Holding over compared to dialing in MOA



This is a partial email that was sent to me from a friend of mine who is in the ballistics’ end of the business. I found what he had to say interesting and wanted to share it with you.

No one seems to grasp this concept except for B. R. and the ballisticians I have consulted with! I have verified everything and beat this thing to death in the past but it keeps rearing it's ugly head! Inches and MOA do not work the same over distance. Inches of drop for 350 yd, when used to hold over on a 500 yd target (45 degree angle) does not have the same value as the MOA for 350 yards when it gets out to 500 yd. MOA is an angular measurement and simply put, the MOA value in inches grows with distance.

I just don't know how else to say it! Most tactical types with experience all dial-in, so it's not an issue. However, I talk to the less informed daily too and I ask many of them how they apply the data. A few of the tactical newbies just starting out want to use hold over only for all shots and don't want to touch their dials. And most of the hunters definitely only want to hold over for all their shots. They often don't even have target knobs on their scopes.

People deserve to know the truth of the limitation of the equipment we offer and I always tell it like it is.

Exbal uses current drag/ballistic tables etc… What are your feelings about this?
First, have you made any angle indicators with the "correction factors" of
(1 - cosine), instead of the cosine or angle, or would you make one?

I've found that adding a flat 4 MOA to what ever my come-up MOA is for an angled shot, then multiplying it by the correction factor to see how many MOA to "take off" the level fire come-up MOA is way easier to remember the actual bore line drop this way. Saves another step in the field if I could look at the angle indicator and instantly see that the 35 degree correction factor is .181 instead of the .819 cosine on the cosine/angle indicator. Just one less math problem to solve, subtracting .819 from 1 to get the .181 I'm looking for.

Okay, I think that 1 inch being so close to 1 MOA both helps, and also confuses many people.

I'm not the best at explaining things, even things I understand well. I was confused by this when I got started figuring drops and corrections to dial, but it's pretty simple really.

I look at MOA and inches when I'm looking at compensating for a groups measured drop in inches on a target at a specific range, mainly. I really don't think in terms of inches, but rather MOA in most any other situation. In other words, I look at MOA on a chart, note everything in MOA, wind drift, on and on and on... Why think in terms of inches when you don't have to and just complicate things... It's like looking at things in terms of mils, but dialing in MOA, something I've never understood...

To me, if 1 MOA was equal to 1", that would really have people confused even more.

My turrets compensate for 1.047" (1 MOA) at 100 yards with every 4 clicks, or number on the turret. If I'm 8" low at 450 yards and want to know the correction to bring it up, first things first - Every 1 MOA I dial, the turret will move the crosshair 1.047" on the target image "at 100 yards", and if the target image is at 450 yards, 4.5 times farther, the crosshair moves 4.5 x 1.047" = 4.71". The crosshair moves lower when you "dial" for the bullet to impact "up". The crosshair moving lower forces you to raise the muzzle to bring the crosshair back up to the target, the more you dial, the more you raise the muzzle.

To calculate the correction for a specific bullet drop at a specific range, you must first understand that 100 yards is your base line, but not the multiple you'll be dealing with in the calculations. If the range is 678 yards away, 6.78 X 1.047 = the number of inches that 1 MOA dialed, or held over, will change the point of impact (POI). In this case, 1.047" at 100 yds (1 MOA) is worth 6.78 times times that, "at this range". Because it's 6.78 times as far, the 1.047" grows at the rate of 6.78 times also.

So, if you're 8" low at 450 yards, you divide the 8" by 4.50, then by 1.047 for the 1.70 MOA solution.

1.70 MOA = (8/4.50)/1.047

8/4.50 = 1.78
1.78/1.047 = 1.70 MOA

Another example -
If in the conditions you're shooting in, you know the bullet drops 109" at 815 yards from your 100 yard zero, (109/8.15)/1.047 = 12.77 MOA is what you dial to rezero for the shot.

Just remember, this is minute of angle not inches. When you dial up 1 MOA of elevation into your scope, you will be raising your bore line (BL) above your line of sight (LOS) 1.047" at 100 yards, but that BL is straight and extends to infinity at that angle relative to your LOS, and the divergance, or distance between this extended BL and LOS will be double at 200 yards (1.047" X 2.00), and triple at 300 yards (1.047" X 3.00) etc, etc... The distance between the LOS and BL, in inches, will be equal to the bullet drop from your 100 yards zero when this drop is correctly compensated for.

