MOA vs MRAD Rifle Scopes (Explained in Plain English)

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Video what is the difference between mrad and moa

Which one is better: MOA or MRAD?

The short answer: it’s your preference. If you use the metric system (meters/centimeters) then go for MRAD. But if you measure in the empirical system (yards/inches) then MOA may be easier.

If you want a more thorough answer along with an explanation of MOA vs MRAD, then keep on reading!

MOA vs MRAD: Why do we care?

Suppose you’re headed out on a hunting trip with your buddies.

You did your research, you read the best rifle scope guide, and you’re ready to go. But then your buddy starts talking in meters and your MOA turrets are adjusting in yards.

His numbers don’t match your turrets, your turrets don’t match your reticle, and now your target has bounded off to another state.

The problem: he was using MRAD while you were using MOA.

MOA and MRAD are basically two different systems of measurement.

When sighting rifle scopes, the reticle and turrets are used together to reach the most accurate shot possible. The turrets change the position of your reticle while your reticle provides an aiming point.

Your turret clicks and the hashes on your reticle can use one of two different systems of scope alignment: MOA or MRAD.

You can have the best long range scope on the market, but if you don’t sight it in using either system, it’s useless.

If you’re looking for help choosing between rifle scopes, here’s the only guide you’ll need to read.

What’s an MOA Scope?

M.O.A. stands for Minutes of Angle; a system based on degrees and minutes. This type of angle measurement is used to calculate the distance to a target and MOA turrets correction for the bullet trajectory.

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Basically the math breaks down to this: there are 360 degrees in a circle, and 60 minutes in a degree for a total of 21,600 degrees.

You can find your MOA measurement by multiplying the distance in yards by 1.047, then dividing by 100. You can thank the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians later.

At 200 yards, one MOA equals 2.094 inches. Out to 1,000 yards, 1 MOA equals 10.47 inches, and so on.

For those of us who aren’t Einstein, the easiest way I’ve found is to use a quick-reference conversion chart. That way you don’t miss your prize buck while scribbling away on math problems.

MOA scopes aren’t a perfect system though.

Often calculations are made with 1 MOA at 100 yards (91.4 meters), but you need to count on 100 yards with 1.05 MOA. Up to 100 yards there will be no problem with 1 to 100 comparison, but when shooting over longer distances you’ll be 5% off base and this could mean missing a shot.

This isn’t a problem if you’re only shooting at medium ranges. Read my 4×32 scope guide for more details.

I use an MOA reticle scope on my AR-15 A2 after I removed the front sights for added cool guy points. I’ll show you how to remove the AR-15 A2 sights here.

What’s an MRAD Rifle Scope?

MRAD stands for milliradians (or MIL for short), and was originally developed for artillery in the late 1800s. It’s still the preferred method for military and police force operations to this day, where you’ll commonly here it referred to as a MIL-dot reticle.

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Based on a radial line, a unit of angular measurement that is equal to roughly 57.3 degrees, a milliradian is one thousandth of a radian.

This system does not come out to make a perfect circle like the MOA system. Instead, milliradians divide the circumference of a circle into 6.28 equal sections measuring 57.3 degrees each in an MRAD scope.

Thus, every circle has a circle circumference that is 6.28 radians long. Then each radian is going to be divided into 1,000 parts more, which is called Milliradians.

When calculating MRAD in a MIL-based scope, you will be calling it MIL, which is 3.6 inches at 100 yards (91.4m using the metric system) equal to 1 MIL.

I tried an MRAD scope on my M1A that happens to have the best M1A scope mount ever.

MOA vs MRAD: Which is better?

The short answer: neither. The argument is as old as time, but it’s really just the shooter’s preference of rifle scope.

The fight between MOA vs MRAD boils down to a difference in how we format degrees of angular measure. It’s fancy math terminology that basically asks if you use yards or meters.

Technically, the 1/4 MOA clicks are slightly more accurate than the 1/10 MIL, but the MIL values are somewhat easier to communicate.

Reference cards with MIL are easier to read because they are indicated by 2 numbers only, while the cards with MOA are indicated with four numbers. We could go back and forth all day, but you get the idea.

If you like other comparisons, check out my Nightforce SHV vs. Vortex PST guide.

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Which do you need?

Choosing between the MOA or MRAD system will take some self reflection, so buckle up.

If you normally think in meters or centimeters, then it is easier to calculate distance with a MOA. If you normally think in yards or inches, then MRAD should be your go-to.

And if you’re not going to calculate distances, it doesn’t matter between the MRAD vs MOA. Do your thing, both types are equally effective for medium- and long-range shooting.

Another thing to take into account is that you also have to consider your hunting partners, teammates, friends, and so on. You’ll want to have a common language so you can communicate together without having to do conversions between the two systems.

Or you could be an absolute rebel and have a scope for each system, swapping it out in the field with the best quick detach scope mounts. Live your life to the fullest.

Most importantly, choose the same system for your turrets and scope reticles. I have a guide on first focal planes vs. second focal planes to help you choose the right reticle as well.

Regardless of all the math, the decision between MOA and MRAD isn’t that important. Clicks with an MOA turret are slightly more precise than clicks with a MIL turret, but at the end of the day it’s a style choice between rifle scopes.

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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 >>