U.S. Army snipers will soon see the benefits of a new grid-based reticle for rifle scopes that will improve targeting as well as add versatility with its use across various weapons and ammunition.
A reticle is the crosshair or aiming point in the field of view of an optical sight. The Mark 5HD riflescope was selected as the optic for part of the U.S. Army’s Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program.
Not only does the new reticle improve accuracy, but its development within the Army means that costs are saved by avoiding license fees from the use of existing commercial products.
The scope features an aiming reticle comprising two primary feature sets: a grid system and auxiliary crosshairs. The grid has horizontal crosshairs that are perpendicular to, but do not intersect with, a primary vertical crosshair.
“Development of the Mil-Grid Reticle was primarily motivated by the lack of standardization of reticles within the sniper community, as well as the cost incurred in using vendor proprietary reticles,” said Tom Pitera, an engineer at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Armaments Center.
Pitera is one of the three inventors of the Mil-Grid Reticle, which was awarded a U.S. Army patent in 2018. Joseph Petillo and James Hitscherich also contributed to the project.
Current aiming reticle patterns frequently found in precision rifle scopes and observation spotting scopes issued by military services consist of simple intersecting crosshairs with markings consisting of dots or stadia lines at predetermined intervals (e.g., one milliradian angle in target space). One example is the “Mil-Dot,” which was developed during the Vietnam War for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The characteristic features of the new aiming reticle are a grid with self-contained cross aiming references and offset vertical line with measurement stadia. The grid provides snipers with the ability to precisely hold targets without adjusting turrets under most conditions, while the offset line provides both range estimation and rapid correction calls while following bullet trace. Riflescope turrets are dials situated on the top and side of the optic that allow the shooter to adjust the position of the reticle in the vertical and horizontal directions using clicks or a graduated scale. Each click represents a predetermined angular subtense that must be counted to achieve desired ballistic offset.
In this new design, a primary vertical reference crosshair is placed and aligned to the optical axis with its length less than the maximum field of view. The primary vertical crosshair provides a boresight reference in the optical instrument and axis of symmetry for the grid system.
The new Mark 5HD will be mounted on the recently awarded MK22 Mod 0. It is based on the Barrett Multi-role Adaptive Design (MRAD) bolt-action multi-caliber system, which is chambered in 7.62×51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum.
“There was a requirement for a common shooter-spotter grid based reticle, which was only available commercially with license fees,” Pitera said. “The requirement that emerged during a night vision upgrade effort for the M151 spotting scope was to avoid having to reopen the scope in a follow-on effort. That was the platform where we started.
“The opportunity to design an Army-owned reticle around warfighter needs was instantly identified,” Pitera added. “Its development was an iterative process, especially in de-conflicting user preferences. Reticle designs tend to be a personal preference especially among snipers. With that in mind, we reached out for feedback from a large community within SOCOM, sniper school, National Guard, etc., to enable discussion of diverse viewpoints.
“Although initially met with resistance, the Mil-Grid reticle was proved to offer improved accuracy over the available commercial offerings,” Pitera said. “With the design for the M151 spotting scope complete, a complementary design was then developed for rifle scopes. This provides a standard pattern when the user would look through a rifle or spotting scope.
“There is improved utility and significant commonality between the patterns,” Pitera said of the reticle. “The commonality streamlines training and Army-ownership saves costs by avoiding license fees. The spotting scopes have all been retrofitted. With the fielding of the PSR platform, now is the insertion point for the rifle scope version of the Mil-Grid Reticle. The reticle benefits are now going to be realized with the PSR within the sniper community.”
As the reticle becomes streamlined among the Army sniper platforms, currently the PSR and the Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), students will not need to be retrained on the reticle when switching among systems. This reduces cognitive burden on the shooter in cross-platform proficiency while also reducing cost and complexity of training programs.
“Using a reticle with common characteristic features allow the spotter and shooter to speak and understand the same targeting language,” Pitera said. “The grid markings are identical in appearance and size purposely to ensure familiarity and sight picture synergy within the sniper team. The spotting scope and rifle scope reticles offer the same level of fidelity and utility across the mission tasks, whether it be marking targets during reconnaissance missions, assessing miss distance for a follow-on shot, or holding a ballistic offset without the need to adjust elevation and windage dials.”