A Premier Guide to the Bullet Drop Compensation Scopes

A Premier Guide to the Bullet Drop Compensation Scopes

Some people hate bullet drop compensation, or BDC, reticles or scopes, and some of us love them.

There’s quite a bit to be understood about BDCs, so we want to clear up some misconceptions about their limitations and just how useful they can be.

What is a BDC Scope?

Bullet drop compensation scopes use a specific reticle pattern to indicate how far bullets drop over a given distance.

When we look through a scope, the reticle has multiple aiming points that are stacked under the main crosshair. We can even say that a BDC reticle is like multiple reticles inside the main reticle.

BDC Scope Benefits

If our rifles and scopes are sighted in properly, a BDC scope’s other aiming points are supposed to correspond to the bullet’s impact point at pre-determined distances.

Most often, these aiming points are set at 100 yards per aiming point, although rimfire BDC scopes can be found at 50 yards per aiming point.

With some practice, we can improve our shooting experience by learning to aim and shoot using the correct reticle.

One of the other reasons some of us love a BDC reticle and scope is because we don’t have to continually adjust the scope’s elevation while we’re shooting. Instead, we find the right line, aim, and shoot.

BDC Scope Limitations

For the naysayers out there, yes, BDC limitations indeed exist, so we're looking at those, too. As an example, BDC reticles are generalizations about impact points.

In truth, BDC reticles are designed with considerations in mind. Because of BDC design, we must shoot specific rounds with a rifle that is a certain barrel length for consistent shooting.

To get that great experience, it takes practice and patience because, as any shooter knows, many different circumstances can affect how a bullet behaves as it flies towards its target.

With that said, using a BDC scope does require some work, but once everything clicks, shooting becomes impressively consistent.

What’s the Difference Between BDC and MIL Scopes?

Bullet drop compensation reticles are very similar to milliradian dot reticles. Without using it, it’s challenging to tell the difference between them just looking at them.

When we pick it up and start to use it, that’s when we notice that the measurements might be different from what we’re used to seeing.

Before we get into it, here’s a tip – BDC scopes are great for the hobbyist while MIL scopes are better for the serious shooter.

The Most Significant Differences

BDC scopes use hash marks directly down the vertical centerline to help us gauge where the impact shot will land without excess information.

The Mil-Dot reticle, on the other hand, gives tons of information to the shooter. With a Mil-Dot scope, we can calculate the size of our target from a distance. We can even calculate wind speed.

When we’re hunting or competing within 300 yards, the BDC gets our vote. When we get into greater distances up to around 1000 yards, then it’s Mil-Dot all the way.

Real-World Applications of a BDC Scope

Let’s say you’re out hunting. Your target is a whitetail deer – a buck – and you’ve got your eye on him. You know darn well that deer can’t measure yards and won’t be exactly at 100-yard intervals, so in this situation, a slightly inaccurate BDC scope can be extremely useful.

The different aiming points allow us to estimate distances on demand without making other adjustments. Flexibility to point, aim, and shoot makes a BDC seem that much more appealing.

If you plan on shooting in low light conditions and you’re serious about getting some excellent high-quality gear, consider the Bushnell Tactical SMRS II Pro Riflescope – we can’t help but be impressed by this scope.

Real-World Applications of a Mil-Dot Scope

When using a Mil-Dot scope, we have to come to terms that there is going to be math involved. It’s just part of the process, but there’s an easy way to use it if you understand what is going on.

The short of it is that the number of mils, or milliradians, equals the bullet drop in yards multiplied by 1000, then divided by target distance. Here’s an example to illustrate the point.

Bullet drop = 48 inches (approximately 1.3 yards)

Distance = 562 yards

Mils = (1.3 yards x 1000) / 562 yards = approximately 2.3 mils

From here, we need to look at our Mil-Dot scope to see how clicks are measured. If it is set to be 1/10th per mil click, then we’re going to need to adjust to 23 clicks because it would take that many clicks to equal 2.3 mils.

How Do I Use a Bullet Drop Compensator Chart?

If you don’t want to do the math, then pick up a ballistics chart or bullet drop chart because they will help you visualize where your shot’s impact point.

There are several different versions, so it helps us to get to know a few of them. Here’s a 30 06 bullet drop compensator chart at 1000 yards.

To use one of these charts, we need some information for the ammo we plan on using. Having a ballistics trajectory calculator is helpful to let us know precisely what we need.

You can find the information from the ammunition manufacturer. Once we have it, then we look at a few other factors like sight height, shooting angle, wind speed, and wind angle.

For the average shooter, the information provided by one of these charts can be overwhelming, but for the serious hunter, it’s worth figuring out the details.

What are Close Quarters Ballistic Drop Compensation?

Ballistic compensation at close quarters is going to vary from gun to gun regardless of the scope that is on the rifle. If we have a gun with a drop at 300 yards versus another one that doesn’t drop until 500 yards using the same ammunition, then we need a good quality BDC scope that can handle those adjustments.

Consider the decision that every hunter must make – a MIL vs. a BDC reticles. A simple hunting BDC reticle like Bushnell’s DOA 600 that is based on a 100-yard zero with reticle distances noted at every hundred yards past that through 650 yards. More than that, and we need to find another scope, but it’s ideal for hunting.

Now, if we’re looking at something like a Drop Zone 6.5 Creedmoor reticle found in the AR Optics 4.5-18x40, we’re still considering shooting out to about 600 yards. The Drop Zone 6.5 Creedmoor reticle is designed with preset points indicating shots out to 600 yards, but not beyond that.

If we’re looking for precision shooting, we’re more likely to pick up the DMRII Pro because its G3 reticle has more exact distances noted at .5 MIL and then going up from there to 13 MILs from the center. At distances like that, we’ve more than doubled what we have with the BDC reticles.

Choosing the right reticles for your targets can make for a fun trial and error session, too.



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