The reticle of a rifle scope is usually located in the First Focal Plane or Second Focal Plane. The major difference between both planes is the behaviour of the reticle when adjusting the magnification of the rifle scope. So, they both have various applications they can be used for. In this rifle scope FFP vs SFP comparison article, we will explain both planes and the applications they are best suited for. Let’s get into it.
First Focal Plane
First Focal Plane is also known as Front Focal Plane. It is used to indicate the reticle’s position. FFP reticle lies at the magnifying lens’ front inside the scope erector line. Long-range shooters generally prefer first focal plane scopes. The reticle a shooter’s eyes see when adjusting an FFP scope’s magnification changes in size. As the magnification level increases, the reticle becomes larger and vice-versa. This simply implies that the value of the unit of measure of each hash mark, MOA or MIL, remains the same irrespective of the magnification’s current setting.
Today, FFP scopes are becoming increasingly popular among shooters, especially hunters, who shoot at targets at long distances. It’s a huge advantage regarding speed to know the value of the hash marks remains the same in all situations. However, this speed also has a disadvantage: the changes in the size of the reticle may become too large at some distances associated with magnification. This can, in turn, make the shot placement complex. Nonetheless, scenarios like these can be solved using an illuminated reticle.
Pros And Cons of First Focal Plane
First focal planes have their advantages and disadvantages. We will highlight them in this section.
- An FFP scope has a constant and steady subtension.
- Increased accuracy possibility.
- It can conveniently hold over at any power.
- An FFP scope is suitable for long range shooting.
- Its reticle is visible at high power.
- Reticle becomes difficult to see at low power.
- More expensive than second focal planes.
Second Focal Plane
The Second Focal Plane is also known as the Rear Focal Plane. It is also known as the reticle’s position. Unlike the FFP reticle, SFP is located behind the magnifying lens. However, it’s in front of the rifle scope’s eyepiece. SFP scope is the most common reticle position preferred by numerous hunters. This is because the SFP reticle is how numerous shooters expect a scope’s reticle should be. The SFP reticle remains at the same size through all magnification levels, making it incredibly easier to see at every range. However, this comes at a price. Since the reticle doesn’t change in size, its hash marks are unstable in what they denote.
The hash marks depict various values associated with the magnification when the scope is not at full magnification. For example, if the full magnification of a rifle scope is 1 MOA, then hash marks depict twice the default value, 2 MOA, at half of the original magnification. This becomes an added issue for the shooter. This is because they would have to do some mental math when using the hash marks.
Pros And Cons
The Second Focal Plane Scope also has its advantages and disadvantages. We will explain some of them in this section.
- The reticle is easily visible at all powers.
- Crosshair visibility in low powers.
- Second Focal Planes are more affordable than First Focal Planes.
- Crosshair visibility in low light.
- Subtension changes constantly throughout the power range.
- Not suited for long range shooting.
First Focal Plane VS Second Focal Plane: Which Should You Use?
It takes more than preferences before you choose between an FFP and SFP reticle. You must also consider some crucial factors such as how you intend to use the scope and magnification requirements. In this section, we will discuss various ways both can be used and the one that takes the win for each one.
There are two crucial factors you must consider when choosing between the FFP and SFP reticle; terrain and magnification. First Focal Plane scopes are suitable for high power and mountainous, open country areas. On the other hand, Second Focal Plane scopes are low magnification and brush, timber, or Midwest animal hunting.
Normally, 4-16x and 3-9x are excellent configurations for numerous hunting conditions. This is because they can cover a lot of ground. The reticle’s visibility that remains the same in lowlight conditions at low powers gives the Second Focal Plane scope an edge over the First Focal Plane. The SFP’s normal reticle visibility is also used by shooters in thick timber and heavy brush environments. The crosshairs on the FFP optic can get too small and become difficult to see, especially in terrains.
It’s, however, notable to mention that the FFP scope is also good for hunting. It ensures precise holdovers at any magnification level. If you constantly hunt with more than 12x magnification, you can maximize this feature to its full possibilities. This is perfect for open country, long-range, and unpredictable terrains. It is less than ideal to dial in magnification to achieve the calibration power to use at the adequate holdover point.
