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Mastering the BDC Reticle: Improve Your Accuracy

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A rifle scope’s reticle is arguably one of its most important features. Though its main purpose is to provide a point of aim, different reticles can offer more information than just a center reference. 

As optic manufacturing technology has progressed, modern optics can be equipped with specialized reticles, complete with meticulously calibrated measurements to make it easier to hold for windage and bullet drop. If you’re familiar with modern optic reticles already, you might immediately think of MOA or MIL reticles, specifically how adaptable they are. However, there’s another key player in the realm of reticles: the BDC reticle. 

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What is a BDC Reticle? 

While there are a lot of reticle options out there, BDC reticles are easily one of the most popular. Even so, a common question asked by new enthusiasts is, “What does BDC stand for?”  

BDC is a family of reticles that stands for ‘Bullet Drop Compensator’. The design of these elements can vary, but their core function remains the same: they provide stadia marks to compensate for bullet drop over distance. Some optics include added ranging stadia for more complex holds as well, but this isn’t found on all optics with BDC reticles

 Unlike MOA or MIL reticles, which have fixed equal measurements in ‘minutes of angle’ and ‘milliradians’ respectively, BDC reticles are calibrated to the ballistics of a specific cartridge and load. Depending on the optic, the BDC stadia can compensate for distances up to 1,000 yards. While MOA and MIL reticles offer a prominent level of consistency and granularity for long-range shooting, BDC reticles prioritize engagement speed over high precision and are generally easier to use, since they already account for the complex mathematics needed to calculate bullet drop and present approximate hold overs for the given distances.  

If you’re on the fence about which reticle style is best, our guide on MIL vs. MOA vs. BDC goes in-depth on all three.  

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How Does a BDC Scope Work?  

If you have a scope with a BDC reticle, their complexity can be daunting at first. But to fully understand how your rifle scope works, it’s important to commit its features to memory. Though BDC reticle designs vary based on the manufacturer, they mostly share the same basic features: BDC stadia (often with a target ranging component), wind holds, and a center aiming point. 

BDC stadia are the lines located under the center aiming point, noting specific distances like 100, 150, 200 yards and so on. At times, they can even have holds for upwards of 1000 yards away, where others may top out at 350 or 500 yards. Remember, this depends heavily on the caliber and magnification level of the optic. 

Wind holds, if a reticle has them, are on the left and right of the BDC stadia, letting you estimate your shot’s impact depending on wind. Wind can have a profound effect on shot trajectory, shifting the point of impact by several feet at further distances in some cases.  

The center aiming point on a BDC reticle varies from optic to optic. For instance, most wire/fiber wire reticle optics utilize the intersection of the vertical and horizontal crosshairs as a center point, with some options like our Illuminated ACSS Nova 5.56 Fiber Wire Reticle having an illuminated center dot. Optics with etched reticles may use more complex designs or chevron patterns and floating elements for added ranging information.  

Caliber Calibrations 

As we mentioned before, BDC reticles are calibrated specifically for certain cartridges and loads to make bullet drop holds as quickly as possible. For example, some reticles are calibrated for long range calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor, while others are calibrated for slower and shorter trajectories of calibers like 7.62 NATO, such as our PLxC 1-8x24mm FFP Rifle Scope

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Benefits of Using a BDC Reticle 

Using an optic with a BDC reticle offers many benefits, the main one being enhanced engagement speed when shooting at distance. As we said before, these reticles offer the ability to accurately compensate for bullet drop at vast distances. Remember, MIL and MOA reticles can be used to accurately determine the target range, while a BDC alone cannot. To compensate for this, many BDC reticles often have ranging elements integrated into their design. Still, while MOA and MIL reticles tend to excel in extremely fine precision, it takes considerably longer to get a firing solution unless you’ve memorized your ballistic table. 

