Your scope reticle is one of the most important parts of your optic. It’s really the feature you’re going to interact with and rely on the most. Picking the right one is going to have a huge impact on how well your scope performs for speed and accuracy. 

Here are some things to consider before you pick an optic for your rifle. 

Reticle Styles


Optic Reticle Image
Here you can see the difference between the simple crosshair design, left, and a more complex design like the "Christmas tree." (Photo: Don Summers/

There are two styles of reticles that are broadly the most popular right now. There is the basic crosshair design. These might have some markings for windage and elevation measurements, but this style generally provides the least “busy” image for a shooter.

On the other hand, there is the "Christmas tree" reticle, which has more measurement markings that allow for finer adjustments in windage and elevation. Variations abound, but these two styles generally summarize what most reticles will look like today. 


Advantages & Disadvantages


Rifle Scope
Having a more complex reticle can minimize the amount of adjustments you need to manually make with your scope. (Photo: Don Summers/

Crosshair-style reticles provide a clear image of the target without a lot of distractions. They will usually still have hash marks for various ranges or adjustments to windage. But the reticle is generally minimalistic. Many shooters prefer this so they can focus more on their target down range. However, it does come at the cost of losing some of the finer measurement details.

Christmas tree reticles provide several graduated measurements in addition to the crosshairs themselves. This makes it easier to adjust for windage and elevation without adjusting any of the optic’s dials. That’s why this design is quite common among shooters in Mid-Atlantic Rimfire Series matches. Many shooters can accomplish the same thing with the crosshair design, but it requires a level of skill to accurately determine the proper hold for a shot.

A Christmas tree reticle can also make it easier to quickly and accurately adjust for any sudden changes in the wind or the range of a target. However, the more measurements you have, the more your reticle will obscure your target. If you can reliably imagine the proper holds with just a crosshair, then that may be all you need. The simple design also makes it easier to quickly identify targets and shoot more instinctively. 

There’s really no substitute for trying the designs out on the range, so give different designs a spin before you invest in your own optic.

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