Dialing VS Holdover – Which One Is More Effective?

Dialing vs holdover, which one is better and more effective for elevation and wind correction? This is an age old question in the long range shooting community.

Should I dial or should I hold?

The answer depends on the situation, and there is no wrong answers here.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstances.

In this information guide we are going to break down what is dialing and what is holdover in such detail that you will understand them better before you head to the range, and we also going to talk about the pros and cons for each technique in the appropriate context

We believe once you truly understand how to use both techniques efficiently your shooting skills will improve dramatically and you can be more flexible and get the most out of each technique on the range.

So let’s get started…

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Dial VS Hold – Key Difference

Best time to hold

acss-predator-reticle

For very fast shot opportunities at close to medium range, holding is quick and may be accurate enough for big game.

If the holding reference point isn’t going to get the shooter lose in the reticle

Best time to just dial

high-angle-shooting

When using a standard reticle with only one vertical and one horizontal line, dialing your elevation and holding for your windage. It’s most efficient.

For very long shots, there is usually more time to set up, and dialing provides much greater precision in our firing solution.

This is extremely helpful for extreme long range and high angle shooting.

Variables That Affects Your Aiming

Distance Affects bullet

There are only two core external ballistic variables that affect the path of your bullet on the way to the target are:

Gravity causes your bullet to begin falling the moment it leaves the barrel, and wind can blow it off of its original path. So the shooter has to compensate for it.

Typically, the shooter aims higher to counter the effects of gravity, and to offset the wind, the shooter shoots “into the wind” so that the wind blows our bullet back into exactly where we want to hit.

In the next section let’s talk about the pros and cons for each technique.

What Is The Holdover Technique?

ebr-2-c-reticle-elevation-holdovers

“Holding” the reticle, which is also called “Kentucky windage”, it involves aiming higher than your target to compensate the bullet to drop into the target and aiming to the left or right to compensate for the wind.

Pros

  • The biggest benefit to holding is speed. It’s much faster to aim at a new location than it is to adjust the turrets on your riflescope.
  • Reticles like the “Christmas Tree” with holdover reference lines and dots help the shooter know exactly to aim, and it’s even easier when use in conjunction with a ballistic app, which calculate the aim point after inserting bunch critical data points.
  • The variable nature of wind also makes holding a good technique

Cons

Deer-hunting-scope-reticle-crosshair
Not many holdover reference lines or dots
  • Requires guesswork for very simple reticles such as duplex reticle or mil dot crosshairs, the biggest downside is that your target is now in the clear portion of your scope, and there is no reference point on the reticle for the shooter to use besides just eye balling it and hope the bullet hits the target.
  • Not knowing exactly how much you’re holding in either direction can lead to missed shots down range.
  • Gets lost in a busy reticle of which elevation line to aim with
  • Target obstructed by thick reticle subtension line at long ranges
  • Another downside is doing math while many scopes with mil-dot reticles used to have adjustable turrets with MOA adjustments. This meant that you have to know your MOA to Mil conversion to adjust clicks relative to the distance the target is at.

*Tip when buying a scope, make sure the reticle and turrets are using the same unit of measurement to make life easier.

What Is The Dialing Technique?

leupold mark 5 HD turret system
Features Leupold Mark 5 HD 7-35X56

Instead of holding, the dial technique is basically adjusting the elevation turret to temporary zero the reticle for your current firing solution.

Example: Bullet drop is about 1 MOA at 100 yards, instead of aiming 1 MOA high for the correction, dial the elevation turret 1 MOA up so the point of aim is the point of impact.

Pros

  • The Aiming point stays near the center of the reticle where it’s the most natural
  • Accurately adjust the turret exactly to the number of clicks required to the center the crosshair aiming point
  • Super fast adjustment when using exposed tactical turret
  • Fast return turret to zero between shooting targets, and never get from prior adjustments (Any turret with resettable zero indexing is built for this reason)
  • Eliminate the need for figuring out best guess holdover reference point when using a simple reticle
  • Quickly move from side to side along the horizontal reticle for windage and still focus on the reticle while shooting.

Cons

  • Can’t dial for accurate wind-hold as the wind changes (Check out reticles with intuitive wind hold dots)
  • Can’t easily perform dialing if the scope doesn’t feature tool-free turret adjustment
  • Could easily get lost in the turret if the marking is confusing or it allows for more than 3 revolutions

Please check out more scopes with ballistic turrets here.

 

Ying Xu

US Air Force veteran nuclear weapon officer. Aerospace engineering bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas. Experienced as a certified NRA range safety officer. Working as a search engine expert for BadAssOptic.com