Bullet Drop Compensating Scope – What Is A BDC Reticle?

If you have been shooting for a while, chances are you’ve heard of a bullet drop compensating scope. The truth is that most shooters don’t really know what BDC reticles are. These scopes are designed specifically to determine how far a bullet will drop over a specific distance. Read on to learn everything there is to know about bullet drop compensation scopes.

What Are BDC Reticle Scopes?

picture of a BDC scope

Let’s face it, shooting from long range is tough. That’s why many shooters rely on bullet drop compensation (BDC) scopes to help them make long-range shots a breeze.

By definition, BDC scopes use a special scope reticle pattern to indicate how much bullets will drop over a given distance.

These scopes account for how much a bullet drops by taking into account a few factors

  • Shooting distance
  • Muzzle velocity
  • Wind speed
  • Elevation

BDC scopes can help shooters make more accurate shots. In fact, the best 300 Win Mag Scope is a dead hold BDC reticle. Of course, they’re not perfect, and they won’t do the job for you. But if you’re looking to improve your accuracy at long range, a BDC scope is a valuable piece of equipment.

How Do They Work?

I usually say that BDC scopes have multiple reticles within the same scope. They usually work 1 of 2 ways.


  • BDC Reticle: A type of reticle that can help you hit your target at different distances, then you need a BDC reticle. A BDC reticle has different sight marks which correspond to different distances. So whether you’re shooting at 100 yards or 1000 yards, you have sight marks to use as an aiming point.
  • BDC Turrets: Some shooters prefer to have a traditional reticle. They do not want multiple reticle patterns on their scope. They would rather make manual adjustments using BDC turrets depending on the distance of the shot.

For example, if you were to use one of the best 22LR Benchrest scopes, they will traditionally have BDC turrets. This means if you wanted to make a 20o-yard shot, place your reticle on the aiming point and make the turret adjustments.

Pros & Cons of BDC Scopes

BDC scopes are great. In fact, I found that the best 450 Bushmaster scope was a BDC scope. However, with the good comes the bad. Here are the pros & cons of BDC rifle scopes.


  • Pre-determined hold-overs for different ranges makes things quick & easy out in the field
  • Improve accuracy from long distances
  • Hash marks can be shown in either MRAD or MOA units


  • For some shooters, the hash marks can be distracting
  • Not great for close to medium range

BDC vs MIL Scopes

Most people think that BDC and mil-dot scopes are the same, but there’s actually a big difference between the two.

  • Mil-dot scopes are equipped with a mil-dot reticle
  • BDC scopes contain various hash marks which correlate to different ranges
  • Mil-dot scopes are typically more expensive than BDC scopes (like the Ozark Razorback)

Bullet Drop Compensator Chart

Bullet drop compensator charts can be very useful to quickly calculate your scope adjustment based on a variety of different factors, such as ammunition type.

  • Take a minute and Google “30 06 bullet drop compensation chart” to help you get a better picture.

At first, it might seem like a lot of work to gather all the input data (sight height, shooting angle, wind speed, and wind angle) to use a bullet drop compensator chart. But for serious hunters like myself its worth it!

Bullet Drop Calculator

I’ve tested several different online bullet drop calculators over the years, and you can easily find one with a simple Google search. Enter some of these variables and calculate your perfect bullet trajectory in seconds.

  • Range/Distance
  • Ammunition Ballistic Info
  • Firearm Info
  • Environmental Conditions (Wind Speed, Altitude, etc.)

Testing & Calibrating Your Scope

By now you know just how valuable a BDC rifle scope can really be. However, they can be a pain at times. Before you can use your BDC Scope out on a hunt or on the range you need to do some thorough testing.

Sight your scope in at 100 yards and then test the BDC adjustments to ensure they are accurate. There is no way you can take a scope manufacturer’s word for it…you have to test!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dead hold BDC?

A dead hold BDC is a ballistic curve that is designed around an average. This makes it so that specific BDC scopes work with a wide range of different weapons.

What is BDC on Nikon scopes?

A bullet drop compensator or BDC, is a device on a firearm scope that allows the shooter to adjust for the bullet's drop due to gravity. As the rifle is pointed upward or downward, the compensator adjusts the point of aim to keep the bullet on target. Nikon incorporates bullet drop compensators into their scopes to make them effective from a variety of ranges. Be sure to read our post on who makes nikon scopes to learn more about Nikon manufacturing!

Does BDC change with zoom?

With a BDC rifle scope, your zero should be maintained regardless of the magnification. Depending on whether or not you use an SFP or SFP scope will determine if your reticle changes with the zoom of the scope.

Which is better FFP or SFP?

There is no best option as it every shooter has their own unique use case. Generally speaking, FFP is best for longer ranges as the reticle changes with the zoom. SFP scopes are generally preferred by hunters and shooters who fire from closer ranges.

What magnification do snipers use?

10x scope is standard, but it can vary depending on the situation. For example, if the target is a long way away, a sniper may use a higher magnification scope in order to get a better view. Obviously, not all snipers run the same scope settings. But 10x is considered to be the standard.

What does straight wall BDC mean?

Straight wall BDC specifically refers to scopes designed for use with firearms that fire straight-walled cartridges. These cartridges have a relatively flat trajectory compared to other types of rounds, so they don't require as much compensation.

The Bottom Line

BDC reticles are great. Many hunters around the country use them for long-range shooting. In fact, I use one myself. Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of bullet drop compensation. There certainly are BDC scope limitations, but there is no denying they are very powerful tools for any shooter! Let us know which rifle scopes you prefer to use.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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