FFP VS SFP Rifle Scopes

Rifle scopes come with reticles placed in two main positions: the first focal plane (FFP) and the second focal plane (SFP). While there's a higher learning curve associated with a FFP reticle scope with a complex reticle system, like any new equipment, with practice and understanding, using them become intuitive.

Here's a simple breakdown of the two:

First Focal Plane (FFP)

The reticle's size changes with the magnification level. This ensures that measurements on the reticle, like MOA or Mil, remain consistent regardless of how much you zoom in or out. If you see a 1 MIL mark at 5x zoom, it'll still be exactly a 1 MIL mark at 25x zoom

The First or Front Focal Plane (FFP) reticle is placed near the front of the scope, right behind the big lens you first look through. It's before the part that lets you zoom in or out. 

While many tactical shooters like to use high zoom levels like 10x, this isn't an issue for them. But for hunters using the same reticle, a disappearing mark when zoomed out can be a big problem.

  • Example: Consider a scope with .25 MOA markings. No matter if you're zoomed in closely or looking at a wider view, those markings will always represent .25 MOA.
  • Who uses it: Long-range target shooters favor this because of the consistent measurements. Additionally, hunters aiming from long distances are starting to use it more.
  • Pros and Cons: The advantage is its consistency; you always know what the measurements mean, making it faster to use. However, there's a downside. At certain zoom levels, the reticle can become too large, obscuring the target, or too small, becoming hard to see. Some manufacturers offer illuminated reticles to counteract this issue.

Some shooters believe that FFP reticles are cluttered with too many markings. However, reticle design varies by manufacturer and model, and there are many newer FFP scopes with clean and simple reticles.

Second Focal Plane (SFP)

The reticle size stays the same, no matter how much you zoom in or out. But, the the reticle hash lines are only valid at maximum magnification. Many shooters like the SFP scope because the reticle doesn't change.  If you use other zoom levels, you'll have to do some quick math in your head before taking a shot.

But they also want the FFP's feature of having accurate measurements at any zoom level. SFP scopes often cost less and weigh less, which is a bonus. The good news is there's a trick to use an SFP scope like an FFP.

  • Example: A scope might have markings that show 1 MOA, but this is only accurate at the highest magnification. At half the magnification, those same markings might represent 2 MOA.
  • Who uses it: Many hunters have used SFP scopes because the reticle is always visible, no matter the magnification.
  • Pros and Cons: It's easy to see the reticle at all distances. But, you might need to do some quick math if you're using the reticle to measure distances at different magnifications.

Here is how to use a second focal plane scope like a first focal plane scope.

This trick is called the 'half and half' technique. If you're using half the scope's full zoom, you just use half the measurement. For example, if you need a 4 mil hold at full zoom, you'd use a 2 mil hold at half zoom. This is because at half zoom, the reticle covers twice the distance.

Your choice between FFP and SFP depends on your hunting style and personal preference. If you often shoot from long distances and need quick follow-up shots, FFP might be better. But, its reticle can be hard to see against dark backgrounds. On the other hand, SFP scopes are great for clear visibility at all magnifications. When paired with a ballistics turret, they can be very accurate.

Many scopes have a half zoom level between 5X and 9X. This level is useful when you don't have a steady support. As scopes get more powerful, there's a bigger need to use less than full zoom. Full zoom is great when you're on a bench or using a tripod. But if you're not steady, the image can shake a lot. Using half zoom can make the image steadier and help you shoot better.

Main Takeaway

Both SFP and FFP have their advantages and are suited for different applications. Neither is inherently superior; it depends on the shooter's needs and preferences.

When it comes to seriously picking an optic with valid reasons. For people who shoot from long distances, like in competitions or hunting, FFP scopes are handy. They make sure the reticle's measurements are always right, no matter the zoom. SFP scopes are often less expensive, but if you're shooting from far away, you should know their limits.

If shooting precision long range, a FFP scope is the most optimal. Without FFP are a pain for long range shooting.

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