MOA vs MRAD Rifle Scopes (Explained in Plain English)

*Scopes Field is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission.*

Which one is better: MOA or MRAD?

The short answer: it’s your preference. If you use the metric system (meters/centimeters) then go for MRAD. But if you measure in the empirical system (yards/inches) then MOA may be easier.

If you want a more thorough answer along with an explanation of MOA vs MRAD, then keep on reading!

MOA vs MRAD: Why do we care?

Suppose you’re headed out on a hunting trip with your buddies.

You did your research, you read the best rifle scope guide, and you’re ready to go. But then your buddy starts talking in meters and your MOA turrets are adjusting in yards.

His numbers don’t match your turrets, your turrets don’t match your reticle, and now your target has bounded off to another state.

The problem: he was using MRAD while you were using MOA.

MOA and MRAD are basically two different systems of measurement.

When sighting rifle scopes, the reticle and turrets are used together to reach the most accurate shot possible. The turrets change the position of your reticle while your reticle provides an aiming point.

Your turret clicks and the hashes on your reticle can use one of two different systems of scope alignment: MOA or MRAD.

You can have the best long range scope on the market, but if you don’t sight it in using either system, it’s useless.

If you’re looking for help choosing between rifle scopes, here’s the only guide you’ll need to read.

What’s an MOA Scope?

M.O.A. stands for Minutes of Angle; a system based on degrees and minutes. This type of angle measurement is used to calculate the distance to a target and MOA turrets correction for the bullet trajectory.

Basically the math breaks down to this: there are 360 degrees in a circle, and 60 minutes in a degree for a total of 21,600 degrees.

You can find your MOA measurement by multiplying the distance in yards by 1.047, then dividing by 100. You can thank the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians later.

At 200 yards, one MOA equals 2.094 inches. Out to 1,000 yards, 1 MOA equals 10.47 inches, and so on.

For those of us who aren’t Einstein, the easiest way I’ve found is to use a quick-reference conversion chart. That way you don’t miss your prize buck while scribbling away on math problems.

MOA scopes aren’t a perfect system though.

Often calculations are made with 1 MOA at 100 yards (91.4 meters), but you need to count on 100 yards with 1.05 MOA. Up to 100 yards there will be no problem with 1 to 100 comparison, but when shooting over longer distances you’ll be 5% off base and this could mean missing a shot.

This isn’t a problem if you’re only shooting at medium ranges. Read my 4×32 scope guide for more details.

I use an MOA reticle scope on my AR-15 A2 after I removed the front sights for added cool guy points. I’ll show you how to remove the AR-15 A2 sights here.

What’s an MRAD Rifle Scope?

MRAD stands for milliradians (or MIL for short), and was originally developed for artillery in the late 1800s. It’s still the preferred method for military and police force operations to this day, where you’ll commonly here it referred to as a MIL-dot reticle.

Based on a radial line, a unit of angular measurement that is equal to roughly 57.3 degrees, a milliradian is one thousandth of a radian.

This system does not come out to make a perfect circle like the MOA system. Instead, milliradians divide the circumference of a circle into 6.28 equal sections measuring 57.3 degrees each in an MRAD scope.

Thus, every circle has a circle circumference that is 6.28 radians long. Then each radian is going to be divided into 1,000 parts more, which is called Milliradians.

When calculating MRAD in a MIL-based scope, you will be calling it MIL, which is 3.6 inches at 100 yards (91.4m using the metric system) equal to 1 MIL.

I tried an MRAD scope on my M1A that happens to have the best M1A scope mount ever.

MOA vs MRAD: Which is better?

The short answer: neither. The argument is as old as time, but it’s really just the shooter’s preference of rifle scope.

The fight between MOA vs MRAD boils down to a difference in how we format degrees of angular measure. It’s fancy math terminology that basically asks if you use yards or meters.

Technically, the 1/4 MOA clicks are slightly more accurate than the 1/10 MIL, but the MIL values are somewhat easier to communicate.

Reference cards with MIL are easier to read because they are indicated by 2 numbers only, while the cards with MOA are indicated with four numbers. We could go back and forth all day, but you get the idea.

If you like other comparisons, check out my Nightforce SHV vs. Vortex PST guide.

Which do you need?

