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Published by Bob Simeone

A shortened version of my mil/moa paper explaining mils and moa without all the detailed math.

A shortened version of my mil/moa paper explaining mils and moa without all the detailed math.

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A Shooters Guide to Understanding Mils andMOA and their range Estimation Equations

By Robert J. Simeone Shooters of all types, from military and police, to hunters and target shooters, usemilliradians (mils) and minutes of angle (moa) to estimate the distance to their targets andto adjust their scopes in order to get their bullets on the intended point of impact. Theyalso use them to adjust shots for winds and the movements of targets. Also, shootersfrequently talk about their shot groupings in terms of moa, such as “my rifle shoots onemoa all the time”. Even though many shooters use mils and moa, there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding of exactly what they are and where they come from.Therefore, I’m going to try and explain them in simple terms and clear up any confusionyou might have of these tools we so often use in precision shooting. Let’s start with the basics:

The Angles

You might remember the term “radians” from that trigonometry class you took inhigh school. In case you forgot, let’s review. A radian is an angular measurement likedegrees, but unlike degrees, is based on the actual physical properties of a circle.Officially, one radian subtends an arc equal in length to the radius (r) of a circle. If thatdidn’t clear things up, then, try this. If you take the radius of a circle and superimpose itslength on the circumference of the circle, you create an “arc” with a length equal to theradius of the circle. Now, connect both ends of this “radius arc” to the center, and theangle created by the three sides equals 1 radian (see figure below).1

To find out how many radians (the angles at the center) are in a circle, we usesimple math. Remember, the “radian angle” at the center is directly related to the “radius”that we artificially superimposed on the circumference of the circle. Therefore, if we findout how many “radii” can fit around the circumference, we’ll then also know the number of “radians” (the angles at the center) there are in a circle.To do this, we use the circumference formula of a circle, which is C = 2r. Take

2

r and divide by “r”. (We divide by “r” because that will give us the number of radiithat can go around the circumference of a circle, remembering that radian angles at thecenter are equal to this number).

(Note: = 3.14159…...)

2r = 2r = 2 = 2 x 3.14159 = 6.2832.r r Therefore, there are 6.2832 radians in a circle (and for that matter, 6.2832 radiithat can go around the circumference of a circle). No matter how long the radius “r” is, there will always be 6.2832 radians in anysize circle because the “r” always gets cancelled out in the math (see above) and allyou’re left with is 2.To get an idea of how big one radian is, we can convert it to the more familiar degrees. To do that, take the 360° that every circle has and divide that by the 6.2832radians that every circle also has and you get 57.3 degrees per radian.So then, what’s a “milliradian”? “Milli” is by definition, 1/1000

th

. Therefore, a“milliradian”, shortened to “mil” by shooters, is 1/1000 of a radian. Therefore, take eachof the 6.2832 radians in a circle and divide each one into 1000 smaller angles. When youdo that you’ll get 6.2832 x 1000 = 6283.2 milliradians in every circle.Since there are 6283.2 milliradian in a circle compared to 360°, we have a finer angle of measurement than degrees.2

Note: There is some controversy about what type of “mils” American military and tactical shooters use.Some think they use a mil that is based on a circle that has artificially been divided into 6400 mils insteadof 6283.2. This has widely been circulated, written about and even taught, including in the military. Butthis is not the case. While it may be true that some artillery and other military units do use this type of mil(the one based on 6400 mils), American military snipers and tactical shooters use scopes that are based onand calibrated using “real mathematical milliradians”, which is 6283.2 milliradians (mils) per circle. Itshould be noted that some other countries, like Russia for example, do use different values for their mils ontheir scopes, but for American shooters, our “mil” is 6283.2 milliradians.

The other angle shooters use is “minute of angle”. (Note: “minute of angle” isinterchangeable with and is the same thing as “minutes of angle”, or “ moa”) . Moa is alittle easier to understand than mils since it is a subset of the more familiar degrees.Every circle has 360 degrees in it. Each one degree is further divided into 60minutes (or 1° = 1 moa). Therefore:60360 ( degrees

) x 60 (minutes) = 21,600 minutes in every circle (or 21,600 moa).1 (degree)This is an even more precise unit of angular measurement than mils (21,600 moavs. 6283.2 mils).At this point you might ask, “How come shooters use two different angular measurements?” In short, for years, rifle scopes mostly used moa increments on their target knobs for shot adjustments. Much later on the military come up with the mil-dotreticle for snipers to estimate range, but the scopes still kept their turret adjustments inmoa. So you had the “mil” angular system for range estimation, and the “minute” angular system for shot adjustment. It can get confusing converting between the two and for many shooters it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Fortunately, many scopes come with thesame system for both range estimation and shot adjustments, which I recommend for several reasons, one being that you don’t have to convert between the two differentangles. Now that we know what a mil and moa are and where they come from, how canshooters use these? The answer is simple. With known angles (mils or moa) and lengths(heights of objects), we can compute distances to targets using formulas which are basedon trigonometry, which is the math of right triangles. But before we get into that, let’stalk about a few common conversions and relations.We’ll start with the conversion between mils and moa. This is important becauseas stated above, many scopes use reticles etched in mils but have there turret adjustmentsin moa.Since we know from above that we have 21,600 minutes and 6283.2 mils in everycircle, the conversion between the two is easy to figure out. Take 21,600 minutes anddivide that by 6283.2 mils and you get: 21600 minutes = 3.438 minutes per

mil.6283.2 mils3

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