The easiest way to get a range is to use a laser range finder. They’re relatively inexpensive, widely available, easy to use, and give you very accurate ranges instantaneously. But what if you’re in a situation where you cannot rely on your laser range finder or don’t have one? Gunsite Academy Range Master, Cory Trapp explains a great technique for how to find a range without a rangefinder using the reticle in your riflescope or spotting scope.

To find a range using this method, you need to know the size of your target and how to read your reticle. Refer to the owner’s manual to learn more about the reticle on your optic. There are standard formulas to calculate the distance depending on if you’re using an MOA or MRAD reticle.

Look through your riflescope or spotting scope and measure your target on your reticle. Note how many MOA or milliradians your target covers. Plug in the known size of your target and the measurement from your reticle into the appropriate formula to find the range. 

If you’re not keen on doing math out in the field, there are several cheat sheets available to use or make your own table!

It’s important to remember that this method is an estimation, so you should expect some margin of error. The biggest room for error is measuring your target in your reticle. It takes practice sizing up the target, and some reticles are better suited for this function than others. Under 800 yards, using your reticle to range find will give you very shootable distances. 

MOA Formula

For example, the target is 20” tall and covers 3.5 MOA in your reticle, the target is 545 yards away.

MRAD Formula

For example, the target is 24” tall and covers 2 mils in your reticle, the target is 333 yards away.


A first focal plane (FFP) optic is often simpler for range finding. As you increase or decrease the power, the reticle scales in size with relation to the power setting, which lets you use the reticle lines for ranging and holdovers. This means you can measure your target in the reticle at any power.

A second focal plane (SFP) optic has a reticle that stays constant in size, regardless of the power setting. You’ll need to check your scope’s manual to learn how to use your reticle for range finding and holdovers at different power settings. For example, if you have a SFP 5.5-22x scope and the lines are 1 mil at 22x, those lines will be 2 mils (or double) at 11x.

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