not always reliable for variable long-range shooting.

For example:

Let’s look at the Viper HST 4-16×44. This is a second focal plane scope with a magnification range of 4-16x. The Viper HST has hash marks representing 1 MOA but this is only true at its full magnification: 16x.

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Of course, you can always do the math in between. But it becomes complicated and confusing and we all know that’s no bueno.

Second focal plane scopes are more commonly seen in the average riflescope and they’re easier to manufacture. That’s why they’re typically less expensive.

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane for close-range shooting

A second focal plane scope is more suited for close-range hunting and defensive shooting.



Because you have a strong and easy-to-see reticle even at the lowest magnification. With low-powered optics, like 1-4X optics, this is a highly undervalued feature.

When it comes to a First Focal Plane scope, you can easily lose sight of your marks at low power. This can be a hassle when you need to make adjustments for the wind or distance— especially for older eyes.

Since you’d have to zoom out to get the rest of the marks in the scope’s view, your target shrinks relative to your view. If you’re hunting small game, this can be an inconvenience.

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane for long-range shooting

First focal plane scopes are best for competitive and long-range precision shooting.

The hash marks represent the same value across all magnification levels. It allows you to use and trust those holdovers at any given point in your magnification.

This is an advantage for spotting impacts and misses for corrections. It’s also very helpful if you need rapid and precise follow-up shots.

Hitting something at longer ranges means getting as much precision as possible. With a second focal plane scope, making those fractional MOA adjustments becomes far more difficult.

See also  .223 Remington vs .243 Winchester Ammo Comparison - Ballistics Info & Chart Caliber Ballistics Comparison 07 Dec, 2018 Posted By: Foundry Outdoors The following ammunition cartridge ballistics information and chart can be used to approximately compare .223 Remington vs .243 Winchester ammo rounds. Please note, the following information reflects the estimated average ballistics for each caliber and does not pertain to a particular manufacturer, bullet weight, or jacketing type. As such, the following is for comparative information purposes only and should not be used to make precise predictions of the trajectory, performance, or true ballistics of any particular .223 Remington or .243 Winchester rounds for hunting, target shooting, plinking, or any other usage. The decision for which round is better for a given application should be made with complete information, and this article simply serves as a comparative guide, not the final say. For more detailed ballistics information please refer to the exact round in question or contact the manufacturer for the pertinent information. True .223 Remington and .243 Winchester ballistics information can vary widely from the displayed information, and it is important to understand that the particular characteristics of a given round can make a substantive difference in its true performance. Caliber Type Velocity (fps) Energy (ft-lb) .223 Remington Rifle 3150 1250 .243 Winchester Rifle 3180 1950 [Click Here to Shop .223 Remington Ammo] [Click Here to Shop .243 Winchester Ammo] VelocityAs illustrated in the chart, .223 Remington rounds - on average - achieve a velocity of about 3150 feet per second (fps) while .243 Winchester rounds travel at a velocity of 3180 fps. To put this into perspective, a Boeing 737 commercial airliner travels at a cruising speed of 600 mph, or 880 fps. That is to say, .223 Remington bullets travel 3.6 times the speed of a 737 airplane at cruising speed, while .243 Winchester bullets travel 3.6 times that same speed.Various calibersEnergyFurthermore, the muzzle energy of a .223 Remington round averages out to 1250 ft-lb, while a .243 Winchester round averages out to about 1950 ft-lb. One way to think about this is as such: a foot-pound is a unit of energy equal to the amount of energy required to raise a weight of one pound a distance of one foot. So a .223 Remington round exits the barrel with kinetic energy equal to the energy required for linear vertical displacement of 1250 pounds through a one foot distance, while a .243 Winchester round exiting the barrel has energy equal to the amount required to displace 1950 pounds over the same one foot distance. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to hunting, muzzle energy is what many hunters look at when deciding on what caliber of firearm / ammunition to select. Generally speaking, the higher the muzzle energy, the higher the stopping power. Again, the above is for comparative information purposes only, and you should consult the exact ballistics for the particular .223 Remington or .243 Winchester cartridge you're looking at purchasing. [Buy .223 Remington Ammo] [Buy .243 Winchester Ammo] Please click the above links to take a look at all of the .223 Remington and .243 Winchester ammo we have in stock and ready to ship, and let us know any parting thoughts in the comment section below.Foundry Outdoors is your trusted home for buying archery, camping, fishing, hunting, shooting sports, and outdoor gear online.We offer cheap ammo and bulk ammo deals on the most popular ammo calibers. We have a variety of deals on Rifle Ammo, Handgun Ammo, Shotgun Ammo & Rimfire Ammo, as well as ammo for target practice, plinking, hunting, or shooting competitions. Our website lists special deals on 9mm Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 45-70 Ammo, 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, 300 Blackout Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 5.56 Ammo, Underwood Ammo, Buffalo Bore Ammo and more special deals on bulk ammo.We offer a 100% Authenticity Guarantee on all products sold on our website. Please email us if you have questions about any of our product listings. 7 Comments kenneth ellsworth - Oct 20, 2019The 223 is not legal for hunting in many states. Such as my state of Washington requires .24 caliber/6mm minimum. Make no mistake the 223 will DRT any deer with proper shot placement and shot placement above all things takes game Joshua - May 16, 2020what i find funny is a 22 cal. Can kill a deer on the spot but you cant hunt with them. V - Aug 15, 2020I like that .223 is not as overbore as .243. I like that .243 has substantially more ft. lbs of energy. I guess I’ll just have to own both. As if that’s such a painstaking decision. You didn’t have to pull my arm out of it’s socket for that solution. 😂 B - Apr 03, 2021The .243 has more terminal energy at 300 yards than the .223 does at the muzzle. Most people when they first get into guns are drawn to the AR-15 and standard .223 rounds, but later we all realize that the .223 doesn’t reliably drop deer or humans without 2 or 3 hits. The .243 is one-shot, one-kill at normal ranges and the .223 simply cannot be relied upon as such. It is underpowered on anything heavier than a coyote. Carson Mineer - Oct 19, 2021I’m no expert .wasn’t the ,223 designed to wound not kill in theory removing three soldiers from the battlefield wayne allan - Nov 23, 2021I read mystery novels and wondered why a sniper would use a .223 in a favorite author of mine. I target shoot a Glock 44, I enjoy the fun of getting better. My question, do you have 22lr available for sale? Please let me know, thanks Wayne Geoff Barnes - Nov 16, 2022In Australia we don’t have any big game except for some water buffalo and crocodiles up north with the crocs being protected so they can eat humans! A .303 was used to hunt crocs back in the day. The 223 and 243 are used extensively to control kangaroos which are often in plague proportions and destroy wheat crops. Naturally the 243 hits a bit harder but the 223 is just as effective on roos. Leave a commentComments have to be approved before showing up Your Name * Your Email * Your Comment * Post Comment


The truth is— it’s a matter of preference and intended use. There is no “better” between the two focal planes.

Higher magnification ranges are better in a first focal plane scope. Lower magnification is fine for second focal plane scopes.

If you’re into precision shooting, especially in matches, and you don’t mind the cost: a first focal plane riflescope is great to have.

If you won’t be taking many shots where you need to “hold” for windage or elevation, a second focal plane scope is more than enough. Plus, it won’t necessarily break the bank.

There are other things you need to consider before buying an optic— like choosing the best quick detach scope mounts. At least when it comes to a SFP scope vs a FFP scope, you won’t be scratching your head anymore.

Since we’re on the topic of upgrades, my AR-15 A2 front sight removal guide is up. Go check it out!

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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 >>