The Mildot reticle was originally designed for the military for the purpose of range estimation. The easiest way to think of a Mildot reticle is as a sort of ruler without numbers.
The idea being that you measure the size of an object in Mildots and if you know the actual size of that object you can use those two pieces of information to figure out the range to the object with reasonable accuracy. For example an object that measures 100mm will measure 1 Mildot at 100m. The same 100mm object will measure 2 Mildots at 50m. If you halve the distance you double the Mildot measurement.
This principle can be used to great effect when shooting in hunter field target or sporting field target competitions to give you a very accurate range estimation. In some cases this method of range estimation can be more accurate than a laser rangefinder!
The history of bracketing in HFT
When HFT first started the kill zones were mainly either 40mm or 25mm and a few astute shooters realised they could use this known object size to produce a chart (known as a bracketing chart) that they could refer to to give them the range to a target. A 40mm kill zone will measure 1 Mildot at 40m and 2 Mildots at 20m but for other distances its easier to refer to a bracketing chart instead of taking a calculator out with you to the shooting peg.
Before long course setters became aware of this method of range finding and started to use custom targets with kill zone sizes other than 40mm and 25mm and as a result somewhat boldly announced that their targets were now ‘impossible’ to bracket because of this.
Then another astute shooter realised that all the standard Nockover brand of targets measured 112mm from the top of the hinge to the centre of a kill zone no matter what size kill zone was used. As a result it was once again possible to produce a bracketing chart for a 112mm object and use this to estimate the range. The larger the object size, the more accurate the range estimation, so this method was even better than bracketing kill zone sizes.
Once again, course setters became aware of this method and started to produce custom targets where the kill zone wasn’t in its usual location or they would use something to cover the hinge plate of the target yet again declaring that their targets were now ‘impossible’ to bracket.
That was until some bright spark realised that actually there were only a handful of target faceplates produced by the most popular target manufacturer – squirrel, rook, magpie, rat, rabbit etc. and that it was possible to produce a small chart that simply listed all of those target sizes and the corresponding Mildot sizes for the faceplates for all ranges from 8 yards to 45 yards. In fact this is the method I still sometimes use in Sporting Field Target competitions.
The situation that we have today is that course setters have once again become aware of this method of range finding and now it’s not uncommon to see that practically every target on an HFT course has been custom made so that no one knows any of the measurements of the targets prior to a competition.
Once again more bold claims have been made that bracketing has been defeated and it is now completely impossible to produce a bracketing chart for a hunter field target course.
History should teach us that whenever course setters believe they have made bracketing impossible, someone comes along with another bright idea to prove them wrong.
Announcing the ‘HFT Mildots’ mobile application
It’s clear that over the years as course setters have become more cunning at making bracketing difficult, shooters must think up even more cunning methods to defeat them.
This is the purpose of the HFT Mildots mobile application (available from the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPod touch and soon to be available for Android and Windows smartphones).
The app allows shooters to store a database of target sizes and print a custom bracketing chart for each venue they shoot at.
The app comes pre-loaded with some of the already mentioned object and target measurements which is still useful for Sporting Field Target and Field Target competitions that still tend to mainly use standard targets and faceplates.
As an example use for this, even though some venues use completely custom targets, they sometimes forget about other objects next to each target – for example the shooting ground at Newbury have some very nice steel target number plates which they pace next to each target on a course. If you knew the size of those number plates you could produce a chart that told you the distance to each target even if the target faceplate was a one off custom target.
The app has more uses than being able to give you an advantage on an HFT course. One problem shooters have is that quite often the practice target boards set out on the zero range at a competition aren’t set out at the correct distances. Fortunately most of the practice targets are printed on either A4 or A3 sheets of paper and those sheets of paper are a standard size. A4 paper is 297mm tall and A3 paper is 297mm wide. So it’s possible to make up a bracketing chart to tell you the range to a standard sheet of A4 or A3 paper. These paper sizes are also pre-loaded into the HFT Mildots app when you first download it.
