First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane Scope: Pros and Cons

When it comes to choosing a rifle scope, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to go with a first focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP) design. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and understanding the differences can help you make an informed decision.

First focal plane scopes have the reticle placed in front of the magnification lenses, meaning that the reticle will appear to change size as the magnification is adjusted.

This can be beneficial for long-range shooting, as the reticle will remain accurate regardless of the magnification level. However, they tend to be more expensive than their second focal plane counterparts, and the reticle can be difficult to see at lower magnification levels.

On the other hand, second focal plane scopes have the reticle placed behind the magnification lenses, meaning that the reticle will remain the same size regardless of magnification level.

This can make them easier to use at lower magnification levels, and they tend to be less expensive than first focal plane scopes. However, the reticle will only be accurate at one magnification level, typically the highest one, meaning that it may not be suitable for long-range shooting.

Understanding First and Second Focal Plane

When it comes to rifle scopes, one of the most important components is the reticle, which is the crosshairs or other aiming point that helps you line up your shot. The location of the reticle about the magnification lenses is what determines whether a scope is a first focal plane (FFP) or a second focal plane (SFP) scope.

In a first focal plane scope, the reticle is located in front of the magnification lenses in the erector tube assembly. This means that as you increase or decrease the magnification, the reticle appears to change size along with the target.

This can be helpful for long-range shooting, as it allows you to make more precise adjustments to your aim.

On the other hand, in a second focal plane scope, the reticle is located behind the magnification lenses in the eyepiece. This means that the reticle appears to stay the same size, regardless of the magnification level. This can be helpful for shorter-range shooting, as it allows you to maintain a consistent sight picture.

One advantage of FFP scopes is that they allow for a more accurate range of targets since the reticle appears to change size along with the target. However, they can be more expensive than SFP scopes, and some shooters find the changing reticle size to be distracting or difficult to use.

SFP scopes, on the other hand, are generally less expensive and easier to use, since the reticle remains the same size regardless of the magnification level. However, they may not be as precise for long-range shooting, since the reticle does not change size.

The choice between an FFP and an SFP scope will depend on your shooting needs and preferences. Shooters who need to make precise long-range shots may prefer an FFP scope, while those who prioritize ease of use and affordability may prefer an SFP scope.

Advantages of First Focal Plane Scopes

First Focal Plane (FFP) scopes have several advantages over Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes. In this section, we will discuss the advantages of FFP scopes.

Precision and Long-Range Shooting

One of the main advantages of FFP scopes is their precision and accuracy. FFP scopes are ideal for long-range shooting as they allow for more accurate holdover and windage adjustments.

The reticle size in FFP scopes changes as the magnification is adjusted, which means that the hash marks, subtensions, and bullet drop compensation (BDC) reticles remain accurate at all magnification levels. This feature is particularly useful for long-range shooting as it allows the shooter to make precise holdover and windage adjustments at any magnification level.

FFP scopes also have illuminated reticles that make it easier to aim in low-light conditions. The illuminated reticles are especially useful when hunting game animals in timber or open country.

Adaptability in Hunting

FFP scopes are more adaptable for hunting than SFP scopes. FFP scopes are ideal for hunting game animals as they allow for quick and accurate holdover and windage adjustments. The subtensions in FFP scopes are constant at all magnification levels, which means that the shooter can make quick adjustments without having to adjust the magnification.

FFP scopes also have a higher maximum magnification than SFP scopes, which makes them ideal for long-range hunting. The higher magnification allows the shooter to see the target more clearly and make more precise shots.

FFP scopes have several advantages over SFP scopes. FFP scopes are more precise and accurate, which makes them ideal for long-range shooting. They are also more adaptable for hunting game animals as they allow for quick and accurate holdover and windage adjustments.

Disadvantages of First Focal Plane Scopes

First focal plane scopes have several disadvantages that shooters should consider before making a purchase. Here are some of the most significant drawbacks:

Higher Cost

First focal plane scopes are generally more expensive than second focal plane scopes. This is because they require more complex optics to maintain the reticle’s size as the magnification changes. Therefore, shooters who are on a tight budget may prefer second focal plane scopes.