1 MOA equals 1.047" of divergance at 100 yards, range multiplies this as described. Divide the drop in inches at range by the range multiple, then by 1.047" to back into the MOA correction needed.


This load I've been working on and figuring angles with for a while now seems to be fairly consistant in one way that will speed up angle calculations some, or save me from having to carry a "drop from BL" MOA chart. This way I can work from my Come-Up MOA only, but retain the precision you only get from using BL drop in the calculations to find a corrected firing solution for angled shots.

My Come-Up MOA at whatever range is always 4.0 MOA less than my level fire BL drop MOA with this scope height, so adding that 4.0 MOA to my level fire range Come-Up, it yields the BL drop MOA I need in order to work the formula for a corrected come-up.

If you look at your BL drop in inches and convert it to MOA, then the same for your bullet path come-ups, subtracting the come-up MOA from the BL drop MOA at each 100 yard increment on out to 1500 yards, you'll see the difference between them at each interval the whole way out. With this 1.75" scope height of mine zeroed at 100 yards, mine runs an MOA difference of about 3.9 - 4.0 MOA all the way on out.

So, the formula to use with this now is, level fire come-up MOA + 4 MOA = BL drop MOA * (1 - cosine) for the correction MOA to go back and subtract from your level fire come-up, for a corrected come-up for that slope range.

Example -
Lased 900 yard shot, 45 degree angle:

Come-Up for Level fire 900 yds = 31.17 MOA

Corrected for angle come-up = 31.17 - ((31.17 + 4.0) * (1 - .707))

31.17 MOA + 4.0 MOA = 35.17 MOA BL drop

1 - .707 cosine 45 deg = .293 correction factor

35.17 MOA * .293 = 10.30 MOA correction

31.17 MOA - 10.30 MOA = 20.87 MOA corrected come-up for 900 yards, 45 degrees.


You can see how a "correction factor" angle indicator would save another small step in the calc's there.

Multiplying the 900 yard come-up (31.17 MOA)by the cosine (.707) gives a 22.03 MOA angle fire solution, and that's a 9.5" - 12" miss depending on which way you dialed using the other method, which is much more accurate.

If guys want to use holdover, the NF R2 reticle is at least calibrated in MOA, not mils, and that's what I'd use, and do.

The Exbal program is nice, I use it as well, but it needs G5 and G7 drag curves to work at its fullest. It has some nice new features on the latest versions, the latest Palm version is really nice.

[ 02-04-2004: Message edited by: Brent ]
**** Brent

You posted a book's worth of info.


Like Brent said somewhere in there..

There are two different types of holdovers, one uses the reticle features (MilDot 3.44 MOA, or NP R2, or other etched markings) and this makes holdovers angular and is fairly easy and exact.

The other method enjoyed by many (not by me though) is trying to calculate the inches or feet or yards of holdover required by judging the correct value at the target and aiming at an imaginary "spot" somewhere above the target... "That looks like 8.23 feet just there at that limb over the elk's head, I'll hold there".... sort of iffy.
If one hunts longrange with a partner who has a good set of bigeyes, the shooter simply takes a sighter shot "first" (away from the animal) dial to the bullet impact and then swing back on the animal for the second shot. It doesn't matter if your shooting uphill, downhill or straight across the mountain. That sighter shot eleminates any guess work and all the math and also gives you the indication of what the wind is doing so you can correct.

This way theres no holdover for elevation or wind and you hold the cross hair dead on the shoulder or area you want to hit "after" you have dialed in.

This is probably the most used way the long and ultra longrange hunters do it in this part of the country and when we go west.

I've tried the holdover scopes and don't like them. The animal always seems to be "between" the two dots or two lines in a holdover scope. I like to hold dead on the area I want to hit.

To each his own on this one. Everyone has their favorite.

Mine will always be the dial in method either for 1000 yard benchrest or Longrange hunting. Has worked for me.