As an example an A4 sheet of paper is 7.2 Mildots high at 45 yards on a true Mildot scope, so of when you come to check your rifle’s zero you can easily tell whether the target placed at a marked distance of 45 yards actually is at 45 yards or not. That might not seem very important, but without that information if you found that at the marked distance of 45 yards on the zero range you appeared to be shooting low, if you incorrectly assumed the marked distance was correct you might be tempted to adjust the turrets of your scope to re-zero it.
If that practice target was actually set out to 47 yards by mistake, you would have just changed your zero to be shooting 2 yards further than it should be which might cost you a few points in the competition through no fault of your own.
How to bracket custom faceplates
You might be thinking that this is all well and good if you know the size of the object beforehand, but it still doesn’t help you if the target has a custom faceplate. You’d be right of course, it doesn’t. Well, more accurately, it doesn’t help you the first time you encounter that target, but it can help you the second and subsequent times you encounter that target in the future.
The calculation to figure out the range of an object is just a fairly simple piece of trigonometry. If you know the objects size in mm and the object size in Mildots you can calculate the range in yards or meters. Actually, if you know any two of those 3 pieces of information you can calculate the missing piece of information.
This is where the estimate feature of the HFT Mildots application comes into play.
The estimate feature assumes that you don’t know the physical size of an object but you do know the range and the size of the object in Mildots. If you enter the range and Mildot size the app will give you an estimate of the object/target’s physical size in millimetres and allow you to create a bracketing chart that will tell you the Mildot size of the object/target for every distance on a course.
You might be thinking at this point that if you knew the range to the target then you wouldn’t need a bracketing chart in the first place. Of course you’d be right again, you don’t know the range to this new target before you’ve taken a shot at it, but after you’ve taken a shot at it you might have a pretty good idea how far away it is. Actually for that matter you might be able to use other forms of range finding to give you a fairly accurate range estimate to the target, or you could always ask the opinion of the other shooters in your group what range they thought the target was after everyone’s taken their shot.
It’s not considered to be good form to ask other shooters opinions on the range to a target before you’ve all taken your shot (that’s cheating), but it’s common practice to discuss the range after everyone has taken their shot.
All you need to do is take a measurement of the target in Mildots, then after your shot come up with an accurate range estimate for that target and enter those two pieces of Information into the estimate dialog of the app and you’ll then be able to bracket that target accurately the next time you see it.
As a practical example of this, the shooting ground at Emley Moor use lots of custom target faceplates but one target tends to be repeated twice on a 30 shot course. The Emley Moor TV mast tower target specifically. When you come to the first tower target of the pair you won’t be able to bracket it’s distance, but once you’ve shot it you’ll be able to quickly calculate a bracketing chart while you’re still shooting the competition so that you’ll be able to accurately bracket the 2nd tower target on the course. And once you have the measurements for that target stored in the app, the next time you shoot a course at Emley Moor you’ll be able to print out that bracketing information to use on both of the targets (not to mention all the other custom targets on the course too)
If you are going to calculate bracketing charts on the fly during the course of a competition it might look less suspicious if you just calculate the bracketing chart in the App and jot down some of the more useful range measurements on a scrap of paper rather than pulling out your phone at the next target – so perhaps jot down the Mildot measurements for 45,40,35,30 yards on a scrap of paper and refer to that when you’re getting down to take your shot for the next tower target rather than referring to the HFT Mildot app at the shooting peg.
Using this method you could quickly build up a database of all of the custom targets used at every shooting ground and so long as the shooting ground don’t throw away their targets after every event you’ll be able to print out a custom bracketing chart for every ground you shoot at.
Of course, now that I’ve documented and published this method of obtaining custom target measurements, it won’t take too long before course setters realise this and start taking steps to make it ‘impossible’ to use this method in the future.
That’s why the HFT Mildots app is so powerful, it will allow endless undocumented possibilities for bracketing in the future. All you need to do is look for some object or aspect of a target that is repeated and you can produce your own custom bracketing chart that course setters won’t have a clue about unless you tell them.
Get in contact
If you’ve purchased the app from the App Store or google play and you’d like to share some of your custom object/target sizes with me or you have any suggestions to make it better or would like to report a bug with the software please fill out the contact form below.
Good luck, I look forward to hearing your experiences.