Finally, the last legal light’s last thirty minutes is usually the perfect time to fill a tag. Resolution, clarity, and brightness are best attained on low powers. This makes the SFP scope a better option for hunting since the FFP plane has issues with reticle visibility in low power and low light.
All high-powered scopes used for tactical, combat, or home defense circumstances will have their reticles located in the first or second focal planes. CQB performance is crucial for numerous professional situations. The SFP optic is easily visible, constant, and suitable for CQB combat.
There is usually no need to hold even when magnification is changed within 250 yards, at least on a one-man target size. Numerous LE (Law Enforcement) combats are incredibly close. So, LE sniper situations are usually closer than people think. You can use both FFP and SFP scopes for tactical and combat use. However, SFP will function well for close to mid ranges with a 50 to 100-yard zero.
FFP optics also have their advantages when it comes to combat and tactical use. They are significantly useful on magnified reticles for fast corrections or when holding over and follow-up shots over a distance. However, it all comes down to the type of speed or distance requirements and combat.
Do snipers use First Focal Planes or Second Focal Planes? It’s general knowledge that veteran snipers prefer to use the fixed 10x power scope. However, it also depends on the law enforcement agency; local or military police. The budget and preference are also huge determining factors when it comes to choosing a reticle focal plane. So, both focal planes can be used for combat.
Long range shooting usually implies a huge dependence on the reticle and high magnification. It doesn’t matter if it’s competitive shooting or hunting, the FFP scope is the best option for long-range performance.
Undoubtedly, FFP optics offer numerous benefits since they are the best scopes for long-range shooting. One of the benefits you get is that you can optimally use a complex reticle. With numerous windage and elevation holdovers that will constantly be precise irrespective of magnification, the FFP optic ensures straightforward and fast decisions. This also boosts the shooter’s confidence in decreasing POI shifts when adjusting the power.
Another benefit of the FFP scope for long-range shooting is that the reticle becomes bigger as you increase its power. This makes it incredibly easier to see the hash marks, crosshairs or/and dots. However, the only disadvantage is that the subtension of the FFP reticle can block significant areas when hunting small targets, making it harder to make shots.
SFP scopes will perform excellently well for bench shooters who are not on the clock and are content with shooting from maximum power. You will also need quality turrets and glass. This will ensure the magnification is easily visible irrespective of the magnification. However, the FFP scope is the best solution for long-range shooting.
Low Power Variable Optic (LPVO)
LPVO scopes are an ideal option for tactical carbines and are close to mid-range optics. The red dot ability and 1x magnification are some of its must-have features. However, its low variable magnification makes it a flexible optic. In most cases, the SFP is recommended but the FFP can also offer advantages regarding distance.
FFP reticles on LPVO scopes are better suited for shooters who engage targets at varied and multiple distances. It’s suitable for military personnel on the front line and competition shooters. Using the FFP on an LPVO also ensures fast and precise shots using holdovers. It’s notable to mention that FFP optics with high-grade LPVO scopes would be fast to use and visible in low powers. FFP reticles are commonly found in 1-10x or 1-8x LPVO scopes.
However, in numerous instances, LPVO scope users are usually more attracted to SFP optics. They are also the optics that are commonly found on 1-6x and 1-4x scopes. Even when shooting out of specific circumstances like over 250 yards, there’s still enough time to max out or dial in the power for precise holdovers. This makes the SFP reticle a better option for LPVO scopes.
When it comes to choosing between the FFP and SFP scope, the intended application should be a priority over preference. You should consider the SFP scope alone if you are on a budget since it is more affordable than the FFP scope. However, beyond the budget, ensure the scope you choose is right for the intended purpose. This rifle scope FFP Vs SFP comparison has been able to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of both optics. We also explained some of the applications each scope is best suited for. With this rifle scope FFP Vs SFP comparison, choosing the right scope for you has been made easier.
Bonus: Inforgraphic For FFP and SFP Comparision ( Source : Accurate Ordnance)