Most of the time, the turrets and reticles complement each other, but when you decide to enter a long-range world, the primary question would be ballistic turret vs. reticle.
With an explosion of long-range shooting market and wide popularity of this ultimate shooting discipline among average gun enthusiasts, few basic things need to be explained.
Alongside three primary precision shooting elements: rifle, scope and ammo, the next most crucial thing for long-distance engagements is using specialized ballistic turrets and ballistic reticles.
Compared to an old-school hunting riflescope where we use the turrets primarily for initial zeroing and the crosshair for aiming and shooting, the long-range scope is a more sophisticated optical instrument built for a narrow niche.
In some cases, it comes with BDC reticle and/or BDC turret that allow you to make a visual holdover or to use turret dialing for elevation and windage.
Whether you choose turret dialing or opt for a proper sub-reticle on a BDC reticle, both should enable you to have a dead-on hold.
Undoubtedly, mastering the art of long-range shooting and using these refined riflescopes requires better ballistics understanding and advanced handling techniques from you.
Types of Scope Turret System
When we talk about types of scope turret systems, roughly there are two types:
- Low profile capped/hunting turrets
- “Target” or exposed style turrets.
Besides these two more traditional turrets, you will encounter turrets with taller drums that also remain exposed but may have removable caps with markings usually in 100-yard increments.
These are called ballistic or BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) turrets and they ѕіt оn tор оf thе еlеvаtіоn turrеt on your scope.
There is one more type intended for scopes meant for tactical applications dubbed tactical turrets. These open turrets allow you an easy and often changing of elevation and windage position of the reticle.
How Does A Ballistic Turret Work?
Ballistic turret works like other turret types since its оbјесtіvе іѕ tо сhаngе уоur bullеt іmрасt by moving the scope’s reticle down or up. Still, with one difference, the ballistic turret will enable you accurate aiming points at different ranges instantly.
Unlike target turrets preferred by competitive shooters contesting for the minuscule groupings at a designated range, ballistic turrets are designed for tactical shooters and hunters who need to hit the targets fast and at multiple distances.
As the last piece of your precision rifle system, ballistic turrets are very similar to tactical and target turrets.
Still, the main difference is they don't have external markings in (MOA or MRAD) for clicks engraved on them, but only numbers for the corresponding distances where 1 stands for 100 yards, 2 for 200yds, and similar.
These turrets are purpose built fоr ехtrеmе lоng rаngе hunting and ѕhооtіng using distance markings fоr еаѕу rеfеrеnсе аnd ѕіmрlе uѕе, јuѕt turn thе dіаl tо thе dіѕtаnсе уоur tаrgеt іѕ іn аnd ѕhооt.
Moreover, you саn hаvе уоur bаllіѕtіс turrеt сuѕtоm mаdе to fit the particular specifications of уоur bullеt аnd rіflе (bullet weight and model, muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient, scope height, etc.).
As popular additions on riflescopes, custom dials are engraved to provide fast adjustments to elevation according to your load. For instance, to adjust for a 500-yard shot, just turn the dial to 500 yards and, in principle, you'll be close to dead on.
How Does A BDC Reticle Work
As the first thing you have to know is what is BDC reticle? BDC or Ballistic Drop Compensating reticles utilize a series of fixed position hash marks stacked in a vertical line beneath your crosshairs' center.
BDC reticle works by using a reticle pattern to indicate how far bullets will drop over a given range.
For example, if your long gun is zeroed at 100 yards, the other aiming points beneath the crosshair will correspond to the bullet's impact at 200 yards, 300 yards, and so on. Standard range increments are 50 yards for rimfire models and 100 yards for centerfire scopes.
For those who need flexibility, simple to use and fast to get on the target system, BDC reticles with standard milliradian or minute of angle marks will provide hold over shooting and maximum precision.
BDC reticles will work fine out to 400-500 yards but tend to be less accurate at longer distances.