Smaller Reticle

The reticle in a first focal plane scope appears smaller at lower magnifications and larger at higher magnifications. This can make it difficult to aim accurately at lower magnifications, especially in low-light conditions. Shooters who need to make precise shots at low magnifications may prefer second focal plane scopes.

More Complex Design

First focal plane scopes are more complex than second focal plane scopes. They require more advanced optics and mechanics to maintain reticle size as magnification changes. This complexity can make first-focal plane scopes more difficult to repair and maintain than second-focal plane scopes.

Limited Field of View

The reticle in a first focal plane scope takes up more of the field of view at higher magnifications than in a second focal plane scope. This can make it more challenging to track moving targets or to acquire targets quickly. Shooters who need a wide field of view may prefer second focal plane scopes.

Limited Availability

First focal plane scopes are less common than second focal plane scopes. This means that shooters may have a more limited selection to choose from when shopping for a first focal plane scope. Additionally, the first focal plane scopes may be harder to find in stock at local retailers.

While first focal plane scopes have some advantages, they also have several drawbacks that shooters should consider. Shooters who need to make precise shots at low magnifications may prefer second focal plane scopes, while those who need a wider field of view may prefer first focal plane scopes. The choice between a first focal plane scope and a second focal plane scope will depend on the shooter’s specific needs and preferences.

Advantages of Second Focal Plane Scopes

Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes have their own set of advantages that make them a popular choice among shooters. In this section, we will discuss some of the advantages of SFP scopes.

Cost and Popularity

One of the main advantages of SFP scopes is that they are generally cheaper than First Focal Plane (FFP) scopes. This makes them a popular choice among budget-conscious shooters who still want a quality rifle scope. Additionally, SFP scopes are more widely available and popular than FFP scopes, so shooters can find a wider range of options at different price points.

Ease of Use

SFP scopes are also easier to use than FFP scopes. The reticle size on an SFP scope remains constant regardless of the magnification level, which makes it easier to use. Shooters do not need to worry about the reticle changing size as they adjust the magnification, which can be distracting and make it harder to aim accurately. Additionally, SFP scopes often have simpler turrets and controls, which makes them easier to adjust and use in the field.

SFP scopes offer several advantages that make them a popular choice among shooters. They are cheaper and more widely available than FFP scopes, and they are easier to use and provide a more consistent shooting experience. While they may not be the best choice for snipers or others who need extreme accuracy at long distances, they are a great choice for most shooters who want a quality rifle scope at an affordable price.

Disadvantages of Second Focal Plane Scopes

Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes have some disadvantages compared to First Focal Plane (FFP) scopes. One of the disadvantages is that the reticle does not change size as the magnification changes.

This means that the reticle is only accurate at one magnification level, usually the highest. As a result, the shooter needs to adjust the reticle for each magnification level, which can be time-consuming and can cause errors.

Another disadvantage of SFP scopes is that the reticle can become too small at low magnification levels, making it difficult to see. This can be a problem when shooting in low light conditions or when shooting at small targets. In addition, the reticle can become too thick at high magnification levels, obscuring the target and making it difficult to aim accurately.

SFP scopes also have a limited range of magnification compared to FFP scopes. This is because the reticle is only accurate at one magnification level, so the shooter needs to choose a magnification level that is close to the target distance.

This can be a problem when shooting at targets at different distances or when shooting at moving targets.

Another disadvantage of SFP scopes is that they can be more difficult to use than FFP scopes. This is because the shooter needs to adjust the reticle for each magnification level, which can be time-consuming and can cause errors. In addition, the shooter needs to be aware of the limitations of the SFP reticle and adjust the magnification level accordingly.

Second Focal Plane scopes have some disadvantages compared to First Focal Plane scopes. The reticle does not change size as the magnification changes, the reticle can become too small or too thick at different magnification levels, and the range of magnification is limited. SFP scopes can also be more difficult to use than FFP scopes.

