Rifle Scopes – First vs Second Focal Plane

We field alot of questions in regards to optics and rifle scopes here at Utah Airguns. One of the most common questions we hear is, “What is the difference between First and Second Focal Plane Scopes?”There is some really good information out there on this topic, but we figured we would put a few of the basic differences together for you. We will start with the most common and most traditional type of system, Second Focal Plane (SFP).

Second Focal Plane

The most common optical design is a Second Focal Plane (SFP). Sometimes referred to as Rear Focal Plane. This means is that the reticle is placed BEHIND the magnification adjustment. Because of it’s placement, when you change your magnification and zoom or retract, the reticle stays the same size. An example of this is the Hawke Sidewinder Mil-Dot reticle.

Some people prefer Second Focal Plane because every time you look through the scope the reticle size is exactly the same. Whether you are on 3 or 30 power the reticle size will be exactly the same. Generally numbers, hashes, dots, etc. are easy to see on a consistent basis.

The disadvantage is that if you have trajectory markings on your reticle design, those markings, or hold over values, are only going to be accurate on a specific magnification power. This can make it difficult as you are left to do complex math if you are on different mag powers (which is very common in airgun hunting).

Scope Diagram

First Focal Plane

The optics market has seen a huge surge in manufacturers offering a First Focal Plane scope. Hawke, MTC, Aztec, Athlon, Nightforce, Vortex, etc. now all have FFP options available. The First Focal Plane (FFP), sometimes referred to Front Focal Plane, is when the reticle is placed IN FRONT of the magnification setting.

So now as you can imagine, when you change magnification the reticle size is going to scale up or down with your adjustments. Now those trajectory markings, or hold over values, are accurate no matter what magnification setting you’re on. For those of us that are bad at math, this is great news!

One disadvantage of FFP scopes if you are on minimum power, those finer details of the reticle can be difficult to see. Or if you are on maximum power the reticle can overpower your field of view depending on the scope and reticle design. First Focal Plane scopes are great for hunting or variable yardage shooting competitions like Field Target or PRS style events.

Scope Diagram 2

Both FFP and SFP are great options for different situations. The good news is if you are using a ballistics application like Strelok Pro or Hawke Chairgun, this really isn’t too important of a decision. If you are planning on creating a dope chart and dial with your turrets, you aren’t going to have to do as much holdover math. We usually reccomend going with the reticle, glass, and turret design that fits your eye the best. Take a look through our scope options and let us help you find the best scope for you.

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