Like a ballistic turret, a BDC reticle is offered in many variants (MOA or Mil-dot) calibrated to specific calibers. So, you can find at the market large selection for caliber-specific BDC reticles tailored to a .223 55 grain round or for .308 165 grain cartridge.
Read More: Best Aiming Reticles For Hunting
Custom Etched Reticle Scopes Vs. Adjustable Turret Scopes
Obviously, the adjusted style turrets are very popular these days. However, many shooters agree that when you haven’t enough time before a shot, such is the case in the hunt or at some long-range competitions, the custom etched reticle scopes would be more useful for quick shooting than adjustable turret scopes.
In addition, with high exposed turrets in the field, you always have the risk of unintentional turrets moving. Moreover, when you are hunting in low light situations, you might not be able to read the turrets to make an adjustment.
When Is a 20 MOA Scope Base Appropriate?
A 20 MOA scope base is appropriate if you plan to shoot long-range, usually beyond 600 yards.
More often than not, the shooter will run out of elevation in the scope because it was zeroed at 100 yards in the mid of the scope travel. In that way, there is 20 MOA worth of down adjustment that will never be used.
A 20 MOA scope base is capable of providing of these lost 20 MOA, plus allowing you to take advantage of almost the full elevation range of the riflescope to dial in elevation for long-distance shots.
On the flip side, a 20 MOA base wouldn’t be suitable if you use a ballistic compensating reticle for long-range shooting instead of elevation dial.
Which is recommended for long-range competition for easier operation?
Generally, the ballistic turrets are recommended for long-range competition for easier operation and more accuracy.
Combined with rangefinders, the ballistic turrets make holdover obsolete, allowing the target shooter or sniper to make very precise adjustments.
Still, there is also a place for the ballistic (BDC) reticles.
For example, due to the prohibition of using rangefinders at some shooting disciplines, the shooters are forced to range with their scope ballistic reticles.
3 Recommended Scopes With Ballistic Turret
Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15x56 BT Gen 2
- Reticle - 4A-I reticle
- Tube Size - 30 MM
Variable magnification with significant 6 times zoom factor makes this excellent crossover scope suitable for both close-range targets and long-distance shooting.
The Swarovski Ballistic Turret enables shooters to dial three predetermined distances allowing greater accuracy over longer distances.
The SwaroClean and SwaroLight technology paired with large 56mm objective offer excellent optical properties necessary for use in the dark
Although the long-distance shooting continues to dominate scope design and many riflescopes are flooding the market, lots of gadgets are stuffed into them.
Swarovski Z6i Gen 2 riflescopes offer improved slim design and the advanced functions such as an updated Ballistic Turret (BT) system of three colored rings on the elevation turret.
Swarovski Z6i scopes offer an exciting combination of a 6 times ratio between the lowest and the highest magnification, making these optics appropriate for hunting and target shooting at larger distances, while still maintaining a wide field of view.
The 30mm main tube and wide 6x zoom range offer the user more flexibility at different ranges. Whether it's 50 yards or 500 yards, you have the power to adjust to the needed magnification.
The Swarovski Company raised the bar to introduce the 6x erector tube that gives a larger magnification range and greater eye-relief than the Z5 series (3.7" vs. 3.47").
With a 56mm objective lens and using SwaroClean non-stick lens coating, the Z6i allows for 90% of light transmission (3% less than the Z8i). It performs great in low light hunting, particularly if we consider an integrated illumination system, called SwaroLight.
This feature enables you to optimize two modes for use in bright daylight or at dusk and come with a tilt sensor. It automatically turns the illumination off when the gun is laid on its side or placed in other non-shooting positions and re-illuminates immediately when you brought back the rifle into a firing position again.
The BT mark in scope designation indicates the Ballistic Turret allowing the plain 4A reticle to be set for targets at three pre-defined distances.
The elevation turret consists of the three colored rings designed to match ranges you expect shooting game at. Whereas this color-coded factory system allows you first shot hits only for 3 distances, the Swarovski Z6i Gen.2 also offers optional a new Personalized Ballistic Cam (PBC).
