First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane Scopes

When buying your new riflescope, the many different manufacturers and options available can be confusing at first. In particular, you need to know the difference between first focal plane vs second focal plane scopes before making an informed decision about which is the best choice for you. In this post, you’ll find out more about both types, their advantages and disadvantages, and which one would be most suitable for your situation.

First Focal Plane Scopes

First focal plane, or FFP, scopes have a reticle that appears to change size when you adjust the magnification, so that the view stays constant and your stadia marks are relevant at any magnification. For example, a one mil mark in your crosshairs will not change as you alter the magnification.

Your reticle will appear smaller when you zoom out and larger when you zoom in. Although this can be a major advantage, first focal plane scopes are not as common as second focal plane scopes because they are more complex to manufacture. If you’re looking for high-quality FFP options, you should check out Nightforce, who produce a range of them.

Second Focal Plane Scopes

In contrast, second focal plane, or SFP, scopes use a reticle that stays the same size at all levels of magnification. Whether you zoom in or out, it remains constant, so your stadia marks are only accurate at one point of magnification: usually the maximum point.

Because SFP scopes are easier and cheaper to manufacture, there is a great range of options available, most of them at a lower cost than FFP scopes. One example of an SFP scope is the Meopta Optika5, but there are plenty more to choose from.

First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane Scopes: Advantages and Disadvantages 

Both types of scopes have their merits, so which one you choose will depend on your needs and budget. There’s a variety of factors to consider before making your decision, including the level of accuracy and speed the scopes offer, what type of shooting they may be suited to, and what costs you can expect. Let’s examine the various advantages and disadvantages of FFP and SFP scopes.

Accuracy and Speed

If you need a scope that helps you to engage your target accurately and quickly no matter what the magnification is, you should consider purchasing a first focal plane scope. Because the reticle stays proportional to the image, you won’t have to make any adjustments, which is a great advantage when you’re faced with time pressure. Thus, FFP scopes can provide you with a high level of accuracy and are the clear winner when it comes to speed.

Magnification Issues

On the downside, the FFP scope’s reticle can look too small when you’re fully zoomed out, and its edges are sometimes out of view when you’re fully zoomed in. This reduces its functionality compared to the SFP scope, which does not allow its reticle to change size in the same way. For example, it will look the same no matter if you’re using the scope at 3x or 9x. The only thing that changes is the size of your image.

Estimating Distances

When it comes to estimating distances, the FFP scope provides a great advantage because it allows you to do this at any magnification. By contrast, the SFP scope’s stadia marks can only be used to estimate distances at one level of magnification, usually the maximum. If you’re using your scope at 3x magnification, the stadia marks will not mean the same thing as when your scope is used at 9x magnification.

In contrast, the marks on the FFP scope will always be accurate. Although this is a disadvantage of the SFP scope, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be accurate. The center mark will still be on target, no matter what magnification you use, so your shot should still be accurate.

Short Range vs Long Range Shooting

The second focal plane scope’s failure to measure distances at various magnifications shouldn’t impair performance too much when shooting at a shorter range. In fact, using an SFP scope could be an advantage because your reticle won’t be too small to get an accurate shot, so this is likely to be better for someone who regularly shoots at short ranges.

But during long-range shooting, using a first focal plane scope can save you a lot of time because you won’t have to make lengthy adjustments. You should consider purchasing this scope if you know you’ll be shooting long-range regularly, but if not, an SFP scope may be the perfect option for you.


Because second focal plane scopes are so much easier to manufacture, they are both cheaper and easier to find. Many firms, particularly more recently established ones, concentrate on producing mainly SFP scopes, so you won’t be stuck for choice and are likely to find one at a very attractive price.

On the other hand, first focal plane scopes are the rarer and more costly option. When being manufactured, they require a greater level of engineering, so they can’t be produced as quickly as SFP scopes, which drives the price up. Before making your final decision, you’ll need to determine whether the increased price is worth it in your situation. In many cases, casual shooters may be better off with the more economical option.

Choosing Your Scope

As you can see, both types of scope have multiple advantages and disadvantages and if you are a competent shooter, you will be able to place accurate shots no matter which one you choose. The main considerations are whether you will be shooting at longer or shorter ranges, what kind of price you are willing to pay, and whether you are a casual shooter who can take their time, or a participant in competitions, where speed is of the essence.

If you haven’t yet tried them both out and are still not completely sure which option to go for, why not visit your local retailer? They are likely to be able to show you different models and advise you on what to choose in your specific situation.

There are many different factors to consider in the debate between first focal plane vs second focal plane scope. Although both of them are great options, most casual shooters will go for an SFP scope, while competitive shooters may need an FFP scope. No matter which type you decide on, there are great quality options out there that will make it easy for you to enjoy all of your shooting trips.

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.