Otherwise, MOA and MIL reticle options require equations with multiple steps to effectively use all the holds and mil-dots. On BDC reticles, though, this isn’t necessary since all the measuring holds are calibrated. Just remember that you will still need to adjust when factoring in wind and movement, but it’s usually a simpler process.  

Also, BDC reticles are simply easier to understand. The math needed to approximate holds with MOA and MIL reticles is complicated and requires multiple steps to accomplish. BDC reticles are much less involved; if you know how BDC works, the steps and logic are going to be the same regardless of the distance.  

ACSS Reticle System  

As we’ve mentioned before, our ACSS (Advanced Combined Sighting System) Reticle System comprises a series of sophisticated reticles, designed to enhance your speed and accuracy in a variety of shooting scenarios.  

Depending on the reticle design, they can include BDC stadia that’s been meticulously calibrated for specific calibers and loadings. This is integral for precision, enabling you to adjust your aim on-the-fly without needing to do any complex mathematics to account for bullet drop. These reticles can also be paired with a ranging ladder, which makes estimating range much easier. ACSS reticles also include windage hold points to compensate for wind drift while also incorporating moving target leads. Since wind is almost always going to be a significant factor when shooting at distance, and you’ll likely face moving targets when hunting or during competitions, both features are incredibly beneficial to have in one reticle. 

Overall, the ACSS reticle system offers an efficient reticle setup to improve shooting performance across multiple firearms platforms. As such, there are a lot of optics that utilize our ACSS reticle system, but we’ll touch more on them below.  

Optics That Use BDC Reticles 

Throughout this article, we’ve hinted at the variety of optics that utilize BDC reticles, ranging from traditional variable power optics to red dot sights and prism scopes. Below is an overview of some of the few optics that use these reticle systems.  

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Variable Power Optics 

When you hear the phrase “BDC reticles”, you likely think of variable power optics, and this is for good reason, as there are a lot of unique BDC rifle scopes available from different manufacturers.  

Primary Arms Optics: Many of our optics utilize our Advanced Combined Sighting System, and each ACSS® reticle offers a wide range of high-performance optic solutions that are specifically designed to perform to the highest degree across multiple scenarios and applications.  

One of our popular options is the Primary Arms SLx 1-6×24 SFP Rifle Scope Gen IV with our Illuminated ACSS® NOVA® 5.56/.308 Fiber Wire Reticle. The ACSS NOVA 5.56 is an advanced BDC reticle that utilizes a fiber wire construction, providing ranging and holdovers, while also providing a bright center dot. Being a fiber wire reticle, it doesn’t have floating elements like those found on etched reticles, but it makes up for it by being incredibly fast due to the bright fiber-lit center point.  

For long distances, the ACSS® Apollo® is a solid choice. Found on optics, like the Primary Arms PLx 6-30×56 FFP Rifle Scope and the GLx 3-18×44 FFP Rifle Scope, the ACSS Apollo is designed exclusively for long range marksmanship. Currently, it’s available in two configurations that are calibrated for either .308/6.5 Grendel or 6.5 Creedmoor/.224 Valkyrie; both feature multiple holds that range out to 1,000 yards. Being an etched reticle, it has multiple floating elements for complex target holds at varying distances and windage measurements.  

We have a lot of optics with ACSS reticles, so there’s something for everyone. We recommend researching each option to better understand and narrow down your options.  

Vortex Optics: Coming from one of the most popular optic manufacturers around, the Dead-Hold® BDC Reticle is an incredibly versatile reticle system from Vortex Optics. It has a custom hashmark design to better eliminate the guesswork of using holdovers for windage and range. Vortex also has multiple Dead-Hold BDC Reticle Optics in their lineup, with popular lines such as the Crossfire, Viper, and Diamondback series each being a solid pick.  