Choosing Between First and Second Focal Plane Scopes

When it comes to choosing between first and second focal plane scopes, there are several factors to consider. First, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. In a first focal plane scope, the reticle size changes as the magnification is adjusted, while in a second focal plane scope, the reticle size remains the same regardless of the magnification.

One advantage of a first focal plane scope is that it allows for greater precision at long distances. This is because the reticle size changes in proportion to the target as the magnification is adjusted, allowing for more accurate holdovers and range estimations. This can be particularly useful for long-range shooting and hunting.

On the other hand, a second focal plane scope may be a better choice for those who prioritize speed and ease of use. Since the reticle size remains the same, it can be easier to acquire targets quickly and make rapid adjustments without having to worry about changes in reticle size.

Another factor to consider is the type of shooting you’ll be doing. For example, if you’ll be shooting at extreme distances or in low light conditions, a first focal plane scope may be the better choice.

However, if you’ll be shooting at closer ranges or in bright daylight, a second focal plane scope may be more appropriate.

It’s also important to consider the specific features of the scope you’re considering. For example, some scopes may have a BDC reticle that is optimized for use with a specific caliber or bullet weight. Others may have a mil-dot reticle that allows for more precise range estimation.

Ultimately, the choice between a first and second focal plane scope will depend on your individual needs and preferences. It’s important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each type of scope and choose the one that best fits your shooting style and goals. Popular brands like Bushnell offer both types of scopes, so it’s worth exploring all of your options before making a decision.

Conclusion

Both the first focal plane and second focal plane scopes have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice between them ultimately depends on the intended use and personal preference of the shooter.

First focal plane scopes offer a reticle that changes size with the magnification, making it easier to estimate range and holdovers. However, they tend to be more expensive and have a smaller field of view at low magnification.

On the other hand, second focal plane scopes have a reticle that remains the same size regardless of magnification, making them easier to use at low power. They also tend to be less expensive and have a wider field of view. However, they can be more difficult to use for range estimation and holdovers.

Ultimately, the decision between the first focal plane and the second focal plane scopes comes down to personal preference and the intended use of the scope.

Shooters who prioritize range estimation and holdovers may prefer first focal plane scopes, while those who prioritize ease of use at low magnification may prefer second focal plane scopes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of a first focal plane scope for long-range shooting?

A first focal plane (FFP) scope is beneficial for long-range shooting because the reticle appears to change size as the magnification is adjusted. This means that the reticle’s subtensions remain constant, making it easier to estimate range and holdovers at any magnification. Additionally, FFP scopes are more versatile and can be used for various shooting distances.

What are the benefits of a second focal plane scope for target shooting?

Second focal plane (SFP) scopes are ideal for target shooting because the reticle remains the same size regardless of the magnification level. This makes it easier to maintain a consistent sight picture and focus on the target. SFP scopes are also less expensive than FFP scopes and have a simpler design, making them more reliable.

How do I properly zero a second focal plane scope?

To zero a second focal plane scope, you should start at the lowest magnification level and shoot at a target at a known distance. Adjust the windage and elevation turrets until the point of impact aligns with the point of aim. Then, repeat the process at higher magnification levels and adjust the turrets accordingly.

What is the difference between the first focal plane and second focal plane scopes?

The main difference between FFP and SFP scopes is the position of the reticle within the scope. In an FFP scope, the reticle is located in front of the magnification lenses, while in an SFP scope, the reticle is located behind the magnification lenses.

This difference affects how the reticle appears at different magnification levels and can impact the shooter’s ability to estimate range and holdovers.

Which type of scope do snipers typically use for long-range shooting?

Snipers typically use FFP scopes for long-range shooting because they offer more versatility and accuracy at varying distances. FFP scopes allow snipers to estimate range and holdovers accurately, making them more effective in the field.

Is the first focal plane or the second focal plane better for long-range shooting?

There is no clear answer to this question as it depends on the shooter’s preferences and the shooting situation. FFP scopes are more versatile and accurate at varying distances, making them ideal for long-range shooting. However, SFP scopes are simpler and less expensive, making them an excellent choice for target shooting.


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