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Turreted Rifle Scopes vs Drop Reticles

Turreted Rifle Scopes vs Drop Reticles

Many rifle scopes that are produced these days are equipped, or at least have the option to equip, a drop compensating reticle or a ballistic turret of some kind. They come in all shapes and sizes and they can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. Knowing the ins and outs of both systems is crucial in deciding whether or not you want one of those options, neither or even both. First let’s get into exactly what each of them is. 

Ballistic turrets are technically a feature that comes standard with any modern rifle scope. They are the mechanism that you use to zero the rifle. Back in the day they were most of the time covered with a cap and once you zeroed the rifle they were left alone. The “exposed” ballistic turret has become a standard feature for many high powered optics because it gives the user quick and easy access to the turret to make changes to their zero. Instead of having to guess the hold over at 550 yards the shooter can simply reach up and dial to their known adjustment and hold dead center. 

ballistic turret flex

A rifle scope's range of adjustment can change dramatically between models due to the intended use of the scope and the scope's internal range of adjustment. Take the Swarovski Z5 rifle scopes for example, they have a ballistic turret that is capable of dialing 53 clicks or 13.25 MOA of elevation. For a typical 6.5 Creedmoor that is about a 650-700 yard range. Then we have the Swarovski X5i 3.5-18 which has 116 clicks or 29 MOA of adjustable range in the turret. 

That is a huge difference between two rifle scopes made by the same manufacturer. The reason being the Z5 is designed to be a lightweight mid range rifle scope whereas the X5’s sole purpose is range and adjustability. 

One of the most important capabilities of an exposed ballistic turret is the ability to create a custom ballistic turret. A custom ballistic turret allows you to specify your exact load data and create a cap that replaces the simple click counter rings of your ballistic turret. This can provide hunters and shooters with a no nonsense system of dialing to a certain yardage. They are only available for certain rifle scopes but if you are looking for the easiest way to make elevation adjustments, this is it. 

Outdoorsmans offers free custom ballistic turrets for all Swarovski Z series BT rifle scopes and you are also able to order one for a scope you already have and easily install it at home. 

outdoorsmans custom turret

So what exactly are the pros and cons of ballistic turrets? The pros are simple, within your range of adjustment you can treat every single shot as a zero. Meaning there is no need to hold over or mess with guessing. Just dial, hold dead on and squeeze the trigger. Now the cons are a little more subjective but the most obvious of them is speed in changing targets at different distances. 

Rarely will this be an issue while in a normal western hunting scenario but in shooting sports and just shooting recreation in general changing targets at speed is fairly common. Having to reach up and dial for each new distance can cost you time and forgetting to dial to the new distance and missing a shot because of it is something I think a lot of us have done, and it hurts. 

Drop compensating reticles have been around for a very long time and they are the favorite for many hunters and shooters alike. The simple definition of a drop compensating reticle is a reticle that contains hash marks or lines that are set at specific measurements such as ½ MOA per line or 1 Mill per dot etc. 

These reticles can range from extremely simple like the 4W reticle from Swarovski that contains only windage marks spaced at 2 MOA all the way to the TREMOR 3 reticle from Kahles. Which is by far one of the most complex and inclusive reticles on the market. This massive difference in options and types of reticles makes it very easy to find something that will fit your wants and needs. 

TREMOR 3 vs 4W 

The pros and cons of reticles are what you would expect, they are much faster when switching targets at different distances but they can be a little distracting to shooters that are not used to them. One huge advantage is that if your reticle has them you are able to use windage hash marks for wind calls instead of holding dead space off the target or the dreaded dialing for wind.

Hopefully with this knowledge it will be a little easier to make a decision when looking for your next rifle scope. And always remember that you aren’t stuck with just one or the other. Most manufacturers offer a wide variety of reticles with their rifle scopes that have a ballistic turret. Most times a turreted rifle scope with a less complex reticle is a great choice for someone looking to cover as much ground as possible.

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