Do you want a Front Focal Plane Scope or a Second Focal Plane Scope ? That is the question …
How we answer this question comes down to use, or what kind of shooting do you engage in ?
- Recreational, you shoot for fun, not part of an organized group
- Extreme Long Range
- PRS Type Events, Dynamic, timed events with multiple targets at multiple distances
- NRA Type Events, F Class, Benchrest
- Military Applications
- Law Enforcement
These are the question we need answered before we can recommend a particular type of scope.
Front Focal Plane Scopes
This tells us the reticle is located in the front of the erector system, which puts it in front of the magnification ring. So as you adjust the power the view of the reticle is adjusting with that magnification. When we look at this action, the reticle appears to grow and shrink with the adjustment of the magnification ring. However understand the reticle is moving with that magnification and it never covers more or less of the target area, it covers the same area, just in tune with the magnification setting.
These scopes are excellent for dynamic type shooting because the sub-tensions of the reticle are always correct. No matter what power you fall on, the reticle is correctly giving you the proper adjustment via the reticle. So if you hold windage or elevation with the reticle, the value is true at all magnifications. It’s very user friendly.
Most of the members of Sniper’s Hide will use a Front Focal Plane Scope.
Second Focal Plane Scopes
These are scopes that have the reticle at the back of the erector within the zoom mechanism so when you adjust the magnification the reticle view will remain constant. The draw back to this is, the reticle sub-tensions are only accurate on one specific magnification setting. This is usually max magnification unless the scope is one that goes over 25x then the manufacturer will mark the magnification ring telling you where it was designed to be used. A dot, a mark, something tells you, only here will the reticle subtend correctly.
This does not mean you are stuck you can “Map” the reticle whether it is a Mil Based or MOA Based. What Mapping the Reticle means is, setting up a ruler or yard stick, they used to called it a Barber Pole, so you can line up the reticle at a given distance. At max power 1 Mil is 1 Mil or 1 MOA, then as you adjust the magnification down, the distance will increase. So with a 25x scope, at 12.5x the value of the reticle will be double. 1 Mil is now 2, hence 1 MOA is 2 MOA given the same hash mark. This is important to do if you are working with this scope because the magnification ring might not be 100% correct. Back in the day when most scopes were Second Focal Plane, it was not uncommon to see guys at matches with Silver Sharpie Marks all over the magnification ring where they mapped it.
In my opinion a second focal plane scope can be used, it just requires a lot more effort on the shooters part. If you are a recreational shooter you may never notice any errors. But go to competition or take some training and you might find your ranging distances are always wrong because the reticle is not subtending where you think it is.
Before FFP Scopes became all the rage, something I helped promote. The majority of scopes in the US were Second Focal Plane.
Some manufacturers have said to me, Second focal plane scopes are a bit easier to work with, and tend to be a little stronger when it comes to accepting recoil than their FFP partners. While that may have been the case 30 years, I personally believe we gone well beyond that reasoning. Although we do tend to see that FFP Scopes are bit more expensive than your average Second Focal Plane scope, so that is one consideration to make.
Today it appears both are able to handle of the biggest calibers.
Now one of the benefits of the Second Focal Plane, their reticles tend to be thinner. Because it is not adjusting with the magnification, meaning it is giving you the same view regardless, they can make the reticles very fine. This is why you see Second Focal Plane Scopes being used in F Class and Benchrest competitions. It covers less of the target. With a FFP Scope, you want to be able to still see your hash marks or Dots at lower magnifications so you compromise and make the reticle thicker so you can use it. There are plenty of thinner front focal plane reticle but once you dial down past a certain point they are not really useable. Here SFP scopes have the advantage.
For the ELR Guys, with heavier recoiling rifles, and targets so far away, they tend to gravitate towards the second focal plane scopes. Who knows maybe they just ran out of money. LOL
Schmidt & Benders Enters the Market
Last week we received the new S&B 5-25x PM2 Second Focal Plane Scope in MOA. This scope features an MOA / MOA system with their new P4F MOA reticle. With 1/4 MOA adjustments and MOA reticle, the scope is identical to the Front Focal Plane version in every way, but the magnification being it is Second Focal Plane. Directed a Law Enforcement and other shooters as noted above who still use SFP Scopes, this is a long awaited addition to the Schmidt & Bender Line.
You can get these scopes from dealers Like Mile High Shooting Accessories here in Colorado, a huge S&B dealer and SH Supporting company.
Zeroing up this scope I noticed immediately the P4F MOA reticle took up less room at the 1/4″ Orange dot of my Shootin C target vs the FFP version of the same scope. Is it a lot, no, but it was noticeable and if you are shooting small targets you can see a difference. From the outside you cannot tell them apart, beyond the unit of adjustments as the FFP is a Mil Based scope.
The 5-25x PMII has been around a very long time, and they never really promoted the second focal plane versions of their scopes, until now.
Mapping the Reticles
Questions is being asked how to map your reticle vs your magnification. This is very simple process, just a big time consuming. You need to set up a ruler or barber pole type device at exactly 100 yards from your position. I use a 300ft tape measure and go from the turrets to the target board.
The easiest way to do it is a barber pole, taking a 4×4 or vertical pole and painting alternating black and white colors on the barber pole at specific amount of distance. Can be 4 MOA or 3.6″ depending on what you are measuring. If the reticle has 2 MOA divisions, use 2″ it really just depends what scope you are using.
Once you have your measuring tool in place, (a yard stick with tape can work) you bag the rifle in and move the magnification ring noting the values of the reticle based on where the ring is. You can use a silver sharpie to make reference points as well I recommending recording the data in your log book. For a 25x scope consider, 12.5x, 6x as points of reference but you can map it anyway that suits your style of shooting.
With a second focal plane scope, if you are a recreational type shooter, not ranging, not competing, and not holding wind, you can ignore this, but if you use the scope for work or competition, I highly recommend you take the time to do this.
For more details don’t forget to hit the Sniper’s Hide Optics Forum as we move through our review process will be talking more about this scope. Until then, plenty of scope discussions taking place everyday.
Thanks for watching