What Does MOA Mean?

As you perfect your aim, you might hear shooting instructors and your buddies refer to something called an MOA. Generally speaking, an MOA is your solution to an accurate target hit. But exactly what does MOA mean and how do you find yours? In this article, we break down the Minute of Angle in layman's terms with basic equations so you can hit your mark like a pro the minute you pull your rifle out of the gun case.

What Does MOA Mean?

MOA stands for the Minute of Angle, which correlates to the minute hand of a 360-degree clock face. Each minute refers to 1/60th of a degree, similar to the minutes of an hour. When shooting, even a slight angle can cause you to miss the mark, so fine-tuning your MOA to the precise angle or “minute” is important.

Essentially, MOA is used to help measure shooting in minutes since a bullet moves in an arc-shaped trajectory. The further a bullet has to travel (typically measured in yards), the greater effect gravity has as it decreases velocity. The farther away you are from a target, the lower your bullet might strike from where you intentionally aim. This is known as the bullet drop, which is measured in inches.

MOA and Target Distance

MOA is used as an angular measurement. However, if you want to translate it to linear measurement to reach your target, you’ll need to do some basic math.

Consider the rule that one MOA is equal to one inch at 100 yards. More accurately, the one inch is 1.047, but unless you are long-distance shooting, the inch measurement is rounded off.

In other words, for each minute adjustment made on your scope, there’s a one-inch change in where the bullet strikes the target. Keep in mind, too, that the farther away you are from the target, the greater the inch increase.

Still confused? Use this breakdown for a better understanding:

  • 100 yards = 1 inch MOA
  • 300 yards = 3 inches MOA
  • 500 yards = 5 inches MOA
  • 800 yards = 8 inches MOA

And so on.

minute of angle

How to Calculate 1 MOA Size at Your Distance

To calculate the MOA size at your distance, you simply divide how far the target is by 100. For example:

500 yards / 100 = 5 inches per MOA

This means that you need 1 MOA for every five inches your bullet drop is off-target.

To be more exact, use the 1.047-inch measurement to get:

(500 x 1.047) / 100 = 5.235

You can round this up to a clean 5.2, which should help determine that your scope should be slightly off the five-inch mark.

How to Calculate the Bullet Drop

Using the above formula to calculate the MOA at your distance in yards, here’s how to determine your bullet drop. When you know your bullet drop, you can make appropriate adjustments to ensure your target is hit next time!

Let’s start with this scenario: Your bullet drop is 20 inches from the target as you shoot from 200 yards. Now that you know you need 1 MOA for every 2-inch drop (granted, at the same distance), here’s how to go about calculating the MOA adjustments for that 20-inch bullet drop.

Equation:

# bullet drop inches / MOA inches at distance = MOA adjustment needed

Example:

20-inch bullet drop / 2 inches (1 MOA is 2 inches at 100 yards) = 10 MOA

With your MOA adjustments, you can hit that target more precisely. All you have to do now is carry it to one more equation to make the MOA adjustments with the top turret.

How to Translate MOA on Scope Turrets

Before getting into the translation, keep in mind your rifle scope’s specifications. It goes like this:

  • 1/8 MOA turrets
  • 1/4 MOA turrets
  • 1/2 MOA turrets
  • 1 MOA turrets

When it comes to making adjustments, you will need to remember your specs, turning the turret in these increments. A ⅛ MOA turret will have one-eighth increments, a ½ MOA turret will have one-half increments and so on.

As you move the turret each time and hear the click, the lines below each number will offer themselves as a guide. If your scope has ½ MOA adjustments, listen for two clicks to make one MOA. While you can see the indicators also with a headlamp, hearing a subtle click can help with night hunts without disturbing your game.

Using the example in the section above, if you have a scope with ½ MOA adjustments, you will need to hear 20 clicks to get to 10 MOA.

Adjust Your MOA as Necessary

Now that you understand what an MOA means and how to use it to your advantage to tweak your bullet’s arc trajectory and bullet drop, get some practice. Before you head out for an ethical hunt, it’s important to know your rifle and make adjustments as necessary. Keep your rifle in a watertight rifle case in your vehicle and swing by the range when you have some free time, perfecting your MOA adjustments each time.

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