Language Lessons: Milliradians (Mils)
Also Known As: Milliradian, MRAD
Category: Shooting Terminology
Applications of Use: Shooting, Zeroing, calculating target size/distance
Definition: A Mil is a standard unit of angular measurement. It’s frequently used for adjusting weapon sights, target distance estimation, and other ballistic-related measurements. Though it can be used to indicate accuracy of a weapon, it’s not as popular in this role.
If you didn’t make it through high school math, this next part may sound confusing. As the name implies, milliradian is 1/1000th of a radian – exactly the way a millimeter is 1/1000th of a meter. But what is a radian? It’s the angle made by a circle’s radius if it were wrapped around the circle itself. It looks like this:
The most important thing you need to know is that one mil at 100 meters is ten centimeters. And at 200 meters, one mil covers twenty centimeters, and so on. At 1000 meters, one mil covers 100 centimeters/1 meter.
Why it Matters: Mils are commonly used for long range shooting and are a standard military measurement. While there are a myriad of methods for angular measurement, the two main methods in our world are mils and MOA—and you should be at least familiar with both. Familiarity with mils and MOA can help you avoid this mistake:
Into the Weeds: If you’re only used to a circle consisting of 360 degrees, radians may seem bizarre—especially as you dig into them. As with anything metric, the conversion to imperial can be messy (1 radian is about 57.296 degrees). But it’s also exceedingly easy to use once you get the hang of it, and many find ballistic calculations easier to perform in their heads when using mils.
While individual mils are large and appropriate for ranging large items at long distances, most mil-dot scopes will have adjustments in either .1 or .2 mils which equates to 1cm or 2cm at 100m.
In Summary, Milliradians are a standard; just a unit of measure. While they may seem strange if you haven’t ever been exposed to them, there are some advantages to this system of measurement.
Question for the Crowd: Do you use mils or MOA when shooting long ranges?
You should probably take a few minutes and read What is Practical, Mils vs MOA Debate on Sniper’s Hide.
NATO conversions (to Milliradians, degrees, radians, etc.) can be found here.
Learn the difference between Mils and MOA in this article on RECOILweb.
Tom McHale published an article called MOA, Mils, and Math on Ammoland some time back; it’s part of a series, and worth a look.
The NSSF (and here’s Ryan Cleckner again!) released this video a few years back; still worth reading today.
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