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How to Get the Most out of your Mil

How to Get the Most out of your Mil

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Published by: T on Mar 25, 2011
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How to Get the Most out of your Mil-Dot Reticle
Over the last couple of years the mil dot reticle has become less of an option and more thestandard in tactical rifle scopes. Since its inception with the Unertl USMC sniper scope andlater in various versions of the Leupold Mark IV scope, military snipers have come to knowthe mil dot reticle as a reliable means of determining distances to targets, establishing leadsfor moving targets, and for alternate aiming points for windage and elevation holds. Militarysnipers who are graduates of formal programs of instruction have spent numerous hourshoning their ability to use the mil dot reticle and are comfortable and competent with it.Military snipers are easy to train on the mil dot reticle, as the military has been using the milrelation formula in one form or another for many years. As the WERM rule (width of correction = Range x mils observed), it has been the mainstay for determining adjustmentswhen calling and adjusting indirect fire weapons such as mortars and artillery. On the other hand, so me Law Enforcement and civilian tactical and practical long-range precisionshooters are a little hesitant sometimes of the mil dot reticle because of a lack of proper training. I hope this article will help remedy this problem.The mil dot reticle is a post and wire reticle with 10 mils(milliradians) between opposing posts and dots spaced 1 mil apart on the wires, minus thereticle intersection so as not to obscure the aiming point. A milliradian is an angular unit of measure that just happens to equal one yard at 1000 yards and 1 meter at 1000 meters.Knowing this fact we can, through the wonders of elementary mathematics, use this littlecritter to determine distance to an object when the size of the object is known. The sniper simply measures his target using the dots, then works a simple formula to obtain thetarget's distance or the distance to an item near the target.How the milliradian became the unit of measure of choice is fairly interesting as sniper trivia.Back when the military was determining how to graduate their artillery pieces the techno-geeks settled on the milliradian as the unit of measure for their sights. Since there were6,283 milliradian (2 PI for all you math whizzes) in 360 degrees they rounded up to 6400.The Soviets on the other hand rounded down and ended up with 6200 mils in a circle for their artillery sights, compasses, etc.
As the Marine Corps sniper program grew and matured during the late 70's, the snipersdesired more accurate range estimation abilities than what the issue 6x30 and 7x50binoculars and the 3x9 Redfield scope were allowing. The binoculars had hatch marks thatwere graduated in 10 mil increments with the actual hatch mark lines being 5 mils long(Steiner M22), which were all too coarse for obtaining much precision. Add to this that theAccu-trac system in the Redfield, using an 18-inch stadia line intended for deer hunting, leftmuch to be desired for tactical shooting. We at the Scout/Sniper Instructor School used a"barber pole" to teach students to mentally break the reticles of the binoculars into finer sub-tensions than for what the binoculars were originally designed. This barber pole had 4"bands painted on it and we set it out at 111 yards where each band equaled 1 mil. Thisallowed the student to see what the graphics on the reticle subtended including hatchmarks, numbers etc. For example, the base of the number 2 equaled a certain fraction of amil and the tips of the number 3 equaled another number of mils. All of this was fine anddandy but a better way was needed.Although the mil dot system is both simple and accurate, as with anything else it does havelimitations, especially if you haven't received formal training on them. The owner's manualsthat usually come with the civilian scopes are very basic when they explain the use of thereticle. I've been teaching the use of the things for over 18 years and have seen most of theproblems that students run into when first encountering mil dot reticles. Even high-techdevices such as laser range finders have limitations and disadvantages and low-tech mildots are no exception. In this article I will cover some facets of mildot usage that willenhance your ability to use them.
The Mil relation formula
There are a couple of permutations of the mil relation formula floating around. At first lookmost of them strike fear in the hearts of most of us Neanderthal, knuckle dragger types, butthey are really quite user friendly. Granted the formulas require you to use more than your fingers and toes, but we Marines can handle it! Well, here we go. The basic one is:
Height of item in yards (meters) x 1000/Mils read = Distance to item in yards (meters)
 This formula is good when the sniper knows an item's size in yards. My only problem withthis version is that cops often have to deal with small items such as vehicle wheels, smallstickers on windows, headlights etc. This requires the officer to convert a 7" headlight into adecimal equivalent in yards before they can work the formula. And since most cops arefellow Neanderthals and are usually under a fair amount of stress to begin with, I prefer toteach the formula:
Height of item in inches x 27.8 (25.4)/Mils read = Distance to target in yards (meters)
 The formula can be worked backward in training so that if the distance to the target isknown we will know what the mil reading should be. This is handy for beginners learning toread mil dots. The formula for this is:
Size of item in inches x 27.8 (25.4)/Distance in yards (meters) = Mils
 Knowing the sizes of items being measured is a matter of knowing your prospective area of operation and making a list of the sizes of standard items. Make sure you get both heightand width of objects as you can mil both dimensions but the largest dimensionmathematically will usually give the most accurate answer. Military snipers should havesizes of enemy vehicles, enemy weapons, average heights of soldiers, etc. An LE sniper should have sizes of traffic signs, bricks, license plates, etc. So carry a tape measure and anotebook with you and prepare to have people look at you funny as you measure curbs,traffic lights, mailboxes and other commonly found objects in your area of operation.So as you can see the mil relation formula shouldn't scareanyone off. As a matter of fact there are ways to make the use of the formula even easier.Many data books such as the TRGT data book and others have charts developed usingcomputer spreadsheets that allow the shooter to find the target size and the mil reading onthe chart and it gives the shooter the distance without any hate or discontent. You can evenmake your own using the above formulas if you know how to use a spreadsheet such asMS Excel.The EASIEST way to deal with this formula is to get yourself aThe Mil Dot Master . Thishandy slide-rule type device does the calculations for the mil relation formula, corrects for target size when viewed at angles, corrects for slope, gives MOA/mil/in equivalence and

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