It's a custom engraved turret that provides an ability to extend the range of adjustability over the BT and use out beyond 400 yards.
Whatever option you chose, the optic’s magnification of 2.5x to 15x and BDC dial-a-distance turret system will enable any hunter or shooter to make quick, precise shots out to practical ranges.
Meopta MeoStar R2 2.5-15x56 RD
- Reticle - ILLUMINATED BDC-3 RETICLE
- Tube Size - 30 MM
Reliable mechanics in one-piece 30mm aluminum housing is shockproof, waterproof and fogproof. It offers generous eye relief of 3.8" quite enough for the most powerful calibers
An optional ballistic turret can be installed instead of the stock elevation turret allowing the shooter to move their zero-distance to longer ranges
Alongside four big European names in the optics industry, Meopta is another well-respected manufacturer offering an extensive range of optoelectronic products.
We have singled out the most advanced Meopta hunting riflescopes from the MeoStar R2 line for this review. Featuring 6 times zoom ratio and a huge 56mm objective lens MeoStar 2.5-15x56 is Meopta’s most versatile hunting riflescope built for long-range shooting and for hunting at night.
During some testing, Meopta's excellent glass quality supported with new proprietary hydrophobic and protective layers ensured a light transmission rate from 92% to 95%, outperforming all the other riflescopes in its price range positioning it tightly to Swarovski Z6.
This model number 575710 comes with an RD BDC 3 illuminated reticle, which provides holdover options out to 500 yards and wind compensation bars under the center.
The MeoTrak II windage and elevation system provides 60 MOA of horizontal and vertical adjustment ranges. However, if you need more travel to compensate for ballistics and wind or easier handling, any of Meopta's R2 scopes can be upgraded with MeoStar Ballistic Hunting Turret (BHT).
Besides, more establish accurate aiming points and ranging at extended distances, new BHT turret can be set for 3 different distances.
With a choice of illuminated reticles (RD) located in the second focal plane (SFP) that are daylight strong and nighttime usable (8 levels of intensity), the Meopta MeoStar R2 2.5-15x56 RD is premier optics choice either for customers who want the best or those more budget aware.
Nightforce NX8 F1 Riflescope 2.5-20x 50mm
- Reticle - MOAR Reticle
- Tube Size - 30 MM
8x zoom enables making fast, precise holdovers via the first focal plane reticle
Nightforce’s ZeroStop technology for rapid and easy return to zero
ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass paired with 50mm objective lens for maximum resolution and low-light use
Combining the legendary durability and compactness of the NXS family from Nightforce, the newest NX8 2.5-20x50 F1 riflescope became an excellent option for the all-around hunters and bench rest shooters, but also LEO and military operators.
As a one-scope option for everything, the 2.5-20x50 includes an 8x erector design in a short body, Nightforce ZeroStop elevation adjustment for a rapid return to zero and the razor-sharp resolution at every magnification setting.
While the NF engineers were able to put a remarkable 8X zoom range in 30mm tube, they also provided the NX8 series with an integrated PTL (Power Throw Lever), making magnification changes fast and easy.
This wide zoom, ultra-compact riflescope includes advanced DigIllum reticle illumination as a standard and is available in various reticle options.
The windage knob is capped to prevent accidental adjustments, but the low-profile elevation turret has 20 MOA adjustments per turret revolution with the ability to be upgraded with custom yardage turrets.
Check out more long range scopes here.
While the ballistic turrets and BDC reticles are incredibly useful for quick adjustments and for placing accurate shots at different ranges on the fly, both systems have downsides.
The ballistic turrets are expensive and cumbersome, whereas the better BDC reticles may come complex designs such as an upside-down Christmas tree.
However, choosing the best system is entirely a matter of personal preference and how far away you are shooting.
Nesa Ristic is a military historian enthusiast and hobbyist, war veteran and an avid hunter with more than 30 years of experience.
He began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 1990s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. He has continuously improved his firearms skills and knowledge, which is a never-ending journey.