Another solution is to use a scope with a first focal-plane (FFP) reticle. There are two problems with this: Very few FFP scopes are made, and many of those don’t feature reticles that are useful for varmint shooting. The big exceptions are the Leupold, Nightforce, and Schmidt & Bender scopes offered by Darrell Holland, with his ART reticle installed. I’ve shot a literal ton of prairie dogs with ART scopes over the past few years, and they really work, partly because of the excellent reticle design.
The Holland ART reticle is a complex combination of extra crosshairs, dots, and numbers. It works extremely well at longer ranges, partly because it’s installed in the first focal plane of Leupold, Nightforce, and Schmidt & Bender scopes.
Which brings us back to the reticles themselves. These days there are reticles with everything from a few extra dots along the vertical cross hair to reticles that cover the bottom third of the scope’s field of view, providing an aiming point for every blade of grass in North Dakota. Here we run into the basic fact that simpler reticles are easier to use, if not quite so versatile.
Personally, I particularly like simple reticles in shorter-range varmint rifles, whether rimfires or small centerfires such as the 22 Hornet. These aren’t likely to be used at extended ranges, or in any significant amount of wind. Hence, something like the Burris Ballistic Plex reticle provides about all the information we can realistically use — the reason there are Burris Ballistic Plex scopes on most of my rimfire or small centerfire varmint rifles. The exceptions are scopes with similar reticles, such as the Leupold 3.5-10x scope with a 4-dot version of their Long-Range Duplex on my 221 Fireball.
Schmidt & Bender’s Varmint reticle is a simple dot-type, but with windage dots on the horizontal crosshair.
More complex reticles are at their best at longer ranges. Once the number of extra aiming points goes beyond four, however, we run into the problem of knowing which one to use. This involves a basic principle of human memory: We can normally remember three or maybe four things quite easily, the reason telephone numbers are broken up into sequences of three and four numerals, even if the entire number contains 10. (This is also the reason that anytime we go to the store to buy more than three or four items, we should make a list, because otherwise we’re sure to forget something.)
Similarly, if the reticle in our scope has more than four aiming points, we end up having to count them just to be sure we’re using the right dot or crosshair. So any complex reticle should have the aiming points numbered in some way, so our eye can instantly find “7” instead of having to count the lines.
Ballistic reticles should be the correct thickness for aiming at our chosen target. When Swarovski introduced their TDS reticle, the first widely-used Christmas tree type, over a decade ago, it was a revelation on a prairie dog town. The only problem was that the crosshairs were too thick for precise aiming at longer ranges. Luckily, we’re almost never placing any ballistic reticle right on a prairie dog at long range. Instead we’re holding off, even if just slightly, so the TDS worked OK. But later Christmas tree varmint reticles offered by various manufacturers (including Swarovski) have featured much thinner crosshairs — though for larger varmints, especially coyotes in dim light, a somewhat heavier crosshair is useful.
No matter what we call them these days — ballistic, ranging, tactical, hold-on/hold-off, multi-point, Christmas tree, or whatever — today’s scope reticles make varmint hunting far more effective than back in the old days when simple cross hairs had us guessing where to hold.
The VARMINT HUNTER Magazine, a 208-page publication put together for shooters by shooters. The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. hosts several 600-yard IBS matches, a coyote calling contest, and an annual Jamboree in Fort Pierre, SD. The Jamboree is a week-long shooting event known as "a summer camp for shooters".
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