Choosing between the MOA or MRAD system will take some self reflection, so buckle up.

If you normally think in meters or centimeters, then it is easier to calculate distance with a MOA. If you normally think in yards or inches, then MRAD should be your go-to.

And if you’re not going to calculate distances, it doesn’t matter between the MRAD vs MOA. Do your thing, both types are equally effective for medium- and long-range shooting.

Another thing to take into account is that you also have to consider your hunting partners, teammates, friends, and so on. You’ll want to have a common language so you can communicate together without having to do conversions between the two systems.

Or you could be an absolute rebel and have a scope for each system, swapping it out in the field with the best quick detach scope mounts. Live your life to the fullest.

Most importantly, choose the same system for your turrets and scope reticles. I have a guide on first focal planes vs. second focal planes to help you choose the right reticle as well.

Regardless of all the math, the decision between MOA and MRAD isn’t that important. Clicks with an MOA turret are slightly more precise than clicks with a MIL turret, but at the end of the day it’s a style choice between rifle scopes.


Which is easier to use: MOA or MRAD?

The short answer: it’s the shooter’s preference. If you think in the metric system (meters/centimeters) then it is easier to deal with MRAD. If you measure in the empirical system (yards/inches) then MOA may be easier.

Which one is better: MOA or MRAD?

Both types are equally successful for long-range shooting depending on how well you know the system you’ll be shooting with. MRAD can be somewhat easier to communicate to others and 90% of the professionals are using MRAD, because there are more options in the MRAD system.

Does the military use MRAD or MOA?

MRAD is the standardized system for military and police snipers.

How many MOA are in a mil?

When calculating MOA and MIL measurements, approximately 3.5 MOA equals 1 mil.

6 thoughts on “MOA vs MRAD Rifle Scopes (Explained in Plain English)”

  1. Basically the math breaks down to this: there are 360 degrees in a circle, and 60 minutes in a degree for a total of 21,600 degrees (should be Minutes).

    6.28 equal sections (note this is 2 x PI (3.14152694))

    A mil is so large, it’s usually broken into tenths in order to make precise adjustments.So 1 mil equals 1 yard at 1,000 yards, and 1 meter at 1,000 meters. It doesn’t matter if you use metric or U.S. Scale, and that’s its beauty. Milliradian scopes are often adjustable by 1/10th (0.1) Mil increments {}

    If you normally think in meters or centimeters, then it is easier to calculate distance with a MOA. If you normally think in yards or inches, then MRAD should be your go-to. But in the FAQ the opposite is stated: The short answer: it’s the shooter’s preference. If you think in the metric system (meters/centimeters) then it is easier to deal with MRAD. If you measure in the empirical system (yards/inches) then MOA may be easier.

    MRAD are easier to use in distances not measured in 1,000’s. I.E. 100cm (1m) @ 1000m or 10cm @ 100m or 1cm @ 10m.

  2. With respect, the main article is unnecessarily confusing, and the reply appears to contain several errors.

    The term “MIL” is an abbreviation of “milli” which is a prefix meaning “one thousandth.” “Milli” is an official SI prefix for use with the metric system of measurements. Mixing metric measurements with Imperial measurements (yard, gallon, etc.) as is done in the main article is confusing and presents the use of MRAD in a somewhat misleading way. One MIL may be 3.6 inches at 100 yards (converting metric to Imperial), but the correct use of the MRAD system is to say that 1 MIL is 10 centimeters at 100 meters or 1 centimeter at 1000 meters (uniform use of the metric system with MRAD). With MOA, 1 MOA is approximately 1 inch at 100 yards or 0.1 inch at 1000 yards (uniform use of the Imperial system). Saying that I MIL is 3.6 inches at 100 yards or that 1 MIL is 9.14 centimeters at 100 yards, while technically correct, is to force the use of a measurement system onto a product where such measurement system is not intended. The same is true for describing use of an MOA scope by using metric measurements. (For example, car engines are all designed and specified using the metric system. Why would we then go to the autoparts store and ask for a part using the Imperial system?) It may be that many Americans do not use, and do not fully understand, the metric system, but that is no reason to confuse the design and intended use of an MRAD scope by using Imperial measurements. (Why in the world would anybody design a scope that moves 0.36 inches at 100 yards with each click? That is just crazy. But, if it moves 1 centimeter at 1000 meters with each click, that just makes sense, because that is the way it is designed.) In a comparison of MOA vs MRAD, just say that MRAD is based on metric measurements and MOA on Imperial measurements. For the average person, choosing which scope to use is more easily presented as whether an individual is comfortable using the metric system (choose MRAD) or the Imperial system (choose MOA). Military use of MRAD is easily understood if one realizes that the military commonly uses the metric system, and realizing that it is easier to more rapid to communicate changes, and apply those changes, in scope positioning using the metric system (everything is based on multiples of ten) than the Imperial system (12 inches/foot, 3 feet/yard, 5260 yards/mile, etc).

