First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane – 4 Facts

Can you explain how the first and second focal planes are different?

The size of the reticle in the first focus plane changes as the magnification is changed, but the size of the reticle in the second focus plane stays the same.

What’s the deal? How do you know which focal plane scope to buy?

If you want to choose the best rifle scope for your needs, you should understand the difference between focal planes by the end of this essay.

So, come on, and we can start.

What is the First Focal Plane?

You can mount a reticle in a rifle scope in either the first focal plane (FFP) or the second focal plane (FFP) (SFP).

In a first focal plane scope, the reticle is at the “front” of the erector tube and magnification lenses. When looking down the sight, the first focus plane is the farthest from your eye.

Second Focal Plane

Suppose that’s true, then what?

First Focal Plane scopes have a reticle size that changes as you zoom in and out.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can talk about the pros and cons…


When using optics in the first focus plane, if you change the magnification, the size of the reticle will change in the same way.

So, no matter how close you zoom in, your holdover values and other trajectory marks will always be correct. Even if you don’t like math, you’ll like this.

There is, however, a cost…

The cost tends to be higher because the building process is more complicated. A reticle that is in the first focus plane is often found in high-end scopes.

When using a first focal plane scope, the reticle will look thin and small at low magnification and thick and big at high magnification.

Second Focal Plane

These reticle lines are very small, so it’s easy to miss them, especially when the background is dark. Some of the best Leupold scopes, on the other hand, have reticles that light up to make them easier to see in low light.

And when the reticle’s field of view is at its widest, it may cover too much of the target. If this is important to you, Second Focal Plane might be able to help.

What is the Second Focal Plane?

Most people use SFP scopes, which stand for “Second Focal Plane” scopes. This part is also called the “Back Focal Plane.”

In a second focal plane scope, the reticle is placed past the magnification lenses on the erector tube.

The focus plane of this second scope is more eye-level. So, the zoom level has no effect on the size of the reticle.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this idea right now…


It is often used for hunting and police work because it is small, has a high resolution, and can withstand even the most powerful bullets.

No matter how much or how little magnification you use, your second focal plane will always give you the same number in MOA or MRAD for each hash mark.

At maximum magnification, the holdover spacing is correct, that much is true. Because of this, it’s not the best for shooting from different distances.

Second Focal Plane

To give you just one example:

The Viper HST 4-16-44 is here for you to look at. This is a second focal plane scope with a magnification range of 4-16x. On the Viper HST, 1 MOA is shown as a hash mark at high magnification (16x), but not at lower magnifications.

You can always figure out what the difference is. We all know, though, that when this happens, things get messy and hard.

Optics in the second focal plane are often used in riflescopes because they are easier to make. Because of this, you can often get them for less money.

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane for close-range shooting

A second focal plane scope is the best way to hunt and protect yourself at close range.


Even at the lowest magnification, the reticle is still big and easy to see. With low magnification glasses, like those with 1-4X magnification, this quality is much less important.

With First Focal Plane scopes, it’s easy to lose track of your targets at low magnifications. Those with less flexible eyesight may find this annoying if they need to make changes for wind or distance.

Because you have to zoom out to see all of the marks, the scope shows a smaller target. If you’re out hunting for small game, this could be a problem.

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane for long-range shooting

First focal plane scopes are the best choice for long-range shooting and competitions.

No matter how close you look, the hash marks always show the same value. To put it another way, these holdovers can be used and relied on at any level of magnification.

This helps figure out what worked and what didn’t so that changes can be made. It is also very helpful if you need to take quick, accurate follow-up photos.

For attacks that are farther away, you need to be more accurate. When using a scope with a second focus plane, it is much harder to make adjustments that are less than one MOA.

Second Focal Plane


The truth is that it depends on how you like things and how useful they are. There is nothing that makes one focus plane better than the other.

In a scope with a first focus plane, a higher magnification is better. Scopes that have a second focus plane might work well at lower magnifications.

If you like to shoot at targets or compete in games that require pinpoint accuracy, a first focal plane riflescope is worth the money.

If you don’t plan to take many shots that require you to “hold” for windage or elevation, you don’t need a second focal plane scope. And it probably won’t hurt your bank account too much.

When looking for an optic, it’s important to think about more than just the optic itself, like which fast detach scope mounts would work best for you. You won’t have to guess what the difference is between an SFP scope and an FFP scope anymore.

Since we’re talking about changes, I can now tell you how to remove the front sight from an AR-15 A2. Check to see if it’s good.

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