I hope you keep all this info saved so you can repost with out retyping!!


I'm not quite sure what you're getting at there - but if you want to understand using a graduated reticle for holdover, check out this thread:

We've beaten this topic to death, raised it back from the dead, beaten it again, etc...

I and a number of comrades are proponents of graduated reticles for holdover. Check out that thread, and if you're interested, search the site for "R2". You'll get a brain-full of opinions...
I have worked off of mil holds for many years and could not quite grasp what this quote actually meant, until now. I think what he actually was stating was that when shooting on an angle, MOA and MIL Radian values grow with distance and that working off of what you think your inches of drop is does not. I was actually locked up over what he was trying to say.
Brent that was some pretty intense stuff.
Very interesting but way out of my ballpark.
You are in a whole different world than someone like me who is math challenged and the holdover system is the only way to go.

You can probably do all that quickly in your head in the field.
I have to imagine there is no way I could use that system other than to carry some type of computer in the field to do the figuring for me.
My system is I get the range (lazer rangefinder or mildot) place the animal in the correct spot on the holdover bracket and check the wind pick a spot and squeeze her off.
Of course my limit on big game is 600 yards, and have only actually shot animals at 500 yards.
I can see where it becomes MUCH tougher at longer ranges where the lines in the holdover bracket get further apart.
Appreciate you taking the time to present such a thorough explanation.
Just figured it out! (I'm a little slow)
I sent a check for the Black lefthanded ACI
good to know your here.


This is an image of the ACI mounted with a Badger Ordnance Mount.

[ 02-04-2004: Message edited by: W ]
I'd pay you a special order price to make me up one with the correction factor numbers instead of the cosine numbers. You can still count up to it from the zero to determine the angle number it corralates to bacause they numbers are in 5 degree increments. Knowing this formula is the most accurate method, I'd think it would be an asset to have this ACI model available too.

I can use the angle or cosine numbers either one in Exbal. The only time I'd be using this formula is if my batteries or Palm failed me in the field, and then I'd be using the small spare calculator in the pocket with it, it wouldn't be done in my head. Back up, ya know

Usually you'll have plenty of time to run any calculations if an animal is out at LR unaware of your presence, but the shorter you can keep the calculation time, the better.

A 1 to 1 slope, or 45 deg angle is pretty **** steep, and most shots are indeed under this angle by quite a ways, but if range is very far using the other methods, you're back in the same boat again, the other two formulas simply aren't accurate enough to use with confidence. Material (gravel and dirt) will naturally roll off at 30-40 deg, or 1 1/2 to 1 slope, depending on the amount, and type of fines in it to bind it, so 45 degrees is quite steep.

Sheep and Goat hunters enter quite another area, and LR shots can easily exceed 45 deg or more. Reminds me of a Sheep that Brian, a friend of mine got up near off the Dalton Hwy with his bow. Shot it up through the throat from directly below at 20 yards as he poked his head over the cliff, pretty near 90 deg shot! The Sheep ran around to the side down to the bench he was on and "jumped" right off the friggin cliff!! Suicidel them things can be.

Sorry for the book there guys, it was really meant to explain a couple things for the guys just getting into this stuff and try to answer some of the questions that might follow what could have been a little too unclear brief explanation.

Here's a must read for you precision angle shooters looking for that next long range 1 shot 1 kill -

Angle Shooting Technical Article - 3 Methods Evaluated
Brent, you need to get out of the house and start shooting again. You have way too much time at the key board. wow, how's that for info.

With all the variables that go on after the primer pops, I will go with the DC sighter method. Being able to adjust and getting one shot hits would be a dream but I would be too excited to do the math anyways.

There is a calming effect to a loud bang, shoulder thump, and seeing a puff somewhere 3 secs away.

Hope it warms up for you soon...


Man your mind really is firing! If you want me to, I will be happy to accommodate you, but you will have to email me the specifics AND THEN IT HAS TO BE DOABLE. TO CHANGE THE PRINTING, RE-SETUP, DRIVE MY GUYS CRAZY WITH NEW SPECS ETC… FOR ONE LENS, IS GOING TO COST YOU.

But hey, its’ for you.

Then we have to work on getting you a girlfriend…
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