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Red Dot Sights 

Primary Arms Optics: Red dot sights usually have a simple dot reticle, but there are a select few that also have a BDC. One such option is our SLx MD-25 Rotary Knob Microdot Gen II, featuring our ACSS CQB Red Dot reticle. It features an outer horseshoe, center chevron, and BDC stadia. Each of which is calibrated with multiple calibers. Our ACSS CQB reticle differs heavily from other similar reticle systems. Our guide on how to use it goes in-depth on the reticle, highlighting tips on how to use it effectively. 

Holosun: Made in collaboration with Primary Arms Optics, the Holosun Paralow HS503G is a solid red dot choice that utilizes our ACSS CQB reticle. The Paralow HS503G is also equipped with Holosun’s unique features as well, such as an automatic shut-off and Shake Awake® motion activation. 

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Prism Scopes 

Prism Scopes have quickly become one of the most popular optic options for platforms like the AR-15 and AKM, and for good reason too. They can offer the same lightweight, compact form-factor as red dot sights, but use etched reticles instead of projected ones. As a result, they’re capable of being a host for complex reticle patterns that are crisper and easier to see, especially if you suffer from astigmatism. Some of our Prism scopes, such as our SLx® and newer GLx® MicroPrism™ Scopes, are among our most popular offerings.  

Primary Arms Optics: One of the most popular optic variants we produce is our SLx® MicroPrism™ series. It’s available in multiple magnification levels and comes with a variety of different reticles. One such option is our SLx 5x MicroPrism Scope. It comes with our high-performance ACSS Aurora 5.56/.308 Reticle which features comprehensive yard-based holds tailored for use with 5.56 NATO and .308 Winchester. Being an optic with a fixed 5x magnification level, it performs well at close to medium ranges.  

We offer a vast array of prism scopes that house multiple reticle variants. No matter what your purpose is, there’s an optic for you. Just remember that not every offering has a BDC reticle. 

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Factors to Consider when Using a BDC Reticle 

With the vast selection of optics with BDC reticles, finding the right one can be a challenge. While no one optic reigns supreme, your choice should be guided by your preferences and needs.  

One of the most crucial factors to consider in an optic is magnification. When shooting at longer ranges, having the right magnification is critical. Variable power optics will offer the most in terms of magnification ranges, but keep in mind that their focal plane is also important. The BDC will be accurate at all magnification levels in a first focal plane (FFP) scope where it will only be accurate at one magnification (usually the highest but not always) in a second focal plane optic, but choosing one depends heavily on your rifle, its caliber, and the intended use.  

For instance, a 5.56 AR-15 used for hunting at short to medium ranges would pair well an FFP LPVO (Low Power Variable Optic) like our SLx 1-8×24 FFP Riflescope because, in the heat of the moment, it won’t matter if your magnification is set at 4x, 6x, or any other magnification, because the drop indicators will always be accurate for the given distance. Depending on your purpose, you could also opt for a prism scope with a fixed magnification level or a red dot with a magnifier. 

It’s also important to understand the limitations of BDC reticles. As we mentioned before, BDC reticles are caliber and load specific. So, although the drops will be close, allowing you to quickly engage targets at multiple distances, they don’t have the ability to fine tune the ballistic curve for different loads or to adjust in account of different environmental conditions. If you want the ultimate optic in terms of precision and customization for hand loads or extreme environmental changes, then MIL and MOA based reticles may be a better fit for you.  


BDC reticles easily stand out amongst other reticle options, as they’re some of the most practical reticles available. With multiple BDC reticles available across a wide expanse of optic variants, it’s easy to find a high-quality optic with a reticle tailored for your specific purpose.  

Before making any decisions, be sure to consider your needs and preferences. Whether you shop for a Primary Arms Optic that features our ACSS Reticle system, or you opt for something else, optics can be a costly investment, so it’s crucial to take time and research each model before buying.  

Once you have your optic selected, we encourage you to get out and train with it. The best way to learn a new platform is to get hands-on experience with it. If you’re serious about mastering your accuracy, check out our guide on mechanical vs practical accuracy.