Focal Plane Scopes: Understanding First vs Second Focal Plane - NSSF Let's Go Shooting

Focal Plane Scopes: Understanding First vs Second Focal Plane

If you’re in the market for a scope, you’ve likely come across the terms “first focal plane” and “second focal plane.” But what do these terms actually mean, and how do they affect your shooting experience?

In this video, Former Army Ranger sniper team leader and author of the Long-Range Shooting Handbook, Ryan Cleckner, discusses the difference between first and second focal plane scopes.

What is a Focal Plane?

A rifle scope focal plane refers to the position of the reticle and target image within the scope. It determines how the reticle and target image appear when you adjust the magnification.

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane

A rifle scope has two types of focal planes: the first focal plane and the second focal plane. The main difference between these two types of scopes is the position of the reticle within the scope. In a first focal plane scope, the reticle is located in front of the magnification lenses. This means that the reticle will appear to change size as the magnification is adjusted. This is beneficial for long-range shooting because the reticle remains proportional to the target image, allowing for more precise aiming.

In a second focal plane scope, the reticle is located behind the magnification lenses. As a result, the reticle size remains constant even when the magnification is adjusted. Only the target image will appear to change size. This type of scope is best suited for short to mid-range shooting where precise aiming is not as critical. Overall, choosing the right focal plane type depends on the intended use and shooting conditions.

Which Focal Plane Scope is Right for Your Needs?

So, which type of scope is right for you? It really depends on your shooting needs and preferences. If you primarily shoot at a fixed distance or short to mid-range distances, a second focal plane scope may be more appropriate. However, if you frequently shoot at varying distances or need precise aiming for long-range shots, a first focal plane scope may be the better choice.

It’s important to note that first focal plane scopes tend to be more expensive due to their advanced reticle design. However, investing in a high-quality scope with a clear image and precise reticle can make all the difference in your shooting accuracy.

Understanding the difference between first and second focal plane scopes is essential for choosing the right scope for your needs. Consider your shooting preferences and the distances you typically shoot at when making your decision. With the right scope, you can improve your accuracy and take your shooting to the next level.


More Resources

To utilize a rifle scope to its full potential, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of its components and how to use them. If you would like more background read this article that labels explain the parts of a rifle scope.

Learn more about rifle scopes from here.


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Find the perfect combination of rings, bases, and lens caps for your scope and rifle using the Gun University Scope Ring Finder.


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