    • Your reply to the article was correct in stating that there were a couple of mistakes made as far as verbage goes…he switched MOA and Mil for each other once but nothing major. As far as calling 1 mil 3.5 moa
      or approx 3.5″ at 100 yards then 1/10 mil = .35 of an inch was just putting it into common use terms.

      I’m an imperial system user so if I have an mrad scope I need to be able to convert to what is comfortable fir me which will be faster for me and all other folks that think a d use the standard measuring system.

      If I’m using mrad then when adjusting my scope at sight in for instance I would know that when using 1/10th mil adjustments at 100 yards I’d be moving my poi approx 1/3 of an inch per 1/10th mil click. 3 clicks is a tad over an inch in change in poi. This article wasn’t explai g exact usage of the metric system he was explaining mrad vs moa and how it’s used in its most basic form. So the way you are critiqing his article you totally lost sight of the true explanation and got caught up in grammatical errors and metric system speak…so to speak. Just as you will do the same with my reply since I didn’t use apostrophes or pit accronyms like moa into all caps… MOA…or that I had spelling errors. When I am typing on a phone I type in the most basic form of English language and ir proper grammatical usage since it takes forever guy with thick hands like mine type on these Itty bitty keyboards and I won’t waste any more of my time proof reading my messages as they are just simple internet reply and explanations that already take up enough if ny time jusylt make the reply or statement ti begin with! I guarantee your mind is now working around with wanting to point out grammar errors like run on sentences and mispelli gs etc and so you have lost the meaning if my reply to begin with. 🤪🤔🤪😁

      Bottom line…mrad vs moa is mi or and either can be used effectively regardless of what type of math you grew up using. Mrads can ve thought of and concerted in inches and or moa quickly and effectively. These are just tools and the more you use a tool the better you will be at using it…other then these micro keyboards on our cell phones that is!!!

    • I like your reply however you are not correct in one of your statements.
      If we are talking about 1 MIL being 10 centimeters at 100 meters; at 1000 meters 1 MIL should be 100cm or 1 meter and not 1cm as stated.

  3. Hello everyone. Sorry if someone mentioned this, but I didn’t see this point made in the comments. I have little experience with scopes and came across this info while I was doing research for a long range rifle scope. I was lead to believe that a great benefit in using the MRad if you don’t mind doing conversions is that you can use your reticle as a crude range finder.
    If 1 mil is 3.6 inches at 100 yards, 1 mil is 36 inches at 1000 yards. 2 mil at 1000 yards is equal to 72 inches, which is the equivalent to a 6 foot person.
    If you put the person in your reticle and from the bottom of their feet to the top of their head takes up 2 mil, you can estimate they are about 1000 yards away. If they are 4 mil tall, 500 yards. 1 mil tall, 2000 yards, etc.
    Not perfect by any standard, but can be useful I suppose. This can be done with RMad and not MOA, is that correct? Also, I believe the MRad reticle is less cluttered than the MOA because of the larger increments.

  4. I feel more confused than when I started. My understanding previously was that MOA was based on imperial measurements and MRAD/MilDot/MIL was based on the metric system. Then I read the bit about MRAD being a universal angular measurement based on how you measure when zeroing (1 mil=1 m @ 1000m AND 1 mil=1 yard @1000 yds) which makes sense as angular divergence is constant to infinity. But I’m an idiot when it comes to mathematics unless it makes sense like the Pythagorean theorem so my logic could be completely wrong. Any clarification would be great since now I’m second guessing my use of MOA because I can estimate imperial measurements far more accurately than metric.


Leave a Comment